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Angry asbestos executive says he was duped by Jon Stewart show

MONTREAL - Quebec's asbestos-mining industry, which was subjected to international ridicule last week, is fighting back against the Jon Stewart show.

The head of the Jeffrey Mine calls a satirical news report on the "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'' last week that lambasted the province's asbestos-mining industry a "tacky parody'' that was in "poor taste.''

In a statement Tuesday, mine boss Bernard Coulombe says he feels disgusted that he participated in the segment.

He said he didn't know what he was getting himself into when he agreed to be interviewed -- and was later surprised to find out that he was speaking to a comedian.

"It was already too late by the time I realized that this program was not a serious news show and that all the host wanted was to make fun of me and the town's representatives, to insult us and to deliver anti-asbestos propaganda,'' Coulombe said.

"Had we known what he had in store for us, obviously I never would have agreed to involve myself in something for which I and the entire chrysotile (industry) would unfairly end up paying the price.''

A comedian on the show mocked Coulombe for exporting asbestos to India and heaped scorn on the suggestion it could be handled safely in that country.

At one point, he even referred to Coulombe as a "douchebag.''

In today's response, Coulombe said the only reason for the report was to discredit him and make the people of Asbestos, Que., "look like ignorant imbeciles.''

Coulombe insists that the type of substance that is mined in the Quebec town - chrysotile - has been proven to be safe when used in accordance with standards.

He says those standards are followed in Quebec mining operations as well as many of the countries to which chrysotile is exported.

Coulombe said that foreign importers that fail to use the chrysotile safely are no longer sold the product.

According to World Health Organization estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and respiratory diseases from workplace exposure.

Coulombe dismissed the Stewart piece as a crude attempt to discredit the mine, which was given new life as Jean Charest's government recently announced a $58-million loan guarantee to keep it open.

Asbestos, Que., has become fodder for foreign comedians in recent years: an Australian TV show once held a contest for advertising professionals to try making tourists want to visit the place.

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