Since 1981, a major corporate criminal has sponsored a Sunday talk show that has great influence over national public policy debates.
The host of the show and the chairman of the corporate criminal are close friends. They are neighbors at a Florida resort. They party together. The host of the show has a political philosophy that fits well with the sponsor of the show.
When the issue of crime is raised, the host keeps the focus exclusively on street crime, despite growing evidence that corporate crime and violence inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined. The host of the show rarely allows discussion of corporate domination of American culture, bribery, corruption, or economic concentration in the agribusiness industry -- all topics that would not make the corporate criminal sponsor of the show happy.
It's a very basic rule of television -- don't bite the hand that feeds your show.
So perhaps it should not be surprising that after leaving the show, the host, David Brinkley, signs on with the corporate criminal, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), to hawk its political philosophy. It is a natural progression -- from unpaid mouthpiece, to paid mouthpiece.
Brinkley has filmed six 60-second spots and one 30-second promo for ADM that will run on "This Week," "Meet the Press" and other public policy talk shows.
There is little outrage expressed by big-time journalists over Brinkley's move. Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times, was a notably exception, criticizing the corporate criminal's chairman, Dwayne Andreas for buying Brinkley's services. "It is one thing for Mr. Andreas to own Congress, which gave him a lavish tax break for ethanol, the corn-based fuel whose market ADM dominates," she writes. "But it's another to buy the services of one of the most trusted newsmen in history."
Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren calls the Brinkley/ADM deal "awful," but says that "most journalists in Washington are not outraged by Brinkley's move -- they're envious."
Warren says that with most every journalist in Washington on the make, it's a no wonder why there hasn't been an outpouring of moral indignation against the Brinkley action. He points to Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz as a case in point.
Kurtz, in addition to being the Post's media critic, co-hosts a media criticism show with Marvin Kalb for CNN called "Reliable Sources." This past Sunday, an ADM ad featuring Brinkley ran on Kurtz's show. In addition, Kurtz is working as a freelance reporter for ABC's Nightline.
"How the hell can a media critic be working for two major news organizations that are on his beat?" Warren asks. As of this writing, Kurtz has yet to report the issue of Brinkley/ADM in his media criticism column.
ABC spokesperson Su-Lin Cheng said Kurtz is the correspondent for an upcoming Nightline piece on the internet and libel and that he is being paid by ABC for his work. She would not say how much Kurtz is being paid. "We have contracted with him to do this one piece, and we have not determined whether there will be others," Cheng said.
Kurtz did not return calls seeking comment.
ADM's hiring of Brinkley comes at a crucial moment for ADM.
In 1996, the company pled guilty to criminal price-fixing of feed additives and citric acid and was fined $100 million. The company currently faces many private civil actions seeking millions of dollars in damages for the price-fixing in a wide variety of markets. The European Community is investigating the company for anti-competitive activities. And now, Dwayne's son Michael Andreas, on leave as ADM's vice chairman, and Terrance Wilson, a retired ADM executive, face charges of criminal price-fixing.
ADM is apparently hoping that Brinkley's credibility will help repair a tattered corporate image.
"Since television began I have brought you the news. . .straight and true," Brinkley said in one of the commercials that ran on "This Week." "But now I will bring you information about food, the environment, agriculture ..."
Paid for by a corporate criminal felon.
COPYRIGHT © RUSSELL MOKHIBER AND ROBERT WEISSMAN
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