Head of Women-in-Energy Group Sent Dog Poop After Hate Tweets
(Bloomberg) -- The founder of a group that advocates for women in the energy industry said she was sent dog poop and a sex toy amid a surge in online harassment, with the latest attack implying her work is “anti-white” and “anti-men.”
Katie Mehnert, the chief executive officer of Pink Petro, said she’s been fielding online criticism for over a year but that recent attacks go too far. In October, she opened her mailbox to find dog poop. Earlier this year, a box was sent to her office with a sex toy in it.
Days ago, a post by a parody website dubbed Blue Petro featured the photo and name of a Texas A&M University student who heads the diversity and inclusion committee at the school’s chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. It referred to the student group as an “anti-white anti-men gestapo force” that had become a “puppet” of Pink Petro.
“I’m not going to tolerate this anymore,” Mehnert said by phone Tuesday. She published her own rebuttal earlier in the day, calling attention to the parody website. The post by Blue Petro has since been taken down. A Twitter account associated with the website said later that it was “going dark for a minute” and implied that the person behind it had been threatened with litigation.
Mehnert said she hasn’t pursued legal action and has no plans to do so. “I’m all for First Amendment rights. People should be able to speak freely,” she said, adding that many of the accounts are anonymous because the people behind them would be fired if their employers knew they posted about the industry. She said she has no way to prove the sex toy came from one of her online foes and briefly riffs that perhaps the dog poop had been sent by an angry neighbor.
Tom Blasingame, who heads the Society of Petroleum Engineers and teaches at A&M, said by email that it was a “tough morning” but that the problem was resolved and he was grateful to whomever had gotten the article removed.
Much of the backlash against Pink Petro started when Mehnert published an article last year applauding Vicki Hollub, the female CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp., for the acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. The deal has since saddled Occidental with debt and earned Hollub the ire of investors including billionaire activist Carl Icahn.
So-called energy fintwit, short for financial Twitter, has exploded in the past year, drawing shoutouts from sell-side research analysts, business media and even state regulators. Several of the anonymous accounts purport to be energy investors, fed up with the excessive executive pay and poor shareholder returns that have dogged the shale industry for years.
Mehnert, who also uses her platform to speak about climate change and discrimination against people of color, said she’s been called an “ESG grifter” and criticized for getting paid while promoting diversity in the oil industry.
Pink Petro is a “seven-figure company in revenue,” according to Mehnert, receiving the bulk of its funding from corporate memberships and sponsored content. She chalks up most of the online hate to “trolling,” even finding some of the posts funny, but recently, she’s been concerned by how personal it’s gotten.
“I worry about my daughter a little bit,” she said. “There are a couple of individuals who, for whatever reason, really don’t like what I’m doing.”
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