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O'Reilly and Ingraham Spin Supposition Into Fact In Order To Smear GE, NBC And Obama

Reported by Ellen - April 26, 2009 -

Guest blogged by Julie

On Thursday's O'Reilly Factor (4/23/09), headlined “Will General Electric Get Paid for Supporting President Obama?” Bill O'Reilly teamed up with Laura Ingraham to rant – again – about General Electric and NBC and, just to round things out, President Obama. O'Reilly and Ingraham accused their rival network of trying to butter up Obama in order to win government contracts. But instead of hard evidence, the pair produced only a stream of supposition. With video.

O'Reilly began with his Talking Points Memo: “GE, which owns NBC, has been very aggressive in helping Barack Obama, first supporting the President in the election and now attacking his critics.” That's kind of like his theme song - and never you mind that Bill's own boss, Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, backed Bush for President. Oh, and let's not forget the year 2000, when Fox News' John Ellis (first cousin of George W.), who led the network's decision desk, jumped the gun and declared the State of Florida for Bush.

O'Reilly continued, “There's also emerging evidence that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and NBC News Chief Jeff Zucker told CNBC personnel to stop criticizing Obama's economic policies. (As another aside, Murdoch, owner of Fox News, admitted that Fox tried to promote Bush's policies on the war.) And, the New York Times reported that post-9/11, Fox News Channel Chairman, Roger Ailes, sent a note to then President Bush via Karl Rove, suggesting policies for Bush to follow – a move which prompted the late Tim Russert of NBC to say, “I would not recommend that behavior for any practicing journalist.”

O'Reilly charged that “Immelt may be looking for a major payoff.” According to the Washington Examiner, O'Reilly said, General Electric is heavily lobbying the Obama Administration for bailout money and also pushing for the proposed cap and trade program. If the corporate carbon tax passes Congress General Electric hopes (all emphases mine) it would manage billions of dollars in cap and trade transactions. “A failing corporation,” O'Reilly raged, “General Electric, might reap billions of dollars if the Feds okay the carbon deal.” I had to research a bit to find out about the cap and trade thing, and of course I read that Examiner article, but one nugget that stuck out is that GE was lobbying under the Bush Administration on environmental issues and for federal money. In fact, according to Fox News, “there are more than 2,300 lobbyists from 770 companies and organizations -- more than four lobbyists for every member of Congress – and those lobbyists collected at least $90 million last year from 770 companies and organizations, including the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a group of 48 firms that spent a total of $9.95 million exclusively on the issue.”

One thing that's clear is that General Electric is not the only major corporation hoping to profit from the President's environmental agenda, and in fact, GE in conjunction with Invenergy, is in the process of developing one of the first wind energy projects, which, yes, was made possible with stimulus money. (It's also worth noting that The American Wind Energy Association calls the U.S. wind industry “an economic and job creation dynamo,” and reports that 85,000 people were employed in the industry at the end of 2008, an increase of 35,000 from the previous year.) It seems obvious to the casual viewer that GE isn't the only energy-related company expected to benefit from – and jolt the economy with – money from President Obama’s stimulus plan. GE just happens to be the only one that owns O'Reilly's arch-nemesis, NBC.

O'Reilly predicted ominously, “Not a stretch to assume Immelt would want to help President Obama as much as possible.” O'Reilly claimed that they've asked Immelt to appear on the Factor many times, but he hasn't, and “that's why we sent Jesse down to see him.” Seems to me that when a talk show host's top pitbull shows up at a shareholder's meeting, disguised as just a plain old stockholder, and fails to identify himself as the ambush producer that he is, then asks a question that reeks of right-wing media bias, Immelt might figure, well, as O'Reilly would say, “the fix is in.”

O'Reilly said that this is obviously a “major story” when a powerful corporation – which controls a major part of the American media – may use its power and the airwaves to influence politics in order to make money from government contracts. Okay, first of all, President Obama doesn't have sole control over the award contracts; there's a process. And second, in March, he signed a presidential memorandum making changes to the way contracts were awarded, with the intention of making the award system more fair and transparent.

“That kind of corruption would make Watergate look small. We hope it is not true,” O'Reilly said. Okay, so by that statement – and by the myriad of other ifs and mays and hopes and would bes – we can assume that none of this is known to be true, none of it is based on any facts. It's just as likely to be O'Reilly and Fox News' wish list, so they can continue to assassinate President Obama's character and accuse both President Obama and GE of paying to play.

O'Reilly brought in contributing Foxette Laura Ingraham to generate more right-wing talking points. She didn't disappoint, saying “If this story is true . . . we have a situation where GE is set to make hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps maybe billions of dollars, off of this stimulus money that it's gonna get, off of this cap and trade bill if it ends up getting through, and I think at MSNBC they should almost have to run a disclaimer – when they report on these stories I think the viewers should know that GE – the parent company of MSNBC and NBC News – is set to benefit handsomely from this program going through.”

It's ridiculous to demand that a competing news organization run a “disclaimer” based on what-ifs but Ingraham wanted all the “high-minded” journalism professors at Columbia Journalism School, who, according to Ingraham, consistently slam conservatives, to speak to this lack of journalistic integrity.

“I think what Jesse did in going down there and challenging Immelt – is, what he did was a service to the people,” Ingraham stated pompously. “They shouldn't have cut the mic.”

O'Reilly mused, “Here's the thing that disturbs me – you clerked for the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas – this is an abuse of power if it's true and as, again, the evidence is almost overwhelming that we've never seen before here in America.” First, as I reported, it was Garofalo's comments on MSNBC that O'Reilly earlier this week said were the “most hateful attacks on the Tea Party demonstrators the TV news business has ever seen in its history.” Now, O'Reilly slams NBC's Immelt for an “abuse of power . . . never seen before here in America.”

O'Reilly couldn't stop himself: “By using NBC News to actually promote a presidential candidate, which they did, there's no doubt, and then attack critics of the President after he was elected in order to make money from government contracts – I mean, it's staggering.”

Ingraham helpfully added, “And then you throw in a corrupt media that is set to profit handsomely from this, and all hell breaks loose.”

O'Reilly hopefully stated, “There's also now a risk for Barack Obama, because if Barack Obama awards GE government contracts of any kind going forward it's going to look bad.”

Ingraham snidely threw in, “Yeah, well is that change we can believe in.” Hey, attorney, innocent until proven guilty.

Ingraham, who once upon a time worked at MSNBC, said righteously, “Over the years they just decided they were going to go hard left, counter-program to Fox . . . but don't pretend that you're doing some big service, journalistic service, for the people. You're not . . . okay, you're propping up yourselves and you want to make money off government contracts you'd better disclose that to the American people . . . it's an outrage.”

No, Ingraham, what's an outrage is that you and O'Reilly conducted an entire smear segment without providing any facts whatsoever to back up your allegations that our President and GE might be somewhere in the future engaging in “pay to play” politics, you throw in over 20 vague rumors or guesses or suppositions or predictions with, again, no facts behind them, the two of you muse about the horrors that might occur if anything happens like you're guessing and predicting it might, and expect people not to notice.

Have you ever thought of changing Fox News' name to the Speculation Network?