Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo duped into interviewing animal rights activist impersonating Smithfield pork plant CEO
Fox News

You may remember Maria Bartiromo as the Fox journalist who landed the first interview with President Trump after he lost the election.

But last week she made headlines again for a very awkward blunder which she was forced to correct live on air.

The segment was broadcast on Wednesday evening on Fox Business, and Bartiromo found herself interviewing Matt Johnson of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere.

The problem is, she introduced him as Dennis Organ, the president of a pork manufacturer called Smithfield Food, which saw a Covid-19 outbreak in a South Dakota plant.

When asked about this, Johnson, impersonating Organ, replied in a fairly believable way, praising the employees for risking their health in order to work. At this point, it takes a strange turn though, when he says: “These folks have been through a lot, frankly we might bear some responsibility for that.”

He continued: “As the new president and CEO of Smithfield, I personally promise that we’re going to do better and the first change under my leadership is transparency and at times brutal honesty. And the truth is that our industry – outside of the outbreaks happening in our plants – our industry poses a huge threat in effectively bringing on the next pandemic, with CDC data showing that three in four infectious diseases come from animals, and the conditions inside of our farms can sometimes be petri dishes for new diseases. Farming also causes immense harm to our air and waterways. ”

Bartiromo does look a little understandably confused by this exchange, but presses on, asking about the acquisition of Smithfield by a Chinese company and allegations that hogs raised in the US are sent to China to be slaughtered and packaged.

Johnson, still in character, replies with a vague comment about exports, and then pivots to an outbreak of African swine flu, which Bartiromo leans into, asking how Americans can know their meat is safe.

In his response, Johnson – who with the benefit of hindsight does look like he’s smirking a little – again highlights the impact of the food industry, and claims that he is pledging to donate $1bn a year starting in 2021 in order to “mitigate some of these impacts”.

We can only assume that the real CEO of Smithfield did not sign this off.

Shortly after, Bartiromo issued a correction live on air, saying: “It appears that we’ve been punk’d.” She goes on to apologise to the real Dennis Organ and to her viewers, assuring them that they will “be more vigilant” in the future.

Many however found the whole thing pretty amusing, not to mention baffling.

Not a great look for a network that broadly supports the president’s accusations of other outlets being “fake news”.

Direct Action Everywhere, on the other hand, seemed pretty pleased with itself.

A good reminder to google people before you interview them on live TV at least.

MORE: What will happen if Trump has to physically vacate White House

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)