CBS analyst Mellody Hobson, whose husband George Lucas is worth $7.3 billion, appeared on This Morning to slam excessive salaries for corporate bosses. Discussing income inequality and Barack Obama's planned discussion at the State of the Union, Hobson lashed out, "If you look today, the typical CEO makes 354 times more than the typical worker in his or her company, mostly his because there are so few women running companies." [MP3 audio here.] (How much more does the male Lucas make than the average worker?)
She continued, "If you look back to 1980, that difference was just 42 times. So it's been that kind of income inequality that has started a lot of backlash and chatter..." Co-host Norah O'Donnell introduced the segment by highlighting a hyperbolic letter to the Wall Street Journal by CEO Tom Perkins comparing the treatment of the wealthy to Jews during the Holocaust. O'Donnell promoted, "[President Obama] calls [income inequality] one of the defining challenges of our time. How do you think that will be received by people in the business community?"
In his over-the-top letter, Perkins connected, "I would call attention to the parallels to the fascist Nazi Germany to the war on its one percent, namely its Jews, to the Progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"
Obviously the comparison is extremely inappropriate, but when's the last time CBS deemed a letter to the editor worthy of network attention?
Hobson cheered Obama's efforts: "Well, one, I've heard the President directly speak on these issues. I heard him right before Thanksgiving firsthand talk about this issue of the middle class.... Additionally what I would call it is positive populism."
According to Hobson, CEOs need to have "thicker skin" and not complain so much. While talking about such unfairness, the CBS analyst didn't mention that her husband sold Lucasfilm last year for $4 billion.
Hobson doesn't just appear on television to promote the President, she also donates her own money. In 2012, she was a bundler for the Democrat, putting together $131, 200 for Obama. In 2008, she donated $28, 500.
How close is the network news analyst and the President? Obama said this about her at a White House event in November of 2013:
BARACK OBAMA: Mellody was being very modest when she said she had a front-row seat. Mellody was one of my earliest supporters back when nobody could pronounce my name. And her and John Rogers at Arial Capital helped to co-chair some of my first fundraisers. And they’d have to drag some straggly group in, kicking and screaming, and write a check and listen to this young senator who had a lot of ideas but not necessarily any realistic prospects to win. And she went through a lot of ups and downs with me and my career and is just a great, great friend. So I want to thank her publicly for all the support that she’s given us.
A transcript of the January 27 segment, which aired at 8:16am ET, is below:
NORAH O'DONNELL: This morning, a billionaire and Silicon Valley pioneer is defending some controversial comments. His target? Progressives. Tom Perkins warns of a dangerous drift in American thinking from the left. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Perkins writes, "I would call attention to the parallels to the fascist Nazi Germany to the war on its one percent, namely its Jews, to the Progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"
CHARLIE ROSE: The venture capital firm he found quickly company distanced itself on Twitter, Saturday. The company said, quote, "Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the Wall Street Journal and do not agree. CBS News contributor and analyst Mellody Hobson is in los Angeles. Mellody, Good morning.
MELLODY HOBSON: Good morning.
ROSE: I mean, it seems to me that it's a dangerous place to take one specific man and try to expand that into other business leaders, don't you agree?
HOBSON: Well, there's been some rhetoric like this before. Steve Schwarzman had said some things that equated some issues around taxation with the Holocaust, completely inappropriate, not right. I would encourage Mr. Perkins to study his history because the Holocaust had nothing to do with economics. It had to do with ethnic cleansing. He should look to the French and Russian revolution where the masses tried to overthrow the rich but completely inappropriate.
GAYLE KING: So what's behind all the animosity, do you think? Why is this coming up in this way?
HOBSON: I think there's an issue around corporate leaders in this country being like celebrities. There's a lot of attention on them. The internet age has put them front and center and the big issue has been their compensation and the difference between what they make and the rank-and-file-worker. If you look today, the typical CEO makes 354 times more than the typical worker in his or her company, mostly his because there are so few women running companies. And yet if you look back to 1980, that difference was just 42 times. So it's been that kind of income inequality that has started a lot of backlash and chatter and I think put CEOs in the hot seat. But they make bigger bucks for a reason and they have to have thicker skin around these issues.
O'DONNELL: Mellody, we know that the President in his State of the Union address tomorrow night is going to address the issue of income inequality. He calls it one of the defining challenges of our time. How do you think that will be received by people in the business community, and on the other side for the middle class who thinks this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed not only by business leaders but by the government?
HOBSON: Well, one, I've heard the President directly speak on these issues. I heard him right before Thanksgiving firsthand talk about this issue of the middle class and making sure not only we shore it up but that we continue to grow it, because it is essential to the American narrative as well as our competitiveness around the world. Additionally what I would call it is positive populism. That's what he's talking about. He's looking at some of these issues. The business community, I think, will be more or less neutral with how they receive this. What they hate is uncertainty. When they don't know what's going to happen to them, that's when they get nervous.
KING: All right. Mellody Hobson, we thank you.