Sharyl Attkisson was toasted by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) at a party last night promoting her new book. The former CBS News reporter has previously criticized other reporters for being too cozy with those they cover, denied promoting a conservative agenda, and insisted that her extensive reporting relationship with Issa “doesn't mean we like each other.”
During the event at a Georgetown home, Issa reportedly praised Attkisson, telling the audience that “his committee wouldn't be able to do its job without journalists like” Attkisson, while criticizing NBC and MSNBC.
A photo posted by David Weigel (@daveweigel) onNov 11, 2014 at 4:22pm PST
In her book Stonewalled and during her book tour, Attkisson has repeatedly denied that she uses her journalism to advance a conservative agenda, saying that her policy preferences are “mixed” and that her reporting has been critical of both parties.
She left CBS amid claims from colleagues that her work, which often focused on trumped-up claims of Obama administration misdeeds, had a “political agenda,” leading “network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting.” She has since reported solely for right-wing outlets like Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's network affiliates.
Attkisson lavishes praise on Issa in her book, describing him as a “former CEO and self-made millionaire from Califonia” who is a “dominant personality, quick study, and insanely confident.” She laments how he is “viewed even more harshly by some in the news media” than past Oversight Committee chairs.
Ignoring Issa's long record of deceptive media manipulation, she criticizes her journalist colleagues for treating his claims with skepticism. Attkisson alleges that her fellow reporters are implicitly supporting the White House by suggesting that Issa may have political motivations for some of his claims, and suggests those reporters oppose him because he is a Republican.
She shows no interest in the evidence that supports that view of Issa. For example, shortly before gaining the chairman's gavel, Issa called President Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times” and described one pseudoscandal as “an impeachable offense, according to [discredited political analyst] Dick Morris." He has frequently compared his investigations of the Obama administration to Watergate and Iran-Contra.
It's not surprising that Attkisson would praise Issa given how her reporting has depended on his committee. At CBS News, Attkisson frequently focused on topics that were the subject of Oversight Committee hearings, and her reports were often based on administration documents seemingly obtained from Issa or his staff.
In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Attkisson denied claims that “she has uncritically broadcast Issa's allegations without appropriate vetting and scrutiny,” but said that “I can see why people would think that, because a lot of times my reporting was in line with the same things Issa was investigating.” She added that this “doesn't mean we like each other” and that she doesn't “pretend to be BFFs with him.”
A photo posted by Hadas (@hadasdeoro) onNov 11, 2014 at 6:10pm PST
In one incident of apparent collaboration with the Oversight Committee that drew criticism from observers, Attkisson reported (based on what she acknowledged were selectively-leaked partial transcripts of an Obama administration official's interview with committee staffers) that 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 story quickly fell apart.
Attkisson writes in Stonewalled that it is an “incorrect assumption” that “Issa provided [me] with transcript excerpts” and criticizes those who characterize receiving the partial transcript as a “leak” because the “damaging testimony and documents actually originated within the Obama administration.”
She does not address whether she received the partial transcript from Issa's staff, or whether it was responsible journalism to publish a story based on the document, given that the implication she drew from it was later debunked.
Issa's appearance at Attkisson's book party comes in spite of her repeated warnings that the media has become insufficiently skeptical of those they cover and too willing to accept their claims as news. In Stonewalled she writes (emphasis added):
The fact is, many of us in the media are more comfortable when we're on the right side of the government and corporations that guide us. When we are, there's less stress. Life is simpler. We can go home at night without work nagging at us. Nobody threatens to sue us. No one writes nasty emails or calls our bosses to complain.
In fact, the powers that be, prominent government leaders or corporate entities that we cover, may even pat us on the head.
They might as well be remarking “Good boy!” when they toss us a compliment as if we're obedient lapdogs after we dismiss a story that could have damaged them.
Rep. Issa speaks at Sharyl Atkisson's book party pic.twitter.com/FmC2XKX8To
-- Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) November 7, 2014
UPDATE: Bloomberg News' David Weigel reports that during the book party, Attkisson seemed to attack Media Matters. Attkisson references the organization 22 times in her book, alleging that we have inaccurately maligned her, and has continued to lash out throughout her book tour without pointing to a single inaccuracy we have written about her. Back in April she claimed on CNN that Media Matters had been paid specifically to target her work, a false and baseless conspiracy theory for which she produced no evidence.
From Weigel's report:
“It's been really interesting in the past week or so to be questioned by members of the, air-quote, 'media,'” said Attkisson, miming the quotes for full facetious effect, “who take things from special interests who feel attacked in the book, or feel as though their interests are threatened. They take those allegations, present them to me without checking them out, with any documentation -- I consider it propaganda -- and then take my assertions and handle them skeptically with this incredibly exciting attack. This can't be true!”
This sounded like a reference to Media Matters, the David Brock-run liberal watchdog group that produced story after story on the strangeness of Atkisson's hacking tale. As “Stonewalled” was rolled out, Kurtz and Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple excerpted her details of a stray cable being found on her FiOS box, a “reeeee!” sound coming from her computer, and words being deleted from documents as Attkisson watched. Media Matters was not the only source of skepticism. After The American Conservative's Rod Dreher wrote about Atkisson's claims, a conservative friend wrote in that the government could have gone after Atkisson by placing “unnoticeable software on her computer, either by breaking in with a warrant when she wasn't home, or by hacking in remotely.”