Troubled waters at the U

Want to see the definition of a heck of a story? Read the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s report into why a University of Minnesota-funded documentary about the Mississippi River got pulled shortly before it was to premiere. It focuses on agriculture, pollution, and sustainable solutions.

The suggestion in the story — impossible to prove because the people who could clear up the controversy either aren’t talking, appear to fibbing a bit, or don’t seem to know answers to legitimate questions — is that the university didn’t want to upset ties to big agriculture. The few people at the U who are talking say the Bell Museum wanted a scientific review of the project, but the show’s producer says that’s not true.

Now, according to reporter Molly Priesmeyer, there’s another angle that’s surfaced on the “isn’t it a coincidence?” list: The U’s vice president of university relations is married to the owner of a public relations agency whose client is the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, which supports practices that are apparently criticized in the film.

The agency is the same one that was — until recently — partly owned by Tom Horner, a candidate for governor.

Priesmeyer doesn’t have the smoking gun, but she’s at the very least got circumstantial evidence that could only be explained away by the university fully explaining why it pulled the documentary at the last minute.