CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is set to receive a journalism award at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference from Accuracy in Media, a right-wing group with a long history of promoting anti-gay views and conspiracy theories. Attkisson -- the first reporter from a mainstream news outlet to receive AIM's annual award -- has produced some notably bad journalism over the past year, particularly on the topics of clean energy and vaccines.
CBS's Attkisson To Receive “Accuracy In Media” Award
Accuracy In Media Will Honor CBS Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson At CPAC. Accuracy in Media (AIM), a right-wing organization that criticizes perceived liberal bias in the media, announced this month that it would “honor Dana Loesch and Sharyl Attkisson for their outstanding contributions to journalism” with its Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media award. The award is being presented at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 9, 2012. Attkisson is listed on the schedule as a speaker at the award presentation. [Accuracy in Media, 2/1/12] [CPAC, accessed 2/6/12]
*UPDATE: CBS Responds. In response to questions about the award, CBS told Politico: “CBS News journalists are regularly honored by a broad spectrum of organizations for their outstanding original reporting.” See below for factual problems in Attkisson's reporting that have not been corrected by CBS.
*UPDATE 2: AIM Responds. AIM spokesman Logan Churchwell told the Washington Post that Attkisson agreed to accept the award “in person” and will speak for 8-10 minutes. The Post also reported: “Attkisson, says Churchwell, has worked with AIM founder Reed Irvine in the past.” According to TPM, Churchwell also said Attkisson “confirmed and reconfirmed” her attendance at the award presentation.
*UPDATE 3 (2/9/12): TPM reports that Churchwell “told TPM that Attkisson was sent on assignment out of town. Churchwell confirmed that CBS' bureau chief will accept the award on her behalf.”
AIM Is A Cesspool Of Hate And Conspiracy Theories
AIM Known For Extreme Anti-Gay Views. Led by Cliff Kincaid, former Editor of Accuracy in Media and now Director of AIM's Center for Investigative Journalism, AIM has repeatedly published virulently anti-gay commentary.
- AIM Defended Ugandan Bill Threatening Death Penalty For The “Offense Of Homosexuality.” In 2010 AIM aggressively defended legislation in Uganda that “sought to impose the death penalty for a number of reasons, including being a 'serial offender' of the 'offense of homosexuality,'” as the New York Times reported. Kincaid praised the bill, saying “The purpose of the Ugandan bill, quite clearly, is to keep homosexuality in the closet, where it used to be in this country. The country's literal survival may depend on passage of this legislation, after it undergoes hearings and some revisions.” [New York Times, 5/13/11] [Accuracy in Media, 2/1/10] [Accuracy in Media, 2/3/10] [Accuracy in Media, 2/5/10] [Accuracy in Media, 2/11/10] [Accuracy in Media, 2/18/10]
- AIM: Repealing DADT “Is A Recipe For National Suicide”; “They Will Demand Sexual Favors To Rise In The Ranks.” Kincaid stated in a May 2010 column that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) would mean “a draft would be required to fill the ranks with soldiers reporting to the male homosexuals already there and in command positions. They will demand sexual favors to rise in the ranks, creating even more problems down the road. It is a recipe for national suicide.” Kincaid also fretted about “permitting transgendered male soldiers to openly wear women's military uniforms,” and stated that the entry of gay soldiers into the Armed Forces “could mean disease and death for those who come into contact with their blood and bodily fluids on the battlefields of the world.” The column was titled, “Corporal Klinger and the Barney Frank Brigade.” [Accuracy in Media, 5/25/10]
- AIM Promoted View That “The Nazi Party Was Entirely Controlled By Militaristic Male Homosexuals.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, AIM has promoted the views of Scott Lively, a pastor that runs an anti-gay hate group and claims in his book The Pink Swastika that “the Nazi party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals.” When asked about Nazi persecution of gays and lesbians, Lively said on The Daily Show, “The Nazis did persecute homosexuals to distract public attention away from their homosexuality.” In March 2009, AIM published a column by Lively in its “AIM Report” newsletter. Arguing against the repeal of DADT, the column claimed “Hitler's initial power base when he launched the Nazi Party was a private homosexual military force.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2011] [Comedy Central, The Daily Show, 7/28/10] [Accuracy in Media, March 2009]
- AIM Falsely Accused Obama Official Of Pedophilia. In December 2009 AIM posted a blog by Allie Duzett, an AIM intern, which asserted that then-Obama administration official Kevin Jennings, a gay man, was a “pedophile.” AIM later removed the blog post, stating, “We have no evidence to support those specific charges. The blog entry was posted by an intern without permission.” In September 2010, AIM apparently hired that intern as a blogger. [Media Matters, 12/11/09] [Media Matters, 9/24/10]
- AIM Called For News Organizations To Launch “Quit Gay Sex” Campaign. In response to ABC News' 2005 anti-smoking campaign, AIM called for news organizations to engage in a “Quit Gay Sex” campaign “advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle” because “Life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases among homosexuals are on the increase.” [Media Matters, 12/14/05]
- AIM Attacked Anti-Bullying Efforts. In 2007 AIM chairman Don Irvine criticized the National School Boards Association for discussing the hostility faced by LGBT students. Irvine wrote that “gay students have become one of the most protected class of students and heterosexuals are the ones facing hostility when they are labeled homophobes should they utter any word that can be remotely interpreted as being hateful.” Irvine further suggested that there is pervasive “same-sex bullying (i.e. lesbian gangs assaulting innocent girls).” [Accuracy in Media, 4/15/07]
- AIM Thinks The Republican Party Is Too Gay-Friendly. In an August 2010 column titled, “Is the GOP Becoming the Gay Old Party?” Kincaid claimed that “homosexuals and their sympathizers occupy important positions of power in the Republican Party,” adding: “What many Republicans have decided to ignore is that America's founders regarded homosexuality as a crime against nature and it was prohibited in the states and the military. This view was grounded in America's Judeo-Christian legal traditions.” [Accuracy in Media, 8/15/10]
AIM Promoted Birther Claims. At the 2009 CPAC, AIM's Kincaid questioned whether President Obama was born in the U.S., saying “Back during the 1980's at least we knew -- we knew that our President was born in the United States.” Kincaid later released a copy of his own long-form birth certificate in order to call on Obama to do the same. In 2011 AIM Chairman Don Irvine -- the son of the late Reed Irvine, the AIM founder for whom the award is named -- applauded the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate, saying “Accuracy in Media has been a longtime advocate for transparency regarding the President's birth records; today that need has been met.” Two days later AIM published a guest column stating that Obama's “long form birth certificate may not be genuine.” [Media Matters, 8/5/09] [Media Matters, 2/26/09] [Accuracy in Media, 7/24/09] [Accuracy in Media, 3/1/10] [Accuracy in Media, 4/27/11] [Accuracy in Media, 4/29/11]
AIM Pursued Conspiracy Theories About Vincent Foster's Death. In The New York Times' 2004 obituary of Reed Irvine, the Times wrote: “while AIM occasionally lived up to its name, it also spent much of its time pursuing conspiracy theories.” The Times noted that the organization had questioned whether the “death in 1993 of Vincent W. Foster Jr., the deputy White House counsel in the Clinton administration, was really a suicide.” Indeed, as recently as 2004 AIM released a “Special Report” alleging that the “American Press participated in the cover-up of Foster's murder.” [New York Times, 11/19/04] [Accuracy in Media, 10/16/04]
AIM: “There Is No Evidence That Obama Was Baptized.” AIM has argued that journalists should question Obama's Christian faith, stating: "[C]alling yourself something is not the same thing as proving it is the case. Obama's Christian claim deserves to be scrutinized ... The facts show that there is no evidence that Obama was baptized in a traditional Christian sense of the term. Indeed, Muslims could join the church in Chicago that Obama attended." [Accuracy in Media, 2/14/11]
AIM Calls Global Warming A “Fraud.” In 2007 Kincaid wrote an article titled “Media Promote Global Warming Fraud” claiming there was a “lack of scientific data to support the man-made global warming assertions.” And in 2008, AIM issued a “Special Report” titled, “Will Media Expose Global Warming Con Job?” The report encouraged journalists to “break ranks and pursue their next Pulitzer Prize by exposing the lack of scientific consensus on CO2 as a planet-heating pollutant.” [Accuracy in Media, 2/5/07] [Accuracy in Media, 2/1/08]
All Previous Award Recipients Were From Right-Wing Media Outlets
Attkisson First Mainstream Reporter To Earn AIM Distinction. Attkisson appears to be the first reporter from a mainstream news network to receive AIM's Reed Irvine Accuracy In Media Award. This year AIM will also honor Dana Loesch, a conservative CNN contributor and the editor of Andrew Breitbart's website Big Journalism. The previous winners are:
- 2011: Tucker Carlson, founder of the Daily Caller, and Newsmax writer Ken Timmerman. [Accuracy in Media, 1/31/11]
- 2010: Andrew Breitbart and Marc Morano of Climate Depot. [Accuracy in Media, 1/31/11]
- 2009: M. Stanton Evans, Human Events contributor and author of Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies, and Karl Denninger, then-Tea Party activist. [Accuracy in Media, 2/25/09]
- 2008: Heritage Foundation Fellow Lee Edwards. [Targeted News Service, 6/30/08, via Nexis] [Accuracy in Media, 2009] [Heritage, accessed 2/6/12]
- 2006/2007: Fox News contributor and conservative blogger Michelle Malkin and “Patriot Post” Executive Editor and Publisher Mark Alexander. [Patriot Post, 2/17/06] [Accuracy in Media, 2/23/07]
- The award was established in 2005 in honor of AIM founder Reed Irvine, who died in 2004. The first recipients were FreeRepublic.com bloggers Harry MacDougald and Paul Boley. [Accuracy in Media, 7/6/06, via AmericanDaily.com] [Accuracy in Media, 11/28/05]
Attkisson Botched Green Energy “Investigation.” In a recent “investigation” for CBS's This Morning, Attkisson purported to reveal 11 “New Solyndras” -- companies she said “are having trouble” or “have filed for bankruptcy” after receiving federal assistance. But Attkisson was counting companies that didn't even receive federal funds, companies that haven't actually gone bankrupt, and companies that have sold the government-backed projects to other firms, meaning taxpayer funds are not in their hands. Bill O'Reilly and CBSNews.com used Attkisson's misleading report to spread additional false information. In announcing its award recipients, AIM specifically lauded Attkisson for her green energy report. [Media Matters, 1/13/12] [Media Matters, 1/18/12] [Media Matters, 1/30/12] [Accuracy in Media, 2/1/12]
Science Writer: Attkisson Is “One Of The Least Responsible Mainstream Journalists” Covering Vaccines and Autism. Science writer Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind The Vaccine-Autism Controversy, wrote on his website: “For years, CBS News's Sharyl Attkisson has been one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she's parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it's been decisively disproved.” Indeed, in three articles on CBSNews.com this year, Attkission has suggested that there is a major “debate” in the scientific community over whether vaccines are connected to autism, despite the lack of evidence for the supposed link. Mnookin told Media Matters that he found it “shocking that her vaccine reporting is featured on a major news” site. [SethMnookin.com, 3/31/11] [Phone conversation, 2/6/12]
- Children Who Are Not Vaccinated Are At Risk Of Serious Infectious Diseases. Vaccination rates in certain areas of the United States are decreasing, coinciding with a rise in measles cases. As Dr. Steven Weinreb wrote in the New York Times, “For each year between 2001 and 2008, the median number of [measles] cases in the United States was 56. In the first six months of this year  alone, there were more than 150 reported cases -- the most since 1996. A vast majority of those who were sickened had not been vaccinated or had uncertain vaccination histories.” [New York Times, 12/27/11]
Attkisson: A “New Scientific Review” Shows The “Austism-Vaccine Debate” Is Not Over. More than a year after the formal retraction of the main study upon which theories connecting autism to vaccines were based, Attkisson wrote: “For all those who've declared the autism-vaccine debate over - a new scientific review begs to differ. It considers a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism.” Mnookin criticized Attkisson's article, noting that the author of the “new scientific review,” Helen Ratajczak, had only “been the primary author of a published study” twice in the past decade, and it was “only the fourth study she's been associated with in any capacity during that time.” Dr. David Gorski further broke down the “pseudoscience” cited in Attkisson's article, and concluded by wondering why CBS “tolerate[s] Attkisson's horrible reporting on vaccines and other scientific issues.” [CBSNews.com, 3/31/11] [SethMnookin.com, 3/31/11] [Media Matters, 9/16/11] [ScienceBasedMedicine.org, 4/4/11]
Attkisson Editorialized In Article About Debunked Vaccine-Autism Link. In 2010, a federal court ruled that families with autistic children are not entitled to compensation from the vaccine court because a causal link between vaccines and autism is “scientifically unsupportable.” In an article titled “The Search for Safer Vaccines,” Attkisson commented that “vaccine-injured children who end up with autism are quietly winning their cases, but only when they focus on the more general argument of seizures or brain damage rather than autism. Some victory.” [CNN.com, 3/12/10] [CBSNews.com, 1/19/11]
CBS Reportedly Had To Remove A False Paragraph From Attkisson's Report. In January 2011, Attkisson wrote an article titled “Child Flu Vaccine Seizures?” According to an excerpt quoted by Mnookin, Attkisson's article originally ended by stating that a new study “discusses how early life seizures 'may contribute to the enhanced risk of IDD's (Intellectual and Development Disabilities) and ASD's (Autism Spectrum Disorders.)'” But the study did not “say anything about vaccine-related febrile seizures,” according to Mnookin, who noted that “when CBS was alerted to the problem,” it removed the offending paragraph without noting a correction. The article still states that “non-government medical experts differ on the issue of whether flu shots should be given to children,” even though the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Lung Association all recommend that children older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. [SethMnookin.com, 1/28/11] [CBSNews.com, 1/26/11] [American Academy of Pediatrics, 9/1/11] [American Medical Association, accessed 2/3/12] [American Lung Association, accessed 2/3/12]