CBS Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson did not appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference today to receive her journalism award from fringe group Accuracy In Media (AIM), despite previous reports that she would speak at the event. Instead, CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham accepted the award on her behalf.
AIM said earlier this week that Attkisson had “confirmed and reconfirmed” her attendance at the award presentation and that she would address the audience for 8-10 minutes. Isham did not speak at length, telling the audience: “Sharyl was very sorry not to be here today. She is traveling out of town on assignment, so I'm going to accept this award on her behalf, on behalf of CBS News.”
After saying Attkisson would be donating the award to the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Isham added: “CBS News is very proud of Sharyl's groundbreaking reporting, as you've described it. It represents the best at CBS News -- original reporting that we are extremely proud of.”
Attkisson's reported decision to accept AIM's award -- which before this year had only been given to conservative commentators -- drew attention, due to AIM's history of promoting virulently anti-gay views and conspiracy theories. In less than 24 hours over 11,000 people signed a Media Matters petition urging CBS not to legitimize AIM by accepting the award.
Among other veteran journalists who questioned the move, former CBS Washington bureau chief Ed Fouhy said Attkisson risked becoming “another pawn in the ideological chess games being played with such intensity in Washington.” Charles Davis of the University of Missouri School of Journalism added: “I'm not going to ever applaud a journalist for accepting an award that essentially recognizes the fact that the advocacy group likes what they reported.”
In announcing this year's winners, AIM praised Attkisson for her January 13 “investigation” purporting to reveal 11 “New Solyndras.” But Attkisson's report suffered from factual problems that CBS has yet to correct. Attkisson has also been criticized for a series of articles fueling unsupported claims about a link between vaccines and autism.