CBS, the only American television network whose corporate initials describe its product, is defending itself from charges of the appearance of impropriety. The network is defending it’s choice of correspondent Rita Braver to profile Lynn Cheney, wife of the Vice President, on the networks Sunday Morning program. Mrs. Cheney has published her new memoir “Blue Skies, No Fences.” The long anticipated story of the wife of the Vice President and her recollections of growing up in Wyoming. A book that the public has been clamoring for after all who can forget the memoirs of Tipper Gore or Barbara Bush?
The dilemma CBS finds its self in is that the Cheney blockbuster was represented by Robert Barnett, Rita Braver’s husband, but it’s a small world, after all. Braver did disclose in the story that her husband had represented the author in book negotiations leaving CBS confused by the brew ha ha. Linda Mason, CBS News' senior vice president for standards, said Thursday she was "surprised" that such objections would be raised.
"If we had felt there was a conflict, of course we wouldn't have done it," Mason said. "We thought that because we had called attention to Bob's involvement, that we had done our part."
She noted that Braver is a Washington-based senior correspondent for the program. "Rita is very responsible, Bob is very responsible, and they separate their (professional) lives," Mason said, adding that Barnett was paid a fee upfront for his legal services, with no financial stake in the book's sales.
Funny thing here is the more Ms. Mason talks the worse the story looks. Working backwards, Braver is a Washington based Senior correspondent for the program - that explains why she’s doing a puff piece on Lynn Cheney’s book, hardly Woodward and Bernstein work here. I doubt the story will be nominated for a Peabody award but CBS puts their most senior correspondent on it, of course. Unable apparently to find anyone else in the halls of CBS competent enough to handle a book review except the reporter whose spouse took money to represent the author.
"Rita is very responsible, Bob is very responsible, and they separate their (professional) lives," but they sleep in the same bed and take meals across the same table. The concept that they wouldn’t assist each other in their careers fly’s in the face of common sense.
Mason said, “adding that Barnett was paid a fee upfront for his legal services, with no financial stake in the book's sales.” And no other prospective authors, I assume, in Washington would ever let it cross their minds that Mr. Barnett was married to a Washington-based senior correspondent for a national television program. Mr. Barnett was paid an upfront fee, and just out of curiosity, I wonder how Mr. Barnett's fee compares to other literary representatives that aren’t married to Washington-based senior correspondents for a national television program?
You see its not improper, but in the appearance of impropriety it looks like shoe polish but it smells like, need I say it? But why does CBS mention the story at all? Memoirs of the wife of Vice Presidents have a limited marketing appeal at best. Do you suppose it has something to do with Dan Rather’s lawsuit where he alleges political pressure was used to influence stories and that corporate directors with political agendas directly exerted influence on news stories?
Its all about appearances - if you were a pilot in the National Guard and when the Guard instituted drug testing for pilots and you failed to show up it gives the appearance that you are hiding something. Or if you’re a Senator caught in a men’s room sting it’s not because you are gay that you are in trouble it’s because it appears you are looking for sex in a public place. Gay or straight it’s appears unseemly and tawdry and cheap and were it a teen or a young person pleading guilty to a lesser charge it might appear reasonable. But being a US Senator he is on the horns of a dilemma, is he to pretend he was stupid or does he pretend to think that the electorate is stupid?
In some occupations, appearances are everything - jobs with fiduciary roles such as a judge and an attorney. If you were involved in a legal dispute and the judge was your adversary's father or the judges wife worked for your opponent how comfortable would you feel about the impartiality? That’s why for appearance sake the judge would reccuse themselves, no honest judge would ever hear a case where his direct relatives were involved or employed by one of the litigants. That’s beyond the appearance of improper conduct that is improper conduct. That way by reccusing themselves they would be free to go away together with the litigants on hunting junkets with out fear of recrimination.
But its such a small small world and its so hard to find a good attorney in Washington D.C. That the Bush campaign was forced to hire a young attorney name Scalia son of the Supreme Court Judge. But in this small world why should we be surprised if the wife of another Supreme Court Justice worked for the Bush Campaign these honorable men would reccuse themselves rather than sully their robes. Perhaps it’s because Washington is a company town. When the twin towers fell in New York who was a principal in the company responsible for the buildings security? Why, Marvin Bush, the President’s younger brother - what a coincidence! In a big town like New York too. Where else did they handle security? United Airlines, wasn’t that the airline that the planes where hijacked from? What are the odds against that?
Doesn’t sound like a very good company to invest in does it? Securacom is owned by a Saudi Arabian investment firm where the President’s brother also served on the board. Saudi Arabia that’s the country where the majority of the high jackers came from isn’t it? I don’t know but Marvin Bush kind of makes Billy Carter look like an MIT professor. I wonder, with the track record of Securacom what kind of Bozo’s would hire them now?
The company lists as government clients "the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S Air force, and the Department of Justice," in projects that "often require state-of-the-art security solutions for classified or high-risk government sites." I’m sure the contracts were let out on competitive bid so as not to appear inappropriate and Securacom won them fair and square because it’s a small world after all.
NBC news corespondent Andrea Mitchell was named in the Scooter Libby supoena to testify but was never called. I’m sure that came as a relief to her husband then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Mitchell was one of the reporters alleged to have disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame. In October 2003 Ms. Mitchell made a statement on CNBC’s Capital Report to Allen Murray indicating that there was a rumor among Washington Reporters regarding Ms. Wilson’s employment with the CIA before Tim Russert spoke to the defendant Libby
However, shortly there after she recanted this statement asserting that she did not know Ms. Plame worked at the CIA prior to the publication of the Robert Novak article. The article that Tim Russert her boss alleged he first learned of Plames identity. Mitchell maintains she “misunderstood the question and screwed it up.” Apparently the appearance of impropriety carries little weight at NBC propriety would suggest Mitchell should be moved to another department or released. Mitchell continued on as a corespondent and pundit making statements about the case with out ever acknowledging that she was a principle.
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