AG: Documents In OK Opioid Case Show Covert PR Campaign
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Attorney General says he's obtained documents that show a pharmaceutical company used a public relations firm to attack state attorneys general who had either sued or were considering lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.
In a news release, Attorney General Mike Hunter said the documents show Purdue Pharma planned and executed the secret disinformation campaign.
Hunter says the documents also show Purdue and its head of public relations collaborated with the firm to plant stories in national publications and on social media to try to shift blame for the growing opioid crisis to victims of opioid addiction.
Attorney General Hunter said the documents are proof of Purdue’s attempt to cover up the epidemic.
“The company’s actions are absolutely appalling,” Attorney General Hunter said. “These documents are damning evidence showing Purdue executives were more interested in spreading propaganda than stopping the death toll from rising and fixing the problem they created. Although there was strong suspicion Purdue was engaging in these deceitful acts, seeing it in black and white is unnerving.
The news release says in a June 2017 memo to Purdue officials, titled “Confidential Program Recommendation,” Matt Well, a founding partner of the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm The Herald Group, details a campaign that included attacks on undisclosed attorneys general. The attacks were intended to deter other states from suing the company.
“Our goal is to make state attorneys general think twice about joining the litigation,” Well wrote in the proposal.
Hunter's office says other recommendations included going after outside law firms hired to help in the cases by calling into question the attorneys’ credibility and personal profit motive.
The final recommendation included working with journalists and placing stories in specific publications to tell what the firm labeled “the anti-story”. The anti-story refers to the public relations firm finding legal experts to talk to reporters or write op-eds for publications that slam lawsuits filed by states and shift the blame for the epidemic to victims in an attempt to sway public opinion to the company’s favor.
Read the documents here: