Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley believes mainstream media outlets are the last line of defense for President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder on the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.
“The only thing I think that’s going to bust this thing open — and do it quickly — is the extent to which they’re hammered by the media of this country, which isn’t apt to happen because, I think, the media wants to protect him for the most part,” Grassley said in a recent radio interview on NRA News. “But this has become a big, big cover-up similar to what Watergate became.”
Grassley added that media outlets will need to push for answers about the gunwalking scandal “if this is going to get solved before the election.”
The House of Representatives has found Holder in criminal contempt, but his Department of Justice has ordered Ron Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, to not enforce the resolution. The House passed another resolution finding Holder in civil contempt as well — a move that will allow Republicans and some Democrats to fight the administration in what will likely be a long and protracted courtroom fight.
Grassley appeared on NRA News to discuss a document that appears to show a Department of Justice cover-up of Fast and Furious. Grassley sent Holder a set of questions about the document last week and gave him a July 17 deadline. Still, he hardly expects the Obama administration to answer at all.
“I’d be surprised,” Grassley said.
“It’s my job to try to do the best I can even against all obstacles that we’re getting, all [the] stonewalling that we’re getting, to carry out my job of checks and balances on the executive branch of government and that’s called oversight. And, I guess, I’m going to continue until I get the answers.”
That stonewalling is the reason Grassley believes journalists will be key in wresting any answers from the Obama administration that may come before the November election.
“They aren’t going to listen to Senator Grassley and they may not listen to very many members of Congress,” Grassley said of the president’s White House team and those at the DOJ.
Much of the media coverage of Fast and Furious to date has been soft on Holder, and has brought cries of bias from conservatives.
The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz, a plagiarist who was suspended for several months but is now the publication’s designated Fast and Furious reporter, filed an interview on July 3 that consisted mainly of Holder talking points without substantive evidence. Many of those points address DOJ statements that have already been proven false.
The New York Times’ Charlie Savage violated his employer’s code of journalistic ethics by printing false information about the scandal. According to a spokeswoman for Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, Savage also misled the congressman’s staff in writing a “hit piece” on elected lawmakers who have pushed for accountability over the scandal.
Savage also allowed Holder to accuse his critics of racial motivations in a December 2011 Times article, without providing any rebuttal “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” Holder said of Republicans’ pursuit of information about Fast and Furious. “Both due to the nature of our relationship, and you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
According to House Speaker John Boehner’s office, Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan also printed false information about the ill-fated firearms tracking operation that led to the death of at leas tone U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Their Politico colleague Mike Allen has barely mentioned the scandal in his popular morning “Playbook” email. When Holder testified before various congressional committees in recent months, Allen has ignored and omitted those events from the email.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd flubbed his facts during one broadcast of his “Daily Rundown,” while NBC News’ Brian Williams didn’t mention the scandal at all until June 2012 — a year and a half after Fast and Furious first became a news story.
In May, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos — a former Democratic Party operative — promoted an interview with House Speaker John Boehner about Fast and Furious, only to cut the segment about the scandal from the broadcast of “This Week.” That segment was only available online.
The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz canceled at the last minute a segment he had planned on Fast and Furious media coverage for his CNN program “Reliable Sources” on June 17. It’s unclear if that segment will ever air.
And when White House press secretary Jay Carney fielded a question about the scandal in early June from Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry, he read his talking points directly from a prepared binder. The White House press corps laughed out loud.
While many media outlets aren’t asking questions about Fast and Furious accountability, the American people are. According to a new CNN/ORC International survey, 53 percent of all American adults support the House’s votes to hold Holder in contempt on June 28, and 69 percent of Americans want Obama to “drop the claim of executive privilege and answer all questions” related to the intensifying scandal.