Networks Devote a Scant Seven Minutes to 'Blistering' Fast and Furious Report

The three networks devoted less than seven minutes to a "blistering" new report from the Justice Department on the Fast and Furious scandal. In comparison, the same programs deluged the public with coverage of Mitt Romney's "secret" tax tape, hyping it for 88 minutes.

From Wednesday night through Friday morning, World News, the NBC Nightly News, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning allowed just six minutes and 40 seconds. In a brief report on Wednesday, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called the gun running story a "rallying point" for Republicans and explained, "Tonight, a blistering report lays out the blame for what happened there." Yet, NBC has, thus far, only given the latest details one minute and 40 seconds.        

On CBS This Morning, Sharyl Attkisson explained that the report revealed, "...Between November 2009 to mid-April 2010, suspects purchased more than thirteen hundred firearms for over a million dollars. But no arrests were made and just one seizure. Two guns, AK-47- type rifles were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry."
 
While the report found no evidence that Eric Holder approved the operation, NBC's Pete Williams noted the conclusion "calls Operation Fast and Furious 'seriously flawed and supervised irresponsibly.'"

After Thursday morning, the networks totally dropped the subject. It did not appear on that evening's newscasts for Friday's morning shows.

It's not as though there weren't more developments about the report. Online, Good Morning's Jake Tapper touted this important detail: "Asked about the Fast and Furious program at the Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush."

The journalist explained:

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned a inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”

In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.

Yet, Fast and Furious went unmentioned on Friday's Good Morning America.

On Friday, NBC's Today couldn't be bothered with the topic. The show's hosts did, however, find time to discuss a Honey Boo Boo name generator.

Since the new Justice Department report, NBC allowed one minute and 44 seconds. CBS provided the most, three minutes and 59 seconds. ABC included a mere 61 seconds.

The Media Research Center discovered that, in 2011, CBS's Attkisson stood out as a voice investigating the story.

The MRC's Tim Graham and Geoff Dickens found:

Attkisson was alone in holding the government accountable. Before the story erupted in June of this year, she filed 29 stories and one brief on CBS. ABC had aired only one brief on the June 15, 2011 Good Morning America. In a bizarre turn, ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper asked Obama about Fast and Furious in October 2011, but ABC refused to allow any soundbite on that subject to appear on Nightline, World News or Good Morning America (which all played clips of the interview.) Instead, on Nightline, ABC found time to air Tapper and the President playfully discussing children’s books and the greatness of Dr. Seuss.   

A transcript of the September 19 Nightly News segment can be found below:


BRIAN WILLIAMS: And a big rallying point for a lot of Republicans in this election year has been that botched gun-tracing operation on the U.S.-Mexican border called Fast and Furious. Tonight, a blistering report lays out the blame for what happened there. Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams, with us tonight, from the Justice Department. Pete, good evening.

PETE WILLIAMS: Brian, the Justice Department inspector general says he found no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder approved of the risky tactics that federal agents were using, or that even knew about them until Congress started asking questions.

ATF agents simply watched as more than 2,000 guns were smuggled into Mexico, hoping it would lead them to higher ups in the drug cartels. But few of the weapons were ever recovered, and two turned up at a shootout where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed. Today's report calls Operation Fast and Furious 'seriously flawed and supervised irresponsibly' in Arizona by ATF and federal prosecutors. It refers 14 federal officials for discipline. Two of them, including the former head of the ATF, stepped down today. The report said they should have done more to warn that the operation was seriously off track.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org