NBC report on NY Times' five Pulitzers ignores military analysts report

Brian Williams reported that "The New York Times led the way with five [Pulitzer Prizes], including awards for breaking news and international reporting" but did not note that the Times' David Barstow won for his reporting on the connection between numerous media military analysts and the Pentagon and defense industries.

On the April 20 edition of NBC's Nightly News, reporting on the awarding of the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes earlier that day, anchor Brian Williams stated that "The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting." But Williams did not note that the Times' David Barstow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that day “for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.” Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented the unwillingness of the major broadcast networks, including NBC, to report on Barstow's April 20, 2008, Times article. Moreover, NBC joined ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC in reportedly declining to participate in a segment based on Barstow's article that aired on the April 24, 2008, edition of PBS' NewsHour.

In an April 29 post on his MSNBC.com blog, Williams responded to Barstow's April 20 article, describing NBC News analyst military analyst Barry R. McCaffrey and Wayne Downing, who died in July 2007, as “honest brokers” and writing that McCaffrey and Downing were “warriors-turned-analysts, not lobbyists or politicians” :

All I can say is this: these two guys never gave what I considered to be the party line. They were tough, honest critics of the U.S. military effort in Iraq. If you've had any exposure to retired officers of that rank (and we've not had any five-star Generals in the modern era) then you know: these men are passionate patriots. In my dealings with them, they were also honest brokers. I knew full well whenever either man went on a fact-finding mission or went for high-level briefings. They never came back spun, and never attempted a conversion. They are warriors-turned-analysts, not lobbyists or politicians.

Media Matters documented that between January 1, 2002, and May 13, 2008, the military analysts named in Barstow's article collectively appeared or were quoted as experts more than 4,500 times on ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR in segments covering the Iraq war both before and after the invasion, as well as numerous other national security or government policy issues. Five of the analysts named in Barstow's article appeared on NBC:

Military analyst


Number of appearances identified by Media Matters

Barry R. McCaffrey



Rick Francona



Wayne A. Downing



Kenneth Allard



Montgomery Meigs



Neither the CBS Evening News nor ABC's World News reported on the Pulitzer Prizes during their April 20 broadcasts.

From the April 20 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and the arts were awarded today. The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting. Las Vegas Sun won for the public service category for its reporting on construction-worker deaths in that city. Best commentary went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who, of course, was an on-air commentator for us on MSNBC all through the election season and continues to be. And the award for best biography went to Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.