Monday, January 24, 2005

Hardball soft on Ketchum's Molinari in Armstrong Williams discussion

Ohio blogger Mike Meckler of takes Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball to task for failing to mention his guest Susan Molinari's status as head of PR giant Ketchum's Washington lobbying office in a recent discussion of the Armstrong Williams news payola scandal. Meckler writes, in an open letter to Matthews:

I cannot believe that you are not aware that Susan Molinari heads up the Washington office of the public relations firm Ketchum, which is at the center of controversy over whether the Bush administration has been using propaganda tactics to promote controversial government programs. Ketchum is the firm that paid conservative black pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to plug the benefits of No Child Left Behind from a reported $1 million contract with the Education Department. Ketchum also devised video press releases on Medicare for Health and Human Services, videos designed to look like news stories and which the GAO last year called "covert propaganda."

You may well reckon that getting political commentary from someone whose public relations firm is currently receiving business from the Bush administration is no different from getting commentary from campaign staffers or political officeholders, and that Molinari's background as a former GOP congresswoman was sufficient to indicate her political viewpoint. But the fact that she has a strong financial incentive in promoting the Bush administration through her employment with Ketchum is an item that needed to be mentioned. Representatives of PR firms appearing on your sister channel CNBC would have to make such a disclosure.

Certainly the purpose of Molinari's appearance on last night's program was to discuss President Bush's inauguration, but then again, Martha Stewart's appearance on CBS's Morning Show was to prepare a salad. Since it remains unclear what Molinari's role has been in the Ketchum contracts, and whether Ketchum's activities have violated federal law, Molinari needs to be asked publicly about her activities. She may well, like Martha Stewart, refuse to answer, but any reputable news organization should have posed the question.

Meckler continues with more background and links, in a post worth reading in full at


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