BERKELEY (CBS SF) — A local animal rights activist deceived Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo and her producers by giving an interview while posing as the head of a major food processing company Wednesday.
Matt Johnson, press coordinator for animal rights nonprofit Direct Action Everywhere, managed to sneak his way onto the cable news show “Mornings With Maria” on Wednesday morning. Bartiromo interviewed Johnson thinking he was Dennis Organ, the CEO of Smithfield Foods.
Bartiromo talked with Johnson for around five minutes during a segment about Pfizer plans to distribute 100 million doses to United States food workers. Johnson used the airtime to publicize the food industry’s impact on the spread of COVID-19 through the nation.
“The truth is that our industry, in addition to the outbreaks that are happening at our plants, our industry poses a serious threat in effectively bringing on the next pandemic, with CDC data showing that three of four infectious diseases come from animals,” Johnson said. “The conditions inside of our farms can sometimes be petri dishes for new diseases.”
Bartiromo seemed to realize the deception during the interview as she rolled her eyes in response to one of Johnson’s answers. At the end of her show, Bartiromo issued a correction for the interview, noting that the show “had been punk’d.” (Referencing the MTV prank show of the early 00’s.)
“Earlier in the program I interviewed someone claiming to be the CEO of Smithfield Foods, Dennis Organ. We’ve since learned that that was not Dennis Organ, but an imposter making false claims about the company,” Bartiromo said. “He is someone who has absolutely no relation to Smithfield Foods, we want to apologize to Dennis Organ, Smithfield Foods, and to our audience for making this mistake. We will of course be more vigilant.”
In an interview with The Wrap, Johnson said he and his co-workers used fake emails and other false information to deceive the show’s producers. He also added that they tried to pull it off during the holidays because the show’s crew would be replaced by “people filling in who might not be as diligent.”
Johnson says he doesn’t feel “too guilty” about lying to get on the show because he feels it already aired “too much misinformation,” noting Bartiromo’s segments promoting false theories about the 2020 election.
For the past five years, Johnson’s worked as the press officer for Direct Action Everywhere. The Berkeley-based nonprofit made headlines earlier this year when three of its members chained themselves to a fence outside a pork production facility in Iowa. WIRED magazine also recently profiled the group and its radical strategies for exposing controversial practices at meat processing plants on its Get WIRED podcast.