"Tidal Wave of Inaccurate Reporting Follows GOP’s Latest Solyndra Email Release"
by Shauna Theel, in a Media Matters cross-post
Reporting on emails selectively released by House Republicans, numerous media outlets falsely claimed the documents show Obama donor George Kaiser — whose family foundation invested in Solyndra — discussing Solyndra’s federal loan with the White House, with Fox going even further to claim “quid pro quo.” In fact, the emails occurred after Solyndra had already received the loan guarantee and do not indicate that Kaiser discussed the loan with the White House.
Emails Do Not Show Political Influence In $535m Loan Guarantee
Wall Street Journal: Emails “Don’t Offer Evidence” Supporting Claim “That Politics Influenced” Granting Of Loan Guarantee. The Wall Street Journal reported:
A top Obama fund-raiser with ties to Solyndra LLC asked the president to crack down on Chinese competitors of the solar-panel maker but avoided lobbying directly for the company, newly released emails show.
George Kaiser’s family foundation owned a 36% stake in Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy in September and closed operations.
The emails released by House lawmakers offered the first glimpse of Mr. Kaiser’s actions that might have helped Solyndra. But they don’t offer evidence that would support Republican allegations that politics influenced the Department of Energy’s decision to give Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee. [Wall Street Journal, 11/10/11]
CNN’s John King: “I Want To Make Clear To Our Viewers These Are 2010 Documents.” Reporting on the newly released documents, CNN’s John King stated: “I want to make clear to our viewers these are 2010 documents. The loan was approved before that. These are after the loan.” During the program, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) declined to say that the emails contained “a smoking gun.” [CNN, John King USA, 9/11/11]
Bush Administration Initiated Solyndra Loan Guarantee. At a September congressional hearing, former DOE official Jonathan Silver testified that the Bush administration’s DOE selected 16 projects, including Solyndra, from 143 submissions to move forward in the loan guarantee process. During the final days of the Bush administration, the DOE loan guarantee credit committee, consisting of career officials, said that although the Solyndra project “appears to have merit,” the committee needed more information. The Bush administration developed a schedule for due diligence on the Solyndra project and in March 2009, the same credit committee of career officials recommended approval of the application. [Media Matters, 9/19/11]
Fox Falsely Claims Emails Occurred “Prior To” Loan Guarantee
Neil Cavuto: Emails Show Kaiser “Was Working … With The White House To Secure” The Loan. On his Fox Business show, Neil Cavuto falsely claimed that the emails showed “the top investor in the solar company was working quite hard with the White House to secure the ill-fated half billion dollar loan.” Fox News correspondent James Rosen, who subsequently delivered a report on the story, did not clarify that the events described in the emails occurred after the Department of Energy had already given Solyndra the loan guarantee. [Fox Business, Cavuto, 11/9/11]
Sean Hannity: Emails Show Kaiser Got “Access To The White House Prior To Getting The Money.” From Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY: And now we see big bundlers, big donors to Obama, they did get the access to the White House prior to getting the money. Is it a kick back? Is it a quid pro quo? Is it the Chicago way? It is a bribe? What’s the accurate adjective here?
MICHELLE MALKIN: Smells like all of the above to me. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/9/11]
David Asman: Emails Show “Politcal Donors” Working To Get The “Half Billion Dollar Loan.” On his Fox Business show, David Asman falsely claimed, “Explosive new emails in the Solyndra scandal [are] exposing how political donors worked the White House to get the solar company its half billion dollar loan.” [Fox Business, America’s Nightly Scoreboard, 11/9/11]
Fox Ran 11 Segments Without Mentioning Key Fact. On November 9, Fox covered the emails in segments on Fox News’ Studio B with Shepard Smith, Special Report, The Fox Report with Shepard Smith, Hannity, and On The Record, and Fox Business’ The Willis Report, Cavuto and America’s Nightly Scoreboard. Not one of these segments reported that the emails occurred after DOE had already granted Solyndra the loan guarantee. On November 10, Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Happening Now, and America Live all covered the emails without mentioning this key fact. [Fox News & Fox Business, 11/9/11-11/10/11]
CNN, NPR, ABC Fail To Report Emails Occurred After Loan
NPR Reported Claim That Emails Show Kaiser “Used His Influence At The White House To Make The Loan Happen.” NPR’s Morning Edition reported that “Republicans say the emails show an Obama campaign bundler used his influence at the White House to make the loan happen.” The NPR report never made it clear that the emails occurred after the loan guarantee was granted, and did not show Kaiser attempting to use political influence to secure the $535 million loan guarantee. NPR’s original headline “incorrectly said that a Solyndra supporter pushed the White House for loans,” according to a correction posted with the report. [NPR, Morning Edition, 11/10/11]
ABC Reported Claim That Emails Show Solyndra “Us[ing] Political Influence To Secure Its Federal Loan.” ABC News uncritically stated in an online report that Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) say the emails “rebut the repeated assurances from the White House that Solyndra did not attempt to use political influence to secure its federal loan, or to get the loan restructured when the company started to falter.” ABC never made it clear that the emails occurred after the loan guarantee was granted, and that they did not show Solyndra using political influence to secure the $535 million loan guarantee. [ABCNews.com, 11/9/11]
CNN.com Falsely Reports Solyndra Received A Loan “Last Year.” CNN.com falsely reported that Solyndra received the loan guarantee “last year,” and suggested that an email shows a George Kaiser associate asking his colleague to “get” the $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The DOE loan guarantee was offered to Solyndra on a conditional basis in March 2009 and finalized in September 2009, not “last year.” Mitchell’s email apparently referred to a second loan guarantee that Solyndra sought and did not receive. At no point did the CNN.com report explain that the events described in the emails took place after the loan guarantee was finalized. [CNN.com, 11/9/11]
Emails Don’t Indicate That Kaiser Discussed Loan With White House
NY Times: Email “Does Not Indicate Discussion Of A Loan.” The New York Times reported:
The committee is seeking to show that Mr. Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil billionaire, pulled strings at the White House to get the original loan guarantee. The e-mails include one from Mr. Kaiser to a subordinate, dated six months after the loan was finalized, in which he writes that “a couple of weeks ago” he and the executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a charitable institution, “were visiting with a group of Administration folks in DC who are in charge of the Stimulus process (White House, not DOE) and Solyndra came up.”
Mr. Kaiser said that “every one of them responded simultaneously about their thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children.” But the e-mail does not indicate discussion of a loan.
And the committee Democrats said that Mr. Kaiser was interviewed by the committee staff this week and that he said he had avoided any lobbying. In fact, they said, he sat next to Mr. Obama at a fund-raising dinner on Oct. 22, 2010, in Las Vegas for two hours, and talked about the problem of Chinese competition in solar panels, but did not mention Solyndra.
In one of the e-mails released by the Republicans, Mr. Kaiser argued against intervening at the White House to help Solyndra with a subordinate at his venture capital firm, Argonaut, which had invested money from the George Kaiser Family Foundation into Solyndra. “I am concerned that DOE/Chu would resent the intervention and your problem would get more difficult,” he wrote. The reference was to the secretary of energy, Steven Chu. [New York Times, 11/9/11]
Emails: Kaiser “Never Mentioned Solyndra” In Dinner With Obama. Kaiser repeatedly said in the emails he “never mentioned Solyndra directly” during a two hour dinner when he was seated next to President Obama. Kaiser did raise the impact of Chinese subsidies on “US solar and wind manufacturers and [said] that – even though I strongly believe in free trade – I thought that a more aggressive trade policy with the Chinese was essential.” [Emails from Kaiser, 10/23/10, 10/29/10, via Democrats on House Energy and Commerce Committee]
Emails: Kaiser Argued Against Approaching White House Regarding Solyndra. In an October 2010 email, Kaiser argued against approaching the White House about a desire to change the terms of the Solyndra loan:
I question the assumption that WH [White House] is the path pursue when both of your issues are with DOE. I doubt whether [Senior Obama adviser Pete] Rouse [or energy and climate adviser Carol] Browner would intervene and, if they did, I am concerned that DOE [or Secretary of Energy Steven] Chu would resent the intervention and your problem could get more difficult. I would see an appeal as only a resort and, even then, questionable. We need to discuss. [Email from Kaiser, 10/06/10, via Democrats on House Energy and Commerce Committee]
Reports Falsely Claim Emails Show That Kaiser Discussed “Solyndra Loan” With White House
AP: Kaiser “Discussed Solar Loan With White House.” The Associated Press published an article titled “Obama donor discussed solar loan with White House.” [Associated Press, 11/9/11, via MSNBC.com]
Reuters: Emails Show Kaiser And “White House Discussed Solyndra Loan.” Reuters published an article titled “Investor, White House discussed Solyndra loan: emails.” [Reuters, 11/9/11]
Fox News Correspondent Repeatedly Claimed Emails Show Kaiser Discussing The Loan. Fox News Chief Washington correspondent James Rosen repeatedly reported that the emails show Kaiser discussing the Solyndra loan with the White House. From a report on America’s Nightly Scoreboard:
ROSEN: The Kaiser Family Foundation told Fox News in a statement today, quote, “George Kaiser had no discussions with the government regarding the loan to Solyndra.” That does not appear to be the case based on these emails. [Fox Business, America’s Nightly Scoreboard, 11/9/11]
From a report on The Fox Report with Shepard Smith:
ROSEN: The Kaiser Family Foundation maintains today, inexplicably, quote, George Kaiser had no discussions with the government regarding the loan to Solyndra, unquote. [Fox News, The Fox Report, 11/9/11]
From a report on Special Report with Bret Baier:
ROSEN: And a Kaiser Family Foundation spokesman agreed [with White House spokesman Jay Carney], telling Fox News today, quote George Kaiser had no discussions with the government regarding the loan to Solyndra. But the emails tell a different story. [Fox News, Special Report, 11/9/11]
This piece was originally published at Media Matters for America.