Two coal minors depicted in Kentucky Senate hopeful Amy McGrath’s campaign ad are demanding that the Democratic candidate stop using their image for partisan politics.
Christopher Thacker, the attorney for coal miners Randy Robbins and Albrow Hall, sent a cease and desist letter to McGrath’s campaign on Wednesday after a video of the duo was — unknowingly to them — used in the political advertisement.
“They are personally offended at seeing their images being used in a political attack ad that does not reflect their personal feelings or beliefs,” Thacker wrote in the letter. “It is simply wrong for the McGrath Campaign to use individual miners suffering from black lung disease as political pawns without their permission or consent.”
Robbins and Hall, two members of their local chapter of the Black Lung Association, participated in a trip to the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers over the summer as part of an effort to urge Congress to reinstate a higher excise tax on coal companies that would subsequently help fund their medical care.
McGrath’s campaign ad features a reenactment of the group of coal miners on their ten-hour bus ride from Kentucky to Washington, D.C. in what Thacker says the miners were led to believe was footage to be used for a documentary on the Black Lung Association.
At the time, some of the miners were disappointed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had only met with them for a short amount of time, reported Reuters in July. However, neither Robbins nor Hall felt that way.
“Randy and Albrow felt that the trip was a success. They deeply appreciated the warm reception they received from a number of elected representatives who took the time to meet with the group, including Senator Mitch McConnell,” Thacker wrote. “They were therefore happy to cooperate when they were contacted several weeks later to participate in the filming of a reenactment of the bus trip.”
The attorney also stated that Robbins and Hall were “shocked and outraged” when they saw their images prominently featured in the ad’s opening scene.
“They do not believe that black lung is or should be mad into a partisan political issue,” Thacker continued. “Black Lung does not discriminate by party affiliation, and my clients believe that people of good will from both political parties are working hard to address the needs of coal miners with black lung disease.”
The McGrath campaign, however, claims that the miners were aware that the footage would be used in an attack ad. Terry Sebastian, McGrath’s spokesperson, said they were not only informed but were given the opportunity to sign up for campaign apparel at the time, reported The Lexington Herald Leader. He also stated that the McGrath campaign has not yet official received the cease and desist letter, but that it is now reviewing the request.
McConnell’s campaign, Team Mitch, responded to the controversy over Twitter.
“Amy McGrath exploits coal miners,” Team Mitch tweeted with a link to the report. “Who could have seen this coming?”