Lubing the Boob Tube


The Nation has a good cover story up about lobbyists who appear on cable TV without being labeled as such, issuing opinions that–surprise!–often prove favorable to their clients' interests. Look, there's former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge on MSNBC in December, saying we should "create nuclear power plants"! And now THE REST of the story:

Will you just go to hell, already?

But what viewers weren't told was that since 2005, Ridge has pocketed $530,659 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company. As of March 2009, he also held an estimated $248,299 in Exelon stock, according to SEC filings.

Moments earlier, retired general and "NBC Military Analyst" Barry McCaffrey told viewers that the war in Afghanistan would require an additional "three- to ten-year effort" and "a lot of money." Unmentioned was the fact that DynCorp paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009 alone. The government had just granted DynCorp a five-year deal worth an estimated $5.9 billion to aid American forces in Afghanistan.

Lots more examples at the link, including AIG-bailout apologists Dana Perino and Bernard Whitman, former Important Democrats-turned health care lobbysists Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, and more. How do the networks compare in their guest-description transparency?

Matter of fact, I was on MSNBC with this walking conflict of interest just last week!

Some of this has changed in recent months, with CNN starting to identify the industries some analysts work for. For its part, Fox News has long identified the lobbying or PR firms of some–though not all–guests, but the network does not give viewers any information about the kinds of clients these firms represent. […]

Then there's MSNBC, the cable network with the most egregious instances of airing guests with conflicts of interest.

Link via Christopher Hayes' Twitter feed.

NEXT: Obama's Pardon Drought Continues

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  1. Then there’s MSNBC, the cable network with the most egregious instances of airing guests with conflicts of interest.

    Thanks, but many of us had figured that one out a long time ago.

    1. The fact that this is in The Nation is the more amazing part. It’s as if Ramparts trashed Pravda in the 1960s.

      1. The old left eats its own progeny. Fortunately, we get to enjoy the spectacle.

      2. O’Rourke didn’t call it “that compendium of the snits and quarrels of the Old Left” for nothing. (I quote from memory, but I believe that’s right.)

        1. Nice, I will try to remember that one.

    2. I thought they were just “strategists.”

  2. The Nation has a good cover story up about lobbyists who appear on cable TV without being labeled as such[…]

    Hey, as long as they are kept away from Obama’s cabinet – remember, no lobbyist was to be hired into the Pharaoh’s inner circle!

  3. Barry McCaffrey: MSNBC must have a guy designated to follow him around and mop up the trail of slime he leaves, everywhere he goes.

  4. And here I was, waiting for a 3-page essay on YouPorn.com; I demand Truth in Advertising!

    1. Matt is such a cock-tease.

      1. A cock teaser at Roosterama?

    2. He’s gonna be real pissed when he actually needs to write an article about youtube-style porn sites, and realizes he blew a great headline prematurely.

      (Punned up for your pleasure)

  5. TV lies to us? Unthinkful!

    1. I know! Thank goodness we have the Internets. It will never lie to us…

  6. The alt-text is the winningest.

  7. I don’t really know what a boob tube that requires lubing looks like but you have my undivided attention.

  8. This Just In!

    Proponent of nuclear power invests in nuclear power. He even WORKS in nuclear power! Get you lynching nooses ready.

    1. The critique is more about MSNBC.

      1. Yeah, but what do they expect?

        “Tonight on MSNBC, we’ll talk to a proponent for nuclear power. He works in nuclear power, and invests his money in it. There, happy? There’s your totally obvious full-disclosure. Tomorrow we’ll talk to a climate scientist. He’s invested in renewable energy. And after that we’ll talk to a dog breeder, who is thoroughly invested in febreeze.”

        I’m missing the scandal. “MSNBC doesn’t disclose that their guests support the causes they’re on the show to talk about! omg 1111!11one.”

        1. Ridge is labeled in the pic as an NBC News Analyst. That’s what the story is about.

          Most people don’t that ridge works for Exelon.

          1. Whoops, I didn’t get it. There is a big difference between “here’s our guest” and “here’s our correspondent.”

            I just don’t watch enough (any) tv news.

          2. (or…um, actually watch the vids i’m commenting on. *cough* *cough*)

  9. This is exactly why the media was in the tank for McCain-Feingold and is aghast at the reversal in Citizens United. They’re already exempt from all of these campaign finance and lobbying reform rules, which means they have a natural monopoly on access of lobbyists to government. This is the inevitable result.

    It’s a shame that this won’t be parsed as the inevitable result of media exclusions on speech regulations, but rather as just another example of corporate power run amok.

  10. Count me among those who, having seen the headline, felt profound disappointment upon actually reading the article.

  11. The Nation has a good cover story up

    My brain hurts.

    1. They had a pretty good cover story up in the 1960s on the Hell’s Angels, by a cat named Thompson….

  12. My father, a Rachel Maddow, fan was upset that Dr. Laura Tyson was on her show discussing the banking crisis and never mentioned she was on the board of Morgan Stanley. Maddow had to apologize the next night and claimed to have been hoodwinked. I had the opposite reaction of my dad – why didn’t she know Tyson was on the board? Sloppy and it’s not the only instance in Maddow’s case, but she usually blames the guest or her staff.

    1. Your father is a Rachel Maddow? Hideous.

      1. People have pulled their own heads off for less.

  13. I gave up watching television news about a decade ago. If it wasn’t for the ubiquitous TV screens in the gym, I wouldn’t know that Glen Beck was a circus clown from the silent film era.

  14. I’m thinking a blanket disclaimer across the bottom of the screen:

    “It is safe to assume that anyone appearing on this show is being paid to say what they say, or is otherwise talking their book. If they aren’t, we’ll let you know.”

  15. The flacks and/or lobbyists themselves should insist on these tags. How can you represent a client you’re embarrassed to own?

    1. Ask Ashlee Simpson’s manager.

  16. Does it really matter who the source is? Even someone who you generally disagree with can have a valid point. Is it not our job to integrate what we have just seen or heard with our other observations and come to our own conclusions?

  17. Does it really matter who the source is?

    Yes, it does. The concepts of “trust” and “conflict of interest” are a necessary and important part of evaluating any statement.

    1. Easiest solution is to trust no one.

      1. You must be lying about that!

  18. The real news here is that anyone could think this is new(s). This practice is ancient. To quote Captain Renault, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

  19. C’mon, how obvious is this one – the networks’ policy regarding their guests’ “affiliations” (shall we say) appears to be….

    Don’t ask, don’t tell

    * bah BUMP -cymbal crash- *

    Thank you, thank you – try the chicken fingers, I’ll be here all week!

  20. Here’s to The Nation; the writer of that article deserves a nice, micro-brewed beer.

    Slowly, but surely, the truth always comes out. The sins of the Right were exposed the past eight years; now, it is the Left that is on the chopping block.

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