Benny Johnson recently visited Washington, DC to film a practical joke where he went to the headquarters of the Department of Transportation and set up a fake station to offer bottles of water, explaining it originated from East Palestine, Ohio, only to encounter a 25-year DOT veteran who told him that the bungled response to the February 3 train derailment was politically motivated.
"I'm in federal railroad," the man said, explaining that in the wake of the Norfolk Southern 50-car train derailment that released toxic chemicals into the East Palestine community, "Nobody panicked. Nobody scrambled. And it's, like, why? Why aren't we taking this seriously?"
The man said that, under Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the department directs resources based on a state's political leanings and the fact that East Palestine voted for Trump by a 70 percent margin affected the government's response to the crisis.
"They'll step in—well we want this project because it's a blue state, no matter how bad it is," the employee said and explained that "they appoint these leaders of each group, and then they make sure the money will be directed."
"That it goes to a blue state, not a red state?" Johnson asked.
"Right," the man said.
"Do you think this was politically motivated in East Palestine?"
"Yes," he replied.
On February 6, authorities began burning off chemicals from the derailment to reduce the risk of a vinyl chloride explosion. The two men discussed how it was the government that instructed the railroad to proceed in that manner. Residents returned home from their evacutation on February 9, only to find a chemical odor remaining in the air and dead fish in rivers and creeks. Johnson visited and said his eyes and mouth were "stinging" from whatever lingered.
EPA administrator Michael S. Regan was asked if he would let his children drink the water, which authorities claimed was safe again, but residents worried it was contaminated. Regan said, "Yes, as a father, I trust the science." The water Johnson handed out in DC was actually from Whole Foods.
The Department of Transportation worker also said, "Years ago they made a big fuss about trains carrying these chemicals that go through these urban areas. And now they reroute them through all these little towns."
The worker explained that this maneuver did not get attention in the press but said, "I was here 20 years, I know that they made it a point to reroute these trains so all these little towns get a shaft."
"You didn't hear this from me. Within the office there. They're saying that derailments are down 15 percent since Covid, but we know the derailments are up. They're trying to paint that picture so as not to bring the harsh light," he added, and explained how the Department of Transportation was using derailment numbers from 2020-2021, when there were fewer trains running altogether because of Covid, to normalize the false statistic.
The employee said that the current administration will make efforts to keep an oil pipeline closed in Alaska but "trains are rolling through middle America carrying all kinds of sh*t."
Another revelation from the worker was that there was once a regulation that required "a human being to walk the tracks or ride a vehicle over the track" for the sake of inspection. But under Trump, the department transitioned to a better system with "automatic inspection systems, computers on vehicles, they measure, they shoot laser beams. It's a fact. They capture information. That's better."
"This administration put a hold on all that because it takes away union jobs," the man said.
The man said earlier in the conversation that Buttigieg "has his own dining room" and that he rarely shows up to work unless they are "having a party or something."
"And then what they do is they come around and they want to make sure there's enough people in the office that day so that he has people to greet," the man said, and called it all "an elaborate production."
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