CBS Touts Anti-Exxon Shareholder Publicity Gimmick by Democratic Politician

On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, Anthony Mason trumpeted how North Carolina Treasurer Richard Moore, who got four soundbites, withheld that state’s pension fund votes from the ExxonMobil directors who he thinks gave too great a compensation package to the retired CEO, but Mason failed to identify his Democratic affiliation (not even on-screen) or let viewers in how CBS was delivering publicity benefitting a likely 2008 Democratic candidate for Governor of the Tar Heel state. The North Carolina Democratic Party was so excited by Moore’s move that they sent out a press release: “NC State Treasurer Richard Moore Takes on Oil Company.”

"Outside its annual shareholders meeting, ExxonMobil was under fire today from protesters frustrated with soaring gas prices and the company's former CEO," Mason touted before a woman protester outside the Dallas meeting charged: "He's one of the worst examples of corporate greed." After reciting ex-CEO Lee Raymond’s large compensation package, Mason noted that “ExxonMobil is the most profitable company in the country,” but “it's even starting to feel the heat here on Wall Street." For his evidence from “Wall Street,” Mason turned to Democrat Moore of Raleigh who declared: "I think the sentiment of disgust and outrage is very wide." Mason explained Moore’s power: “Richard Moore is North Carolina's state treasurer. The state's pension fund owns 11 million shares of ExxonMobil, worth more than $660 million. Today Moore, on behalf of the state, withheld all those share votes from the Exxon directors who backed Raymond's pay." Moore called the compensation package “un-American.” (Transcript follows)

The lead of Wednesday’s AP dispatch on the ExxonMobil meeting showed those who go Mason’s attention were in the minority:
"Shareholders of Exxon Mobil Corp., whose last chief executive took home $147 million when he retired, overwhelmingly rejected resolutions to rein in compensation at the oil company's annual meeting on Wednesday."
The MRC’s Rich Noyes noticed that an AP story on Tuesday reported that Moore is “expected to challenge for the Democratic nomination” in the 2008 gubernatorial race and this North Carolina political Web site lists Moore as one of three likely Democratic candidates for Governor. Moore’s Web site.

Now the transcript of the May 31 CBS Evening News story, as provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth, who corrected the closed-captioning against the video of what aired.

Anchor Russ Mitchell introduced Mason:
"In this country, the price of gasoline is down about a nickel in the past month, but it's still 77 cents higher than it was a year ago. High gas prices, oil company profits, and executive compensation all came to a head today at the ExxonMobil shareholders meeting. Here's our business correspondent Anthony Mason."

Clip of protesters: "ExxonMobil, feel the heat!"

Anthony Mason: "Outside its annual shareholders meeting, ExxonMobil was under fire today from protesters frustrated with soaring gas prices and the company's former CEO."

Woman protester: "He's one of the worst examples of corporate greed."

Mason: "Lee Raymond retired as Exxon's CEO last December with a $400 million golden parachute. After making a record $36 billion profit last year, ExxonMobil is the most profitable company in the country. But it's even starting to feel the heat here on Wall Street.”

Mason to North Carolina Treasurer Richard Moore: “How widespread do you sense the sentiment actually is?"

Moore: "I think the sentiment of disgust and outrage is very wide."

Mason: "Richard Moore is North Carolina's state treasurer. The state's pension fund owns 11 million shares of ExxonMobil, worth more than $660 million. Today Moore, on behalf of the state, withheld all those share votes from the Exxon directors who backed Raymond's pay."

Moore: "We as shareholders can have a right to fire directors, and that's what we're trying to do with our withhold votes because I don't think they did their job. And I'd like to fire them."

Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO: "I think we all recognize there's been a lot of controversy."

Mason: "Exxon's new CEO, Rex Tillerson, was making no apologies today."

Tillerson: "I don't have any regrets. I don't have any involvement with it, but I don't have any regrets, either."

Mason: "But Moore says Exxon executives have acknowledged they owe their success all to rising oil prices."

Moore: "I think most Americans believe that you should be rewarded for exemplary performance, but not just for occupying the chair. And all too often the compensation is there for occupying the chair, and it's just a, it's un-American."

Mason: "New York state also withheld its 24 million share votes today. The board was approved, but in all more than 20 percent of Exxon shareholders signaled their displeasure. And, Russ, that's an unusually high number."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center