Mike Papantonio Talks Down His Unhinged Claim That Fracking 'Killed Thousands of Americans'

April 17th, 2012 1:58 PM

There might be hope for libtalker and attorney Mike Papantonio after all.

Papantonio, who co-hosts the weekend "Ring of Fire" radio program with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Sam Seder, was guest hosting on Ed Schultz's radio show on April 12 when he backpedaled on a claim he made about fracking earlier in the month. (audio clips after page break)

Back on April 3, Papantonio was sitting in for Schultz on that day as well, talking with Daily Beast reporter Rick Outzen, and said this about hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, the use of high-pressured fluids to extract oil and natural gas buried deep in the earth (audio) --

OUTZEN: I was just looking on Yahoo, BP just leased 84,000 acres in Ohio. Now what could go wrong when BP gets into fracking?

PAPANTONIO: Why did they do it? Because the politics allowed 'em to do it.

OUTZEN: Exactly.

PAPANTONIO: It used to be you had a political system that said, wait just a sec, let's look at what, let's look at how fracking has destroyed the health of thousands of Americans, has killed thousands of Americans, has contaminated the aquifer, has poisoned the air, has destroyed actual soil that'll never be rejuvenated and be usable.

Turns out these assertions were a tad much, even for Papantonio, a man second to none in overwrought claims when the mood strikes.  Here's what he had to say about fracking on Thursday, with author Cliff Schecter as his guest, after nine days to decompress (audio) --

PAPANTONIO: Interesting thing, I was just thinking some, I don't know, some character, one of the knuckle draggers, Brian Baloney, I don't, it's called Radio Equality, something like that. I mean, this guy sends me this email, outraged that I talked about the fact that fracking has potential to kill thousands of people. How does it do it? It does it the same way that I saw in the case that I handled up in West Virginia or the one that I handled in north Florida or the ones we handled in Mississippi. It's the same thing. You poison the aquifer and it kills our children. But you know, a guy like this Brian Baloney, I really don't know, it just comes to mind ...

SCHECTER: Let's just call him Brian Baloney.

PAPANTONIO: Brian, OK, with the Radio Equality, whatever, sends me this thing, outraged, that I would say it kills thou-, well it does, Brian Baloney!

Hey, whatever it takes to drive up those billable hours while schmoozing on the phone.

As for those legal actions Papantonio cited, note the curious absence of such helpful specifics as names of plaintiffs and defendants, status of the cases, verdicts, you know, trivial stuff like that. Proving a causal link between industrial activity and harm to public health is often difficult and can result in litigation lasting years, as "A Civil Action," both book and movie, amply demonstrated.

Papantonio was also playing dumb -- granted, it's hard to tell -- when referring to Radio Equalizer blogger Brian Maloney. I contacted Brian about Papantonio's claim that Maloney sent him an "outraged" email over his remarks about fracking. This came as news to me, Brian wrote back -- "Didn't send him anything, don't know how to contact him."

Surely it would not be difficult for Papantonio to corroborate his claim by forwarding the alleged email to NewsBusters.

Typical of Papantonio, he did something else shabby on Schultz's radio show, and not for the first time. Two of his guests on April 12, attorneys Leo Ryan and James Kauffman, are also Papantonio's law partners -- which Papantonio neglected to mention. Ryan was one of Papantonio's guests on Schultz's radio show back on Nov. 10  and described by Papantonio as "one of the best criminal defense attorneys in America," with no mention by Papantonio of his professional affiliation to Ryan.