"If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot," the chairman of one of the country's biggest coal mining companies, Don Blankenship of Massey Energy, told an ABC News reporter before grabbing the reporter's camera.
The incident this week, in the parking lot of a Massey Energy office in Belfry, Ky., is just the latest chapter in the saga of Blankenship's controversial relationship with the West Virginia Supreme Court, which is hearing appeals that could cost his company hundreds of millions of dollars.
Photographs recently emerged showing Blankenship vacationing on the French Riviera with the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard.
Earlier, Blankenship helped to raise $3.5 million for a television advertising campaign that led to the defeat of another Supreme Court justice.
Massey Energy has also moved to have another justice recuse himself from cases involving the company because of an alleged bias against Massey and Blankenship.
What can you say about this? It can't get any more blatant than this virtual "I own the justice system and if you try to tell people about it, I will have you killed".
In a letter to ABC, Blankenship's lawyers said, "Mr. Blankenship has been a frequent target for harassment and physical attacks over the years, so his reaction is not so surprising when you consider that he was approached unannounced by an intruder on private property."
The lawyers claimed the ABC reporter "pushed his camera closer to Mr. Blankenship's face" without "having identified himself or his news organization."
Yes, and as we all know, muggers frequently tote around cameras with "ABC News logos" on them.
Tape of the incident shows the reporter twice identified himself as being from ABC News as he walked up to Blankenship.
Facts are so damned inconvenient. Then again, when you outright own a state supreme court justice, do you really care about facts?
Blankenship told the Charleston Daily Mail he couldn't recall any threats. "Quite frankly, I don't know what I said except that I know I'm never loud, vulgar or rude to strangers."
Death threats are apparently the height of gentility these days. I would consult Miss Manners, but I think Blankenship had her knees broken when she asked him for directions.
Blankenship declined to answer questions in person about his relationship with the Supreme Court chief justice but in a statement issued later, he said, "The notion that I have taken any action to improperly influence the Supreme Court of West Virginia is baseless and absurd."
Blankenship and Justice Maynard have acknowledged they spent several days together on vacation in Europe at a time when the court was considering appeals involving Blankenship's coal company, the country's fourth largest.
"Each of us paid our own way," Blankenship said.
Right. And supreme court justices hanging out with fabulously wealthy coal executives who have cases pending before the court is just an every day occurrence in the real world.
Justice Maynard told ABC News of Blankenship, "I think he bought a dinner, I bought a dinner. I think we each bought a dinner."
Both men deny discussing the case while on vacation together.
And anyone who expresses disbelief in that could get shot.