Anderson Cooper: Is the Eco Crusader on the Toxic Take?

Suzanne Murray
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anderson cooper dow chemicalAnderson Cooper has a reputation for being a do-gooder, serious journalist, and he's one of the few that Angelina Jolie will bless with her presence (her other big fave seems to be Ann Curry). The tagline for his nightly news show on CNN, AC360, is "keeping them honest," and he likely prides himself on calling people, corporations, and politicians to task for the various wrongs they've committed. He does a good job.

And now, every Wednesday night at 10 you can watch his special environmental series One Simple Thing. The series features people around the world who are making a difference in education, energy, the environment, and the use of the planet's resources in small, yet innovative ways.

It's a great series and I'm all for anything that showcases inspirational individuals who are helping the environment. There's just one little problem.

If you look at the ad for the series (above), you'll notice in the lower right hand corner that Dow Chemical is the corporate sponsor for the show.

Huh?

Dow Chemical isn't exactly known for its planet-friendly practices. In fact, the company is better known for its planet- and people-destroying ways. Think Union Carbide, the deadliest corporate disaster in history, in which a gas leak in a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, exposed half a million people. More than 3,500 people were immediately killed, as many as 25,000 deaths occurred in the aftermath, and about 100,000 people suffer ailments such as blindness, cancer, and birth defects to this day.

Union Carbide is owned by Dow Chemical.

Dow Chemical is also one of the companies that supplied the U.S. government with Agent Orange, the toxic chemical that was used during the Vietnam War and caused serious health problems, deaths, and birth defects in American soldiers and the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians who were exposed.

These days, the company is trying to clean up -- and green up -- its image by sponsoring eco events and shows (like Mr. Cooper's) and manufacturing things like solar shingles, eco sandals, and biodegradable anti-freeze.

Unfortunately, it's been 25 years since the Bhopal spill, and the company has still done nothing to clean up the tainted groundwater there. In 1989, Union Carbide was sued by the Indian government and agreed to pay $470 million in 1989. The executives responsible were just recently sentenced -- to two years in jail and $2,100. And just a few weeks ago, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh relayed his plan to ask the United States to extradite Warren Anderson, the former chairman of Union Carbide, to determine his responsibility in the Bhopal disaster. No word yet on if he's asked and what our government's answer will be.

I've spent most of my career working in media so I know that there's a lot about sponsors and advertising that editors and anchors don't have a lot of control over. And while it seems like Anderson should be able to throw his weight around, maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe he thought it was better to have the money to air the eco series than not to air it at all. Or maybe he thinks all of Dow Chemical's new green innovations outweigh its prior bad acts.

I'll still watch you Anderson. I'm just trying to keep you honest. And I guess things could be worse. The series could be sponsored by BP.

Do you think a news program should accept advertising or sponsorship dollars from a company that seems to be the antithesis of what the show is touting? Or do you think Dow Chemical has really cleaned up its act so its philosophy really does coincide with Anderson Cooper's environmental series?


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