*SEE UPDATES BELOW*
One of the mainstream media journalists whose pursuit of the truth has been truly tenacious and nonpartisan is CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson. Her tough reporting has made life difficult for everyone from Hillary Clinton to the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans. She's also been relentless on the Obama administration's Fast & Furious gun-running scandal -- and, of course, Benghazi. As we mentioned this week, Attkisson's tough investigative journalism is starting to bother unnamed CBS News executives. Here's Politico's scoop, in case you missed it:
But from where Attkisson is sitting, there are actually two Goliaths, one of which is almost entirely absent from the Post profile. The second Goliath is CBS News, which has grown increasingly frustrated with Attkisson's Benghazi campaign. CBS News executives see Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue, network sources have told POLITICO. Attkisson can't get some of her stories on the air, and is thus left feeling marginalized and underutilized. That, in part, is why Attkisson is in talks to leave CBS ahead of contract, as POLITICO reported in April. Farhi mentions "internal conflicts" in the final paragraph, though he seems to dismiss them. The "internal conflicts" are indeed real -- Attkisson is still eyeing an exit, according to sources -- and provide important context for today's piece.
My analysis of this report was highly critical of CBS News. The network appears to be penalizing one of its best correspondents because she's doing her job too aggressively. Conservatives quickly imputed a political motive to CBS News' internal drama, but the Daily Caller has uncovered a connection that suggests there's a striking personal angle to this controversy, as well:
The brother of a top Obama administration official is also the president of CBS News, and the network may be days away from dropping one of its top investigative reporters for covering the administration’s scandals too aggressively. CBS News executives have reportedly expressed frustration with their own reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, who has steadily covered the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya since late last year...On Friday, ABC News reported that the Benghazi talking points went through 12 revisions before they were used on the public. The White House was intimately involved in that process, ABC reported, and the talking points were scrubbed free of their original references to a terror attack. That reporting revealed that President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes — brother of CBS News president David Rhodes — was instrumental in changing the talking points in September 2012. ABC’s reporting revealed that Ben Rhodes, who has a masters in fiction from NYU, called a meeting to discuss the talking points at the White House on September 15, 2012.
Well then. "CBS News executives" are wringing their hands that Sharyl Attkisson maybe "wading dangerously close" to advocacy on Benghazi. It's now entirely reasonable to ask if the top executive at the network may be "wading dangerously close" to a massive conflict of interest. Is David Rhodes trying to protect his brother -- who's just been revealed to be knee-deep in the Benghazi cover-up -- by muzzling and marginalizing a problematic journalist within his news division? Kudos to the Caller for shining the spotlight on that relationship, but it's amazing that no one connected those dots sooner. How many people in the elite MSM orbit are aware that Ben and David Rhodes are brothers? And they definitely are brothers, by the way; The New York Times confirmed that fact in a glowing profile of the younger Rhodes in March:
The son of a conservative-leaning Episcopalian father from Texas and a more liberal Jewish mother from New York, Mr. Rhodes grew up in a home where even sports loyalties were divided: he and his mother are ardent Mets fans; his father and his older brother, David, root for the Yankees. “No one in that house agreed on anything,” said David Rhodes, who is now the president of CBS News.
If Sharyl Attkisson continues to be relegated to the sidelines, or is even shown the door, at CBS News over her Benghazi coverage, the public must demand full disclosure about David Rhodes' role in that decision-making process. The Rhodes brothers' familial tie may be a bizarre, irrelevant coincidence. It's possible. But it's not a leap to suggest that this reeks of corruption and collusion.
UPDATE - The great Brit Hume weighs in on Twitter with an interesting piece of context:
So if David Rhodes is a down-the-middle guy, or even has conservative leanings, that changes the calculus a bit. If Politico is right and Attkisson is being targeted by CBS News higher-ups, there are a few possibilities worth considering, given this additional information from Hume: (1) If Attkisson is being punished for politically-motivated reasons, perhaps Rhodes isn't involved. (2) If he is involved, Rhodes' interests may be personal, not political. (3) Attkisson's conduct has crossed some line of professionalism, although I've seen zero evidence that even hints at that conclusion. Finally, there's option (4), wherein Politico got the story wrong, and this is all much ado about nothing. I notice that David Rhodes has just followed me on Twitter, so I will reach out to him and see if we can get to the bottom of this. As I mentioned in the original post, we don't know what the truth is here, but questions abound.
UPDATE (May 15) - Attkisson says her bosses have been supportive of her work on Benghazi. CBS News' shows and producers? Not so much.