If you suspected that Maria Bartiromo would be easy to dupe, those assumptions were borne out on Wednesday morning when the Fox Business anchor spent more than six minutes interviewing an animal rights activist who she believed to be the CEO of Smithfield Foods, which bills itself as “the world's largest pork processor and hog producer.”
According to Direct Action Everywhere, activist Matt Johnson was able to get booked on Bartiromo’s show as Smithfield Foods’ new CEO and President Dennis Organ. During the interview, he warned viewers that factory farms like the ones Smithfield operates could create the next pandemic, without raising any suspicion from Bartiromo, who simply plowed forward with the segment.
Bartiromo began by introducing Johnson as Dennis Organ and asking him about the company’s South Dakota processing plant, which became the worst COVID-19 cluster in the country early in the pandemic. For the first few moments, he played it fairly straight, calling the coronavirus “devastating” for his industry and recognizing the “heroic” efforts of the plant workers—some of whom have died from COVID.
But soon, he was taking “responsibility” for the horrific conditions those workers have been forced to endure. Promising “transparency” and “brutal honesty,” he 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.” He called the company’s farms “petri dishes for new diseases” and noted that hog farming also “causes immense damage to our air and waterways.”
And yet still, Bartiromo didn’t catch on, continuing to call him “Dennis” as she went on to ask the man she thought was Smithfield’s CEO about the company’s relationship to the Chinese conglomerate that recently bought it. On behalf of the company, the activist pledged “half a billion dollars a year starting in 2021” to mitigate the environmental impacts of the meat industry.
It was all part of the protest group’s “No More Factory Farms” campaign, which “calls on government officials to proactively prevent future pandemic outbreaks by introducing a moratorium prohibiting the construction of new factory farms and slaughterhouses.”
At the very end of her show, Bartiromo issued a “very important correction,” telling viewers, “It appears that we have been punked.” She called the man she interviewed “an imposter” who made “false claims” about Smithfield.