Forbes Executive Editor for business news Dan Bigman told Big Journalism that Forbes stands by an online article accusing Sarah Palin of possibly breaking the law. He said Forbes was just “raising the question” of whether Palin broke Federal Trade Commission Rules regarding product placement.
Bigman stood by the article that went after Palin for wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the logo of a hometown Alaska gym for Palin’s cover photo on the current issue of Newsweek. “We believe the issue of product placement is … worthy of investigation”, Bigman said.
The Forbes article, entitled Did Sarah Palin Use Newsweek for Product Placement?, is based on little more than a cover photo, a bogus Wonkette article, a writer’s speculation — “It seems probable, therefore, that she’s getting something for her enthusiastic endorsements — perhaps free personal training?” and that the Wasilla gym, Edge Fitness, was seen in the “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” travel documentary series on The Learning Channel last year.
The Forbes article is reminiscent of the Arctic Cat jacket ethics complaint, one of the myriad dismissed moonbat ethics complaints filed against Palin when she was Alaska governor. Like a moonbat, Bercovici repeats as fact the false Wonkette story that Palin had a secret Facebook page — “(Edge Fitness) also received a plug on a Facebook page Palin apparently created under an alias and used for posting pseudonymous comments.” Sarah Palin issued a statement denying having a secret Facebook page.
Also like a moonbat, Bercovici accuses Palin of having a “taste for the perquisites of Hollywood-style fame” based on a March 4, 2010 Associated Press hit piece that paints Palin as a greedy celeb scarfing up freebies at a Hollywood ‘gift suite’. The article buries the fact that the event was for charity and that Palin made a “sizable contribution” to Red Cross Haiti relief. Bercovici of course failed to note the “sizable” donation Palin made in exchange for the gifts.
As part of his indictment of Palin’s character, Bercovici includes an unsourced accusation that Palin “has been known to seek payment from magazines in exchange for her participation in stories.”
The Arctic Cat ethics complaint was about Palin wearing an Arctic Cat logo jacket at the start and finish of the race. Arctic Cat was the sponsor of her husband Todd’s snow machine entry in the Iron Dog race.
The ethics investigation was dismissed with a finding that there was no agreement between Palin and Arctic Cat to wear the jacket. The Associated Press reported June 4, 2009 on the dismissal:
Biegel had alleged that Palin improperly used her position as governor and state resources for her personal financial interests by being “a walking billboard for Arctic Cat.”
The personnel board’s independent investigator, attorney Thomas Daniel, said there was no evidence Palin used her position for personal gain. He said there was no sign that Palin or her husband received anything of value in exchange for the governor wearing the jacket at the start and finish of the race.
The Arctic Cat sponsorship was valued at $7,500 in 2007, according to Palin’s financial disclosure for that year. Daniel said the value of the 2008 sponsorship is not yet available, but added it’s irrelevant because Palin had no agreement with Arctic Cat to wear the clothing.
“If the deal was, ‘You’ve got to wear this jacket acting as governor as a condition of the discount or the sponsorship,’ then yeah, it might have been a violation of the Ethics Act, but that’s not the case here,” he told The Associated Press.
Jackets worn by many Alaskans have company names or logos on them, Daniel noted in a report to the board Tuesday dismissing the complaint.
“So the fact that a person wears a jacket with a company logo on it is not evidence that the person is receiving a financial benefit as a result,” he wrote. “To the contrary, it is the company that is receiving the benefit in the form of free advertising.”
The Forbes article begins:
Sarah Palin is no fan of the “lamestream media” — except when she’s using it to serve her ends. Is she using Newsweek to get free personal training? And, if so, is that entirely legal?
The article notes that Newsweek responded to an inquiry about Palin’s cover attire by saying Palin had no stylist for the photo shoot and chose her own clothes. Palin, SarahPac and Edge Fitness did not return queries seeking comment. So, based on a bogus Wonkette article and a cover photo, Forbes and Bercovici smeared Palin as a likely lawbreaker.
An article at Brand Channel critiqued the Forbes article. Author Abe Sauer praises Bercovici for doing a “yeoman’s job pointing out all of the ways in which Palin is connected to Edge Fitness” (failing to note that one example was proven false), but concludes that Bercovici has no case against Palin:
Forbes blogger Jeff Bercovici gives Newsweek both barrels in a piece with the headline “Did Sarah Palin Use Newsweek for Product Placement?”
The accusation is that Palin not only pulled one over on Newsweek by sporting a hoodie with an “Edge Fitness” logo on the magazine’s current cover story, but that she also may have broken Federal Trade Commission guidelines on endorsements and testimonials.
…Edge Fitness is local Alaska brand, the kind of thing Palin loves to use to ground her Alaskan narrative. It’s also hard to believe Edge Fitness could afford a product placement fee for Palin, whose speaking fee alone has been documented at $100,000. Edge has only three instructors and isn’t even open past noon on weekends.
…Is it possible Palin works out at Edge for free on those rare occasions she is in Wasilla? You betcha! Like all celebrities she gets things for free that she, more than anyone, can afford.
…Bercovici goes on to stretch his point by implying that Palin may have violated Federal Trade Commission rules that “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed. Bercovici singles out Palin here, but it would seem that the FTC rules in this case would apply to Newsweek, which is only endorsing its giant slobbering “get” of Palin on its cover at the very moment The Undefeated, the commercial documentary about her, goes national.
The FTC rules clearly state that disclosures are only required for endorsements “consumers would not expect.” Despite occasional lip service to the contrary, Palin isn’t a politician, she’s an entertainer and makes her living either directly selling things through endorsements, giving speeches, or providing filler commentary and content that broadcasters like TLC and Fox News can put between commercials.
Readers at Forbes were less charitable in their comments, prompting several responses by Bercovici. However Bercovici did not respond to this reader’s comment:
How about a little proof of your accusations. That Wonkette story about a second FB page was bogus.
What proof do you have that Palin has ever asked for payment to participate in a story?
Palin’s lack of respect for many journalists is due to the fact that they have lied about her. You probably need to be included in that group.
BTW, just because you link to another article, it doesn’t mean that article is truthful.
Bercovici did responded to this comment:
…You people on the Left, having failed in your efforts at painting Palin as stupid, tried to paint Palin as a criminal. Then the email dump came out. When THAT failed, you now are falling back on tropes like “profit through product placement”. Now we’re back to a variation of Palin is a criminal: Palin is a “greedhead”…
Jeff Bercovici: Section9, I’m glad you think I have talents to insult. For the record, nobody put this idea in my head. If you looked back through my past writing you’d see that I’ve been interested in the implications of the FTC’s approach to regulating product placement/endorsements for some time. I wrote about the guidelines when they came out and I’ve written stories on how Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Brees appeared to run afoul of them. I just happen to find it an interesting topic.
While hammering away at Palin and Edge Fitness, Forbes and Bercovici did not mention that other photos included in the Newsweek cover shoot show Palin wearing a Columbia Sportswear jacket embroidered (gasp!) with the company’s logo. Forbes and Bercovici also do not mention that not every photo of Palin wearing the Edge Fitness hoodie shows the Edge Fitness logo. If one were doing product placement for Edge Fitness, one would make sure every pose featured the logo.