All Things Considered…except sourcing guests

Posted on November 12, 2008

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NPR’s Robert Siegel has a bad habit of introducing guest “experts” with little background information. On the November 11, 2008, “All Things Considered”, Siegel led into a segment on the potential collapse and possible bail out of the ‘big three automakers” by detailing a report by the auto industry think tank and lobbying organization, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). CAR claims the collapse of the industry giants would total the economy, costing it three million jobs, and thus they are ‘too big too fail’.

Not surprisingly, CAR is sponsored by the usual suspects, including Chrysler, GM, and Nissan and the information technology companies that provide the data processing parts for the manufacturers. The companies have been trying to horn in on the financial bailout with little success, and are now trying to ignite their own bailout emergency by claiming imminent collapse. Siegel sounded a skeptical note concerning the gigantic economic job loss and brought in an ‘expert’ to critically analyze these figures–Patrick L. Anderson, the CEO of Anderson Economic Group.

Again, however, Siegel failed to give any background about Anderson or his eponymous corporation, its field of work or expertise, or even an academic or professional title that would provide some reason for interviewing him. As it turns out, Anderson’s organization is a consulting group which specializes in providing legal services and research for the auto industry.  Anderson also provides litigation support and expert testimony for the auto manufacturers, and has in the past filed a ‘friend of the court” brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the automotive industry. Anderson also has a somewhat dubious record as a dispassionate observer of federal bailouts. In October, Anderson co-wrote an opinion piece in the Detroit News (Reform Still Required to Stop Repeat of Crisis, October 9, 2008), a blend of Republican talking points and financial industry wish list. Blaming the sub prime collapse entirely on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Anderson called for the lending organizations to be dismantled. Anderson also called for more deregulation of the financial sector and the removal of ‘mark to market’ regulations. ‘Mark to market’ which requires financial firms to peg the value of financial products to the current price in the market is the only way of knowing how much such products, including mortgage backed securities, are actually worth at any given time. While such a history would seem relevant in judging Anderson’s analysis of the auto industry’s impact on the economy, Siegel did not seem think it very important.

This is not the first time NPR has ignored context when introducing a checkered guest. On September 18, 2008, Neil Conan brought in Ralph Reed to comment on the participation of youth in the electoral process on “Talk of the Nation”, another syndicated NPR program. Reed was introduced as a Republican strategist and former director of the Christian Coalition. There was no mention of his ties to John McCain, or his involvement with the Indian casino lobbying scandal in which Reed allegedly played a significant role, or indeed, his long history of scandal and corruption. McCain had sheltered Reed from the legal and political fall out of the Abramoff scandal and the two are still involved politically, but there was no mention of this fact either.

Reed is an odd choice to muse about the involvement of youth in electoral politics in the first place. His ties with Operation Rescue as a young religious and Republican activist in the eighties and nineties, are well known, including that organization’s use of violence to protest abortion. Siegel made no mention of Reed’s youthful undertakings, though they were undeniably relevant to the discussion.

Apparently, NPR does not like to focus on the past.