The Hollywood Reporter
April 22, 2009
Things got testy Wednesday at the GE shareholders meeting courtesy of several complaints about political bias at its media division, NBC Universal.
Just don’t expect to see the fireworks at the company’s webcast of Wednesday’s event, which contains prepared remarks from CEO Jeff Immelt and CFO Keith Sherin but leaves out their interaction with shareholders.
Just before GE board members were re-elected, shareholders asked about 10 questions of a mostly political nature concerning the viewpoints of MSNBC and CNBC, according to attendees.
[efoods]First up was a woman asking about a reported meeting in which 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 say about politics.
During the woman’s follow-up question, her microphone was cut off. Later, during the umpteenth question about MSNBC, another shareholder’s microphone was cut, according to multiple attendees.
“The crowd was very upset with MSNBC because of its leftward tilt,” one attendee said. “Some former employees said they were embarrassed by it.”
One specific complaint about MSNBC concerned Keith Olbermann’s interview of actress Janeane Garofalo, who likened conservatives to racists and spoke of “the limbic brain inside a right-winger.”
“They were upset that Olbermann didn’t bother to challenge her,” one GE shareholder said.
Immelt said 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 effectively.
“My biggest surprise was the open hostility to MSNBC,” another shareholder said. “It was noticeable and loud. I don’t remember any of this going on last year.”