With a week remaining before West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary, it wasn’t too surprising to see Hillary Clinton make an appearance in the state over the weekend. Similarly, it didn’t come as a shock to see Donald Trump supporters and coal-industry workers hold a protest outside of Clinton’s visit at the Williamson Wellness and Health Clinic in Mingo County.
What was surprising, however, was one of the people who joined the protest. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported:
More than 100 protesters stood in the pouring rain on the corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, holding umbrellas over their Donald Trump signs, chanting about coal and booing Clinton. Even former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship, a Mingo County resident who has been sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety laws, made an appearance in the crowd.Blankenship was a dominant player in West Virginia politics for years, donating millions of dollars to Republican causes and politicians. His former political aides and operatives continue to play an outsize role in state Republican politics.Approached by a Gazette-Mail reporter for an interview, Blankenship responded, “Are you joking?”
As a general rule, presidential candidates don’t enjoy being confronted with angry protestors, and I can imagine Clinton was uncomfortable at times facing the crowd’s jeers and insults.
But Blankenship’s role arguably makes this one of those rare instances in which a candidate is actually delighted to see a critic. After all, if there’s one person in West Virginia whose hatred a Democratic presidential hopeful would welcome, it’s Don Blankenship.
Remember this report from a month ago?
Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, was sentenced Wednesday to one year in federal prison for safety lapses connected to a deadly West Virginia coal mine explosion.A jury in federal court convicted Blankenship in December of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards, connected to an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010 that killed 29 men. One year in prison was the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger also imposed the maximum fine, $250,000.
Blankenship “made a conscious, cold-blooded decision to gamble with the lives of the men and women who worked for him,” prosecutors said in their pre-sentence filings.
He is, by some measures, one of the most reviled figures in West Virginia. If this guy is protesting you, the appropriate response should probably be, “Good.”
As for the Democratic candidate’s broader message in West Virginia, Clinton apologized for having said a couple of months ago that she intends to put coal miners and coal companies “out of business.”
“I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason, or the excuse, to be so upset with me, because that is not what I intended at all,” Clinton added yesterday. “I’m here because I want you to know whether people vote for me or not, whether they yell at me or not, is not going to affect what I’m gonna try to do to help.”