The network morning shows on Friday ignored a front page report in the New York times that government regulators have casually approved very generous compensation packages for executives at the troubled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson explained, “The companies, whose fates are to be decided by Congress this year, paid a combined $17 million to their chief executives in 2009 and 2010, the two full years when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were wards of the state...”
After noting that a report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency found little scrutiny went into the packages, she pointed out, “With hundreds of billions in government support necessary to keep the companies running, questions are arising about the nature of the pay packages and how performance goals are determined.” [Emphasis added.] These questions, however, were not raised on ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s Early Show or NBC’s Today, despite the fact that many television journalists go to the Times for story ideas.
In a May 15, 2009 report on Obama’s first 100 days, the MRC’s Rich Noyes highlighted journalist outrage over bonuses:
After a late-January report about year-end bonuses for securities industry employees, President Obama slammed the practice as “shameful” and “the height of irresponsibility.” Network reporters praised the President for lashing out. “Channeling his inner populist, the President got upset about something that the public has been angry about for weeks,” NBC’s Chuck Todd celebrated on January 29.
Over on ABC, correspondent Dan Harris argued that the bonuses are “not only infuriating to the President, but many Americans are bewildered and angry too,” and warned “Wall Street may be playing a dangerous game here at a time when Congress is considering rewriting the basic rules of American capitalism.”
On April 1, 2009, when the Obama administration was reacting to supposed excesses by CEOs from the Bush era, then-Good Morning America co-host Chris Cuomo thundered to columnist Paul Krugman: “Wouldn't it be better to try and get ahead of the next crisis by just, right now, nationalize the whole economy and let government experts take over for failing CEOs?”
He added, “According to our polls, the public has a lot more confidence in President Obama than these executives we in the media have demonized for the past year, so why wouldn't it be better for the Obama administration to take everything over?”
In her piece, Morgenson pointed out:
Charles E. Haldeman Jr., a former head of Putnam Investments, the giant fund management concern, joined Freddie Mac as its chief executive in 2009. He made $7.8 million for 2009 and 2010. Fannie Mae’s chief is Michael J. Williams, who has worked at the company since 1991. He received $9.3 million for the two years. Company officials declined to comment.
The journalist added, “When the government stepped in to support some of the nation’s biggest financial institutions in 2008, compensation became an issue of concern to taxpayers.”