Thomas C Griscom

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Tom C. Griscom was the Executive Vice President for External Relations with the RJ Reynolds Tobacco company. Before that, he was the Director of Communications for President Ronald Reagan; a Press Secretary for former US Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.); an journalistic employee of Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd; and eventually a public relations consultant and industry lobbyist with Powell-Tate (a Cassidy PR subsidiary).

Currently he is the Executive Editor and Publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Before entering the political and lobbying business, Tom Griscom was employed as the political editor at the same Chattanooga Times he later returned to edit. In 1978 he joined the staff of Senator Howard Baker which then gave him a key role in the Reagan Administration. As Baker's senior staffer, he essentially ran the day-to-day operations at the White House while Baker was Chief of Staff, while simultaneously maintaining the strong links between the Administration and the Republican Party. [1]

Griscom also served in the 1990s as the executive vice president for external relations for the RJ Reynolds Tobacco company, as an employee of Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd; and as a public relations consultant with Powell-Tate.[1]

In December 1998, Fortune magazine's "The Power of 25: the influence merchants" named Griscom, along with other ex-White House staff, ex-politicians and sons-of-politicians, as a key lobbyist in Washington.[2]

Documents & Timelines

1949 born Thomas Cecil Griscom

1976-78 Political Editor at the Chatanooga Times Free Press.

1978-87 He was a top aide and adviser for a decade to U.S. Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee,

1987-88 Director of White House Communications under President Ronald Reagan

His most notable claim during this period was that, in 1987, as Communications Director at the White House, he approved and promoted (against diplomatic advice) Peter Robinson's draft rabble-rousing speech made at the Berlin Wall, where President Reagan demanded that Russian President Gorbachev "tear down this wall".[2]

1990: When the Reagan Administration ended he joined R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) as head of its External Relations program. Over the next ten years he was responsible for the company's strategic operations against the growing anti-smoking forces, and for conducting its political dirty-tricks campaigns. He organized and administered their involvement in many of the cooperative campaigns conducted with Philip Morris and the Tobacco Institute in lobbying Congress to blocking anti-smoking legislation, and often took a lead role in conducting misinformation campaigns for media and public consumption -- especially in the promotion of the idea that "health-regulations were largely the product of junk-science."

Not long after joining RJR, he became one of the key directors on the management committee of the Tobacco Institute, which was responsible for secretly-funding friendly think-tanks and other organizations, and for organizing scientists, lawyers and other business allies to attack regulatory measures which blocked cigarette advertising. Later their attention turned to attacking the introduction of environmental and health regulations. [3]

In mid-1996 the fake "grassroots science" organization known as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) was partly-exposed as being funded by Philip Morris. The operation, together with Steve Milloy, who ran both the organization and its web-site [3], were transferred to the control of Reynolds under Griscom so that Philip Morris could deny involvement. [4]

Subcontracted to Powell-Tate

1996 OCT /E Griscom subcontracted the administration of this "sound-science" operation to Jody Powell, ex-press secretary to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Sheila Tate, Nancy Reagan's adviser, at the Powell-Tate lobby shop. During this time RJR and Powell-Tate also jointly handled the promotion and distribution of Milloy's book "Science without Sense [5] [6] Similar books promoting pro-tobacco positions were commissioned, and payment laundered, through other "think-tanks" that employed well-known academic authors. [7]

1997 One other "successful" propaganda program run by Griscom’s staff at this time was to characterize relatively harmless substances as "potentially cancerous." This was a key ploy in the industry's "sound-science/junk-science" campaign. One idea was to both promote as a genuine "science" claim … and ridicule the idea … that coffee could cause cancer. The attack on this "junk-science" was conducted via Milloy's junk-science web pages and some op-ed articles planted in newspapers.[citation needed]

By creating their own scientific "straw-man-theory," they were able to attack the ridiculous idea that everything enjoyable could be classed as potentially dangerous; then extended this to smoking (characterized as nothing more than another form of enjoyment and relaxation). They then extended this further to counter fears about passive smoking. The message was: "People aren't able to live without taking risks." So smoking or breathing other people's smoke, they implied, was no different to drinking coffee.[8]

Griscom’s communications and media division of RJR was also responsible for hiring State and Federal lobbyists across the country, and for creating and planting ghost-written articles and letters-to-the-editor (LTEs) in major newspapers and magazines. They also promoted seemingly-normal tours by well-known comedians, musicians, artists, etc., who were all carefully trained and contracted to promote the pro-smoking message, often by ridiculing non-smoking activists and legislators as "wowsers" and "nanny-state promoters."[9][10][11]

1997-98: Griscom represented R.J. Reynolds on the long series of tobacco industry negotiations with the States Attorneys General, the Justices Department, and the White House, which led to the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). The industry won a compromise, but agreed to pay many hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for Medicaid costs associated with smoking in order to avoid charges made under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

1998 Dec Fortune magazine's "The Power of 25: the influence merchants" article gives Tom Griscom credit (among dozens of other ex-White House Staff, ex-politicians and sons-of-politicians) as a key lobbyist in Washington. At this time he was working with Jody Powell’s Powell-Tate (a Cassidy Company) lobby shop. [4]

He had joined Powell-Tate as far back as 1997, probably to preserve some distance between his role as a negotiator in the Master Settlement Agreement and RJ Reynolds Tobacco itself.

However he still continued to act for Reynolds in all of these crucial deals, and his name continued to feature on the internal circulation lists for RJR memos.

1999 Oct-July 2010 He was the executive editor and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press from October 1999 to June 30, 2010.[12]

2002 Then in the later half of 2002 he left RJ Reynolds employ entirely and returned to Chatanooga to edit their newspaper.

2010 Jun 10 Finally relinquished his publishing role at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

External links

  • Chattanooga Times Free Press [5]
  • Fortune 25 article [6]
  • Political affiliations [7]
  • Coffee and junk-science links [8]
  • Eclipse (non-tobacco cigarette) and Milloy’s activities [9]
  • Attacking FDA attempts to reduce teenage smoking [10]
  • Payments to academics for unattributed books, etc. [11]
  • Comedy tour plans [12]
  • Theatre festivals and training comedian for media tour [13]


  1. "Jumping the Fence", American Journalism Review. Retrieved on 2007-03-18. 
  3. Adams WA, Tobacco Institute Minutes of the Management Committee Meeting minutes. March 8, 1995. Bates No. 92609994/9995
  4. Powell Tate Activity Report R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. December 1996 Report. December, 1996. 2 pp. Bates No. 520526642/6643
  5. Powell Tate Activity Report R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. January 1997 January, 1997. 2 pp. Bates No. 520526639/6640
  6. Smith MD, Cato Institute Cato Institute Email letter. January 19, 1995. Bates No. 528016094
  7. Bennet JT, George Mason University This letter summarizes our discussion on August 18 regarding our activities during the coming year. Letter. 1 pg. August 31, 1995. Bates No. 517118301
  8. Jensen P, Powell Tates Enclosed are April invoices and an activity report summarizing our work on GTC projects as well as general RJR projects Letter. May 9, 1997. 3 pp. Bates No. 520526627/6629
  9. Carter P, R.J. Reynolds FDA Project Ideas Letter. August 23, 1995. Bates No. 522542254/2256
  10. Powell Tate Draft Report May 12, 1995. 7 pp. Bates No. 512011981/1987
  11. Weekly Report. NC Contributions June 1, 1995. Bates No. 513195056/5058
  12. "Chattanooga Times Free Press Masthead", Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved on 2007-03-18. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. 

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