Former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, the award-winning journalist who famously left the network in March 2014 over frustration with its liberal bias and hostile environment for investigative news – recently appeared on C-SPAN to discuss her forthcoming book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington” (out November 4, 2014).
During the interview, Attkisson lambasted the Obama administration on its opacity, asserting in response to a clip from the president’s second day in office in which he promised transparency that President Obama deserves a grade of ”an F…I think my colleagues in journalism would give a similar grade whether they’re liberal or conservative.”
Attkisson added that as to the obfuscatory tactics of the Obama White House:
“This administration has perfected the stall, the delay, the redaction, the excuses.”
Expanding on this critical view of the administration’s record on transparency and freedom of information, Attkisson argued that the administration has a tendency to withhold information until a story is no longer newsworthy. She also expressed concern about the increasing need under the Obama administration for journalists to file lawsuits to obtain public information.
The interview more broadly focused on two interconnected problems: 1) The unwillingness of the mainstream media to criticize the political and corporate elite, and to doggedly pursue truth, and 2) The opacity of the Obama administration.
Attkisson laments the decline of investigative reporting and the difficulty in producing critical content in mainstream media these days:
“I think over all, not just at CBS but according to my colleagues in print and broadcast and elsewhere, there’s been a declining appetite for investigative reporting. It’s gotten harder and harder. Not just political reporting, which is really not my favorite kind to do, but any kind of reporting that goes after the powers that be. There are such organized, well financed efforts that go after the reporters and reports before, during, and after they’re being crafted. It’s a lot of trouble.”
She cites the financial and political connections between media outlets and subjects of investigation as a primary reason for this declining appetite:
“I think there are financial connections between people that we may do stories on and the networks and entities we work for. I think there are political connections sometimes. There’s a complex web of factors that have come together in a perfect storm. That has led to this declining appetite for investigative reporting. All the investigative reporters from CBS News are gone.”
While Attkisson made it clear that journalists have always faced challenges in producing hard-hitting, investigative political content, these challenges have become especially pronounced during the Obama administration:
“Journalists by and large — and I’m talking about journalists in the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS — agree this is the worst administration we’ve worked for in terms of transparency and trying to hold the powers that be accountable. Journalists have banded together and written letters to the White House expressing this thought. There has been the spying, snooping scandals…[and] journalist[s] [have] banded together and written objections to this administration and specifically said this is the worst atmosphere that we’ve faced.”
Notably, on the hot-button issue, Attkisson expressed continuing skepticism regarding the lack of information on Benghazi, asserting that by implication, the Obama administration is covering up key information related to the attack:
“For Benghazi, I’m just still surprised this much after the fact that we have no answers to the timeline or generally what the commander in chief did while Americans were under attack on foreign soil. The Egyptian attack happened and the Benghazi attack happened, and they fully expected other embassies could have been going up in the middle east. We have no idea what the commander in chief was doing. I think that’s a basic question they would have answered if there was something positive to say about it. So it leaves you as a journalist to assume there’s something they don’t want you to know since they aren’t telling you.”
You can watch the full interview below.