Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed public affairs specialist Clint Brewer in studio to comment on the failed public relations handling of the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment.
Leahy: People there don’t like what we’re doing. It’s just a PR mess. Oh, p.s. There are a lot of health and environmental concerns going on there as well. You told me that we ought to wait because we missed that town hall last night because we worried about our safety. Really? I think we made a mistake there, Clint. How do I fix this problem?
Brewer: You become very visible in the community. You show up. You don’t go to a big, angry mob of people and avoid them. You avoid the mob by going from the beginning. You get up, you go, you be seen. You talk to community leaders.
You’re seen talking to community leaders. Certainly, you consult your legal counsel and your risk management people about what you can and can’t say. But you don’t avoid the site. That’s the biggest thing. You don’t avoid the town that it affects. You go.
Tennessee governors have done a great job of this over the years. Nobody controls tornadoes, which is a lot of what happens in the state, but they’re always there. And I think you’re very public about your cooperation with the government.
I think you’re very public about communicating to Washington, D.C. What has happened. Your concerns. It’s briefing, briefing, briefing, briefing, briefing. A constant flow of information, a constant show of concern for the community, and being as transparent as possible.
That’s the thing that most people make the mistake of, is that they try to hide the ball. They think if they don’t engage, then they mitigate their risk. A lot of times, failure to engage heightens your risk.
Leahy: The president and CEO of Norfolk Southern is a guy named Alan Shaw. He’s down in Atlanta. And so you think that guy ought to be up there in East Palestine today?
Leahy: He’s not going to go.
Brewer: No, but I mean, he should.
Leahy: He wants to say as far away as he can. And by the way, Alfred E. Buttigieg, where is he?
Brewer: Yes, well, that’s a whole separate issue. I think if I’m the railroad, I’m calling on the government to meet me there. It’s like we’ve asked the Secretary of Transportation to come to East Palestine.
Leahy: No, Palestine. Palestine.
Leahy: Everybody in Ohio listening said oh, really? But CNN, says Palestine. They got it wrong. It’s Palestine.
Brewer: It’s Palestine. Kind of like Lebanon is Lebanon. Same thing. The bottom line is you don’t run from it. It’s kind of like the countless clips of politicians and bureaucrats and people on Nashville TV over the decades when the TV reporter comes to interview them at the Capitol, and they turn and run down the hallway or the stairwell.
Leahy: You smile.
Brewer: You just turn around.
Leahy: Thank you for that question.
Brewer: And you just face the music. It’s not hard. It is hard, but it’s worse to have your back to the camera running down a stairwell or something. That’s the crisis communication disaster equivalent of what these folks are doing. It’s been poorly handled. There’s no way around it. It’s just been poorly handled.
Leahy: Would you tell the CEO of Norfolk Southern the following? The people there are not happy because you have said, we’ll test your water if you sign a waiver and promise not to sue us. They’ve like they’ve forced, like, 300 people to sign waivers to test.
Brewer: I’m confused. Is it not the job of the state’s environmental department and the federal EPA to tell people whether their water is safe or not? Why would you rely on a railroad that has, to my knowledge, absolutely no expertise in this area to test the water?
Leahy: It gets worse because in this instance the Ohio Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S EPA, they’re not going door to door and saying, hey, we’ll test your water for free.
Norfolk Southern has hired a water testing company and said, if you sign this waiver, we’ll test your water, but otherwise we won’t. You can understand why people are more than a little bit upset about this.
Brewer: Yes, that’s bad form all around. Why do people pay taxes? If we have an Environmental Protection Agency and we have a Department of the Environment at a state level that is coordinated with the EPA, how are they not involved? I’m sure they’re involved at some level, but why are people having to rely on the folks who created the disaster to test their water? Seems like a conflict of interest.
Leahy: Yes, you think so? Let me just add I think you’re exactly right. If this had happened here in Tennessee, I can tell you Governor Bill Lee, who we have occasionally had a few…
Brewer: This wouldn’t happen in Tennessee.
Leahy: Governor Bill Lee would have been there.
Brewer: Oh, no, question.
Leahy: He would have been there on the ground holding a press conference. That’s how we do it in Tennessee.
Brewer: When the Super Tuesday tornadoes happened in 2020, I live out in Wilson County. Mount Juliet was hard hit. The governor was there. The first lady was there. Senator Blackburn was there. Members of the state legislature were there. It was a full-court press.
Leahy: Nobody, Governor DeWine of Ohio was there at East Palestine, Ohio.
Leahy: For 45 minutes. That’s it. All this other stuff since not there. And in fact, he was there. You saw this at the press conference he held. The reporter from the NewsNation, because he was too loud was arrested. Did you see that? (Laughs)
Brewer: Yes. I don’t even know what that means. Too loud at a press conference? What is that?
Leahy: It’s being a reporter?
Brewer: Is it a police state up there? I don’t understand.
Leahy: The story gets even richer in this sense, journalistically. The governor of Pennsylvania last night, puts out a letter and says, or actually, it was not last night, but Tuesday night, puts that says, hey, Norfolk Southern, you didn’t look at all the options before the controlled burn.
He puts that out, like, the day before yesterday, on the 14th, on Tuesday, but on the day of the burn, on February 6th, he praised the burn. He said it went well. This is like a quarter mile away from the Pennsylvania border, by the way. He’s not been there. He’s not been up there.
And so he’s not showing up either. This is just a kerfuffle of failed leadership all the way around. The governor of Ohio, the governor of Pennsylvania, Norfolk Southern, Alfred E. Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and the EPA, they’re just not present. And people are noticeably angry.
Brewer: And they wonder why folks in the middle of America distrust the government.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine.
Host Stephen K. Bannon welcomed The Star News Network’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Ohio Star, Michael Patrick Leahy, on Wednesday evening’s War Room: Battleground to talk about the confusion over who is in control of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Bannon: This is revolting. And I take great pride with Michael Patrick Leahy at least being a tiny group that’s forced these people to start coming forward with their lies and their misrepresentations and just the gross incompetence. Michael Patrick Leahy, you’re putting up another story right now. Explain to me first. Josh Shapiro has now gotten off the dime. He sent a blistering letter to the CEO.
But one of the things he was whining about, he said, hey, we never heard about it for a couple of days or a while because nobody contacted my head of EPA. That’s not the response. The company yes, they should. But, hey, if they don’t, big deal. You guys should be all over this.
You hear a different story every day about what they tested, what they didn’t test, all that. Walk us through where we stand right now at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the 15th, on Wednesday the 15th, and this entire thing, Michael Patrick Leahy.
Leahy: The headline here is that the governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, Steve, agrees with you. Yesterday on your program, you said that it was a mistake just to look at one option to do the vent and burn, the controlled burn of vinyl chloride. There were other options. He completely agrees with you. He released his letter, I think, about half an hour after you said that. And that KDKA report came just a little bit after you said that.
The other thing that’s noticeable about this is Josh Shapiro wants to entirely be separated from “the we,” the collective “we” that Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said we’re responsible for the control of the controlled burn decision. In fact, he put this all up on Norfolk Southern.
His letter didn’t mention a word about the governor of Ohio, which I found quite interesting. But look, that letter basically and the story is up now, by the way, at The Ohio Star headline: Pennsylvania Governor Blasts Norfolk Southern for ‘Vent and Burn’ Plan In Aftermath of Train Derailment. Listen to this, Steve.
So in the letter, he took the CEO of Norfolk Southern to task because they provided inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact of the controlled release. That made protective action decision-making more difficult in the immediate aftermath of the derailment. And then he agreed with you.
He criticized Norfolk Southern for their unwillingness to explore or articulate alternate courses of action to their proposed vent and burned. And that, he said that limited state and local government officials from acting properly.
Bannon: Hold it. But when they say it’s not upon Norfolk Southern to give the only model, that’s fine. They should do it through the company. But their focus is going to get these tankers off the track so we can clear the track and get trains running again and try to make some money here. When he says conflicting models from the company, yeah, that’s bad.
But you cannot base your decisions on models from the company. We’re going to be talking about financial models in a second. Guess what, ladies and gentlemen? The Congressional Budget Office just gave us the model for the next 10 years. What have we been asking the Biden administration to do it. Well, the CBO did it, okay? Because we asked for these models. Let’s get to reality. What’s the mathematics of this?
The model, ladies, and gentlemen, Navarro is going to come in here in a second. $19 trillion was added to the national debt over the next 10 years. Let me repeat that. $19 trillion. That’s $1.9 trillion per year as I said it was going to be. That means you’re over $50 trillion and the country is out of business. That model doesn’t work, but at least they put it forward. It’s the same thing here.
When you make these complicated things, you just can’t wing it. It’s not a feel play. You got to have common sense. But that is all based on what science and math tell you. We believe in evidence, data, and science here at the WarRoom. Not happy talk. And now all you do is get spinning. This thing is totally coming. When are you going to press the DeWine? Because DeWine is lying here.
Didn’t DeWine, we just had the clip up here. He said the DOD. What the hell is the Defense Department got to do with this? I don’t care about as far as finding get another opinion. But I don’t care about the Defense Department. Tell me which way the wind is going to blow. I want the guy that’s accountable in response. I want the node of responsibility, accountability. Boom.
Right there. And authority. That three boom. Who’s in that nexus? When I look at the flowchart responsibility, authority, and accountability. Who is in that box? Oh, it’s the field commander for EPA. What’s that guy’s name? You noticed they haven’t come up with that. Have they responded to your request to EPA to give the name and the function, and did they make the decision?
Leahy: The EPA has said nothing to us since we asked for them to give us the name of the onsite coordinator and whether or not they made the decision to do the vent and burn, which the former Assistant Attorney General Clark, who was your guest yesterday, said was the legal authority. By the way, we’ve also asked Governor DeWine by what authority did you, Governor DeWine, authorize this vent and burn?
They’ve not responded to us on that. And also notice that Governor Josh Shapiro is completely distancing himself from the collective “we” who made this vent and burn decision. He’s putting it all on Norfolk Southern. Presumably, they gave the advice to Mike DeWine, but this is a huge mess.
Bannon: Yes. I’m going to go out on a limb here. The model, when it finally comes, we got to get the model on the control there’s two things. They got the crash and you got the National Safety Board has got to be on that. And let me worry, Alfred E. Buttigieg, where is this clown? Right? He should be on top of that and he should have been on top of that.
In the modeling, you have two things, a controlled release and then a controlled burn. Number one, and I’m just going to say it, I will guarantee the model does not back up the fact that there were going to be, the excuse that he used, it’s going to be in jeopardy. These are unstable elements. It’s going to blow up, and you’re going to put shards of those iron tankers are going to be in houses and people’s heads everywhere, blown sky high. I’m calling BS on that. They wanted to put that stuff out of there so they could remove…
Leahy: Governor Shapiro must have been listening to you on WarRoom yesterday because, in his letter, he said you failed to look at all the other array of alternatives that might have taken longer but would have been safer. So he’s not a former naval officer. I’ve checked that out. But I think he’s got a little bit…
Bannon: I don’t think he’s a fan. I don’t think he’s a fan of War Room. So, Michael Patrick Leahy, where do your reporting and your investigative reporting with this crack staff you got? Where does it go from here?
Leahy: Our great reporters on this, both Matt Kittle, our national reporter, who just put the story up about the Pennsylvania governor, and then Hannah Poling, who’s based in Ohio, who’s been asking the governor to respond and the EPA to respond.
Where we need to look right now, Steve, is we got to get the EPA to respond and the Department of Justice to respond to the legal authority used to authorize this vent and burn, this controlled burn of this very dangerous vinyl chloride on February 6th. I think the law would have created a very big problem for Mike DeWine.
Bannon: And give me the controlled release. By the way, CNN licked. If you want to start covering news, you don’t need to send them halfway around the world. Just send them out there to eastern Ohio. Big story breaking. You guys should be all over it. Should be 20 people. There’s nobody. Crickets. MSNBC, crickets. Except they needed a clean-up in all three, so they let DeWine come on. Not one hard question got asked of DeWine today came on Morning Mika, and it was a cleanup on aisle three. Hey, guess what?
The WarRoom is there. You’ve broken too many bottles. You’re not going to get a cleanup. This is outrageous. And it’s because it’s working-class people who don’t think count and they don’t think has any power. That’s why they’re doing this. Leahy, how do they get to The Ohio Star and The Star News Network?
Leahy: I recommend right now going to theohiostar.com. It was published about five minutes ago. Our story there is about Governor Shapiro, in essence, agreeing with Steve Bannon that there should have been more options considered, and he would have recommended, I think, that he would have preferred a slower take, but a safer approach. And you can reach me on Twitter, GETTR, and Truth Social at Michaelpleahy.
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