Ed Schultz Calls AOL's Huffington Post Purchase 'A Big F-ing Deal'

MSNBC's Ed Schultz began his show Monday railing against American corporations sitting on trillions of dollars of cash while refusing to exhibit "economic patriotism" by using those funds to add to their payrolls.

In a demonstration of classic liberal hypocrisy, the host of the "Ed Show" finished his program calling AOL's purchase of the Huffington Post "a big f-in deal" while not once asking the website's editor Roy Sekoff if any new jobs would be created with the $315 million the owners are receiving or if all the writers would finally be paid for their contributions (videos follow with transcripts and commentary):

ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Finally tonight, AOL is doing a -- what Joe Biden would say a big deal with "Huffington Post." The struggling media company will pay 300 million in cash, 15 million in stock. And when the deal is finalized, the Post’s co-founder, Arianna Huffington, will be in charge of all of AOL’s editorial content, as part of the newly created Huffington Post Media Group. She will also have oversight of AOL’s editorial operations. That includes Mapquest, Moviefone, Pop Eater, and Tech Crunch.

As the "New York Times" reports, AOL is seeking to brand itself as a serious provider of content. And with 25 million monthly visitors, well, the "Huffington Post" can provide that opportunity. No doubt. AOL’s chief executive Tim Armstrong does the math. One plus one will equal 11. But to many, "Huffington Post" is more than just a website. It’s a progressive force. This morning, "Huffington Post" bloggers got a memo from Arianna Huffington and our next guest, Roy Sekoff, assuring them the team will continue to operate as it always has. Joining me now, as promised, is founding editor of "The Huffington Post," Roy Sekoff.

Roy, good to have you with us tonight. Have you talked to Joe Biden about this? Is this a big F’ing deal?

Hmmm. The website is going to continue to operate as it always has. You mean by not paying its bloggers?

Here's what CNET reported in September 2007:

As reported today in TechCrunch, the Huffington Post has just secured an additional $5 million in funding, for a total of $10 million, to continue developing one of the top blog destinations on the Internet. While it's unknown how the Post plans to invest the money, the co-founder of the company has made it clear that the writers at the site won't be seeing a dime.

Ken Lerer, who worked as an executive at Time-Warner before helping to launch the Huffington Post, explained to USA Today that the company has no plans to begin paying the bloggers at the Post. In his words, paying contributors is "not our financial model. We offer them visibility, promotion and distribution with a great company." It's certainly true that writing for the Huffington Post will provide greater visibility, promotional opportunities and generate greater distribution for their work, but do these benefits make up for the money they are not being paid? [...]

There's nothing wrong with volunteer journalism. Thousands of vital stories are written every day by "citizen journalists" and many of these stories would never get out if it weren't for the dedication of unpaid volunteers. The Internet not only allows people to self-publish their work, it provides an opportunity for groups of people to publish collectively. These projects are generally not profitable and frequently can't pay anyone. While online advertising has come a long way in recent years, it is not uncommon for these sorts of projects to generate less than $100 a month.

On the other hand, the Huffington Post is clearly earning a significant amount of money from advertising and is well on its way toward becoming a profitable company. I understand that the company couldn't afford to pay its bloggers when the site first launched. I can even understand why it might not be possible today, but I find Lerer's commitment to never pay the bloggers at the Post disconcerting.

According to the website Mediative, this isn't going to change despite the owners of the Huffington Post having just struck serious paydirt:

Indeed, the Huffington Post’s home-grown content, for the most part, has been especially notable for its low cost to Huffington: low as in free. Although some actual paid journalists work for the organization, her blogger network is an amazing achievement; she’s persuaded untold numbers of people to write for nothing, to have their names on the page as compensation for their labor. Exploitive? Sure, in a way, but let’s also recognize the fact that people want to put their stuff on the site. No one writes for the New York Times op-ed page for the money; it’s for the platform to spread ideas.

And, based on the email Huffington sent to her bloggers, that’s the model she plans to continue. Here’s part of that email:

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month — and 250 million around the world — so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That’s the only real change you’ll notice — more people reading what you wrote.

It’s hard to imagine something that sends a more dismissive message.

So Huffington and the other principle investors just hit a huge vein of gold, but they offered no indication that they intend to pay their voluntary contributors or produce one new job with this $315 million.

For his part, Ed 'I'm Interested in the Common Man" Schultz never brought this up in his interview with Sekoff:

ROY SEKOFF, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": You nailed it. Biden has been the buzz word this weekend. It is a big F-ing deal, Ed.

SCHULTZ: All right. You know what? You’ve done a fabulous job over the years at "Huffington Post." And it’s just risen in power so fast as the place to go to for progressives and the blogster a little nervous. Will progressives still be able to count on "Huffington Post"? No major changes?

SEKOFF: Ed, listen. You know what this is like? This is like THE ED SHOW moving to 10:00.

SCHULTZ: I like it.

SEKOFF: It’s just more people seeing the stories. This is really a win, Ed, for people who care about journalism focusing on people, real people, and the impact that policies have on them. We are going to go in the same direction.

The way we’ve been talking about it, we’re getting off a very fast moving train and we’re getting on a supersonic jet. We’re heading in the same direction. We got the same people at the wheel. We’re just going to get there a lot faster.

SCHULTZ: Roy, doesn’t this kind of big corporate merger go pretty much against what "Huffington Post" has stood for a number of years now?

SEKOFF: Ed, you know what? I got to tell you. You quoted Tim Armstrong and he is the CEO. And he’s really dynamic. He really has a vision. And the great thing about this, we weren’t looking to sell. What happened was sort of like a Nora Efron movie, when Tim met Arianna -- they met each other and they started talking. And they saw that they had this shared vision.

And we are really not heading into this corporate mall. We’re heading into a place where we’re going to just be supercharged by AOL’s scale and their resources and their global reach. But the "Huffington Post" brand, as you say, will live on and, in fact, will now be overseeing all of the AOL content.

SCHULTZ: Editorial content; will it be more aggressive? Will it be more liberal? What about it?

SEKOFF: Ed, you know what? I think -- and you know this. We’ve talked about this before. I think when you try to label things too much, it can delegitimize. It is too easy to dismiss it. Ed, you know, he is on this side of the spectrum, so I don’t have to listen to him.

But, in fact, we’re talking about issues and you do, Ted -- Ed, all the time -- issues that are central to our democracy. I don’t think they fall into this easy left/right dichotomy. Afghanistan, for instance, getting out of Afghanistan -- They want to say that means you’re a lefty. Really? Joe Scarborough, Grover Norquist, George Will?

These are issues that are beyond left and right.

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

SEKOFF: That’s where our heart is. That’s where -- is it left or is it right to hold banks accountable? Is it left or is t right to say that jobs need to be in the forefront? So I don’t really think that.

The way we look at it is, Ed, facts don’t come with a little D or a little R next to them.

SCHULTZ: All right. Well, today one of those popular stories on "Huffington Post" was, of course, Christina Aguilera flubbing up the National Anthem. I mean, is the focus going to be just getting as many page views and clicks? Or is it going to be really a force for what’s good and what’s right for America?

SEKOFF: Ed, I got to say this: I reject that kind of it’s either this or it’s that. I mean, I consider myself and the friends that I have really passionate people who care about the world, care about making a difference. But we still like to talk about funny things. We still like to talk about who is going to win the Oscars. We still want to talk about who won the ball game.

I think you can do both. If we’re just this one narrow thing, all I’m going to do is talk about the debt ceiling, that’s going to be a very boring conversation. We can do both, Ed. We can have some fun. We can talk about funny things.

Don’t forget, we have 26 sections now, Ed. You know? We still are going to do the same things we’re doing. We’re still going to keep a laser focus on trying to do good journalism. And in fact, Ed, we’re going to expand that.

One of the great things about AOL is they have patch, their local -- hyper local initiative. It’s in 700 different towns. Think about what that can mean moving into 2012.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

SEKOFF: People, boots on the ground. Not people who fly around with the candidates in that little bubble, just talking about the horse race, who is ahead, who’s not. Let’s talk about the real issues. Let’s have some hyper local coverage, you know, telling us how it’s happening, how it’s playing. I think that’s really exciting for us, for journalism, and for the audience.

SCHULTZ: Roy Sekoff, congratulations no doubt in order. Great job, my friend.

Great job? But where are the jobs, Ed? Where's the "economic patriotism?"

I guess he forgot how he began his program less than an hour earlier:

SCHULTZ: But this is the story that has me fired up to start things off tonight: American business. Now, here they are, they’ve had a heck of a run. They’re sitting on $2 trillion and President Obama wants them to get in the game for the American worker. It sounds like the American thing to do.

The president went into the lion’s den over at the Chamber of Commerce today and delivered this message very clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA,PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time to invest in America. Today American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets and I know that many of you have told me that you’re waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand. And that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.

We’re in this together. But many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand. So, I just want to encourage you to get in the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: President Obama, I think, has done everything in his power to encourage American business to get off their wallets and invest in the American wage earner. Now, this White House has put at least 17, count them, 17 tax cuts on the table for small businesses across America. Nothing that President Obama does is ever good enough for the boys over at the Chamber.

Their president, Tom Donohue, always gives this lame excuse, quote, "The reason the companies are sitting on $2 trillion worth of cash is because of uncertainty."

Gosh, that’s a hell of a word. A very expensive word, too, isn’t it? Uncertainty.

Look, the stock market is on a roll. The Bush tax cuts are locked in for the next two years. And the people are starting to buy U.S.-made cars again.

Donohue and the suits over at the Chamber, I don’t think they have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to uncertainty.

But I’ll tell you what uncertainty is. It’s over 15 million jobless Americans that don’t know where they’re going to get their next paycheck. They don’t have any idea on how to cover the rent check at the end of the month that’s coming up, you know? That’s an obligation. That’s pressure.

And God forbid, one of them gets sick, you know? That’s uncertainty.

The fact is that the American big business doesn’t believe in the American worker is what drives me to do this show every night. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SCHULTZ: Your tax money went to bail out Wall Street, one of the big firms. And you know what they’re doing? They’re creating jobs in China.

Tell me about the economic patriotism that the Republicans bring forward in this country. We are seeing no economic patriotism whatsoever from the very companies that got taxpayer dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

SCHULTZ: The super rich in America haven’t been asked to sacrifice anything. Now it’s time for the people with the money to show some economic patriotism and create some jobs. This is why I keep pounding the table for economic patriotism, the race to the bottom line. That mentality, we’ve seen last over the last 30 years is now coming home to roost.

Well, Ed, what about a struggling media company spending $315 million dollars - apparently four times what some analysts think should have been the going rate based on current earnings - on a website that doesn't pay most of its contributors and has no intention to do so?

Exactly how does that improve the economy or create jobs?

In fact, Schultz didn't even ask Sekoff about this.

Not once.

I guess jobs and actually paying people for their hard work don't matter if you're aggressively spreading a liberal agenda throughout the land, huh Ed?

Maybe Schultz ought to ask Huffington the next time she's on his program what she and the other owners are doing with the $315 million. Exactly how much of it went directly in their pockets versus will be spent on expanding their operation.

Or would that be too much like journalism for a shill like Schultz?

Now, to be clear, I have absolutely no problem with Huffington and her cohorts striking it rich. Good for them.

However, these are the same people that are constantly complaining about corporate greed and overpaid CEOS. Yet, when the golden goose appears at their door - or one of their liberal friend's! - it's all about taking the money and running without any regard for the so-called little people.

To be sure, this is not at all surprising, for liberals are just as interested in the mighty dollar as conservatives - they just claim not to be.

Has there been a better example of this hypocrisy in recent years than this?

It was also interesting to see Schultz use the phrase "Big f-in deal."

When former Alaska governor Sarah Palin recently referred to Barack Obama having several "WTF moments" in his State of the Union address, numerous MSNBC commentators thought it was childish of her despite the fact that she was making a hip pun with the President's oft-repeated "Winning the Future" line.

I guess what's bad for the goose isn't bad for the gander, huh Ed?

As I've said for years, it takes a staggering amount of rationalizations to be a liberal these days.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.