The Pulitzer-winning investigation that dare not be uttered on TV

Not even a Pulitzer Prize can shame the television media to end their blackout of the military analyst story.

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

(updated below - Update II)

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 Barstow 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 major 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

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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