News Release

Fallout from New York Times “Pentagon Pundits” Story

The recent New York Times front-page article “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” discloses Pentagon records which “reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

“Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts [on TV] as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions.'”

PETER HART
ISABEL MacDONALD
Hart and MacDonald are with FAIR, the media watch group. Hart said today: “This Pentagon propaganda operation took advantage of the corporate media’s long-standing preference for using retired military officials as ‘independent’ experts. The biggest scandal here is the media’s disgraceful conduct. As the Times reported, the outlets showed little interest in monitoring the myriad conflicts of interest of their military analysts, many of whom worked off-camera to secure contracts for weapons manufacturers and corporations looking to do business with the U.S. military. Nor did the outlets seem interested in knowing how the analysts were getting their information about Iraq.

“The Times also points out that some of these military analysts held back information about the Iraq insurgency and the search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In fact, one former Fox analyst recalls being briefed in 2003 that the U.S. did not have ‘hard evidence’ of Iraq’s banned weapons. The Pentagon pundits kept quiet about this. One wonders what would have happened if they hadn’t.”

LORETTA ALPER
Alper is the producer and co-director of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” a documentary that spotlights the close working relationships between the Pentagon and major TV networks. She said today: “I thought I was looking at a still from the ‘War Made Easy’ film when I picked up the Sunday New York Times. The so-called ‘hidden-hand’ of the Pentagon in shaping news coverage is nothing new. In the process of researching the film, we found ample evidence to make the case that much of the information about U.S. military actions — from the Vietnam War to the present day — has been passed through the Pentagon spin machine before it comes to us as news.

“The network’s use of retired military personnel to provide on-air commentary is only a recent example of pro-war bias passing as independent, expert analysis. While the Times story was impressive in its investigative detail, it’s several years and many thousands of lives too late to sound the alarm about what we and many others have been saying for years — that the news media, including the New York Times, and the Pentagon double-teamed us on selling Bush’s war.”

NORMAN SOLOMON
The documentary film “War Made Easy” is based on the book of the same name by Norman Solomon. A video section of the film that explores the Pentagon’s clearance of on-air CNN military analysts for coverage of the invasion of Iraq is available online.

An article by Solomon about the response to the documentary from former CNN top news executive Eason Jordan is also available.

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

For further background, see FAIR’s “They Cannot Tell a Lie: Bush’s deceptions are not to be named.”

The recent New York Times report stated:
“Some analysts said that even before the war started, they privately had questions about the justification for the invasion, but were careful not to express them on air.

“Mr. Bevelacqua, then a Fox analyst, was among those invited to a briefing in early 2003 about Iraq’s purported stockpiles of illicit weapons. He recalled asking the briefer whether the United States had ‘smoking gun’ proof.

“‘”We don’t have any hard evidence,”‘ Mr. Bevelacqua recalled the briefer replying. He said he and other analysts were alarmed by this concession. ‘We are looking at ourselves saying, “What are we doing?”‘

“Another analyst, Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who works in the Pentagon for a military contractor, attended the same briefing and recalled feeling ‘very disappointed’ after being shown satellite photographs purporting to show bunkers associated with a hidden weapons program. Mr. Maginnis said he concluded that the analysts were being ‘manipulated’ to convey a false sense of certainty about the evidence of the weapons. Yet he and Mr. Bevelacqua and the other analysts who attended the briefing did not share any misgivings with the American public.

“Mr. Bevelacqua and another Fox analyst, Mr. Cowan, had formed the wvc3 Group, and hoped to win military and national security contracts.

“‘There’s no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart,’ Mr. Bevelacqua said. ‘You’re talking about fighting a huge machine.'”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167