What is the point of Ed Rogers, the Washington Post’s most conflict-ridden, mediocre columnist (FAIR.org, 4/23/15)? He doesn’t add a lot to the discourse, his boilerplate Republican talking points could be better written by any number of Heritage fellows, he shills for Trump in the most boring ways possible, and—most glaringly of all—is an actual paid lobbyist for an assortment of sleazy industry interests, via his lobbying firm BGR Group.
So why does a major paper feel the need to continue to give him column inches? Rogers has major conflicts of interest, as AlterNet and Media Matters have noted: Among many other infractions, he neglected to mention his firm’s $500,000 fee from the Saudi regime while boosting Trump’s PR trip there, and promoted the shiny new weapon systems of his client Raytheon on the night Trump used them to bomb the Syrian Air Force.
When he does disclose conflicts, it renders the rest of his writing limp and risible. Take his latest right-wing missive (9/5/17) lamenting the “lurch to the left” of the Democratic Party, which offers up one of the greatest self-owns in the history of the Post opinion section:
Economic policies [of the Democrats in 2020] will consist of government giveaways and anti-business crusades. Social causes will give no quarter to moderate positions, and LGBT special interests, labor unions, global warming fanatics and factions such as Black Lives Matter, along with other grievance industry groups, will face no moderating counterforce. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel industry.)
It’s rare for a screed to undermine its own credibility in such a glaring and amusing fashion—to rail against a made-up “grievance industry” only to follow up by letting the reader know that the writer himself shills for a very real and widely loathed fossil fuel industry. The rub is Rogers’ disclosure, such as it was, was only fraction of what it ought to have been.
Almost every “left” issue Rogers opposes conflicts with one of BRG’s corporate or government clients. Let’s run them down:
- “A $15 minimum wage”: BRG clients include the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, HNTB Holdings (construction), Caesars Entertainment and a number of corporations reliant on low-wage work.
- “Free college tuition”: BRG client Flagstar Bank issues student loans.
- “Single-payer health-care system”: BRG clients include GlaxoSmithKline, Senior Care Pharmacy Alliance, Lifecare Hospitals, Merck & Co, Eli Lilly, Neurocrine Biosciences and a host of others profiting from for-profit healthcare.
- “Labor unions”: Toyota Motor Corp, Caesars and any corporate client whose profits are threatened by a strong labor movement.
Clearly, an aggressive left-wing agenda would be a major threat to the bottom line of scores of Rogers’ clients. The fossil fuel industry apparently rises to a level of manifest terribleness that made Washington Post editors feel they had to demand a token disclosure. Those lobbying for low wages, massive student loan debt and exploitative private healthcare evidently do not.
Having a lobbyist moonlight as a columnist, of course, is inherently conflicting; the major corporate, financial and fossil fuel interests Rogers represents will, by definition, pollute his writings as surely as his clients do the Earth.
Perhaps Post editors can stop and examine their priorities when one of their columnists has to write, “Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel industry,” in the same 48-hour period three massive hurricanes formed in the Atlantic. The Post seems to be filling a niche that doesn’t need filling: insider oil company pitchman with run-of-the-mill GOP positions.
Rogers’ piece bizarrely went on to claim the 2020 Democratic nominee will attempt to “normalize” and “show common cause” with “the antifa”:
But just as the right tries to normalize President Trump, the left will try to normalize the antifa. As the rationalization gets underway, the presidential candidates wanting to distinguish themselves in a crowded field will be tempted to show common cause and try to harness the antifa fury. The pandering to come will be nauseating, but nonetheless compelling to watch.
Even aside from Rogers’ glaring conflicts, this section is worth highlighting because it shows what an amazingly poor writer he is. It’s a series of lazy ideological assumptions built on top of each other that thinks antifa is called “the antifa” and Democrats seek to embrace radical anarchists, despite the top Democrat in the country coming out expressly against it. Indeed, if Rogers were a venal industry hack who could also write well and make original points, his existence on Washington Post’s payroll would be more understandable. But he’s not; he’s both corrupt and a banal, unlettered writer, leading one to ask, again—what is the point of Ed Rogers?