Mine Explosion Filmmakers: Manchin Wasn’t Tricked Into Participating

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is at the fulcrum of the national energy debate.
National Journal
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
Jason Plautz
April 2, 2014, 1:30 p.m.

The film com­pany be­hind a con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­ment­ary on a deadly coal mine dis­aster is deny­ing that it tricked Sen. Joe Manchin in­to ap­pear­ing in the film, even as the West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat in­sists he was duped in­to par­ti­cip­at­ing.

The com­pany, Adroit Films, re­leased a state­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon say­ing that it “did not de­ceive or in­tend to de­ceive any in­ter­view sub­ject about the film or its par­ti­cipants.” Par­ti­cipants, Adroit said, signed a re­lease be­fore film­ing and were asked to “com­ment on mine safety and mine dis­asters.”

Manchin, who is in­ter­viewed in the doc­u­ment­ary, has said that he was duped about former Mas­sey En­ergy CEO Don Blanken­ship’s in­volve­ment in the film, in which Blanken­ship says fed­er­al in­vest­ig­at­ors ig­nored evid­ence about the ex­plo­sion that killed 29 miners.

Adroit’s state­ment does not cla­ri­fy wheth­er sub­jects were in­formed that Blanken­ship was fund­ing or would be ap­pear­ing in the doc­u­ment­ary, but says that in­form­a­tion about a sep­ar­ate pro­ject with Blanken­ship was avail­able on Adroit’s web­site. That film — titled Amer­ic­an Com­mon Sense — con­cerned the cost of gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions.

“The First Amend­ment to the United States Con­sti­tu­tion provides for the free­dom of the press and free­dom of speech for in­di­vidu­als and com­pan­ies,” Adroit said. “Every per­son is en­titled un­der the First Amend­ment to have an opin­ion and dis­cuss mat­ters of pub­lic con­cern, in­clud­ing Adroit Films and Don Blanken­ship.”

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day, Manchin ac­cused Adroit of prac­ti­cing “a pat­tern of de­cep­tion while pro­du­cing this sup­posed doc­u­ment­ary.”

“Nobody dis­putes Adroit Films’ con­sti­tu­tion­al right to pro­duce a doc­u­ment­ary,” he said. “What we dis­pute is their right to lie and de­ceive. They know­ingly omit­ted the fact that Don Blanken­ship, a man whom I be­lieve is re­spons­ible for the deaths of 29 miners, was fund­ing their pro­pa­ganda film in or­der to se­cure an in­ter­view.”

The doc­u­ment­ary re­leased Monday says that a buildup of nat­ur­al gas was be­hind the 2010 mine ex­plo­sion, con­trary to fed­er­al, state, and in­de­pend­ent re­ports that blamed coal dust and a faulty vent­il­a­tion sys­tem. In an in­ter­view on MS­N­BC, Blanken­ship said that his deni­al of man­made cli­mate change biased fed­er­al in­vest­ig­at­ors.

Sev­er­al oth­er par­ti­cipants in the film have since said they were not aware of Blanken­ship’s in­volve­ment. In a joint state­ment, pro­fess­ors Tom Heth­mon and Kim Mc­Carter of the Uni­versity of Utah Cen­ter for Min­ing Safety and Health Ex­cel­lence said that film­makers prom­ised them “that the doc­u­ment­ary for which we were in­ter­viewed was about the ad­vance­ment of mine safety stand­ards in this coun­try, and that Don Blanken­ship had no in­volve­ment, fin­an­cial or oth­er­wise, in the film’s pro­duc­tion.”

Ex­plo­sion ex­pert Mar­tin Hertzberg also told the Char­le­ston Daily Mail that he also was not aware that Blanken­ship was be­hind the video.

Manchin has vowed to take leg­al ac­tion against Adroit.

What We're Following See More »
REPEATS CONTROVERSIAL CLAIM
Trump: Clinton “Doesn’t Have The Stamina” to be President
2 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.

WIDELY DEBUNKED CLAIM
Trump: Clinton Camp Started Birtherism
3 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.

“AFRICAN AMERICANS” ARE “LIVING IN HELL”
Conversation Shifts to Race
3 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."

JUST AS CLINTON INVITES VIEWERS TO VISIT HER SITE
During Debate, Trump Site Appears to Be Down
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Just as Hillary Clinton was inviting debate viewers to visit her site for real-time fact checking, there appeared to be a problem with Donald Trump's own campaign website. For about a 15-minute period, a blank page or an error message appeared when we tried to load the Trump site.

INTERRUPTS CLINTON MULTIPLE TIMES
Trump Comes Out Swinging
4 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Donald Trump has come out in the first segment of this debate raring to go. Trump has interrupted nearly every answer being given by Hillary Clinton, talking over her time and again. Clinton is sticking to her guns, smiling while Trump speaks and then calling on people to go to her website and see the fact checking being done.

×