CBS Enron Movie Reveals Bias
CBS aired a movie this month call "The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron," and in doing so revealed several of their biases and journalistic practices. The movie was based on a book by Brian Cruver, a young business school graduate who joined the Houston energy company just months before a series of revelations led to the downfall and the then-largest bankruptcy in history. There is no doubt that many of the top executives were extremely corrupt, and deserve to go to jail for cooking the books, deceptive transactions, and lying to the investing public. But the movie itself unfairly aimed at targets other than Enron, and made allegations and connections that are tenuous at best.
For example, the movie singles out Republicans, particularly President Bush and Vice President Cheney as guilty by association. There are many references to Bush and Cheney, no less than six in the first fifteen minutes, suggesting that they had a close relationship with Enron CEO Ken Lay, and by implication, enabled and benefitted from his companyís corruption. But there are absolutely no references to Bill Clinton, or any Democrats, being involved with Lay or Enron.
Yes, Bush was a friend and recipient of Layís campaign contributions, but if the producers had been honest, they would have shown that in fact there is a much clearer link, and series of quid pro quos, between members of the Clinton administration and Enron. Lay, for instance, was a member of Clintonís Council on Sustainable Development
Lay and Enron donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee and other Clinton related organizations. In return, the U.S. government went to bat to help Enron get a power plant built in India, plus helped them get close to $2 billion in government financing and loan guarantees to build that and other projects. In another case, the Clinton administration threatened to cut off aid to Mozambique if they didnít sign a pipeline deal with Enron. Clintonís former treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, got paid to go to bat for Enron. He called a Bush administration treasury official trying to help Enron to keep its high credit rating, after reports had shown the books had been cooked. The Bush administration refused to help, and has since gotten guilty pleas from three Enron officials, and has indicted CFO Andrew Fastow.
The film went beyond Enron and was a broad attack on business in general and deregulation. While all other characters are identified by their real name, one, identified only as Mr. Blue, gives a big speech about how there are thousands of corporations out there like Enron.
CBS has covered the Enron story ad infinitum, so was the movie vetted for its accuracy by anyone in the news department? The movie was originally scheduled to air two days before last Novemberís election. But the Washington Post reported that CBS president Les Moonves, who they described as "an active contributor to the Democratic Party," "...got cold feet as the November air date neared, growing uncomfortable at the prospect of appearing to criticize the Republican administration." He should be ashamed.
Reed Irvine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org