Networks Silent about ‘Green’ Nature of Kitzhaber Corruption Scandal

ABC, CBS, NBC fail journalism 101 in coverage of Oregon governor’s ‘shocking fall from grace.’

It’s the job of a reporter to answer all the basic questions in a news story. Telling the who, what, when, where, why is foundational.

Yet, the broadcast network news media omitted key details from reports on the ethics scandal that led to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation. ABC, NBC and CBS admitted Kitzhaber and his live-in fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, are both under federal investigation because of “allegations” she “used their relationship to benefit her energy consulting business.”

Cylvia Hayes has a very specific kind of energy consultancy: a green one. But the only mention of “green,” in any of the network reports was Hayes’ admission she once took money from a man who wanted a green card marriage. By ignoring what Hayes does for a living the networks shielded the green movement they have so often promoted in broadcasts.

According to attorney Chris Horner’s Feb. 17, article in The Washington Times, “Ms. Hayes, served a curious triple role of ‘first lady,’ adviser to the governor on energy policy and well-compensated consultant for the ‘clean energy’ industry.”

The website for Hayes company, 3E Strategies, was full of environmentalist buzzwords like sustainable, clean and green. It claimed the economy needed to and could “make the transition to an innovative, resilient clean economy.” About Hayes, it proclaimed she has “over 20 years of professional experience in sustainable energy, economic development, workforce, development, green building, waste prevention and sustainable forest and agriculture.”

The site also mentioned her relationship to the governor as “First Lady of Oregon” and said “she was a policy advisor to the Governor on the issues of clean energy and economic development.”

The networks repeatedly omitted “green” or “clean” from their descriptions of Hayes role in the ethics scandal choosing ambiguous terms like “energy business” and saying “new questions have surfaced about whether his first lady Cylvia Hayes tried to leverage their relationship to make money from firms hoping to do business with the state.”

According to Horner, the scandal about Hayes and Kitzhaber doesn’t stop there. He obtained emails through the freedom of information laws that he said showed “how Mr. Kitzhaber’s office organized a campaign to promote the industry’s agenda, beginning with the California and Washington governors’ offices, a private environmentalism law firm and the White House.”

“The scheme was to recruit other governors to use their offices the same way,” Horner wrote. “Mr. Kitzhaber's aide originating the email discussion is Dan Carol, identified as central to the unfolding scandal by the Portland Oregonian: ‘How did Hayes end up with a fellowship funded by an organization with an interest in clean-energy policy in Oregon? A Kitzhaber campaign adviser, Dan Carol, helped arrange the funding following Kitzhaber's election in 2010 ... Carol subsequently landed a position within the Kitzhaber administration. That position, Willamette Week has reported, pays more than $165,000, making Carol Kitzhaber's highest-paid aide.’”

Methodology: MRC Business used Nexis to find all mentions of Kitzhaber in the past three months and then analyzed the results.


— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.