Taxes, Truth and CBS

Article excerpt


How do you think the sanctimonious people at TV's "60 Minutes" would portray a company charged by the FCC with "serious indecency violations," that made expensive settlements with employees and others because of injuries related to asbestos and other hazardous material exposures, underfunded its employee pension, is legally accused of securities violations, employs those who widely distributed forged documents in an effort to destroy political opponents, failed to dismiss or discipline employees who violated the company code of conduct, owned offshore enterprises that paid little or no U.S. corporate tax, and operated in and/or dealt with countries harboring terrorists?

The company that engaged in all of these practices is Viacom, parent company of CBS, which produces "60 Minutes."

The folks at "60 Minutes" remind me of the preacher who damns the sinners every Sunday, but then is caught in the brothel. Viacom is a huge media company that not only owns CBS, but hundreds of individual radio and TV stations; cable operations like MTV, Showtime and Nickelodeon; Paramount Pictures; theme parks; publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster; and many other operations around the globe.

The problem with Viacom is not its difficulties with some acquisitions and operations, but that its CBS News unit has a long and continuing record of misrepresentation, hypocrisy, or worse is allowed to continue in clear violation of the company's own code of conduct and best economic interest.

The people who produce "60 Minutes" have a long history of pursuing corporate and individual wrongdoers. This is all to the good, provided it is done honestly, and not just to make those with different political or other views (such as religious) or competitors look silly or corrupt. Over the years, it has been all too obvious a (liberal Democrat) political agenda at CBS has taken priority over factual news.

In an attempt to discredit Vice President Dick Cheney, "60 Minutes" recently did a hatchet job on Halliburton, where Mr. Cheney once was chief executive officer. The central CBS charge was that Halliburton created offshore companies to reduce its tax burden. The fact virtually every large company with sizable foreign operations does the same thing, and it is totally legal and proper, escaped the people at "60 Minutes" in their rush to tarnish Halliburton and Mr. Cheney.

To make the story more interesting, "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl and her team went to the Cayman Islands where Halliburton has incorporated some of its affiliates. Miss Stahl first implied there was something illegal or shady about having a Cayman business - which is both untrue and a slander on all world-class professionals in the Cayman financial industry. …