TVA investigator impersonates journalist
TENNESSEE — A Tennessee Valley Authority investigator was disciplined in mid-July for impersonating a reporter at an anti-nuclear demonstration, according to a statement from a TVA official.
At the Rhea County Courthouse, Elizabeth Sherrod, a member of the TVA Inspector General’s staff, interviewed members of environmental group Earth First!, calling herself a free-lance writer, AP reported.
Earth First! demonstrators called for the closing of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, which is still under construction, said Jason Halbert, a spokesman for the activists Sherrod interviewed.
A statement from TVA Inspector General George Prosser said Sherrod “was attempting to gather information in connection with vandalism, criminal trespassing and the disruption of work at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant on July 11.”
Halbert said he noticed “odd” things as Sherrod interviewed him. He said Sherrod wrote down only “specific things” unlike most reporters, who write down “a lot.” Sherrod also failed to ask Halbert his age and other things “reporters normally ask.”
After the interview, a reporter from the Knoxville News-Sentinel told Halbert that he had been interviewed by a TVA official, Halbert said.
Halbert said he confronted Sherrod. He asked for her card, but she said she did not have one. He asked what paper she was from. She said she was a free-lancer. She also would not provide her phone number, Halbert said.
Halbert said that when he asked Sherrod if she worked for TVA, she denied it, “stepped back” and “got flushed.”
Prosser said that the TVA Inspector General’s Office is authorized to investigate activities involving the TVA but that investigators should use “proper techniques,” which do not include posing as a reporter.
“I have taken appropriate disciplinary action,” Prosser said. “We will make every effort to make sure it does not happen again.”
Prosser said privacy rights prevented him from saying exactly how Sherrod was disciplined, AP reported.