Cable TV Shows Rife with Hidden Flacks and Lobbyists

Cable news networks like MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and Fox News routinely use commentators who have financial conflicts of interest that are undisclosed to viewers. Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, for example, appeared on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, to discuss the economic crisis. There he said the real answer would be for the president to "take his green agenda and blow it out of a box," and that the U.S. needed to "create nuclear power plants." Ridge seemed like an objective commentator, but what viewers weren't told was that he had pocketed $530,659 for serving on the board of Exelon, the country's largest nuclear power company. He also held an estimated $248,299 in Exelon stock. Another frequent commentator, "NBC Military Analyst" Barry McCaffrey, told viewers that the war in Afghanistan would require a "three to ten year effort" and "a lot of money." The network failed to reveal that the military contractor DynCorp had paid McCaffrey $182,309 that year alone, and that DynCorp had just won a $5.9 billion contract to aid American forces in Afghanistan. Dick Gephardt, who viewers were only told was a congressman during the Clinton-era health care reform effort in 1993, appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Meeting" to discuss health care reform, where he labeled the public option "not essential." Unmentioned was his work advising pharmaceutical interests through his lobbying firm, Gephardt Government Affairs. These types of blatant, undisclosed conflicts are rife on cable news and information shows. Lobbyists, PR flacks and corporate officials regularly appear promoting their clients' interests, introduced only with titles like "Former governor," "Republican strategist" and "Retired U.S. Military," without disclosing their true lobbying connections.