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The Pulitzer-Winning Investigation That Dare Not Be Uttered on TV

Glenn Greenwald

 by Salon

The New York Times' David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Bartow uncovered.  Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow's exposés:

Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times 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.

By
whom were these "ties to companies" undisclosed and for whom did these
deeply conflicted retired generals pose as "analysts"?  ABC, CBS, NBC,
MSNBC, CNN and Fox -- the very companies that have simply suppressed
the story from their viewers.  They kept completely silent about
Barstow's story even though it sparked Congressional inquiries, vehement objections from the then-leading Democratic presidential candidates, and allegations that the Pentagon program violated legal prohibitions on domestic propaganda programs.  The Pentagon's secret collaboration with these "independent analysts" shaped multiple news stories from each of these outlets on a variety of critical topics.  Most amazingly, many of them continue to employ
as so-called "independent analysts" the very retired generals at the
heart of Barstow's story, yet still refuse to inform their viewers
about any part of this story.

And even now that  Barstow
yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting -- one of
the most prestigious awards any news story can win -- these revelations
still may not be uttered on television, tragically dashing the hope expressed yesterday
(rhetorically, I presume) by Media Matters' Jamison Foser that "maybe
now that the story has won a Pulitzer for Barstow, they'll pay
attention." Instead, it was Atrios' prediction that was decisively confirmed:
"I don't think a Pulitzer will be enough to give the military analyst
story more attention."  Here is what Brian Williams said last night on
his NBC News broadcast in reporting on the prestigious awards:

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 John Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book
"American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House."

No mention that among the five NYT
prizes was one for investigative reporting.  Williams did manage to
promote the fact that one of the award winners was an
MSNBC contributor, but sadly did not find the time to inform his
viewers that NBC News' war reporting and one of Williams' still-featured premiere "independent analysts,"
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, was and continues to be at the heart of the
scandal for which Barstow won the Pulitzer.  Williams' refusal to
inform his readers about this now-Pulitzer-winning story is
particularly notable given his direct personal involvement
in the secret, joint attempts by NBC and McCaffrey to contain P.R.
damage to NBC from Barstow's story, compounded by the fact that NBC was
on notice of these multiple conflicts as early as April, 2003, when The Nation first reported on them

Identically, CNN ran an 898-word story
on the various Pulitzer winners -- describing virtually every winner --
but was simply unable to find any space even to mention David Barstow's
name, let alone inform their readers that he won the Prize for
uncovering core corruption at the heart of CNN's coverage of the Iraq
War and other military-related matters.  No other television news
outlet implicated by Barstow's story mentioned his award, at least as
far as I can tell.

The outright refusal of any of these "news
organizations" even to mention what Barstow uncovered about
the Pentagon's propaganda program and the way it infected their
coverage is one of the most illuminating events revealing how they
operate.  So transparently corrupt and journalistically disgraceful is
their blackout of this story that even Howard Kurtz and Politico -- that's Howard Kurtz and Politico
-- lambasted them for this concealment.  Meaningful criticisms of media
stars from media critic (and CNN star) Howie Kurtz is about as rare as
prosecutions for politically powerful lawbreakers in America, yet this
is what he said about the television media's suppression of Barstow's
story:  "their coverage of this important issue has been pathetic."

Has
there ever been another Pulitzer-Prize-winning story for investigative
reporting never to be mentioned on major television -- let alone one
that was twice featured as the lead story on the front page of The New York Times?  To pose the question is to answer it.

 

UPDATE:  Media Matters has more
on the glaring omissions in Brian Williams' "reporting" and on the
pervasive impact of the Pentagon's program on television news
coverage.  Williams' behavior has long been disgraceful on this issue,
almost certainly due to the fact that some of the "analysts" most
directly implicated by Barstow's story are Williams' favored sources
and friends.

On a different note, CQ's Jeff Stein responds today to some of the objections to his Jane-Harman/AIPAC/Alberto-Gonazles blockbuster story -- quite convincingly, in my view -- and, as Christy Hardin Smith notes, the New York Times has now independently confirmed much of what Stein reported.

UPDATE II:  For
some added irony:  on his NBS News broadcast last night suppressing any
mention of David Barstow's Pulitzer Prize, Brian Williams' lead story
concerned Obama's trip to the CIA yesterday.  Featured in that story
was commentary from Col. Jack Jacobs, identified on-screen this
way:  "Retired, NBC News Military Analyst."  Jacobs was one of the
retired officers who was an active member of the Pentagon's "military analyst" program, and indeed, he actively helped plan the Pentagon's media strategy at the very same time he was posing as an "independent analyst" on NBC
(h/t reader gc; via NEXIS).  So not only did Williams last night
conceal from his viewers any mention of the Pentagon program, he
featured -- on the very same broadcast -- "independent" commentary from
one of the central figures involved in that propaganda program.

On a related note, Howard Kurtz was asked in his Washington Post chat yesterday about  Mike Allen's grant of anonymity to a "top Bush official" that I highlighted on Saturday,
and Kurtz -- while defending much of Allen's behavior -- said:  "I
don't believe an ex-official should have been granted anonymity for
that kind of harsh attack."


Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a former staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State," about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful," "Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics," and "A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency." He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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