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Harken, Halliburton and Hype

A Review of Recent Business Coverage

Bankruptcies, corporate misdeeds and a tumbling stock market have led to another media overreaction. Big business is bad, the media have decided, and more government regulation is needed to tame the beast and protect the “little guy.”

It's all Cheney's fault. CBS's Joie Chen: "Anxious small investors pin the blame for the falling stock market on Mr. Cheney."

This simplistic spin has influenced almost every corporate corruption story since Independence Day and the business-bashing media frenzy has even expanded to include the past business operations of both the President and the Vice President.

The following Spotlight is a compilation of MRC’s documentation and analysis of the coverage. The links and articles start in early July when President George W. Bush’s Harken Energy stock sale became a major news story.

Bush and Harken Energy
Cheney and Halliburton
Judicial Watch Transformed
Congress and Corporate Corruption
Could Clinton be to Blame?
Against the Grain


President Bush and Harken Energy
A Closed 12-Year Old Investigation Suddenly Becomes News

  • The story breaks. Bush described as “partner-in-chief with big business,” by CBS News’ Wyatt Andrews and ABC’s Claire Shipman claimed the Bush administration’s “decidedly pro-business stance on tax issues and regulatory issues” led to questions about the decade-old Harken Energy stock sale.

  • The crux of the issue: Bush was cleared of wrongdoing in the Harken Energy stock sale by a 1990 Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, but that’s not important. “Never mind that Mr. Bush was cleared,” CBS’s Andrews told viewers. “His opponents will charge this champion of personal responsibility once failed that standard himself.”

  • A chance to push for more government regulation of business. A Media Reality Check described how the media used the Harken Energy controversy to encourage Bush to increase regulatory controls over business.

  • The media’s favorite United States Senator, John McCain of Arizona, weighed in on corporate corruption and CBS rushed to cover it. At the same time, ABC’s Peter Jennings highlighted how Bush has been accused of taking part in “the same corporate excesses that he is now condemning.” But ABC also ran a story about how an expert believes the loans from 15 years ago “were completely legal and proper.”

  • Actually, there’s nothing there in either case but it is causing political trouble. ABC’s Nightline conceded there was nothing wrong in either the Harken or Halliburton case but maintained that it was a legitimate political problem for the President.


The Blame Game
The Media Focus on Dick Cheney’s Days at Halliburton


The Transformation of Judicial Watch
Former “Conservative” Group Filed Suit Against Vice President Cheney and Halliburton and Becomes Credible News Source


Let’s Have Congress Fix Corporate Corruption!
Senate Bill on Corporate Corruption Will Have to be Reconciled with the “Weaker” House Bill and the Networks Expressed Concern


Could Clinton be to Blame?
Some Journalists Asked if the Former President was Responsible While Others Blamed Republicans


Against the Grain
Media Reports That Provided Contrary Views


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