On several occasions, we have noted that the claims made by right-wing pseudo-historian and pro-Ted Cruz super PAC leader David Barton are so misleading, if not outright false, that it has gotten to the point where we have to fact check just about every assertion that he makes.
Barton, of course, is extremely close friends with his fellow Cruz booster Glenn Beck and it seems as if his habit of utterly misrepresenting information for the purpose of promoting his own agenda has been rubbing off on the right-wing radio host.
For the last week or so, Beck has repeatedly claimed that Microsoft's Bill Gates recently asserted that the biggest mistake he made when starting his company was failing to hire lobbyists. To Beck, this is a sign that government regulation is out of control, as he explained again today on his radio broadcast.
"Bill Gates just said recently he would not be able to start Microsoft here in America any more," Beck said. "He wouldn't be able to do it because the regulations have gotten so out of control. And, in one of the saddest comments I've ever heard, he said that the problem with Microsoft was that, at the very beginning, Bill Gates did not believe in going to Washington and getting a lobbyist group. Apple did and so, from the beginning, Apple went and hired lobbyists to make sure their interests were protected in Washington. Bill Gates was of the opinion that Washington has nothing to do with the computing business, they have nothing to do with Microsoft, so he didn't hire lobbyists. He says that's the difference between the wild success and the ease of doing business between Apple and Microsoft. That's not America."
After hearing Beck make this same point several times, we decided to look into it and, of course, Gates said nothing of the sort.
What actually happened was that Brad Silverberg, who served as senior vice president at Microsoft for nine years, was asked "what were Bill Gates's worst decisions as CEO?" and he suggested that not hiring lobbyists was a key mistake:
Top of the list for me is that Bill did not engage – either himself or the company – in the political process early enough. When Microsoft’s competitors were effectively lobbying the government, Bill’s attitude was the government should just go away and leave Microsoft alone. In his view the company was competing hard but fairly; it was creating value for customers and that should be enough. Well, this approach of not constructively engaging the government and concerned politicians, of not alleviating concerns that were not going to go away, was a disaster. The US federal government, many states, and the EU all essentially declared war on Microsoft, and Microsoft paid a devastating price.
Intel did a better job figuring out how to negotiate with the government and avoided the catastrophic fate Microsoft suffered. Google has done a better job with the US government but it seems the EU is on Google’s case now.
Gates didn't say that failing to hire lobbyists was the worst mistake he ever made, nor did he claim that he couldn't start Microsoft today because there is too much regulation. Those were things that Beck simply made up after apparently misreading news articles and then, as usual, proceeding to making false declarations based on his own lack of information.