On the eve of Democrats taking control of Congress, ABC and NBC used home improvement chain CEO Robert Nardelli’s resignation as a springboard to complain about “golden parachutes” for failed executives and push liberal criticisms about corporate executive pay.
“We’re going to take ‘A Closer Look’ tonight at the soaring salaries of CEOs. What they earn on the job and what they earn to leave a job,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson promised the audience of the January 3 “World News,” as onscreen graphics showed suited businessmen floating downward wearing golden parachutes.
Nardelli will “get a severance package worth $210 million,” which “one influential congressman says” shows that “CEO compensation appears to be out of control,” Gibson noted, referring to a criticism by incoming House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Gibson’s report failed to include any spokesman for the Atlanta-based company, although he featured three critics of the company, including Rich Ferlauto of the AFSCME labor union and UC Berkeley law professor Jesse Fried, the author of “Pay Without Performance.”
On rival NBC’s “Nightly News,” anchor Brian Williams similarly complained about Nardelli’s “golden parachute,” closing a brief news item with a quote by Frank that Home Depot’s board is “totally out of touch.”
Yet both Gibson and Williams ignored how Frank, in a January 3 speech at the National Press Club, “pledged to make wage inquality [sic] among U.S. workers a theme of hearings and committee business over the next two years,” as MarketWatch.com  reported.
Additionally, neither anchor so much as hinted at Frank’s persistently liberal voting record – a 4-percent lifetime ranking by the American Conservative Union – nor his poor standing with business organizations.
For example, for the 2005 legislative year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  found Frank in agreement with its positions a mere 33 percent of the time, while he disagreed substantially more with the National Federation of Independent Business , where he scored 14 percent during the two years of the 109th Congress.
What’s more, as Washington Post business columnist Allan Sloan  noted in the January 4 paper, Nardelli’s severance package is not a reward for failure but a contractual obligation from six years earlier, a point that neither Gibson nor Williams made clear to their viewers.
“The problem isn’t what Nardelli’s getting to leave Home Depot. It’s what he got to join the company when he signed his employment contract on Dec. 4, 2000,” wrote Sloan in the December 4 Washington Post.