This could confirm what many suspected all along - the corporate heads at General Electric (NYSE:GE) would try to use their media holdings to portray President Barack Obama and his administration in a positive light in order to gain a corporate advantage.
That's how former CNBC reporter and current Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino explains it in his forthcoming book, "Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street."
According to Gasparino, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt had "helped his company feast off of the subsidies of Obamanomics," including the green energy initiatives and health care reform. And although Immelt is a registered Republican, Gasparino detailed how Immelt would walk around his company's headquarters saying "we're all Democrats" now at the prospect of government checks going to GE. But later, Gasparino explained how Immelt would use his authority to manipulate the editorial coverage of on Obama for that reason:
Immelt touted his status as a registered Republican when he stated publicly and infamously among his Republican friends his support of the president, saying, "We are all Democrats now." His friends tell me that the reasons Immelt supported Obama came down to the fact that he liked the president on a personal level and believed he was the moderate that he sold himself as on the campaign trail. At CNBC, where I worked for several years, Immelt called a meeting of top talent to discuss coverage of Obama's economic agenda and whether the heavy criticism by on-air commentators (like me) was fair to the president.
Those sentiments are similar to ones Gasparino relayed to host Bill O'Reilly on the Aug. 10 broadcast of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor".
"There was this issue where Jeff Immelt, chairman of GE, which used to own NBC Universal, called in some of the senior staff, and clearly was worried, according to the people I spoke to who were in that meeting, about the possibility that we were becoming too anti-administration," Gasparino said. "This is when the Obama administration first took over ... They will deny it, but from what I understand, people got called into this meeting and they were basically, not exactly read the riot act, but the question of whether they were being fair to the president was brought up."
However, Gasparino went on to say that Immelt regretted this pro-Obama stance by mid-2010. He complained abroad, calling Obama's policies "overregulation" of the economy. And in the end the potential upside wasn't enough.
"Why the change of heart? GE may have benefited from a few government handouts, but with the economy weak, the conglomerate's many businesses reflect the Obama-induced economic malaise caused by putting ideology, in the form of socializing health care and imposing higher taxes on entrepreneurs, before the economic well-being of the American people."
"Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street" will be available on Oct. 5.