OUTRAGE: “60 Minutes” Fawns Over Feinberg and His Claims Process


The recent “60 Minutes” profile on Kenneth Feinberg must have been received with high-fives at some very high-priced public relations agencies, because the segment hit nearly every one of BP’s well-crafted talking points.

The “60 Minutes” piece casts victims of Big Oil as childish charity cases awaiting free money, committing fraud and being uncivil to a nice lawyer from Boston. Meanwhile, the usual Chamber of Commerce talking points against lawsuits are repeated – unchallenged – both by Mr. Feinberg and from carefully edited interviews. On multiple fronts, the segment reaches new lows in unbalanced reporting.

Veteran interviewer Morley Safer does not hesitate to call the disaster like he (no doubt) sees it – in terms of children awaiting Christmas. From the “60 Minutes” segment: “[Mr. Feinberg] is seen as a penny-pinching scrooge, when they wanted a beneficent Santa Claus.” Would Mr. Safer have said this kind of thing about 9/11 victims? Agent Orange victims? The Virginia Tech shooting? Of course not…the outrage would have threatened his job.

And referring to the victims as “thousands and thousands of angry people,” Safer says that Mr. Feinberg “… has $20 billion of BP’s money to dole out as he sees fit.” Okay, we get it – “doling out” means awaiting welfare; the clear implication is that this is money being tossed around. The reality is that Mr. Feinberg is paying mere pennies on the dollar and stalling while people lose families, homes and businesses.

In the “60 Minutes” piece, we get no real look at the human suffering this claims process has caused. Instead, we are led to sympathize with Mr. Feinberg, who dares face those angry people. “They really go after you,” Safer fawns. Later, he notes in a wry exchange with fishermen that “… with $20 billion available, it’s not surprising that there may be a certain degree of ‘hanky panky’ going on.”

All in all, this is what we should no doubt expect from the national access-seeking media. This is how you get the “get,” as they say. You promise to fawn over the VIP being interviewed. But I was surprised that even “60 Minutes” dared not ask Mr. Feinberg how much he was getting paid. I guess there are no rude questions allowed in “profile journalism.”

Check it out at the “60 Minutes” website: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/09/30/60minutes/main6915445_page3.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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