I thought my readers should know that I've been sued for defamation by Mr. Don Blankenship, former Chairman and CEO of the Massey Energy Company of West Virginia. It appears Mr. Blankenship thinks I had something to do with his loss in the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia in 2018.
I am one of what were originally 150 defendants. The top first-named defendant is Judge Andrew Napolitano of the Fox News Network (hence the suit is known as Blankenship v. Napolitano et al.). Others named as defendants include the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Esquire magazine, Wonkette, the Huffington Post, Breitbart News -- the list runs to several pages. Some of these have now apparently negotiated their way out of the lawsuit.
On April 5, 2010, a huge underground explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., took the lives of 29 miners. As head of the company, Blankenship was subsequently prosecuted by the Federal government for that explosion. In a trial in West Virginia, Blankenship was acquitted by a jury of some charges, found guilty of one charge, and spent approximately a year in Federal prison.
When he left prison, he went into politics and ran for the US Senate in the Republican primary of 2018 with two other candidates who hoped to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.
According to Blankenship v. Napolitano et al., WataugaWatch referred to Blankenship in a post on April 15, 2018, as a "recent felon … who's notorious in West Virginia without necessarily being electable." On the eve of the primary, May 7, 2018, WataugaWatch again mentioned Blankenship: "Holy crap! Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin has been considered the most endangered Democrat in the US Senate, but the Republican voters in their primary tomorrow may grant him a reprieve … if they choose felon coal baron Don Blankenship to run against him."
It turns out that although Mr. Blankenship was charged with felonies, he was only convicted of a misdemeanor. By using the word felon, I am blamed for linking to national news sources and for following the language being used at the time in the mainstream press, which some sources later corrected. I was unaware of those corrections, and I was unaware that he had only been convicted of a misdemeanor. I thought my characterization was accurate. Most of the 150 defendants in this lawsuit -- perhaps all of them -- at some point used the word felon or the word felony in the same sentence with the name Don Blankenship, as did I.
Correction: My saying that Don Blankenship was a felon instead of his being convicted of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards in relation to the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion -- for which his punishment was a year in jail -- was a mistake and unintentional. He was indeed acquitted of the felony charges. I meant no offense.
Blankenship lost the Republican primary on May 8 to Patrick Morrisey by 20,529 votes, coming in third in the primary out of a total of six candidates. The readership of WataugaWatch is primarily located in North Carolina, and principally in Watauga County of North Carolina. I don't know how many West Virginia voters might be reading a local North Carolina blog, but I don't think it's enough to have caused Don Blankenship to lose his primary race by over 20,000 votes.
Breaking News: On Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 -- yesterday -- a federal judge in West Virginia refused to toss the misdemeanor conviction of Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.