Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo likely thought she got an unusually transparent guest in Smithfield Foods’ new CEO Dennis Organ on Wednesday morning. But what neither she nor anyone at Fox Business seemed to know was that Organ was actually animal activist Matt Johnson, disguising criticism of Smithfield under a layer of self-described “transparency” and a relentlessly positive tone that’s the hallmark of C-suiters everywhere.
Johnson started out the interview with pretty convincing impersonation of a big-name CEO, thanking the U.S. government for prioritizing food workers for COVID-19 vaccinations. But then Johnson started sliding in some harsh criticisms of Smithfield that no self-preserving executive would dare mention. For example, while Johnson said the company had been providing employees with “extensive” PPE and paid leave, he then took a shot at Smithfield, saying “those steps have unfortunately been insufficient.”
Johnson went on to say that “under my leadership,” Smithfield would provide “transparency” and “brutal honesty,” hence his following wave of criticisms.”Our industry poses a serious threat in effectively bringing on the next pandemic,” while “hog farming causes immense harm to our air and waterways,” Johnson said, as Bartiromo seemingly agreed with him and then asked about Chinese influence over the company.
The activist group Direct Action Now soon took credit for the appearance, which was all meant to highlight how Smithfield and other companies’ meatpacking plants had turned into coronavirus hotspots amid the pandemic. At the end of the show, Bartiromo acknowledged that the show discovered it had been “punked,” and that Johnson had no affiliation with Smithfield. Kathryn Krawczyk
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Fox Business recognized the mistake later in the show. Kathryn Krawczyk