Spinning Walmart: Astroturfing, Edelman, And Why Walmart's TVs Are Tuned To Fox News

A new article in the New Yorker examines Walmart’s complicated relationship with its PR company, Edelman, with whom readers of the Consumerist have become so well-aquainted. The reporter goes inside Walmart’s “home office” in Bentonville, AR, where he meets Walmart’s resident Edelman staff, notes that the TVs are all tuned to FOX News, and learns some interesting tidbits about the looms in which PR for Walmart is spun:

The Edelman team assigned to Wal-Mart, I learned, is divided into three groups: “promote,” “response,” and “pressure.” The Jobs and Opportunity Zones notion came from the promotions team. The response-team members–veterans of political campaigns–are supposed to quickly counter criticism in the press or on the Web. The pressure group works on opposition research, focussing on the unions and the press.

There is great mistrust of the press at Wal-Mart headquarters. The chief spokeswoman for the company, a former A. T. & T. executive named Mona Williams, keeps on a shelf a framed cover of a 2003 issue of Business Week featuring a story titled “Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?” The story asked tough questions about Wal-Mart’s influence on the American economy. “I keep that there to remind me never to trust reporters,” she said, without smiling

What delightful people.

The New Yorker article is great, with far too many interesting revelations to summarize here. We will say, however, that we love Edelman’s response to the “Walmarting Across America” scandal in which the sister of an Edelman exec was paid to travel the country in an RV and write “a blog” about the happy Walmart workers she encountered:

When I asked Richard Edelman, the company’s chairman, about this rather blatant example of Astroturfing, he said, of Working Families for Wal-Mart, “I do believe that it is a real group of real people, as far as I know.


Selling Wal-Mart [New Yorker]
(Photo: cmorran123)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bellopheus says:

    Bentonville, Alaska? Arkansas is AR.

  2. MadMolecule says:
  3. MadMolecule says:

    Oh. There’s a link in the original post. Duh.

  4. OnceWasCool says:

    Why does the New Yorker have such a problem with Fox News? Fox News is in New York! The other news channels are so biased that it is silly.

  5. eldergias says:

    I wonder if the “response” team reads this blog and tries to remedy situations it finds. That would be both cool and a bit creepy, knowing they are trying to fix customer issues, but it is because they fear public outlash and by monitoring specific public forums.

  6. JohnMc says:

    Hmmm. Considering I find most reporters selfservig and usually have an agenda these days, “There is great mistrust of the press at Wal-Mart headquarters. …” could be applied to me and about 100 million other citizens as well. That fact is well evidenced by the 6 year in a row drop in revenues by the pulp dailies.

  7. canuckistan says:


    Everytime I consider taking job offers in Amurrikkka, I’m glad that there are sites like this to give me many, many reasons not to.

  8. bambino says:

    ^ Wow. You’re so clever.

  9. TechnoDestructo says:


    Increasing acceptance of the internet as a news source (including newspaper sites, which aren’t seeing subscription revenue from it), and the traditional newspaper readership gradually dying off and not being vigorously replaced don’t have anything to do with that?

    It’s not well-evidenced by anything.

  10. Landru says:

    I often wonder if the posts I see that have such passionate support for Walmart (here and on other sites) have been planted.

  11. Paul D says:


    Are you implying that Fox is not biased?

  12. nffcnnr says:

    They sound like a very dedicated group of people complete with political operatives, seriuos message discipline, paranoia and an incessant soundtrack. Do they all wear brown shirts, too?

  13. gorckat says:

    Just wanted to note that in Firefox 1.5.whatever, the image for this post was loading over top the sidebar and SteaknShake story- it had an address of consumeristcache.com or something similar. Refreshing didn’t fix it, but adblocking the cached image did, while leaving this post’s image unaffected…

  14. Bix says:
  15. jurgis says:

    @oncewascool: Is this some kind of weird sarcasm?

    Fox News, the channel that puts so much spin on stories that it should be called the “Minnesota Fats of news”?

    The home of Bill O’Reilly and that “Half Hour, Hour News Show”? The one that was implying that Obama wasn’t African American?

    The Fox News that jumps the gun on stories, drawing incorrect conclusions and then recanting?

    Are you new to “teh tubes”?

  16. FLConsumer says:

    Mal-Wart pays $10 Million to a firm to help keep/clean up its reputation? How ’bout putting that $10 Million back into the stores… Hire a few competent manages, CLEAN THE DAMN STORES, hide the rats in the food department, etc.

  17. GenXCub says:

    @David Bixenspan: I don’t believe it was sarcasm. People who watch Faux News are totally stone cold serious that it is the only unbiased news station.

  18. OnceWasCool says:

    @jurgis: Boy you really need to try watching it instead of just spewing out what others have said. They really do try to be middle ground, where all others lie or just don’t report the truth.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    The middle ground??! Okay, there’s the Reality based community on one side. And… Goebbels?!

    What’s the other extreme of whatever it is that Fox is the middle ground for? There’s another global “news” channel that is more pro-war, pro-Corporatist, pro-Republican, anti-people than Fox? Times TEN? I’m all ears…

  20. mac-phisto says:

    listen, it’s impossible for news to be “unbiased”. the choice of whether something is newsworthy or not requires some level of bias.

    that being said, some people might say* that fox news is, in fact, one of the least unbiased news sources available today, & that is evident in the responses of its viewers such as, all others lie or just don’t report the truth. to assume that only one journalistic news source is capable of the “truth” & that a mass conspiracy of liars & cheats exist to fleece the entire world of television viewers…well, that just sounds like a cult.

    that being said, i like the bbc. less talking heads, more action.

    *my favorite foxnews method for infusing bias into news.

  21. mac-phisto says:

    that being said, i need to stop using the phrase “that being said” ;)

  22. Spit says:

    Edelman definitely reads this site. Those 20 people have to have something to do all day. Say hi, Edelman!

  23. Trai_Dep says:


    I think that we’re similar. In fact, I’ll go on a limb and assert that people who don’t watch Faux News (or watch it sporatically or out of irony) instinctively, intuitively have a MUCH more diverse media diet. It’s symptomatic of finding Fox so shallow, peurile and laughably biased.

    Fauxters, on the other hand, almost by definition rely on Fox as their main (or vastly predominate) news source. Supplemented by Clear Channel, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

    One source can’t hold a monopoly on the truth. But one source can hold a well-neigh unassailable position on distortion, bias and mendencency. That’s Fox.

    PS: hey oncewascool, I’m still waiting for a response to my question about your, “[Fox News] really [does] try to be middle ground, where all others lie or just don’t report the truth” quote.

    If the MSM forms one side of reliability/bias, and Fox is “the middle ground”, then which global media service forms the other (Conservative/Rightwing, right?) side?

    They’re the middle ground between the godless MSM and what?

  24. Yozzie says:

    @trai_dep: It’s perfectly obvious – ever watched North Korean news? FNC is the middle ground between Stalinist propaganda and those heathen child molesters in the MSM.

    I support everyone’s right to their choice of information sources, but seriously, Fox News fans – it’s nothing but 21st century yellow reportage. There’s not much real journalism going on there, but there is a well-documented, multi-layered relationship to the powers that be, who don’t have much interest in telling you what’s really going on – and neither does FNC. They have a definite agenda to push, and they do it very well.

    Most US TV news is garbage anyway (I work in it, btw) – CNN or FNC. I’m a BBC/NPR News guy all the way, but then, I’m a proud member of the reality-based community – I like my news with lots of crunchy facts and context, unlike that smooth, smooth pablum you get on most domestic outlets.

    And re: Wal-Mart – fuck those guys. One of the most tangible expressions of everything that’s stinky and wrong about this country.

  25. Sonnymooks says:

    Fox news is biased, but because they zig and everyone else zags, it get noticed. The NY Times and CNN are biased as hell, even worse then Fox news, but in a different direction. I’ve given up on finding unbiased news, so If I want info and different analysis about something I care about, I check with as wide a variety of sources as possible, i.e. cast the biggest net. There is more then 2 sides to every story, and I do not want to fall into the trap of looking for reinforcement of my own thinking like most sheep do.

  26. SexCpotatoes says:

    Yes, there is more then 2 sides to every story…

  27. superbmtsub says:

    I cant believe there are people still in this planet who trust in “The Fair and Balanced” reportings from Fox News.

    Just cuz they changed their name to “Fair and Balanced” doesnt mean they’re quite that. I’m sure there’s some amount of fairness and maybe some balance like having that skinny-nerdy wimp of man (Hannity & Colmes) to be the poster-child for a Democrat. But the reality is, Fox News has been caught lying one too many times to assist the right-wing party unlike CNN or other news stations.

    Usually news reporters are supposed to talk against the folks in power so the ppl in power dont get their heads in the clouds but not Fox. They for some reason jus cant stop kissin asses with the White House. Tony Snow? Where is he now? Oh the White House. Was that a Bush working in the upper echelons at Fox in the early 2000s?

    There’s more but what’s the point. People hooked to Fox News are like coke addicts. The only way to help them is by putting an end to their miserable lives and since I condone the death sentence, sending them to Iraq…