Has NPR's Adam Davidson Betrayed His Listeners? Serious Conflict of Interest Issues Exposed
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And yet, the actual record proves that NPR readers were right to suspect and criticize the arrangement, and that Davidson was wrong in claiming that Planet Money has not consistently pushed a narrative so in synch with Ally Bank and the financial industry that it boggles the mind how he has gotten away with it. Planet Money coverage hasn't just been friendly to banks and the finance industry in general—some of it has been suspiciously lined up and in synch with specific policy priorities of its exclusive sponsor, Ally Bank.
One example: In 2009, just as Planet Money inked its exclusive sponsorship deal with Ally Bank, Davidson began broadcasting a number of segments critical of the proposed Financial Consumer Protection Agency Act of 2009, questioning the need to regulate consumer financial products like mortgages and credit cards in order to protect people against bank fraud. "Will it work at all?" Davidson asked in one of his fake "gee-whiz" questions. "Is this just one more layer of regulation in a regulatory system that fundamentally broke down?"
In May 2009, in the heat of the banking industry's massive pushback, Davidson essentially mugged Elizabeth Warren, the chief architect of the financial consumer protection bill, in an interview that took a sharp and bizarre hostile turn early on. Davidson surprised Warren and his own listeners with uncharacteristic personal smears, trying to portray her as a clueless, power-hungry ideologue. Davidson’s attack on Warren was so out-of-line and uncharacteristically hostile that it sparked a torrent of criticism from NPR listeners who couldn't understand why Davidson or NPR would do such a thing. Keep in mind, this was in the spring of 2009, when unemployment was still shooting through the roof, the future of the economy was in doubt, and talk of a 1930s style Great Depression-2 was still front-and-center.
It's worth going back and listening to the interview to get a sense of just how malevolent Davidson really was, and is. Here’s an excerpt, courtesy of Corrente:
ADAM DAVIDSON: What it feels to me is what you are missing is that -- I think we put aside your pet issues. We put them aside. We put them aside until this crisis is over.
ELIZABETH WARREN: The cr-- What you're saying makes no sense. Now come on. [interpolate Davidson sputtering and attempting to interrupt throughout.] It makes no sense. On an emergency basis, on one day, one week, one month, there's no doubt in my mind we've got to step in, we've got to make sure we have a functioning banking system. I think I've said that like nine times now. Of course we've got to have a functioning banking system.
DAVIDSON: Wait a minute. I want to make you go farther. I want to make you madder before I --
ELIZABETH WARREN: No no no. [Davidson snickers] We're now at what -- we're now seven, eight months into this. And it's the second part of what you said. We can't do anything about the American family until this crisis is over? This crisis will not be over until the American family begins to recover. [More Davidson sputtering.] This crisis does not exist independently --
DAVIDSON: That's your crisis.
ELIZABETH WARREN: No it is not my crisis! That is America's crisis! If people cannnot pay their credit card bills [Davidson tries to interrupt] if they cannot pay their mortgages --
DAVIDSON: But you are not in the mainstream of views on this issue. You are not --
ELIZABETH WARREN: What, if they can't pay their credit card bills the banks are gonna do fine? Who are you looking at?