Networks reportedly refused to appear on PBS' NewsHour to respond to NY Times' military analysts story; several continue blackout

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

In an April 24 PBS NewsHour report about a New York Times article that revealed "the role of military analysts on TV and in the Pentagon," Judy Woodruff stated:"[W]e invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC to participate, but they declined our offer or did not respond." Further, according to a search of programs in Nexis, several of these outlets have yet to report on the revelations in the April 20 Times article.

The three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- and the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- all reportedly declined to participate in a segment on the April 24 edition of PBS' NewsHour regarding "the role of military analysts on TV and in the Pentagon." Further, according to a search of programs in Nexis, several of these outlets have yet to report on the revelations in an April 20 New York Times article by investigative reporter David Barstow, who wrote that "the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform" media military analysts, many of whom have clients with an interest in obtaining Pentagon contracts, "into a kind of media Trojan horse -- an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks."

During the NewsHour segment, senior correspondent Judy Woodruff discussed the Times report with John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy, and Robert Zelnick, former ABC News Pentagon correspondent. Woodruff stated: "And for the record, we invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC to participate, but they declined our offer or did not respond." She added: "We've been talking to the Pentagon since Monday about participating in this segment, but when we finally scheduled it today, they were unable to supply a guest on short notice."

Media Matters for America previously noted that, in contrast with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, as of 11:59 p.m. on April 22, none of the following outlets had covered the Times report on shows whose transcripts are available in the Nexis database: PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and NPR. A follow-up search* on April 25 determined that as of 11:59 p.m. ET on April 24, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News had still not covered the report during news programs whose transcripts are available in the Nexis database.**

From the April 24 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:

RAY SUAREZ (guest anchor): Now, a look at the role of military analysts on TV and in the Pentagon. Judy Woodruff has our story.

[begin video clip]

LESTER HOLT (NBC News anchor): We turn to retired Army Colonel Ken Allard in "The War Room" -- Colonel?

RETIRED COL. KEN ALLARD (former MSNBC military analyst): Lester, good evening.

WOODRUFF: Since the months leading up to the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, dozens of retired military officers served as analysts on cable and network television.

FORMER MILITARY ANALYST: We've got to have Umm Qasr to bring the humanitarian goods in. We've seen the problem about Al Nasiriyah, the fighting with the Marines --

RETIRED MAJ. GEN. PAUL VALLELY: In this case, we're moving to Baghdad, Bill, and we're going to remove that regime very shortly.

WOODRUFF: These former generals and colonels have been a mainstay of commentary and analysis. And the networks paid them for their appearances.

Now, a lengthy New York Times investigation, published on Sunday, revealed the Pentagon targeted many of these analysts as part of an "information apparatus" to "generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance."

Pentagon officials organized "hundreds of private meetings with senior military leaders" and the military analysts. They included talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

According to the Times, analysts were also "taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence." In turn, "members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated."

It was also disclosed that most of the analysts have ties to military contractors.

JIM LEHRER (NewsHour anchor): And we go again now to our retired colonels --

WOODRUFF: For the record, the NewsHour briefly put five military analysts on a retainer in 2003. But none of them attended Pentagon briefings while on retainer to the NewsHour.

In the Times report, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman defended the program and said, "The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people."

[end video clip]

WOODRUFF: For more now on all this, I'm joined by John Stauber. He is the founder and executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. It is a nonprofit organization that investigates and reports on public relations tactics. He's also the author of several books, including Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.

And Robert Zelnick, he spent more than 20 years with ABC News and served as their Pentagon correspondent from 1986 to 1994. Today, he teaches journalism at Boston University.

And for the record, we invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC to participate, but they declined our offer or did not respond.

We've been talking to the Pentagon since Monday about participating in this segment, but when we finally scheduled it today, they were unable to supply a guest on short notice.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
PBS
Stories/Interests
Media Ethics, 2008 Elections
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