NBC and McCaffrey's coordinated responses to the NYT story

Following up on yesterday's post regarding NBC News' suppression of the "military analyst" scandal
and its ongoing reliance on the deeply conflicted
Barry McCaffrey: I have obtained, from a very trustworthy source,
emails sent last week between NBC News executives and McCaffrey (which
cc:d Brian Williams), reflecting the extensive collaboration between
NBC and McCaffrey to formulate a coordinated response to David
Barstow's story. The emails are re-printed https://www.salon

Following up on yesterday's post regarding NBC News' suppression of the "military analyst" scandal
and its ongoing reliance on the deeply conflicted
Barry McCaffrey: I have obtained, from a very trustworthy source,
emails sent last week between NBC News executives and McCaffrey (which
cc:d Brian Williams), reflecting the extensive collaboration between
NBC and McCaffrey to formulate a coordinated response to David
Barstow's story. The emails are re-printed here.

than honestly investigate the numerous facts which Barstow uncovered
about McCaffery's severe conflicts, NBC instead is clearly in
self-protective mode, working in tandem with McCaffrey to create
justifications for what they have done. As these emails reflect, both
this weekend's story about McCaffrey and the earlier NYT
story in April have caused NBC News to expend substantial amounts of
time, effort and resources trying to manage the P.R. aspects of this

But remarkably, this "news organization" has still not
uttered a peep to its viewers about these stories; has not reported on
any of the indisputably newsworthy events surrounding the Pentagon's
"military analyst" program; and continues to present McCaffrey to its
viewers as an objective source without disclosing any of the multiple
connections and interests he has that would lead any reasonable person
to question his objectivity.

Perhaps most notable of all is how
plainly dishonest the NBC response to Barstow is -- a response which,
unsurprisingly (given their coordination) is tracked by the response posted on McCaffrey's website and by his hired P.R. agent, Robert Weiner, who is pasting a defense of McCaffrey in various places on the Internet (including my comment section yesterday) without identifying himself as such.
As their only defense to these accusations, both NBC and McCaffrey are
repeatedly emphasizing that McCaffrey criticized the Bush
administration and Donald Rumsfeld's prosecution of the Iraq War, as
though that proves that McCaffrey's NBC commentary was independent and
honest and not influenced by his numerous business connections to
defense contractors.

Both NBC and McCaffrey are either incapable
of understanding, or are deliberately ignoring, the central point: in
those instances where McCaffrey criticized Rumsfeld for his war
strategy, it was to criticize him for spending insufficient amounts of money on the war, or for refusing to pursue strategies that would have directly benefited the numerous companies with which McCaffrey is associated.

criticism of Bush's war management doesn't disprove accusations that he
was deeply conflicted when appearing as an NBC "analyst"; to the
contrary, the criticisms he voiced constitute some of the most
compelling evidence proving that McCaffrey should never have been on
NBC -- and still should not be. As I documented back in late April about McCaffrey's supposed status as a "war critic":

true, as [Brian] Williams points out as though it is exculpatory, that
-- like Bill Kristol and plenty of other hard-core war supporters --
McCaffrey wanted more U.S. troops in Iraq. He even signed a 2005 letter from PNAC
-- along with the likes of Kristol, the mighty Kagan Brothers, Max
Boot, Frank Gaffney, Michael O'Hanlon and Peter Beinart -- demanding
that more troops be deployed to Iraq (the Kagans, O'Hanlon and Beinart
-- despite their relative youth -- were all unavailable for duty).

really ought to go without saying by now that advocating more troops
for the War hardly made one a "war critic" nor did it demonstrate
independence from the Bush administration's propaganda campaign for the
War. To the contrary, the fact that both McCaffrey and Downing
had financial ties to the defense industry which would stand to profit
from policies entailing more defense spending further calls into
question their independence, rather than resolves those questions

The April, 2003 Nation article
-- which long ago put NBC News on specific notice about the glaring
conflicts precluding McCaffrey's objectivity -- made this point

McCaffrey has recently emerged as the most outspoken military critic of Rumsfeld's approach to the war, but his primary complaint is that "armor and artillery don't count" enough.
In McCaffrey's recent MSNBC commentary, he exclaimed enthusiastically,
"Thank God for the Abrams tank and . . . the Bradley fighting vehicle,"
and added for good measure that the "war isn't over until we've got a
tank sitting on top of Saddam's bunker." In March alone, IDT
[on whose Board of Directors McCaffrey sat] received more than $14
million worth of contracts relating to Abrams and Bradley machinery
parts and support hardware.

Is it even
possible for there to be more incriminating evidence than this? Just
compare NBC News' appallingly false email statement that "We've yet to
see concrete proof of a correlation between any of his outside business
interests and his statements made on our air" with the fact that
McCaffrey used NBC to "criticize Rumsfeld" by gushing praise for the
very tanks from which IDT greatly profits but which Rumsfeld was
failing to sufficiently appreciate. How dishonest do you have to be to
deny that that constitutes a serious journalistic conflict? And that's
to say nothing of the endless support McCaffrey expressed on NBC for
the War in Iraq and the greater "War on Terror" while he had all sorts
of extensive ties to defense contractors that profited greatly from
increased spending on both, and while he participated in the Pentagon's
propaganda program.

Note, especially, that none of the responses
-- from NBC, McCaffrey or his P.R. firm -- even pretend to address, let
alone dispute, any of the ample facts that have been set forth in the
case against NBC and McCaffrey. Instead, NBC points to the numerous
shiny medals on McCaffrey's chest in order to imply that it is simply
wrong and offensive to question the propriety of such a great and
credentialed man ("General McCaffrey is a retired Four Star General, a
two-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's
second highest award for valor . . . He is a true American
hero"). That's the same "defense" on which its anchor, Brian Williams, relied
when assuring us in April that he had formed a "close friendship"
with McCaffrey and knew him to be a "passionate patriot," and therefore
it was outrageous for anyone to dare suggest that there might be
wrongdoing here.

Can one even imagine a supposed news
organization exhibiting a more unhealthy and more unquestioning
reverence for a General than this? Is that the same
credential-revering, authority-worshiping mentality that drives NBC's
coverage of Pentagon officials and war Generals? (yes, that's a
rhetorical question, though this mini-profile of Brian Williams answers it). Amazingly, the executive who submitted NBC's formal reply to Barstow, Allison Gollust, actually wrote this:

Our relationship with General McCaffrey is based on trust, a basic tenant [sic] of journalism.

basic tenets of journalism include investigation, skepticism and
disclosure of facts -- all the things missing from NBC News'
conduct. But blindly trusting government officials and their military
medals are not basic tenets of journalism, at least not in theory --
and at least not outside of establishment news outlets such as
NBC News. Is that the NBC News motto engraved on its letterhead and
wall plaques: We trust in government officials and military leaders -- a basic tenant of journalism.

his emails to NBC executives, McCaffrey -- undoubtedly aware that the
biggest blow to his reputation would come from having NBC News finally
address, in a forthright manner, its years-long reliance on such a
hopelessly conflicted "analyst" -- heaps sycophantic praise on them for
their defense of McCaffrey to Barstow:

Very balanced, objective response.

Underscores my view of NBC as an enterprise based on journalistics [sic] ethics --- and courage.

Proud to be associated with this team of professionals.

NBC as an organization of "journalistic ethics" and "courage" here is
almost as ludicrous as NBC's claim in those emails that its "viewers
have been, and will continue to be, well served by [McCaffrey's]
incisive and thoughtful comments." One can scarcely imagine cowardice
and unethical behavior as brazen as this. But NBC News knows full well
that few people turn to it for those attributes, and -- even after two massive, abundantly documented front-page NYT exposes -- it thus obviously lacks even the slightest interest in addressing, let alone rectifying, what it has done here.

* * * * *

One last point: I do hope none of this ruins my chances of succeeding Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

UPDATE: In the Columbia Journalism Review, Charles Kaiser asks -- rhetorically: "Is there any limit to the shamelessness of NBC News?" and then explains:

turns out that McCaffrey is the living embodiment of all the worst
aspects of entrenched Washington corruption-a man who shares with
scores of other retired officers a huge financial interest in having
America conduct its wars for as long as possible.

He adds: "And yet, to this day, NBC News has never once disclosed any of McCaffrey's multiple conflicts of interest on the air - and as recently as last Thursday Williams was still using the retired general on Nightly News to opine about Afghanistan."

Someone apparently forgot to tell the Columbia Journalism Review
that Brian Williams developed a "close friendship" with McCaffrey and
knows him to be a "passionate patriot" and that NBC's "relationship
with General McCaffrey is based on trust, a basic tenant of
journalism." That changes everything.

UPDATE II: This superb comment astutely points out the numerous parallels between the behavior of NBC News here and Bush/Cheney circa 2003.

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