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Poor, Poor Ken Lay. Fox Frets: Will He Get a Fair Trial?

Reported by Melanie - January 27, 2006

After five years, the trial of Ken Lay (and Jeff Skilling) begins on Monday in federal court in Houston. Today (January 27, 2006) on Your World, Neil Cavuto gave a preview of what Fox's spin about the trial will be.

In the opening seconds of the show during which Cavuto teases about upcoming segments, Cavuto said, "Ken Lay. Crucified in the press over Enron's collapse. Aren't ya innocent until proven guilty? Wait until you hear what his attorney has to say."

Roughly 18 minutes later Cavuto opened the segment featuring Lay's attorney by first showing a clip from the film "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." In the clip Fox chose to air, Lay was shown standing at a podium cracking a joke while the audience laughed and clapped. (I.e., he looked like a great guy.)

After the clip ended, Cavuto began introducing Lay's attorney while a box appeared over his shoulder that read, "Trial by Fire?" Cavuto: "Well, you know, he's been vilified on film, made the fall guy for corporate corruption and blamed for a market meltdown, and he hasn't even had his day in court yet. I'm talking, of course, about Ken Lay. Five years after the collapse of Enron, his trial is set to begin on Monday."

The camera then switched to Michael Ramsey, apparently Lay's lead attorney (surely he has a pack of them). A chryon appeared at the bottom of the screen, "Enron Trial: Is Ken Lay Getting a Fair Shake?" and remained on screen throughout the segment.

Ramsey explained "the premise of the whole case," which is that Lay "knew exactly what was going on. He took the kind of steps a CEO should have taken during that period of time." The "only thing" that "Ken Lay and nobody at Enron knew is that Enron had at its heart, really at the CFO level, a guy who was a thief and that was Andrew Fastow." Fastow didn't steal enough to "sink Enron" but "when word of his dishonesty and deceit got on the street, I think that's what caused the panic."

After Ramsey and Cavuto chatted for a few minutes Cavuto signed off with, "That case, of course, which we'll follow closely on Fox, kicks off on Monday."

Comment: I'm sure Fox will "follow" the trial "closely," if following it "closely" means squeezing the issues down to something roughly the size of grain of rice. But never mind the details. It's apparent that if the outcome begins to look bad, or in fact is bad for poor Ken Lay, long time friend of the Bush family and someone our president warmly dubbed "Kenny Boy," the spin will be that he didn't get a fair trial.

For more information, go to Judgment Day for Enron, at Alternet.org. There you'll find an excellent summary of the case, information about the players and the issues, and some thoughts on why we should care about this:

This is the trial of the two top guys at Enron -- Ken Lay, chairman and CEO and Jeff Skilling, CEO. And Enron was a big deal because it was the consummate corporate scandal. It has powerful implications for how business is done in America. It also is a morality tale about people who were corrupted by greedy culture. These were not people who walked into Enron looking to commit fraud. They were people who were seduced by the millions they could make and the corruption of the culture itself.

You can be sure Fox's "close" coverage won't include any of that, but stay tuned.

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