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Barack Obama and General Electric: Why MSNBC and NBC Talking Heads Supported Obama So Vociferously

President Barack Obama and GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt

President Barack Obama and GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt

It is starting to look like General Electric is Barack Obama’s Halliburton.

A “Negotiated Settlement” of the Olbermann-O’Reilly Media War

Yesterday Dakinikat wrote a post on the “negotiated settlement” in which Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News were silenced by their respective corporate masters, General Electric and News Corp. Here’s a little refresher. From The New York Times:

At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.

Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.

GE and News Corp were concerned that the long-running feud between Olbermann and O’Reilly was hurting the parent corporations’ business interests.

Over time, G.E. and the News Corporation concluded that the fighting “wasn’t good for either parent,” said an NBC employee with direct knowledge of the situation. But the session hosted by Mr. Rose provided an opportunity for a reconciliation, sealed with a handshake between Mr. Immelt and Mr. Murdoch.

But like any title fight, the final round could not end without an attempted knockout. On June 1, the day after the abortion provider George Tiller was killed in Kansas, Mr. Olbermann took to the air to cite Mr. O’Reilly’s numerous references to “Tiller, the baby killer” and to announce that he would retire his caricature of Mr. O’Reilly.

“The goal here is to get this blindly irresponsible man and his ilk off the air,” he said.

The next day, Mr. O’Reilly made the extraordinary claim that “federal authorities have developed information about General Electric doing business with Iran, deadly business” and published Mr. Immelt’s e-mail address and mailing address, repeating it slowly for emphasis.

Then the attacks mostly stopped.

Shortly afterward, Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president, told producers that he wanted the channel’s other programs to follow Mr. Olbermann’s lead and restrain from criticizing Fox directly, according to two employees. At Fox News, some staff members were told to “be fair” to G.E.

Reaction from Blogger Glenn Greenwald

Dakinikat also quoted from Glenn Greenwald’s piece in Salon in which he points out that the author of the NYT article quoted above, Brian Stelter, apparently didn’t understand or perhaps didn’t care that he was reporting on censorship of news programs by two giant corporations.

So now GE is using its control of NBC and MSNBC to ensure that there is no more reporting by Fox of its business activities in Iran or other embarrassing corporate activities, while News Corp. is ensuring that the lies spewed regularly by its top-rated commodity on Fox News are no longer reported by MSNBC….

This is hardly the first time evidence of corporate control over the content of NBC and MSNBC has surfaced. Last May, CNN’s Jessica Yellin said that when she was at MSNBC, “the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this [the Iraq War] was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation”; “the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives … to put on positive stories about the president”; and “they would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive.” Katie Couric said that when she was at NBC, “there was a lot of undercurrent of pressure not to rock the boat for a variety of reasons, where it was corporate reasons or other considerations” not to be too critical of the Bush administration. MSNBC’s rising star, Ashleigh Banfield, was demoted and then fired after she criticized news media organizations generally, and Fox News specifically, for distorting their war coverage to appear more pro-government. And, of course, when MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue’s show in the run-up to the Iraq war despite its being that network’s highest-rated program, a corporate memo surfaced indicating that the company had fears of being associated with an anti-war and anti-government message.

Why did MSNBC Support Obama So Strongly?

What I’m wondering now is why did MSNBC support Barack Obama so strongly during the primaries, and why did they do everything they could to destroy Hillary Clinton’s candidacy? I admit, I bought into the notion that talking heads Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and David Shuster were really huge fans of Obama.

In the light of this latest turn of events, I have to ask, were the on-air personalities at MSNBC really that biased, or were they acting on orders passed down from GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt? Did Immelt know ahead of time that Obama administration would look favorably on GE after they helped him win the nomination and the general election? Is it possible that Clinton wasn’t as amenable as Obama to making commitments to provide financial benefits to GE ahead of the nomination and election? Because Obama’s policies and appointments clearly have been a big help to GE in their current economic troubles. Continue reading