Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson accused the White House of running an unprecedented pressure campaign against journalists, claiming they are pursuing a “particularly aggressive, well-organized” strategy “designed to have some kind of a chilling effect” on the American press.
Attkisson spoke with Fox News’ Howard Kurtz on Sunday about her early departure from CBS and her battles with the Obama administration for access to information. An investigative reporter who covered White House bugbears like Benghazi and Fast and Furious, she left CBS before her contract expired because she felt network executives inappropriately shot down her stories.
But in her conversation with Kurtz, Attkission made it clear that she ultimately blames the Obama administration itself for her bosses’ timidity.
“I think any journalist who has been covering Washington for a few years would agree… that there is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job in ways that have never come to bear before,” she began.
“There have always been tensions, there have always been calls from the White House — under any administration, I assume — when they don’t like a particular story,” she admitted. “But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration, and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized and designed to have sort of a chilling effect.”
“And to some degree,” she continued, “has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it. Why put on the controversial stories that we are going to have to fight people on when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?”
The reporter claimed she and her bosses both received direct pushback from the White House, including phone calls and emails pressuring them to change or retract stories.
“Even, really the last year or so, when I would write an article online — which would be sort of the fallback position when something couldn’t get on television but was still a great story that could be circulated, I’d publish it online — they would even call about those,” she revealed. “Or they would call about the headline of the online article.”
She added that her CBS bosses “didn’t defend them, in some cases, as strongly as we should have.”
Attkission later outlined the specific tactics the Obama White House uses to destroy factual stories that they feel portrays them poorly.
“It was a lot of obfuscation, accusations, saying things are phony scandals — bogus, not real — giving misinformation and false information — I mean, that’s provably true in some cases,” she said. “And then modifying it when they are caught doing so. It’s just a tedious process that results in very little real information. And I believe the public owns the information that they are guarding as if they are some sort of corporation, almost, with PR officials. And they think we are not entitled to see it or have it.”
Attkisson noted that such pressures are ones journalists have faced since time immemorial. But she asserted that both the internal and external pressures to kill stories critical of the Obama administration “were stronger and more forceful than they’d ever been in my 20 years at CBS, the last couple of years.”
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