Former CNBC reporter: Network silenced me when I criticized ObamaCare

“I’m not someone who goes around crying ‘bias’ in a crowded theater,” Howard Kurtz later tells Melissa Francis, “but there really is no other explanation here.” Francis and Kurtz are discussing the stunning lack of coverage from most other news organizations — especially the broadcast networks — of the remarks made by ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber about the deception, lies, and trickery used to sell the bill four years ago. Francis, who worked for NBC News subsidiary CNBC during the initial ObamaCare debate in Congress, revealed yesterday that her reports about the math not adding up in the ACA resulted in a dressing-down by her bosses, who claimed that her criticisms amounted to “disrespecting the office of the President.”

Kurtz responded by saying that scrutinizing the office of the President is supposed to be their job, even though the networks and the New York Times still haven’t bothered to do it by Day 5 of Gruberama (via Jeff Dunetz):

Francis brings on another former CNBC reporter, Charlie Gasparino, who tells a couple of stories about having seen thumbs on the scales while working at the network, and at Newsweek:

But I will say this, and here is one of chilling aspects working in the mainstream media. Two points. When I was at “Newsweek” when it looked like the exit polls were in and George W. Bush was going to lose to John Kerry, people were doing high fives in the newsroom. I’ll tell you that, that’s one.

The second thing is, there was a thing, at CNBC, right after the elections when President Obama first took office, the markets were getting crushed. The markets were scared about Obamanomics and his ability to lead. Tim Geithner didn’t lend a lot of courage and confidence in the markets. And we as a network started talking about that. No sooner did we talk about that, than Jeff Immelt the head of GE, which owned CNBC at time called a meeting of senior people, including mostly anchors. Didn’t call me, thank God. And they basically had a talk, a discussion about whether CNBC was being fair to the president.

We should point out that GE got a lot of largess, received a lot of largess from the Obama administration over the years. Now did they tell you during this, did they tell the people during this meeting, go easy on Obama? No. But you know there is a chilling effect when your boss calls you in, says, not just your boss, the head of GE, everybody is sitting around and you’re saying, oh, are we being fair to the president by pointing out that his economic theories make no sense or whatever we were doing? And you know that is the mainstream media. You know people attack Fox all the time and we give the other side all the time?

News orgs love to talk about the “firewall” between ownership and editorial content, and between editorial content and news reporting. That’s not so much the issue in the Newsweek anecdote, but it’s certainly the case in Gasparino’s recollection of CNBC. This wasn’t the head of CNBC or of NBC News making an intervention, but of General Electric pressuring the news staff on editorial direction. That’s not just an example of media bias, but of crony corporatism at work.

Also, it’s rather amusing that the reporters at Newsweek didn’t understand what exit polls actually mean or how they work, but that’s a topic for a different day.