Stockholder meetings are rarely dramatic events, but things got heated at Wednesday's GE meeting of shareholders. GE CEO Jeffery Immelt and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker had to field about ten questions from from shareholders unhappy with the leftward bias of the company's cable outlet MSNBC and a charge that it's business channel CNBC is being pushed in the same direction:
First up was a woman asking about a reported meeting in which Immelt and.. Zucker supposedly told top CNBC executives and talent to be less critical of President Obama and his policies.
Immelt acknowledged a meeting took place but said no one at CNBC was told what to say or not to say about politics.
During the woman's follow-up question, her microphone was apparently cut off. A short time later, Waters asked a question and his mic was cut, too.
"The crowd was very upset with MSNBC because of its leftward tilt," one attendee said. "Some former employees said they were embarrassed by it."
Adding to the drama was Jesse Waters, a Fox News producer for Bill O'Reilly, who had infiltrated the meeting. His microphone was also cut off, according to several attendees:
When he got the floor, Waters focused his question about MSNBC on Keith Olbermann's interview of actress Janeane Garofalo, who likened conservatives to racists and spoke of "the limbic brain inside a right-winger."
"He (Waters) was complaining that Olbermann didn't bother to challenge her," another GE shareholder said.
The rancor and criticism, most all of it associated with shareholder unhappiness with MSNBC, is something new to GE shareholder meetings:
"My biggest surprise was the open hostility to MSNBC," said Tom Borelli of the Free Enterprise Action Fund and a four-year critic of Immelt. "It was noticeable and loud. I don't remember any of this going on last year."
"Any time MSNBC was mentioned, there was a rumbling in the crowd of 400 people," he added.
Some of the rumbling may be due to the fact that Fox News consistently gets ratings which equal or better those of MSNBC and CNN combined.
Meanwhile, the ratings for MSNBC's newest star, Rachel Maddow, have fallen by almost 50%, going from poor to miserable. One consolation for the smug talk show host, who came to the cable outlet from liberal Air America talk radio, is that her numbers, although down sharply, still beat those of CNN's Larry King in the same time slot.