There are two parts of “Stonewalled,” the new book from former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. One is the hazy and difficult-to-corroborate tale of the intrusions into her work and home computers, not to mention various strange activities on her home phone and television set. The other is her far more easy-to-follow allegations against her former employer, CBS News, which stands accused of killing off her stories and otherwise getting cold feet on investigative journalism.
Easily the most thunderous of CBS News miscues/scandals relates to the Benghazi-Steve Kroft situation that the Erik Wemple Blog detailed in this post. The gist is that the day after the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks, “60 Minutes” personality Steve Kroft asked President Obama if the attacks constituted terrorism, a term the president avoided in his answer. In a very controversial debate encounter a month later with Mitt Romney, Obama claimed that he had indeed termed Benghazi terrorism in its immediate aftermath. That would have been the perfect time for CBS News to have dropped the Kroft-Obama exchange, but it didn’t. It finally placed in on the Internet just days before the presidential election, long past its expiration date.
In a chat that aired on Howard Kurtz’s Fox News media program yesterday, Attkisson addressed the apparent suppression/possible misplacement of that clip: “The ‘Evening News’ people who had access to that transcript, according to the e-mails I saw, when it was sent from ’60 Minutes’ to ‘Evening News’ the very day that it was taken, they in my view skipped over it, passed it up, kept it secret throughout the whole time when it would have been relevant to the news and I think that was because they were trying to defend the president — they thought that would be harmful to him,” said Attkisson to Kurtz.
Even more damning: According to Attkisson, CBS Newsers directed her to use a “different clip from the same interview to give the misimpression that the president had done the opposite” — that is, that the president had indeed acknowledged terrorism early on.
Elsewhere in the session, Attkisson strikes out against those who have questioned her hacking allegations. After she released video showing mysterious text deletions from her computer screen, Media Matters for America consulted computer experts who said the trouble may have resulted from a stuck backspace key. When asked about such conclusions, Attkisson responded, “I can see why people that don’t have the forensics exams or the expertise and would just see this partial video would conclude something like that. But what I think is interesting is that people don’t ask the same questions or the same skepticism of the experts who are willing to go on the record with conclusions based on almost no information that they’re aiming at me with the same kind of skepticism.”
Correct — in other words, just release the forensics exams and clear all of this up. For more on the gap between what Attkisson has alleged and the evidence presented, check out her interview on Friday night with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.