Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard reported on Wednesday afternoon that he had attempted to interview CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson about her dogged coverage of the ongoing "Fast and Furious" controversy, but was told that she was "unavailable." Attkisson has been the sole journalist on the Big Three networks regularly covering the story, particular during the past several weeks.
Hemingway described in his blog entry that he called CBS News to interview the correspondent, but was "told by CBS News senior vice president of communications Sonya McNair that Attkisson would be unavailable for interviews all week. When I asked why Attkisson would be unavailable, McNair would not say." On Tuesday, the reporter revealed on Laura Ingraham's radio show that Obama administration officials had "screamed and cussed" at her over her coverage of the story.
The conservative writer further noted that he had "heard from a producer at another media outlet that has previously booked Attkisson that they tried to book her since she made news with the Laura Ingraham interview yesterday. They were also told that she would be unavailable." Hemingway later called back McNair at CBS and left a message to ask "whether Attkisson's unavailability has anything to do with reporting that the White House and Justice Department were angry at her," but as of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, hadn't heard back from the network executive.
Earlier in the day, at the top of the 8 am Eastern hour of The Early Show, the CBS reporter filed her latest report on the cross-border gun-walking issue, which featured an extensive interview of a gun dealer who had been asked to be a "confidential informant" by the ATF, but ended up assisting in smuggling around 450 guns to Mexican criminals.
ATTKISSON: Gun enthusiast and licensed dealer Mike Detty was working a Tucson, Arizona gun show in early 2006, when a young Hispanic man bought a half dozen semi-automatic rifles. He paid $1,600 cash.
MIKE DETTY, GUN DEALER, TUCSON, AZ: But then he asked if I had more. And I told him that later in the month, I would have another 20 from my supplier. And he said, I'll take them all.
ATTKISSON: Detty suspected the buyer was trafficking for a drug cartel. Tucson is just an hour from the Mexican border, and a popular shopping center for smugglers. Detty notified ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. To his surprised, ATF told him to go ahead with the big sale, and sent an undercover agent to watch. Then, a local ATF manager made an unusual and dangerous proposition. He asked Detty to be a confidential informant.
DETTY: He said, Mike, I think we've got a real chance at taking out a powerful cartel. Can you help us? I made that commitment, and I really thought I was doing something good.
ATTKISSON: Detty even signed this informant contract. As he understood it, he'd sell to suspected traffickers. Agents would track the weapons, expose the cartel's inner workings, then interdict the guns before they could ever get loose on the street- or so Detty thought....
DETTY (on-camera): They would have a small video recording- audio recording device, and sometimes, it was hidden in a box of Kleenex.
ATTKISSON (voice-over): One of the biggest cases was code-named 'Operation Wide Receiver.'
ATTKISSON (on-camera): Do you know about how many about many guns we're talking about?
DETTY: It's right around 450.
ATTKISSON (voice-over): Things didn't work out like Detty thought. Detty says he realized ATF was letting guns walk. He hadn't help take down any cartels. He had helped ATF arm them.
ATTKISSON (on-camera): When you look back and think, in hindsight, knowing what we know now, that all of those guns were going on the street, what do you think about?
DETTY: It really makes me sick.
ATTKISSON: What's important to know is when all of this happened. It was under the Bush administration, three years before the better-known operation under the Obama administration, 'Fast and Furious.' That case allegedly let thousands of weapons fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. It's now the subject of two investigations.
ATTKISSON (voice-over): The 'Fast and Furious' tactic of letting guns walk was only exposed after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December, and at least two assault rifles from 'Fast and Furious' were found at the scene. As for its predecessor, 'Wide Receiver,' after more than three years, prosecutors finally quietly rounded up seven suspects last fall. No cartel leaders, just buyers, who critics say should never have been allowed to put even one weapon on the street, let alone operate for years....
ATTKISSON (on-camera): Since 'Wide Receiver' started under the Bush administration, we reached out to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but we weren't able to speak with him. Meanwhile, Republicans are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth when he testified earlier this year to Congress about when he first knew about 'Fast and Furious.'