A mine company executive sued the state Democratic Party over a TV ad that he claims defamed him by quoting him as saying the deaths of 14 miners last year were statistically insignificant.
Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Don Blankenship filed the lawsuit against the West Virginia Democratic Party and party chairman Nick Casey on Friday in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Statements attributed to Blankenship in a Feb. 19, 2006, article in The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., were misrepresented in the party’s “Not For Sale” ad, he alleged in the lawsuit.
A methane explosion at International Coal Group’s Sago Mine killed 12 men in northern West Virginia on Jan. 2, 2006. Seventeen days later, a conveyer belt fire at Massey’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in southern West Virginia killed two miners.
The newspaper quoted Blankenship, a registered Republican who spent $3.6 million targeting Democratic candidates in 2006 elections, as saying he believed that the type of explosion that occurred in the two accidents is rare and statistically insignificant. He alleged in the lawsuit that the TV ad falsely portrayed him as saying the miners’ deaths were statistically insignificant.
“Mr. Blankenship has never said or implied that the death of the coal miners involved in the Sago and Aracoma accidents were insignificant,” the lawsuit reads.
Casey said Friday that he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.
“It strikes me as spurious, but I haven’t seen the paperwork,” Casey said.
Blankenship seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, along with a public apology.