Shareholder Letter to Disney
September 12, 2006
Editor's Note: Political analyst and Disney shareholder Brent Budowsky is sending the following letter to Disney's board of directors protesting the company's funding and broadcasting of a docu-drama, "The Path to 9/11," which used fabricated scenes and dialogue to blame the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks that occurred eight months into George W. Bush's presidency:
Dear Board of Directors:
As a Disney Investor through a long term family account, I call on you to remove Mr. Robert Iger as the CEO of this company, to retain a premier executive search firm to select candidates for his replacement and to send me, via overnight or two-day delivery, a written copy of the company by-laws with attention drawn to regular and emergency procedures to bring a matter to the attention of all investors through an emergency vote, if needed.
As a patriotic American who believes deeply in our country, I want to say first to each and every one of you who serves on the Disney Board, I hope you are all as ashamed as governors of the company, by the discredit you have brought on the company, as I am, in being an owner of equity in a company that has distorted and demeaned our Nation's commemoration of one of the solemn moments in our national history.
Because of your actions in "The Path to 9/11," what should have been a healing and unifying moment in America to commemorate the greatest single national tragedy in our history on our shores, was turned into a multi-day spectacle that ripped open our wounds and further divided our nation.
In my humble opinion, what you have done may be the single most degrading moment in the history of network television and one of the most shameful, wounding exploitations of this terrible event. When our troops are under fire and our nation is so divided, it is particularly shameful that your product was
so warped and twisted that our Nation spent precious days discussing its misrepresentations, falsehoods, and radical biases rather than spending those hours unifying and healing ourselves and our country.
For a public company, using public airwaves, to so brazenly use this moment to interfere with a national election is almost a single compendium of so much that has divided and embittered so many in our nation, at so important a time in our history, and so momentous an occasion in our national life.
The inaccurate and false statements of events including misrepresentations of a former President of the United States; the use of misrepresentations of events to promote an ideological point of view that could be interpreted as support for torture that has violated a recent Supreme Court decision and could be interpreted as support for eavesdropping actions that many believe violate the United States Constitution; the use of innuendo and language that clearly involve not only extreme bias but repetition of partisan attack talking points that one party is using in a national election to demean the other; these actions are unprecedented in the history of network television.
The demeaning, sneering, personal treatment of senior government officials was reminiscent of government-produced propaganda films in nations that do not honor democratic values.
The personal way you portrayed certain high-level women such as Madeleine Albright and Barbara Bodine was so snide and haughty that I personally found it reprehensibly sexist as well as intellectually and factually false and dishonest.
These actions have done extreme and long-term damage to Disney's reputation for integrity, probity and solid American values. No doubt, for the same reprehensible reasons you allowed such a defective and deformed product to air on your network, you probably have no idea of the alienation and rage you have created with tens of millions of Americans who are patriotic citizens deeply and profoundly offended by what you have done, who have been, until now, your customers.
Mr. Iger, I call on you to resign, you have done more damage in your short tenure to the credibility and reputation of the Company than every previous CEO in its long and distinguished history.
Members of the Board, if Mr. Iger refuses to honorably step down, I call on you to remove him. There must be accountability.
I have one final action I call on you to take.
You have interfered with a national election; you have further divided a divided country; you have further wounded a wounded nation; you have produced what was essentially propaganda film unworthy of a great company in a democratic nation; you have selectively leaked to partisans and ideologues who have used it to demean other Americans in the most shamefully partisan ways; you have presented false, condescending and sexist impressions of people who are not only former high-level leaders but human beings worthy of far more fair and respectful treatment; and you unilaterally injected several days of warped and deformed debate, about your warped and deformed product, on a Nation commemorating a momentous occasion that for the rest of us, should have been unifying and healing.
By doing so, you brought discredit and dishonor to yourselves and your company.
I therefore call on you, as a gesture of national
reconciliation, to at least make a good faith effort to undo some of the damage
you have done, to our country and your company, to within 72 hours announce a
$40 million cash donation, in the name of your shareholders and customers, to a
respected charity that helps homeless veterans who have served our country and
fallen on hard times.
At least, if you do this, some good will come out of this shameful and disgusting episode that has further divided our country, and done so much damage to your honor, reputation and credibility.
I am, Sincerely,
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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