Conservatives are outraged about the special access given to ABC News to broadcast a series of programs from the White House on Wednesday. ABC is scheduled to broadcast "Good Morning America" from the White House lawn, "World News" its nightly news show from the Blue Room and a special prime time "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" on President Obama's health care reform proposal from the East Room.
Many fear objective and balanced coverage of the president controversial health care plan will be the casualty of "ABC day" at the White House. The transformation of a major news network from watchdog to Obama lapdog would threaten the very nature of an independent press that is vital in maintaining liberty and a civil society.
Co-opting corporations, especially media giants such as ABC News, to promote his policies appears to be part of Obama's political strategy. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, for example, is a member of the president's Economic Recovery Board (PERB) and the company's media units NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC frequently advance Obama's energy policy through its programming and news coverage which would also benefit GE's investment in green technologies.
While financial opportunism may be the driver of GE's favorable media coverage of Obama's energy policy, ABC's interest in health care may represent a deep seeded liberal bias that goes to its parent company, The Walt Disney Company.
Disturbingly, Disney CEO Bob Iger has shown a willingness to put his personal political views over company profits. Under his direction, Iger refuses to sell the DVD or its distribution rights of the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11," a program that was based on the federal government's "9/11 Commission Report." The miniseries was criticized by liberal politicians and advocacy groups when it aired in September 2006 because they felt it made President Clinton look responsible for the terrorist attacks in 2001.
Despite losing about $ 40 million on the project because the left-wing generated controversy intimidated commercial sponsorship, Iger keeps the production under lock and key thus denying shareholders an opportunity to recoup their investment in the miniseries.
Disney can't claim the controversial nature of "The Path to 9/11" as a reason to not profit from the film. Disney profited from Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- a highly politicized view of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to Slate, Disney "booked a $46 million net profit" while "it paid Moore a stunning $21 million" for his documentary.
Because of concerns that Iger's political views are harming its investors, a mutual fund I'm affiliated with filed a shareholder proposal with Disney to increase transparency of the company's political donations.
At Disney's annual meeting, shareholders applauded my explanation of the political basis for the company's refusal to sell "The Path to 9/11" but it clearly upset Iger. When I approached Iger to shake his hand after my presentation, he rejected my offer and instead launched what some in media circles refer to as an "F-bomb."
In response to our shareholder proposal, Disney tried to save face by saying it was indeed willing to sell the distribution rights of the miniseries but I have recently learned that a new, legitimate offer to buy the miniseries was rejected by the company. Previously, inquiries from our company to Iger, and Disney's chairman about purchasing the rights of the miniseries went unanswered.
Iger has impeccable liberal credentials. He gives about 90 percent of his personal political contributions to Democrats and special interest groups; his wife, former news anchor Willow Bay, has a senior position with the Huffington Post.
Disney also has connections to Obama through PERB. Monica C. Lozano, CEO of La Opinion, a major Spanish-language newspaper in the U. S., is a member of Disney's board of directors and the president's economic board.
Given today's volatile political climate and the diverse array of media sources including the Internet and cable TV, Disney/ABC's liberal bias could backfire on the company. After all, a reputation for credibility and trustworthiness is a news organizations only asset.
Moreover, if conservatives, frustrated over Obama's assault on liberty and his coziness with ABC rally against the company, they could pressure its sponsors not to advertise on the network.
Plus, why would conservatives want to attend Disney theme parks and movies if their hard earned money is going to be used to support policies and politicians that are opposed to their values?
Why would conservatives support Disney when it promotes government run health care and Michael Moore's biased view of the 9/11 terrorist attacks while silencing "The Path to 9/11?"
Choosing politics over profits is a dangerous game. If the president is using corporatism to advance his policies, public backlash against Disney and other corporate members of Team Obama may find themselves feeling the heat of an increasingly frustrated and disenfranchised public.
The mid-term elections are still more than a year away but Americans may choose to vote with their wallets by punishing companies that threaten their principles.
Tom Borelli, Ph.D., is director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research.