MSNBC to feature Lejeune water documentary

2012-02-21 17:12:31

Those associated with a documentary film portraying a veteran’s search for answers regarding a three-decade period of drinking water contamination aboard Camp Lejeune say they hope its airing on a major cable network later this month will help more former base residents learn about how the tainted water might have affected them.
The news network MSNBC announced earlier in the month that it planned to feature the 2011 film Semper Fi: Always Faithful on Friday, Feb. 24, hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell, of the network’s show “The Last Word.”
The film, shortened from its theatrical version to one hour, will air just after primetime at 10 p.m., MSNBC officials said.
Scott Hooker, Senior Executive Producer for MSNBC’s documentary division, told the Daily News that network executives were immediately aware of the significance of the film and its narrative.
“When this film came to us, we immediately realized that it’s an important story that impacts a great number of people, who need to realize what’s going on,” he said. “For those not connected, it tells a really important story of courage and determination and a man’s relentless pursuit of the truth. It also happens to be a beautifully crafted documentary, well-reported and investigated.”
MSNBC had previously contracted with film director and producer Rachel Libert to air her 2006 documentary, “Beyond Conviction,” which followed the meetings of three violent criminals and their victims.
Hooker said Semper Fi’s story also met the network’s standards of newsworthiness.
“You see in the film that it’s trickles of news reporting that alerted these folks,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of public service in presenting these things.”
Up to one million people are believed to have been exposed to Lejeune contaminated water, which occurred largely between the 1950s and 1980s in specific residential areas on base. Last October, the Environmental Protection Agency officially ruled that Lejeune contaminant TCE was a human carcinogen.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is now completing a slate of studies including water modeling, a health survey and a mortality study, to gain more conclusive information about the effects of the water on those exposed. Bills now in the House of Representatives and Senate would provide healthcare for veterans exposed to the tainted water.
The film’s primary subject, retired Marine master sergeant Jerry Ensminger of Richlands, said he hopes the airing of Semper Fi on MSNBC will further his quest to push out information about the contamination and its effects.
“Any time you get nationwide exposure to an issue, it can’t hurt,” he said. “As far as notification goes, I don’t think we could ask for a much better vehicle.”
Though the Marine Corps sent notification letters out to some former base residents some time after news of the contamination became public, Ensminger said many more are still finding out about it.
“Every screening of the film we had, at every location, it never failed,” Ensminger said. “Every time, we had people come up to say, ‘I was at Camp Lejeune; I never heard of this.’”
Audiences will get more than one opportunity to view the story: Hooker said MSNBC would likely re-air the film in weeks following the premiere and would remain abreast of related news.
“If there are significant updates in the story, we will find a way to incorporate those,” he said.
To learn more about Semper Fi: Always faithful, visit

Contact military reporter Hope Hodge at 910-219-8453 or