It's a left-winger's dream: evil media corporation spikes critical investigative TV report on its own U.S. operations. In left-wing circles, every media outlet's independence is automatically compromised by the capitalist interests of its owners, and the highest journalistic calling is to destroy your own employer's bottom line.
So where were the lefties when ABC News spiked its investigative report on Disney's business practices, specifically the charge of laxity in hiring employees with records as Peeping Toms, exhibitionists, and child molesters? Brian Ross, one of TV's finest and fairest investigative reporters, was on the case for weeks, doing interviews and having a camera crew do extensive shooting in Florida. Ross even found additional evidence. But ABC News President David Westin killed the story, claiming ridiculously that it had nothing to do with Disney's self-defense.
Ross's report was based on a new book, titled "Disney, The Mouse Betrayed: Greed, Corruption and Children at Risk," by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer. The authors and their publisher (Regnery) delayed release of the book and promised to accommodate ABC's wish for an exclusive, and what a great exclusive it would have been.
The Schweizers had not assembled some cut-and-paste, fly-by-night, anonymously-sourced hatchet job. The book is a startling expose, a product of two years of journalistic labor that names names, reprints internal documents, interviews scores of actual Disney employees and victims of Disney malfeasance. For the lefties, the Schweizers cover not just Disney's appalling record on crime. There's sexual harassment, child labor violations, and how management allows Disney World to have twice the injury rate than the amusement park average - because handling the injury lawyers is cheaper than fixing the problem.
So now that the scoop is out, where are the other networks? It's understandable that ABC doesn't want to disembowel its own parent company's image. But why wouldn't its competitors jump at the chance? Smell the three-alarm soccer-mom-scaring appeal: take your kids to Disney World, and get them flashed by exhibitionists who Disney won't fire? Or peeped on in changing rooms or molested by Disney employees that Disney failed to perform background checks on?
At CBS, "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt claims he's toying with the idea for some eventual date. There's no signs of life at NBC, which baldly promoted Disney CEO Michael Eisner's book in a two-part interview on the "Today" show. CNN's probably still pledged to silence after all the networks sang hosannas over Ted Turner's billion-dollar pledge to the United Nations. They're all living up to the left-wing archetype of media conglomerates, fat, happy, and unchallenged by journalistic scrutiny. What kind of strange gentleman's agreement do these networks have?
The left-wing media critics are betraying their own hypocrisy. If a network owner manufactures products for defense contractors and nuclear power plants, it's worth maligning. But if instead the owner is only a polluter of minds, with its films, TV programs, and rap records, then the grand investigators are nowhere to be found. They just wouldn't want to hurt a "champion of free expression."
Disney's strangely reckless business practices are a shocking new story. Unfortunately, Disney's eroded image as a provider of uplifting family entertainment is not, but the Schweizers effectively catalog the many ways in which Disney under Michael Eisner has cast all considerations about a family-friendly image out the window. Indeed, he's sent a clear and consistent signal he hopes Uncle Walt spins like a top in his grave.
Some of Eisner's moves might be explained as a image-be-damned search for profits, like Disney's partnership in the pay-per-view programs of "Viewer's Choice," which quickly spun off "Hot Choice," with new porn titles by smut queens like Marilyn Chambers. But many of the most offensive products put out by Disney acquisitions like Miramax Films and Hollywood Records make no money.
Take for example, one of the Schweizers' favorites: a band appropriately named Human Waste Project sings about the Virgin Mary (and since they're already aspiring to Hell, they also call her a "whore") eagerly providing oral sex. In the same religion-bashing vein, you've got the Rome-bashing duo of ABC's "Nothing Sacred" and the Miramax film "Priest," both anti-Catholic business disasters.
All this creative destruction of traditional values must warm left-wing hearts, but the left-wing media activists might also stay quiet because Eisner is so generous with the titans of the Democratic Party, especially Bill Clinton. If they and the networks have seen the latest polls, with the nation's collapsing values listed as the number one voter concern, you could understand why they're whistling past this new book, which does for Disney's reputation what Ken Starr's report did for Bill Clinton's.