After CEO Gary Southern, who has faced harsh criticism over the chemical spill and his company's actions and responses to the chemical spill that left 300,000 without safe water, was grilled on air, Kathy Stover-Kennedy, girlfriend of Freedom Industries president Dennis Farrell, came out on Facebook to stand by her man, according to the Charleston Gazette. And yet that Facebook page was no longer available when AOL Jobs tried to verify the information. The spill has been serious, as Huffington Post reported, with 300,000 lacking safe water, 32 people having sought treatment for such symptoms as nausea and vomiting, and four people admitted to a hospital. Water in the affected area is not safe for cooking, drinking, bathing, or washing dishes or clothes. As of the weekend, officials were still trying to determine what levels of the chemical in water would be safe, and there has been no way to remove the chemical from the water system.
Southern issued an apology to the residents, calling the incident "extremely unfortunately, unanticipated," and that the company was "very, very sorry for the disruptions to everybody's daily life."
That wasn't close to enough to get the company out of trouble. West Virginia reporter Kallie Cart made him return to the podium of a press event when he tried to shut down questioning and leave, complaining about having had "an extremely long day" shortly before drinking some bottled water during the televised event while Cart asked about apparent discrepancies about when the company learned about the spill and why it didn't know earlier.
Freedom's management must have felt pressured -- almost like being battered with a fully open fire hose (that is, if the fire hose had water that someone could safely spray on him). Maybe that had to do with reports that the facility that had the spill was barely scrutinized by regulators who thought it was safe, according to the Associated Press, even though there was a problem with a holding wall that the company didn't disclose.
Perhaps it was company round-up that Bloomberg Businessweek did, including noting that another Farrell, listed as president on Freedom's website and one of the people involved in forming the company, had some serious run-ins with the law.
In any case, Farrell's girlfriend, Kathy Stover-Kennedy, a PR practitioner who was not officially working for the company, decided to mount a defense on her personal Facebook page</a>, according to the Charleston Gazette. In part, the post said:
Furthermore, a site called Americans Against the Tea Party apparently posted what it claimed was a screen capture of the Facebook post. (Check for Stover-Kennedy's page now and Facebook issues a "page not found" error.) Allegedly, the post also claimed that "no one and no thing, has been harmed due to this leakage <sic>."
I'm not asking for anyone's sympathy but a little empathy wouldn't hurt. And just so you know, the boys at the plant made and drank coffee this morning! I showered and brushed my teeth this morning and I am just fine!
Maybe Stover-Kennedy should have left the PR defense to the non-professionals.