MRC Special Report: The Media's Obama Miracle

How Journalists Pretend There Aren't Any White House Scandals

Then there were strange scandals that had great temporary news appeal. Take the federal raid on Gibson Guitar plants in Memphis and Nashville on August 24, 2011 over the notion that they were improperly importing wood from India.  It wasn’t against American law, but the feds asserted it violated an Indian law under something called the Lacey Act. Gibson had to stop manufacturing and send workers home for the day so the feds could investigate. Agents also raided the guitar-maker in 2009, asserting improper importation of ebony wood from Madagascar. Both India and Madagascar found nothing wrong with Gibson. Network coverage? Zero.    

On September 7, 2011, Fox’s John Roberts reported some of the facts the other networks skipped over: 

ROBERTS: Now here’s the really interesting part. Had Gibson imported this from India as a finished piece, it would have been perfectly legal to import. So it’s not the wood itself, it’s the amount of manufacturing that went into it. Which has led Gibson to say that the U.S. government, this White House, this administration wants to ship U.S. jobs overseas. There’s about 40 people here at Gibson that work on putting this together. And according to Bruce Mitchell, who’s the lead counsel for Gibson, I talked to him yesterday. He said that whole idea flies in the face of the President’s speech tomorrow about putting Americans back to work. Here’s what he told me.   

BRUCE MITCHELL, GIBSON CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL: Gibson, you know, is 100 percent American made, 100 percent American made. We’re proud of that. We export 60 percent of what we produce in the United States. So if you take in context, and in fairness to President Obama’s speech “Let’s Put America Back to Work.” More jobs, more exports. More exports, more jobs. Gibson is the poster child for that.     

ROBERTS: Now here is the other part of this that’s really interesting. This is exactly the same type of wood, in exactly the same form that every other guitar manufacturer in America imports and hasn’t yet been targeted by the federal government. Which leads some people to believe that because Henry Juszkiewicz, who’s the CEO of Gibson, is a Republican and has donated heavily to Republican candidates, whereas some of the other manufacturers are led by Democrats, that maybe there is a political motivation to all of this.

After almost a year, the administration settled with Gibson for a $300,000 fine.  Republicans have moved to repeal the Lacey Act – passed in 1900 to prevent poaching – which currently makes it a crime to import or take any wildlife, fish or plant in violation of a foreign law. Before the settlement, Juszkewicz wrote in The Wall Street Journal that this kind of government intervention explained a slow economy:    

“This is an overreach of government authority and indicative of the kinds of burdens the federal government routinely imposes on growing businesses. It also highlights a dangerous trend: an attempt to punish even paperwork errors with criminal charges and to regulate business activities through criminal law. Policy wonks call this ‘overcriminalization.’ I call it a job killer.”