Two Fox News Producers walk into a GE Shareholders meeting with a recorder . . . (Are you watching that video? Click that link!)
The hostility between Fox News Channel and MSNBC reached a fever pitch Wednesday when a Fox producer infiltrated the GE shareholders meeting. Just before GE re-elected board members, company brass were hit with questions from shareholders critical of an alleged leftward political slant at MSNBC.
But one of those questions came from Jesse Waters, a producer on “The O’Reilly Factor” whose criticisms were cut short when his microphone was cut off, according to several attendees. Waters apparently did not publicly identify himself as a Fox employee.
Attendees who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter said shareholders asked about 10 politically charged questions concerning MSNBC as well as one about CNBC. First up was a woman asking about a reported meeting in which CEO Jeff Immelt and NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker supposedly told top CNBC executives and talent to be less critical of President Obama and his policies.
Immelt acknowledged a meeting took place but said no one at CNBC was told what to say or not to say about politics.
During the woman’s follow-up question, her microphone was apparently cut off. A short time later, Waters asked a question and his mic was cut, too.
“The crowd was very upset with MSNBC because of its leftward tilt,” one attendee said. “Some former employees said they were embarrassed by it.”
When he got the floor, Waters focused his question about MSNBC on Olbermann’s interview of actress Janeane Garofalo, who likened conservatives to racists and spoke of “the limbic brain inside a right-winger.”
Immelt told the assembled he takes a hands-off approach to what is reported on the company’s news networks, which prompted a shareholder to criticize him for not managing NBC Uni more effectively. “Any time MSNBC was mentioned, there was a rumbling in the crowd of 400 people,” he added. Borelli also asked a question pertaining to GE’s stock performance since Immelt took the helm..
As for Fox News producer Watters, he had his say and left the gathering to do stand-up interviews with other attendees outside the proceeding. He was, Sheffer said, asked not to videotape during the meeting, which is not, per stated corporate policy, allowed by any shareholders during the event. (Watters, who is a shareholder, had attended last year as well and had tried then too to record the proceedings.)
Czajkowski is a retired major with the U.S. Army and was asking Immelt to explain why GE was doing business with Iran while that country was supplying weapons to Iraqis who were killing American soldiers. “Immelt never answered my question, A, and B, shut my microphone off,” he said.
Czajkowski said about 15 shareholders voiced criticism of NBC, MSNBC or CNBC, and they usually received applause. When Immelt defended the networks, he was booed..
Paul Roeser, a shareholder since 1962 who had never been to a GE shareholder meeting until now, estimated that more than two dozen people expressed concern about GE’s television news division. Roeser, a retired New York state trooper, also said that Immelt’s defense of MSNBC was met with “lots of boos,” some of which can be heard on the Borelli tape.
Sherin was conciliatory when discussing GE’s decision to cut its dividend by 67% in March, the first reduction in the quarterly payment since 1938. GE has said the move was needed to save $9 billion per year in cash. “We feel terrible about it, but it was the right thing to do,” Sherin said.
Shares of GE rose 10 cents Wednesday to close at $11.80.
And those shares had been in the $40.00 range as recently as a year ago. Great job there, Mr. Immelt. Great job.
I have concerns about any CEO or Board of Directors that cuts off the microphones of shareholders questioning them, and that doesn’t see a problem with their news divisions actively shilling for a Presidential candidate.
But that’s just me, I guess.