Washington Post Glows: 'Left-leaning' PR Firm Working Toward 'Progressive' Agenda
With Al Goreâs global-warming-hysteria âLive Earthâ concerts looming, the May 31 issue of The Washington Post reflected upon a similar effort in the late 1970s. In 1979, David Fenton organized an event call âNo Nukes,â a concert that protested the use of nuclear energy.
In the story âPutting the Progressive in PRâ by Linton Weeks, the Post depicted Fenton, now head of Fenton Communications, as an entrepreneurial Mahatma Gandhi figure â furthering causes deemed pure and wholesome by the Post, from the protection of swordfish to abolishing the death penalty. Weeks described Fentonâs PR firm as âleft-leaning.â Thatâs an understatement to say the least.
Over the years, Fenton Communications clients have included many notoriously liberal institutions such as MoveOn.org, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and George Soros. That list of names alone suggests a little more than âleft-leaning.â But even Fenton saw things differently.
ââLeftâ is a pejorative term,â Fenton told the Post. âPeople I hang with use the word âprogressive.ââ
In 1996, Fenton was reported to be one of the architects of the discredited Alar pesticide scare, which he marketed to womenâs magazines like Redbook and Womanâs Day. The Post didnât question those exploits.
The 1,856-word story was presented as one manâs battle against nuclear power â from his âNo Nukesâ concert efforts to warnings of a potentially âghastly scenario of a hazardous-waste spill in a densely populated urban area.â Yet nowhere in the story was a pro-nuclear point of view presented. Nor was any point of view that showed another side to any of Fentonâs causes.
But this isnât the way the Post always does profiles.
In April 2005, the Postâs Caroline E. Mayer and Amy Joyce profiled another public affairs organizationâs founder â the difference was that this organization advocated a free-market agenda. The Center for Consumer Freedomâs Executive Director and Berman & Co. President, Richard Berman, wasnât handled with kid gloves as Fenton was.
The Post cited several left-wing advocacy groups that vilified Bermanâs efforts. Liberal activist groups, from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, described edgy tactics employed by Bermanâs nonprofit organization.
âIâm troubled by this message and this industry that sells unhealthy things and are so willing to sacrifice the health of consumers,â said Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, on Bermanâs efforts to defend certain sectors of the food, beverage and tobacco industries.
The story also raised questions about the Center for Consumer Freedomâs tax-exempt status. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accused Berman of using it to funnel money to himself and his company, asserting the organizationâs activities are ânot remotely charitable.â
But Fenton was treated much differently by the Post. Fentonâs accomplishments, from the beginning of his involvement with left-wing causes in the 1960s to his promotion of a nuclear-free energy policy, were glorified by Weeksâ story.
Fentonâs past tactics, including Web videos attacking Fox News and a television commercial against efforts to privatize Social Security, were never questioned by the Post, unlike the tactics employed by Berman.
âThereâs no division between his [Fentonâs] life and his work,â beamed Arianna Huffington, founder of the left-of-center Web site, The Huffington Post, to The Washington Post. âThe work that he does is exactly what he is passionate about.â