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In 1953, members of the tobacco industry hired the firm to help counteract then recent scientific findings that suggested cigarette smoking led to cancer. As a result “A Frank Statement” was released to nearly every major newspaper and magazine, misleading readers into believing that cigarettes had no verifiable links to cancer. The tobacco industry remained a Hill & Knowlton client until 1968.
* Text from H&K's smoking release "A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers"
Government of Kuwait
In 1990, H&K led over 20 other American PR firms in the "largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion", according to the Center for Media and Democracy H&K earned over $10.8 mm for their work, paid by "Citizens for a Free Kuwait", an astroturf organization funded almost entirely by the Kuwaiti government.
One controversial maneuver was the arrangement of the testimony of “Nurse Nayirah” to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990. Nayirah falsely testified that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers killing hundreds of premature babies at the al-Addan hospital in Kuwait City.
Bank of Credit and Commerce International
H&K represented the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) following its drug-money laundering indictment. H&K broke no laws and may not have violated any of the standards of the PR industry, though its actions raised questions concerning a conflict between H&K as a public relations firm and the public interest, according to the BCCI affair report to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate.
Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, called "Nurse Nayirah" in the media, was a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who alleged that she had witnessed the murder of infant children by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, in verbal testimony to the U.S. Congress, in the run up to the 1991 Gulf War. Her testimony, which was regarded as credible at the time, has since come to be regarded as wartime propaganda. The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which was in the employ of Citizens for a Free Kuwait, had arranged the testimony.
Fifteen-year old Nayirah, who gave testimony anonymously, testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990 that she was a refugee volunteering in the maternity ward of Al Adan hospital in Kuwait City, and that during the Iraqi occupation she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti infants in an incubator room: “They took the babies out of the incubator, took the incubators, and left the babies to die on the cold floor,” she testified. The testimony came at a crucial time for the Bush administration, which was pressing for military action to eject Iraq from Kuwait. Nayirah's story was widely publicized, and Amnesty International at first seemed to corroborate the report. The story helped build domestic support for the Persian Gulf War.
Nayirah was later disclosed to be Nayirah al-Sabah, daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti ambassador to the USA. She was demonstrated to have connections to the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which was at that time working for Citizens for a Free Kuwait. The latter activist group was organized by the exiled Kuwaiti government, to gain support for the Kuwaiti cause.