Ed Driscoll

CNBC Lives Out O'Sullivan's Law

“O’Sullivan’s First Law*, named for John O’Sullivan, former editor of National Review, speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher, and author of the fine book The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister, goes as follows: Any institution that is not explicitly right wing will become left wing over time,” as Steve Hayward has written at Power Line. And that includes business channel CNBC. As Zev Chafets wrote in his 2013 biography, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, when Ailes was setting up CNBC in the early 1990s as a sort of dry run for Fox News, he had certain stipulations for how a business news network should be run – and the tone it should have, which Ailes knew the audience would immediately pick up on and could cause them to quickly tune out as well:

Ailes insisted on not insulting the audience. He informed his staff that he didn’t want an antibusiness climate on a business network, or a lot of financial jargon. “Roger is a guy from the middle of Ohio, and he knows how people think,” says Cavuto. Reporters who acted superior to the corporate leaders they interviewed or conveyed the message that capitalism was selfish and crass didn’t find the Ailes’s regime congenial.

Well, it was good while it lasted, as Noah Rothman notes at Hot Air today: “American Enterprise Institute scholar James Pethokoukis is a man of infinite patience. The depth of his tolerance was perhaps most convincingly demonstrated in a Wednesday appearance on CNBC’s Closing Bell. There, Pethokoukis bravely confronted guests and hosts alike in a selfless effort to combat the liberal premises with which he was bombarded.”

Naturally, vanden Heuvel fillibustered Pethokoukis, refusing to allow him to speak interrupted, despite his being ideologically outmanned as the token conservative on the panel. But why has CNBC has increasingly adopted the worldview of the far left Nation magazine? That’s a question that could be asked of both Wall Street and President Goldman-Sachs as well.

* Yes, I’ve attributed this phrase to historian Robert Conquest in the past, and will likely do so again (as have others). But apparently it really was O’Sullivan who coined the line.