Breaking: CBS News is officially crazy!

TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013

Remarkably, Kessler can’t tell: We’ve been telling you this for years, but as of today, it’s official:

You no longer have an actual press corps. Officially, we’re all living in a post-journalistic madhouse.

It’s hard not to draw that conclusion after reading Glenn Kessler’s latest Fact Checker piece for the Washington Post. For what it’s worth, we agree with some of Kessler’s conclusions about Jonathan Karl’s now-famous May 10 report for ABC News.

In that report, Karl presented twelve versions of the now-famous talking points about Benghazi. Midway through his report, Karl made an horrendous error concerning one of the e-mails which helped create the now-famous talking points.

Karl has largely refused to explain his error in the days since it came to light.

That said, Kessler jumps several sharks as he fumbles about in the dark concerning errors made by various journalists in reports about those e-mails. Good God! Just consider what he says about a May 10 report filed by CBS News under Sharyl Attkisson’s name.

Attkisson is a major CBS correspondent of long standing. On May 10, she also filed an on-line report discussing those famous e-mails.

In her report as published, Attkisson quoted one of the e-mails inaccurately. (Her error differed from Karl’s.) In his new Fact Checker piece, Kessler explains, or pretends to explain, how that error occurred.

Below, you see your “press corps” in action, though Kessler shows no sign of seeing how crazy this story actually is. Below, we will translate Kessler’s prose into English:
KESSLER (5/21/13): A columnist for Mediaite reported that Attkisson, when she filed her story, warned these e-mails were paraphrased. After Garrett’s report aired, Attkisson reiterated that point in an e-mail to reporters and editors: “The talking point draft emails read to CBS News last Friday were from handwritten notes, and the attorney source explained why they were not direct quotes and could not be represented as such, as I noted at the top of my reporting for important context.”

Attkisson did not respond to a request for comment. But since then, CBS has updated her original May 10 story with similar language, noting that this paragraph was “included in the original story submission but was omitted from a previous version due to an inadvertent error in the editing process.”
Based on the other facts in this case, the highlighted statement by Kessler seems to be inaccurate. Having noted that, let’s try to retell Kessler’s story.

This is the story Kessler seems to be trying to tell:

According to Attkisson, she sent a report to her editors which carried a warning. For background on this matter, Kessler links to this Mediaite report.

According to Attkisson and her editors, this warning paragraph appeared right at the top of the copy she submitted:
ATTKISSON’S ALLEGED WARNING: Emails were provided by the Administration to certain Congressional Committees for limited review. The Committees were not permitted to copy the emails, so they made handwritten notes. Therefore, parts of the quoted emails may be paraphrased.
We’re sorry, but that is insane.

“Parts of the quoted e-mails may be paraphrased?” According to CBS News, Attkisson placed that warning right at the top of the report she submitted to her editors.

If that is true, it’s now official: Attkisson is insane.

What does it mean to say that “part of the quoted e-mails” in a news report “may be paraphrased?” Presumably, it would mean that Attkisson didn’t know whether she had been given quotations from the e-mails or mere paraphrases.

In a situation like that, a journalist would have to be out of her mind to do what Attkisson purportedly did—to file a report with a bunch of apparent quotations, while warning her editors that some of the quotations may be paraphrases.

That said, the story gets worse:

Over at the CBS web site, Attkisson’s original report is still available, with that crazy paragraph inserted into the middle of the copy. After providing that crazy warning, the report offers quotations from various e-mails—except the report has already said that the quotations may not be quotations!

You can see the report as it currently exists at CBS News. As posted, the report is just this side of insane—and this is CBS’s attempt at “correcting” the original report, which simply presented a bunch of apparent quotations and got one of them wrong!

That report as it currently stands is just this side of crazy. Kessler seems to have no idea how crazy this whole story is.

We’ve long since ceased to have a press corps. Most strikingly, Kessler can’t tell.

Still coming: We plan to discuss Jonathan Karl’s report in the next few days. It has been hard to keep pace with the post-journalistic lunacy here.

For the record, some of the errors have been authored by MSNBC’s exercised hosts. We're in a post-journalistic age all over the upper-end “press corps.”


  1. Great post! But that's only a paraphrase.

  2. Sharyl Attkisson's tough reporting may have led the White House to treat her like James Rosen of Fox News. Politico reports:

    "I can confirm that an intrusion of my computers has been under some investigation on my end for some months...

    ...Attkisson said that though she did not know the full details of the intrustion, "there could be some relationship between these things and what's happened to James [Rosen]," the Fox News reporter who became the subject of a Justice Dept. investigation after reporting on CIA intelligence about North Korea in 2009.

    On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that the Justice Dept. had searched Rosen's personal e-mails and tracked his visits to the State Dept. The court affadavit described Rosen as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" of his government source, presumably because he had solicited classified information from that source -- an argument that has been heavily criticized by other journalists.

    Attkisson told WPHT that irregular activity on her computer was first identified in Feb. 2011, when she was reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal and on the Obama administration's green energy spending, which she said "the administration was very sensitive about." Attkisson has also been a persistent investigator of the events surrounding last year's attack in Benghazi, and its aftermath.

    1. This Politico "report" is meant by you to rebut the Holwer's "Attkisson is insane"?

      You are hilarious, sonny.

    2. Between Rosen and the AP, I'm sure there's no govt employee talking to any reporter aside from two tin cans tied together.

      Lord have mercy, let The Children defend that. Let them have that.

    3. So, for months, She has been investigating an intrusion on her computers. Seeing that She is the story here, I guess She is the best person to get to the bottem of it; but next time She might try the Genius Bar, sometimes the kids are real helpful. Then She can swing over to Regency Press to talk book deal. Thanks for the confirmation!

    4. So because she thinks she was being investigated for some other story, she rightfully thinks she can put quotes around third-hand paraphrases? Anonymous or not, how can anyone have a discussion with someone who is comfortable sitting at the Mad Hatter's tea party?

  3. Hicks is crazy, Attkisson is insane. For someone who allegedly detests tribal demonization, Bob, you do it very well.

  4. Well, there is a lot of insanity on this page..

    Why does TDH forget to address Kessler's main topic: were the emails "doctored" as the White House claimed?

    Were they "doctored?"

    The White House had a big staff member running around making that claim--is that claim true?

    1. "Doctored" is hyperbole, and fairly mild hyperbole at that.

      Putting quotation marks around a paraphrase is, or used to be, a GIANT no-no in what we used to call journalism. It's a rank falsehood. There's no excuse for it. It's completely beyond me why Karl's violation of this basic rule of reporting is largely being ignored.

      There's been some yak-yak about whether Karl got "duped," and if so, whether he should out his source.

      Nuh-uh. Jonathan Karl duped the public. Frankly, that used to be a firing offense, and it still should be.

    2. Yes, it should be a firing offense. But this is modern journalism. The rules are clear, lying is OK, not making sense is OK, but stealing from other journalists is right out. If you get caught plagiarising, you can get fired. Everybody: "Darlings! It just isn't done."

    3. Gyrfalcon,

      Are you serious? Hyperbole?
      On 3 consecutive Sunday TV shows?
      From the White House communications director?

      I think you've gone way past truthiness.

      But if you really want to stick with the hyperbole argument, then your answer to my question of whether the emails were "doctored" is basically, "no."

      So TDH rambled on about Kessler's piece without acknowledging that it was fundamentally correct in its main point. The administration dissembled in this instance in its presentation of the Benghazi talking points emails. The end.

    4. The end ..... ?

      So you're good on the whole putting quotes on paraphrases, as long as the piece is "fundamentally correct?" You must grade on a curve.

  5. Here is what Darrel Issa should be investigating. Why was this Benghazi "outpost" infested with CIA operatives?

    1. Diplomatic post always have a few spies.
      Liason officers, military attaches, etc.
      These people are supposed to mingle with the locals and keep their eyes and ears open, and they are trained how to do it.
      It's nothing new.
      The reason so many were CIA was they had a mission, and Ambassador Stevens was the cover story.

      I am no fan of Rand Paul, but a question he asked Hillary Clinton in the January Senate hearing got me thinking:
      "[I]s the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?"

      It turns out there WERE transfers of weapons, SA-7 shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.
      Paul didn't pursue the issue, presumably because he had no hard evidence, only the notion that a lot of CIA people were in Libya, or did he think discretion was the better part of valor?

      The story goes that the missiles were going to Syria, where the rebels were going to shoot down government helicopters and jets with them.

      Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups were getting in line in Syria so they could get their share to shoot down commercial passenger aircraft.

      What the administration was covering up was a covert CIA operation.

      This story can be uncovered by following links and Googling the right phrases.

      The question remains: How soon should any government announce it's spying activities publicly? (Assuming it ever should, that is.)

      Aside: Sen. McCain, a former Navy combat pilot, kept beating the drum for US intervention in Syria.
      Was he that ignorant of the missing SA-7 missiles, or did he figure NATO pilots could take their chances? His discretion, their valor. (I'm no fan of Sen. McCain, either.)