Local TV news stations in Georgia have virtually ignored new details on Republican Sen. David Perdue’s pandemic stock trading scandal. Since The Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported new developments on November 25, only two of the dozens of news stations in Georgia have covered them.
Perdue, who is slated for a runoff election against Democrat Jon Ossoff in January, was one of several senators whose stock trades in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic came under scrutiny for possibly violating insider trading laws. But on November 25, new details about his transactions came to light, focusing on his trading of Cardlytics stocks -- a company where he formerly served on the board and which gave him an unusual stocks deal when he left the board after being elected in 2014.
The Associated Press, citing congressional disclosures, reported that “on Jan. 23, as word spread through Congress that the coronavirus posed a major economic and public health threat, Perdue sold off $1 million to $5 million in Cardlytics stock at $86 a share before it plunged.” He then purchased some of it back after it dropped further, and as of November 24 the company’s stock was worth $121 per share. According to legal experts cited by the AP, “the timing of his sale, the fact that he quickly bought Cardlytics stock back when it had lost two-thirds of its market value and his close ties to company officials all warrant scrutiny.”
The New York Times article went into further detail, reporting that “the Cardlytics transactions drew the attention this spring of investigators at the Justice Department, who were undertaking a broad review of the senator’s prolific trading around the outset of the coronavirus pandemic for possible evidence of insider trading.” The report continued: “Investigators found that Cardlytics’ chief executive at the time, Scott Grimes, sent Mr. Perdue a personal email two days before the senator’s stock sale that made a vague mention of ‘upcoming changes.’ The timing of the message prompted additional scrutiny from investigators in both Washington and Atlanta,” though Perdue’s legal team said the timing was coincidental. According to the Times, “F.B.I. agents in Washington spoke with Mr. Perdue in June” and his lawyers “turned over hundreds of pages of information, including the emails with Mr. Grimes, in response to a subpoena from a grand jury.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered the Times’ report and explained how it contradicted Perdue’s repeated public claims that he doesn’t personally direct his stock trades:
U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign has said for months that he had a hands-off approach to his stock portfolio. However, a report from The New York Times about a federal investigation into Perdue’s trades during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic shows he did have some input on trades made on his behalf.
But the Times’ passage also adds a new wrinkle to what the senator told his constituents and media organizations about those trades — that he did not control how his portfolio is managed.
“In the last five years, I’ve had outside professionals that manage my personal affairs,” Perdue said during a March interview with Nexstar Media Group. “I don’t deal with it on a day-to-day basis. I think if you look through that period of time, you will find purchases and sales just like you would last year this time or any other time.”
His spokeswoman, Cherie Gillan, in April told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Since coming to the U.S. Senate in 2015, Sen. Perdue has always had an outside adviser managing his personal finances, and he is not involved in day-to-day decisions.”
Judd Legum, who writes the Popular Information newsletter, found additional examples of Perdue’s representatives claiming he had no involvement in his stock trades.
But local TV news consumers in Georgia aren’t learning about any of this. In the five days since the AP, The New York Times, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported these new details on Perdue’s stock trading, a transcript search revealed that only two TV news stations in any of Georgia’s media markets have covered the story: Fox-affiliated WGXA in Macon and ABC-affiliated WJCL in Savannah, just one time each.
Dozens of TV news stations in and around Georgia have failed to report on this story at all, even in the Atlanta media market.
Georgia TV news stations did a better job, for the most part, of covering the Senate stock trading scandals back in May when the FBI became involved in investigating a different Republican senator. But amid new reporting detailing the FBI’s investigation of Perdue, the story has been largely ignored on Georgia’s local TV news as he heads into a runoff election.
Media Matters searched the Kinetiq video database in all television markets that broadcast in Georgia for any of the terms “stock,” “stocks,” “Grimes,” “million,” “securities exchange commission,” “SEC,” and “Cardlytics” within proximity of “Perdue” between November 25, when The Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the latest Perdue news on his stock trading, and November 30.
We reviewed search results for local news reports from affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co. mentioning Perdue's stock trades. We included segments in which these stock trades were the stated topic of coverage.
We did not include reports from nationally syndicated news programs or mentions within teasers for upcoming segments about Perdue's stock trading.