Sharyl Attkisson: Obama Administration Intends ‘Chilling Effect’ On Journalism With Aggressive Pressure Campaign
April 15, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News investigative reporter who left her job after both the White House and her own employers allegedly stonewalled her investigation into the truth behind the Benghazi terror attack, believes the Administration of Barack Obama poses a historically significant threat to media transparency.
Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Attkisson said the executive branch has never before been so bold in its efforts to influence or even thwart the editorial decisions of independent media.
“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,” said Attkisson.
Under Obama, the White House has all but institutionalized a strategy to shape what the media reports — or whether a story gets reported at all, according to Attkisson. That kind of pressure, she believes, has the effect of making media executives and editorial higher-ups uncomfortable with reporting that digs too deep — even when reporters like her have the ability and inclination to pursue a story wherever it leads.
“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 said. “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, [that strategy] has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it,” she added. “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?”
Attkisson, who worked for CBS News for 20 years before exiting the network with time remaining on her contract, ruffled the Obama Administration’s feathers repeatedly. She earned the network an investigative reporting award in 2012 for her tireless coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal. She then turned her attention to the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — an event the Obama Administration and State Department seemed to publicly wish away with a dismissive and inconsistent narrative tailor-made for evasiveness.
That attack took place only two months before the 2012 Presidential election; Attkisson was among the only mainstream reporters who wouldn’t let the story die once the headlines had focused on other sensations.
The White House not only attempted to head off coverage before it had begun, said Attkisson, but the Obama Administration also weighed in on published stories with which the President didn’t agree.
“… [T]he 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 [Obama staffers] would even call about those. Or they would call about the headline of the online article.”