According to a source whose previous information has proven to be accurate, the Consortium of news organizations that recounted the presidential votes in the 2000 Florida election was shocked to find that former Vice President Al Gore decisively won the state, and it is now concealing the news of Gore’s victory from the American people.
The source is a former media executive who previously revealed information that the Bush administration was lying about Clinton staffers having vandalized the White House. That information led me to accuse Karl Rove of manufacturing the “crime”. My accusation appeared in an article that was posted by Buzzflash.com on January 28, 2001, and it was confirmed by a General Accounting Office investigative report several months later.
Having previously established credibility as a well-informed and accurate conduit of information, the executive now claims the Consortium is deliberately hiding the results of its recount because Gore was the indisputable winner.
Originally, the Consortium believed that there were three potential outcomes of the recount, any of which would have been acceptable to the participating news conglomerates. The first was a Bush win, which would have resolved the issue. The second was a dead heat/inconclusive result, which would have maintained the status quo. The third was a narrow Gore victory, which would have given die hard Democrats a debate point, but would have simply been another photo finish recount that most Americans would have disregarded as being currently irrelevant.
The Consortium was stunned to discover that the recount revealed Gore won a clear victory. Even after casting aside the controversial butterfly ballots and discarding ballots that were “iffy”, Gore decisively won the recount. While the precise numbers are still unavailable, a New York Times journalist who was involved in the project told one of his former companions that Gore won by a sufficient margin to create “major trouble for the Bush presidency if this ever gets out”.
Gore’s victory was large enough that it became apparent he would win prior to the Consortium recount being fully completed. And contrary to a recent claim by the New York Times, the terrorism of September 11 was not the crucial factor that determined whether to release the results to the American people. Prior to that time, the de facto majority shareholders in the publicly traded New York Times Company reportedly intervened on the side of quashing the recount results and convinced the other participants to shelve the story. The executive claims that the most important decisions at the Times are made by the influential money center banks that exercise actual voting control of a majority of stock. These banks are extremely pro-Bush. In addition to their control of the Times, they have substantial financial clout with the Washington Post Company, Dow Jones and Company, and the Tribune Company. As a result, the banks exert tremendous influence on a majority of the Consortium.
The story of Gore’s victory has been spiked at the highest levels of the media conglomerates that are involved, rather than at the cosmetic steering committee level of the recount project. The Consortium reportedly has received intense pressure from members of the Bush inner circle both in and out of government, but has not been lobbied by representatives of Gore.
The huge disparity between the original recount and the Consortium recount stems from the G.O.P. tactics in Florida. Their strategy was to aggressively contest every pro-Gore ballot, even the obviously valid ones. The Republicans then accused the vote counters of being biased because most of the challenges were resolved in favor of Gore. By using this approach, the Bush partisans successfully intimidated the counters into bending over backwards to show “fairness”, resulting in thousands of legitimate Gore votes being disqualified or relegated to a pile of disputed ballots.
“It was the old baseball manager’s trick of crying about every call in order to pressure the umpire to give you more than your fair share,” said the executive. “And it worked in Florida. However, in the relative calm of the Consortium recount - absent the pressure tactics - the Bush total remained basically consistent with the original count, while the Gore total shot way up.”
As for what will happen next, the executive said, “Once the dominant pro-Gore trend became apparent, the Consortium was never going to release the results; the pressure from the big money boys was too great. Terrorism just provided a better excuse for withholding the information than the ‘technical difficulties’ stalling tactic that was otherwise going to be used. The Consortium is determined to make sure that the original results of their recount will never see the light of day.” And we invite you to write to members of the consortium and to NORC demanding the release of the data.
The Consortium of media organizations that has delayed announcing the results of the Florida presidential election ballot study contends that it had absolutely no idea who was going to win that recount. The Consortium further contends that the ballots have not yet been tabulated, making it impossible for anyone to know the outcome. It also states that the results of the ballot study would have been released to the American people if not for the terrorist attack on September 11.
The Consortium is engaging in sophistry. It is deliberately seeking to deceive the public with incomplete and misleading information. This dishonesty is entirely consistent with the mainstream media’s pattern of lying that recurred throughout the presidential campaign.
Part two in this series deals with the Consortium’s lack of candor as it has sought to advance its own financial interests by concealing Al Gore’s clear victory in Florida and refusing to acknowledge that he was the rightful winner in the 2000 presidential election.
It is important to emphasize that we do not allege the conglomerates that control the American mainstream media have engaged in a conspiracy, only that they have damaged American democracy by conducting themselves with unpatriotic self interest and all consuming greed.
On January 9, 2001, eight media organizations announced their intention to form the Consortium that would examine and classify the votes in the Florida presidential election. The eight news organizations were The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dow Jones and Company (The Wall Street Journal), the Associated Press, The Tribune Company (The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, among others), The Palm Beach Post, The St. Petersburg Times, and CNN (which later dropped out).
The Consortium sought to gain credibility for the integrity of its recount by hiring the not-for-profit National Opinion Research Center to perform the actual ballot handling tasks and to compile the relevant information. NORC was assigned to provide the raw data to each of the members of the Consortium. It would then be up to the individual media outlets to decide how they would interpret and report the data to the American people.
All of this was to be completed by April, 2001.
At the time that the Consortium announced its plans to categorize the votes, some national public opinion polls showed that over a third of Americans considered George W. Bush to be an illegitimate president. Several prominent syndicated columnists had written that Gore was fortunate to “lose”, because the poisonous atmosphere in the aftermath of the controversial election guaranteed that the new president was destined to one term of bitterness and gridlock. The perception of the mainstream political and media analysts was that there were only three possible outcomes of the ballot study:
Against this backdrop, any of the three results of the ballot study that were considered possible would not be harmful to Bush. If the ballot study showed he won, then that would confirm he was the legitimate president. If it were a tie, then he would be no worse off than before the study was released. If Gore won a squeaker, then the most diehard of the Democrats might challenge the legitimacy of a Bush administration, but the GOP had prepared for that possibility by assigning party activists to every Florida county for the specific purpose of screaming fraud. Another very close vote accompanied by frenzied controversy would make the Consortium ballot study just a tiresome repeat of the soap opera that most of election-weary America had already seen and turned off.
If the establishment deep thinkers were right, then the only possible results from the Consortium study could help legitimize Bush, but could not harm his legitimacy among those Americans who had “gotten over it”.
There was, however, a potential complication that had been discounted by the corporations that were financing this venture:
What would happen if the Consortium recount revealed that Gore had won decisively?
The NORC’s examination of the ballots began in February. MakeThemAccountable has spoken with several participants who were in the NORC coding rooms where the ballots of the Florida presidential election were reviewed. These people did not know each other and were in different counties within Florida. Each of them independently stated that, based on their personal observation, Al Gore was winning at least two thirds of those disputed ballots that NORC coders were recording. These were ballots that had not been included in previous recounts.
The Consortium has stated that it cannot possibly have known the outcome of the ballot coding because NORC did not generate a final tabulation. The Consortium even contends that, because the ballots were not delivered to the media organizations until mid-September, and because those organizations have been completely preoccupied with covering the war against terrorism, the result of the recount is still a complete mystery to them.
The Consortium is lying about this, as well as other things.
Our sources within the recount made a commitment of confidentiality to NORC, pledging that they would not go public with what they saw during the process. This pact was faithfully honored until after September 11, when some participants became alarmed that the Consortium was going to violate its commitment to inform the American public about the truth of the actual results.
The ballot examination process, or coding process, had teams consisting of an NORC employee supervising three coders. It was the job of the coders to identify the characteristics of any expression of voter intent on the ballots. Their observations were entered into a computer database so that the media organizations comprising the Consortium could later evaluate the data to determine the winner. The ballots showed only numbers and not the names of candidates, so NORC assumed that those who were evaluating the ballots did not know which candidate was getting which votes. . The supervisors were responsible for comparing the pattern of vote tabulation by each coder, to further insure that bias would not enter the process.
In an interview with MakeThemAccountable, NORC Public Information Officer Julie Antelman confirmed that, if someone knew which number applied to which candidate, then they could tell if there was a trend.
To those who were carefully observing the coding, and who had enough knowledge of Florida county ballot configurations and precinct voting patterns to figure out which number represented Bush and which represented Gore, it was clear exactly how the vote categorization was going. Specifically, they saw the inclusion of many disputed ballots that had been successfully excluded from previous recounts because of pressure tactics by the Bush campaign. In the objective, professional setting of the NORC coding process, the winner of the overwhelming number of previously disputed ballots was Al Gore.
From the first day of the NORC process, there was a visible presence of pro-Bush demonstrators outside the coding rooms. What has not been widely reported is that there was also a constant Bush presence inside the coding rooms. The NORC had a policy that allowed for a representative of either party to observe the process. In counties like Hernando, observers could pay in order to actually sit at the coding tables. The observer was not allowed to comment, intrude, or interact with the coders, or in any way seek to influence the ballot study.
There is no evidence that the partisan observers corrupted the process of coding ballots, but their presence certainly destroys the myth of an “unknowable” result. Inside the rooms of the NORC coding process, politically experienced G.O.P. operatives carefully watched for trends.
They saw bad news for Bush. For example, in Republican Lake County, election officials had disqualified six hundred ballots because voters put a pencil mark in the circle by a candidate's name and also wrote the same candidate's name on another part of the ballot. According to the G.O.P., this made it impossible to discern the voters’ intent.
The coders perceived that someone who checked a candidate’s name and also wrote in the same candidate’s name probably meant to vote for that candidate.
The Republicans screamed that no one could possibly know for certain which candidate the voter meant to choose in these instances “unless they were psychic”. They decried the NORC’s “pathetic attempts at mind reading”.
The G.O.P.’s high decibel cries of persecution had successfully intimidated officials at the previous Florida recounts, but the rules of the NORC coding session prohibited observers from emoting inside the rooms. The indignant Republicans had to go outside to vent. The net result was a gain of one hundred thirty votes for Gore using previously uncounted ballots in just one Republican county.
George W. Bush had a widespread presence of people actively looking after his interests. There were Republican protesters outside the coding rooms and Republican observers inside the coding rooms in every county.
The Gore organization had already disbanded.
As during the election and the recounts, the Republicans were fighting as hard as they could — no holds barred — while the Democrats defaulted.
Even so, during the Consortium ballot study the coders just found too many Gore votes for the G.O.P. to be able to “win” again by invoking invisible crimes and decrying nonexistent conspiracies.
It is simply false for the Consortium to claim people were unaware that the results were developing in a way that would be highly embarrassing, at best, for George W. Bush. The Republican observers saw the strong pro-Gore trend and responded with typical aplomb. A G.O.P. activist accused one NORC coder of being drunk on the job, a lie that was later disproven. Even so, Republican operatives reportedly pressured another coder to confirm the phony allegation. The Republicans yelled about the quality of the coders, screamed about the treachery of the process, and threw temper tantrums about the unfairness of it all. Of course, they offered no proof of their slanderous charges. Though the G.O.P. observers were publicly panicking as the trend continued strongly against them, the Consortium observers in the very same rooms claim to be completely unaware of who was winning.
The members of the Consortium have a sufficient interest in this matter that they collectively have paid millions of dollars to subsidize the ballot study. The media organizations that comprise the Consortium employ hundreds of experienced journalists who possess expertise in gathering information. A number of their most able journalists were eyewitnesses to what was happening in the coding rooms. And yet, the Consortium pleads total ignorance of who was gaining votes during the NORC coding process.
Dan Keating was the Washington Post on-site editor for the ballot study. In an interview with MakeThemAccountable, he said, “We intentionally blinded ourselves to the information.”
Some coders knew enough about Florida county ballot configuration to be able to tell which numerical code represented Bush and which identified Gore. The same was true of supervisors, private citizens who viewed the study, and the increasingly hysterical Republican observers. Non-Consortium journalists were not exactly clueless, either:
"The media are finding more ballots meant for Gore. In election-speak: Even though final statewide results aren't in, early returns favor Gore."
— Palm Beach Post http://www.gopbi.com/partners/pbpost/news/election2000_media.html
The outrageous contention by the Consortium that they “could not possibly have known the outcome” of the ballot study is just one of the blatant lies they have told in their continuing effort to finesse a pro-Gore result that they didn’t anticipate, that runs counter to their financial interests, and that they had apparently chosen to “indefinitely” delay even before the terrorist attack on September 11.
Next – Part Three: More Consortium Dishonesty, which will be followed by an examination of the mainstream media’s financial motivations in lying for Bush. We will look at the concerns of some that the current delay in releasing the results foreshadows another convoluted attempt by the mainstream media to award Bush the victory that was denied him by the voters. We will also reveal which famed captain of industry mobilized the media elite to rally behind Bush in 2000.
GREG PALAST: Washington, the marine band plays 'Hail to the Chief' for George W Bush, 43rd President of the United States. But in Florida, some are singing 'Hail to the Thief'.
COUNTRY SONG: After hundreds of lies Fake alibis
PALAST: We are coming into Tallahassee. We want to know whether George W Bush won the election or did brother Jeb steal it for him? Our investigation suggest the answer lies in this shuttered building and in a very expensive contract between Governor Jeb's division of elections and a private company named DBT, which accidentally wiped off the voter rolls thousands of Democratic voters. 18th floor division of elections, we have come to ask Mr Clayton Roberts, the director, a few questions. Roberts agreed to talk, but became a bit uncomfortable when he learned that we had obtained the secret DBT contract, and asked him if he knew what DBT were up to.
CLAYTON ROBERTS: Florida Director of Elections No, I didn't ask DBT. They do what we contract them to do. We have a statute that says we have to have a private company to do this. We put it out for bid, we put it out for bid, and I think I'm done with this interview.
PALAST: Let me just show you the contract if I could Mr Roberts. It says here in the contract that the verification is supposed to be done by DBT. That you paid them $4 million. It could look to others don't you think that you paid $4 million to purchase this election for the Republican party. 95% wrong on the felon list. Mr. Roberts, could you answer the question regarding the contract... Instead, Mr Roberts called out State troopers. It's interesting here?
STATE TROOPER: Oh, man! Never a dull moment.
PALAST: I don't know why he had to call the police. We hadn't gotten to our difficult questions yet! The difficult questions are: Did Governor Jeb Bush, his Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and her Director of Elections, Clayton Roberts, know they had wrongly barred 22,000 black, Democrat voters before the elections? After the elections did they use their powers to prevent the count of 20,000 votes for the Democrats? The Democrats say the answers to both questions are yes.
COMMISSIONER: In any other country in the world, if this had occurred, there probably would have been riots or military troops throughout the streets.
PARTY CHAIRMAN: Al Gore won the election. He won the popular vote and he won the vote in Florida. I think that that's pretty clear.
VOTER: It wasn't done fairly. They shouldn't allow you to contest an election then give you no way to contest it.
LEGISLATOR: Jeb Bush promised his brother he was going to deliver Florida. I believe the Republicans strategy was at all costs we deliver Florida.
CAMPAIGNER: Were people taken out of polls and stopped from voting? Yes, I think that was not right. I smell a rat!
PALAST: This is Database Technologies. This is the company that the state of Florida hired to remove the names of people who committed serious crimes from the voter lists. I have obtained a document marked "confidential and trade secret". It says the company was paid millions of dollars to make telephone calls to verify they got the right names - but they didn't. There is nothing in the state of Florida files that says they made these telephone calls. So the question remains, why did the Republican leaders of this state pay millions for a list that stopped thousands of innocent Democrats from voting? The first list from DBT included 8,000 names from Texas supplied by George Bush's state officials. They said they were all felons, serious criminals barred from voting. As it turns out, almost none were. Local officials raised a ruckus and DBT issued a new list naming 58,000 felons. But the one county which went through the whole expensive process of checking the new list name by name found it was still 95% wrong. Reverend Willie Whiting was one of those removed from voter roles after DBT wrongly labelled him a serious criminal.
REVEREND WILLIE WHITING: I have never spent a night in jail.
PALAST: Were you ever busted?
WHITING: No. I had a speeding ticket probably 25-30 years ago, I guess, but that's about it.
PALAST: Do you think you should be allowed to vote if you had a speeding ticket?
PALAST: The Florida legislature likes to see young prisoners paraded in front of the capital in old cavalry uniforms.
PRISON GUARD: Me and superman had a fight
PRISONERS: Me and superman had a fight
PRISON GUARD: I hit him in the head with some Kryptonite
PRISONERS: I hit him in the head with some Kryptonite
PALAST: More often than not in America, the prisoner's colour is black. Because of the way DBT generated the list, every genuine black felon in the United States could knock out every black voter in Florida with the same surname and similar date of birth. That's why the NAACP is suing Florida for violating voters' civil rights.
LARRY OTTINGER: Lawyer for NAACP Governor Bush, the Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Clayton Roberts, the head of elections, all knew or should have known in advance that certain election policies and practices would disproportionately impact low-income areas, and in particular black citizens and other minority citizens, and that this would disproportionately impact Democratic voters, based on historical voting trends.
AL GORE: Thank you, Florida!
PALAST: Altogether, it looks like this cost the Democrats about 22,000 votes in Florida, which George Bush won by only 537 votes. The US civil rights commission is also on the trail. They called in Bush, Harris and Roberts. Bush did not convince his critics.
UNNAMED MAN: You screwed up this state. You sealed the ballot.
PALAST: Commissioner Edley and his colleagues will be in Miami tomorrow to hear from voters wrongly disqualified.
DR CHRISTOPHER EDLEY: US Civil Rights Commissioner If you are going to do it, by all means as a matter of due process and fairness, it's got to be done with excruciating care. It's a democracy, the vote counts. There is a lot of public concern that the contractor selected is a firm that seems to have ties to the Republican party.
PALAST: They will be putting our evidence to Database Technologies. Their vice-president told us that "manual verification by telephone calls" does not mean ringing people up to check they have got the right person. So were they paid to produce a list which they knew would name thousands of innocent black people? In fact DBT told Newsnight that Clayton Roberts and the State of Florida: "... wanted there to be more names than were actually verified as being a convicted felon." So did they use their powers to prevent the count of 20,000 votes for the Democrats? You don't have to be black. In Palm Beach, America's privileged nurse their tans and their anger.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I thought I voted for Al Gore but unfortunately I voted for Pat Buchanan, and I wasn't happy about that, because I am a Jewish voter and he would have been the last person in the world I would have voted for.
PALAST: Whacky butterfly ballots caused thousands in this Democrat town to accidentally mess up and they were refused replacement ballots promised them by state law.
JOANNE CARBONE: From the time the elections started until that awful decision that the Supreme Court made, I came across hundreds of people who made a mistake and I saw over 13,000 complaints filed by people who live in Palm Beach county.
PALAST: In all, Palm Beach voting machines misread 27,000 ballots. Jeb Bush's Secretary of State, Katharine Harris, stopped them counting these votes by hand. She did the same to Gadstone, one of Florida's blackest, poorest and most Democrat counties, where machines failed to count one in eight ballots. Again Harris stopped the hand count. This alone cost Gore another 700 votes, in an election in which Harris declared George Bush winner by only 537 votes.
KATHARINE HARRIS: In accordance with the laws of the State of Florida, I hereby declare Governor George W Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes for the President of the United States.
PALAST: Harris was a busy woman. In charge of Florida's vote count and co-chair of Bush's presidential campaign.
LOIS FRANKEL: Had she really been unbiased? Wouldn't the appropriate actions for her to be to say - let's really get to the bottom of this election and let's make sure every vote is counted.
PALAST: Lois Frankel represents Palm Beach, in the State legislature where she leads the Democratic opposition.
FRANKEL: She wanted George Bush to win. She interpreted every rule, every law in a way to help George Bush.
PALAST: We are driving down to Miami to witness an American ritual. In Britain, you count the votes, then announce the winner. In Florida they declare the winner first and here we are, still counting the votes.
WOMAN'S VOICE: She is showing the ballot in front of the light. They can see the light through where the chads have been punched through. Then she holds it in front because sometimes you can see things in different light. They have a whole column.
PALAST: Normally these are machine-read, right?
UNNAMED WOMAN: Right.
PALAST: They are carefully going through the 179,855 uncounted ballots that Harris did not want tallied. They'll know the winner next month. Sources tell Newsnight that Gore's ahead by 20,000 votes. The Biltmore, grandest hotel in Miami. Democrats are upstairs eating with their richest friends charging $5,000 a plate. Let's see if we can get in. Not far away from the millionaires on the balcony a voter had taken hostages at gun point protesting against the election fraud. But here it is back to champagne politics as usual. One Democrat whispered they would have done the same as Katharine Harris if they had the chance. But another, party chairman, Bob Poe remains bitter about this.
BOB POE: Chairman, Florida Democrats Jeb Bush, Katharine Harris, Clay Roberts did everything they could to stop every legitimate count of the vote. And that's what did us in.
PALAST: All fingers point to the Jeb Bush crew in Tallahassee. Investigators want to breakthrough the iron shutters.
EDLEY: I have to say that thus far we have been disappointed by the explanations, or perhaps I should say the lack of explanation provided by the state officials. When we spoke with the Governor and the Secretary of State and even with the Director of the Bureau of Elections underneath the Secretary of State, they were pointing fingers at everybody else, saying "look it wasn't our responsibility", they were in charge, which is a disheartening disquieting thing for us to hear - who should be held accountable for what clearly was a system that broke down.
PALAST: State officials point the finger at the counties and say it is their responsibility to check if the names on the list are real felons before disqualifying them. Clayton Roberts says his job is just to pass on the list. Roberts now admits he didn't bother to check with DBT, if innocent people were on it.
ROBERTS: Please turn off that camera.
PALAST: Off camera he said: We did not call and say did you check the list again... the whole tenor of this is like OK you screwed up you didn't check with DBT and if you want to hang this on me that's fine. It is certainly fine for George W Bush. Even if investigators conclude that Jeb Bush and the Republicans conspired to steal this election, the man in that house for the next four years will be George W Bush.
On April 4, USA Today announced the results of its long-anticipated re-examination of Florida ballots (done in conjunction with the Miami Herald) with the headline: "Newspapers' Recount Shows Bush Prevailed in Fla. Vote."
The headline touting a Bush win referred to the paper's estimate of what would have happened if the U.S. Supreme Court had not blocked the hand recount of 60 Florida counties that had been ordered by the state Supreme Court. The paper found that Bush likely would have won such a recount.
But USA Today's investigation also found something else-- something it chose not to tell its readers: The official hand counts in the remaining seven Florida counties, completed before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, had missed hundreds, even thousands of potential Gore votes. If those votes had been properly counted, under two of the four counting standards used by the paper to determine valid votes, Gore would have won the entire state by 300 to 400 votes.
The paper examined ballots from all 67 counties in Florida, but it only *reported* the results from 60 counties where hand counts were unfinished (except on the paper's website, USAToday.com). The paper's decision to exclude its findings in seven counties was based on its strategy of trying to answer only one narrow question: What would have happened if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stepped in and stopped the manual recounts in Florida?
The paper therefore included only the *official* results from the seven counties, even though its own investigation found that the official results had potentially missed enough Gore votes to change the outcome of the election. None of this was revealed to USA Today's readers. The April 4 article explained that the "official counts were final and would not have changed if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stopped the hand recount."
In making this decision, USA Today failed to report some of the most newsworthy aspects of its own ballot review. The Miami Herald, which worked with USA Today on the study, also played down the fact that the re-examination showed that Gore got more votes than Bush under two of the four standards (4/4/01). But the Florida paper at least provided its readers some valuable information about the limitations of the official recounts from the seven counties.
The Herald explained in an April 5 follow-up story that canvassing boards in Broward and Palm Beach counties "could have credited hundreds more ballots to the Democrat if they had counted every dimple, pinprick and hanging chad as a vote, a review of ballots in both counties shows. In Broward, where the official hand recount added 567 votes to Gore's county lead over Bush, a Herald-sponsored ballot review found that Gore's margin could have been 1,475, if every mark had been counted as a valid vote. In Palm Beach, where the official hand recount added a net gain of 174 votes to Gore's tally, the Herald-sponsored review found a potential Gore net gain of 1,081."
The Herald also reported on April 4 that the standards used in the original manual recount were not applied consistently: "The review found that canvassing boards in those counties discarded hundreds of ballots that bore marks no different from those on scores of ballots that were accepted as valid presidential votes. Had those ballots instead been counted as valid votes, allowing dimples, pinpricks and hanging chads, Gore would be in the White House today."
USA Today's investigation does indeed provide evidence that if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stopped the statewide manual recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, George W. Bush might well still have been declared the winner of the Florida election, and could still have become president. This is a newsworthy finding, and it deserved to be reported.
But the larger question of the Florida election is who actually received more votes. The statewide totals USA Today chose not to report do much more to answer that question than the paper's more limited look at the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
USA Today justified not reporting its statewide results by saying that it "did not want to substitute its judgment for that of election officials." If that's the case, why recount the votes at all? After all, it was "election officials," including Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court majority, who decided that most ballots that needed to be manually recounted should be ignored. If, on the other hand, election officials are not infallible, then a news outlet should present as much information as it has about what actually went on during the election.
While the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court decision is an important question, the question of who actually got more votes in Florida is even more important. By not reporting vital information, USA Today has violated journalistic principles and further confused the public about a subject that surely needed no more confusion.
ACTION: Please contact USA Today and let them know that concealing the full statewide results of its investigation of undervotes was a disservice to readers.
Hal Ritter, Managing News Editor
Phone: (703) 907-7121
Fax: (703) 247-3100
As always, please remember that your comments will be more effective if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc firstname.lastname@example.org with your correspondence.
Unfortunately, we are unable to link to the online version of USA Today's recount report because the paper's website (http://www.usatoday.com) requires readers to pay to view archived stories. You can read the Miami Herald's recount report online at: http://www.miami.com/herald/special/news/flacount/index.htm
THE MEDIA COVER-UP OF THE GORE VICTORY
PART THREE: HITTING THE JACKPOT
By Carolyn Kay and David Podvin
In 2001, the natural gas industry enjoyed the spectacular benefits that
resulted from both deregulation and the passive consent of a president
who was an uncritical bystander as gas companies gouged the consumers
of California for over twenty billion dollars in coerced lucre. It was the
ultimate dream come true for every greedy business executive who had ever
contributed to a presidential campaign. Kenneth Lay, chairman of the natural gas
giant Enron and George W. Bush’s single biggest financial supporter,
converted political donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars into
unregulated windfall profits of billions of dollars. He did it by buying the
allegiance of an elected official who was supposed to be looking out for the
Lay was so convinced of his ownership rights in the Bush administration that
he personally called the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, who told The New York Times “that
Mr. Lay, a close friend of President Bush's, offered him a deal: If he changed
his views on electricity deregulation, Enron would continue to support him in
his new job.” This appointee has
since resigned. As calculated by
the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org), the return on investment
for energy companies for supporting Bush has been 52,200 percent ($36,352,000,000
in tax breaks and subsidies divided by $69,500,000 in campaign contributions).
Not a bad return at all.
Lay was not the only corporate executive who ingratiated himself to
George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign with the intention of riding
the deregulation gravy train once Bush was in office.
You are the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
All of your training and your experience climbing the ladder of success
has taught you that the only measure of that success is net worth—your
company’s, and your own. Your compensation package is structured so that significant
increases in your company’s net worth result in significant increases in your
personal net worth.
Your career is dependent on constantly improving the bottom line. Your
personal net worth is a measure of your power and your importance.
It is early in the year 2000, and it is becoming apparent that the two major
candidates for president will be Al Gore, currently Vice President of the United
States, and George W. Bush, currently the governor of Texas.
The multi-billion dollar corporation you head owns a significant media
You know that George W. Bush, son of a former president and a graduate of
Yale University and the Harvard Business School, is running on the most
pro-business platform since Calvin Coolidge. As governor of Texas, he kept the
costs of polluters down with a program of “voluntary compliance” with
environmental rules, and he made certain that regulatory agencies gave favorable
treatment to his campaign contributors. He also cut taxes drastically, both for businesses and for
wealthy individuals. Your confidence in him is greatly enhanced by the knowledge
that, in every situation that contrasted the interests of big business with the
common good, Bush sided with corporations.
You have been advised of the people Bush will appoint to key governmental
positions like the Federal Communications Commission, and you know that they
will reduce regulations that now keep you from expanding your media empire,
thereby creating great predatory opportunities for your company and yourself.
You have every reason to believe that George W. Bush, if elected president,
will implement policies that will greatly enhance the value of the corporation
you run. There will be spectacular profits to be made just by eliminating the
rule that prohibited corporations from owning both newspapers and TV stations in
the same market. Under Bush, your ability to increase the size and power of your
media holdings will be accompanied by the pricing leverage that can only come
with monopolizing an essential service in a geographic area.
Al Gore, on the other hand, is the son of a wealthy tobacco farmer and U.S.
Senator. He has rather anti-business views.
Known as a fairly deep thinker and an energetic doer, though somewhat
stiff and formal in situations where he feels uncomfortable, he wrote a book
that identified him as a passionate environmentalist. Gore believes in governmental regulation to protect workers,
to force businesses to pay a minimum wage, and to protect the environment His
social conscience would cost businesses like yours a great deal of money.
You are aware that Gore opposes deregulation of the communications industry.
You know he believes that the federal government should have an active role in
protecting the public against actions by your company that might be profitable
for you but harmful to society. He steadfastly opposed concentrating media power
in just a few hands, including yours.
You consider your media subsidiaries to be like any other aspect of your
enterprise— They exist to maximize your profits.
As a corporate executive for a huge media conglomerate, you are confronted
with a stark choice: Huge profits under a Bush Administration, or lesser
revenues under Gore.
Using our 20-20 hindsight, let us look at a few of the actions and proposals
made by the Bush administration, after only nine months in office, that will
benefit you and your corporation.
Cabinet appointments and lower level staffers who are generally
businesspeople, and often opponents of the objectives of the very agency they
have been chosen to head. Your
company will profit by reduction in government oversight over its activities.
A bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for ordinary people to go
bankrupt, even if their burden of debt was caused by loss of a job or huge
medical bills due to catastrophic illness. Your company, if it does any lending, will profit. GE,
for example, owns both NBC and the GE Financial Network.
Repeal of workplace ergonomic rules that would keep workers from
suffering repetitive-stress injuries. Your company will profit by not having to buy special
furniture or design special workspaces for workers.
Killing the rules that allowed government officials to consider
whether a business has broken the law in the past, before awarding it a
government contract. Your company
will profit if you consider breaking the law, and paying fines if you are
caught, merely a cost of doing business. Companies
like GE, for example, about whom GE Workers United wrote,
“It is not surprising that the Project on Government Oversight has
cited GE as having defrauded the U.S. government 16 times in the 1990s, by far
the largest number of any company.”
Proposing to partially privatize Social Security.
Your company will presumably profit (no specifics have yet been proposed)
by paying a reduced employer portion to FICA.
If you are GE, you will benefit further since privatization is expected
to be a bonanza for mutual funds. GE
Capital Services is one of your subsidiaries.
Giving a tax cut to the very richest Americans, even though the
cut may endanger the Social Security pensions of the Baby Boomers.
You, who are most likely paid tens of millions of dollars a year, will
personally profit considerably.
A proposal to reduce the capital gains tax.
Since most of your compensation consists of stock options, you will pay
much less tax on the money you gain from selling your stock.
Because you run a media company, however, probably the most important action
taken by the Bush administration was the appointment of Michael Powell, son of
Secretary of State Colin Powell, as head of the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC). Powell has never
seen a merger that he doesn’t like. As
a commissioner of the FCC, he participated in the decision to allow the AOL/Time
Warner merger, even though he had a conflict of interest because his father was
a member of the AOL Board of Directors at the time, and holder of a significant
number AOL stock options. Commenting
on a rule that a single company may not own stations that reach more than 35% of
households, Powell said, “There is something offensive to First Amendment
values about that limitation.”
Never mind the offenses to the First Amendment committed by the concentrated
media we see today, where heads of news divisions are indistinguishable from the
suits in the home office, and where the bottom line is all that matters.
Even though six companies already own half of all communication media, you
see many more lucrative outlets that you want to acquire.
With further deregulation, your company can make billions more dollars by
mergers and acquisitions. You
don’t even have to do the hard work of creating new lines of business.
You can just buy them. You
can reduce costs by centralizing certain functions.
And the more media “products” you have, the more easily you can cross
Mel Karmazin of Viacom/CBS has been the master of cross promotion of products
throughout his company: The top songs on an Viacom subsidiary Infinity radio
station playlist dovetail with what is being shown on Viacom subsidiary MTV,
which coincides with what songs appear on Viacom subsidiary Paramount movie
soundtracks, which parallels the singers that are profiled on Viacom subsidiary
CBS news and entertainment programs. This omnipresent cross promotion creates
media-as-perpetual-commercial, public interest be damned, with the multiplier
effect increasing as the conglomerate expands.
Under Bush, the pace of the hugely profitable cross promotion movement would
be allowed to greatly accelerate.
If your company has broadcast outlets, deregulation is even more important to
Freedom from public service requirements would allow you to
broadcast only those programs that make the most money.
Forget children’s programming. Forget
giving time to political candidates. An
added benefit of giving political candidates less airtime is that you force them
to buy more advertising, thereby adding to your profits.
Freedom from language, sex, or violence restrictions would enable
you to air any programming that earns ratings, now matter how vile, without fear
of being fined. Karmazin’s golden
goose Howard Stern would have no restrictions whatever on his language or his
Freedom from restrictions on ownership of news dissemination
outlets in one city would allow you to promote your political point of view in
entire markets, without any competition for those views.
As a media executive, your concern is not the disadvantages that deregulation
would inure to the general public. The pursuit of profits at the expense of journalistic
integrity and editorial quality has had certain consequences for them, as well.
Staff reductions in the service of ever more profits have resulted
in less investigative reporting, and lower quality of the reporting that does
exist. Reporters and editors rely
more on press releases as sources of information, but lack the resources to
check the facts asserted in them.
A mentality of caring for ratings above all cheapens news
reporting, dumbs it down, and causes an increase in reporting on celebrities.
Advertisers are king in this environment.
If they do not like a topic, that topic is not published or aired, even
if it is something the public needs to understand in order to make informed
decisions at the polls.
The more concentrated the industry, the less likely news outlets
are to initiate investigative reports about one another.
And your news division does not investigate other subsidiaries of your
Editors know that they have to be careful how they report on
certain people because you socialize with the people your journalists cover.
Reportedly, Katherine Graham once kept a story critical of Henry
Kissinger from being published in her newspaper, the Washington Post, until
after she had hosted a dinner party in his honor.
According to Jerold M. Starr, writing on the website TomPaine.com, famed
retired broadcaster Walter Cronkite has complained that news executives “are
helpless when top management demands an increase in ratings to protect
profits.” No wonder Americans are
watching and reading mainstream media less and less.
You do not have to tell the reporters and editors who work for your media
empire how to report the news the way you want to see it.
You are much more subtle than that.
If you are Jack Welch, CEO of GE during this time, you make examples of
certain people. Tim Russert, for
example, pleases you. He calls the
Bush campaign’s “opposition research” team every few days to find out what
dirt they have invented about Al Gore lately.
And he reports their lies as fact. You
publicly praise Russert. You make
certain that everyone knows you have personally rewarded him with a
multi-million dollar contract.. He is a daily reminder to his colleagues of the
benefits of being an obedient employee.
Claire Shipman is another story, however.
You are not happy with her. Her
assignment is to cover the Gore campaign, but in your opinion her reporting is
too favorable to the Vice President. You
chew her out publicly. Her
departure from your newsroom sends a powerful message to those who remain.
Without issuing a memo or giving verbal commands, you have insured that your
journalist employees have gotten the message about how they should cover the
Still assuming that you are Jack Welch, you met with Bush at the beginning of
his administration to give him your advice regarding economic policy.
You had input into an energy policy that recommends use of nuclear power,
and building of nuclear plants, one of your company’s lines of business.
Bush even nominated Francis S. Blake, formerly your Senior Vice President
for Corporate Business Development, as Deputy Secretary of the Department of
George Bush supported your bid to merge with the large European computer
company Honeywell. The deal did not
go through only because it was stopped by the EEU.
The Bush administration has ordered a cleanup of the Hudson River, to be paid
for by GE. But before the election GE had every reason to believe it would not
be forced to pay the $460 million cost of the cleanup.
According to the CNN AllPolitics website, “‘GE thought it had a
deal,’ says an industry lobbyist.” After
all, James Connaughton, a lawyer who represented GE in Superfund legal fights,
was appointed by Bush to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Welch’s reaction: “GE
is ‘paying the price for Kyoto and arsenic.’”
He understood that Bush wanted to come through for GE, but political
pressure from those in his own party, including the governor of New York,
prevented it. Still, the former GE chairman is ecstatic about his favorite
politician’s performance thus far: “President Bush has done a great job,”
said Welch. “He’s even exceeded the expectations of those of us who
That support was in part financial. According
to GE Workers United, “GE uses its enormous political war chest to lobby for
greater corporate welfare and fewer benefits for ordinary American citizens.” The
Center for Responsive Politics reported that GE contributed almost a million
dollars to the GOP in 2000. However, a far more valuable contribution was the
fawning pro-Bush coverage on NBC News. This began with NBC dutifully repeating
Bush campaign slurs against John McCain in the Republican primaries, and
continued nonstop through the post-election Florida contest when Tim Russert
demanded that Al Gore concede even before the votes were recounted.
You, the CEO of a huge diversified conglomerate that owns a media
conglomerate, had a tremendous financial interest in seeing that George Bush was
elected president. You had every
reason to believe that his administration would provide great benefits to you
and to your company. Bush has begun
to follow through. The decision by the FCC to eliminate the rule that limited
concentrated corporate ownership of the media will, by itself, make your
commitment to the Bush campaign one of the great investments in American
You have already hit the jackpot, and there’s more to come. If FCC Chairman
Michael Powell follows through on his promise to deregulate your industry “as
much as possible”, then extraordinary wealth awaits the media giants who
supported George W. Bush in 2000.
In business, wise decisions are defined as those that create wealth. It does
not matter in the least to a hardheaded businessperson that the majority of
those who voted in the 2000 presidential campaign voted for Al Gore.
It does not matter that the issues Al Gore supported are the issues
supported by large majorities of the American people. It does not matter that
the views of the majority are increasingly unrepresented in the mainstream
As A. J. Liebling once observed, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed to
anyone who owns one.”
You have done everything in your power to put George W. Bush in the White
House. He has given your company
huge monetary benefits in return. Your
industry has demonstrated a willingness to do what is necessary to keep Bush
politically healthy, sometimes in spite of himself. It is so important to your financial interests that he
remains popular enough to effectively promote your agenda that nothing he says
or does merits the pummeling you applied to his uncooperative predecessor.
Looking at the coverage of Bush that you and your fellow media titans provide to
the American people, no one would ever suspect that your favorite politician has
been at the helm of a nine month transformation from peace and prosperity to war
If your company is a member of the Consortium of newspapers that commissioned the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago to perform the definitive study of all uncounted ballots in the Florida 2000 presidential election, then your reporters in Florida have witnessed the decisive pro-Gore trend of that study. Your corporation has a tremendous financial incentive to keep the accurate results of that study from becoming public, given that the results will delegitimize the politician who is promoting your business interests.
The media conglomerates chose sides in the 2000 election based on the one and
only thing that matters to multinational corporations – profit. They
accurately determined that George W. Bush was the candidate who would best allow
them to maximize that profit. They have a huge financial stake in the political
well being of Bush. And now, they have the results of a ballot study in Florida
that unexpectedly shows a decisive victory for Al Gore.
Journalistic integrity dictates that they release the accurate results of
that study to the public.
Financial self-interest dictates that they do not.
Unless public pressure causes the media elite to decide that failing to
release the accurate results of the ballot study would do them more harm than
good, it is likely that financial self interest will trump journalistic
Janine Jackson, “Their
Man in Washington,” Fairness and Accuracy in Media, October 2001
Jerold M. Starr, “Needed:
An Independent Public Broadcasting Service”, TomPaine.com, October
GE Workers United, “General
Electric and Corporate Political Influence”, geworkersunited.org, June 2001
Jeffrey Kluger, “Here
comes the dredge,” CNN.com, undated
Media Research Center, “NBC
News ‘Cheering for Gore’,” August 28, 2001
Danny Schechter, “Where
Have All The Muckrakers Gone?”, mediachannel.org, October 3, 2001
Martin Lewis, “This
May Be a Pre-Mortem of the 2000 Campaign,”
Media Whores Online, “The
Welch-Russert Connection,” undated
We urge you to pass this article on to EVERYONE YOU KNOW! Send me a message if you don’t know how to do that, and I’ll send you a message you can forward.—Caro
THE most detailed analysis yet of the contested Florida votes from last year's presidential election - with the potential to question President Bush's legitimacy - is being withheld by the news organisations that commissioned it.
Results of the inspection of more than 170,000 votes rejected as unreadable in the "hanging chad" chaos of last November's vote count were ready at the end of August.
The study was commissioned early this year by a consortium including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times, the nation's most powerful newspapers, and the broadcaster CNN.
It was regarded as a means of supplying final answers to the nagging questions over President Bush's razor-thin victory margin. The cost was more than £700,000.
Now, however, spokesmen for the consortium say that they decided to "postpone" the story of the analysis by the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) at the University of Chicago for lack of resources and lack of interest in the face of the enormous story of the September 11 attacks and the subsequent "war on terrorism".
Newspapers were saying last week that the final phase of the analysis, the actual counting of the 170,000 votes, had been "postponed" but would become known at an appropriate time.
America's liberal newspaper establishment originally set up the commission in the belief that it would discover that Al Gore was the winner of the Florida count.
Their hope for a Gore victory appears to have been sacrificed on the altar of patriotism and a perception that America needs to be led into war by a strong president.
"Our belief is that the priorities of the country have changed, and our priorities have changed," said Steven Goldstein, the vice-president of corporate communications at Dow Jones and Co, the owners of the Wall Street Journal.
Catherine Mathis, a spokesman for the New York Times, said: "The consortium agreed that because of the war, because of our lack of resources, we were postponing the vote-count investigation. But this is not final. The intention is to go forward."
However David Podvin, an investigative journalist who runs an independent web page, Make Them Accountable, said he had been tipped off that the consortium was covering up the results.
He refused to disclose his source other than to describe him as a former media executive whom he knew "as an accurate conduit of information" and who claimed that the consortium "is deliberately hiding the results of its recount because Gore was the indisputable winner".
He also claims that a New York Times journalist who was involved in the recount project had told "a former companion" that the Gore victory margin was big enough to create "major trouble for the Bush presidency if this ever gets out".
He believes that the inspection, carried out over months by a team from NORC, proves that Mr Gore won Florida and, therefore, the election.
That theory, however, is countered by the NORC staff who say that they designed the inspection programme so that no one has yet counted the votes and no outcome could be known.
Dr John Mason, a professor of political science at William Paterson University, in New Jersey said: "The goosiness, the sensitivity, that the press which organised this analysis is showing to publishing the results and the persistence of questions about the Florida ballots raise questions. There is a sensitivity over the legitimacy of this president."
Staff at NORC have been puzzled by the idea that the media would lack the resources because, according to them, they have computer programs already designed and fitted for the final count.
Julie Antelman of NORC said: "They are all ready to go, and could have the count and the result within a working week."
She added: "We very carefully kept our distance from the political implications of whatever the result may be. We do not know the outcome, and do not want to.
"Our job was to prepare the raw data which goes into the counting programs: we are simply waiting for the order to deliver this data to the consortium, which we expected within the first two weeks of September."
NORC analysts studied each of the 170,000 votes which were discarded because they were considered spoiled or simply unreadable. Each ballot paper has now been analysed and recorded to the ballot box and constituency where it was cast.
French and Canadian newspapers suggest that the black-out can only raise suspicions, and the issue is being increasingly aired on the internet.
Dr Mason said: "It would be responsible to complete this study and produce the result, whatever it may be."
Shortly after George W. Bush declared his candidacy for president in June of 1999, General Electric Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch was contacted by Bush political advisor Karl Rove. Welch later informed associates that Rove told him a Bush administration would initiate comprehensive deregulation of the broadcast industry. Rove guaranteed that deregulation would be implemented in a way that would create phenomenal profits for conglomerates with significant media holdings, like GE. Rove forcefully argued that General Electric and the other media giants had a compelling financial interest to see Bush become president.
Welch told several people at GE that the conversation with Rove convinced him that a Bush presidency would ultimately result in billions of dollars of additional profits for General Electric. Welch believed that it was his responsibility to operate in the best interest of GE shareholders, and that now meant using the full power of the world’s biggest corporation to get Bush into the White House.
Toward that end, Welch said that he would finally deal with a longstanding grievance of his: the ludicrous idea that news organizations should be allowed to operate in conflict with the best interests of the corporations that own them.
Since the beginning of the country, it has been considered appropriate for the business community to exercise its right to aggressively support the candidate that best represented its interests. The new dimension that Welch introduced was the concept that the mainstream media should aggressively advance the political agenda of the corporations that own it. He did not see any difference between corporate journalism and corporate manufacturing or corporate service industries. Business was business, and the difference between winners and losers was profit, whether you were selling nuclear power or ads on the network news. From Welch’s perspective, it was insanity, not to mention bad business practice, for the corporate owners of the mainstream media to restrain themselves from using all of their assets to promote their financial well being.
In general, he saw corporate news organizations as untapped political resources that should be freed from the burden of objectivity.
Specifically, NBC News was an asset owned by the shareholders of General Electric. It existed to make profits and to serve the interests of those who owned GE stock. Period.
Anything else, Welch told associates, was “liberal bullshit”.
In 1988, NBC News president Lawrence Grossman insisted to Welch that news was a public trust and should not be subjected to the same pressure to make profits that was applied to other GE units. Welch fired him.
In 1999, the GE chairman decided that it was no longer good enough for NBC News to just be profitable. Seven years of a frequently uncooperative Democratic Administration, combined with the Rove-inspired vision of spectacular profits through deregulation, now motivated Welch to take action.
He began to aggressively, but very discreetly, evangelize the gospel of corporate media as corporate lobbying tool. It was not a new concept; in the opinion of many, it was already the status quo. But from Welch’s point of view, the corporate news organizations were not living up to their potential.
The mainstream media could make George W. Bush president.
That would be good for Americans who believed in free markets and the merit system, Welch said.
Better yet, it would help to make General Electric even more successful and dominant, which had been Welch’s obsession for decades.
Jack Welch believed that, despite earning millions annually in salary and bonuses, he was the most underpaid employee at GE. From the time he started running the company in 1981 to the end of 1999, the stock's total return (price appreciation and dividends) had been seven thousand percent. Given the brilliance of that performance, how could he possibly be overpaid, or even fairly paid? From Welch’s perspective, it was the pennies-per-hour workers in General Electric’s Asian sweatshops who were overpaid, because their individual contributions to the big picture were so meager.
The philosopher Ayn Rand wrote, “The actual performance of men in society is a constant, fierce, undefined struggle between the genius and the parasite…”
To Welch, although George W. Bush might not be a genius, his policies would encourage those who were geniuses to be even more innovative and productive. Fewer government regulations and lower corporate taxes would create technological advancement, thereby benefiting society more than all of the do-gooder social programs combined ever could. The country would be run for the benefit of the “A” people who achieved great things, not the “C” people who merely existed. In such a laissez faire environment, the powerful would be unshackled to become even more powerful, and no corporation in the world was more powerful than General Electric.
By contrast, Welch viewed Al Gore as the candidate of the parasites. Gore voters were not the generators of wealth; they were the consumers of taxes. Welch privately described the typical Gore voter as “someone who needs all these goddamned social programs because she’s too goddamned dumb to keep her legs crossed and too goddamned lazy to get an abortion.”
This view of the world led Welch to implore associates at GE that doing whatever it took to get George W. Bush into the presidency was not only good for General Electric, it was good for America.
Having satisfied himself that his cause was just, Welch focused on putting his candidate in the White House with the tireless determination of a man whom Business Week described as having “an unbridled passion for winning”.
He had previously personally reviewed the launch of CNBC. He now turned his attention to “reforming” the editorial content of NBC News. Welch had already secured his place as one of the business titans of the twentieth century. He expressed few regrets to confidantes, but he was wistful about his belief that GE would have made even more money if NBC News had just been tougher on a politically vulnerable Arkansas governor in 1992. With only about two years left prior to his mandatory retirement, one of Jack Welch’s last significant contributions would be to permanently eliminate the irrational belief that corporate journalists should ever be allowed to act in a way that damaged the corporate balance sheet.
For public consumption, he said the obligatory things about GE’s commitment to “journalistic integrity and independence”. Privately, he saw only two differences between his employees who reported the news and those who made toasters: one, the toaster makers were “less full of shit”, and, two, the journalists were not working in the best interests of the GE team.
This second point infuriated him. It galled Welch to hear what he considered to be holier-than-thou pronouncements of personal moral superiority coming from journalists whom he viewed to be inferior to himself in just about every conceivable way. GE signed their paychecks, and then in the name of “journalistic integrity and independence”, they reported things that damaged the company. NBC News had even publicized that the federal government caught a GE defense subsidiary stealing massive amounts of taxpayer money. From the Welch perspective, tolerating this kind of insubordination was crazy. He did not view reporters as guardians of the truth or gatekeepers of democracy; for the most part, he saw them as “leftist slackasses”.
Welch was absolutely determined to make his employees at NBC News finally genuflect to the most sacred words in his vocabulary: GE bottom line.
He perceived that there was a widely believed American myth of well-intended journalists selflessly seeking the truth, and that there would be hell to pay if a business leader like him were to overtly force reporters to be good corporate soldiers. So, being a very bright guy, he largely left the journalists at NBC alone.
In private, Welch was proud to have personally cultivated Tim Russert from a “lefty” to a responsible representative of GE interests. Welch sincerely believed that all liberals were phonies. He took great pleasure in “buying their leftist souls”, watching in satisfaction as former Democrats like Russert and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews eagerly discarded the baggage of their former progressive beliefs in exchange for cold hard GE cash. Russert was now an especially obedient and model employee in whom the company could take pride.
''It's a double-edged sword to be under Jack's detailed look,'' one GE executive told Fortune Magazine. ''If you do well, it's great. If you don't, it's bad news.”
It was bad news for NBC correspondent Claire Shipman, who made the mistake of offering a positive opinion of Al Gore on the air. Jack Welch, chairman and chief executive officer of a $350 billion conglomerate, responsible for overseeing the highly diversified activities of hundreds of thousands of employees working in over one hundred countries, was so incensed by her disobedience that he took time out of his busy schedule to personally confront her about it.
She no longer works for NBC. And her managing editor, Tom Brokaw, did not stand up for her right to journalistic independence from the corporate lord.
“I think Jack Welch’s the smartest boss I’ve ever had and he signs my paychecks,” said Brokaw, exhibiting a profound understanding of the situation.
Over the years, Welch had occasionally interfered with NBC News. During the 1987 stock market crash, he ordered Grossman to forbid his journalists from using the term “Black Monday” out of concern that a panic by investors would depress GE stock.
Welch has an explosive temper. When the chairman exploded at Shipman, Brokaw knew that, from the standpoint of journalistic integrity, the managing editor was obligated to rush to his reporter’s defense. Brokaw also knew that, from the standpoint of self-preservation, it was wise for the managing editor to obediently defer to the man who signed his paychecks.
The Welch mission was to tame the rest of them at NBC News, and to do so in a way that did not cause any journalistic prima donnas to attract unwanted public attention by openly revolting. Beyond that, Welch hoped to quietly convince other media conglomerates that the great visionary (himself) was once again in the vanguard of an exciting and highly profitable corporate trend: the total destruction of any wall that separated the newsroom from the boardroom.
Welch decided that the key factor in bringing the corporate newsrooms into line would be to change the process through which journalists were compensated and promoted. When he took over at GE, Welch believed that the way in which people were being advanced rewarded mediocrity. The unworthy candidates were being weeded out, but so were the most worthy. As in many companies, managers were hesitant to promote highly gifted subordinates who could later become rivals.
Welch has repeatedly been named the most admired executive in America, an assessment that he considered to be valid years before anyone outside GE had heard of him. His supreme self-confidence allowed him to demand that the best and the brightest be promoted, secure in the knowledge that no one could possibly be better or brighter than Jack Welch. As a result of aggressive management training that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, GE developed the strongest stable of managers in corporate America.
Welch believed that the promotion practices at NBC News encouraged disloyalty to General Electric. It was his observation that “journalistic excellence” seemed to be the flimsy, intangible standard for getting ahead in the news division. He decided that the criteria had to be changed to encourage loyal contributions to the employer, which was GE. The crucial step that Welch took was to make it well known throughout NBC News that the standard for the promotion of journalists would be the same as it was for every other employee in the corporation: outstanding contribution to the financial well being of General Electric.
The journalists who had their paychecks signed by Welch knew that favorable coverage of George W. Bush would be considered an outstanding contribution to the financial well being of General Electric.
In fairness, it should be noted that Jack Welch did not believe he was doing anything wrong by covertly maneuvering news coverage in favor of Bush. Apparently, Jack Welch has never believed that he was doing anything wrong.
Author William Greider documented the criminal and civil record of General Electric during the late 1980s and early nineties. Over a five year period, Jack Welch’s company attempted to pay a $1.25 million bribe to a Puerto Rican official for a $92 million dollar power plant contract and three GE executives were imprisoned as a result; GE defrauded the army on a $254 million contract for battlefield computers and paid tens of millions of dollars in fines; GE allegedly overcharged the army for battle tank parts and paid a $900,000 settlement; GE paid a $32 million settlement for discriminating against women and minorities; GE defrauded the air force on a missile contract and paid $1 million in fines; GE was identified as being responsible for at least 47 Superfund toxic cleanup sites; GE paid a $3 million settlement for allegedly altering labor vouchers in order to overcharge the Pentagon on jet engine contracts; and GE paid an undisclosed amount for knowingly selling defective nuclear reactor parts.
The scandals for Welch and General Electric continued through this year. Since 1992, GE has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in court judgments and fines for endangering Americans by illegally and repeatedly dumping toxic waste and chemicals, stealing from the military, operating unsafe workplaces, engaging in deceptive advertising, contaminating the Hudson and Housatonic Rivers, selling defective nuclear reactor parts (again), allowing safety violations at a fuel fabrication plant, polluting the air and contaminating the soil and groundwater in several states, creating asbestos-related health hazards in England, contaminating drinking water in Puerto Rico and bribing the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority, polluting several northeastern states with PCBs, overcharging on mortgage insurance, practicing money laundering and unfair debt collection, bribing a foreign government, and knowingly broadcasting a phony news story. The company also had to admit that it invented three hundred fifty million dollars in nonexistent profits.
This is a partial list of the illegal activities perpetrated by General Electric under the leadership of Jack Welch. Mr. Welch claimed that the quickest way for a GE employee to get fired was to commit “an integrity violation”. Employees who committed the “integrity violation” of missing an earnings target usually did get fired; those who committed the “integrity violations” listed in the preceding two paragraphs rarely got fired.
America’s most admired executive prided himself on knowing every aspect of his company, but he also passionately declared that he was ignorant of all wrongdoing by his company. The leader who micromanaged GE to the point of insisting on reviewing the scripts for refrigerator commercials contends that he only learned after the fact that General Electric was constantly committing serious crimes.
Following the conversation with Rove, Welch instructed a subordinate to impress on senior NBC executives that the news division would now be expected to show the same unqualified devotion to General Electric that was required of every other unit. He was unusually circumspect because he realized that Clinton appointees in the Federal Communications Commission would have taken a dim view of his activities. Welch knew from his company’s countless run-ins with the law that the authorities could be outmaneuvered if things were handled with finesse.
He quietly began to dramatically change the way that things were done at NBC News. A link was established between the producers of the Sunday morning program Meet The Press and the opposition research team of the Republican Party. Delighted G.O.P. operatives were soon boasting that Tim Russert would go on the air just minutes after receiving their allegations of wrongdoing by Al Gore, and would repeat their charges verbatim. Russert was not functioning as a journalist; he had crossed the Rubicon and was acting as a mouthpiece for General Electric’s favorite political party.
Welch greatly appreciated Russert, whose multi-million dollar contract he personally negotiated. The message circulated throughout NBC News that Russert was an excellent role model for reporters who wanted to succeed in the organization. Reporters at NBC News did not have to be verbally instructed on how to get ahead; they clearly saw that the Russert approach was handsomely rewarded by top management.
Reporter Andrea Mitchell of NBC Nightly News was married to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was a longtime Republican and protégé of Ayn Rand. Mitchell was a Welch favorite because he liked her “objectivity”, which meant that she never had a positive word to say about Democrats. After the election, it was Mitchell who repeatedly lied when reporting that Clinton aides had vandalized the White House and stolen from Air Force One. Bush operatives were later quoted as saying that the phony vandalism story was a big help in creating the desired contrast between the “sleazy” Clinton years and the “breath of fresh air” that George W. Bush wanted to represent. Mitchell never retracted or apologized when the Government Accounting Office proved that she had been dishonest, and she was never disciplined.
There is also no evidence of Mitchell ever being angrily confronted by Jack Welch.
Welch told associates that he enlisted two members of the GE board to assist him in shaping the coverage of the election by other news organizations. Robert Wright had previously been appointed by Welch to run NBC. Welch assigned him and his fellow GE board member, money center bank executive Sandy Warner, to use their contacts in broadcasting and finance. They quietly encouraged the executives of the mainstream media organizations to rethink the relationship between news divisions and business objectives.
Wright offered the carrot. Usually through underlings, he contacted the executives of America’s most influential media conglomerates. Bush held a huge post-impeachment lead over Gore in the early presidential polls. The executives were told that Bush was going to have a massive advantage in campaign finances, and that he was almost certainly going to be elected president. Under a Bush administration, the big media outfits would be free to prosper as never before, because the federal government would cease to put limitations on their operations and expansion. A Bush administration would mean untold riches for the industry.
Wright was also the former chief executive of GE Capital, a money center powerhouse that contributes more than a third of GE’s profits, and would be the nation’s twentieth largest corporation as a stand-alone company. He knew that General Electric would win big, even when it was not directly involved in the inevitable media mega-mergers that were certain to be approved by a Bush administration. According to Fortune Magazine, “Capital's growth comes in many forms, but nothing equals the bottom-line boost of a big acquisition.” GE would make huge profits by purchasing media conglomerates and by financing the deals of others.
Warner and his associates wielded the stick. As chairman of banking institution J.P. Morgan, he had great credibility when he argued that the key to winning the media competition in a laissez faire Bush era would be access to investment capital for the purpose of acquiring competitors. Those who had the best relationships with the big international banks, brokerage houses, and investment banking firms would be the predators; those who had trouble raising money would be the prey.
There were never any explicit threats, but the implication was unavoidable: Bush is going to win, so you can join the team now or you can be on the outside looking in later. The only thing that will be affected is your livelihood.
They did not have to use pressure tactics to convince Mel Karmazin of Viacom/CBS. Karmazin had always viewed news as an underprofitable millstone around the neck of the entertainment division. His vision was to make Viacom a vast network of interlocking media interests that would cross promote their products in order to maximize profit. Though CBS News had a reputation for being more liberal than its counterparts, Karmazin’s only political objective was to expand his business. The prospect of having an administration that would allow him to build an empire without interference was compelling.
Karmazin was also excited by assurances that Bush would appoint an ineffectual lackey to head the Federal Communications Commission. Karmazin’s Infinity Broadcasting had been acquired by CBS in the deal that gave him operational control of the entire network. Over the years, the FCC had fined Infinity millions of dollars because of the profane and lewd behavior of Karmazin’s most profitable broadcaster, Howard Stern. The Stern broadcasts generated massive profits and wonderful cross promotion, so the fines could have been viewed as the cost of doing a phenomenally profitable business. However, the painful aspect to Karmazin were the delays in approving broadcast mergers that occurred because FCC commissioners were alienated by Stern’s scornful defiance of them. Karmazin seethed at being harangued by the federal government just because his meal ticket spewed profane and racist epithets over the public airwaves, and performed social services like arranging for a high school boy to attend his prom with a porn star whose claim to fame was having intercourse with five hundred men in one day.
Millions of Americans supported Bush because they believed he would promote family values; Karmazin threw the support of CBS News behind Bush on the basis that family values were a campaign mirage, and that Bush had no intention of implementing them into public policy. While Bush has been president, Stern has continued to shout the same vulgarities and peddle the same sleaze over the air, but the intense pressure that was applied by the FCC during the Democratic era has not continued during the “family values” administration.
Karmazin personally contributed a thousand dollars each to the presidential campaigns of Vice President Al Gore and John McCain, who was the Senate chairman of the Commerce Committee before which Viacom would have to do business.
The contribution that George W. Bush received from Mel Karmazin was infinitely more valuable: uncritical coverage by CBS News. When Bush stumbled and lost the New Hampshire primary, and when he repeatedly tripped over his invented facts in the first debate, and even when he staggered at the very end of the campaign after having been caught lying about his drunk driving arrest, the adjective that CBS News reporters most frequently used to describe him was “likeable”.
The attitude at ABC was an extension of the personality of Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. Eisner does not like those who make waves, as the host of Politically Incorrect recently learned. After Bill Maher said that it was cowardly of America to fight battles by launching missiles from a safe distance, Eisner went out of his way to very publicly slap Maher down. This episode provided outsiders with a rare glimpse inside the corporate culture of the happy company that Mickey Mouse built: do not rock the boat or you’re in trouble. “Eisner will always stand up for principle, no matter what the cost,” says a former Disney executive, “as long as that principle involves increasing his personal compensation.”
As a result, the candidate who held out the prospect of fabulous wealth for the broadcast industry got favorable coverage from ABC News. In fact, Bush received better coverage than Gore from the entire mainstream media.
A study produced by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Princeton Survey Research Associates examined 1,149 stories from 17 news publications, programs and websites. The research revealed that there were almost twice as many positive stories about Bush as there were about Gore. Even more important than this blatant pro-Bush bias, the study found that the coverage de-emphasized the philosophical differences between the candidates. This was critical, because public opinion polls showed that the voters agreed with Gore on the issues. By robbing Gore of his greatest advantage, the media organizations were Bush’s greatest allies.
A study by the Pew Research Center examined 2,400 newspaper, TV, and Internet stories. Researchers reported that three quarters of the coverage emphasized allegations that Gore was dishonest and corrupt. The study found that a majority of the stories about Bush emphasized that he was a "different kind of Republican," which was the Bush campaign’s chosen theme.
This was not a conspiracy, nor was it an accident. It was self-interest.
The rapacious values of the networks mirrored those in the management of print journalism and the banking community in general. The emphasis in private meetings and phone conversations was that Bush would definitely call off the federal watchdogs, which would allow the giant media conglomerates to grow as large as they chose. The inconvenient pretense of federally licensed broadcasters having to serve the public interest would finally be gone. Without the intrusive feds butting in, the media giants would be free to “maximize their potential”. Translated into English, this meant that the extraordinarily valuable public ownership and control of the airwaves would essentially be transferred to the media conglomerates for no cash down and monthly payments of zero.
“A promise made is a promise kept.” This was George W. Bush’s frequent pledge during the campaign, and when it came time to repay his media allies for providing him with an uncritical convoy to the White House, he kept his promise. Soon after assuming office, Bush appointed Colin Powell’s son to head the Federal Communications Commission. Michael Powell could not be doing a better job of aiding the media conglomerates at public expense if his name were Michael Welch, Michael Karmazin, or Michael Eisner, Jr. One of Powell’s first moves was to announce that the regulation prohibiting ownership of both television stations and newspapers in the same city is going to be changed. “There is something offensive to First Amendment values about that limitation,” he said.
There is something extraordinarily profitable to the media giants about having that limitation lifted. Without the federal government insisting on diversity in local markets, the vast multinational media corporations will be able to monopolize the flow of information in cities across America. Their potential for greater power and wealth is almost incalculable.
The deregulation of the American media, quietly promised by Bush and currently being implemented by Powell, will create countless billions of dollars of profits for the broadcasting industry. Al Gore opposed deregulation on the basis that a greater concentration of media power would damage the ability of the American people to get a diversity of information.
More than any other position he took, it cost him the presidency.
Welch’s successful behind-the-scenes campaign to influence media coverage in a way that would get Bush into the White House has not been visible to the public, with one exception. On election night, according to an eyewitness, Welch was so angry that his own NBC News team would not call the race for Bush that he personally went to the studio from which Tom Brokaw was anchoring the coverage. Welch quietly watched the broadcast for a few minutes. Two people who were present claim that, when Brokaw and Tim Russert did not take the hint that their boss had come into the newsroom because he wanted something from them, he explicitly announced that he wanted them to call the election for Bush.
They did. As a result, Bush entered the Florida recount phase with the tremendous advantage of having already been declared the winner.
Congressman Henry Waxman questioned NBC News president Andrew Lack about the incident. Waxman requested that Lack turn over to Congress the in-studio tapes that were recorded that night, so that what Welch had allegedly done could be verified. Lack, testifying under oath, agreed to do so.
As of this writing, he has refused to honor his commitment.
Aside from his one emotional faux pas on election night, Welch did a masterful job of discreetly maneuvering behind the scenes. He convinced his media conglomerate competitors that they all had a compelling interest in discarding journalistic objectivity and helping Bush into the presidency. For the public, the only telltale sign of the Welch effort was the end product: the campaign coverage itself. From the mainstream media’s unprecedented pre-primary build-up of George W. Bush to their declaration that he had won the Florida recount before all of the votes had been reviewed, never before has a presidential candidate received such active support from corporate journalism.
There were two men who had stood in the way of a George W. Bush presidency. Prior to facing Bush, John McCain and Al Gore both had reputations for being decent men who had honorably served their country in Vietnam and Washington. Based on their résumés, each of them was much more qualified to be president than Bush.
After the mainstream media got through with them, the two men were hardly recognizable. In the Republican primaries, McCain was recast from an ethical war hero to a mentally unbalanced flake who was in favor of breast cancer and whose wife was a junkie. In the general election, Gore was transformed from a bright and decent public servant into a congenital liar, a delusional criminal, and a traitor.
At the same time, George W. Bush somehow managed to fecklessly stumble through the entire campaign obstacle course without being harmed by his almost total lack of leadership experience, his highly suspicious military record, his two decades of alcohol and drug abuse, his alleged involvement in an illegal abortion, his shady business dealings, his record of corruption while governor of Texas, his losing battle with the English language, his unfortunate habit of repeatedly being caught telling blatant lies, and his positions on the major issues that consistently conflicted with the majority of voters. It helped that his opponent was unwilling to go for the jugular; it helped even more that the mainstream media considered any and all Bush vulnerabilities to be “charming”.
The only real harm that the media did to Bush during the whole campaign was the revelation that he had been arrested for drunk driving in Maine. This story was not broken by ABC or NBC or CBS or The New York Times or the Washington Post or any member of the media Consortium; it was made public by a relatively obscure newspaper in Maine. In fact, the immediate reaction by all of the aforementioned media giants was to falsely accuse Gore of leaking the story. This flailing, ad hominem defense of their chosen candidate betrayed a certain unhappiness on the part of the mainstream media that the news of Bush having lied about his crime had become public knowledge.
The New York Times typified the mainstream media’s coverage of the 2000 election. The editorial board of the Times officially endorsed Al Gore for president, but it is the news section of the Times that is the common reference point, and that sets the tone for the rest of the media’s day to day coverage. In the all-important news section of The New York Times, George W. Bush was being followed by softer than mush reporter Frank Bruni, whose coverage of the candidate was so lovingly tender that Bush identified Bruni as “my favorite reporter”.
The Times reporter who was assigned to track Gore was Katherine Seelye, who sat on the campaign plane alongside her pal Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post. Together with the Times’ Richard Berke, they were able to wreak a level of havoc on the Gore campaign that the Bush team never even came close to approaching. Between them, these reporters who were working for America’s two leading “liberal” newspapers managed to falsely accuse Gore of taking credit for having invented the Internet, falsely accuse Gore of claiming to have discovered the toxic waste at Love Canal, and falsely accuse Gore of lying about being the inspiration for the male lead character in “Love Story”.
They also falsely accused Gore of insisting that he had been serenaded to sleep as a child to the tune of “Look For The Union Label”. The candidate had actually been making a joke that was greeted with laughter by his union audience.
After the crucial first presidential debate, the unholy triumvirate falsely accused Gore of lying about an anecdote involving an old lady and her prescription medicine (the lady confirmed Gore’s account), falsely accused Gore of lying about an anecdote involving a Florida schoolgirl having to stand in class because of equipment shortages (the girl confirmed Gore’s account), and falsely accused Gore of lying about going to a fire in Texas with the head of FEMA (it was actually the number two man at FEMA, but the mainstream media did not allow for the possibility that Gore made inadvertent mistakes).
These phony accusations, not the Times low impact endorsement, had a major effect on the campaign. Every time Gore generated some momentum, the three deceitful journalists wrote of another unsubstantiated allegation that claimed the Democratic nominee was crazed with a compulsion to lie.
The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company will both make massive deregulation-related profits under Bush that they could never have gained under Gore. Their reporters who lied about Gore were never punished, just as Andrea Mitchell of NBC was never punished for repeatedly lying about White House vandalism. In fact, all of these dishonest reporters have greatly prospered.
Once again, it is wrong to confuse self-interest with conspiracy. This is the Welch paradigm in action: It is the job of corporate reporters to help advance the corporate cause. There was no conspiracy on the part of the mainstream media organizations to usher Bush into the presidency. There was also no conspiracy on the part of the mainstream media organizations to lie, en masse, about Clinton aides vandalizing the White House and burglarizing Air Force One.
But the mainstream media organizations did lie.
Some people have expressed skepticism that at least one intrepid corporate reporter has not revealed the truth about what transpired in 2000. If the charges of the mainstream media coordinating an effort at the highest levels to skew their campaign coverage in favor of Bush were true, the skeptics contend, then certainly one reputable mainstream reporter would have gone public with the story.
Daniel Schorr has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 1976, he was fired by CBS News when he sent a secret congressional intelligence report to the Village Voice after CBS had refused to reveal the story to the public. According to Schorr, he was punished by network executives who had reached a deal with the White House to go easy on the administration.
Schorr was fired for reporting the truth when it conflicted with the interests of his employer.
Two Fox News reporters in Tampa, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, assembled a report revealing the covert use of a potentially harmful synthetic milk-producing hormone that was being injected into dairy cows throughout much of America. Fox executives killed the story out of concern that the dairy industry would retaliate by refusing to purchase commercials on the network. The reporters were so concerned about the safety of consumers that they defied their bosses and released the report to the public. Fox immediately fired them.
Akre and Wilson were fired for reporting the truth when it conflicted with the interests of their employer.
NBC’s own Arthur Kent was a star foreign correspondent after gaining fame as the intrepid “Scud Stud” during the Gulf War. But when Kent was reassigned to the NBC news magazine Dateline, he was appalled to see what corporate journalism in America had become.
“A climate was being created in which corruption was imminent,” Kent told the Ottawa Sun. “Once I had been convinced to join Dateline, I warned them in writing that the editorial direction of the program was dangerous and that the manipulation and re-editing of stories was going to cause trouble."
Kent offered to resign, but Jack Welch would not allow an uncooperative journalist to get off the hook quite that easily. Kent was reassigned to cover the war in Bosnia under ridiculously hazardous conditions. When he refused, NBC publicly called him a coward, effectively ending his career with the network.
After an expensive battle, Kent won a court ordered apology and substantial financial damages. He stated that the important aspect of the trial was the revelation of how General Electric and NBC now operate.
“It was a GE-style, hardball approach: If you're not going to work for us, you're not going to work for anybody,” he said. "They were seen by the public to have lied.”
But the ethical journalist who called them on their lies had now gone off to Europe in search of a country with freedom of the press. And every journalist who remained at NBC learned from watching the Kent episode that insisting on telling the truth in their reports was extremely hazardous to their vocational health.
Kent was fired for demanding to report the truth when it conflicted with the interests of his employer.
The process of natural selection is the answer to the skeptics who question why no mainstream journalist has reported on this matter. The mainstream reporters who had the integrity to tell the truth, even if doing so would get them fired, have already been fired. The reporters who currently work for corporate news outlets keep their jobs by obeying the implicit corporate rules that have been put in place by executives like Jack Welch.
If not for the successful effort by Welch to manipulate media coverage of the election and the Florida recount, George W. Bush would not be president today. The Consortium ballot study was started by the same forces that had carried Bush across the finish line. The study was their attempt to universally legitimize the Bush presidency at a time when it looked as though there would otherwise be congressional gridlock that would limit how much Bush could accomplish for his campaign contributors.
Welch and the others who have been involved in covertly promoting Bush interests did not expect that the ballot study would reveal a decisive Gore victory. Although Consortium members disingenuously claim that the outcome of the study is unknown, they are aware that the observers in the coding rooms who were familiar with Florida voting patterns were able to perceive a dominant Gore trend.
The members of the Consortium are now stuck with a result that they view as being counterproductive to attaining their financial objectives. There is increasing recognition on the part of the public that something about the current delay in publishing the ballot study is not kosher.
The public pressure to release the results is making it likely that the Consortium will feel the need to reveal something. The precedent in this situation is the Miami Herald method of distortion, wherein the recount numbers proved that Gore won but the headlines claimed that Bush won. The Consortium could reprise that approach.
It could seek to obscure and confuse the situation by having various Consortium members issue conflicting accounts of who won. This would explain why the Wall Street Journal is participating in a recount after editorializing that any further recounts would be “un-American”.
A likely scenario would consist of a claim that, “Gore probably got a few more votes than Bush, but it really was too close to call, and the Consortium members can’t even agree among themselves who won, so it is impossible to ever really know for certain.”
It is now improbable that the Consortium will claim that Bush got the most votes because too many people who are intimately familiar with the process would publicly refute such a blatant lie.
Patriots who believe that democracy must be more than an empty cliché, and who want the unvarnished truth about the real winner of the 2000 presidential election, are severely limited in what they can do. We live in a pseudo democracy that has neither a free mainstream press nor a functioning opposition party. The current occupant of the White House is illegitimate by any standard other than “the ends justify the means”. The Supreme Court is corrupt. Most Americans have “moved on” and “gotten over it”.
For the minority in this country, those who are emotionally capable of confronting unpleasant facts, the truth is as clear as it is unpopular: America is now a place in which the son of a former leader who used to control the secret police was appointed to run the country by his daddy’s judges after his brother pulled an electoral fast one for him in the southern part of the country. The military contributed to the outcome by accusing the opposition leader of being “unpatriotic”, and by demanding that illegally cast military votes for Bush be counted as valid. The mainstream media protects its financial interests by smearing any dissidents as “fringe people”.
Many Americans prefer to dismiss these contentions as a “conspiracy theory”. Doing so is far less painful than coming to terms with the fact that this type of election result happens routinely around the world, but only in countries where self-government is rhetoric instead of reality. We are programmed from early childhood to recite that America is a democracy, yet even the most powerful programming is vulnerable to being overwhelmed by the truth. The unresolved question is how much truth will be required before it registers with the general public that they really have lost, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the right to have their votes counted.
In 2000, Americans witnessed convoluted vote counting methods in Florida that were designed to disqualify as many voters as it took in order to declare that the winner was the candidate who received fewer votes statewide and nationally. We saw a Supreme Court decision that was so surrealistically disgraceful that none of the five members of the majority was willing to claim authorship of it and, for the only time in the history of the Court, the majority declared that its decision did not establish a precedent.
There was no conspiracy involved in the Supreme Court decision, either. There was only the self-interest of five amoral judges taking advantage of an opportunity to increase their power by disregarding the law and selecting a president who would add to their conservative majority.
The Consortium now has ironclad proof that the wrong man is in the White House, and the mainstream media preemptively insist that it doesn’t matter. NBC News analyst and Welch protégé Tim Russert recently said, “The issue of legitimacy has been resolved.” He does not want the results of the ballot study to be released.
Neither does Mr. Berke of The New York Times, a member of the Consortium. Berke recently wrote that releasing the results would be divisive, and that it really doesn’t matter who won. It is unusual, to say the least, for a reporter to write that a project on which his newspaper has just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doesn’t matter. It is even more unusual for the paper to then publish such heresy.
Of course, Berke knows that reporting the truth would not be divisive if the ballot study had proven that the man who really won the election is currently president. Berke has at least one contact inside the ballot study who has also spoken with MakeThemAccountable. We can therefore report with certainty that Mr. Berke wrote his rationalization for withholding the truth only after he was informed by an inside source that the study definitively proves that Al Gore won Florida.
Berke also claimed that the reason the Consortium members have delayed releasing the results of the ballot study is that the war on terrorism has monopolized the attention of all of their political reporters. This is an uncommonly transparent lie, even for the congenitally dishonest Mr. Berke. He is a political reporter who works for a Consortium paper, and his own attention has not been monopolized by the war on terrorism. He has spent his time since September 11 continuing his two-year disinformation campaign to sell George W. Bush to the American people. Berke wrote on October 20 that Gore supporters are privately expressing to him that they are “relieved” that the Supreme Court selected Bush to be president.
Brave reporters like Walter Cronkite are now distant memories of the pre-Welch era of journalism; the modern guardians of the truth are opportunistic prostitutes like Tim Russert and abject liars like Richard Berke. It is difficult to find any journalists in the corporate media who believe that the true outcome of the balloting in Florida matters. The people whose lives are supposedly dedicated to reporting the truth are adamant that, in the case of which candidate actually won the presidency, reporting the truth just doesn’t matter.
In a democracy, it would matter. In a democracy, the identity of the person who was given the right to govern by the voters would be of paramount importance. In a democracy, the will of the people would be the single most important story possible, even more important than salacious stories about Democratic officials cavorting with Washington interns.
Who won the election does not matter when there is General Electric style democracy. GE has a long history of participating in governance around the world. The company has protected its financial interests by involving itself through active intervention and bribes in Indonesia, Mexico, Lesotho, Egypt, Israel, and Japan, among other countries.
For many years, human rights activists have cautioned that allowing multinational corporations to impose their will on people in foreign countries is a dangerous policy. There have been warnings that one day, corporations like General Electric might not feel constrained to limit their interference in the leadership selection process to places like Indonesia. They might decide that there is nothing sacred about national boundaries anywhere. Liberals have been called paranoid for warning that the same corporations that tampered with governments in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia would eventually decide that the will of the voters in the United States is not sacrosanct, either.
In 2000, the paranoid warnings became reality. General Electric and like-minded interests were able to defy the will of the majority of the American people and drag into the White House the least qualified major party presidential candidate in the history of the country. Since gaining office, George W. Bush has been slavishly devoted to enacting the corporate agenda. Even during a time of war, he has been focused on relentlessly advocating the interests of those who made him president.
Six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush FCC appointee Michael Powell announced a ruling that affected corporations having licenses to operate 130 UHF TV stations broadcasting on certain frequencies. The FCC gave the media companies approval to sell those taxpayer-owned licenses and keep the tens of billions of dollars that will be generated by the sales.
It was never a conspiracy. It was always greed.
The corporate elite and their media Consortium have literally hundreds of billions of reasons to do what it takes to keep Bush in power. Whether they ever publicly report the inconvenient truth of the decisive Gore victory is problematic. It ultimately depends on whether the American people are so insistent in their demand to see the accurate outcome, that continuing to conceal the truth will cause more trouble for the media conglomerates than it is worth to them.
In the absence of overwhelming public pressure by citizens who value democracy more than multinational corporations value money, the members of the Consortium will honor the paradigm of Jack Welch: They will disregard all principles of journalism, in order to do what is best for the corporate bottom line.
Epilogue: Jack Welch retired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric on September 7, 2001. According to Business Week, “Welch's leadership style has become so embedded in the organization that even his retirement is unlikely to erode his impact”. He is currently employed as a management consultant to major corporations that he refuses to identify.