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Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo got “punk’d” by an animal rights activist pretending to be the CEO of Smithfield Foods Inc., and according to reports, the actual executives at Smithfield Foods aren’t too happy about it.
“FOX Business aired a segment that was a complete hoax. A simple Google search for a photo of our CEO would have prevented this from happening,” Smithfield chief administrative officer Keira Lombardo said in a statement to The Washington Post.
True, but mistakes happen.
The mistake here involved Bartiromo spending a segment Wednesday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” interviewing Matt Johnson, the press coordinator of Direct Action Everywhere, an international animal rights group that seeks to “achieve revolutionary social and political change for animals in one generation.”
Except that Johnson had fooled Bartiromo’s staff into believing that he was Dennis Organ, the CEO of Smithfield Foods Inc., a company that sells pork.
Of course, Direct Action Everywhere and its members, including Johnson, don’t care much for companies like Smithfield that slaughter animals and sell them as food, so you can imagine how the interview went.
Ostensibly about Smithfield’s efforts to distribute vaccines to workers at a factory where there’s been a coronavirus outbreak, the interview actually seemed legitimate at first, apparently because Johnson is a damn good actor.
For instance, at one point he genuinely sounded like Organ when he defended the company’s track record vis-a-vis its handling of the coronavirus.
“Thousands of our really courageous food workers, and I really do want to emphasize the heroic efforts of these folks — they’ve been getting sick for really just trying to provide for their families,” he said.
“As far as Smithfield, we’ve done for our employees, we’ve provided them with extensive personal protective equipment and offered additional paid leave for sick employees, but those steps have unfortunately been insufficient in many instances.”
However, this act allowed him to inconspicuously lace his interview with talking points clearly plucked straight from Direct Action Everywhere’s activist manuals.
Watch the full segment below:
At one point he casually said, “The truth is that our industry, in addition to the outbreaks that are happening at our plants, our industry poses a serious threat in effectively bringing on the next pandemic, with CDC data showing that three of four infectious diseases come from animals and the conditions inside of our of farms can sometimes be Petri dishes for new diseases.”
See what he did there? After having already disarmed Bartiromo by praising the company, he slyly attacked the company with a full uppercut.
The interview eventually concluded with Bartiromo thanking Johnson, whom she still thought was Organ, for speaking with her. Not until the tail end of the show did she acknowledge to the audience that a “mistake” had been made.
“We have an important correction to make. It appears we have been punk’d. Earlier in the program I interviewed someone claiming to be the CEO of Smithfield Foods, Dennis Organ,” she said.
“We’ve since learned that that was not Dennis Organ, but an imposter making false claims about the company. He is someone who has absolutely no relation to Smithfield Foods, we want to apologize to Dennis Organ, Smithfield Foods, and to our audience for making this mistake. We will of course be more vigilant.”
Speaking with the Post, Johnson admitted that posing as Organ wasn’t easy. At one point Bartiromo almost tripped him up when she asked whether Smithfield raises its hogs in the United States and then sends them to China to be slaughtered, produced and packaged.
“In an interview … Johnson/’Dennis Organ’ said he was caught ‘flat-footed’ by the question. ‘She thought she was speaking to the CEO of the company, who would know all these things off the top of his head, but I didn’t know the answer to that,'” the Post notes.
“So the imposter, in between ‘uh’s, managed to say that ‘the pigs are slaughtered in the U.S. and we have an export market which we think is a very necessary part of a thriving economy, to have open trade.'”
Amazingly enough, he apparently got it right, according to the Post: “Smithfield produces pork for U.S. customers, all of which is processed in this country. Certain cuts that aren’t popular in the domestic market go to the company’s 40 export markets, including Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong/China.”
As to how he managed to fool FBN, all Johnson would say was that he had created “fake contact info.”
His interview with the Post reportedly concluded with him admitting — perhaps sarcastically — that his only regret was failing to announce that Smithfield would be transitioning to plant-based meats.
FYI @ pork lovers out there, that likely ain’t ever happening …
Speaking with another outlet, The Wrap, Johnson reportedly said he’d been rejected by “several” other news programs before landing n appearance on FBN.
He added that he doesn’t feel bad about what he did because of the “misinformation” that Bartiromo allegedly peddles.
What’s certainly not “misinformation” is that Johnson is currently facing a felony charge as per another stunt he apparently pulled sometime earlier. It’s unclear whether he’ll face any charges for Wednesday’s stunt as well.
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