POLITICIZING ‘WALL STREET WEEK’
Did “Wall Street Week” host and financial commentator Louis Rukeyser get the boot because of ideology and politics? Some inside the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are saying just that, and want CPB to look into how it is that the show’s producing station, Maryland Public Television (MPT), made the decision on Rukeyser.
Last week it was reported that MPT was taking Rukeyser’s venerable show in a different direction after months of feedback from other PBS stations that have carried the show for some, if not all, of its 25-plus years. And the biggest change was that Rukeyser was out as host, replaced by younger, hipper financial journalists from Fortune magazine. But then last Friday Rukeyser announced on air that he would take his show — which really is his in style and substance — and make it available to PBS through another sponsoring PBS station. Yesterday MPT fired back and claimed Rukeyser wouldn’t be on the show again, even though his contract runs through April.
Rukeyser, is one of the most respected financial commentators in the business, who made his and the WSW’s name by sticking to the facts: i.e., focusing on the markets and hard economic data and providing forward-looking analysis from investment leaders. “Wall Street Week” rarely, if ever, devolved into discussion of politics, policies, or ideology. “He left that to other PBS fare,” says a TV producer who does work for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “I’ve never heard anyone complain about the show. It made money for everyone involved, a rarity with CPB.”
Rukeyser claims his show cost only $2 million to produce annually, while generating more than $6 million in revenue. Says the CPB producer: “No one is buying that MPT was getting complaints about the show or Rukeyser, because the financial numbers, the sponsorships, the number of stations picking up the show don’t indicate any dissatisfaction.”
According to the producer, MPT wanted Rukeyser to push politics on the show. “We’re hearing MPT wanted him to attack Enron, to put guests on the show that would criticize big business. That’s not his thing. If his being forced out is about ideology and content, MPT may have picked the wrong fight.”
Even it isn’t clear that Rukeyser’s show is underwritten by any tax dollars, several House members who are fans of the show tell The Prowler that they would like to hear from CPB and MPT executives how the decisions about “Wall Street Week” were made. “We’ve never called them on this kind of thing,” says one Republican House member, “but maybe we should. If we questioned their business decisions on the grounds of taxpayer money being spent or misspent, maybe we’d get better results.”
THE NRA’S LIDDY PROBLEM
The National Rifle Association is debating internally about how to deal with its “Liddy Problem.” No, not the G-man. Elizabeth Dole. According a staffer with the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which spearheads the group’s political activities, the NRA board is debating whether to endorse Dole in her Senate bid. (Dole will most likely face off against either former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles or Elaine Marshall, the tarheel state’s secretary of state. Former statehouse speaker Dan Blue is running a distant third in Democratic polling.)
“We don’t want to endorse her,” says the ILA policy staffer. “She’s been awful on gun ownership issues, gun control issues. The NRA can’t be expected just to endorse every Republican the party puts up. “
This is especially true in North Carolina, where the NRA’s roots and support run deep. The NRA board told both the White House and Republican National Committee board members that if they put Dole on the Senate ballot, they risked not gaining the NRA endorsement.
“This North Carolina race may be our opportunity to show our independence,” says an NRA board member.
Others inside the NRA are pushing to stand by the Republican Party and endorse Dole, or face troubles down the road when gun-control measures arise in Congress. “If the NRA bails on Dole, you can be sure the Republicans will bail on the NRA when the next big gun bill comes up. Then we’ll see how independent the NRA really wants to be,” says another NRA board member.