Awkward Alert! Brian Williams Fails to Report on His New Comcast Colleague's Conflict of Interest

Normally the announcement that a government official is leaving a post to join a company they had oversight of would invoke cries of crony capitalism from the likes of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, but when that person is joining your company it makes for quite the awkward news brief. Williams, to date, has expressed no outrage at the fact that FCC commissioner Meredith Baker is leaving that job for a gig as senior vice president of governmental affairs at Comcast/NBC Universal, even though just four short months ago she voted to approve the merger of those two companies.

This bit of conflict of interest news was not lost on Fox News' Bret Baier, who reported the story on the May 12 edition of Special Report and Jon Stewart who joked about it on Monday's Daily Show. Since Brian Williams is a self-proclaimed fan of Stewart, going as far to praise him as "indispensable," it has to be asked if he felt a tinge of angst when watching his comedic hero on Monday night.

(video and transcript after the jump)

Interestingly, William's competitors at ABC and CBS, according to a Nexis search during the month of May, have also ignored the Baker story.

The following is an excerpt from the May 16, Daily Show where Stewart mocks the Baker move.

(Begin clip from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Federal regulators today approved the purchase by Comcast of a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric. This merger will create a $30 billion media company with cable, broadcast, internet, motion picture and theme park components.

(End clip)

JON STEWART: Oh thank God! Now if I have my cable go out and I go to a theme park and choke on a giant fried turkey leg right before I find out my favorite show got canceled I only have to call one number to complain. This monopoly is awesome! I don't know why this doesn't happen more often. Oh right, because it's illegal. Which is why it had to be approved by the FCC. That's right, the same people who freak out when boobs pop out at the Super Bowl or keep me from saying things like (beep) hammer or (beep) nuggets. In fact they're actually quite competent. If I cover my mouth even and just say like toe (beep) no one even knows but they will get it and they will bleep it. But part of the FCC's job is also making sure that the media companies don't get too powerful or else they might start doing stuff like trademarking the names of heroic military units for their own financial gain. Those (beep) nuggets! Or, you know, stuff like this.

(Begin clip)

JOSH SILVER, FREE PRESS PRESIDENT & CEO: The merger would dramatically increase Comcast's incentive and ability to raise prices, block competitive entry, force bundles on other cable systems and discriminate in carriage of competing programming. For consumers this would spell even higher prices.

(End clip)


STEWART: Even higher prices for TV! So what? I only pay $150 a month but I get 80 different versions of the Style Channel even though, even though that's all there is on ever. Except of course Monday through Thursday at 11:00pm on Comedy Central where TV funny man Jon Stewart puts his outrageous take on the night's news. Tonight's episode: jerk-off jokes about bin Laden. So how did this deal happen? Well, the FCC's five-member regulatory board works kind of like the Supreme Court without the robes or the little hammers and not as many people die while in office. They voted 4-to-1 to approve the merger thanks in part to the support of FCC commissioner Meredith Baker.

(Begin CNN clip)

OFF-SCREEN VOICE: Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker voted for the deal and has since been outspoken complaining that the FCC's merger review process is cumbersome and takes too long.

(End clip)

STEWART: Good for you, madam commissioner. Cutting through the red tape to save time and money for the American taxpayer. Finally someone in government who is not just looking out for number one. I see big things for Meredith Baker.

(Begin Fox News clip)

BRET BAIER: Federal communications commissioner Meredith Baker announced she's resigning next month to become Comcast/NBC Universal's senior vice president of governmental affairs.

(End clip)

(Boos from Daily Show audience)

STEWART: Well, that was fast. I'll be right back.  

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.