A couple of times in the last few months I’ve taken the press to task for ignoring the Congressional Oversight Panel and its report on the TARP. I’ve talked to reporters in the biz since and got the impression that many of them don’t really take it seriously because its chairwoman Elizabeth Warren is a liberal who, they say, pushes her agenda.

So it’s worth listening to this entire Planet Money podcast from NPR, where Adam Davidson badgers Warren for more than an hour to justify her existence, so to speak.

If you want a peek inside business-press mentality, and why certain stories get reported and others don’t, you can do worse than start here. It sees Warren as an outlier whose views, based on decades of research, are suspicious. It would never, ever have badgered a former bank exec, say, like this if one had been chairman of the panel. Davidson, like the reporters I referenced above, has been talking to too many bankers and insiders who sneer at someone not inside their bubble. Perhaps he’s trying to prove his objective journalist bona fides at “liberal” NPR by taking it to a liberal.

Warren isn’t legitimate in the eyes of the press, so it just pretty much ignores her—even though she and her co-panelists were selected by Congress to oversee whether the Treasury is spending the $700 billion we gave it in a way that’s best for the economy.

This interview is really cringeworthy stuff from Davidson, who comes out looking pretty bad (which makes it all the more admirable that NPR runs the entire tape). Warren takes this fight going away.

I don’t have a complete transcript of the show but I typed up some of it.

Davidson signals early in the interview that this is going to be a contentious one:

I feel like I have a love affair/hate affair with the Congressional Oversight Panel.

And tells Warren that he’s frustrated at the makeup of the panel and especially Warren because “you have a point of view.” What’s that “point of view”? That Warren takes the side of the middle and working classes over the bankers. Heaven forfend!

To which Warren says:

So i gotta tell you, I just think you’re wrong. I’m somebody who believes in free markets. The American middle class is under assault…basically since the 70’s.

I’m not an advocate. i don’t get paid for anything. I’m an empiricist. I’m data driven.

And Warren schools Davidson on the difference between someone like her and someone like a lobbyist, who spins without concern about whether they’re wrong. She has to live with the record of what she says, while the lobbyist’s reputation is relatively untarnished by ignoring the truth because everyone expects him to lie.

But Davidson can’t get past the attempt to get her to delegitimize herself, as if the press hasn’t already done that for her:

Davidson: “I think you’re well known… as someone whose work points to a conclusion that banks and credit-card companies are giving a raw deal to consumers—I think it would not be terribly hard to find people who would agree with you—that your work is in opposition to the banks.

Warren: If you don’t have somebody who cares about American families, then they don’t have a seat at the table in this debate. i think this point is really important. We have a little tight insider world who understand exactly what synthetic derivatives are. My job in this world is to make sure that when these enormous profound decisions are being made, that the American family is there. That they are part of that process…because the decisions that are made will be different.


The blog Corrente has a transcript of a later part of the interview, and it’s worth quoting in full:

ADAM DAVIDSON: What it feels to me is what you are missing is that — I think we put aside your pet issues. We put them aside. We put them aside until this crisis is over.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The cr— What you’re saying makes no sense. Now come on. [interpolate Davidson sputtering and attempting to interrupt throughout.] It makes no sense. On an emergency basis, on one day, one week, one month, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ve got to step in, we’ve got to make sure we have a functioning banking system. I think I’ve said that like nine times now. Of course we’ve got to have a functioning banking system.

DAVIDSON: Wait a minute. I want to make you go further. I want to make you madder before I —

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.