Mar
20
2009

ABC Tries to Calm the Populist Fire

You can accuse some in the media of paying too much attention to the bonuses at AIG, but on ABC's newscast they've been doing the opposite–trying to tell people to stop talking down "our" company.

ABC's World News With Charles Gibson, March 17:

CHARLES GIBSON: Let me turn to Betsy Stark. There is an awful lot of, I guess you could call it AIG bashing going on. But as a lot of people pointed out today, there's a real danger in this, because everybody in this country has a vested interest in AIG succeeding, because we, the taxpayer, essentially own the company, right?

BETSY STARK (ABC NEWS): That's right, Charlie. American taxpayers own 80 percent of AIG now, and their best hope for recovering some of the tens of billions of dollars that they've sunk into the company is for the government to sell off AIG's many good businesses. But if the AIG name continues to get dragged through the mud, it's only going to run down the value of those businesses and make it harder for taxpayers to get the very best price, so the outrage is understandable, but it comes at a real-world cost.

ABC's World News With Charles Gibson, March 18:

CHARLES GIBSON: And one more thing, you and I talked last night about the fact that all of us, the taxpayers actually own AIG. And as this controversy goes on, we may be driving down the value of the company we own. You've talked to insurance people, I know, all day long. What do they say about that?

BETSY STARK (ABC NEWS): You know, the irony is that taxpayers could be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Their anger is justifiable, these people say, but they have got to keep sight of the fact that they are talking about $165 million in bonuses, and they have got a $170 billion investment to protect. That's what they own.

CHARLES GIBSON: All right, that's what we all, in effect, own. Betsy Stark, thanks very much.

If one really took this argument seriously–don't criticize things owned by the public–then wouldn't all sorts of things be off limits?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.