Jan
22
2004

Conflict at CNBC's New Dennis Miller Show

Producer works for California governor

Dennis Miller’s new CNBC political talk show hasn’t even debuted yet, but it’s already mixed up in a serious conflict of interest.

The conflict-- brought to our attention by weblogger

Roger Ailes (no relation, apparently, to the Fox News chief)-- began with the show’s hiring of Mike Murphy as a consulting producer. The problem isn’t that Murphy is a well-known Republican campaign consultant whose past clients have included John McCain, Jeb Bush and the 1992 Bush/Quayle campaign; the problem is that Mike Murphy already has a job.

Murphy, who was a key political advisor in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2003 campaign for governor of California, still works for Schwarzenegger. Currently Murphy is a leader of Governor Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Team and Californians for Schwarzenegger, two groups created by the governor to maintain his political image, raise money and promote his policies (AP, 1/2/04). Indeed, Murphy has become so identified with Schwarzenegger that a January 21 Los Angeles Times article referred to him as “Schwarzenegger's chief strategist.” The website of Murphy’s political consulting firm, DC Navigators, lists the California Recovery Team (which has been in operation for less than a month) as a client.

CNBC has dismissed the idea that Murphy's political work poses a conflict for the show. In an article in Television Week (1/12/04) that described his ongoing work with Schwarzenegger as Murphy's "most recent gig," reporter Michele Greppi noted that NBC is grappling with the conflict-of-interest questions posed by Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, working for the news program Dateline. But, Greppi reported, "At CNBC no such questions are being considered, because Mr. Miller has made clear that his show, however political, will not be partisan."

But having a producer for a political talkshow working as a political operative is a clear conflict of interest. As if to demonstrate what's wrong with this arrangement, the first edition of the Dennis Miller show (1/26/04) is scheduled to include, along with Republican Sen. John McCain and former Republican New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, California’s new Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz (1/19/04), “The bagging of the California governor and Arizona senator is the handiwork of former Schwarzenegger and McCain strategist Mike Murphy, who now has a place in the Hollywood hills and is Miller's consulting producer.” Kurtz was apparently unaware that Murphy still works for the California governor.

While one has to be impressed by the professional zeal of a political consultant who gets himself hired by a talkshow in order to book his boss on that show, it's clear that if you're in the business of news rather than political PR, the situation is completely unethical. CNBC needs to address the fact that Mike Murphy has at least one job too many.

ACTION:

Please write to CNBC and ask them what they intend to do about the conflict of interest posed by Dennis Miller's producer working for a politician who happens to be a guest on Miller's first show.

CONTACT:

CNBC 2200 Fletcher Avenue Fort Lee, NJ 07024 Phone: 201-585-2622 info@CNBC.com