The Guardian published a story Sunday saying that leaks revealed a previously unreported relationship between President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson and a Bahamas-based oil company with Russian connections. But the relationship was already out in the open in Tillerson’s official biography.
In the article, titled “Leak reveals Rex Tillerson is director of Bahamas-based US-Russian oil company,” the Guardian’s Luke Harding wrote, “Rex Tillerson, the businessman nominated by Donald Trump to be the next US secretary of state, is the long-time director of a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, leaked documents show.”
The leaked documents Harding relied upon were what are known as the “Panama Papers” — internal files from a Panamanian bank leaked to a German newspaper. Harding wrote Tillerson’s role as a director with Exxon Neftegas since 1998 has “not been reported before and is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson’s relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing by the US senate foreign relations committee.”
This narrative has received a lot of pick up from prominent liberals. Keith Olbermann tweeted, “Can’t work too much more nefariousness into one cabinet candidate. Is this man even an American citizen?” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias said, “Who among us isn’t secretly the director of a joint venture with Russia incorporated in the Bahamas”
Tillerson’s role with Neftegas is far from a secret though. Internet archives show that in November, long before the Guardian article was published, Tillerson’s biography on the ExxonMobil site said that in January 1998 Tillerson became “president of Exxon Neftegas Limited.” While president and director are technically different roles they are effectively the same, the Guardian’s piece highlighted a “secret” relationship.
The Guardian did not respond to an inquiry about why they said this piece of information is unreported.