The Perils Of Corporate Media: MSNBC Makes Few Mentions Of Tax Avoidance By Parent Company GE

Last week, the New York Times ran an explosive front-page story revealing how General Electric (GE), despite making over $14 billion in profits in 2010, paid absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes. It even received a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

ThinkProgress provided substantial coverage of the story, offering further analysis and insight into the firm’s behavior:

Despite Paying No Income Taxes, GE CEO Lauded His Company’s Patriotism In 2009 West Point Speech [3/25/11]

Sen. Johnson’s Reaction To General Electric Paying No Taxes: Cut The Corporate Tax Rate [3/25/11]

After Paying Zero Income Taxes, GE Plans To Ask Its Union Workers To Make Wage And Benefits Concessions [3/28/11]

Reviewing the television coverage of GE’s tax avoidance, ThinkProgress found that the story was covered 23 times by Fox News between March 25 and March 28. Certainly, with an anti-Obama axe to grind, it is not surprising that the network chose to excoriate a company that is considered close to the Obama administration and whose CEO is the head of an outside White House jobs panel.


Yet, as FAIR’s Peter Hart points out, this blockbuster story received scant coverage on another major cable news outlet: MSNBC. A review of MSNBC coverage finds that, over the same three-day period, the General Electric story received relatively little mention. It was only mentioned three times on MSNBC — one of these mentions was by host Rachel Maddow during a conversation with the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson and another mention was made by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a guest on the network.

To his credit, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell extensively covered GE’s tax dodging. O’Donnell ran a whole segment about the company on his show last Friday night, saying that in a fair world the network’s parent company would pay the most taxes, because it’s the country’s biggest corporation. Watch it:

O’Donnell went on to actually dissect GE’s tax filing on air, providing a useful service to viewers who may be amazed that the tax code allows a mega corporation like GE to avoid paying federal corporate income taxes.

The wider failure of MSNBC to report about GE’s tax avoidance provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-reliance on corporate conglomerates to provide news to the American people. And it also highlights the importance of not-for-profit media and public media — like the public broadcasting conservatives are trying to defund.


General Electric’s tax avoidance was mentioned this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. The hosts joked that Comcast was actually MSNBC’s parent company and claimed that it paid a 40 percent tax rate. “You are a good corporate citizen now, Willie Geist!” joked Erin Burnett.