Sharyl Attkisson Claims CBS Moved On From 'Fast and Furious' as She'd 'Barely Begun to Scratch the Surface'

Appearing on Thursday's O'Reilly Factor, former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson claimed that CBS "had barely begun to scratch the surface" of the "Fast and Furious" scandal before the network moved on from the story. She noted that the network showed similar reluctance for its coverage of Benghazi and the ObamaCare rollout.

Before her resignation last month, Attkisson covered Obama administration controversies like "Fast and Furious" and Benghazi and her reporting helped the CBS Evening News win the Edward R. Murrow award in 2012. Yet she told O'Reilly that higher-ups at the network moved on from the "Fast and Furious"scandal "due to lack of interest, well before we found answers to a lot of questions."

"It just came to be that, I don't think on the viewer's part, but on the people that decide what stories go into the broadcast and what there's room for, they felt fairly early on that this story was over when I felt as though we had barely begun to scratch the surface," she revealed.

The lack of coverage extended to the ObamaCare rollout, she said:

"Just before Christmas came word that the top security official, the computer security person who still works there at HHS had refused to sign off and recommended, in fact, that this web site not go live because of all the security issues. And that was not considered a big enough story, I suppose, is the way to put it by those who decide what goes on the air. But I thought it was hugely important, because this is an insider, someone who works in the Obama administration who had made this assessment."

And as Mediaite reported, Attkisson said the same about CBS's Benghazi coverage:

"Benghazi I was assigned to look into about three weeks after the attacks happened by management, and pursue that aggressively. And as I felt we were beginning to scratch beneath the surface on that scandal as well, which I think had many legitimate questions yet to be asked and answered, interest was largely lost in that story as well on the part of the people that are responsible for deciding what goes on the news."

Below is a transcript of the segment:

FOX
THE O'REILLY FACTOR
4/10/14
8:22 p.m. EST

BILL O'REILLY: Let's start with "Fast and Furious." What did you find out about that?

SHERYL ATTKISSON: I found out that we had to quit pursuing the story, more or less, due to lack of interest, well before we found answers to a lot of questions, including what about all the other cases besides the one you know that was "Fast and Furious." They were using similar strategies to transfer weapons down to Mexico. And how did this, if at all, play into a strategy the United States may be using to draw support – or give support toward one of the cartels in Mexico against one of the others, much like they had done in Columbia and other places –

O'REILLY: Alright, so they were playing one off against the other. But you said something interesting, that you had to abandon the story for lack of interest. Can you clarify that?

ATTKISSON: It just came to be that, I don't think on the viewer's part, but on the people that decide what stories go into the broadcast and what there's room for, they felt fairly early on that this story was over when I felt as though we had barely begun to scratch the surface. They didn't ask me what was left to report, they just decided on their own that this story was –

O'REILLY: So they pulled the rug from you. And I worked at CBS News. I know how it goes. You can't investigate a story unless you get a budget to do so, and approval of the higher ups, okay, you are going to do assignment O'Reilly or Attkisson. And this assignment will go to this show. That's how the structure works. They didn't want any part of it over there.

Okay. How about Benghazi, what did you find out about that?

ATTKISSON: Benghazi I was assigned to look into about three weeks after the attacks happened by management, and pursue that aggressively. And as I felt we were beginning to scratch beneath the surface on that scandal as well, which I think had many legitimate questions yet to be asked and answered, interest was largely lost in that story as well on the part of the people that are responsible for deciding what goes on the news.

O'REILLY: So did they tell you, look, we don't want you to spend any more time on this? Was it that direct?

ATTKISSON: No. It's more as though there is no time in the broadcast. They really, really liked the story but you start to hear from, you know, other routes that why don't you just leave it alone, and you know, you are kind of a trouble maker because you are still pursuing it. It kind of goes from hot to cold in one day, sometimes. Where they are asking you to pursue something heavily and then it's almost as if a light switch goes off and they look at you all of a sudden as if, why are you bringing us this story?

O'REILLY: Is it possible because CBS News is third in the ratings that they are just doing stories that they think are going to get them audiences? Is that possible?

ATTKISSON: I suppose there could be differences of opinion as to what the audience wants to see. But I think there are larger things at play in the industry. Broadly, there are overarching concerns about, I would say just fear over original investigative reporting. There is unprecedented, I believe, influence on the media, not just the news, but the images you see everywhere. By well-orchestrated and well-financed campaigns of special interests, political interests and corporations. And I think all of that comes into play.

O'REILLY: Okay. So, on "Fast and Furious" and Benghazi, you started and then you were forced to stop. ObamaCare, you looked into that as well.

ATTKISSON: I was asked by CBS to look into ObamaCare and it had a similar trajectory whereby we broke some interesting stories that I felt like we were uncovering some good information and making headway, but we and I feel like a lot of the media after several weeks of this kind of fell off the radar on the story to a large degree, on the critical looks that we were taking. It's security issues, the lack of transparency, the lack of providing of figures and information that I think belonged in the public domain, belonged to us, that were being withheld. While being provided in some cases to corporate partners of the government, being withheld from us though.

O'REILLY: When you say security, you mean people's health records and things like that and that they're not secure?

ATTKISSON: Right. Just before Christmas came word that the top security official, the computer security person who still works there at HHS had refused to sign off and recommended, in fact, that this web site not go live because of all the security issues. And that was not considered a big enough story, I suppose, is the way to put it by those who decide what goes on the air. But I thought it was hugely important, because this is an insider, someone who works in the Obama administration who had made this assessment. And if you look at having had something like that occur with a private corporation that proceeded to go online with all of these alleged security risks, I think the government would be very upset by that if the tables were turned. But here was the United States government doing it.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center