The well-hidden Jack Welch comes out: Last Friday, the unemployment rate ticked down.
Jack Welch threw a fit. In his initial remarks, then in his ludicrous TV interviews, an extremely well-hidden figure found his way into the light.
Who is Jack Welch? We’ll guess he’s the most influential figure in recent political history whose influence has never been discussed.
In effect, he’s a different version of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s influence is discussed all the time. Welch’s role has always been hidden.
Who the heck is Jack Welch? For all we know, he’s the world’s nicest guy. He hails from Salem, in the Boston suburbs, our own part of the world. He grew up within our own cultural zone—the East Coast Irish Catholicism of the middle part of the last century.
(Our family moved to California in 1960. Catholic culture was very different there.)
That said, from 1981 through 2001, Welch was chairman and CEO of General Electric. During that period, GE owned NBC.
That included NBC News. And when it came to NBC News, Welch was not a hands-off owner.
We have discussed the comical, disturbing story of Welch and NBC News many times in the past dozen years. The story starts with Welch’s recruitment of Tim Russert to NBC News. By the end of the Clinton years, the story involves the comical East Coast Irish Catholic mafia Welch had assembled as the face of his news division—and the highly non-comical way they went after Clinton, then Gore, getting rich and famous as they seemed to advance Welch’s political agenda.
Because the press corps doesn't discuss the press corps, this comical, disturbing story has rarely been discussed or reported. If it weren’t for Sallie Brady’s long-lost report in the Washingtonian, we don’t think we ever would have heard about the comical, inbred relations within NBC’s news division.
As far as we know, Brady’s report can’t be read on-line. To us, this was a striking window into an undiscussed world:
BRADY (8/03): Nantucket: Big Money, Exclusive Restaurants, and Power Players in Golf ShoesWelch, Wright and Russert were all part of NBC’s East Coast Irish Catholic mafia. In the summer of 2003, Chris Matthews joined the trio on the island, buying a crib for $4.3 million with the money had had gained from (apparently) doing the political bidding of Welch.
"You made it!" shouts a tanned, leggy blonde, her tennis skirt flipping in the breeze, as she hops out of an open-air Jeep that she's pulled up to the arrivals curb at Nantucket Memorial Airport.
Air kiss. Air kiss. "We're in the middle of a game!" she exults, beads of sweat on her back to prove it.
In summer, Nantucket is a remarkable re-creation of Washington politics, fundraisers, and restaurant life, confined to a 3½-by-14-mile resort island.
Tim Russert remembers the first time he visited. It “was in 1972. I had graduated from college,” Russert recalled in a Nantucket Magazine profile. “About 20 of us drove up, and we all jumped on the [Steamship Authority ferry]...and as soon as I stepped off I said, 'This is something special.’”
Russert is part of the Nantucket NBC crowd, one of the cliques that fuels the isle's social engine. It was Jack Welch, the story goes, the 20-year chairman and CEO of NBC’s parent company, General Electric, who drew network folk to Nantucket.
Russert and his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, began summering on Nantucket in 1992. Russert has said he can go days without leaving his house except for a bike ride to get the newspapers. Then he’ll sit in his rocking chair and watch the grass blow in the breeze.
Russert does make it back for Meet the Press, the show that made him and that helped finance the Nantucket hideaway he acquired in 1999. The sprawling gray-shingled house, with rooftop sundeck and cutting garden, lies down an unmarked dirt path through a secluded forest. Hanging over the portico, a wooden sign bearing the cottage’s name says it all: SUNDAY MORNING.
Russert’s boss, NBC CEO Bob Wright, is also on the scene...Although Welch retired in 2001, he’s still a power magnet. He holds court from a massive gray-shingled home festooned with window boxes, near Sankaty Head Golf Club. It was there that Welch once played Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, only to discover that two of the richest men in the world routinely bet only $1 a round.
Matthews became very rich under Welch. As he did, he waged a long, bizarre, ranting war, first against President Clinton, then against Candidate Gore.
This is a comical, dangerous story of major corporate inbreeding. It is especially strange because of the aggressive, inexcusable way Jack Welch’s Lost Boys pursued that twenty-month war against Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000. That includes Brian Williams, another charter member of the East Coast Irish Catholic mafia which was assembled, and richly rewarded, during the tenure of Welch.
This is a disturbing story of comical corporate inbreeding. In any other industry, this highly amusing story would have been pursued in the press.
But this story took place within the heart of the mainstream press corps, an industry which isn't discussed by the mainstream press corps. (Murdoch’s role was on the right, and it was directed from Britain, so it could be pursued.)
Jack Welch came into the light last week. His role has been hidden all along. You aren’t encouraged or allowed to think about his peculiar history with NBC News. But if you didn’t care for the reign of George Bush, you ought to be demanding answers from your favorite liberal stars:
Why wasn’t this story pursued? And what explains the crackpot political war which was pursued, for years, by manifest hustlers like Matthews?
You should be demanding those answers. But alas! What happens on Nantucket very much seems to stay there.
NBC News was crazed under Welch. The children have agreed not to tell.
Visit our incomparable archives: For fuller treatments of this matter, see our incomparable archives, especially at the original version of this site.
“Nantucket” and “Welch” would be useful search terms. What happens there stays there, of course.