‘Harper’s vs. APCO

Very entertaining podcast now available of a recent episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, featuring Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, who...

Very entertaining podcast now available of a recent episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, featuring Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, who went undercover as a representative of a fictitious investment firm looking to boost the image of Turkmenistan, where free press and fair elections are non-existent.

To APCO’s credit, APCO deputy MD B. Jay Cooper appeared on the show as well. No one from Cassidy & Associates, the other firm Silverstein’s article targeted, appeared.

But Cooper’s defense of the firm’s apparent willingness to represent Turkmenistan sounded weak. He kept repeating that “this was a first meeting, not a last” and implied that there was some ethical difference in working on behalf of an investment firm as opposed to a the government itself, though Silverstein said that the scope of the work was clear: to improve the image of the country and its government.

Cooper sought to argue that Silverstein was being unethical himself in deceiving APCO about his identity, though Silverstein justified the deception as necessary to obtain information not otherwise obtainable and in the public's interest.

The back and forth also got a bit personal, with Silverstein calling Cooper “a professional liar” and Cooper saying he would “match my 35-year career against your 35-year career.”

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