America’s leading evening newscast skipped a revealing and damaging news story about its parent company, which also happens to be America’s largest company.
“NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” failed to tell its viewing audience that General Electric (GE) avoided paying federal taxes.
The Washington Post reported that “NBC Nightly News” ignored a feature story in the New York Times on March 24 about GE, which had $14.2 billion in global profits in 2009 that included $5.1 billion in U.S. operations.
“NBC Nightly News” did not mention GE’s tax avoidance in its March 25-27 broadcasts.
An NBC News spokesperson denied that GE silenced “NBC Nightly News.”
NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a leading Sunday program, bypassed the subject, while one of NBC’s Friday night programs on MSNBC, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” did raise the subject briefly on March 25, according to the Post.
Another MSNBC program, “The Last Word,” did criticize GE on the day of the New York Times story. Lawrence O’Donnell, the program host, spent almost nine minutes on GE.
O’Donnell said that GE’s tax return was 24,000 pages, an impossible amount for the understaffed Internal Revenue Service to process.
Noting that GE had at least 1,000 people preparing its tax return, O’Donnell said: “They know they are sending it to an agency that can’t make any attempt to seriously evaluate that tax return. So, how big a lead off the base do you think GE takes with its deductions?”
In the March 29 story, the Post said that the MSNBC programs that did address GE “have a fraction of the audience of NBC’s top-rated nightly newscast” and have less credibility.
Peter Hart, director of a media watchdog group, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, told the Washington newspaper that NBC had a “troubling pattern” of avoiding stories about GE, including a story about how NBC underplayed safety matters at a nuclear power plant designed by GE.
“Imagine if a different company were involved. If you changed the name to Citibank or Goldman Sachs, would NBC be interested in the story then? I suspect they would be,” Hart told the Post.
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” mocked Republican leaders for blaming public sector workers for allegedly bankrupting states and advocating for lower corporate taxes, as it ridiculed President Obama for making GE’s CEO chairman of his jobs council.
“The Daily Show” also pointed out that “NBC Nightly News” skipped the GE story.
An EthicsDaily.com editorial addressed GE’s tax avoidance earlier in the week.
“Make GE the poster child for corporate tax evasion: GE=TE (tax evasion),” read the editorial.
In a related development, former Sen. Russ Feingold, founder of the liberal advocacy group Progressives United, called for GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, to step down from chairing Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Feingold blogged, “Someone like Immelt, who has helped his company evade taxes on its huge profits – and is now looking to workers to take major pay cuts after his compensation was doubled – should not lead the administration’s effort to create jobs.”
The White House defended last week Immelt’s involvement on the jobs council.
“The president obviously doesn’t want a council of people who agree with him on every issue; he wants to hear a diversity of opinion,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.