HOUSTON: A conversation that former Enron VP of corporate communications Mark Palmer had with PRWeek in 2003 sheds more light on the court testimony of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay about Lay's dealings with the press during the midst of Enron's crisis days in 2001.
Lay said on the stand Tuesday that he wanted to talk to the Wall Street Journal in September of 2001 about negative stories the paper was running on the company's business practices, but that he did not do so on Palmer's advice.
The AP reported that "Mr. Lay said Enron public relations officials believed the Journal was asking biased, negative and judgmental questions, and urged him not to respond with an interview or to allow [former Enron CFO Andrew] Fastow to be interviewed."
On the stand Tuesday, Lay said that he told Palmer, "Even though it's against every bone in my body I will agree with your recommendation" not to speak to the Journal.
Palmer told PRWeek on Tuesday that he cannot comment on the case because the court has advised him that he may be called as a rebuttal witness.
But in September of 2003, PRWeek editor Julia Hood wrote an editorial about the publication of the book "24 Days," which chronicles the collapse of Enron. She spoke to Palmer for the editorial about the company.
The editorial reads in part, "In one section [of the book '24 Days'], CFO Andrew Fastow upbraids Palmer and [former Enron chief of staff Steve] Kean for suggesting that the company agree to the Journal's requests for an interview about [an Enron write-off called] LJM."
Palmer told PRWeek at the time, "[Fastow] disagreed violently with me...When it was clear [Fastow] wasn't going to talk, we didn't feel there was any way to accurately answer the Journal's questions. The company very quickly imploded after that."
The statement seems to indicate that Palmer's opposition to Lay's speaking to the Journal was more nuanced than Lay's testimony would imply.
The AP noted that "Enron ultimately responded with a written statement" to the Journal's questions in 2001.