April 26, 2008

PBS did an excellent report on the explosive NY Times story which says: the Pentagon may influence the analysis of some retired military personnel who appear on television news programs. Oh, really? Wow, I never would have guessed. I've covered this scandal at length already, but since Network News refuses to comment on this report, I'll keep pushing it. And I thank PBS for also not sticking their heads in the sand.

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Woodruff: And for the record, we invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and NBC to participate, but they declined our offer or did not respond. We've been talking to the Pentagon since Monday about participating in this segment. But when we finally scheduled it today, they were unable to supply a guest on short notice.

Bob Zelnick admirably plays the media's chief apologist for this segment. It's not surprising that someone that works in the media defends them to the end. The Pentagon and the Networks thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How surprised were you to see this report?

BOB ZELNICK: I wasn't surprised at all. In fact, when I covered the Pentagon, I often sought information from retired generals and admirals and colonels because I knew they were well-informed.

I knew they kept in touch. I knew they had drinks at the Army-Navy Club. I know they went to Army-Navy football games on special trains together. I knew that many of them were serving as what we called Beltway bandits or consultants.

So I wasn't surprised at all, except by the amount of space devoted to this piece by the New York Times.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Since the months leading up to the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, dozens of retired military officers served as analysts on cable and network television.

JUDY WOODRUFF: These former generals and colonels have been a mainstay of commentary and analysis. And the networks paid them for their appearances.

Now, a lengthy New York Times investigation, published on Sunday, revealed the Pentagon targeted many of these analysts as part of an information apparatus to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance. (transcript below the fold)

The News Hour:

Pentagon officials organized hundreds of private meetings with senior military leaders and the military analysts. They included talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

According to the Times, analysts were also taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.

It was also disclosed that most of the analysts have ties to military contractors...read on

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