My filmmaking team and I recently told the story of the small town of Crossett, Arkansas, where residents are giving powerful testimony about the prevalence of cancer in their community and linking it to a nearby chemical plant owned by Charles and David Koch. This revelation came on top of the already-known facts that the Koch brothers are among the top 10 polluters in the United States and led the charge (unsuccessfully) to keep formaldehyde from being named a carcinogen.
Yet instead of cleaning up their operations, the Kochs are now attacking me personally.
Just as my new film Koch Brothers Exposed is set for release, one of the Kochs' corporate spokesmen, Greg Guest, says I'm "a very, very slanted filmmaker" who has made "erroneous and false claims" about the Kochs' operations. What he fails to mention is that my office has contacted the Koch brothers numerous times for an explanation of what's false about our exposés, including the one on cancer. The billionaire brothers refused to be interviewed for the film and have yet to respond to the evidence that my team at Brave New Foundation has uncovered.
We challenge the Koch brothers to engage in an honest debate. We challenge them to see the film and show one false claim. Generalizing about bias and false claims is easy; actually rebutting what we've documented is another matter.
Here's the video we did on the widespread occurrence of cancer near a Koch Industries chemical plant:
Respected scientist Anthony Samsel is a former consultant to Arthur D. Little, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. He emailed us when he saw Guest's statements, saying, "I can see that they appear to be targeting and labeling Robert as a nutcase filmmaker. Their playbook is predictable and doesn't change. For them it's just another day doing business." In Samsel's opinion, "these chemicals cause great harm to Crossett's residents" and result from the Kochs' "disregard for public safety."
David Koch is a cancer survivor himself and likes to trumpet his donations to cancer research, which makes his behavior as a businessman curious. Shouldn't the Kochs be especially sensitive to the challenges faced by those with cancer? For now, they seem especially sensitive only to the need to protect their image while continuing to reap the profits of pollution.
Their smears in advance of our film are understandable, of course. They're attacking us because they're getting cornered as the public learns more and more about how they're corroding our democracy. But the truth, I believe, will win out.
The Kochs are right about one thing, though: I do have a slant as a filmmaker. I'm slanted in favor of the powerless against those who exploit them. I have no interest in pretending that the Kochs are acting morally when they are not. I have no interest in letting big shots get away with hypocrisy -- certainly not when it comes to a life-and-death matter like cancer.
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