"It appears we have been punked," Maria Bartiromo said at the end of her Fox Business Network show Wednesday after learning the meat company CEO she had interviewed was actually an animal rights activist. Matt Johnson of Direct Action Everywhere impersonated Dennis Organ, new CEO of Smithfield Foods, which says it is the world's largest pork producer, the Daily Beast reports. The interview lasted for more than six minutes, with Bartiromo apparently failing to realize she was speaking to an imposter even after Johnson warned that the meat industry is "effectively bringing on the next pandemic, with CDC data showing that three of four infectious diseases come from animals and the conditions inside of our of farms can sometimes be petri dishes for new diseases."
Johnson promised to lead the company with "brutal honesty" and warned that hog farming "causes immense damage to our air and waterways." He said Wednesday that getting on the show "involved fake phone numbers and fake email addresses and sending out many pitches," NBC reports. He told Erik Wemple at the Washington Post that he did enough "homework" to be able to talk convincingly about issues including Smithfield's COVID safety procedures, but he was caught "flat-footed" by a question about exports to China. He said he didn't get a chance to deliver the major announcement he had prepared: That the company plans to "transition entirely to plant-based meats." "A simple Google search for a photo of our CEO would have prevented this from happening," a Smithfield spokeswoman said. (Read more Maria Bartiromo stories.)