According to The Washington Post, 40 years after Watergate “the future of investigative reporting is at risk.” Former Post Managing Editor Leonard Downie Jr.,  now a VP with the company, claimed we all need a “widespread recognition of the importance of accountability journalism in our democracy.” But he got so lost patting himself and the paper on the back that he missed one of the big reasons why many stories never get done by the traditional press.
Those stories make their side look bad.
We are watching one of the worst recent examples play out on the floors of Congress and mostly on CBS News – far less on ABC or NBC. Credit CBS Battler-in-Chief Sharyl Attkisson with helping bring to light the deadly actions of the Obama administration’s horrific “Fast and Furious” anti-gun initiative.
“Fast and Furious” is a legendary government fiasco, as long as you follow the proper news outlet. In this case, that’s CBS. Attkisson has done award-winning journalism (more on that later) unveiling how this anti-gun propaganda effort cost the life of an American hero and killed or wounded who knows how many Mexicans.
Here’s an April 27 Washington Post understatement  about the “faulty” program:
“‘Letting guns walk’ out of shops in the hands of suspected straw purchasers was an Operation Fast and Furious tactic at the ATF in Phoenix. The plan was to track the guns to major weapons traffickers and drug cartels to make criminal cases against smuggling kingpins. But the effort was faulty, and many weapons wound up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States. Two of the guns spotted at one point during Fast and Furious were later discovered at the scene of the killing of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.”
The issue came to a boil again on June 12 as Atty. Gen. Eric Holder testified in front of Congress. Holder, in classic Obama administration gaffe fashion, told Congress that he “stuck by my guns”  while in office. All of his guns except for about 2,000 shipped to Mexico in a deadly gun-walking scheme that were then misplaced like you lose your keys. Imagine if a Bush appointee had made that kind of error, making light of an issue where an American had been murdered. It would be front-page news.
During the hearing, Texas Sen. John Cornyn joined the parade calling for Holder’s head. The most current tally puts that at one-fourth of Congress – “130 House members and three Senators, all Republican,” according to Kerry Picket  of The Washington Times.
In the evening news that followed, only NBC mentioned the story and did its level best to support the theme that “Democrats claim it’s all about politics,” as anchor Brian Williams put it. In less than three minutes, Williams and reporter Kelly O’Donnell mentioned Republicans seven times and Democrats just twice because this was a “long simmering conflict between Republicans and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.” O’Donnell described “Fast and Furious” meekly as “a failed operation that sent U.S. guns into Mexico.” She left out its deadly aspects and treated it like a political football.
No one is surprised. Back in February, ABC and NBC completely ignored it  when Holder testified before a House committee on the scandal. As of that time, CBS had repeatedly investigated the scandal, producing 29 stories and one brief. ABC had done one brief on it and NBC zilch. Even worse, NBC mentioned how “Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a shootout with bandits,” but never tied it to the scandal.
Since then, the media agenda remains clear – cover up. Oh, wait, that’s a Watergate term. They can only be applied to Republicans, not journalists.
Here are a few doozies:
- While MSNBC has done its best to hide from the issue, frothing-at-the-mouth host Martin Bashir  said: “the current administration has not yet suffered a major scandal, which I define as a widespread elite perception of wrongdoing.” By that definition, Democrats almost never have scandals because media elites never admit it, as in this case.
- The Daily Caller  showed problems in media coverage from The New York Times and Politico. The Times’ “Charlie Savage wrongly reported  last week that Boehner was working to cut a deal with Holder, but has since updated his piece and admitted to not seeking comment from Boehner’s office – an apparent violation  of the Times’ journalistic ethics code,” they wrote.
- When Holder gave Congress “inaccurate” and said his testimony had been, as the Post put it “imprecise,”  the Times skipped that confession  entirely.
House leaders are looking at a June 20 vote  to possibly hold the attorney general in contempt, pretty much the view he has of the American Constitution. He keeps stonewalling on document requests and that again smacks of a “gate” scandal. But if we counted on most of the mainstream press, the 7,600 pages that have been turned over to Congress might as well be blank.
To anyone aware of the battle over gun rights, the whole “Fast and Furious” issue didn’t just happen. If you connect the dots, they take you back to the 1990s. You may recall Eric Holder , in 1995 long before he worked for the Obama White House, calling for a major “anti-gun” initiative that would “brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly differently way.”
That’s what “Fast and Furious” was precisely designed to do. Holder’s Justice Department allowed guns to be sold to Mexican drug dealers to create an international incident that could be used to rein in the very same right to gun ownership he is sworn to protect. It worked great. Guns went over the border, the Mexicans got upset and there was enough violence to satisfy any gun banner’s .0-caliber heart.
Only one problem – they got caught. Much of that credit goes to CBS’s Attkisson. For her outstanding journalism, she was to have received  the Reid Irvine Award for investigative reporting at the Conservative Political Action Conference from Accuracy in Media. Only reporters aren’t supposed to get awards from conservative outlets, so CBS Washington bureau Chief Christopher Isham accepted in her place. She might have to go into witness protection after that win.
That is the state of American journalism in 2012.
That’s just not what journalists want to discuss. Many want to dwell on glory days like some aging Springsteen fan. Ten presidential terms after the Post took down President Nixon, we still see Watergate celebs Woodward and Bernstein crowing that “Nixon was far worse than we thought.”  Great, thanks for the history lesson.
But what about current events? You know, the stuff news organizations deal with?
Oh, those are inconvenient truths. Kudos to Attkisson and CBS for pointing them out.