The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

11 December 2005

Mike and Joe

LEGAL WEASELS

Scarborough's Ties To Air America Host/Investor







For those with a
good memory for news, our piece on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough's oddly soft recent on-air approaches to Air America's Al Franken and Jerry Springer came as little surprise.

After all, as emailers such as "Uncle Leo" wrote, until 2003 Scarborough was part of Mike Papantonio's Florida law firm. The two continue to seem close, with the latter still appearing on "Scarborough Country" from time to time.

Known by his knickname "Pap", trial lawyer Papantonio is not only one of Air America's weekend hosts, but plays key roles in parent company Piquant LLC's business affairs and internal legal issues. He's a boardmember and major investor, holding several million units and warrants.

When Piquant insiders need a second opinion on the numerous legal battles they seem to constantly face, Pap gets the call. As a true believer in the "progressive" leftist cause, he can be counted on as trustworthy.

Pap's also not shy when it comes to bragging about his liberal credentials, counting "Ring of Fire" co-host Robert F Kennedy Jr. among his closest friends.


When Scarborough left Congress in 2001, he joined the firm, only to leave in 2003 after an on-air incident, exposed by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, left him red-faced:


Two weeks ago, MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough introduced a guest, attorney Mike Papantonio, to point a finger at the "Rat of the Week."

Papantonio slammed a wood-preserving company called Osmose, saying it makes a dangerous product used in playground equipment and has "figured out how to poison our children and make a profit in the meantime."

What Scarborough didn't say is that Papantonio is his law partner, and that their firm has filed a lawsuit against Osmose. Instead, he urged viewers to demand that the government recall the company's product.

After an inquiry by The Washington Post, the former Republican congressman said last night on his program, "Scarborough Country": "I should have known that Mike Papantonio was involved in that case and should have asked him that question, so you could have had the full story. . . . I'll be the first to admit it: I made a mistake. And for that, I'm this week's Rat of the Week."

Phil Griffin, an MSNBC vice president, said what happened was "unacceptable" and that viewers "were misled. . . . It is troublesome that we didn't disclose that this guest was a law partner and had a lawsuit against this company. That's wrong from the beginning. We were not fair to the audience, and that won't happen again."

Jim Hale, executive director of the Wood Preservative Science Council, which represents Osmose, said of Scarborough: "This is what happens when you put someone on with no journalistic experience. It's the arrogance of power. This guy thinks the rules don't apply to him."

At the time, Scarborough took a lot of media heat for his unethical approach to guest bookings, but somehow survived the flap.

When it comes to interviewing Air America figures, however, can Joe ever be trusted, or is there too much personally at stake, even now?


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