NBC's Nightly News ignored Lay's ties to BushJuly 7, 2006 10:09 AM EDT ››› BEN FISHEL
Reporting on the death of former Enron Corp. founder and chairman Kenneth Lay, on the July 5 edition of NBC's Nightly News, correspondent Don Teague made no mention of Lay's connection to President Bush. In contrast, on the July 5 edition of ABC's World News Tonight, ABC News anchor and correspondent Diane Sawyer noted that Lay contributed "more than half a million dollars to his friend George W. Bush's presidential campaign." Similarly, CBS News anchor Harry Smith noted on that evening's edition of the CBS Evening News that Lay "became a friend of the powerful and one of the biggest donors to then-Texas Governor George Bush, who called him 'Kenny boy.' "
As Media Matters for America has noted, NBC is certainly not the first media outlet to ignore the relationship. Others have as well, complicit in Bush's efforts to distance himself from Lay since the collapse of Enron. But documented correspondence between the two men serves as evidence of their "chummy" relationship.
Lay, who reportedly died of a heart attack on July 5, was awaiting sentencing after being convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges related to Enron's collapse.
From the July 5 edition of the NBC's Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): In other news now, it was stunning news when it arrived this morning: the sudden death of the founder of Enron, Ken Lay. He was vacationing in Aspen, Colorado. Tonight, the medical examiner says Lay died of a massive heart attack. He was awaiting sentencing just months from now for his role in the collapse of that company, the second largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Our report tonight, from NBC's Don Teague.
TEAGUE: It was the last Independence Day Kenneth Lay would have spent as a free man. The Enron founder and his family were vacationing at his Colorado home when Lay suffered a massive heart attack. He died early this morning.
STEPHEN WENDE (Lay's pastor): He's been under tremendous stress. His faith has held him up. His family and friends have held him up.
TEAGUE: Lay and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling face sentencing this fall for numerous fraud and conspiracy convictions related to Enron's collapse. He last spoke publicly after his conviction just six weeks ago.
LAY [clip]: Despite what happened today, I am still a very blessed man.
TEAGUE: The Enron bankruptcy cost thousands of employees their jobs and retirement accounts. Investors in the company lost billions.
SCOTT COHN (CNBC senior correspondent): The jury determined that Ken Lay lied about the health of his company and should be held to account.
TEAGUE: At Enron's peak, Ken Lay was an American success story. In his death, journalist Bethany McLean says he may be remembered as an example of corporate greed.
McLEAN (co-author, The Smartest Guys in the Room): Mention Ken Lay to anybody today, and they say, "Enron: corporate corruption, fraud, the era of excess."
TEAGUE: During the trial, Lay claimed his personal fortune was gone. But in filings just last week, prosecutors said his assets total nearly $8 million, including this luxury condo here in Houston. Prosecutors today aren't commenting on Lay's death and his family asked that their privacy be respected. Meanwhile, former Enron employees are left stunned.
"... out of respect for the family, we will release further details at a later time."
CONNIE CASTILLO (Former Enron Employee): No matter how bad or whatever he did, he loved his family. And that was pretty clear.
TEAGUE: An unexpected end to what, for many, was already a tragic story. Don Teague, NBC News, Houston.
From the July 5 edition of ABC's World News Tonight:
SAWYER: Few people remember that Kenneth Lee Lay grew up in rural Missouri, in a house without indoor plumbing -- plowed fields as a child to make money. His parents knew education would be their son's ticket out of poverty. With a Ph.D. in economics, he vaulted up the corporate ladder of some of the biggest energy companies in the United States and, in 1985, took over what would become Enron -- under his stewardship, the seventh-largest company in the country. There was prestige, respect, wealth. And he gave to charity and politics -- more than a half a million dollars to his friend George W. Bush's presidential campaign. But by 2001, Ken Lay's life had entered a kind of morality play.
From the July 5 edition of the CBS Evening News:
SMITH: Lay turned a sleepy natural gas pipeline group into a model of new age capitalism. Enron became a darling of Wall Street and, at its peak, turned a $100 billion profit.
Along the way, Lay became a friend of the powerful and one of the biggest donors to then-Texas Governor George Bush, who called him "Kenny boy." But as the company collapsed into bankruptcy, Enron executives lied to investors about the company's health, even as they themselves were selling off Enron stock.