Once again, in its quest for a scapegoat for a crisis facing society, the media has set its sights on a large corporation.
A segment on the April 28 "World News with Charles Gibson" by ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman, reporting from La Gloria, Mexico, went after Smithfield Foods, Inc. (NYSE:SFD) for operating a pig farm near the city where the swine flu pandemic is believed to have originated.
"When people heard here that a case of swine flu had been traced to this area, few were surprised," Kofman said. "And in the next breath they'll tell you they think they know where it came from."
Smithfield's image and stock price have been punished by the dubious association of swine flu with pork products, despite many experts and government officials stating with certainty that the flu virus can't be contracted from pork products.
"Just about a few miles from the village are a dozen huge industrial pig farms, the vast majority part-owned by Smithfield, the biggest pork producer in the United States," Kofman said.
Smithfield has been the target of various left-wing groups on labor and environmental issues before, and Kofman brought up the environmental issues, tying them to the flu virus' first known victim, four-year-old Edgar Hernandez.
"Back in La Gloria, the men complain about the polluted air and groundwater, but they don't know how Edgar got sick," Kofman said. "The pig farms they say are all bad."
But Dr. Kathryn Edwards of Vanderbilt University explained it wasn't pig farm itself that the boy contracted the virus from, but a person.
"The most likely way that this young boy got this infection was from another person who had been in contact with the pigs," Edwards explained.
Smithfield denied Kofman access to the pig farm, but replied to Kofman's inquiry in a statement: "There is no evidence of the presence of [swine flu] in any of the company's swine herds or in its employees."
Smithfield owns 50 percent of the pig farm in question. However its Smithfield's partner, Granjas Carroll de Mexico, actually operates the farm.