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Press reporter acts as stenographer for 3 generations of the DeVos family

September 9, 2010

Today on front-page of the Region section of the Grand Rapids Press, reporter Myron Kukla wrote a short article about members of the DeVos family speaking at an event in Holland that is part of the Edgar Prince “Lessons in Leadership Series.”

The article shares comments from Helen DeVos, Richard DeVos and Dick DeVos Jr., who shared the stage with Betsy DeVos, Rick DeVos and his wife. The Press reporter shared comments from each of the family members that were presented in such a way that made you feel like we were all just sitting in some typical family living room and drinking tea.

The article does mention the Amway business, the creation of Windquest Group, their ownership of the Orlando Magic basketball team, Kids Hope USA and Rick DeVos’ involvement with ArtPrize.

There was no historical context and no discussion about how the family has used their wealth over the years. Even if those aspects were not discussed at last nights event it would not be unreasonable for a journalist to explore those angles, especially considering the DeVos family arguably has more economic and political influence on West Michigan than any other family.

People need to know about the Richard DeVos Sr.’s long time funding of far-right causes around the world. In fact, Helen, Dick, and Betsy DeVos have also contributed to far-right causes such as using public tax money for private education, English only campaigns, anti-gay legislation, pro-corporate policies and counter-insurgency campaigns around the world.

For a reporter to not ask questions or raise questions about such influence is unacceptable. The public deserves more from journalists, especially if they want people to participate at any level of the democratic process. Maybe the Press reporter knows that if you challenge or even question the power that the DeVos family wields there will be consequences, such as what happen to sports journalist Dave Zirin who exposed Richard DeVos’ support of far-right activities in a recent book.

The Press reporter did mention who the moderator of the event was, Rev. Robert Sirico, who was referred to as a “family friend.” Sirico is the founder and president of the far-right think tank The Acton Institute based in Grand Rapids that weds capitalism and Christianity and has a history of supporting anti-environmental and other reactionary policies. Sirico is also a “family friend” and spiritual advisor to Erik Prince, the war profiteer who has fled the country in order to avoid any consequences for the growing scandal surrounding the activities of Blackwater.

Any competent journalist would have a least frame the event with the DeVos clan with some acknowledgement that there are serious criticisms of their influence, but not much can be expected from the Grand Rapids Press, which the day before made the new home of Dick and Betsy DeVos their front-page story. Instead, the Press reporter merely acted as a stenographer of power.

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