'Nightline' Shuns Balance While Blasting CEOs.

     Common sense dictates that executives shouldn’t fly on private jets to plead for taxpayer money in Washington. Journalistic sense dictates that reporters should report the facts, rather than engaging in populist muckraking. Sense is in short supply. At least, that’s the idea you’d get from ABC’s “Nightline” Nov. 20.


     In a segment that was teased as “CEOs Behaving Badly,” reporter Brian Ross targeted the heads of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors for traveling to Washington, D.C., in three separate corporate jets to testify before Congress about their need for a bailout. It’s hard to decide which was worse, what the CEOs did, or the reporting of it.


     To make sure viewers were sufficiently outraged, Ross began the report by saying, “After a decade of unchallenged greed, America’s corporate royalty is getting its comeuppance.” He didn’t explain how he arrived at a decade or what’s greedy and what’s not.


     The report alternated between clips of GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s “$38-million private jet” and Democratic House members chastising the three executives in a hearing. Republicans were also present at the hearings and joined in the criticism, but ABC showed only outraged Democrats, including this exercise in demagoguery from California Rep. Bradley Sherman: “I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you're planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial? Let the record show no hands went up.”


     Amid images of popping champagne corks and Rolls Royce hood ornaments, Ross said, “The auto industry CEOs were the latest in a long line of America’s corporate royalty who have been called to Washington to defend how they made themselves so rich and comfortable while so many, many others suffered.”


     The report showed Lehman Bros. Chairman Richard Fuld being grilled by liberal congressman Henry Waxman, D-Cal. “Our economy is in a state of crisis, but you get to keep $480 million. I have a very basic question for you. Is this fair?” Waxman said. It then cut to Fuld being heckled as he left the capitol on what Ross called a “walk of shame.”


     Ross went on to recycle the dubious charge that AIG executives had taken billions in taxpayer dollars and gone on junket to a posh California resort, never mentioning the explanation the company provided in its defense: that outside investors, not AIG, paid the majority of the conference’s costs.


     Nor did Ross, besides a couple of ambush questions for the Ford and GM CEOs, give voice to anyone who might explain or defend the so-called abuses of any of the executives in the piece.


     The report left out any acknowledgement that the executives earned their money legally, willingly compensated by their boards and shareholders. Nor did Ross bother to acknowledge that in exchange for their pay and perks, these executives bore the responsibility for billions of dollars, and helped to create billions in wealth. That wouldn’t fit with his one-sided class warfare narrative.