On Monday, MSNBC repeatedly invited Yale University professor and Democratic Party donor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld on to promote an effort by him and fellow partisan activists to pressure corporate CEOs into blocking election reform legislation advanced by Republicans across the country. Hosts on the DNC propaganda channel were thrilled that the company heads were so easily manipulated into doing the left’s bidding.
“More than a hundred corporate CEOs, attorneys, and experts came together this weekend to discuss next steps in fighting bills that restrict voting,” Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski gleefully proclaimed late in the show’s 7:00 a.m. ET hour. She noted how the conference call “comes in response to Georgia’s controversial election law, and legislation like it, making its way through statehouses across the country,” and touted: “Ideas discussed included pulling donations, public statements, and support for legislation on the national level.”
Brzezinski then enthusiastically welcomed Sonnenfeld on the program: “Our next guest is the person who organized the meeting, Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies and Professor of Leadership Practice at Yale’s School of Management, Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld.” During that gracious introduction, she forget to mention that Sonnenfeld was also a consistent Democratic Party donor who gave thousands to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Sonnefeld assured viewers that “these business leaders don’t want to be defined by any political identity,” are “very centrist players,” and “hate these wedge issues that divide society.” He then laughably claimed the CEOs were as “centrist” as Brzezinski’s co-host and husband Joe Scarborough.
Near the end of the segment, Sonnenfeld declared that company executives were more trusted that religious institutions or the very media outlet he was appearing on: “...the importance of business leaders being a pillar of trust in American society, as sadly the media, journalists, the clergy, and public officials have fallen by the wayside. Only the military is more respected than CEOs these days in terms of public trust, in everybody’s survey. And they want to exercise that voice.”
Joining MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle during her 9:00 a.m. ET hour show, Sonnenfeld rattled off some of his fellow so-called “experts” who worked to “educate” the CEOs about GOP voting reforms:
Well, it’s interesting, a lot of them [the CEOs] wanted to unravel some of the muddiness that was created intentionally about the Georgia legislation, for example. And we had a legal expert, Michael Waldman, of the Brennan Center on Justice and political historian Tim Snyder, and others there, to go through the details of this....So a lot of it was educational. What's coming up, and we have a lot of documentation and a lot of discussion, about what is factually in these other states....Brad Karp, the chairman of Paul, Weiss, one of the nation’s premiere law firms, bonded together the nation’s 60 largest law firms – trying to get the 100 largest law firms together – but he already has S.W.A.T. teams ready now to go state by state, starting immediately, if there are battles where they need election law expertise to fortify this.
Like Sonnenfeld himself, every single person he mentioned were also steadfast Democratic Party donors. In addition to working for the leftist Brennan Center, the “legal expert” Sonnenfeld cited, Michael Waldman, was a Bill Clinton speechwriter and has given thousands to Democratic candidates over the years. Sonnenfeld’s Yale colleague Tim Snyder has also been a reliable source of financial support for the DNC. Finally, attorney Brad Karp, the one sending legal “S.W.A.T. teams” around the country, has written many checks to many Democrats.
Conveniently, Ruhle ignored all of these partisan political affiliations and just pretended Sonnenfeld and his lefty buddies were doing a public service.
If Republican Party donors were conspiring with top CEOs to undermine the liberal legislative agendas in states across the country, MSNBC would be calling for criminal investigations. However, as long as big business is colluding with Democrats, the network suddenly loves corporate America.
The corporate collusion on Morning Joe was brought to viewers by USAA and it was brought to Stephanie Ruhle’s viewers by Liberty Mutual. You can fight back by letting these advertisers know what you think of them sponsoring such content.
Here is a full transcript of the April 12 segment on Morning Joe:
7:49 AM ET
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: More than a hundred corporate CEOs, attorneys, and experts came together this weekend to discuss next steps in fighting bills that restrict voting. It comes in response to Georgia’s controversial election law, and legislation like it, making its way through statehouses across the country. Ideas discussed included pulling donations, public statements, and support for legislation on the national level.
The meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. A wide variety of industries were represented, from financial and pharmaceutical, to travel and tech. Our next guest is the person who organized the meeting, Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies and Professor of Leadership Practice at Yale’s School of Management, Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld. And I just wonder, Joe, if Mr. Sonnenfeld got the message from Mitch McConnell that these guys need to just stay out of politics.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, it is really – it is ridiculous.
BRZEZINSKI: Come on, now.
SCARBOROUGH: It is ridiculous. And Jeffrey – and I’m going to be talking to Tom about this in one second. Tom and I, former Republicans, we are quite amused by Republicans claiming that private businesses don’t have the right to run their businesses the way they want to, whether it’s how they manage their platforms or whether they speak out against social injustices that they believe, whether for the right reason or because they believe it will affect their bottom line, they believe their stance they need to take as a company. Explain.
JEFFREY SONNENFELD [YALE UNIVERSITY]: That’s exactly right. You know, it might seem like an odd segue to some to come in out of this, out of Mr. Matsuyama and The Masters. But actually, it’s the perfect segue. That’s a historic milestone and so is this. In fact, we had three or four CEOs ironically call in from Augusta, at The Masters, to join this event.
And you nailed it, this – what’s different here is that these business leaders don’t want to be defined by any political identity. It’s almost like a gangly adolescence that they’ve returned to, that they’re cutting their own path. They’re very centrist players, they don’t go for the left, they don’t go for the right. They’re not xenophobes, they’re not isolationists. These aren’t people that are protectionist. They’re trying to run their business and they hate these wedge issues that divide society. They don’t want angry workforces and finger pointing communities and hostile shareholders. They’re trying to run their businesses and having a society that has some degree of harmony is in their interest and our interest. And that’s what they’re fighting for.
In terms of their political identities, Joe, you are these days, that’s what they are. And as Mika said, they’re not just concerned about Georgia, where there was some confusion, but the CEOs have figured it out now. It’s 80% better than the law was but 20% still bad. But it’s the other 47 states it can spread to.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. And, Tom Nichols, again, the madness of so-called conservatives telling private businesses they can’t do what private businesses think are in their bottom line. And I think the most insane example of what we’ve seen, the overreaction while Democrats are passing this landmark COVID bill, Republicans were bitching and whining about Dr. Seuss and what his family decided they were going to do. I hope 30 or 40 years from now my kids and grandkids – all the stupid things I’ve done – I hope they hide them from sight. We all make mistakes. And somehow the Republicans are claiming that this is some Stalinist tactic because a family decided to do what they thought were best for their grandfather’s legacy. It’s just like these companies. Forgive me for being cynical, they’re looking at their bottom line.
TOM NICHOLS: Well, the bigger problem here, from the Republican point of view is, I’m sorry, aren’t the Republicans the ones who say, let the market decide?
NICHOLS: Don’t get involved in these private transactions. You know, free transactions among free citizens freely chosen. It’s amazing to me how suddenly people on the right have become allergic to things like boycotts, because the right has its own boycott and cancel culture. What they really mean is, “We just are afraid of these things because we’re afraid that they might happen to us.” We’re okay when they’re done to other people.” But it totally – again, it shows how totally the Republicans and what’s left of a small conservative movement have abandoned their core principals about things like freedom, individual choice, the markets. If American citizens, freely organizing – perhaps we might even call it, I don’t know, freedom of assembly – get together and decide that they are going to withhold their business from companies they feel support odious policies, that is democracy and the market in action. And instead, what you have are Republicans, who in theory are these champions of individual liberty and small government, saying almost like, you know, a Stalinist central planning system, “You will buy your cars here, you will buy your airplane tickets here. You will not refuse to do business with this or that company.” I mean it’s really authoritarian and makes a complete mockery out of decades and decades of Republican principals about markets and free choice.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, I’ve a lot of problems with Facebook. I’ve got a lot of problems with Twitter. I think Section 230 should be repealed or radically modified. But Josh Hawley is saying that the government should step in and determine what their content looks like in these private companies. It’s outrageous. Jeffrey, Eddie Glaude is with and has a question for you. Eddie?
EDDIE GLAUDE: Professor, thank you so much for calling the meeting. But I just have this question. You represented it as these business leaders being non-ideological in some ways, that they’re centrists like Joe. But this is happening against the backdrop of something that’s happening globally. That there’s this argument that capitalism doesn’t need liberalism, that capitalism doesn’t require the kind of restraints of democracy, as it were. Is there a sense that this kind of – these decisions on the part of these business leaders around voting restrictions, is this part of this broader debate about the relationship between capitalism and liberalism? Or am I being just a bit too abstract here?
SONNENFELD: No, you’re not being too abstract, nor are you being too ideological. I thought you were going to be, but in fact, you were more similar to Tom’s position a moment ago than I thought. The marketplace of free ideas is what they’re talking about here. There is a strong stand of defiance against what Mitch McConnell and others are saying about trying to cut their voice. How dare they take the money – what happened to taxation without representation? They’re saying – and the irony of the cancel culture, here where you have the CEOs of United – you know, the top leaders of United, American, and Delta there – if someone wants to boycott the airlines, they better be wealthy enough to have their own corporate jet, what are they going to do to get around? Is that these people have come together to say, “We support the people.” Like they supported Ken Frazier when he stood out years ago, post-Charlottesville, at Merck, to take an important moral stand. And we support people having their own voices, but also the importance of business leaders being a pillar of trust in American society, as sadly the media, journalists, the clergy, and public officials have fallen by the wayside. Only the military is more respected than CEOs these days in terms of public trust, in everybody’s survey. And they want to exercise that voice. And they believe that a fair, honest society with representation is critical. We need a good democracy to have these free markets to work.
BRZEZINSKI: Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Tom Nichols, thank you both very much for your input this morning.
Here is a transcript of Sonnenfeld’s exchange with Stephanie Ruhle:
9:24 AM ET
STEPHANIE RUHLE: Meanwhile, corporate America trying to figure out how to put their money where their mouth is. More than 100 CEOs met on Zoom Saturday morning to talk about how to deal with the growing pressure over restrictive voting bills across the nation. This comes days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said businesses should stay out of politics, before walking those comments back, because of course, he wants their money, he doesn’t want their voices.
Let’s dig deeper and bring in the cause organizer, that one and only Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, he’s a professor at the Yale School of Management. Jeffrey, let’s just start here, CEOs, they do not look to weigh in on politics. They follow business and their main priority is make sure their customer is happy and their employees are happy. And if they’ve got one and two, then number three, their shareholders, will be very, very happy. So isn’t this about business?
JEFFREY SONNENFELD: Stephanie, you just nailed it so well in framing it. You’re right, there’s a great pent-up resentment for any political leader to suggest, “Give us your money and shut up.” This is taxation without representation. And so this was an act of defiance, that they were gathering. They’re across the political spectrum. The group was probably 65%, 70% Republican and they didn’t all agree what solutions they should follow, but they all were concerned about these voter restrictions, which most, if not all, saw as voter repression. But they also – you’re exactly right, don’t want politicians creating wedge issues. They don’t want angry communities and finger-pointing workforces and hostile shareholders, that the fabric of social society being torn apart is bad for business. It’s bad for the personal values of many of these CEOs and the patriotism of a lot of them. But a lot of them, just out of, as you pointed, self-interest. Social harmony is in the interest of free markets functioning effectively and that means a functioning democracy.
9:27 AM ET
RUHLE: Did more people who participated, did they come to listen and learn or did they have something to say?
SONNENFELD: Well, it’s interesting, a lot of them wanted to unravel some of the muddiness that was created intentionally about the Georgia legislation, for example. And we had a legal expert, Michael Waldman, of the Brennan Center on Justice and political historian Tim Snyder, and others there, to go through the details of this. And as has been reported, Ken Frazier and Ken Chenault and others to take a look at how it was 80% better than the original proposal but still 20% quite bad, and how the Georgia CEOs figured that out only after it became public. They didn’t know. It was written overnight, ratified by the lower and upper houses that morning, and signed midday by the governor, who surely could not have read the 100 pages himself. And no CEO and there’s no general public review of it. But then they looked at the spreading of these other 47 states, where it’s even more pernicious. So a lot of it was educational. What's coming up, and we have a lot of documentation and a lot of discussion, about what is factually in these other states. There are some 330 initiatives in these other 47 states. Then there was open discussion about responses.
RUHLE: So was there a clear takeaway? To your point, you’ve got over 40 more states about to embark on this.
SONNENFELD: Yeah, actually, according to the Brennan Center, it’s 47. I thought it was 42 myself, going into the event, and then they actually showed us what’s unfurling. Some are more pernicious than others, depending on who’s the governor who can veto this and have a veto that’s not overridden. But still, the threats were in 47. And the takeaways are some of them are taking a look at things they can do on a state-by-state basis. Just between we close friends, since I always tell you everything, is Brad Karp, the chairman of Paul, Weiss, one of the nation’s premiere law firms, bonded together the nation’s 60 largest law firms – trying to get the 100 largest law firms together – but he already has S.W.A.T. teams ready now to go state by state, starting immediately, if there are battles where they need election law expertise to fortify this.