Nightly News   |  March 01, 2013

Kennedy under fire for praising Chavez

Former congressman Joseph Kennedy’s nonprofit Citizens Energy has given Hugo Chavez credit for contributing oil, but Chavez’s anti-American rhetoric has raised eyebrows. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> sharp-eyed television viewers may have seen the tv commercial and wondered what was up. in it, we see a kennedy , joe kennedy , son of bobby and a former congressman himself, saying nice things about hugo chavez of venezuela. he says he's happy to do it. years of work to deliver heating oil to folks of new england who can't afford it. and there is more to this story as nbc's ron mott reports from boston.

>> reporter: if it's cold where you live, chances are you have seen this ad.

>> the bills keep piling up. and the heating bill gets pushed off.

>> reporter: featuring former congressman joseph kennedy and his nonprofit, citizens energy.

>> when we ask the biggest oil companies to help families in need, only sit co, the people of swren za la and president hugo chavez responded.

>> reporter: it's a positive plug some say hugo chavez doesn't deserve.

>> he's using citizens' energy in order to give his own government a face-lift or do a public service campaign.

>> reporter: chavez's anti-american rhetoric over the years, he once referred to president george w. bush as the devil a u.n. speech, have led to frosty relations between the two countries.

>> why is the only company, the only organization that i can get help from, the venezuelans? and if he gives us a half billion dollars worth of help, don't you think maybe we should say thanks?

>> reporter: the former head of shell is one of the oil executives who said no thanks to kennedy 's pitch.

>> for chavez to grant joe kennedy discounted oil, while not worrying about the price of oil to all-american consumers, i think that's the height of hypocrisy.

>> reporter: kennedy 's joe for oil program is pumping in 16 states and the nation's capital, giving 100 gallons of heating oil to eligible households. as cold and harsh a season as it's been in neighborhoods like this one around the country, the help is invaluable for many struggling families. 88-year-old great grandmother helen says it matters little to her who is paying the tab to keep her warm.

>> it's a big help to me, because i can buy some food. if i don't do that, then i pay the oil bill, then i can't afford to buy food.

>> reporter: americans facing daunting choices. joe kennedy , happy to take the heat from big oil and elsewhere to help.

>> it's all happy horse manure . that's what they sell. and i don't like it. i don't buy it. and i'll fight them every time.

>> reporter: ron mott, nbc news, boston.