CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who appears in Don Blankenship’s new documentary on the Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy, said Monday he was misled about the intent of the film and Blankenship’s involvement.
The production, “Upper Big Branch — Never Again,” was produced by Adroit Films and financed by Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO. He continues to promote that the 2010 incident in which 29 miners died was the result of a natural disaster gas explosion and not unsafe work conditions cited by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Manchin, who supports the MSHA’s evaluation, said he was never told of Blankenship’s backing when the production team interviewed him about mine safety.
The senator released the following statement Monday:
“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, an issue I have been committed to since the Farmington Mine disaster that killed my uncle and 77 miners. Had I known the film was in any way associated with Don Blankenship, I would have never agreed to the interview. I spoke with them for more than half an hour about mine safety and how we must prevent an Upper Big Branch disaster from ever happening again. Yet, the producers only dedicated one minute and thirty-two seconds of my thirty-minute interview to mine safety – one of the most important issues in West Virginia – to attempt to vindicate Don Blankenship. He should be more concerned with his role in the deaths of 29 brave miners and the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation rather than filming a propaganda documentary. 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. 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.”
Blankenship was the president at Massey Energy when a massive explosion happened at its Upper Big Branch mine on April 5, 2010.
The MSHA concluded Massey Energy manipulated records to conceal hazards at the mine.
The documentary does include a disclaimer at the beginning:
“The experts interviewed for this documentary are commenting on forensic evidence and scientific principles. Their participation in this documentary is not in association of affiliation with Don Blankenship nor with one another.”