GE-Owned Networks’ Media Bias, Conflicts-of-Interest Remain Focus Day After Stockholder Meeting

As readers here know, at yesterday’s annual GE shareholder meeting, CEO Jeffrey Immelt was challenged on the subject of media bias at GE-owned NBC, CNBC and MSNBC.

The story is far from over. I encourage those interested in it to watch the O’Reilly Factor tonight for additional in-depth reporting, including the airing at least part of an audio recording of the Q&A session inside the stockholders’ meeting made by Tom Borelli. (As of this writing, Fox has also made a tiny portion of the tape, the part featuring Fox reporter Jesse Watters asking about about Keith Olbermann’s handling of the recent infamous Janeane Garofalo interview, and the shareholders booing when GE cut off Jesse Watters’ mike, available on its website now here, and it has been linked to by Drudge.)

Borelli is co-director (with Steve Milloy) of the Free Enterprise Project of the National Center for Public Policy Research, and, independently, a long-time shareholder activist with the Free Enterprise Action Fund pro-free enterprise mutual fund.

Leading the questioning about media bias at the shareholder meeting (the unidentified woman whose microphone was cut off by GE in Noel Sheppard’s report) was Deneen Borelli, Tom’s wife and full-time fellow at the conservative African-American group Project 21.

Here’s how Tom described events on the Free Enterprise Project’s Free Enterpriser blog:

The Hollywood Reporter described the events at yesterday’s GE shareholder meeting in its story Drama at GE Shareholder Meeting

In addition, here is our first hand account from yesterday’s meeting. Deneen is my wife.

Censorship and limited government was a theme at the General Electric (GE) shareholder meeting in Orlando, FL.

Deneen had the opportunity to ask the first question, directed at GE CEO Jeff Immelt. She inquired whether he tried to silence anti-Obama criticism on CNBC as it was reported in the media. The New York Post reported that GE executives were concerned that CNBC was perceived as too critical of President Obama. Immelt responded that he does not interfere with the opinions of his networks even though he doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

Deneen’s concern is Immelt will do anything to preserve a favorable relationship with Obama in order to sell GE’s green technologies. At some point in Deneen’s dialogue with Immelt, Deneen’s microphone was shut off.

I told Immelt he was not only a threat to shareholders but also to liberty and limited government. I reminded Immelt that the company’s stock was underperforming the stock market before the economic crisis.

I advised Immelt that we have an online petitionthat encourages GE never to trade with enemies, to stop pursuing cap-and-trade legislation that would raise energy prices, and that he uses his media empire to advance his agenda.

I also told Immelt that “We surround you” and that it was time for a “GE Tea Party” to reign in this out of control corporation.

In cutting off Deneen’s microphone when she asked about media bias at CNBC (GE restored the mike when Deneen kept talking anyway), and then that of Fox producer Jesse Watters, when he asked about Keith Olbermann’s handling of the Janeane Garofalo interview, GE showed itself to be defensive. (It also showed itself to be ineffective, as the next person up at a microphone was Tom Borelli, who asked Immelt about GE’s business with Iran; GE’s lobbying for cap-and-trade, and GE’s double-hit on senior citizen stockholders [by cutting dividends after saying it wouldn’t while lobbying for cap-and-trade regulations that will dramatically raise consumer energy prices].)

It’s no wonder GE is defensive, however. As Tom’s pointed questions, and Bill O’Reilly’s comments tonight on the Glenn Beck TV show (“We’re in an area right now that makes Watergate look like a Shirley Temple movie.”) illustrate, the best that can be said about General Electric is that it is hip deep in conflict of interest. It’s running TV networks that prop up liberalism, the global warming issue and Obama, while privately lobbying hard for cap-and-trade, from which it intends to profit heavily.

It is that last angle we can expect O’Reilly to illuminate tonight.

Meantime, in an apparent counterattack against Tom Borelli for his long-time free-market activism against GE’s left-wing activism, media allegations are being made that Tom is employed by or is on the payroll of Fox News. This allegation is incorrect. Tom is not now nor has he ever been employed, paid or funded by Fox News. He is employed by the National Center for Public Policy Research to co-direct its Free Enterprise Project and, separately, he is co-director of the Free Enterprise Action Fundmutual fund. In these capacities Tom attends many shareholder meetings (such as one in March in which Disney CEO Robert Iger swore at him), including each of the last four GE shareholder meetings.

Arguments that the Borellis are agents of Fox News are a diversion intended to take interest away from GE’s use of media outlets it owns to promote global warming policies from which it can handsomely profit. We shouldn’t let the diversion succeed.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.

Addendum: Jeff Poor, writing for Newsbusters, has a good write-up of the O’Reilly broadcast on this tonight.

Addendum 2: Moonbattery does, too.

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The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.