Sharyl Attkisson's crusade against Media Matters continues in her new book, Stonewalled, which contains at least 22 references to the organization. Attkisson's grievances include frustration that Media Matters has a reputation as a “serious” media watchdog and a baseless charge that the organization has attacked her with false information.
But Attkisson's complaints essentially amount to annoyance that Media Matters carries out its mission effectively.
Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter with a history of inaccurate and misleading reporting, has become a darling of the conservative movement. After leaving CBS, her freelance work has largely appeared in conservative outlets like the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's network affiliates. Her new book, published by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., panders to conservative beliefs about the mainstream media's purported liberal bias. It also includes extensive attacks on Media Matters -- which she labels a “left-wing propaganda blog”-- for criticizing her work.
At various points in Stonewalled, Attkisson decries Media Matters' work and the organization's reputation among “so many in the media” as “a serious arbiter of good journalism.” According to Attkisson, reporters do not treat Media Matters' “conservative equivalents with the same deference.”
Attkisson holds out a specific example of Media Matters' ability to get news coverage, unlike right-wing media watchdogs like Accuracy in Media. According to Attkisson, in May 2014, “the Huffington Post was somehow convinced to report on Media Matters' letter to CBS News demanding that the network reinvestigate a Benghazi report done by a 60 Minutes correspondent.” She laments that Politico ran with the Huffington Post piece, “furthering a nonstory.”
But Attkisson's retelling is missing crucial context.
The “Benghazi report done by a 60 Minutes correspondent” was, of course, Lara Logan's infamous botched October 2013 segment that forwarded a bogus alleged eyewitness account of the attacks. After details emerged throwing the supposed eyewitness account into question, Media Matters chairman David Brock issued a letter to CBS executives calling on the network to retract the story and open an investigation into how it ended up on air. CBS eventually pulled the story, apologized to viewers, launched a “journalistic review,” and suspended both Logan and her producer.
The following May, after details in a New York magazine article raised questions about CBS' review, Brock sent a letter to CBS urging the network to reopen its investigation. Given the historic nature of the botched segment -- CBS News chairman Jeff Fager called it “as big a mistake as there has been” in 60 Minutes' history -- the letter was hardly the “nonstory” that Attkisson dismisses it as.
After her departure from CBS, Attkisson launched a conspiracy theory that Media Matters had been paid specifically to target her work, a false claim that quickly made its way to Fox News.
Brock responded in an appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources that Attkisson's allegation was “a sensational charge that's not true.”
In Stonewalled, Attkisson does not substantiate this sensational allegation. Instead, she seemingly abandons the claim, writing more broadly that “interests like Media Matters aren't paid by their ideological donors to bark at parked cars. When they target me, it means I'm on to something.”
As Brock explained on Reliable Sources, Attkisson “came on our radar screen in the normal course of events. There was nothing unusual about it. We noticed a pattern of misinformation in her work.”
Attkisson also repeatedly suggests that Media Matters has slandered her and her work. She writes that while the organization originally emailed her research, after she covered stories “considered potentially damaging to the Obama administration,” Media Matters removed her “from their list of valuable media contacts -- and [made] me a target of their aggressive campaign to smear and controversialize with false information.” She later accuses Media Matters of essentially reprinting “error-riddled spin” from the Obama administration when her erroneous report on “new Solyndras” aired on CBS.
But like her previous attacks on Media Matters, Attkisson's latest claims aren't backed up. While she repeatedly suggests Media Matters has printed false or erroneous information about her, she fails to provide a single factual error.