Richard Keil

Executive Vice President, Hill-Knowlton

Richard Keil is a well connected ex-journalist turned PR spokesperson. Keil joined the public relations firm Hill-Knowlton in December, 2016, after several years at ExxonMobil.

Keil led ExxonMobil's PR team as Senior Advisor for Global Public Affairs from 2013-2016. Prior to Exxon, Keil worked for Purple Strategies, A powerful bipartisan PR firm. At Purple Strategies, he defended BP during the DeepWater Horizon oil spill. Before Purple Strategies, he worked for Public Strategies inc, from 2007 to 2010. 

Keil began his carreer as a journalist, working for the Associated Press in Washington, followed by Bloomberg. While at Bloomberg, he covered the 1997 global tobacco settlement, in which tobacco companies were subject to a RICO case.



“The science in 1981 on this subject was in the very, very early days and there was considerable division of opinion,”

“There was nobody you could have gone to in 1981 or 1984 who would have said whether it was real or not. Nobody could provide a definitive answer.”

"We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change."

The Guardian


"We believe the threat of climate change is real and demands action, and we are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our operations, help consumers reduce their emissions, and supporting research and participating in research into further emissions reductions,"

Vice News


"From the time that climate change first emerged as a topic for scientific study and analysis in the late 1970s, ExxonMobil has committed itself to scientific, fact-based analysis of this important issue."

Inside Climate News interview


Denying ExxonMobil's Climate Denial

As spokesperson for ExxonMobil, Keil has misrepresented Exxon's decades of climate change science denial. In an interview with The Guardian, Keil said

“There was nobody you could have gone to in 1981 or 1984 who would have said whether it was real or not. Nobody could provide a definitive answer.”

The National Academy of Science described a consensus on climate change from the 1970s. Furthermore, an Inside Climate News investigation found that Exxon's own scientists were on the cutting edge of climate change reseach in 1978, and had briefed senior leadership at Exxon on the link between human emissions and global climate change.

Richard Keil told VICE News that Exxon has never denied humanity's potential to impact the climate system. Since 1997, Exxon has spent over 30 million dollars funding climate change science denial. In 2014, Exxon gave $1.8 million to organizations that deny the science on climate change. Exxon also funded researcher Willie Soon for roundly debunked studies that sought to downplay the effect of human emissions on the climate.

Exxon also funded ads in the New York Times and other places that attacked the consensus on climate change science and opposed solutions to green house gas pollution. These ads and support for climate change science denial occured well after Exxon scientists had found convincing evidence of human's impact on the climate system.

Shilling for BP

Richard Keil was a top PR spokesperson for BP during the gulf oil spill. In that position, he promoted questionable studies funded by BP, one of which found that workers cleaning up the BP spill were not exposed to harmful chemicals. That study was later found to underestimate the damage cause to workers by oil related chemicals.

Richard Keil's work for BP is mentioned in Mark Leibovich's book "This Town."

 Keil... is a congenial and earnest operator whom I first met years ago when he was still a reporter. Like most people in Washington, Keil is always working. I once ran into him at the market and teased him about the work Purple had been doing to help BP “reposition” its image after its little problem on the Gulf Coast. Without missing a beat, Keil unleashed his own gusher – of flackery – calling BP the “greatest corporate turnaround story in history,” or some such, before moving on to the deli counter.

excerpt is from pages 251 – 255 of the book “This Town” by Mark Leibovich.


Link to Tobacco

Richard Keil has direct experience with industries that cover up scientific evidence that their products are harmful. Keil covered the 1997 global tobacco settlement as a journalist. Keil reported on the tobacco companies caught subverting evidence that nicotine was addictive and smoking was hazardous to human health. Exxon currenlty faces the threat of a similar disclosure due to their decades of climate science denial.