Sheldon's PR Watch blog

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The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media "of, by and for the people." Our programs include PR Watch, a quarterly investigative journal; six books by CMD staff; Spin of the Day; the Weekly Spin listserv; and, Congresspedia and SourceWatch, part of our wiki-based investigative journalism collaborative to which anyone, including you, can contribute.
Updated: 3 years 24 weeks ago

What Does Wikileaks Have on Bank of America?

Fri, 2011-01-14 15:06

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is promising to unleash a cache of secret documents from the hard drive of a U.S. megabank executive. In 2009, he told Computer World that the bank was Bank of America (BofA). In 2010 he told Forbes that the information was significant enough to "take down a bank or two," but that he needed time to lay out the information in a more user-friendly format.

Recent new reports suggest that BofA is now moving into high gear on damage control, creating a "war room" and buying up hundreds of derogatory Internet domain names including and (referring to BofA's Chief Executive Officer).

Before the big banks start calling for Assange's internment at Guantanamo, the question worth considering is what does Wikileaks have on America's largest bank?

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Wendell Potter: The Deadly Spin on Health Care Repeal

Wed, 2011-01-12 23:02

Advocates of health care reform who are fearful -- or hopeful, as the case may be -- that Republicans will be able to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") need to understand that the GOP has no real intention of repealing it.

The rhetoric of repeal is just a smoke screen to obscure the real objective of the “repeal and replace” caucus: to preserve the sections of the law that big insurance and its business allies like and strip out the regulations and consumer protections they don’t like.

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Monday, January 17- Wendell Potter in Madison for Book Tour

Tue, 2011-01-11 22:23

CMD's Wendell Potter will be at the Goodman Community Center in our hometown, Madison, WI, Monday to sign his new book Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans. Wendell was just recognized by the Nation Magazine as "the most valuable author of the year" on the Nation's Progressive Honor Roll.

Since Wendell Potter walked away from his executive position at a top health insurance company in May of 2008, he has worked tirelessly as an outspoken critic of corporate PR and the distortion and fear manufactured by America’s health insurance industry. Time magazine wrote that Potter "may be the ideal whistleblower."

Keith Olbermann recently interviewed Wendell about the industry's effort to discredit Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" and Deadly Spin has been reviewed in countless journals, most recently in a moving article in the New York Times.

Join us Monday night!

7:00 PM CST

The Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa Street
(off of Milwaukee Street on Madison’s East Side)
Madison, WI 53704

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Potter Tells Single-Payer Group to Do "PR"

Tue, 2011-01-11 22:21

Wendell Potter, author of "Deadly Spin," told a capacity crowd of 200 in New York last night that backers of a single-payer health plan must adopt the techniques and strategies of the opponents of such a plan.

Potter, speaking to Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) at the Murphy Institute for Education and Labor Studies, said the PNHP must seek allies, get "others" to tell their story, use appeals to basic emotions, and create memorable slogans.

"Special interests have kicked your butt with the skillful use of language," he said. They have been able to "demonize" single-payer, he added.

Politicians, he said, are not going to support such a health plan unless their constituents are in favor of it, he said. He faulted the single-payers for lacking a "long term strategic plan," something that he said the healthcare insurance industry excels at.

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Political Rhetoric, Before and After Arizona

Tue, 2011-01-11 21:43

Jesse Kelly, a former Marine, Iraq war veteran and Gabrielle Giffords' Republican opponent in last November's election, ran a campaign that used gun imagery as its main eye-catching visual. Several of Kelly's campaign ads show him brandishing an M-16 automatic rifle with the slogan, "Send a Warrior to Congress." A print ad for one of his fundraising events reads, "Sat., 6/12/10, 10:00 AM - Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." Kelly's spokesman, John Ellinwood, naivley claims he doesn't see any connection between promoting fundraisers featuring weapons and the public shootings in Tucson.

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Rite Aid Healthwashes Cigarette Sales

Mon, 2011-01-10 23:04

The Rite Aid drug store chain announced that it is once again teaming with the American Heart Association (AHA) to promote AHA's "Go Red for Women" campaign. Rite Aid collects donations of one dollar or more from customers in exchange for little red paper dresses that contain detachable coupons for merchandise. Rite Aid issued a press release touting the campaign and their free "heart health guide" that contains advice on how to prevent heart disease. Absent from the promotion and the press release, and kept quiet by AHA, is the fact that Rite Aid contributes mightily to causing heart disease in women by selling cigarettes.

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Obama Signals Break with Wall Street - Appoints JPMorgan Exec and Goldman Adviser to Top Jobs

Fri, 2011-01-07 13:43

Today, with unemployment in almost the double digits and foreclosure unabated, President Obama decided that America needed more of the same. The President announced the appointment of JPMorgan Executive William M. Daley as White House Chief of Staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel. Tomorrow, news reports indicate that he will announce that Goldman Sachs adviser Gene B. Sperling will be appointed head of the National Economic Council, replacing Larry Summers.

About Daley the Center for Public Integrity reports:

At JPMorgan, Daley’s portfolio has included supervising government lobbying for a bank with $2 trillion in assets that has fought efforts to limit the size of megabanks. Daley co-chaired a U.S. Chamber of Commerce commission that urged the federal government to revise the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform law and protect corporate auditors from lawsuits and investigations.

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Deadly Spin Strikes a Chord

Thu, 2011-01-06 23:41

In 2007, Los Angeles transplant surgeon Pauline Chen., M.D. found herself riveted by the case of Nataline Sarkisian, a 17 year old girl desperately in need of a liver transplant. Nataline suffered from recurrent leukemia that required aggressive medical treatment, but the treatment, while successful, had made her liver fail. Doctors recommended a liver transplant, saying it would give Nataline a 65 percent chance of living. Without the transplant, though her death was certain. Shortly after doctors put Nataline's name on the transplant list, a perfectly-suited liver became available, but then her survival was no longer dependent on her doctors, the hospital or even the new liver that awaited her. It depended upon her health insurer, CIGNA, which denied Nataline's doctors' request to perform the transplant.

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Wed, 2011-01-05 16:53

A recent Spin of the Day item on PRWatch says that Bank of America bought up hundreds of derogatory Internet domain names related to their business, like and (referring to BofA's CEO). Purchasing derogatory domain names is a quiet but common corporate strategy to try to minimize or contain bad PR.

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Full-Catastrophe Banking in 2011

Mon, 2011-01-03 14:13

With a $4.7 trillion dollar bailout under their belts with no harm done to their billion-dollar bonuses, don't expect Wall Street bankers to be chastened by the 2008 financial crisis. Below we list eight things to watch out for in 2011 that threaten to rock the financial system and undermine any recovery.

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CMD’s Wendell Potter Honored as “Most Valuable Author” by the Nation Magazine

Wed, 2010-12-29 14:50

This week the Nation Magazine hits the stands with its annual salute to the country's most effective activists and organizations. The Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow Wendell Potter is honored in the "Progressive Honor Roll of 2010" as the nation's "Most Valuable Author" for his many contributions in the health care battles and for his new book Deadly Spin.

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A Banana Republic Once Again?

Mon, 2010-12-27 17:55

(Part two of a two-part series)

In the first part of this series, the Center for Media and Democracy reported how the 2009 coup d'etat that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was successfully maintained not through the use of force, but through the power of lobbying and spin. That tale, whose details were revealed through Wikileaks' publication of diplomatic cables and research into lobbying activities, had some echoes of the role PR played in an earlier "regime change" in the region. Here is the story of how the Chiquita banana company successfully used PR spin to help topple Guatemala's left-leaning government in 1954, and how they may have done it again in Honduras, 2009.

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America's Inefficient and Ineffective Approach to Border Security

Thu, 2010-12-23 18:00

Last week, the Senate refused to approve the DREAM Act, a bill that would have offered a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally if they attend college or serve in the military. Opponents stated that no immigration reform will happen without first "securing" the 1,951 mile U.S. border with Mexico. America's current approach to border security is wasteful and ineffective, and "securing the border" will never be achieved until we redefine our approach to, and definition of, border security. With many in Washington expressing concern about fiscal responsibility, reining in the billions wasted annually on current border security policies should really be a priority. But America's xenophobic preoccupation with an "invasion" by brown-skinned "illegals" may keep us pursuing an expensive and unreasonable approach to border security.

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A Cheery Holiday Message from Bankster: Death Eaters on Wall Street

Tue, 2010-12-21 19:21

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a stunning exposé on a publicly-traded company called Life Partners Holdings. Are you ready for this? Life Partners creeps around asking the unemployed, the elderly and the sick (especially people with HIV/AIDS) to sell them their life insurance policies for cash. Then they bundle these policies into securities and sell them to vultures -- oh, I am sorry, “investors.” Then the “investors” sit around and wait for people to die -- the sooner the better for the purchasers of these death bonds. The future of this industry “looks bright,” chirps National Underwriters.

Reminds you a little of those Death Eaters in Harry Potter, doesn’t it?

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Honduras' PR Coup

Tue, 2010-12-21 02:03

Part one of a two-part article. The second article will be published next week.

Wikileaks recently published documents suggesting that PR spin helped determine the final outcome of the June 2009 Honduran coup. At the same time that a July 2009 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras to top government officials confirmed that the Honduran president’s removal was illegal, professional lobbyists and political communicators were beginning a PR blitz, eventually managing to manipulate America into believing the coup was a constitutional act.

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Will Cutting Taxes for the Rich Really Create Jobs?

Sat, 2010-12-18 21:44

The White House and many Congressional Democrats recently caved to Republicans in a deal extending all of the Bush tax cuts for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. The deal reverses stated opposition by many Democrats to an extension of tax cuts for the top income bracket, with 25 percent of the savings from the deal going to benefit the richest one percent of Americans. While Democrats who supported the bill claimed to do so begrudgingly, the plan has many avid supporters who justify its lopsided benefits by insisting that tax cuts for the rich and for businesses create jobs and benefit the economy. This is a big myth.

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Trapped in Bank of America Hell

Wed, 2010-12-15 15:13

Are you one of the lucky ones? Have a good job, live in a nice neighborhood, enjoy your cozy home? Think foreclosure only impacts the reckless or the unemployed?

Think again.

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Insurers Spin Court Decision on Health Insurance Mandate

Tue, 2010-12-14 18:35

When I testified before Congress last year, I told lawmakers that if they passed a health care reform bill with an individual mandate but no public option, they might as well call their bill the "Health Insurance Profit Protection and Enhancement Act." Well, of course, that is exactly what Congress did, but they didn't change the name of the new law as I suggested.

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Hell Freezes Over: Philip Morris Settles a Wrongful Death Suit

Tue, 2010-12-14 17:52

Philip Morris (PM) broke from its longstanding policy of never settling a personal injury case recently after it quietly paid $5 million to settle a wrongful death suit brought against its subsidiary, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco (USST), maker of Copenhagen and Skoal brands of spit tobacco. PM's parent company, Altria Group, acquired USST in 2009.

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More on Fox "News" and its Party

Fri, 2010-12-10 16:29

In light of the new memos out about Fox News helping to orchestrate the Republicans' deceptive PR campaign on the health care bill that that Wendell Potter wrote about this week, the Center for Media and Democracy is reprinting and updating an excerpt from one of my personal encounters with Fox News' efforts to stage-manage political theatre. The piece below also includes material from documented sources compiled in SourceWatch.

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