Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazine Executive Editor Farron Cousins take a look at a recent decision made by the EPA is subjecting more than 110 Million American citizens to increased amounts of cancer-causing corporate toxins in their drinking water. Legal Journalist Mollye Barrows joins Mike Papantonio to talk about the cost-cutting move by Gannett to slash jobs all across the country.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Thanks to a recent decision by the EPA, more than a 110 million American citizens will now be subjected to increased amounts of cancer causing corporate toxins in their drinking water. I’m with Farron cousins tonight and we’re going to talk about that. Farron, look, you know, I, I gotta tell you, we all expected the worst from the EPA here because I really, the only way I can describe the EPA lately, I’d say over the last two decades really is, is a captured as a captured agency. The, the industry has totally captured the agency. Don’t you agree?

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, absolutely, and now that we have, you know, Andrew Wheeler, who is still the acting EPA administrator, he’s more than willing to kind of carry on this legacy of let’s let corporations do whatever they want to do and I’m just going to sit here, run this agency and not actually enforce any of the rules. And that’s what we’re seeing right now. These chemicals that we’re talking about, these are the, perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS, and the, perfluorooctanoic acid.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Let, let me give you the history on these because as you know, I tried the case on one of these. The, the, what happened was 3M decided that the PFAS was so dangerous that they stopped making it. They stopped manufacturing it and there’s the, the letter that came out in the trial on PFOA, was where they’re discussing the idea that they have a responsibility to, to citizens. They have a responsibility to, to the government. They have responsibility to their shareholders to pull it off the market because it is so dangerous and the toxic cost and the financial costs down the road would be huge. So they pulled it off the market and so now they, they’re the ones that developed it.

They said it’s this dangerous, but now we have an EPA administrator who says, you know, Andrew Wheeler says, no we’re not going to actually say it’s dangerous. Matter of fact, we’re not even going to put any limits on what can be sold, any reasonable limits on what can be sold or what, what you find in your drinking water. So people are drinking this right out of the tap.

Farron Cousins:                  They are, and here’s the worst part, you know, you mentioned this has gone on for a long time and yes it has. This is not just Wheeler, I mean the EPA has delayed putting any legal limits on this for 20 years. So we’re going back four different administrations at this point from Clinton to Trump here. They all knew this, they all had the same material, except it’s evolved over the years to show even worse things. But even back in the late 90’s, they knew this stuff was toxic.

They knew it was going to cause cancer. And look right now, there is no legal limit on PFOAs and PFOS’. Michigan right now has 15 sites contaminated by the PFAS Chemicals. They lead the charge. New York 10 sites, but 110…

Mike Papantonio:             North Carolina.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah, North Carolina is absolutely contaminated with Gen-X and 110 million people, just to put it that way, if you’re staying in there with two other people, one in three of you roughly percentage wise, is drinking these chemicals on a daily basis.

Mike Papantonio:             And what we know about the chemicals has been related, clearly been related to cancer. If you take a look at, we’ve talked about on this show, take a look at the, the, The Devil We Know that’s on Netflix right now. It really, really tells the story. Okay. So the point is I don’t really see relief for agencies. I mean for consumers. This is an agency that has for 20 years decided I’m not going to do this.

And the reason why is the lobbying money is so big. The influence of these companies that make this is just so monstrous that it’s really tough for the consumer to fight back. How does the consumer go to Washington and say, you know, well, what about us? Can we give you some? There is no lobbying money that the consumer gives. And the unfortunate thing we’re going to have to live with this, Wheeler certainly is not going to pull us out of it.

Farron Cousins:                  Just to make one more note here, the EPA in December, December 2018, so two months ago, they said that these particular chemicals, we’re talking about, they cause developmental effects in fetuses or women who are breastfeeding. Low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal problems, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, liver damage, thyroid damage, cholesterol changes.

Mike Papantonio:             And in all that, Wheeler says, no, we’re not going to give you any limits that you can actually go by.

Mike Papantonio:             Another brutal day for journalism as Gannett started slashing jobs all across the country in a cost cutting move and the cuts have not been minor cuts. This was followed by major cuts at both Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. Joining me to talk about this is Mollye Barrows, Mollye long history in journalism. When you see this happening…

Mollye Barrows:                Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             You’ve seen it before, haven’t you?

Mollye Barrows:                Oh absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             Give me your take. This is not a, this is not a minor issue here is it?

Mollye Barrows:                No, I mean a thousand jobs just last week alone. You’re talking about journalists, other folks in the media and these positions are not going to be filled again, especially in the world of digital journalism and that giant sucking sound that you hear, that is Facebook and Google taking up all that online ad revenue because they do targeted advertising. So media outlets that are maybe even seeing an increase in audiences, they’re not able to attract the advertisers like Google and Facebook which dominate the digital world. The web is their home. That’s their turf and these online media outlets just simply can’t compete Pap.

Mike Papantonio:             Is it a credibility issue too? I wonder you, you gotta wonder is how, has the, has the public been charmed in this idea that journalism has failed us? That, that we, we don’t, we don’t see real journalism anymore. What is your take on that?

Mollye Barrows:                I think you’re right. To, to a great extent when you see these slashes, there have been some critics that say, well, this is the result of bad journalism or this is the result of journalists who aren’t doing their jobs and people don’t trust them anymore. And that’s sort of the social approach to it. The service part of journalism, if you will, but it has nothing to do with that, and has everything to do with their business model. Now does trust play a role? And if you’re going to choose a social media story, perhaps like a Slate story or Huffington Post story, you wouldn’t necessarily go to their website to find that story. You might see it appear on Facebook or you might see it on Instagram or you might see it somewhere else. So they click on that and they’re not going directly to the origination, you know, the outlets where these originated from.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, so part of it also is found in a generational shift. You know, I’ve seen this coming with HuffPost for quite some time. HuffPost used to be a lot more responsible. Now I call it kinda celeb nosh, you know, is what, you know, what’s happening in the celebrity world. There have one, they have one voice when it comes to politics about Trump, you know. Rather than, rather than talking about a Trump story, why are they talking about environment? Why are they talking about corporate malfeasance? Why are they talking about issues that affect the American worker or the American, you know, the American taxpayer in so many different ways? The same thing with CNN, you know, we’re going to see this with CNN. I, I really think CNN is going to be next on the chopping block, but you also have Facebook coming and saying, we want a Facebook news service, right?

Mollye Barrows:                That’s exactly right. So that’s the other danger, I think in this. If you have Google, you also have Yahoo News, they’re actually laying off some people as well. You have Facebook. If they’re going to be absorbing a lot of this content that’s already out there, then trust becomes basically subjective. You know, people are like, well, it’s going to be free for me to get it on Facebook, even if they’re borrowing from outlets that I may or may not, it’s free as opposed to going and paying for a subscription service to a New York Times or New Yorker or whoever that you might have to pay for your news. So you mentioned trust earlier, trust goes out the window when people start charging for journalism, they don’t care, it becomes a nonissue. But when it comes to basically Facebook owning this news, then that is the big issue when it comes to trust to me because we can’t trust them. They’ve been proven to be liars over and over again and they’re going to gear content to what people want to see instead of challenging them.

Mike Papantonio:             So we saw a story last week, Farron and I covered, either the last week or the week before, where you have Zuckerberg coming in, telling news organizations like small newspapers that we want to help you. We’re here, we’re here, we’re going to spend $300 million dollars to help you be a better journalism vehicle, right? They’re not interested in that. They’re interested in two things. A, Facebook, they want to change their image by buying off journalists and B, they want to own that organization. We’ve got about 30 seconds, what your take?

Mollye Barrows:                I think corporate owned media in general is what’s killing this country, whether it’s TV, online or newspaper. Newspaper’s dead. Online is certainly struggling when it comes to online media outlets. TV, not seeing the same number of reporters laid off because their advertising revenue isn’t being challenged like it is in the digital platform. But corporate owned media in general, they all want to own your content because you are a barcode to all of them.

Mike Papantonio:             Right, right. Mollye, thanks for joining me, okay.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.