'In the Money' Airs Conflict Diamond Hit Piece on De Beers

     I generate enough revenue to grant 5 million individuals access to appropriate health care. I provide every child in Botswana with education to age 13. I am essential to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. I generate more than 40 percent of Namibia’s annual export earnings. My industry employs approximately one million people in India. I account for 33 percent of Botswana’s GDP.

     If you’re not interested in finishing this game of 20 questions, the item described above is the diamond. With so many benefits, one might think diamonds would get better than lackluster coverage on the December 9 edition of CNN’s “In the Money.” However, in light of Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent action flick, “Blood Diamond,” Ali Velshi (standing in for anchor Jack Cafferty) couldn’t help but push Hollywood’s negative version with an attack on diamond company De Beers.

     Velshi told viewers at the beginning of the program that they would hear the “dirty history” of some gems, calling diamonds “bling with strings attached.” His jokes probably fell on deaf ears at De Beers, one of the world’s largest diamond companies.

     After accusing the company of monopolistic pricing policies, Velshi insinuated that the company had a hand in the brutal effects of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds. According to the World Diamond Council, conflict diamonds originate from areas controlled by illegitimate factions in opposition to established government. The proceeds from these diamonds are used to support military action against the established or legitimate government.

     As Velshi described the impact of conflict diamonds, he consistently interspersed the De Beers name. The show’s substitute host even said, “De Beers says it never knowingly traded in those stones.” His comment left open the possibility that De Beers unknowingly traded in the diamonds.

     The film opened in theaters last week and “In the Money” gave it plenty of trailer time. One clip featured this particularly incendiary line from a white character: “People back home wouldn't buy a ring if they knew it cost someone else their hand.” The clip from the DiCaprio flick was given no context or explanation by Velshi.

    Though comments allowed from a De Beers spokeswoman were brief, Velshi spoke at length with his guest, “hip hop mogul” Russell Simmons, founder of Simmons Jewelry Company. Simmons said his own views were heavily influenced by a recent trip to Africa. Simmons extolled the prosperity and opportunity that diamonds bring to Africa, but all Velshi wanted to talk about was De Beers.

     Velshi baited Simmons, asking him, “You ok with sitting next to them [De Beers]?” The host referred to a press conference where he tried to ask some tight-lipped “folks from De Beers” about the company’s “checkered history.” Velshi never explained just what he was referring to – a confusing statement because Rosalind Kainyah, director of public affairs at De Beers, had already stated on the show that “De Beers was never involved in conflict or blood diamonds.” Velshi didn’t seem to be listening as Simmons catalogued the benefits diamonds have brought to Africa, from HIV clinics to schools.  

     In 2000, the World Diamond Council announced its zero-tolerance policy toward conflict diamonds, creating and implementing the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is a diamond certification system that prevents the entrance of conflict diamonds into the world market. Today the percentage of conflict diamonds in the world market has been to about 1 percent. “The diamond industry has agreed to provide evidence to all purchasers in the chain that diamonds are from conflict free sources,” states De Beers on its Web site.

For more information:

De Beers: Conflict Diamonds and De Beers

World Diamond Council’s Diamond Facts