Prior to the airing of the report on Wednesday, Hopkins sent a written statement to ABC News, strongly defending Dr. Wheeler and saying "to our knowledge, no medical or regulatory authority has ever challenged or called into question any of our diagnoses, conclusions or reports" from the black lung program.
The news report triggered a vocal response from lawmakers and advocates for miners about the challenges the coal workers were confronting when trying to obtain the monthly disability payments from their employers.
"This scathing report lays bare for the public something miners and their families in the coal fields have known for decades," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and a former president of the union's affiliate, the United Mine Workers. "Even with my years of experience in the mines and as a union leader, knowing full well that coal companies have been cheating miners since the day coal was hand loaded and weighed … I was sickened and angered" by the report.
"You don't have to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins to know black lung disease when you see it," said Trumka, who noted that his father died from the disease.
Chris Hamby is an investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity.