Barack Obama

Sharyl Attkisson's Stonewalled: How the Media Protects Obama


Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a new book out, Stonewalled, that details the battles that ultimately led to her parting ways with the Tiffany Network. Attkisson was instrumental in breaking the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking scandal and she also uncovered all sorts of official dissembling about Benghazi.

In an extensive review, The New York Post's Kyle Smith notes that Attkisson considers herself "politically agnostic" and a reporter who follows wherever the story leads. That inevitably led to trouble when the story cast a bad light on the Obama administration.

One of the things that's particularly interesting is the way Attkisson sees bias playing out. It's not necessarily ideological (or at least not in a way that is commonly conceived). Smith explains:

Reporters on the ground aren't necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts.

Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into "casting agents," told "we need to find someone who will say . . ." that a given policy is good or bad. "We're asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe," she writes.

Smith continues:

Attkisson mischievously cites what she calls the "Substitution Game": She likes to imagine how a story about today's administration would have been handled if it made Republicans look bad.

In green energy, for instance: "Imagine a parallel scenario in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personally appeared at groundbreakings for, and used billions of tax dollars to support, multiple giant corporate ventures whose investors were sometimes major campaign bundlers, only to have one (or two, or three) go bankrupt . . . when they knew in advance the companies' credit ratings were junk."

Attkisson continued her dogged reporting through the launch of ObamaCare: She's the reporter who brought the public's attention to the absurdly small number — six — who managed to sign up for it on day one.

Read the whole piece here.

I interviewed Attkisson for Reason TV earlier this year, as new revelations about Benghazi hit the front pages and she started talking about her problems with CBS brass.

Among the many disturbing points she makes:

As one whistleblower put it to me: things have never been worse for people who try to speak the truth inside the government about illegalities and wrong doing. In their view, and I tend to agree, every administration is more clamped down and closed than the one before it. And the next one starts at the finishing point. It's very hard to make it go backwards. There are rules being implemented now against journalists and the type of work that we do that I think will be very hard to unwind.

It's a really fascinating take on how the news gets made (trigger warning: if you think politics is about sausage-making, then don't click below).

NEXT: Sheldon Richman on Why the State's No Friend of the Worker

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  1. Attkisson was instrumental in breaking the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal and she also uncovered all sorts of official dissembling about Benghazi.

    The brains behind the Phony Scandals.

    1. Phony wedge issues create phony scandals.

  2. The narrative about the news business I’ve heard, over the past ten years, was about consolidation and disruption because of the internet. Then newspapers were all consolidating since everyone was reading their news online and placing their local ads on Craigslist. Network news was massively hemorrhaging eyeballs to cable news and the interwebs…

    You’d think in that sort of environment, the network news people would seek to differentiate themselves–rather than compete to become better doormats for the Obama Administration. You’d think economics would trump ideology; if it doesn’t, why the hell not?

    Is it about access to the president? The networks feel like they need an NFL contract to sell real time eyeballs past the DVRs; is access to the president important to network news like the NFL? I understand not trying to differentiate yourself in an oligopoly, but they’re not in an oligopoly situation anymore. Why aren’t they trying to differentiate themselves and why doesn’t it hurt them financially if they’re all ideologically pro-Obama?

    1. How many people watch broadcast news in the US? 2M, 4M? Its about 1% of the population. The real problem is as Attkisson described. Everyone who isn’t Matt Drudge appears to take their direction in reporting from about 6 distinct entities run by people who seem to be suppporters of Democrats over Republicans. If I were the Republican leadership, I’d have the group stop doing the Sunday talkies on the broadcast news if they retake the Senate. Start making the sacred “access” something reporters are granted based on their stories, not on who they work for.

      1. There aren’t very many businesses where you can poorly serve your customers like that and not take it on the chin financially.

        Somebody, somewhere higher up, must care more about ideology than money–why do the networks tolerate the ideologues running the news?

        It may be that the companies who own the networks are basically using the news as cover or for rent-seeking.

        Didn’t Bill Gates invest in a relationship with NBC in a big way during of shortly after the government came after him on antitrust grounds? Aren’t they still associated with GE and GE subsidiaries?

        CBS is Westinghouse. ABC is Disney.

        Maybe kissing the president’s ass is good for their other businesses, and the losses they take by under-serving their news customers is a pittance?

        Whatever’s going on, this isn’t the way markets usually behave.

        1. News isn’t valuable. Except for a very short time when commercial space was at a premium, papers were historically loss-leading organs for someone or something else — although occasionally an actually independent rabble-rouser could scratch a living for himself and a few others. Your argument is compellilng. Westinghouse, Disney, GE, Ted Turner — all of whom are excellent corporatist companies, decidedly invested in having the government having more power to regulate.

        2. I think part of it is that since this has gone on so long, the market for Democratic bias is pretty well established, and for the most part people read the news today to have their biases confirmed. They aren’t looking for news, they’re looking for a security blanket.

          It’s interesting to me that so many of these biases can be refuted in literally 5 minutes using google.

          A great example of this is how the media on one hand will tout countries like Iceland or the Scandinavian states as bastions of liberalism, feminism and women’s rights when in reality a place like Iceland, for instance, has limits on reproductive rights that make Texas look like a liberal Utopia, established tax subsidized state religions and prayer in schools.

          Yet no one who reads the article ever thinks to look into it farther than having their biases confirmed.

        3. Somebody, somewhere higher up, must care more about ideology than money–why do the networks tolerate the ideologues running the news?

          I can fix this. I can fix this with the free market. I can fix this with the free market and a couple million bucks.

          1. Form a board of well respected journalism professors. (Finding such may be the hardest part.) Pay them well.
          2. Have the board produce a list of ethical standards for journalists/outlets.
          3. Start board certifying journalists.
          4. Convince one media outlet that they can get a leg up on their competition by employing and advertizing only board certified journalists.
          5. Have the board decertify those violating the standards.

          Other outlets would need to certify their people in order to compete. Journalists would adhere to the standards for fear of losing their certification and hence their jobs. Media outlets could still have their talking heads but the ethical standards would force them to identify unbiased, no shit, news from political commentary.

          Problem solved without a dime of gubmint (read my) money and without a single law being passed. It works in other professions, it would work for the media.

          1. But it seems the problem isn’t ‘journalists’ quite so much as the editors.

            Then you have the whole 1st amendment thing.

            seems like a non-starter, bro.

            1. Certify the news outlet as well.

              Works for lawyers, doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators and probably a thousand other professions I’m unaware of.

              It doesn’t violate anyone’s 1A rights, it simply holds them accountable to ethical standards. Meaning there are repercussions for lying.

              1. “Meaning there are repercussions for lying”

                ‘Vee have vays to make you Not Talk

              2. Broadcast operations are already certified by the FCC.

          2. The leftists will just claim bias on the part of the board.

          3. How do you think we GOT in this mess? Oh, it isn’t FORMAL, but the J-Schools are teaching the ethics they believe in, and rom there. The problem is the idiotic idea that an unbiased news outlet is POSSIBLE. It isn’t. There was a time when this was broadly understood, and people read accordingly.

            Back in Mencken’s day.

        4. Somebody, somewhere higher up, must care more about ideology than money

          I wouldn’t restrict it to “higher-ups.” How many conversatives or libertarians get journalism degrees? The field has disproportionately attracted people on the left at least since Watergate. The young reporters are probably steeped in social justice blather and worse than their bosses.

        5. Do people think I trot out the term corporo-fascism to be provocative? The DOJ and the IRS maintain offices within the large corporations 24/7/52. In many cases, star chambers of government bureaucrats are the de facto board of directors for very large entities. People who will actually work for such entities, at the director level, are people who are o.k. with the set up as it is. Large corporations and the government have been cross breeding for decades now.

        6. why do the networks tolerate the ideologues running the news?

          The operators are licensed by the government. That alone inevitably leads them to kiss government ass. And it isn’t presidential ass so much as bureaucratic ass – whatever they do they cannot have anger directed at them by the FCC, no matter HOW the FCC got angered in the first place.

          CBS is a perfect example – a wardrobe malfunction stunt during the Super Bowl got somebody pissed and the FCC fined them. It would be hard to say Dubya gave a rat’s ass but you can bet Ashcroft made a stink over it.

          Even though CNN isn’t licensed per se, they sell their services to licensed operators and they want their stuff showing in government facilities like airports. So they operate no differently.

      2. According to this page, the numbers for the week of October 13 were 23m total viewers for the three network evening news broadcasts, but only 6m in the 25-54 demo. So it’s a bunch of old farts watching.

        1. What does 23mn viewers for the week of .. mean?

          Does that mean 23mn unique people watched at some point, that 23mn watched every day or that adding up the daily totals produced and aggregate of 23mn / 5 days? All three are widely divergent with the last one meaning 3-4mn habitual viewers and 2-3mn casual viewers per day.

    2. Because government controls so much. If you dig too deeply, government will decide those doors need tighter control. When the public is fascinated by reality TV because it is escapism, and ignores corruption because it is so commonplace, any business which depends on eyeballs on ads will survive only by not offending the government.

    3. I understand not trying to differentiate yourself in an oligopoly, but they’re not in an oligopoly situation anymore. Why aren’t they trying to differentiate themselves and why doesn’t it hurt them financially if they’re all ideologically pro-Obama?

      This situation is evidence that homo economicus is somewhat mythical. People’s action are directed by many factors beyond maximizing financial success; habit, conviction and prestige are obviously more important to the directors of the msm.

      The thing that I find perplexing is that it would be cheaper to buy a legacy media operator and use it to influence public opinion than any number of the vanity political campaigns of the last half decade. Meg Whitman blew more than $100m on her run for governor. For that amount of money she could have bought the four largest newspapers in the state. Romney went through at least five times that amount of money, which could have purchased a major network.

      1. VG….You’re thinking homo economicus doesn’t exist because those making decisions are hurting their companies. Homo Eco still exists, but the interests of the corporate bureaucracy are not those of the corporation itself. These people, the $10-$20 million a year execs above all wish to remain A listers in NY society. They don’t care the NY Times is losing money, and might not exist in ten years. Their interests, which are not simply economic, but also involve where they wish to stand in their group, are served by sucking up to the Dems under Obama. Economically they, as individuals, are served well by being anti GOP, pro Dem, etc. Their next job is dependent upon it. Their wives status amongst the power wives is dependent upon it. When the venerable Times falls, as it will, they will have moved on to other things.

        1. In your example of the NYT, it’s pretty inconceivable that Sultzburg would have anywhere near the prestige or influence that he has as owner and manager of the times.

          Although I generally agree with your point that people act in their perceived self interest. It’s just that often does not mean in their financial self interest or even material self interest.

          1. I don’t disagree with you. Once a certain level of financial gain has been made other things take over.

      2. And the moment a non-leftist bought a newspaper or magazine or network, the protests and boycotts would begin, killing their advertising revenue.

    4. Well, it kind of did happen. Fox News.

  3. Scott Pelley works out, and I think sharing that with the world has more importance than your liberal media fantasies.

    How much do you bench?

    1. Do you even lift, bro?

  4. Sharyl Attkisson? Yeah, I’d hit that.

    /utterly missing the point

    1. Focus, Aly, focus!

  5. Reason is suffering from mutilple personality disorder today…

    One article on how the press is protecting Obama and another in how the press is frustrated with Obama.

    Perhaps the press isn’t a monlothic entity?

    1. They’re frustrated that Obama won’t let them give him a hummer?

      They’re frustrated, but when push comes to shove, they’ll go to the wall for Obama?

    2. “bassjoe|10.26.14 @ 11:55AM|#

      Reason is suffering from mutilple personality disorder today…

      One article on how the press is protecting Obama and another in how the press is frustrated with Obama.”

      The headlines?

      Sharryl Attkisson’s Stonewalled: How the Media Protects Obama


      Todd Krainin on the New Presidential Propaganda

      They are both about how the Administration *and its friends in the news media* collude to present the public a highly tweaked and manipulated version of reality while restricting access to anyone who may not be playing off the same page of music.

      Pretending that these stories are in any way ‘contradictory’ requires some similarly desperate spin-mongering.

      Yes, news organizations have rebelled against the lack of White House access at times. They would prefer to be ‘Partners in Propaganda’, not lapdogs. You don’t see them rebelling against the Chosen Themes that the administration feeds them, however.

      1. GILMORE 1, bassjoe 0.

  6. There’s obviously a degree of left wing bias in the legacy media and the people that work for it. However, the much larger bias is statist. At all levels the media sucks up to and sucks off political office holders and bureaucrats of all political persuasions.

    1. In the end, this is what it comes down to. Even when the media is hostile to an administration, they are never hostile to the state as an institution. Never. Never ever.

  7. The Main stream press is going down the tubes. You would think they would care. But, in fact, the MSM isn’t run by its owners. It is run by a corporate bureaucracy. These are the people who make their $10 mill a year, being paid from companies who are bleeding red ink.

    The people who run the NY Times etc. don’t care about the NY Times. They care about their salaries, and they care about getting invited to the right parties and being considered in the right light in ‘polite’ NY society. If they dump on Obama they lose their status, and not just during the time of the story, but probably for the rest of their lives. They won’t risk this.

  8. Bodegas, shelters and auto repair shops are turning into craft coffee houses, high-end condominiums and Trader Joes.


  9. Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say . . .” that a given policy is good or bad.

    Yep, been saying this for years. This is straight out of the NPR playbook.

    Scoured the streets, they did, to find someone who was black, elderly and didn’t have an ID, therefore voter ID was racist. And even then, the person HAD an id, they had just recently lost it, and she hadn’t yet been in to renew it.

  10. So, how long did it take for the internet High Priestesses of all that is Progressively Proper to come to the conclusion that =

    “This is not a GENUINE STRONG FEMALE SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER…. No, she’s a self-hating, rape-cheerleading, slave to corporate interests and enemy of all that is holy and good and proper!”

    Just curious.

    I shall google her name, and see if….

    Sharyl Attkisson Keeps Peddling Hollow ‘Liberal Media Bias‘ Claim
    Former CBS Reporter Apparently Can’t Produce Any Proof For Conspiracy

    didipa ? 6 months ago

    The media is biased AGAINST liberals…. Why are there no liberals on the Sunday talk shows? Why do they exclude liberals from daily talk show panels?

    Ellis Belfer ? Miller Place, New York
    People in glass house shouldn’t throw stones. Take a look a her record. She should work for Fox News

    Perhaps “less classy” is this TPM piece where they suggest she’s a little ‘crazy’ for thinking that there’s a *Konspiracy?*

    I note = in Media Matters, TPM, and Raw Story, they seem to aggressively edit comments sections. As in, delete anything that seems to contradict their claims. It is something of a ‘microcosm’ of the Major News Network attitude = Aggressive Spin Control, to the point of selectively permitting commentary…

  11. I’ve heard a narrative for decades that men don’t find intelligent powerful women attractive, that we are threatened by this.

    Sharyl puts that lie to rest.

  12. If you want to read a pretty good book about bis in the media which covers an era that essentially predates the internet, read Bias by Bernard Goldberg. It’s a great veteran reporter’s retrospective on media Bias that he chronicles over the 20 (or so) years prior to the books publishing date, 2003.

    The book is just as relevant today as it was then.

  13. @11:23

    What she’s touching on but doesn’t seem to hit on directly, as was mentioned upthread, is the media is largely pro-state. This government hostility to inquiry isn’t because government actors became bad– government actors have always been bad. What happened is the media has become reflexively pro-state over the last several decades and as such, has allowed government actors to shore up their defenses and entrench themselves against media scrutiny. To paraphrase the line, the media created the weather, now they’re crying that it’s raining.

  14. “Attkisson was instrumental in breaking the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal and she also uncovered all sorts of official dissembling about Benghazi.”

    Oh. So she’s a liar. Just another wannabe Fox news reporter. Nothing to see here.


  15. It’s good to know in this great free market that we have that the only thing you have to do is faithfully regurgitate right-wing talking points and bitch and bitch and bitch about liberal bias in the media in order to get paid big bucks. When is she joining FoxNews again? The worst part about the current state of political affairs is the constant bellyaching about what victims you conservatives are. God, would giving you guys a lollipop shut you up?

    Whatever you do, don’t get your kids vaccinated.

    1. Soc Puppet, do you NEVER have anything constructive or even relevant to say, or are you just a fat, stupid, drunken, narrow-minded asshole 24/7? If that’s the case, and it probably is, than i feel a transcendental pity for whoever your significant other is (unless it’s Tony). Do the world a favor and stick your head into a wood chipper.

      1. Hmphh! Well, I guess you told me. I wouldn’t know– like you do– everything about a person because he or she votes for their economic best interest and proclaims it on a comment board. You must have very special powers of divination. I know, i know– when you point out that a reporter, whose current profession is to complain about the liberal media and wrote up special reports on the fact that there is evil DNA in your children’s flu shots– is a fucking hack that makes you a smelly drunk.

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  18. That’s actually one of the perils of a free market.

    People who actually are in business to make a profit won’t slant there news so much that it’s political propaganda, at least unless they can make a buck off of it.

    OTOH, leftists are happy to spend their money to push their political causes, even when it doesn’t make a buck.

  19. Tasty looking dish she is.

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    For information check this site. ?????

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  22. Is the main stream media, obama’s. “Homeland Security”? They are sure protecting him.

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