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Schwarzenegger to Sue Big Oil for First Degree Murder

Issued: 2018-03-12

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Off Message

At SXSW, the former California governor lets loose on climate change, Donald Trump and gives his first in-depth remarks on #MeToo.


March 12, 2018

Subscribe to Off Message on Apple Podcasts here. | Subscribe via Stitcher here.

AUSTIN, Texas — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s next mission: taking oil companies to court “for knowingly killing people all over the world.”

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The former California governor and global environmental activist announced the move Sunday at a live recording of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast, recording here at the SXSW festival, revealing that he’s in talks with several private law firms and preparing a public push around the effort.

“This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,” Schwarzenegger said. “The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels, and on top of it that it would be risky for people’s lives, that it would kill.”

Schwarzenegger said he’s still working on a timeline for filing, but the news comes as he prepares to help host a major environmental conference in May in Vienna.

“We’re going to go after them, and we’re going to be in there like an Alabama tick. Because to me it’s absolutely irresponsible to know that your product is killing people and not have a warning label on it, like tobacco,” he said. “Every gas station on it, every car should have a warning label on it, every product that has fossil fuels should have a warning label on it.”

He argues that at the very least, this would raise awareness around fossil fuels and encourage people to look toward alternative fuels and clean cars.

He added, “I don’t think there’s any difference: If you walk into a room and you know you’re going to kill someone, it’s first degree murder; I think it’s the same thing with the oil companies.”

Schwarzenegger was at SXSW for an extensive discussion of lessons he learned in his seven years as governor, and how he’d apply them to the current political situation in Washington and beyond. On the list: Maximize the Bully Pulpit, Use the Carrot But Have the Stick Ready and No One Gets a 10. Those, he said, were part of his art of the deal, and explained how he’d been able to institute major laws from worker’s compensation reform to environmental standards to a state election overhaul in independent redistricting and a top-two advance “jungle primary” system.

Schwarzenegger also addressed, for the first time since the national reawakening around the #MeToo moment, the charges of groping and inappropriate behavior that surfaced from multiple women against him at the end of his first campaign for governor in 2003. He acknowledged that the change in the moment made a huge difference.

“It is about time. I think it’s fantastic. I think that women have been used and abused and treated horribly for too long, and now all of the elements came together to create this movement, and now finally puts the spotlight on this issue, and I hope people learn from that,” he said. “You’ve got to take those things seriously. You’ve got to look at it and say, ‘I made mistakes. And I have to apologize.’”

He stressed the importance of sexual harassment training, like the one he made his whole staff do once he was elected—and which he participated in.

“We make mistakes, and we don’t take it seriously. And then when you really think about it, you say, ‘Maybe I went too far,’” Schwarzenegger said. “You’ve got to be very sensitive about it, and you’ve got to think about the way that women feel—and if they feel uncomfortable, then you did not do the right thing.”

The last few months, he said “made me think totally differently,” adding, “I said to myself, ‘Finally.’”

Click here to subscribe and hear the full podcast, including Schwarzenegger’s views on violent movies and video games in the gun control debate, and his lessons for governing in the age of Trump.


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