An Obscene Tale From An Activist

by Gina Carroll

Be careful what you say about coal. Maria Gunnoe found this out recently when she testified in front of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Gunnoe is a life-long resident of West Virginia, where she fights against environmentally devastating mountaintop removal mining. Her work brings attention to the polluted and toxic conditions from mountain top coal mining and it has won her the The Goldman Environmental Prize in 2009 (video below).

In Gunnoe’s presentation before the House Committee, she sought to illustrate conditions that arise from mountain top mining, and how pollution and nullification of drinking water impacts residents. In furtherance of this, Gunnoe intended to present a slideshow, but one of the slides from the presentation came to the attention of senior staffers of Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn. They considered the photo child pornography and swift action was taken by Lamborn and his staff. The photo in question was taken by award-winning photojournalist, Katie Falkenberg. It shows a naked five-year-old girl sitting in a bathtub full of filthy orange-brown water. Neither the girl’s face, nor her private parts are visible. Nevertheless, the photo was removed from Gunnoe’s presentation and she was questioned by Capitol police officers for 45 minutes.

Falkeberg has said that the parents of the child were in the room when the picture was taken, and Gunnoe had their permission to use the photo in her presentation. Those of us who advocate on our children’s behalf really have to be conscious of the fine line between sharing our children’s stories and exploiting them in the name of our causes. We know that when we show harm to children, people pay more attention. And so we must be vigilant not to cross the line. Congressman Lamborn is the lawmaker who last year referred to President Obama as “a tar baby.” His top donors are coal, oil and gas companies.

It’s unfortunate and heartbreaking that Congressman Lamborn and his staff thought the presence of the little girl in the bathtub was more obscene than the filthy water she is forced to bathe in. And how screwy is their thinking that they needed to take swift action to protect the child from some imaginary pornographic assault rather than take action to save her from the real threats to her life: pollution and toxins?

We parents must stand with Marie Gunnoe, an environmental warrior who has devoted her life to improving the conditions in West Virginia for her children and grandchildren. We must demand that our lawmakers keep their eye on what is real and pressing: strong air and water regulations that will protect children’s future.

Maria Gunnoe’s advocacy has led to stricter regulations of the coal industry. Watch Gunnoe here:

Tell the presidential candidates to talk about global warming.


Related Stories:

Obama Slams Romney For Having Admitted Coal Plants ‘Kill People’

Activists Shut Down Largest Mountaintop Removal Mine

Another Mountaintop Removal Company Goes Bankrupt


Photo credit: The Christian Science Monitor


Barbara L.
Barbara U5 years ago

Sly move, classic case of if you don't like the conversation, change the subject. I doubt that they considered this to be pornography. This picture was presented in the context of the negative impacts of mountain-top removal. They wanted it removed and labeled it pornography because a photo of a 5-year old girl forced to bath in toxic water would show how their "donors" are causing unhealthy conditions for people to live in. This is America- everyone should have clean water. You would think this elected official and public servant would be more concerned of the health and well-being of his consitituents insead of playing games to divert attention away from how his Big Energy donors are poisoning a 5-year old girl.

This is a good example of how these large companies are influencing every decision of our elected officials, even to the point of removing evidence from this presentation, in essence blocking "freedom of speech" for the purpose of protecting their campaign donors.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Incredible. Here is a woman showing the evils of coal, and the repub congressman (naturally) draws attention away from the problem by making a false claim of pornographic intent. Just when you thought they couldn't get more slimy, ...............

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


More server issues....................

If had the same server issues as, they would be out of business in less than a month

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

As a parent, I am offended at the harm this Congressman wants to perpetrate on children and find it totally obscene. Can the Capitol Police investigate him and his staff for this?

Russell R.
Russell R5 years ago

but one of the slides from the presentation came to the attention of senior staffers of Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn

Does this mean that Lamborn wasn't present at the presentation and sent his senior staffers to do his job for him, or, are these senior staffers hired by Big Interest, to make sure he keeps his promise to his campaign donors.

Charli S.
Charlotte S5 years ago

there have been parents who have been arrested for "child pornography" because they took a picture of their baby on a fur rug. I don't understand the LACK of common sense in this country. I'm sure Lamborn wouldn't have a second thought about saying a minor who is raped could only get pregnant if she consented while at the same time objecting to "child porn". Some days I feel as if I've fallen down the rabbit hole.

Perhaps we need to do a psych evalu of all politicians. Lord knows by any standards most are loons.

I'm sure photos taken in the 1950's would be considered child pornography because it wasn't unusual for you parents to take a nude or semi-nude picture of you because you looked cute. Mine have a picture of me in my underpants, in heels, a feather boa, and my own makeup job. I'm sure they would be arrested if they showed the picture.

We need to grab back our Democratic system before it's to damaged to save. It might be nice if everyone wrote this loon (oops I meant elected official ;-} ) and told him what you think. If more of us called them on these things maybe we'd be able to get actual thinking adults in office.

Kathy M.
Kathleen M6 years ago

Surely no one is naive enough to really think "that Congressman Lamborn and his staff thought the presence of the little girl in the bathtub was more obscene than the filthy water she is forced to bathe in." This was pure & simply a ploy to have the photograph of appalling environmental degradation and the people who live with it pulled from the presentation. We all know that after you are born the GOP cares nothing about what your life is like, only, can you earn a buck and keep it from the government.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

We need to BUY at full price BOTH the means to produce enough sustainable energy to replace fossil fuel to be GIVEN as a GIFT from the taxpayers to the fossil fuel firms AND ALL the fossil fuel reserves themselves from the fossil fuel FIRMS. It will cost at least $20 trillion to buy all the fossil fuel reserves AND at least $30 trillion to buy the replacement means to produce sustainable energy. We also need to spend between $1 and $2 quadrillion on carbon capture and storage to capture and store CO2 already in the environment from fossil fuel already burned to keep global warming from destroying agriculture. There is a bill before the House of Representatives to authorize U S Treasury to issue Clean Energy Victory Bonds to finance all this.

Bonnie Mott
Bonnie C6 years ago

Are they trying to divert attention away from the real issue here?

Michael Kirkby
.6 years ago

Perhaps we should scrutinize Mr. Politician's private life and see whether he's as squeaky clean as he would have us believe. Many politicians are bisexual and although there's nothing wrong with that it is something they don't want the public to know about. It would tarnish their image and they wouldn't get to play holier than thou.
If we knew half of what some of these people get up to we would kick them out of office so fast. Some of them are pretty gross.