Don Blankenship

Former Mingo County coal executive Don Blankenship is suing several national news organizations and other individuals, alleging that they united against his run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in West Virginia in 2018.

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Former Massey Energy CEO and U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship on Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking at least $12 billion in damages from a variety of national news and political organizations, claiming they set out on a "search and destroy" mission against his 2018 candidacy for the Senate.

The lawsuit, filed in Mingo County Circuit Court, claimed the "DC establishment 'swamp' and the establishment media united ... to take out Mr. Blankenship" in his bid for election. He argued in the suit that repeated references about him in the media as a "convicted felon" as damaging his bid, even though he was not convicted of any felonies in relation to the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in Raleigh County in 2010 that killed 29 miners.

Among those named in the lawsuit were news organizations Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Boston Globe Media Partners, Breitbart News Network, Clarity Media Group, The Washington Times, Tribune Publishing Co., Los Angeles Times Communications, The Washington Post and The Associated Press.

Also named were the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a variety of individuals. The lawsuit claims that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, instigated a clandestine campaign to damage Blankenship's candidacy and interfere in a federal election. He also accused McConnell of using his contacts in "the establishment media," Fox News in particular, to do McConnell's bidding.

Blankenship, who grew up in Mingo County and graduated from Matewan High School before entering Marshall University and graduating from there in 1972, was sentenced in 2016 for a misdemeanor conviction of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch. He was acquitted of felonies that could have stretched his sentence to 30 years. He served a one-year prison term for the conviction.

In late 2017 he announced his Republican candidacy for the Senate position held by Democrat Joe Manchin, whom Blankenship has blamed for the charges against him.

In the May 2018 Republican primary, he finished third in voting with about 20 percent of the vote, behind

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins. Manchin defeated Morrisey in the general election.

More details to come.

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