CNN’s Brian Stelter broadcast a two-part interview with former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson to review her accusations of political bias at CBS News — and to take on the critics she has acquired over the last year or so. Attkisson told the Reliable Sources host that the departure of top executives in the wake of Katie Couric’s flop brought in “ideologically entrenched” managers who resented her investigative reporting on the Obama administration (via Jim Hoft):
STELTER: Let me read this from “The Washington Post.” This is in March 10th, right around the time you were resigning from CBS. And Erik Wimple wrote, according to a CBS News source you felt you were being kept off “CBS Evening News” because of political considerations. Did you feel that way? I mean, were there political considerations at times?
ATTKISSON: You know, it’s fairly well discussed inside CBS News that there are some managers recently who have been so ideologically entrenched that there is a feeling and discussion that some of them, certainly not all of them, have a difficult time viewing a story that may reflect negatively upon government or the administration as a story of value.
STELTER: So you’re saying they are liberal or Democrats?
ATTKISSON: I don’t know what their registered party is, I just know that the tendency on the part of some of these managers who have key influences has been they never mind the stories that seem to, for example, and I did plenty of them, go against the grain of the Republican Party, but they do often seem to feel defensive about, almost, personally defensive about stories that could make the government look bad. Even if it’s something as simple as a government waste story that doesn’t pinpoint anybody in particularly and it takes on both parties. It seems as though some of them were sensitive about any story that might appear as though it criticizes the government.
STELTER: A couple of news story about your resignation cited one particular executive, Patricia Shevlin, who was executive producer of the “CBS Evening News”, as someone that you clashed (ph) with. Is that an example of someone you felt had this ideological stand and was uncomfortable with stories about the administration that were unflattering.
ATTKISSON: Pat Shevlin was the executive producer of the “Evening News”, and I think there’s no secret that there were a number of people at CBS News that had some serious issues, but it wasn’t isolated to that alone. I think —
STELTER: You said serious issues. What do you mean?
ATTKISSON: There were discussions about certain types of stories that got on the air. There were discussions about the heavy-handed editing. In other words, we had not experienced — at least I had not experienced and some of them said they had not experienced the extent to which some of the editing went on.
That may not be just her. There are certainly a group of managers in what they call the fishbowl of New York who are responsible. So, it’s hard to say it’s all at the guidance of her, but that she is executive producer of the show.
In the second part of the interview, Attkisson took on her critics — including Media Matters, which she suggested may have gotten paid to target her:
ATTKISSON: I do think, again, that’s a campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do so you wouldn’t listen to it, because if anybody took a few minutes really just do a Google search, you would see the dozens and dozens of stories I’ve done that were, in many cases, complemented by liberal press and other liberals as being a very good story, and I have been criticized by the conservative side in the past.
So, I think it wouldn’t take — it wouldn’t take much for someone —
STELTER: Do you think that’s what Media Matters is doing? Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you’ve been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they’re doing? They’re just trying to controversialize the issue?
ATTKISSON: Media Matters, as my understanding, is a far left blog group that I think holds itself out to be sort of an independent watchdog group. And yes, they clearly targeted me at some point. They used to work with me on stories and tried to help me produce my stories, and at some point —
STELTER: That’s interesting.
ATTKISSON: Well, I think they call — don’t they call you? I mean, they call journalists and they’re trying to —
STELTER: Right, they’re always emailing things, making us —
STELTER: — try to act outraged about something, right?
ATTKISSON: And I was certainly friendly with them as anybody, good information can come from any source. But when I persisted with Fast and Furious and some of the green energy stories I was doing, I clearly at some point became a target, that they — you know, I don’t know if someone paid them to do it or if they took it on their own. But they were very much —
STELTER: Do you think that’s possible that someone paid them?
ATTKISSON: Well, they get contributions from — yes, they get contributions from —
STELTER: But specifically to target you?
ATTKISSON: Perhaps, sure. I think that’s what some of these groups do, absolutely.
Does it really go that far? It’s possible, I suppose, but it seems a little far-fetched. Media Matters goes after any media outlet and any story that reflects poorly on the Obama administration. The problem for Attkisson is that she was one of the relatively few reporters willing to pursue in-depth investigative work on Operation Fast & Furious, the disaster of Healthcare.gov, and especially on Benghazi. Jan Crawford at CBS is another, and she got the same treatment. That’s more or less Media Matters’ mission — to act as media bodyguard for the Obama administration — and Attkisson, Crawford, and anyone else who dares to speak a little truth to power will get targeted as a matter of course.
The link to the departure of Couric is a little intriguing, especially since conservatives generally derided Couric for the same kind of bias and lack of hard-news instinct that Attkisson now reveals at CBS News. The change in executive management after the failure of the Couric era seems to have spelled the beginning of the end for Attkisson. Perhaps for conservatives, this is a case of being careful what one wishes for, or maybe just a moment of clarification by CBS about what kind of news division it really wanted after Couric’s departure. After all, someone hired the new “ideologically entrenched” management of which Attkisson ran afoul, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere in the wake of her accusations.