The furor over the ABC News series, "Loose Nukes on Main Street," has settled down to a low roar, but there are still a few loose ends I'd like to tie up before the end of the week.
As I mentioned a few days ago, we got a phone call from Beth Daly, head of communications for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) concerning our post on the connections between POGO, the Carnegie Corporation and ABC News. Simply put, I thought it was too cute that a Carnegie grant recipient like POGO just magically cooperated on this story with ABC News that was being investigated, in part, by 10 Carnegie Fellows.
To refresh your memories, here's the original post from POGO's blog that piqued my interest:
ABC News is scheduled to run an investigative series next week about nuclear security and safety at home and abroad. The series, which POGO consulted on, will in theory run on a variety of ABC News programs, such as 20/20, Nightline, Good Morning America, and World News Tonight. It promises to be a comprehensive report on the many problems caused by worldwide proliferation of weapons grade nuclear materials.On Wednesday afternoon, a very polite and pleasant Daly called me about my concerns. And to her credit, she answered all my questions - for a little while, anyway.
At the time, she said POGO's only role in the report was to schedule an interview with POGO investigator Peter Stockton. Here's a description of Stockton's role at POGO from 2001:
Peter Stockton is a paid consultant with POGO. He was special assistant to DOE Secretary Bill Richardson from 1999-2001. Mr. Stockton was the chief investigator for Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1972-1995, including during the Committee's investigations of DOE security failures.After clarifying Stockton's role in the series, I continued to ask questions, until I paused for a breath, and Daly hung up the phone without saying goodbye.
In any case, as you may have seen, we linked to POGO's clarification, which was as follows:
Apparently, the Nuclear Energy Institute misunderstood us when we said "POGO consulted on the ABC News investigative series, "Loose Nukes." "Consulted" did not mean POGO was hired by ABC or was paid any money. In fact, we wish we could get paid for our expertise as many people do by news media outlets. But, in order to maintain an independent stance and protect our credibility, POGO does not accept money from corporations such as ABC. We also wanted to clarify that we are not an anti-nuclear organization. We have never taken a position on the merits or the drawbacks of nuclear energy.When I passed this answer along to some colleagues here at NEI, they let out a loud guffaw at POGO's contention that they weren't anti-nuclear. Around these parts, if POGO isn't an anti-nuclear organization, we're not sure what would be.
In any case, I still had some more questions, which I sent to Daly not long after she posted POGO's clarification. Here's my note.
Thanks. I've updated the post to reflect your response. I have a few more questions:It's been two days. I'm still waiting for an answer.
1) To be precise, you didn't offer any assistance to ABC News on this series other than the Peter Stockton interview? To be honest, when you use the term, "consulted on" it implies a closer relationship than just providing a talking head for an interview -- which is why I wrote what I wrote.
Bottom line: there wasn't any misunderstanding, but your language was imprecise. Is it the case that you were just exaggerating your involvement in the report?
2) Did ABC News just call you out of the blue, or were they referred to you by the Carnegie Corporation? Did Carnegie alert you to the production of the report as it was being prepared?
3) Though you don't take corporate money, you do accept foundation grants -- including a grant for $200,000 that you were awarded by Carnegie in October 2003. Is that the only grant you've gotten from Carnegie, or have there been others? Can you tell me the names of other foundations that have donated to POGO?
Thanks again for your help on this, and being so polite.
In any case, there's one thing I ought to make clear: I'm not accusing POGO or Carnegie of doing anything shady in this instance (though POGO hasn't hesitated to accuse us of the same - for NEI's take on the same story, click here). However, the close ties between the two organizations is something that should have been disclosed by ABC News in the body of their report -- and they neglected to do so. I wonder why?
POSTSCRIPT: Just in the respect of full disclosure, you should know we've tangled with POGO before on a variety of issues, and they sure seem anti-nuke to us.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Energy, Technology, Homeland Security, ABC News, POGO, Carnegie Corporation