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more about it.” It takes the next step and
somebody like Bloomberg picks it up, and
then somebody like The New York Times.
But you have to begin somewhere. There
is a real arrogance among lawyers. They
believe that the results that they get in the
courtroom are just so radically important
that it’s going to be a sustainable story …
but it’s a three-day story at best, and then
people forget it on the fourth day. You have
to be able to sustain that story. So Bobby
and I started that with Air America.
It was a whole host of great progressives
that became our friends, and they remain our
friends. So Air America fell apart; everybody
went their own way. Rachel [Maddow] went
to MSNBC, Thom [Hartmann] went to RT
Network and Free Speech TV. People look at
Air America and say, “Oh my God! It didn’t
work.” Well, it did work, because the message
is still there. Bobby and I still do this, week in
and week out. It came out of a combination
of lawyering and politics, and you can’t
talk about one without the other. You can’t
change much just practicing law anymore.
Q: Where is Ring of Fire carried now?
A: New York, Chicago, LA—we’re really
all over the country in little parts. But it’s
not so much the transmission of the radio
program every week. This week we might
be talking about Rick Perry and the judge
failing to dismiss his case in Texas. We will
take that segment and we will cut it up and
it will be used throughout the Internet. And
it has pretty big legs because of that.
Q: You also do MSNBC, Free Speech TV,
RT Network … and, sometimes, Fox?
A: I used to do Fox. It was torturous, and it
was [also] fun, because you could approach
it with reckless abandon. So I did it as long
as I could stand it, I guess is the best way
to put it.
Q: On Ring of Fire, you are called
“America’s Lawyer.” Who came up with
that title and why?
A: Either Thom Hartmann or Ed Schultz.
The issues I was talking about were not
just about my narrow practice. The issue
may be climate change, and what is it
that we have to do. It might be poverty;
it might be minimum wage. It really
wasn’t put together as any kind of big
PR push initially, but all of a sudden, it
started taking hold. I walk through an
airport sometimes and people say, “You’re
America’s Lawyer.” Johnnie Cochran
used to be my law partner; he used to be
“America’s Lawyer.” He has passed on,
and I don’t think they mind me using that.
People can’t remember Papantonio, but
they can remember “America’s Lawyer.”
Q: You’re working on a major
environmental case now.
A: DuPont made a product called C8,
Q: So where does it stand?
which is an additive that they used to make
Teflon. 3M used to make it and … decided
that it was too dangerous to make. DuPont
continued to make it. DuPont then took
the toxins from their product and they
would release them into the water system,
which affected the aquifer, drinking-water
aquifer, for many counties between West
Virginia and Ohio. It may be the biggest
environmental case in America.
A: The judge had put together a blue-chip
panel of epidemiologists. And the panel
came back and said that the C8 causes
testicular cancer [among other diseases].
So we will be going to trial with those first
test cases coming up this year. [Editor’s
note: According to newspaper reports, the
panel found probable links to six medical
conditions; DuPont, which has promised to
phase out usage of the chemical by this year,
has denied liability.]
Q: You referred earlier to your “Mass
Torts Made Perfect” program, and I
know the speakers there have included
President Clinton. That made me wonder
how many presidents you’ve met.
A: Well, I have not gone out of my way to
do that. This is going to sound so odd, but
I’ve got to tell you: If you walk into some
lawyer’s office that is all about meeting
the president … you walk in their office
and they’ve got pictures of “here is me
and Obama,” “here is me and Clinton” … I
mean, it’s almost like you are walking into
[the office of] somebody who is a hunter,
and they’ve got all these heads on the wall,
like, “I shot this.” Well, OK, I like Obama;
I worked to try and get him elected. We
Papantonio shares his progressive
viewpoint on Ring of Fire, the show he
co-hosts with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The
Internet adds mileage to their message.