Comments Ashley Judd made in 2010 comparing the mining practices of Kentucky’s coal industry to rape could sink her much buzzed-about Senate candidacy before it even begins.
In a 2010 speech to the National Press Club in Washington, Judd called mountain top removal — the controversial but principal type of surface mining in Appalachia that involves the removal of mountaintops to extract coal — “the state-sanctioned, federal government-supported, coal industry-operated rape of Appalachia.”
Coal mines employe more than 19,000 people through
the year in Kentucky according to a report from the state, and the mining directly contributed approximately $4 billion to the state’s economy while accounting for 1 percent of the state’s employment. Kentucky’s economic reliance on coal ranks in the top three in the United States, behind only West Virginia and Wyoming.
Judd’s use of rape to define the mining practice wasn’t a slip of the tongue. Later in her speech she doubled down on her remarks.
“I used the word rape earlier. At the time this law that allowed coal companies to rape the land without consent, spousal rape was still legal in Kentucky. I remember learning that one morning in college, drinking my coffee in the kitchen at the Kappa house, and the shock and shame I felt. If I were married, it would be legal for my husband to rape,” Judd said.
She added, “Kentucky’s gender laws have come a long way; Governor Beshear in fact just signed into a law a progressive policy requiring that men who beat women and against whom an order of protection has been taken out, be monitored with GPS. I salute the KY State Legislature and Governor Beshear for passing and enacting this law. Kentucky’s environmental laws, monitoring, evaluation, and enforcement need to move a pace.”
The comments were not taken kindly by many in Kentucky at the time. Angry coal supporters hung signs with a semi-nude photo of Judd that read, “Ashley makes a living removing her top. Why can’t coal miners?” to mock her activism against the mining procedure.
Judd responded to the controversy by saying she “expected to be attacked personally” because “the coal companies are cunning, callous and greedy.”