By Matt Welch
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:
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?
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.