Wednesday, April 2, 2014
General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s testimony before a House subcommittee on Tuesday led all three network news broadcasts Tuesday evening. The networks dedicated more than nine-and-a-half minutes of coverage to the story, and it is the subject of extensive print coverage this morning. Generally the coverage casts lawmakers as angry that Barra was unable to provide more specific answers about GM’s delayed response to the faulty ignition switch problem. Most reports also note GM’s decision to retain Kenneth Feinberg, which is almost universally portrayed as an indication that the company expects to face claims from the families of those injured or killed in the recalled vehicles.
ABC World News (4/1, lead story, 2:45, Sawyer, 7.43M) reported in its lead story that GM CEO Mary Barra was “in the hot seat” as she testified before Congress about crashes linked to faulty ignitions in GM vehicles. ABC (Jarvis) reported that Barra “was pressed on why the company decided, for nearly a decade, that fixing the ignition was too expensive.” ABC noted that GM “has now recalled more than two point six million cars with faulty ignitions.”
NBC Nightly News (4/1, lead story, 3:50, Williams, 7.86M) reported in its lead story that the hearing “quickly got testy, because her company finds itself explaining faulty ignition switches, deadly accidents and a recall that’s at least a decade too late.” NBC (Costello) added that Barra “faced an angry Congress and promised to do the right thing.”
The CBS Evening News (4/1, lead story, 3:05, Glor, 5.58M) reported in its lead story that soon after Barra was sworn, “Congresswoman Diana DeGette displayed a GM ignition switch and said it would have cost the company 57 cents to fix it.” CBS added that members of the panel “repeatedly referred to GM’s own documents saying in 2005, engineers decided fixing the problem was not an acceptable business case.” Barra “kept blaming the old GM for a culture centered around cost and lack of communication between departments,” but “the committee often expressed frustration Barra wasn’t able to give better answers.”
USA Today (4/2, Spangler, Healey, 5.82M) reports that Barra “battled” the subcommittee, which “wanted far more information about GM’s fatal ignition-switch foul-ups than she was able to provide.” Barra was “battered for speaking ‘gobbledygook,’ thumped for not firing an engineer who apparently concealed a change to the potentially deadly switches, and blasted because GM made an economic decision to keep the flawed component in production while knowing it didn’t meet GM standards.” She avoided “any obvious gaffes” and largely avoided “specific answers, saying an internal investigation is underway into why it took GM so long to address ignition-switch problems first detected in 2001 this year.”
Reuters (4/2, Klayman, Beech) reports that Barra called GM’s delayed response “unacceptable,” but failed to provide any explanation. Rep. Henry Waxman told Barra, “Because GM didn’t implement this simple fix when it learned about the problem, at least a dozen people have died in defective GM vehicles.” Reuters notes that Barra also announced that GM had retained as a consultant Kenneth Feinberg, who will consider possible responses to the families of those inured or killed in crashes involving the impacted cars.
The Washington Post (4/2, Fletcher, Mufson, 2.33M) reports that Barra “deflected a barrage of questions on Capitol Hill about the automaker’s failure to fix a deadly ignition-switch flaw, telling lawmakers that she was unaware of the decade-old problem until early this year.” While she “repeatedly apologized” for the defect, she also “repeatedly ducked lawmakers’ sometimes testy queries, saying she is awaiting the results of an internal investigation.” The Post also notes that the decision to retain Feinberg “suggests that GM expects to face additional claims on behalf of people killed or injured in the recalled vehicles.”The New York Times (4/2, Vlasic, Wald, Subscription Publication, 5.41M) reports that in announcing that the company had retained Feinberg, Barra said, “G.M. has civil and legal responsibilities. ... We are thinking through exactly what those responsibilities are.” The announcement marked “the first time that G.M. has acknowledged that is considering making such payments, and comes in the face of mounting pressure from lawmakers and consumer groups.”