Prager disputes that characterization. “Virtually all views that differ with the left are smeared and dismissed as ‘misinformation,’” he said in his email to VICE News. “We affirm that the Earth is warming, but we regard the view that global warming is ‘an existential threat’ to life on Earth as manipulative hysteria.” Likewise, Shapiro has made “debunking climate change hysteria” a top priority for the Daily Wire. The ability of Wilks-funded outlets to reach a mass audience with messages downplaying the seriousness of climate change is financially convenient for the brothers, who now back an oilfield services company called ProFrac that this month reported a strong quarter with more than $70 million in net income. Multiple attempts to reach the famously elusive Wilks for an interview through the company were unsuccessful.
“We regard the view that global warming is ‘an existential threat’ to life on Earth as manipulative hysteria”
Funding a climate-denying empire
“I would never allow myself or PragerU to do the bidding of people with money,” he explained. “I have to answer to God, not donors, for the positions I take… All the money given to us is because of positions we have already taken.” He added, “The last time we received any money from the Wilks was more than three years ago.”By then, PragerU was no longer a scrappy organization “without an army.” It was a major right-wing content producer with 1.7 billion video views on Facebook and YouTube. Last year, PragerU said it reached 5 billion views “across its digital platforms.” The Wilks have come a long way since the humble beginnings of their childhood. They reportedly grew up in the 1950s in a family of seven living in a former goat shed. Their father, Voy Wilks, was a professional mason who dreamed of one day building a better home for his children. Eventually, he also created a church.In 1982, Voy Wilks and a small congregation of fellow believers founded the Assembly of Yahweh in a small, plain-brick structure near Cisco, Texas, a two-hour drive west of Dallas. Not long after, he appointed Farris, who was then in his 30s, as bishop and pastor.
“I have to answer to God, not donors”
PragerU helps spawn the Daily Wire
Not quite the Kochs
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Ian Stephens.