You’d think the man responsible for the death of 29 coal miners would show remorse and not subject us to his opinions. Nope. That’s not what we should ever expect from Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy.
Four years ago this coming Saturday, April 5, will mark the 4th anniversary of the coal dust explosion that killed 29 workers at the Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine. Blankenship thinks it is appropriate to mark the anniversary with his propaganda. Blankenship hired Adroit Films of Chesapeake, VA to produce a documentary called “Upper Big Branch – Never Again.” It offers his tired, old, not-based-in-fact opinion on what he says really happened at UBB. I’m not providing a link to the film, and haven’t watched it.
My colleague, Patrick McGinley, the Charles H. Haden II Professor of Law at West Virginia University watched the film on behalf of several of us. Here’s some of what he reported:
“It is a re-hash of everything Blankenship has said already about UBB. The video of a ‘simulation’ of a crack and gas blasting from a purported gas reservoir is absurd. Having Stan Suboleski (former Director of Massey Energy) trumpeting Safety is #1, Production is #2 is preposterous. I expect the families of the UBB miners to be outraged by this grotesque effort to whitewash Blankenship’s profits over safety policies.”
McGinley and I were part of the WV Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel examining the UBB disaster. Referring back to that experience, McGinley also remarked to me:
“If Blankenship, Massey and Upper Big Branch managers knew the causes of the explosion – why did they refuse to testify and invoke their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. It’s no doubt easier to cherry-pick facts for a video propaganda piece than answer questions under oath and have the ‘facts’ you assert subject to cross-examination.”
McGinley also noted that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) appears briefly in the film. Given Blankenship’s lack of credibility, it seemed odd that the Senator would have agreed to appear. Well, according to Manchin’s spokesperson, he didn’t.
In “Joe Manchin Claims He Was ‘Lied To’ About Involvement In Don Blankenship Film,” the Huff Post’s Paige Lavender provides a statement from a Manchin spokesperson. It reads in part:
“Adroit Films, the propaganda firm behind this shameful documentary, never disclosed to me the intent of this film. They lied to my face and told me this documentary was focused on mine safety. …Had I known the film was in any way associated with Don Blankenship, I would have never agreed to the interview. …I am not only livid that I was lied to, but I am even more enraged that Don Blankenship would manipulate a tragedy to promote himself and his own agenda. I am going to pursue every legal recourse available against Adroit’s despicable tactics.”
And the Senator’s closing words:
“The most tragic part of all of this is that the families of these miners are forced to suffer yet again at the hands of Don Blankenship.”
Don’t give Don Blankenship the chance to tout the number of “hits” he receives for the film on YouTube. Boycott the film.