Pentagon official: “Rolling Stone” made McChrystal’s staff think they were speaking off the record

posted at 8:31 pm on June 25, 2010 by Allahpundit

For the second time today, a vivid reminder that when a scoop is big enough, nothing is truly “off the record.”

They contend that the magazine inaccurately depicted the attribution ground rules for the interviews.

“Many of the sessions were off-the-record and intended to give [reporter Michael Hastings] a sense” of how McChrystal’s team operated, according to a senior military official. The command’s own review of events, the official said, gleaned “no evidence to suggest” that any of the “salacious political quotes” in the article were made during a series of on-the-record and background interviews Hastings conducted with McChrystal and others…

In an interview with Politico.com this week, Bates said that the Kabul command was forewarned about the article and offered “absolutely” no push-back…

But 30 questions that a Rolling Stone fact-checker posed in a memo e-mailed last week to McChrystal media adviser Duncan Boothby contained no hint of what became of the controversial portions of the story.

ABC’s hearing the same story, with the caveat that there was no written understanding between “Rolling Stone” and Team Mac about what was or wasn’t off the record. Here’s the list of 30 fact-checking questions that RS sent to Boothby; note his emphatic plea at the end that they not print the fact that McChrystal voted for Obama, a detail which apparently came from big Mac himself. Granted, “they thought it was off the record” is the best explanation thus far for why his staff would have been so stupid to chatter about Biden, Obama, etc, around a reporter, but that makes it only marginally less stupid. You’re going to goof on Vice President “Bite Me” with McChrystal right there and not expect someone from “Rolling Stone,” of all places, to run with it? I’m sure RS realized when they chose to print the incendiary bits that reporters from their magazine will never again be allowed within 50 feet of a soldier, but given the size of the bombshell they were sitting on and the fact that they ended up with one of the biggest scalps in the military, I’m equally sure they don’t care. Helpful rule of thumb for officers: If you’re tempted to say something “off the record” that might conceivably get your CO relieved of command, don’t say it.

Exit question one: Given the claim by RS’s managing editor that they omitted plenty of material that really was off the record, what exactly were the ground rules here? Exit question two: Should we expect any grumbling from other journalists that RS has now singlehandedly made the military afraid to talk candidly to reporters on background, or is McChrystal’s ouster a big enough score that they won’t care?


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