Oscar-nominated actor and environmentalist Matt Damon has called on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign, following revelations that his administration sought for months to minimize the water contamination crisis in the city of Flint.
Damon, a co-founder of a global non-profit water rights organization, told the Daily Beast that “at the very least he should resign.” He went on to say that “everyone is entitled to a fair trial in the United States… [and] that man should get one, and soon.”
Damon’s criticisms, echoing those of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, came just days after newly released emails from the governor’s office showed state officials belittling contaminated drinking water claims from Flint residents.
Snyder has issued a public apology to the city, and last week said he had replaced some state officials. He also rejected earlier calls to resign, insisting that he will instead work to restore Flint’s critically damaged water system and boost public confidence in state government.
River as water source
Flint’s crisis began in 2014, when the cash strapped city sought to save money by drawing water from a local river rather than nearby Detroit’s water system.
It was later found that officials did not properly treat the corrosive Flint River water to prevent lead leaching from old pipes. Additionally, Flint residents were not informed about their tainted drinking water supply for a year and a half. Estimates to replace the city’s water pipes run as high as $1.5 billion.
In a separate development Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush defended Governor Snyder against growing criticism of his handling of the crisis.
Bush, in comments to ABC television’s This Week, blamed the crisis on water quality regulations that he said are too complex. He said those regulations have led to “regional, local and county governments…all pointing fingers at one another” as the crisis grew.
Some words of praise
Bush then praised the embattled governor for having “taken responsibility” for the crisis and “for rolling up his sleeves and trying to deal with it.”
Last week, U.S. civil rights activists descended on Flint, a largely African-American city where 40 percent of the community’s 100,000 residents live in poverty.
Longtime civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson described the city as “a crime scene,” while firebrand filmmaker Michael Moore called the situation in the city “a racial crisis.” “It’s a poverty crisis… that’s what created this,” he said.
Community leaders are expected to turn out in force Tuesday for a crisis meeting led by Cornell Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP.