Sharyl Attkisson, the ex-CBS investigative reporter, whistleblower, and author recently spoke with Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter about her book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington. They discussed her computer hacking, the struggles she experienced getting her stories televised, media bias, and the existence of an Obama “Enemies’ List.”
At first, when CBS was notified about the possible computer hacking, they seemed concerned:
CBS hired a separate computer forensics firm to look at the computers. They, too, agreed that there had been highly sophisticated remote intrusion of my computers. They decided to dig deeper and embark upon a process that spanned a number of months, during which time the situation with the Associated Press and the government spying on Fox News reporter James Rosen was disclosed, as well as Edward Snowden’s NSA information.
After telling Attkisson they wanted to pursue an investigation and find out who exactly was responsible for the hacking, CBS sort of “dropped” the matter:
I discovered on my own they have a computer security specialist working for CBS. … But nobody ever questioned me, came to my house, checked the security of my system, asked me for more information, or followed up with me.
Soon after, Attkisson hired a legal and forensics team that found evidence of “highly sophisticated remote intrusions into my personal and work computers by someone using software proprietary to a government agency…either to the DIA, CIA, FBI or NSA over a period of time.”
When asked why she would be a target as opposed to other partisan voices (like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh), Attkisson alluded to an “enemies list”:
I’ve been told there is such a list…I kind of assume I’m on a list. I don’t think I’m the only one, along with James Rosen and the Associated Press that garnered special attention….anybody they (the White House) perceive as harmful to their agenda or working with leakers and whistleblowers, which I did a lot of.
Attkisson has been accused of being a “right-winger” who only reports on negative stories about the Obama administration. Not true, she says:
Most of my reporting has not been political in nature. Some of the stories that were politicized, I don’t consider political stories, but they were made out to be by people who obviously didn’t want them reported, and I would put Fast and Furious and Benghazi in that category. But other stories include the one I won an investigative Emmy Award for last year, which was a series of stories from the time I went undercover to investigate freshmen Republican fundraising. I also did a story that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow complimented in a seven-minute-long segment, exposing Congressman Steven Buyer, a Republican from Indiana, and his possible and allegedly fraudulent charity, which was followed shortly thereafter by his resignation from Congress.
Attkisson does a great job of detailing the constant struggles she faced when trying to get her stories to air on television. Whether it be pushback from special interests, corporations, politicians or personal bias:
… in a general sense, I noticed a tendency to avoid stories that would draw pushback from people they didn’t want to have pushback from, whether it’s corporations, advertisers or politicians… CBS is hundreds of people, and they’ve changed over the years. It’s not a monolithic organization that has one viewpoint, and that’s why for everything you try to put into a box there are exceptions. For example, they assigned me to cover Benghazi, that wasn’t my idea. And they were very enthusiastic about the story for a period of time. Why they changed on that, I tried to figure out many times and I can’t say; I can only say what my experiences were.
When I did stories that clearly were not positive toward Republicans, I was never accused of being a crazy liberal or having an agenda. That only happened when I did stories that were perceived as being negative toward Democrats.
…I think there is a cultural change in journalism that’s going on — a turn away from the kind of reporting that just holds the powers-that-be accountable....I would say, as [ex-NBC reporter] Lisa Myers has observed, as USA Today has observed, the media in general has been less enthusiastic about government accountability under the Obama administration. And I concur with those observations."
Reporting on the attacks in Benghazi, Attkisson kept pushing the envelope until she got answers – and refusing to believe the attacks were the result of a YouTube video:
Some of the information the administration is withholding from public release involves a meeting or meetings that occurred in which this was presumably discussed. So we can only wonder, but the body of evidence that’s come out in the two years since would lead a reasonable person to conclude they wanted to steer the public’s direction away from the idea that this was definitely an act of terror, technically on U.S. soil if it was U.S. property overseas. It occurred on the president’s watch, very close to an election, at a time when he had claimed Al Qaeda was on the run.
Apparently there has been a “whisper campaign” started by CBS News alleging Attkisson is “paranoid, crazy, and a liar.” Her response?
I’d like to think not. It’s just a good word they use to discredit and “controversialize” reporters and stories they don’t like.