After blaming CBS News' supposed political bias for her decision to leave the network, Sharyl Attkisson represented her recent affiliation with a conservative online blog as little more than a freelancer, a description seemingly at odds with the blog's explicit designation of Attkisson as a contributor.
Atkisson left CBS News in March, reportedly because of a perceived political bias at the network, and in June began work for the conservative Heritage Foundation's online news outlet, The Daily Signal. On The Daily Signal's authors page, Attkisson is currently listed as a "Senior Independent Contributor."
Yet Attkisson appeared to downplay her relationship with The Daily Signal during a Q&A interview with CSPAN on June 22. She presented her position as akin to that of a freelancer, telling host Brian Lamb "I don't have an ongoing obligation" with the outlet after they purchased one particular story:
After reportedly leaving CBS News because of the network's supposed political bias, Sharyl Attkisson is now working for the conservative Heritage Foundation as a "senior independent contributor" to their online news outlet The Daily Signal.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported in March that sources said Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias," while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting." Attkisson had supported CBS' disastrous Benghazi reporting, which the network ultimately had to apologize for and retract, and CBS executives reportedly saw her as "wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue." She also released an error-ridden report on clean energy, and relied on partial information from House Republicans in a botched story on the Affordable Care Act.
Following her departure from the network, Attkisson attempted to paint herself has a victim of media bias, floating baseless conspiracy theories suggesting Media Matters had been paid to attack her work. She was unwilling to provide specifics, but claimed there was a "political aspect" to her troubles at CBS and that her supervisors gave in to "well organized" outside campaigns that complained about coverage. Conservative media outlets, particularly Fox News, rallied to Attkisson's defense, with personalities showering praise on her shoddy work and indicating they wanted her to join the conservative network.
The Daily Signal debuted June 3 with a report from Attkisson and the first of three planned interviews with her, in which she said she hoped she could "bring under-served stories to a broad audience through an editorial process that doesn't censor, that doesn't try to direct a story to go in a certain unnatural direction."
The conservative outlet has said it plans to do "true, straight-down-the-middle journalism," while simultaneously attracting a younger audience that "will find themselves persuaded by the conservative commentary and analysis that will draw on the think tank's scholars and researchers." The Heritage Foundation, which the New York Times described as providing "the blueprint for the Republican Party's ideas in Washington," recently lost some if its "most prominent scholars." The Times added, "research that seemed to undermine Heritage's political goals has been squelched." The think tank also started the political group Heritage Action, which has proven to lean so far to the right that some congressional Republicans have reportedly distanced themselves from the group.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that The Daily Signal will use Heritage's blog The Foundry as inspiration, which has in the past attempted to inject "its worldview into the mainstream press."
UPDATE: Media Matters founder David Brock released the following statement:
Sharyl Attkisson began auditioning for this role long before she left CBS. Her shoddy reporting on Benghazi, health care reform, and the Obama administration was relentlessly hyped by conservatives who then celebrated her hollow claims that her departure from the network was the result of liberal bias.
Media Matters has rebutted error-ridden reporting from Attkisson when she was part of the mainstream media and we look forward to continuing to do so now that she has found a happy home in the right wing.
Fox News has pushed reset on many of its favorite Benghazi myths that have already been put to rest in the wake of the recently released Rhodes email and the House GOP's announcement of the formation of a Select Committee to investigate the attacks.
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
From the April 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson's latest round of Benghazi misinformation rapidly became the basis of a misleading Fox News report.
In an April 29 blog, Attkisson claimed that a newly released September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to other key national security aides had finally revealed "direct White House involvement in steering the public narrative about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous protest that never happened." She highlighted the right's "persistent allegations that the Obama administration developed a false political narrative to downplay or hide the fact that terrorists had struck," and argued that:
[T]aken as a whole, the documents and testimony revealed since the attacks support the idea that the administration's avoidance of the word "terrorism" was a strategy rather than an accident or mistake.
The following morning, Fox & Friends parroted her attack, hyping the emails as proof the White House covered up the truth about Benghazi. Co-host Steve Doocy pushed several claims from Attkisson's blog, including that the email had been retroactively "classified" in order to keep their information away from Congress. He later reminded viewers of Fox's previous efforts to hype mainstream media stonewalling on the story: "remember, [Attkisson] resigned because, among other things, she couldn't do what she wanted to do, like Benghazi":
These allegations have been debunked again and again. The Rhodes email reveals nothing new, but was consistent with other intelligence briefings circulating at the time. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report has already found that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes." Instead, it showed that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice's statements after the attacks reflected the best intelligence available at the time and revealed that it took days for eyewitness statements by U.S. personnel indicating that there had been no protests to make their way into CIA assessments -- information that was not reviewed or disseminated until after Rice's statements.
In the email preparing Rice for her September 15 appearances, Rhodes only briefly referenced Benghazi. He stated that "the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex" -- language that is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day. The email's topline talking points, which both Fox and Attkisson highlighted for their failure to mention terrorism in connection to Benghazi, did not actually refer to Benghazi attack, but offered an accurate description of the anti-American protests occurring in the region at the time.
Despite Attkisson's efforts to portray herself as a victim of media censorship, this is only the latest example of how her Benghazi reporting ignores journalistic standards and denies facts. According to Politico, CBS News executives saw Attkisson as "wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue," but her arguments are clearly at home on Fox. As fringe media increasingly embrace Attkisson's shoddy reporting, it's possible that Attkisson may find her place pushing right-wing misinformation at Fox -- as Fox personalities have previously hinted she should.
From the April 27 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
Loading the player reg...
From the April 26 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
Loading the player reg...
From the April 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
From the April 23 edition of Free Speech TV's The Bill Press Show:
Loading the player reg...
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has stepped up her campaign to paint herself as a victim of media bias by floating half-baked conspiracy theories about the research that exposed factual issues with her work. These newest allegations are as unsubstantiated as the shoddy reporting that has previously tarnished her -- and CBS'-- record as a reliable source.
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and continued to lob accusations of bias at her former employer while offering no evidence to substantiate her charges.
Since leaving her former job as an investigative correspondent for CBS' Evening News, Attkisson has engaged in a media blitz notable for two goals: promoting her upcoming book and leveling substance-free accusations. In her appearance on Morning Joe on April 22, Attkisson continued this trend, suggesting that the lack of interest on the part of CBS News in pursuing some of her stories was due to political bias.
When offered an opportunity by co-host Mika Brzezinski to substantiate her claims, however, Attkisson refused, saying:
ATTKISSON: I decided for many reasons not go into a lot of detail. I'll probably write about some of this in the book when I can think it out and word it carefully. But it was just, to me, a huge variety of stories, and I'm certainly not the only one complaining about that, and it's not the only network where correspondents think this sort of thing is going on.
Attkisson's campaign of evidence-free accusations has been praised by the right, but has come under fire from media critics. Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out that both Attkisson's accusations of bias and her attacks on outlets such as Media Matters "rest on uncorroborated stuff":
In any case, Attkisson's claims against CBS News rest on uncorroborated stuff, as do her claims against Media Matters, as do certain of her suggestions about intrusions into her computers (though she promises news on that front). The more media interviews she does, the more she thrusts this un-journalistic tendency into the public sphere for the inspection of prospective employers. And the more she all but compels CBS News to strike back at her ramblings.
Invited to do just that today, CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair told the Erik Wemple Blog: "CBS News maintains the highest journalistic standards in what it chooses to put on the air. Those standards are applied without fear or favor."
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson is augmenting her campaign to paint herself as a victim of liberal media bias with conspiratorial and false attacks on Media Matters.
Earlier this year Attkisson, who had been celebrated by conservative activists for her often shoddy reporting on the Obama administration, ended her two-decade career at CBS News. She has since made numerous media appearances, often on Fox News, claiming that her reporting had been curtailed by CBS managers who opposed critical reporting on the administration. As Media Matters noted last week, Attkisson has provided little to no evidence to support her broad claims that politics, rather than newsworthiness, was keeping her stories off CBS' air.
Attkisson responded during an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. After Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," host Brian Stelter asked, "Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you've been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they're doing? They're just trying to controversialize the issue?" Attkisson responded that she had been "targeted" by Media Matters and hinted at a motive, saying, "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After Stelter asked her whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, she responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."
Attkisson's claims quickly found a ready audience on Fox News.
But Attkisson's claims are false. Media Matters has never taken contributions to target her or any other reporter. We have published research on her reports on green energy and Obamacare, among other topics, when those reports have been inaccurate or misleading -- the same standard to which we hold any other reporter.
Attkisson decided to float this conspiracy theory without any evidence during an appearance on a news program, suggesting that she doesn't believe she needs to prove her contentions before bringing them to a national audience. If that was the reporting standard she sought to uphold at CBS News, it's no wonder that her managers were unwilling to let her promote half-baked conspiracies on their airwaves.
When Sharyl Attkisson ended her two-decade association with CBS News earlier this year, she warmed the hearts of conservatives by implying her work had been curtailed by progressive forces inside the network. It was Liberal Media Bias 101: CBS erected roadblocks that made it impossible for Attkisson to tell the truth about the Democratic administration. Previously toasted by right-wing activists and praised for her anti-Obama reporting, the reporter's public farewell was filled with finger-pointing: "Sharyl Attkisson Paints CBS News As A Bunch of Cowards," announced one Washington Post headline.
Recently, Attkisson returned to the friendly confines of Fox News to pump up the claim that she had been waging "war" with her "own management team," as Fox host Howard Kurtz described it. In a series of interviews described by media observers as an "audition," the former network reporter alleged there was a "political aspect" to her troubles at CBS and that her supervisors gave in to "well organized" outside campaigns that complained about coverage.
She bemoaned the fact that "The press in general seems to be very shy about challenging the administration as if it is making some sort of political statement rather than just doing our jobs as watch dogs."
Whistleblowers should always be listened to. The problem is she refuses to back up any of her conspiratorial claims.
While making her allegations, Attkisson continues to break a cardinal rule of journalism: show, don't tell. Attkisson constantly tells interviewers about how her work was curtailed at CBS. But she never shows examples of it being done; she never cites specifics. The network manager she mentions by name is CBS News chairman Jeff Fager, who she describes as sharing her views "as to what the news should be about."
Any competent journalist should be able to back up their assertion with evidence. In this case, Attkisson doesn't even bother to try.
Politico's Dylan Byers reports that sources say Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias" while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven, [which] had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting."
Attkisson is writing a book tentatively titled "Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth in Obama's Washington" for HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation, the corporate sibling of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox.
If Attkisson joins Fox, she'll follow the path of several other controversial media figures who conservatives believed were mistreated by the media. Those include Doug McKelway, Lou Dobbs, Don Imus, and Judith Miller. Reporter Bernard Goldberg joined Fox News after leaving CBS and accusing his former employer of liberally slanting their news coverage.
Fox News has showered praise on Attkisson in recent months, with personalities indicating they want her to join the conservative network.