Sharyl Attkisson Cries Media Bias, But Her Shoddy Reporting Speaks For Itself

››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER & SOPHIA TESFAYE

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.

Sharyl Attkisson Frames Herself As Victim Of Media Bias

Attkisson Dismisses Fact-Checks Of Her Work As "Campaign" To "Controversialize" Her Reporting. During an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources, Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," and complained that she had been targeted by Media Matters. Attkisson went so far as to hint at a possible motive behind the fact-checks that exposed her shoddy reporting, saying: "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After host Brian Stelter asked for clarification on whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, Attkisson responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."

[CNN, Reliable Sources, 4/20/14, via Media Matters]

Attkisson Refuses To Substantiate Claims Of Politically-Motivated Stonewalling. Appearing on the April 22 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Attkisson continued her complaints about unfair treatment at CBS, though she was more circumspect about the details. Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski repeatedly asked Attkisson to clarify why and how she believed her stories had been "blocked," but Attkisson was unwilling to offer specifics, hinting that she would write about the details in her upcoming book:

ATTKISSON: [O]ff and on over time there have been issues over different stories over the years. But most recently it became really more of this stone wall where virtually anything I pitched on any topic -- corporations, charities, government watchdog -- pretty much anything that I considered original or investigative was just -- there was just no appetite for it.

[...]

BRZEZINSKI: So I guess my first question is, what didn't make air that should have? What was blocked?

ATTKISSON: I decided for many reasons not to 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 is going on. But as I say, watchdog stories about, in general, the powerful, be it corporations, charities, government. In general, there seems to be a sense now that anything about government -- and I'm not even saying politically, it may be the same no matter who's in charge -- you just don't want to go up against the government.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: I can't let you go before we boil this down. Because I've been reading about you for a year at least, about how you've been trying to get the truth out and the liberal media has stopped you from getting the truth out, especially stories on Benghazi. So I'm going take one more pass at it and ask you: Do you believe your reporting at especially at the evening news -- do you believe you were stopped from reporting important facts that the audience should have listened to because they were biased against -- the fact that this story, which shed negative light --

ATTKISSON: I would more accurately say there's a tendency to shy away from stories against the powerful. And I think that might be the case at this stage that the media seems to be in no matter who's in charge. But at this -- right now happens to be the Obama administration. That's my answer. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 4/22/14]

On Fox, Attkisson Suggested Her "War" With CBS Management Had A "Political Aspect." In an April 13 interview on Fox News' Media Buzz, Attkisson argued 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" for Fox News, Attkisson 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 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 watchdogs," but Attkisson failed to back up her assertion with evidence. [Fox News, Media Buzz, 4/13/14, via Media Matters]

Attkisson Tarnished Her Own Reputation With Repeated Shoddy Reporting

Politico: CBS Executives Saw Attkisson As "Wading Dangerously Close To Advocacy" In Benghazi "Campaign." In May 2013, Politico reported that CBS News "has grown increasingly frustrated with Attkisson's Benghazi campaign." According to Politico, "CBS News executives see Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue, network sources have told POLITICO. Attkisson can't get some of her stories on the air, and is thus left feeling marginalized and underutilized." [Politico, 5/8/13]

Attkisson Cheerleaded CBS' Infamous Benghazi Hoax. Attkisson used her Twitter account to relentlessly hype CBS' disastrous 60 Minutes report on Benghazi which came under fire for featuring debunked myths, a serious corporate conflict of interest, and an untrustworthy "witness" who apparently fabricated his story and had once reportedly asked a journalist to pay him for his information. From conception, to execution, to the network's stubborn claims that the report met its high standards even as it publicly dissolved, the story on the Benghazi terror attack of 2012 quickly became a case study in how not to practice journalism on the national stage. When the 60 Minutes report imploded, Attkisson never acknowledged the network's blunder. [Media Matters, 12/26/14]

Attkisson Hailed By Fringe Group At Conservative Conference. Attkisson was offered a journalism award at the 2012 year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from Accuracy in Media (AIM), a right-wing group with a long history of promoting anti-gay views, birther claims, climate denial, and conspiracy theories. Attkisson was the first reporter from a mainstream news outlet to be offered the dubious honor by AIM, and it came after a year of notably bad journalism from Attkisson. A range of veteran journalists and media ethicists -- including a former CBS News Washington bureau chief -- criticized Attkisson's reported decision to accept the award. Ultimately, Attkisson did not attend the award ceremony, and CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham accepted the award in her place. [Media Matters, 2/7/14; Media Matters, 2/8/14; Media Matters, 2/9/12]

Attkisson Pushed Error-Ridden Report On "New Solyndras." CBS' This Morning ran an exclusive investigative report by Attkisson that purported to "have found a pattern of the government pouring your tax dollars into clean energy." Attkisson claimed to have identified 12 clean energy companies, including Solyndra, that were "having trouble" or had "filed for bankruptcy" after receiving a total of $6.5 billion in federal assistance. But Attkisson's flawed report failed to name 4 of the 11 "new Solyndras," and some of the clean energy companies Attkisson mentioned never received federal funding or were incorrectly linked to the assistance in question. Attkisson's misleading report was uncritically repeated by conservative media figures, including Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. [Media Matters, 1/13/12; Media Matters,1/18/12]

Attkisson Pushed Inaccurate Healthcare.gov Claims Based Upon "Partial" Information Leaked By House Republicans. Attkisson aired an "exclusive" report in November 2013 based on what she acknowledged were selectively leaked partial transcripts that claimed the "project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The report was based on a "first look at a partial transcript" of closed-door testimony that supposedly revealed the manager was unaware of "a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system." However, Attkisson's exclusive quickly fell apart when questioning during a House Oversight committee hearing demonstrated that, contrary to Attkisson's misleading report, the memo discussed a part of the website not in use and that does not deal with personally identifiable information. Attkisson likely obtained her selectively leaked "exclusive" information from Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. [Media Matters, 11/13/13; Media Matters, 11/12/13]

Attkisson Rehashed Debunked Benghazi Myth That Obama Administration May Have Changed Benghazi Talking Points For Political Reasons. In May 2013, after former head of the CIA Gen. David Petraeus had already testified that the intelligence community had signed off on the final draft of the talking points used by Susan Rice in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, Attkisson followed the conservative media's lead in asking if edits to the talking points revealed an emerging pattern of the Obama administration "wanting to avoid the terrorism narrative." [Media Matters, 5/12/13]

Posted In
Media Structures & Regulations
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Sharyl Attkisson
Stories/Interests
Benghazi
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.