Disney CEO Defends ABC News, ESPN Standards At Shareholders Meeting

By Alex Weprin 

The Disney annual shareholders meeting is always an interesting one to listen to. With such a wide range of shareholders, from various public and private groups, from across the country and across all persuasions, some of the questions can be… memorable.

There was a question a few years back when a shareholder demanded that the 1946 film “Song of the South,” now considered to be incredibly racist by today’s standards, be released on DVD.

This year, one of the questions focused on “the liberal bias” of ABC News and ESPN.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative research institute (and Disney shareholder) sent general counsel Justin Danhof to the meeting on its behalf.

Citing Brian Ross’ erroneous Tea Party report after the Aurora shooting, and a comment from an ESPN columnist about Republicans, Danhof told Disney CEO Bob Iger:

“Liberal bias pervades Disney’s media outlets, it’s time to stop denying the bias and do something about it. Our company’s leaders should show the intellectual honesty to admit it exists, it is a problem, and let’s start working together on a solution.”

Danhof’s question was greeted by the crowd of shareholders with applause, and boos. Iger responded frankly, but deftly:

“Our goal at ABC News and at our ABC News stations that have news programs and of course at ESPN is to be fair and to present the news that they cover in as unbiased a way as possible. Without meaning to sound overly defensive, I believe that overall the body of their work in fact is fair and unbiased and accurate.

However, I will say that over time we have been guilty of making mistakes, while not specifically commenting on those you cited, but I can tell you that in managing this business over the years, we have at times either presented the news in a slightly inaccurate way through mistakes, or in ways we weren’t necessarily proud of. But I firmly stand behind the integrity of our news organizations, because I believe that overall the job that they do is one that is worthy of respect, and certainly one that delivers to the value of the Walt Disney Company and its shareholders.”