Bozell Column: '60 Minutes,' Tool of the State?

The New York Times published an unintentionally humorous headline on December 23:  “When ‘60 Minutes’ Checks Its Journalistic Skepticism at the Door.” Times media columnist David Carr is suddenly stunned that “60 Minutes” has aired a puff piece on a serious political matter.        

In his article, Carr didn’t breathe a word about Steve Kroft’s long history of servile interviews with Barack Obama, most recently in January when he threw softballs at both Obama and Hillary Clinton at the president’s request. Carr’s never written about Kroft. 

Carr sees “60 Minutes” as a "journalistic treasure" because it's a rabble-rousing leftist outfit: “For more than four decades, the program has exposed CIA abuses, rogue military contractors and hundreds of corporate villains.” So he was upset about the December 15 “60 Minutes,” which aired an interview with Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency. He wrote “it was hard to watch the NSA segment and not wonder who was minding the store.”

The interviewer in this case was CBS’s John Miller, who Carr suggested was too close to the subject: “Mr. Miller is a former high-ranking official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a former spokesman of the FBI whose worldview is built on going after bad guys and keeping the rest of us safe.”

That must be opposed to the worldview of the New York Times – which is based on being obsessively concerned with the civil liberties of the bad guys at the expense of our safety.

Any critic could watch the NSA segment and see it for what it was: a forum to allow the NSA boss to make his case for their surveillance programs. What's wrong with that? If that’s inappropriate, why then did Carr not condemn the December 22 “60 Minutes,” which carried a Lesley Stahl softball profile of national security adviser Susan Rice, who is our “whip-smart....quarterback of American foreign policy.” 

Stahl puffed up Rice and her “reputation” as an “idealist” who “ran into a Benghazi buzzsaw.” Rice was “swept up into the dispute” over Benghazi. Rice the “idealist” didn’t lie on five Sunday news interviews. Stahl insisted “a former senior intelligence official told us that the talking point that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous was precisely what classified intelligence reports said at the time.”

How in blazes is this less of a powder-puff presentation than Miller’s segment on the NSA? Miller pushed Alexander on how Edward Snowden could steal millions of secret documents: “This happened on your watch. A twentysomething-year-old high school dropout contractor managed to walk out with, in essence, the crown jewels. Did you offer to resign about the Snowden incident?” The general said yes.

By contrast, Stahl accompanied Rice to her daughter’s Sunday soccer game (to underline portentously that she’s the first National Security Adviser to be a mom) before they ended with a brief bit on Benghazi. Rice fatuously announced “I don’t have time to think about a false controversy.” Stahl could only ask “But the questions keep coming. I mean, when someone heard that I was going to be talking to you, they said, ‘You have to ask her why Hillary Clinton didn’t do the interview that morning.’ Did she smell trouble?”


Rice claimed Hillary “had just gone through an incredibly painful and stressful week” because she “had to reach out to the families, had to greet the bodies upon their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base.” When “60 Minutes” had a chance to ask Hillary why she skipped the Sunday shows, Steve Kroft failed to do so. He only asked her sympathetically if she blamed herself for Benghazi.

Carr, like many liberals, thinks the list of CBS offenses began with its October 27 Benghazi segment with Lara Logan, in which CBS was fooled by Dylan Davies, who claimed to be an eyewitness on the scene of the consulate attack, but he wasn’t. That was a serious mistake, an error compounded by a bungled “eyewitness account” book deal Davies struck with Simon & Schuster, a corporate cousin of CBS (which they failed to disclose).

Even in the segments Carr hates – the Benghazi segment and the NSA segment -- Obama’s mostly absent. The name “Obama” was never uttered in the Benghazi segment, and this was its one mention by Miller: “Do you think [German] Chancellor Merkel hears President Obama's calls?”

So why isn’t Carr upset about how Obama doesn’t matter, doesn’t seem to be president when things go dramatically wrong? Who is “minding the store” at CBS on holding Obama accountable? As with Kroft, Carr doesn’t care. Obama’s not the kind of “villain” that “60 Minutes” is supposed to hunt.

The left's formula is simple. If it's a "60 Minutes" investigative hit piece against a conservative, it's journalism. If it's a slobbering puff piece promoting a liberal, it's journalism.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center