Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm not sure what to say about President Obama's appointment of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to be head of the administration's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, apart from the obvious (Wonkette: "Anti-Business Obama Puts Another CEO In Charge of America"). But I see thatthe appointment has Fox's corporate knickers in a twist:

The link goes to this fair, balanced story:

When Democrats said President Obama was "pro-business," we didn't know they meant one business in particular.

There are a few companies on the Obama corporate A List -- Democratic patrons Google and Goldman Sachs both turn up again and again at White House functions and for special recognition -- but no company seems to get the VIP treatment that General Electric receives.

... Whether it is pushing the president's plan for global warming fees in order to create demand for his "Ecomagination" line of windmills, solar panels, etc., boosting the president's national health-care law as part of an effort to sell more medical equipment, or enthusing over the Obama strategy of making loans available for industrial exporters, Immelt has been an Obama stalwart all along. Immelt has also consistently argued to shareholders that there is big money to be made in advancing the Democratic agenda.

... Though intended to show Obama's coolness with corporate America, the Immelt pick will likely reinforce the perception in American boardrooms that Obama likes to play favorites when it comes to the economy.

He's visited so many battery makers that his staff must now be coated in a thin layer of nickel-cadmium. And while Obama plays rough with the oil and coal industries, he can't say enough good about technology firms and "green jobs."

...The suspicious eye that will be cast on Immelt, though, may lessen his ability to provide the connection to the business world Obama has promised. Other CEOs are unlikely to see a competitor who pushes policies explicitly to benefit his company as an ally in the fight for a fair, free market.

I seem to recall that Murdoch didn't think it was so unfair for a CEO to curry political favor back in 2006 when he hosted that Hillary Clinton fund-raiser. But, well, people's opinions change with time, don't they?

I know the philosophy at Fox is that corporations are never evil unless it's the wrong corporation partnering with the wrong politicians -- but this story seems harsh even by that standard. The explanation? Apparently it's the Murdoch newsrooms' knee-jerk tendency, honed in decades of newspaper wars on three continents, to instinctively lash out at direct competitors.

The thing is, GE used to be a direct competitor. No more -- it sold NBC to Comcast. And while there may be something fishy about the fact that Immelt was appointed just after the deal was finalized, the deal is done. GE is no longer a Fox competitor. Rupert (and Roger Ailes), you can unclench your jaws now.

But no. This goes way back. Forgive me if I quote a Howie Kurtz story from 2008:

Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News star, is mounting an extraordinary televised assault on the chief executive of General Electric, calling him a "pinhead" and a "despicable human being" who bears responsibility for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq.

On the surface, O'Reilly's charges revolve around GE's history of doing business with Iran. But the attacks grow out of an increasingly bitter feud between O'Reilly and the company's high-profile subsidiary, NBC, one that has triggered back-channel discussions involving News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker and General Electric's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.

Ailes called Zucker on his cellphone last summer, clearly agitated over a slam against him by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. According to sources familiar with the conversation, Ailes warned that if Olbermann didn't stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O'Reilly against NBC and would use the New York Post as well.

... The high-level appeals failed, and O'Reilly has escalated his criticism of GE in recent weeks, declaring, "If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt."...

This was another case of Fox being willing to sound almost, well, left-wing in order to savage a rival. The complaints concerned GE's corporate dealings with Iran, which Fox argued helped enable attacks on troops in Iraq. (GE insists that it ceased business in Iran in 2008.)

But since GE seems to have been the only company on the planet singled out for this much criticism on Fox for dealings in Iran, one assumes that the real reason for the attacks was, well, not the safety of our troops.

A truce in the O'Reilly-vs.-GE/Olbermann-vs.-Fox feud was announced in 2009, though the feud seems to have been reignited last year.

Is it fully on again? Is Fox going to make Immelt the new ACORN?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im melt will cast vision, though, may reduce his ability to connect the world Obama has promised to provide the service.

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