CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Hillary Clinton is linking Donald Trump to a convicted coal executive who attended a protest at her West Virginia campaign stop.
Clinton state campaign director Talley Sergent called Don Blankenship’s appearance Monday in Williamson “a pretty outrageous sight.”
Protesters with Trump signs booed Clinton on Monday outside her Williamson campaign event, and Blankenship was spotted in the crowd. Sergent said Clinton’s campaign is proud not having the former Massey Energy CEO’s endorsement.
“If Donald Trump wants to accept his support, then he owes a serious explanation to the families of our miners we lost at Upper Big Branch and the people of West Virginia,” Sergent said.
Blankenship was recently sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to violate safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 miners died in a 2010 explosion.
Blankenship is scheduled to head to prison May 12, two days after the primary election. He’s awaiting a decision by an appeals court on whether he can stay free while he awaits a decision on his larger appeal of the case.
On Wednesday, Blankenship said in a news release that “it is disappointing that (Clinton) is choosing to promote her political campaign by demonizing me.” He said he was interested in any suggestions she has to address problems facing coal miners and coal communities.
“It is no secret that I have made enemies in high places by defending coal miners and by being critical of mine regulators and government bureaucrats who seek to destroy miners’ jobs,” said Blankenship, a former top political donor in West Virginia Republican politics and an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama.
Sergent says Clinton will push legislation ensuring executives like Blankenship can’t get away with “showing such blatant disregard” for miner safety. Federal law caps mine safety crimes like Blankenship’s at one year in prison. Attempts in Congress to toughen the law have failed.