In response to Pando's reporting, Rupert Murdoch's WSJ angrily defends anti-pension billionaire

By David Sirota , written on March 6, 2014

From The News Desk

It is hardly surprising that billionaire Rupert Murdoch would use his newspaper to angrily defend the supposed right of fellow billionaires to secretly finance ideological programming on PBS. But it is at least more - and hilarious - proof that Pando's investigative reporting is making the rich and powerful extremely uncomfortable. That's the takeaway from the Wall Street Journal's new screed against Pando's ongoing reporting on both billionaire John Arnold and the public broadcasting service.

In its patented overwrought style, the Journal starts out with the oldest and least effective trick of the smear game: calling anyone who reports information the establishment media refuses to report just a "blogger" rather than a journalist. And according to the Journal, I'm not just any old "blogger" - I'm a "monomaniacal" one. Because, remember, working for that icon of integrity Rupert Murdoch makes one a true journalist, and everyone else just unprofessional bloggy trash. Got it?

The next most hilarious part of the screed is the breathless part about billionaire John Arnold. In the  Journal's telling, the Enron mogul is just a guy who earnestly "supports greater transparency of public pension liabilities and retirement reforms of all stripes." Carefully omitted from the editorial is what Pando previously reported: Arnold is not just pushing for transparency or any "reforms," he is, according to his own foundation, pushing lawmakers in states across the country “to stop promising a (retirement) benefit” to public employees.

Then, in predictable fashion from a Murdoch publication, there is the flat-out lying.

The Journal says the Arnold Foundation was listed as "a supporter in all three of its 'Pension Peril' segments, so there was nothing secretive about the donation." But as Pando noted in its original "Wolf of Sesame Street" report, while a mention of the Arnold Foundation was made at the beginning of a few of the News Hour programs that later aired the "Pension Peril" segments, those segments made no mention that they were directly funded by Arnold's content-specific grant. In other words, when the Journal says Arnold was listed as "a supporter in all three segments," that's simply false, as Pando reported, and as the Journal well knows.

It gets worse from there, as the Journal goes on to slam me for supposedly not disclosing that I once worked for Bernie Sanders 13 years ago, even though that is declared quite prominently - and proudly, I would add - in my biography on my website.

The Journal finishes its venting by goes on to cite the PBS ombudsman as proof that our reporting was bad. Yet the Journal somehow omitting the simple fact that the ombudsman concluded that Pando's reporting was "important" because it "shines a light, once again, on what seems to me to be ethical compromises in funding arrangements." The ombudsman also said that WNET's decision to return Arnold's money was "a very positive development." Oh, and the Journal somehow forgot to mention that the larger Corporation for Public Broadcasting also weighed in by praising Pando's reporting and similarly concluding that "PBS had a conflict of interest here and were correct in returning the money."

You can read the full Wall Street Journal article here. You'll get a good laugh. But, as mentioned before, you will also get a good reminder that when reporting uncovers the ugly truth about the rich and powerful, the rich and powerful don't like it, they freak out, and they try to use weapons like the Wall Street Journal to get revenge.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]