Activist Matt Johnson won great acclaim from animal rights supporters by pulling off a neat trick: fooling Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo into interviewing him as Dennis Organ, the new CEO of Smithfield Foods, on her show last Wednesday. The prank went on for six minutes before Bartiromo caught on that something was gravely amiss.
Unfortunately, those who want to watch the full hilarious video on YouTube are now blocked by the message, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Fox Business Network (Fox Corporation).” However, you can find clips from the interview in a CNN video here.
Bartiromo started the interview by asking Johnson about conditions at “his” company’s South Dakota pork processing plant, the site of the country’s worst COVID-19 cluster early in the pandemic. Johnson was respectful when talking about the workers, nearly 1,300 of whom contracted the disease, and four of whom died. In September, the U.S. Department of Labor fined the company $13,494 for failing to protect its employees — a fine which Smithfield contested.
As the interview progressed, Johnson said Smithfield was taking responsibility for the awful conditions its workers endure. “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,” he said during the interview. He described Smithfield’s farms as “petri dishes for new diseases” and said hog farming “causes immense damage to our air and waterways.”
While Smithfield Foods was founded in 1936 in Virginia, Chinese company WH Group, formerly known as Shuanghui International, bought it in 2013 for $4.7 billion. Johnson pledged “half a billion dollars a year starting in 2021” on behalf of WH Group to mitigate the environmental devastation of the meat industry.
Perhaps this was the statement that led to Bartiromo finally recognizing the prank. At the end of her show, she issued a “very important correction,” calling Johnson an imposter who made false claims about Smithfield. In Bartiromo’s own words, “It appears that we have been punked.”
Matt Johnson is actually the press coordinator for Direct Action Everywhere. The Smithfield prank was part of the organization’s No More Factory Farms campaign. “A pandemic is ravaging global society, the sky is practically on fire, slaughterhouse workers are dying, and billions of animals are suffering needlessly,” Johnson said in a statement. “The signs could not be clearer. We must take bold action now.”
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