Fox News host Eric Bolling found himself in the middle of a heated argument between network contributors on Saturday over the role of Verizon Communications in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of citizens’ internet and phone usage.
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Wayne Rogers told fellow Cashin’ In panelist Jonathan Hoenig. “You’re shooting your mouth off about something you do not know.”
Following reports that the NSA collected data on millions of Verizon customers, Hoenig insisted that the company was not involved in the government’s activities, which put him at odds with the rest of the panel.
“We have, essentially, a fascist economy,” Rogers said, before mocking a visibly angry Hoenig’s insistence that companies need to “get big.”
“You got it wrong,” Rogers continued. “You’ve got big government, big business, and big labor, and they’re all in cahoots. Listen, Verizon didn’t do this all on their own. The government leases that line. They provided the financing to Verizon. The government and Verizon are hand in glove. The government and [General Electric] are hand in glove. We’ve got five banks in the U.S. controlling 60 percent of the assets. Everybody is too big.”
“First of all, Verizon’s done nothing,” Hoenig retorted. “Wayne, you want a small phone company? Great. Put two tin cans together. A small phone company is not gonna be able to serve anybody, let alone the entire world.”
Panelist Tracy Byrnes said that, though she understood the need for the government to gather intelligence in the name of keeping the country safe, consumers needed to be told about it.
“Tracy, do you have a theory about Area 51, too? Or maybe you want to opine on the ‘Second Gunman’ theory?” Hoenig said, interjecting. “I mean, come on. You’re not Alex Jones-crazy just yet. But these conspiracy theories — you’re getting close, by the way.”
“Do not call me names on a Saturday morning,” Byrnes responded, waving a hand in the air. “I’m so beyond that right now. And Jonathan, you so-called libertarian, just think it’s fine companies do this without you knowing?”
“They’re not doing it, Tracy,” Hoenig answered. “Companies only get to be big and successful by protecting and respecting their customers. That’s why a lot of big tech companies, Eric, like Comcast, like Twitter, have actually gone to court to protect their users. No one gets to be big and successful by selling out their users. I’m much more worried about government than about business.”
When Bolling repeated his support for Byrnes’ stance, citing Fourth Amendment violations, Hoenig challenged him to provide evidence.
“We reached out to Verizon, wanting to find out whether they’d built a fiber-optic cable to the NSA so they could data-mine us, our butts,” Bolling answered, before reciting the company’s ad slogan. “‘Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?’ They never got back to us.”
Fellow contributor Jehmu Greene thought it was logical for phone companies to be a resource for government surveillance efforts, given the amounts of data they keep on their clients.
“We’re all worried about government surveillance,” Greene said. “It’s more [insidious] for the corporate surveillance that’s been going on versus the government, that’s been doing it for security reasons.”
Greene then referred to a “personal data calculator” posted by the Financial Times, saying her data was worth a dollar.
“The people I’m talking to, my social media, if I’m pregnant, if I have cancer, makes me more worthy to them,” she continued, before Bolling moved on.
Watch Hoenig and the panel’s debate, posted online by Media Matters, below.