Testy Soledad O’Brien Attacks Coal CEO for Stating Obama Targeted His Industry

Robert E. Murray, the founder and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, told CNN's Soledad O'Brien Friday that the closure and subsequent layoffs at his company's mine near Brilliant, Ohio, were "entirely" due to the anti-coal policies of Barack Obama.

Not surprisingly, the Starting Point host spent much of the eleven-minute segment defending the president she adores from this accusation (video follows with transcript and commentary):

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST: This morning we're taking a closer look at coal, an Ohio mining company now shutting down its operations. That will happen in the fall laying off all its workers. They say it's the president's fault.

An Ohio American Energy statement says this, regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees and followers were cited as the entire reason of the closure. The mine is located near Brilliant, Ohio. At its peak, 239 people work there. Right now, they have 56 employees, 32 of them have been told they will be transferred within the company.

Overall the coal industry has been suffering lately. In 2011, the United States used 124 million fewer tons of coal than four years earlier and its competition, natural gas, has become lots cheaper to use.

Ohio American Energy is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation and Mr. Murray, Robert Murray, is the founder, its chairman, its president and CEO. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

When we read your press release yesterday you blamed regulatory actions by President Barack Obama. What specific regulatory actions are you referring to that you specifically say are being blamed for the closure of this company?

ROBERT E. MURRAY, FOUNDER & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION: Good morning, ma'am. Yes, ma'am, President Obama is responsible entirely for the closure of that mine and the loss of those jobs.

So far according to his own energy information agency, he has closed 175 power plants, coal fired power plants, in the United States of America.

O'BRIEN: So I was asking though about --

MURRAY: -- are being eliminated.

O'BRIEN: I was asking though about the specific because you talk about regulations. I wanted to know which were the regulations you felt specifically were to blame for the fact this mining operation was going to have to shut down?

MURRAY: Those are some of the specific regulations. The many regulations that he and his radical appointees and the U.S. EPA have put on the use of coal, there are dozens of them and collectively by his own energy administration have closed 175 power plants.

In addition, we cannot get permits for these mines. They are delaying the issuance of permits. If you can't get the permit, you can't have the mine. Ma'am, I'm very distraught this morning because this is a human issue to me.

I created those jobs and I put the investment in that mine. And when it came time to lay the people off, I went up personally and talked to everyone of them myself to lay them off. It's a human issue. Obama --


O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting. People who are environmentalists, often clashing with the coal companies would also say it's a human issue.

Your attorney who was cited in some articles mentioned three specific rules so I'll name them, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which is known as CARE, which put in place back in 2005, before President Obama.

The Cross State Air Pollution rule, which actually there is a stay on that law, it hasn't been implemented yet. And there's the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which would basically make sure that air quality for certain things like carbon monoxide and lead and nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution and sulphur dioxide.

That all those things are not only monitored, but they are also limited so they can't drift from one coal production into another state. So I think environmentalists would say that these are rules that are actually very valuable.

Talk about caring for people, to -- in terms of people's health as well. Some of them started not under President Obama, but started way before President Obama came into office.

MURRAY: You are correct and incorrect both. Though the CARE Act enacted in 2005 did protect the health of people and it did allow the coal industry to exist.

It is what the Obama administration has done with those rules over the years and implemented since he took office. He said when he took office if you build a coal powered plant in America we're going to bankrupt you.

Joe Biden said no coal in America. They are making good on that promise. But to me as I started to say it's a human issue, Ma'am, because he's destroying the lives and livelihoods of many people I know by name. These jobs will never come back.


No, they likely won't, but that didn't prevent O'Brien from continuing to defend the President.

As the conversation ensued, she brought up Murray's political contributions as well as something he once said about George W. Bush:

O'BRIEN: You know, I want to ask you about the politics of this. Because when people look into who you support politically this year alone, right, and we're only in August.

I believe you've given $150,000 to the GOP. You know, so I think there are people who could say, your position is more about politics than anything else.

Wouldn't you love to see O'Brien challenging an Obama-supporting businessman with his political contributions? Don't hold your breath.

But she wasn't done shooting the messenger:

O'BRIEN: Let me read a quote from you. You said, "God was shining on America when Bush got elected." That's a quote. All I can say, God was shining on America when George W. Bush got elected and there are many people who would look to the reputation that the Bush administration had.

Courts found and this is a quote, in court rulings, that "The administration contradicted and disregarded language of the Clean Air Act" and the courts overturned 15 rulings of the administration's own Environmental Protection Agency.

So I think that there are people who would say it's not, not about politics. That actually, clearly, if you run a coal company and you're trying to get a break on certain policies.

And that actually it does matter who's in office and you might be more willing and supportive of someone you think will give you a break.

Pretty predictable, isn't it? Frankly, I'm surprised she didn't accuse Murray of being racist.

That would have been par for the course.

(HT Deneen Borelli)

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.