Fox News Contributor Behind PR Campaign For Soldiers Critical Of Bowe Bergdahl
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Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his public relations firm have been coordinating interviews for soldiers criticizing the actions of recently-released Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
Those critics have said that Bergdahl, who had been imprisoned by the Taliban since 2009, risked the lives of soldiers who tried to find him after he reportedly walked off his Afghanistan base.
Several media outlets have reported on these soldiers and their concerns, including Fox News, The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Beast. According to a report in Buzzfeed, Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his firm Capitol Media have "played a key role in publicizing" these critics.
Grenell served as a spokesman for former U.N. ambassador (and current Fox News contributor) John Bolton in the George W. Bush administration, and also worked for a short time on the Romney 2012 campaign.
The New York Times reported on June 2 that "Republican strategists" arranged for the paper to interview soldiers who served with Bergdahl and have animosity towards him because they believe he is a deserter.
One of the soldiers quoted in the article, Cody Full, sent out a tweet thanking Grenell "for helping get our platoon's story out."
Buzzfeed reported that Grenell's partner at his firm, Brad Chase, confirmed that they were behind the public relations campaign (Grenell also sent out a tweet explaining his firm offered "pro bono services" to the soldiers). Chase disputed the Times' characterization of his firm as "Republican strategists" because he is not a Republican.
But a radio producer who booked one of the soldiers told Buzzfeed that Grenell was their point of contact for the appearance. Two other reporters confirmed to Media Matters that Grenell put them in contact with the soldiers.
David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times, who posted an article late Monday quoting Bergdahl's critics, said he had reached out to Grenell, who personally helped him contact Evan Buetow, a member of Bergdahl's platoon.
The New York Times' Helene Cooper, whose article identified the source of her interview subjects as "Republican strategists," said she was contacted on Sunday with information on former platoonmates of Bergdahl who wanted to talk to the paper.
On June 1, Grenell appeared on Fox News' America's News Headquarters to attack the decision to make the prisoner swap and cited the concerns of one of the soldiers in question.
On the June 2 edition of PBS' Charlie Rose, CBS national security correspondent David Martin said the former soldiers are "using a public relations firm" to push their version of events surrounding Bergdahl and that it is "a coordinated effort" which is "being organized by a public relations firm."
Joe Strupp contributed reporting to this story.