Meet the CEO Bold Enough to Kill Thousands of Jobs

CBS-whitmanHave you heard the one about the billionaire CEO laying off thousands of workers?

On the June 26 broadcast of the CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley announced that while “companies aren’t cutting so many jobs as before,” there’s an exception:

One company that’s still shedding jobs–lots of them–is technology pioneer Hewlett-Packard. That’s part of the strategy of Meg Whitman, the CEO, hired to save the company.

Pelley gives viewers a quick rundown of all of Whitman’s successes, and wonders: “Can Whitman assemble a happy face now for HP?”

The segment by correspondent Anthony Mason portrayed Whitman as a bold turnaround artist. “When she took over Hewlett-Packard nearly three years ago,” Mason says, “Meg Whitman literally tore down the executive walls.” Viewers learn that the old office had stuffy walls, and Whitman wanted cubicles instead.

Part of the CEO’s bold transformation plan, Mason explains, is a pretty simple one: “Whitman has announced up to 50,000 job cuts–about 14 percent of the company’s workforce when she took over.” He goes on to say that it’s hard for a company to “make these kind of transitions”–executive-speak for “massive layoffs”–but the segment very quickly turns into a promotion for a new product, “a radical redesign of computing,” as the CBS correspondent puts it.

Mason closes the segment  with this: “The CEO who built eBay knows Silicon Valley only rewards those who roll the dice.”

It might be worth pointing out that the jobs-slashing CEO–who is already a billionaire–doesn’t have to wait for this bet to succeed in order to receive a nice payday. Her compensation last year was $17.6 million last year (USA Today, 2/3/14). CBS–which has a record of doing puff pieces about corporate CEOs (FAIR Action Alert, 11/26/12)–wants viewers to believe that the overpaid CEO who’s bold and risky enough to try and fix a company by firing tens of thousands of employees deserves this kind of attention.

And what about the workers who are shown the door? Well, there’s no nightly newscast report about them.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.