Speaker Johnson Endorses Rebekah Mercer’s AMNH Removal

Speaker Johnson Endorses Rebekah Mercer’s AMNH Removal

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, an ex-officio trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, has joined calls from 450 scientists and as well as the direct action group Revolting Lesbians to get billionaire climate-change denier Rebekah Mercer off the museum’s board.

Among many contributions to and investments in right wing organizations, she has donated $5 million to the Heartland Institute, a climate-change denial think tank that boasts of having convinced Donald Trump “that man-made global warming is not a crisis.”

In a written statement received exclusively by Gay City News, Johnson said, “Rebekah Mercer clearly does not share the values of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). She and her family contributed to groups who deny climate change exists, which is a denial of the very science at the core of the Museum’s mission. Rebekah Mercer should do the right thing and step down from the Board of Trustees. We need someone who respects science — which means they don’t dispute findings they find inconvenient politically. Climate change is real and anyone who truly cares for the future of our planet recognizes that. Those who don’t should not serve on the board of one of this city’s premier scientific institutions.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who like Johnson is an ex-officio trustee, voiced her displeasure with Mercer’s role at the museum, as well, but also suggested the push to remove her faces a roadblock.

“She does not represent my views,” Brewer said of Mercer. “I have talked to the museum about it in the past. They are not going to take her off.”

Revolting Lesbians held yet another small but spirited demonstration on October 28 in front of the museum demanding Mercer’s removal. It included a Mercer impersonator — Philadelphia activist Mike Hisey — and others wearing Mercer masks in the spirit of Halloween. They held signs saying, “The Earth is Not For Sale. Mercer Off the Board.”

Patrons of the museum, many with children in tow, easily grasped the wrongness of having a funder of climate-change denial on the board.

Anne Maguire, one of the organizers of the action, said, “We welcome Corey Johnson’s statement asking Rebekah Mercer to step down and hope it encourages other politicians to call for her resignation as well, especially those ex-officio New York City elected officials who are also board members at the AMNH — Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Mercer is not just destructive of our planet, she is destructive of our democracy. She is part-owner of Breitbart News and responsible for their alt-right propaganda which spreads white supremacist nonsense and anti-immigrant bigotry. Mercer was on the board of Cambridge Analytica, and her family’s fortune supports the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation amongst others. All elected officials should be doing much more to get Mercer off the board of the AMNH and they have leverage. The city gives the museum $22 million annually, so we urge politicians to use our tax dollars wisely and prudently by asking the museum to remove Mercer if she refuses to resign. We also urge Mercer’s colleagues on the Board of Trustees and all those who donate money to the museum to do the right thing and insist on her removal.”

Maguire’s statement came prior to Brewer’s comments about Mercer serving on the board.

Neither the mayor’s office nor the city comptroller’s office would comment on the calls for removing Mercer.

The museum’s annual fundraising gala is Thursday, November 15, and Revolting Lesbians plans to picket it if Mercer has not been removed from the board. An earlier effort to get billionaire oil industry plutocrat David Koch off the museum board was successful.

The museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Johnson’s call for Mercer’s removal. In the past, the museum has insisted that trustees and donors do not make decisions about its scientific and educational content.

Revolting Lesbians, on Facebook at facebook.com/RevoltingDykesNYC, is asking its supporters to demand Mercer’s removal by emailing AMNH’s president Ellen V. Futter at futter@amnh.org or tweeting @amnh.