USA Today reports the latest chapter in big-PR sleaze, this time involving former CNBC tech correspondent Jim Goldman, who is now a PR rep at Burson Marsteller.According to USA Today reporters Jon Swartz and Byron Acohido, Goldman tried to pitch USA Today on a story about scandalous Google privacy violations in a Google product called “Social Circle.” When Swartz and Acohido looked into the story, however, they found that many of Goldman’s claims were untrue.
Goldman was apparently working this anti-Google “whisper campaign” in partnership with another Burson Marsteller executive, former political columnist John Mercurio. Last week, Mercurio wrote a long email to a blogger trying to persuade him to write an Op-Ed about the same alleged Google privacy violations. Mercurio offered to help the blogger, Chris Soghoian, place the story in the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call, or the Huffington Post–all read in Washington DC, where the government crackdown on Google is proceeding. (Soghoian posted Mercurio’s email here.)
Now, pitching “scandalous” stories about competitors that aren’t actually scandalous is a favourite sleazy PR technique. But the fact that this one was coming from Burson Marsteller–a high-end global communications firm–and former CNBC reporter Jim Goldman makes this one noteworthy. Especially because it suggests that some of the groundswell of anti-Google sentiment in Washington may have been driven by secret paid attack-campaigns like this one.
At CNBC, Goldman was once famously excoriated on air by Newsweek tech boss Dan Lyons, who accused him of selling his soul to Apple’s PR department in exchange for exclusive interviews with Steve Jobs.
The name of the Burson client Goldman is currently working on behalf of has yet to be released.
Could it be Apple? Microsoft?
UPDATE: It wasn’t Apple or Microsoft. It was Facebook.