The Carlyle Group just announced its hiring of Norman Pearlstine, the former Editor in Chief for Time, Inc. Mr. Pearlstine will serve as Senior Advisor to the Global Telecommunications & Media Team. Part of his duties will be to work with existing portfolio companies.
One Carlyle affiliate, LifeCare Hospitals, is in desperate need of Norman’s expertise. Their challenge is twofold. How do they present the 24 patient deaths in their LifeCare unit in Memorial Medical Center post Hurricane Katrina in the best light? This becomes more problematic with the charging of 2 nurses and 1 doctor by the Louisiana Attorney General.
Secondly, how can they keep hidden the unreleased story of how Carlyle succeeded in getting the White House to leave their facility out of its Lessons Learned report? The report mentions a nursing home where 6 or 7 people died but there is no mention of LifeCare where 4 times that number expired.
Mr. Pearlstine might need to gather all memos and correspondence between Carlyle, LifeCare and White House officials on keeping their good names out of the President’s report. The question is who approached who, when and where? The Carlyle corporate office is just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Did James Baker make the call or was it Pres. George H.W. Bush? Was it a more recent addition like Colin Powell or ex IBM Chief Lou Gertsner? Or did lower level staffers do the deal? Might LifeCare's Founder Ann George have called Frances Fragos Townsend, the Presidents Assistant for Homeland Security?
My concerns about this situation include not only the White House’s obvious favoritism towards Carlyle but the continued corporatization of the media by groups with an obvious political and economic agenda. The Carlyle Group clearly has its own designs on being the number one contractor for the federal government. From weapon systems to health insurance to fingerprint ID systems, Carlyle wants to provide it. How might they use the media to accomplish their aims?
Time will show how Carlyle uses the media to further its political and economic agenda under Mr. Pearlstine’s guidance, but first he must handle the looming LifeCare fiasco. Should that blow up in his face the egg will land squarely on President George W. Bush and his school of insiders. We all know Bush doesn’t handle anger very well, so best of luck Norman! You may just need it…