Then the fix was in.
On September 8, CNN anchorette Kyra Phillips was chewing into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for "continuing to criticize the administration, and criticize the director of FEMA... I think it 's unfair that FEMA is just singled out. There are so many people responsible for what has happened in the state of Louisiana. "
Instead of smiling through clenched teeth, the San Francisco Democrat bit back: "I 'm sorry that you think it 's unfair. But I don 't . . . If you want to make a case for the White House, you should go on their payroll. "
For the first 120 hours after Hurricane Katrina, TV journalists were let off their leashes by their mogul owners, the result of a rare conjoining of flawless timing (summer 's biggest vacation week) and foulest tragedy (America 's worst natural disaster). All of a sudden, broadcasters narrated disturbing images of the poor, the minority, the aged, the sick and the dead, and discussed complex issues like poverty, race, class, infirmity and ecology that never make it on the air in this swift-boat/anti-gay-marriage/Michael Jackson media-sideshow era. So began a perfect storm of controversy.
Contrary to the scripture so often quoted in these areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, the TV newscasters knew the truth, but the truth did not set them free. Because once the crisis point had passed, most TV journalists went back to business-as-usual, their choke chains yanked by no-longer-inattentive parent-company bosses who, fearful of fallout from fingering Dubya for the FEMA fuckups, decided yet again to sacrifice community need for corporate greed. Too quickly, Katrina 's wake was spun into a web of deceit by the Bush administration, then disseminated by the Big Media boys ' club. (Karl Rove spent the post-hurricane weekend conjuring up ways to shift blame.)
If big media look like they 're propping up W 's presidency, they are. Because doing so is good for corporate coffers -- in the form of government contracts, billion-dollar tax breaks, regulatory relaxations and security favors. At least that wily old codger Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, parent company of CBS, has admitted what everyone already knows is true: that, while he personally may be a Democrat, "It happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one. "
When it comes to NBC 's parent company, GE 's No. 1 and No. 2, Jeffrey Immelt and Bob Wright, are avowed Republicans, as are Time Warner 's Dick Parsons (CNN) and News Corp. 's Rupert Murdoch (Fox News Channel). (Forget that Murdoch 's No. 2, Peter Chernin, and Redstone 's co No. 2, Les Moonves, are avowed Democrats -- it 's meaningless because Murdoch and Redstone are the owners.)
Once upon a time, large corporations and their executives typically avoided any public discussion of their politics because partisan positions alienated customers and employees. But all of that changed after GE bought NBC in 1986. For seemingly eons, Immelt 's predecessor, the legendary Jack Welch, was a rabid right-winger who boasted openly about helping turn former liberals Chris Matthews and Tim Russert into neocons. (And Los Angeles Representative Henry Waxman is still waiting for GE to turn over those in-house tapes that would prove once and for all whether Welch, in 2000, ordered his network and cable stations to reverse course and call the election for Bush instead of Gore.)
As for Immelt, he publicly wishes his MSNBC could be a clone of FNC. Not surprising, since he let his network and cable news cheerlead the run-up to the Iraqi war without ever bothering to tell viewers GE had billions in contracts pending. More than half of Iraq 's power grid is GE technology. It was also under Immelt that GE installed a former adviser to W and Condi, who also served as press secretary to former first lady Barbara "Let 'em eat cake " Bush, as NBC Universal 's executive vice president of communications.
And let 's not forget that in October 2004, the Republican-controlled House and Senate and White House okayed a $137 billion corporate-tax bill -- dubbed "No Lobbyist Left Behind " -- that gave a huge $8 billion tax break to GE, which had bankrolled a record $17 million lobbying effort for it. (Meanwhile, in that same bill, House Republicans at the last minute stripped the movie studios of about $1 billion worth of tax credits because of Hollywood 's near-constant support of the Democratic Party and its candidates.)
Disney, parent company of ABC, has turned most of its extensive radio network and owned-and-operated stations into a 24/7 orgy of right-wing talk. (Sean Hannity is their poster boy.) Disney 's chief lobbyist, Preston Padden, is not only one of Washington, D.C. 's most infamous Republican lobbyists, but he used to work for Rupert Murdoch. Bush even pleaded just days after 9/11 for Americans to "go down to Disney World in Florida. " Meanwhile, Disney World has benefited from special security measures, including extra protection and a federally declared "no-flyover zone. " And let 's not forget that Michael Eisner pulled the distribution plug on Fahrenheit 9/11.
And lest anyone think there 's no connection between Murdoch 's business and editorial, several news organizations have noticed a de'tente between the New York Post and Senator Hillary Clinton because Rupert needs congressional Democrats on News Corp. 's side to oppose a change in the Nielsen ratings that could harm its TV stations.
Given all of the above, it comes as no surprise that, as early as that first Saturday, certainly by Sunday, inevitably by Monday, and no later than Tuesday, the post-Katrina images and issues were heavily weighted once again toward the power brokers and the predictable. The angry black guys were gone, and the lying white guys were back, hogging all the TV airtime. So many congressional Republicans were lined up on air to denounce the "blame-Bush game " -- all the while decrying the Louisiana Democrats-in-charge -- that it could have been conga night at the Chevy Chase Country Club.