Banner mocks topless Judd for coal comments

PRESTONSBURG — A topless photo of Ashley Judd emblazoned on a poster that mocks the actress's outspoken opposition to mountaintop removal mining was on display this week at a coal industry-sponsored golf tournament in Kentucky.

"Ashley Judd makes a living removing her top, why can't coal miners?" the 5-by-3-foot poster reads in bold, black letters. It was hanging at a golf tournament Wednesday at StoneCrest Golf Course, which is owned by the city of Prestonsburg.

Paul Hughes, assistant general manager at the golf course, said the banner was up at 7 a.m. when he arrived at work. Hughes said he does not know who made the sign, which uses a photo of Judd from Marie Claire magazine, but tournament organizers hanged the sign on a railing outside the clubhouse at 918 Clubhouse Drive.

Judd said in a speech last month to the National Press Club that mountaintop removal, which blasts the tops off mountains to extract coal, is the "rape of Appalachia."

She also referred to golf courses that have been built atop former mining sites, like StoneCrest.

"I'm not too keen on reinforcing stereotypes about my people, but I don't know a lot of hillbillies who golf," Judd said in the June 9 speech. The actress, who spent her childhood in Eastern Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky, said she is "proud of being a hillbilly."

Judd said in a statement that she anticipated criticism from "cunning and greedy" coal companies when speaking out against mountaintop mining.

"It is time to retire the cynical and superficial coal company-created argument that we must choose between people, their jobs and our mountains," Judd said. "That is simply false, fear-based and fear-mongering."

The actress, who has starred in the Hollywood films A Time to Kill and Where the Heart Is, said she will continue her vocal opposition to the mining practice.

The tournament was a fund-raiser for East Kentucky Energy, an American Basketball Association team scheduled to start playing in the fall. The team is owned by Appalachian News-Express editor Jerry Boggs and Tommy Hamilton, owner of Champs Sports Bar & Grill. The tournament was sponsored by various coal industry groups, including the Friends of Coal and the Pikeville-based Coal Operators and Associates. Its president, David Gooch, said he does not know who created the sign.

But Gooch said Thursday that many Appalachians are angry over Judd's criticisms because they see it as an attack on their livelihoods and culture.

"If you're an Eastern Kentuckian, if you're a hillbilly — if that's what you want to call yourself — you don't go around and ridicule and denigrate the other people of the area," Gooch said.

Hughes of the golf course said he heard no complaints about the poster but planned to remove the sign Thursday and will try to find its owner.

"All the people that was here yesterday, they was all for it," he said.

Judd is one of many artists, including musicians Dave Matthews and EmmyLou Harris, who have been outspoken about the controversial mining practice.

Coal industry officials, along with many politicians and business leaders in Appalachia, say the mining is crucial to the region's economy and a supply of affordable energy.

Environmentalists counter that it dumps rock and rubble into streams and destroys Appalachian mountain peaks.

Rob Perks, campaign director for the environmental group National Resources Defense Council, said he found the poster of Judd to be "terribly derogatory and sexist."

"Anyone who is remotely critical of (coal industry) practices, particularly the most extreme strip mining on the planet, immediately has their character attacked," Perks said.

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