Sharyl Attkisson’s principled quest to destroy what’s left of her credibility

Attkisson quit CBS over ideological interference, and ended up at Heritage's terrible new website

Topics: CBS, cbs news, Benghazi, Benghazi conspiracy, The Heritage Foundation, Iran-contra scandal, Ronald Reagan, Media Criticism, Media, conservative media, Daily Caller, Breitbart, Editor's Picks, ,

Sharyl Attkisson's principled quest to destroy what's left of her credibilitySharyl Attkisson (Credit: CBS News)

Sharyl Attkisson has principles. The former CBS News investigative correspondent became a heroine to conservatives for her intense, unerring, borderline obsessive focus on Benghazi. She ended up resigning from the network in March, implying that her bosses were trying to censor her and infect her reporting with malicious political bias. With that act of career martyrdom she instantly became a candidate for canonization by right-wing pundits and activists, and an important figure in the ongoing Benghazi conspiracy, which assumes a certain amount of media complicity in covering up THE TRUTH.

Since then Attkisson has made the rounds with conservative journalists, helping to confirm their already firmly cemented belief that the mainstream media is infested with sneaky liberals who act on orders from the Obama White House. Meanwhile, the rest of us have been wondering where Attkisson would go to practice her brand of fiercely independent journalism – where she could be free from political influence and the corrupting forces of ideology.

Now we know. The Heritage Foundation.

The right-wing think tank debuted a brand new website yesterday called The Daily Signal, which, according to its founders, will offer “straight-down-the-middle journalism.” Attkisson has signed on to the site as a “senior independent contributor,” a title that has no actual meaning but does quite noticeably contain the word “independent.” The site’s launch featured an interview with Attkisson in which she decries the “tendency in the news media, on the part of some managers, to censor or block stories that don’t fall in line with the message they want sent to the viewers.”

Again, to escape ideological corruption, she went to the Heritage Foundation.

Attkisson’s a big get for the Daily Signal. Conservatives love her for her willingness to flog Obama scandals long after they’ve been debunked and/or ceased being relevant, so brings an audience of people who still get mad over Solyndra. And she’s a big-name journalist to whom media people still pay attention, even though she’s done some terrible work and her former colleagues thought she had a poorly concealed anti-Obama agenda. For now, the Daily Signal will have to lean heavily on whatever gravitas Attkisson provides because the rest of the site is just awful.

You Might Also Like

Here’s a sampling of their big stories from Day One:

Heritage employee Hans von Spakovsky approves of Benghazi select committee.

Republicans need to win to stop Obama.

How to amend the budget process with a clunky and utterly humorless reference to “Airplane!”

Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi.

The best of the bunch is this piece by Heritage Foundation vice president James Carafano, titled “How Obama Should Have Handled Benghazi.” The answer Carafano came up with may shock you:

President Obama had a perfect model for how to respond to the scandal in the wake of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. He could have turned to the actions of another president — Ronald Reagan — to show him how to quickly regain the trust and confidence of Congress and the American people.

Wow. Ronald Reagan. What a curveball.

The way Carafano sees it, Obama should have taken a page from Reagan’s response to the Iran-Contra allegations, which was to “make sure the White House was doing everything possible to get the truth and the whole truth out.” Reagan’s heroic truth-exposing campaign against himself was documented in former Reagan official David Abshire’s book, “Saving the American Presidency,” which Carafano heartily recommends:

Abshire’s account of a White House focused on serving the public rather than obfuscating the truth “not only informs us about the past,” as one review of the book describes, “but offers important lessons on how future leaders can restore their reputations and re-gain the confidence of the people after a public scandal.”

That’s some lofty praise for Abshire’s book. But being the curious sort that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder who wrote that review. A quick Googling turned up the answer: the “review” is actually the book’s product description as it appears on the website for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, which is chaired by… David Abshire.

The true story of the Reagan response to Iran-Contra is an actual real-life cover-up that extended all the way into George H.W. Bush’s presidency. The National Security Archive at George Washington University wrote in 2006 that a big reason that Reagan made it through the scandal was that his team deliberately kept reporters and Congress focused on the less bad portions of the inquiry in order “to minimize public scrutiny of the president’s other questionable actions, some of which even he understood might be illegal.”

Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel appointed to investigate Iran-Contra, concluded that “large volumes of highly relevant, contemporaneously created documents were systematically and willfully withheld from investigators by several Reagan Administration officials,” and “Reagan Administration officials deliberately deceived the Congress and the public about the level and extent of official knowledge of and support for these operations.”

Bits of knowledge like that would typically dissuade a journalist from recommending that Obama follow the Reagan example in dealing with scandal. But Carafano isn’t a journalist. He’s an ideological crusader. And that gets to the core problem with the Daily Signal.

The conservative media is littered with news websites formed by conservative pundits and activists who despise the “liberal bias” in the media and set out to correct it. The Daily Signal is trying to break into that already crowded space while also offering unbiased reports to appeal to mainstream audiences while also featuring reports from staffers who work at the conservative think tank that bankrolls it. “We plan to do political and policy news,” Heritage VP Geoffrey Lysaught told Capital New York last month, “not with a conservative bent.”

One can’t be a counterbalance to the “liberal media” and be unbiased at the same time. Eventually they’ll have to choose, and since it’s easier to fall back on the built-in audience of conservatives who only want to read what they already believe, the Daily Signal will likely end up preaching to the same choir as Breitbart, the Daily Caller and every other conservative answer to the Huffington Post.

Simon Maloy

Simon Maloy is Salon's political writer. Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @SimonMaloy.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...