20/20 Revisits Eastern Kentucky

By: Marie Luby Email
By: Marie Luby Email

ABC's 20/20 revisits the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Last week's special report and some controversial statements by a Fox News commentator left many in the mountains furious ... and this could be just the beginning of the debate.

Appalachia remains in the national spotlight, but not for the reasons many people want. As seen in a YouTube video, Bill O'Reilly called the region "hopeless."

O'Reilly says, "You grow up and you see this, you get the heck outta there! You don't stay there! And that's the problem."

Willa Johnson documents stories of mountain people as a youth media producer at Appalshop. She says O'Reilly is no mountain expert.

Johnson says, "He talked about a culture of ignorance, but a lot of what he said proved to be ignorance to me."

Lt. Governor and Hazard native Daniel Mongiardo says, "We have the best people in the country in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, and it's a shame that they don't show the entire picture of who we are, and that really upsets me."

20/20 producers tell Mountain News Friday night's follow-up will focus on solutions, but many are unsure exactly what to expect.

Appalshop media producer Mimi Pickering says, "That's one of the problems with television is, it goes so quickly. I don't know how much they can get into because these are real structural, long-term problems."

Pickering's husband, Dee Davis, was featured in the report.

Pickering says, "Maybe this will stimulate more of a discussion on the local, state and national level of the kinds of things we need."

It's a discussion that continues to draw attention.

20/20 also interviewed Governor Beshear this week. He tells Mountain News what makes eastern Kentucky unique is not its problems, but its progress.

Our attempts to contact Bill O'Reilly went unanswered Friday.

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