(Headline USA) In between jaunts to London and Beijing, White House climate czar John Kerry had a layover in Washington, D.C., where he testily denied ever having owned a private jet, despite evidence to the contrary, during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s oversight subcommittee.
Fireworks broke out after Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., told the failed presidential candidate and longtime senator he hoped “it wasn’t too problematic for your operational team and your private jet to get here.”
Kerry exploded, calling it “one of the most outrageously persistent lies that I hear, which is this private jet.”
“I don’t own a private jet. I personally have never owned a private jet,” Kerry claimed, adding that it was “pretty stupid” to talk about coming to Capitol Hill by private jet from his office at the State Department.
He further claimed, falsely, that in his 2½ years as climate envoy he had flown entirely on commercial air, with the exception of five military flights, and recalled no flights on private jets in that time.
Kerry is the second husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who previously had been wed to Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., the heir to the well-known ketchup brand. When he perished in a 1991 plane crash, his widow inherited his fortune, now estimated to be worth some $800 million.
According to Fox News, John Kerry had a $1 million stake in a family-owned charter company, Flying Squirrel LLC, which owned a a Gulfstream GIV-SP.
Since President Joe Biden was sworn into office, Kerry made a total of 48 trips lasting more than 60 hours and emitted an estimated 715,886 pounds, or 325 metric tons, of carbon on flights using the family jet.
According to online estimates, the average lifetime carbon footprint for Americans is around 20 metric tons—which is considerably higher than the global average of around 4 metric tons. It is unclear how much Kerry is personally driving up the average.
During Thursday’s hearing, Kerry claimed that the jet, belonging primarily to his wife, had been sold, but he did not say when.
Kerry also defended his negotiations with China ahead of meetings with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua.
The questioning in Thursday’s hearing by the Republican-led committee at times broke down into challenging the existence of climate change and openly insulting the former secretary of state, a longtime target of conservative ridicule due to his penchant for hypocrisy, waffling and self-serving elitism while spending decades as a public servant.
In the most heated confrontation, Republican Rep. Scott Perry accused Kerry of drumming up a “problem that doesn’t exist” in global warming.
When Kerry asked why the world’s scientists and the 195 global governments behind the Paris climate accord would make up global warming, Perry responded, “Because they’re grifting, like you are,” drawing gasps from some fellow lawmakers.
Much of Thursday’s criticism from GOP committee members, however, zeroed in on the appropriateness of the U.S. engaging in climate negotiations with China, an increasingly hostile geopolitical adversary.
They cited China’s record of human rights abuses and what lawmakers described as China’s evasiveness in refusing to make bigger cuts in climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions.
“They’re not an honest broker when it comes to addressing emissions. They fire a coal plant up pretty much every day, if not week,” said Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Republican lawmakers scoffed at China’s insistence that it was still a developing economy and should not be held to the same climate standards as developed Western economies, as well as criticizing China’s suspected use of forced labor of ethnic minorities in making solar panel components.
Kerry responded that the clear disparity between China’s claims and the size of its economy as the world’s second biggest could not be allowed to deadlock global progress on cutting emissions.
And as far as persuading China to hold itself to the same emissions-cutting requirements facing other big economies, “let me just be frank with you, that’s not going to happen in this visit,” he admitted.
“But the Chinese government understands this is a growing issue of concern,” he claimed.
Kerry will be the third senior Biden administration official in recent weeks to travel to China for meetings with their counterparts there, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Both drew harsh criticism for failing to confront the trans-Pacific rival on the most pressing issues, including its efforts to create an alternative global-reserve currency that would significantly destabilize the U.S. dollar. Yellen dismissed concerns over the action and was seen repeatedly bowing to Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.
China broke off some mid- and high-level contacts with the Biden administration, including over climate issues, to show its anger with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taiwan, which it considers to be a Chinese territory.
Other problems have rocked relations since then, including the transit across the U.S. of a Chinese spy balloon.
A stroke suffered by Xie, China’s top climate diplomat, also helped stall U.S.–China climate discussions.
The Biden administration’s aim with Beijing now is to achieve “stability, if we can, without conceding anything,” Kerry told lawmakers.
“What we’re trying to do is find ways we can cooperate to actually address the crisis” of climate, Kerry said, adding that China “is critical to our being able to solve this problem.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press