Massey Energy Co , owner of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 miners were killed three weeks ago, accused unions on Monday of spreading a big lie that the company had traded safety for profit.

Bobby Inman, a member of the company's board, also defended Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, saying calls from some shareholders to fire Blankenship -- who he said had borne the brunt of criticism for the Upper Big Branch mine accident -- were not in the cards.

Asked during a press conference whether miners' safety was compromised because the company used nonunion workers, Inman said no. My anger is centered around the allegation that we traded safety for profit.

And where did this big lie come from? It was first mentioned by a plaintiff's lawyer, then the president of the (labor federation) AFL-CIO, then the head of the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) and even the president of the United States.

On April 15, President Obama placed primary blame for the disaster on Massey and called for better mine oversight nationwide to prevent more accidents. He did not repeat that line at a memorial service on Sunday for the victims.

There was no immediate comment on Inman's charge from the AFL-CIO or the UMWA.

(Reporting by Steve James, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)