ABC Hit Piece Again Mischaracterizes AIG Gathering

     Just as the government was boosting its assistance to troubled insurance giant AIG, one of the networks ran another story criticizing an executive boondoggle that wasn’t an executive boondoggle.

     On ABC’s “Good Morning America” Nov. 11, co-host Robin Roberts noted that the government bailout of AIG would be increased to $150 billion and, “even as AIG execs were asking for more money, they were spending thousands, yet again, at one of those posh resorts.”

     Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross reported on a “secret” AIG meeting at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix last week. He credited affiliate reporter Josh Bernstein of ABC-15 in Phoenix, for getting into the resort with a hidden camera.

     But the event didn’t warrant such high drama. Just as in October, when the networks reported on a $440,000 “executive retreat” at a resort in California, the meeting in Phoenix was in reality very different than media coverage painted it.

     “AIG held the gathering for about 150 independent financial advisers who steer lots of business to AIG,” Ross said of the Phoenix meeting. He said executives had characterized it as “absolutely essential” to the company’s business. He also noted that “A company spokesman says most of the total $350,000 cost would ultimately be covered by other corporate sponsors.”

     In spite of that acknowledgement, he went on to detail “cocktail parties, limousines, and dinner out at a top restaurant,” accompanied by hidden camera footage.

     “The company said seminars at the resort provided continuing education,” Ross said. “But our affiliate caught one of the AIG executives fresh from the gym, as the seminars were under way.”

     Ross said that top AIG executives told him that the “good impression” of a high-end resort helps “keep the business going,” but he editorialized, “Why not the Holiday Inn or the Hampton Inn?”