By on September 30, 2011

The Detroit News reports that the only Republican in Washington with subpoena power, Rep Darrel Issa has written a letter asking Ford CEO Alan Mulally for “a full and complete explanation of Ford’s decision” to stop running an advertisement that was critical of the TARP-funded auto bailout.

In a letter, Issa asks Ford if any White House, Treasury or other federal employee discussed the ad with any Ford employee “at any time via any manner of communication” and asks the automaker to turn over any documents connected to any discussion by Oct. 12.

Spokeswoman Meghan Keck said Ford will cooperate, but reiterated that the White House didn’t pressure the Dearborn automaker.

Ford took the ad off of Youtube after “individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008,” according to Daniel Howes of the Detroit News. The same day Ford restored the video, and denied that White House pressure led to the takedown. Color us curious as to how Mulally is going to explain this little episode…

UPDATE: The Washington Post’s Plum Line reports

I just got off the phone with Detroit News managing editor Don Nauss. “We stand by our column,” he told me. “It was based on multiple sources. It’s written by a busines columnist who can draw conclusions based on the reporting that they do.”

The story contains no attribution for the central charge of White House calls to Ford. Asked about this, Nauss declined to comment.

Asked to clarify if the column was alleging any White House pressure on Ford (the story hints at it up top but quotes someone later saying there was no pressure), Nauss declined to say. “The story speaks for itself,” he said.

When contacted about his column, Howes referred me to Nauss’s comments above.



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45 Comments on “Why Did Ford Drop Its Bailout Ad? House Oversight Chair Investigates...”

  • avatar

    Thank goodness Congress is getting down to the business of fixing America by investigating the marketing practices of Ford.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. Seems like a witch hunt to see if Obama Admin. had a hand in promoting Ford, so they can turn into a Monica Lewiski thing?

    • 0 avatar
      Diesel Fuel Only

      Yep, they’ve gotten to the end of yet another fiscal year and don’t have a budget (the most fundamental and basic function of a legislature) and so will have to develop another round of short-term fixes and anti-democratic, last minute hustles to get anything through, but they have time for this.

      This is why congresses’ “approval” rating is 12%, the lowest in history. Half of that is probably statistical error.

      • 0 avatar

        >>Yep, they’ve gotten to the end of yet another fiscal year and don’t have a budget (the most fundamental and basic function of a legislature) and so will have to develop another round of short-term fixes and anti-democratic, last minute hustles to get anything through, but they have time for this.

        Actually, the Dems refused to pass a budget when they controlled both houses of Congress. The House, under GOP control, passed a budget in April. The Senate, controlled by Dems – until the next election – is the problem.

  • avatar

    Dear Rep. Issa:


    Thank You

  • avatar

    Can we fire our entire government and start over? Whether or not politics played a roll in Ford’s actions (and I’m sure it did) this is a waste of government time and effort. Also, I’m glad Ford grew a pair and put it back up online, as we need to get over our obsession with political correctness.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Issa is a partisan attack dog. Apparently TTAC is an uncritical mouthpiece for him.

    • 0 avatar

      >>Issa is a partisan attack dog. Apparently TTAC is an uncritical mouthpiece for him.<<

      Only a lemming could come up with such an obtuse statement. Seems the uncritical mouthpieces are those opposing the inquiry.

      • 0 avatar

        thornmark – it is known that Issa is very partisan. But then I expect most members of congress to be partisan – it is part of the job. So why do you object?

        I don`t care if they do the inquiry but most people seem to think the focus should be on the budget and jobs. This has no relevance to those topics. I recall the GOP dissing investigations into energy roundtable meetings with Cheney or investigations into Iraq. Both of which are arguably more important than this. Lets be consistent.

  • avatar

    Is Ken Starr coming back for this one?
    TTAC is now tripling down on this topic.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Shoot first.

    Ask questions later.

    This appears to sum up the journalistic integrity of Mr. D.G. Howes and the Detroit News.

    While I wouldn’t put it PAST the Obama White House to make such a demand, there is no evidence to the contrary.

    Not only that: but they are not that smart….

    • 0 avatar

      Shoot first.

      Ask questions later.

      This appears to sum up the journalistic integrity of Mr. D.G. Howes and the Detroit News.

      Based upon the Howes piece, I’d say it’s actually more like this:

      Ask questions.

      Have a source that provides answers that Howes doesn’t like.

      Shoot anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr Lemming

        Yes, and why is TTAC not only linking to Fox News, but Hannity? That’s not independent journalism, that’s right-wing propaganda.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s not independent journalism, that’s right-wing propaganda.

        It seems that some folks confuse holding strong opinions with the more boring job of conducting research.

        If the Obama administration pressured Ford, then that’s worthy of coverage. But since no evidence has been provided that such a thing actually happened, there’s no story to cover.

        I’m a big fan of investigative journalism. But investigation requires research and facts, which seem to be lacking here.

        This story, to the extent that it is a story, has very little meat, including a “victim” who states on the record that it didn’t happen. Unless the journalistic model here is to emulate Goebbel’s “big lie” strategy of repeating an unproven assertion often enough until it is presumed to be fact, then I’d like to some facts instead of this hollow innuendo which provides nothing to chew on.

      • 0 avatar

        PCH, your characterization of Howes’ piece is off-base. His source said there was no “pressure” from the WH, not that contact hadn’t taken place. You’ll notice that Ford also hasn’t categorically denied that contact took place… just that it had unrelated reasons for taking down the ad. Meanwhile, we still don’t know why the ad was put back up.

        If you’re not curious about this story, fine. But that position still relies on an explanation for Howes’ inclusion of the line “individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008.” Your argument, as I understand it, is that Howes was willing to stake his professional reputation on an accusation against the White House in order to get more pageviews or something? Sorry, but I’ve followed Mr Howes’s career for years now, and that’s as difficult for me to believe as the possibility that the White House did contact Ford. The truth is closer to one of those scenarios than the other, and I’m honestly agnostic as to which it is.

        So, we have two implausible scenarios and a congressman who wants to know the truth. But by covering the investigation into this mystery, which has scandal potential for either the WH or a leading auto writer, we’re just like Goebbels propagating a “big lie”? Between that hyperbole and your general “move along, nothing to see here” perspective, it really doesn’t seem like you care to find out the truth… which is sort of the name of the game around here.

      • 0 avatar

        If you’re not curious about this story, fine

        I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t misstate my position.

        Let me spell it out –

        -The Howes story doesn’t offer any facts to support its allegations

        -I want facts.

        Howes presented no facts, and neither did you.

        I’m not interested in opinions, conjecture, speculation, rumor or head scratching. A “story” requires facts, so go get some facts. Fact checking is boring, but that’s where it starts.

      • 0 avatar

        “Fact checking is boring, but that’s where it starts.”

        And Mr Issa, with his subpoena power, is not in the perfect position to check those facts? You say we should be “checking facts” but then argue that because there are no facts, we should ignore the story. We’re also being accused of uncritically parroting Mr Issa, while at the same time being asked to uncritically accept Ford’s perfunctory and incomplete denial (while dismissing as fundamentally non-factual, a report by a thoughtful, non-partisan (if anything, left-leaning) newspaper editor). Fascinating.

        Feel free to bash us for not fact-checking… I don’t even mind your insulting implication that we’re just too lazy to fact-check ourselves. In fact, I’ll bow to your journalistic prowess and ask, nay, beg you: how do we fact-check this? Howes isn’t going to reveal his source. Ford isn’t going to provide us with two weeks worth of phone logs, and we don’t have the staff to go through them even if they did. So… what? We just take Ford at its word, even though its behavior prior to its “explanation” comports with the Howes story? We assume that Howes is a fraud who picks factual fights with the White House for shits and giggles? We either ignore the congressman who is trying to find the facts, or accuse him of an ideological crusade?

        I would submit that Issa is better empowered to find out the truth of this situation than any journalist in the US. Because of his subpoena power, Ford has to be very careful with its reply… so let’s see what that reply is and pick the conversation back up when it comes out.

      • 0 avatar

        And Mr Issa, with his subpoena power, is not in the perfect position to check those facts?

        Ford has already denied it.

        When GM claims that the PRC government isn’t pressuring it to give away its technology, TTAC eagerly believes it. But when Ford denies any pressure, you want to subpoena them. Forgive me for wondering why these two seemingly opposing positions are being articulated here.

        Howes isn’t going to reveal his source.

        Howes doesn’t seem to have a source.

        You should be at least a bit curious about the kind of source that it was and the specifics of the allegations. But at this point, Howes didn’t provide even a rudimentary tidbit of information that supports that this source exists.

        I get it — you smell a scoop here. But instead of jumping prematurely onto the bandwagon and assuming that there is a smoking gun here, you could at least call up Howes and get him to give you enough details so that we can know that his piece satisfies the basic requirements that would allow it to be called a “news” story, instead of the big fat bag of gas and rumor that it appears to be. His phone number is at the bottom of his piece.

      • 0 avatar

        This is a fascinating back and forth guys (really), and I hate to interject at the risk of interrupting it!

        But re. “…non-partisan (if anything, left-leaning) newspaper editor)…”: IIRC, Howes works for DetN, and as a native Detroiter, I was brought-up to understand DetN was right-of-center (and came on our doorstep every evening), and DetFreep was left-of-center (and came on our doorstep every morning)… Perhaps things have changed in the intervening years, but that’s how it was…

      • 0 avatar

        Howes referred me to the a quote from his Managing Editor, which I’ve posted above. He says the column was based on multiple sources. As far as I’m concerned, that calls the Ford and White House positions into question.

        I don’t think Issa is ever going to get a smoking gun on this, but I’m very curious to see how his request plays out.

        Robert: I was referring to the politics in Howes’ columns. On the whole he seems very moderate, and generally more interested in facts than ideology.

      • 0 avatar

        “I don’t think Issa is ever going to get a smoking gun on this”

        And this is exactly why I find this coverage so maddening. Allegations and innuendo, sources that won’t go on the record, and plenty of weasel words from the DetNews and Ford. You can’t prove the negative, so the stink will remain after Issa’s implies govt pressure but proves nothing. In the words of Ray Donovan, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”.

    • 0 avatar

      He says the column was based on multiple sources.

      Let me understand this — he claims to have multiple sources, yet the only one that he can quote directly says that this squeeze from DC didn’t happen. That makes the “story” sound less credible, not more credible.

      Tell us more about these sources, with an “s”. Mr Howes. “Several” in this context is a weasel word that is being used to avoid answering the hard questions. I still want to know something about these multiple sources, and what happened that could be described as “pressure”.

      On the whole he seems very moderate, and generally more interested in facts than ideology.

      Well, that would explain why he speaks to the local Republican club, criticizing the Obama administration and providing his ideas for how the GOP can win gubernatorial elections in Michigan.

  • avatar

    Given this administration’s track record this is certainly the right thing to do. Ford is the only domestic automaker not to take the bailout. They promote that fact, and then mysteriously are contacted from the government, who clearly has a vested interest in the success of the bailed out companies. Whether or not Ford dropped the ad by choice is not really the issue. The issue is whether the government is pressuring/bullying private (non-bailed) companies in one direction or another. We’ve seen it with Boeing, Gibson, and others, so it’s certainly a possibility in this case.

    This isn’t Venezuela, so it’s nice to see Issa do the right thing and offer some checks and balances.

  • avatar

    This is such a non issue. WHY someone like FOX is covering this I don’t know. Ford can say whatever they want in their adds just like all automakers. Just because the g’vmint doesn’t like it doesn’t mean Ford shouldn’t do it.

    • 0 avatar

      Why Fox is covering this is pretty much self-evident: it fits quite neatly into their anti-Obama, anti-govt narrative and bumps up ratings. Why this is getting so much play on TTAC with so little substance is a more difficult question.

      • 0 avatar

        Just keeping readers up-to-date on the story… as I wrote the day this all broke, we need more facts about this story. This is Ford’s definitive opportunity to set the record straight.

        Also, I’m no Hannity fan, but if you watch the interview, it adds some perspective to the story. One embed is hardly an endorsement of the guy or his show… it was simply the most relevant video I could find.

      • 0 avatar

        as I wrote the day this all broke, we need more facts about this story.

        “More” facts? So far, there haven’t been any facts.

        This is Ford’s definitive opportunity to set the record straight.

        They’ve already denied it.

      • 0 avatar

        Ed, I’m really not trying to call you out on this. Our differences here come down to the question of how much credence we give to Howes’ original piece. You believe that there is enough there to warrant serious attention, and I’m with PCH; when a source is found (on the record) to support the accusation, I’ll pay attention. Until then, this is little more to me than the kind of generalized allegations of “thug govt” that the right has been leveling against Obama since day one. Issa jumping on board this train is hardly news. If he didn’t try to make political hay out of it, THAT would be news.

      • 0 avatar

        when a source is found (on the record) to support the accusation, I’ll pay attention.

        I don’t agree with that. The source may need to be protected, and it’s customary for journalists to protect their sources.

        However, prior to anything being published, the source’s story should be corroborated in some way. Enough supporting information should be provided about the source and the specifics of the accusation that the story itself seems credible.

        The Howes story claims, without any details of any kind being provided, that the administration pressured Ford. I’d like to know exactly what that means.

        I don’t want to guess, or ruminate, or speculate, or meditate on it — I want facts. So far, no facts have been provided. If the facts are available, then they should presented.

        At this point, I have to presume that the facts haven’t been presented because they are inadequate or completely lacking. I may try to read between the lines, but I’m not going to write the story between those lines on the reporter’s behalf, especially if it proves to be a fiction.

      • 0 avatar

        It is clear why it is on Fox and that needs no explaining.
        PCH – I agree with Ed, Ford didn`t deny contact. Also Ed is right to keep readers updated, you don`t have to read this article. If it is found to be lacking in facts then we move on. If it is found to be true (and to what degree – i.e. exactly who, any threats etc) then future stories will be written.

        I am not a fan of Issa and he is doing this for partisan benefit – either the WH did exert undue influence and that helps Issa. Or nothing is there and he loses nothing. But it still is the only way to get to the bottom of it.

      • 0 avatar

        Ford didn`t deny contact.

        The automotive industry has numerous regulations to follow, plus Ford has borrowed billions of dollars from Uncle Sam, which makes Washington their banker. So I would expect these parties to communicate in some way.

        Here, we’re not talking about just any communication, but some sort of threat, whether veiled or explicit. I want some details about that alleged threat.

        “J’accuse” is not a news story. News stories require facts. If Mr. Howes is too busy, moralistic or self-important to obtain facts for his readers, then perhaps he should change professions to something that isn’t subject to accountability or research standards.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Well played, Ford. By pulling the ad, you actually created GREATER coverage of it.

  • avatar

    Seriously. Does no one recall that the reason that Ford didn’t need bailout money is because they had the dumb luck to go so broke BEFORE the credit markets collapsed.

    Ford’s in such deep hock to this day that another serious market collapse will send them running to DC with cap in hand.

  • avatar

    Are you kidding me!!! The only reason this guy is on Fox is to push his cousin’s art. What a plug! He had hard times just like a lot of other people… What would have happened if the Gov. didn’t “bail out” GM? That’s the only question that should be asked….

  • avatar

    If Ford had any political reason for taking down the ad, it was probably because it was reminding people what complete hypocrites they’re being about the whole episode:

    Also, I join others in asking why TTAC is unapologetically hyping this sort of right-wing claptrap, from Darrell Issa of all people. One of my favorite quotes of all time:

    “His [first congressional] campaign fell apart after a burst of investigative reporting raised serious questions about his honesty and his past. Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.”

    • 0 avatar

      You list an indictment, an arrest and an accusation.
      If he was found guilty for any or all of these, you would have provided that evidence.

      Since you give such credence to accusation and “serious questions”, then Darrell Issa’s accusation against the Obama/GM/UAW nexus should be just fine by you.

  • avatar

    I, personally, find it more likely that someone at Ford (probably without Mulally’s explicit approval) has been playing the media like a violin. Issa’s inquiry will also be played sweetly by Ford PR, and will yield nothing of substance, nor allay any suspicions of govt pressure, but it will fill up at least a couple of 15 minute segments for Hannity.

  • avatar

    This item is totally within the realm of what TTAC covers every day.

    It involves the GM bailout, its nearest competitor Ford as well as the govt that bailed out the UAW (which has GM and a major political party amongst it holdings).

    Ed has also covered the plans and schemes of Ray LaHood; not to give Ray a platform per se but to allow TTAC readers to know what is going on and then we arrive at our own conclusions.

  • avatar

    Enough already!

    Pressure in Washington??
    Oh, MY!

    Please, of course there is…and always will be.
    Can we get something really important to go after?
    I mean, really…with so many really bad things going on in the beltway, can’t we find something bigger?

    If Ford had any balls…they would have said kiss my ass to the WH.
    If there was such pressure, and Ford succumbed, shame on Ford.

    Meanwhile…go get them for banking and housing scandals and leave this small stuff alone.

    We only have so much money to investigate with and people turn off with so much small mud throwing.

    Get the big stuff!!
    Get Barney Fwank!

  • avatar

    This whole issue deserved, at most, 15 seconds in the spot light. It’s time to move on folks.

  • avatar

    I think there’s an English word for when Government meddles and controls Business. Something along the lines of “feces” if I remember right.

  • avatar

    This is only a story if Issa can find evidence of some pressure applied on Ford by the government. Even then, its minor compared to what the esteemed Robert Farago is writing about over at TTAG – the Fast and Furious/GunRunner scandal. Unlike Watergate, GunRunner has caused many deaths. I don’t care which lyin’, cheatin’ news media orifice spews the feces you like, the Ford ad brouhaha pales into insignificance in comparison.

  • avatar

    I came for the cars. I left for the politics. Linking to a Hannity piece reminds me of Fonzi, waterskis, and sharks.

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