Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fake 'Progressive' Channel Watch: Guess What A Little Bird Said ...

I was floored. I did not know this. And I'm reasonably informed of inside Beltway politics, of conflicts of interest and their incestuous nature. This was of FOX-like proportions, and surprising, still, because it's MSNBC. Somehow I thought despite my criticism of corporate cable news, innocently, I'm loathe to admit, that there is a standards and integrity baseline at MSNBC that is higher than Murdoch's. I've often tempered my worst critiques by noting that MSNBC was not FOX; that it was still a news organization. I'm not so sure anymore.

Regarding that atrociously unbalanced MSNBC segment between anchor Richard Lui and his best buddy Grover Norquist, sole guest doing color commentary of competing House Republican/Democratic pressers on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extensions — It's hard to imagine that it could get any worse; but it did. According to an inside Beltway source, Grover Norquist, the multi-millionaire right wing activist, best known to the public as promoter of the so-called "Taxpayer (Millionaires and Corporations) Protection Pledge (Racket)" signed by 95% of House Republicans, never to raise taxes, is also chief Washington lobbyist for the controversial Keystone Pipeline project from Canada through the American heartland to Texas. The project was the principal Republican poison pill opposed by Democrats and President Obama in the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension fight.

The Senate compromise includes a provision for the President to fast-track its approval within two months. That is not enough time for environmental impact assessment to be done by the State Department, and President Obama is expected to deny approval based on that criteria. But nothing is certain. At the very least, Republicans will turn it into a 2012 campaign issue. As for Grover Norquist, each and every time he makes an appearance on MSNBC or any news oulet under the guise of commenting on this issue, he will in effect be acting as a lobbyist for the Keystone Pipeline project. (Very likely, a paid lobbyist — I wonder what Grover's billable rate is for his love fest with Richard Lui?) And the viewing public will never be the wiser for it.

MEMO To NBC News President Steve Capus: What are MSNBC's standards and practices on this? From where I'm sitting, trotting out a high-priced lobbyist to do "color commentary" on an issue in which he has a clear conflict of interest is unethical. It's dishonest and it's misleading. It's just plain wrong. Where are your standards? Do you have any? It's rather pathetic that such disclosure is seemingly done on an ad hoc basis, such that a guest may preface his or her remarks by saying, "in the interest of full disclosure, I work or lobby for company X or Y." But "full disclosure" is a misnomer. Disclosure of any kind is not a requirement absent a conflict of interest. And if one exists, it shouldn't be optional; it should be compulsory.

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