TODAY   |  March 01, 2014

SeaWorld accuses investigator of helping ‘Blackfish’

After the release of a film criticizing SeaWorld for using killer whales to entertain tourists, the company has been fighting back, accusing a government investigator of leaking documents. Here's NBC's Mark Potter.

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>>> under fire after the release of the documentary "blackfish." it was a critical film about killer whales in captivity. now seaworld is striking back, going after a government investigator who claims she was too friendly with the documentary's producers. nbc 's mark potter explains.

>> reporter: the complaint filed by seaworld parks and entertainment is the latest twist in a battle between the company and the makers of "blackfish," a documentary film released last summer that raises critical questions about whether orcas or killer whales should be held in theme parks to perform for audiences.

>> all whales in captivity are all psychologically traumatized.

>> reporter: the film features the 2010 fatal attack at seaworld in orlando where a huge orca named tilikum grabbed his 40-year-old trainer, dawn brancheau, and dragged her under water, where she drowned. in its complaint to the u.s. labor department , seaworld alleges that laura padgett , the complaints officer assigned by osha to investigate the death was biased, had a "desire to damage seaworld as a viable business" and is an animal rights activist who "de lossed confidential seaworld documents" to the filmmakers. laura padgett could not be reached for comment, but osha , her employer, told nbc news it referred the allegations to the inspector general's office back in january when they first surfaced. osha now awaits the results of that investigation. the director of "blackfish," gabriella cowperthwaite says "lara padgett didn't give me confidential documents for blackfish, no confident osha documents are used in blackfish," and the author of "death at seaworld " argues the company is off base attacking padgett .

>> i think they're doing it out of self-defense. i think they're doing it out of trying to create a picture where they were unfairly treated. but i don't think that those allegations are fair or accurate.

>> reporter: a heated controversy following a trainer's death four years ago, showing no signs of letting up. for "today," mark potter , nbc news, miami.