From the WSJ Opinion Archives

Guess Who's a GOP Booster?
The CEO of CBS's parent company endorses President Bush.

Friday, September 24, 2004 12:01 A.M. EDT

From The Asian Wall Street Journal

With the scandal at CBS still festering, questions are being raised about whether a felony was committed when the network broadcast apparently forged memos in an attempt to discredit George W. Bush. Yesterday, the chairman of CBS's parent company chose Hong Kong as a place to drop a little bomb. Sumner Redstone, who calls himself a "liberal Democrat," said he's supporting President Bush.

The chairman of the entertainment giant Viacom said the reason was simple: Republican values are what U.S. companies need. Speaking to some of America's and Asia's top executives gathered for Forbes magazine's annual Global CEO Conference, Mr. Redstone declared: "I look at the election from what's good for Viacom. I vote for what's good for Viacom. I vote, today, Viacom.

"I don't want to denigrate Kerry," he went on, "but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats are not bad people. . . . But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company."

Sharing the stage with Mr. Redstone was Steve Forbes, CEO, president and editor in chief of Forbes and a former Republican presidential aspirant, who quipped: "Obviously you're a very enlightened CEO."

Mr. Redstone's unexpected declaration came at a time when an unwelcome spotlight is directed at him and his board because of the CBS airing of what everyone now believes was a fake memo alleging that Mr. Bush shirked his duties three decades ago in the Texas Air National Guard. On Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie alleged a leftist bias at Viacom. While it was well known that Mary Mapes, the producer who did most of the reporting on the memos, is a liberal, and that anchorman Dan Rather, has always been much tougher on Republicans, the Viacom board had heretofore remained in the background.

Mr. Gillespie said, "This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment separate and apart from the lack of judgment demonstrated in running a report based on discredited documents. Did this producer's own political viewpoint cloud her judgment? Is CBS News's decision to neither suspend nor release the producer in question a result of judgment clouded by Viacom and CBS owner Sumner Redstone's role as a Kerry fundraiser, or Viacom President Tom Freston's public support of John Kerry for President?"

Mr. Redstone's office immediately went into overdrive, denying on Wednesday that he's a raised funds for the Democratic presidential nominee. Then came yesterday's "I vote Republican" vow in Hong Kong.

It was all the more surprising because the Boston-born Mr. Redstone was co-chairman of Edmund Muskie's presidential campaign in 1972. He's also a close friend of the other Massachusetts senator, Ted Kennedy. Monday's New York Sun, quoting the Federal Election Commission, said that since 1998 Mr. Redstone had given $50,000 to the Democratic Party. He's also donated the maximum $2,000 to the Kerry campaign, after supporting Al Gore in 2000.

In his book, "A Passion to Win," Mr. Redstone wrote, "From my early days I have considered myself a liberal Democrat. . . . I had no respect for Nixon. . . . My efforts on Senator Muskie's behalf apparently landed me on Nixon's notorious 'enemies list.' I took that as a badge of honor."

Of his 13-member board, two are former cabinet members for Democratic presidents. It is this board that will ponder what to do about the Rather-Mapes-CBS mess. The bombshell from Hong Kong will not come as welcome news to those responsible for "memogate."