Response to Missing Michael Hastings:
“In its obituary for the journalist [Michael Hastings]… the New York Times toedaline peddled by the government at the time of the McChrystal scandal by casting some doubt on Hastingsâ€™ reporting. The journalistâ€™s widow, Elise Jordan, has been swift to take issue with the Times obit.” — Natasha Lennard, Salon.com (June 20, 2013) In his April 2011 piece, â€œPentagon Inquiry Into Article Clears McChrystal and Aides,â€ the Pentagonâ€™s New York Time reporter Thom Shanker wrote that the DoD investigation had â€œfound no proof of wrongdoing by the general,â€ â€œwere unable to confirm the events as reported in the June 2010 article in â€œRolling Stone,â€ and â€œchallenged the accuracy of the profile of General McChrystalâ€ written by Michael Hastings. In his 2012 book â€œThe Operatorsâ€ Michael Hastings responded to criticism of of profile: â€The investigation reads comically. It is the last whitewash of McChrystalâ€™s military career. â€¦ Pentagon officials would privately tell journalists that the intent of the investigation wasnâ€™t even to find wrongdoing; it was to â€œdamageâ€ my credibility.â€
Iâ€™ll miss Michaelâ€™s honest, no BS reporting that is sadly lacking among the stenographic mainstream press. In an interview he was asked the question: â€œare there individual reporters whom you want to call out publicly for their sort of following the Pentagon line and not doing their job?â€ He replied, â€œYeah. Isawapretty egregious example with the New York Times Pentagon correspondent [Thom Shanker] who literally just published the Pentagon spokesperson’s anonymous quotes when he was reporting on my stories. And he didn’t bother to call Rolling Stone foracomment, of course, because, well, he’s got the official line from the Pentagon.â€ Itâ€™s worth noting that Shanker also previously whitewashed Gen. Stanley McChrystalâ€™s key role in the cover-up of Pat Tillmanâ€™s 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan. In May 2009, President Obama nominated McChrystal to be his new commander of the Afghan War. Conveniently, just before McChrystalâ€™s June 2009 Senate confirmation, the NYTâ€™s published Thom Shankerâ€™s piece, â€œNomination of U.S. Afghan Commander Revives Questions in Tillman Caseâ€ supposedly â€œexoneratingâ€ McChrystal of all â€˜wrongdoing.â€ Although Shankerâ€™s article was full of official government-approved â€œfacts,â€ he ignored clear evidence of McChrystalâ€˜s central role in the cover-up [for details, see the posts “Something to Die For,” â€œThe [Untold] Tillman Story,â€ and “Lies Borne Out by Facts, If Not the Truth” at the Feral Firefighter blog]. The evening after his Senate confirmation, McChrystal gave Shanker (& fellow NYT reporter Eric Schmitt)aprivate tour of his new Pentagon HQ! Afew months later, Shanker becamea”writer in residence” at the think-tank CNAS which worked closely with McChrystal on the Afghan War â€œsurge, â€ and CNAS hosted his book release party in 2011. Isnâ€™t â€œaccessâ€agrand thing!
Ididnâ€™t come away from my personal experience with Thom Shanker&the NYT with any confidence in our â€œwatchdogâ€ media. As Hastings said, â€œthey call it the Pentagon Press Corps, right? And you sort of think, oh, well it means the people who kind of watch over the Pentagon and perform the media’s watchdog function, but no, it’s an extension of the Pentagon.â€ Once again, with their obituary of Michael Hastings (as with their coverage of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman story) the NYTâ€™s reporting has lacked journalistic integrity (â€œitâ€™s not The Times that is questioning the articleâ€™s accuracy; it was the Defense Department. We’re simply reporting what it publicly saidâ€). So, instead ofasearch for the truth, the NYTâ€™s has once again displayed its stenographic ability to parrot the official government position â€œborne out by facts, if not the truth.â€ Not just stenography, but stenography in the service of smearingareal journalist after his tragic, early death! McChrystal ended his 2013 memoir [see the post “Never ShallIFail My Comrades” at the Feral Firefighter blog] withabrief, disingenuous discussion of the â€œRolling Stoneâ€ profile which led to his firing by President Obama. Although McChrystal claims he â€œtook full responsibilityâ€ he blamed Michael Hastings for his supposed lack of fairness and accuracy. However, it’s worth noting that McChrystal has dodged, repeatedly refusing to confirm or deny the accuracy of Hastingâ€™s quotes when questioned by reporters. Why? Probably because he knows Hasting’s has many of the quotes on audiotape. Since the NYT has persisted in smearing Michael’s credibility even in their obituary, why shouldnâ€™t Elise Jordan release the tapes to clear Michaelâ€™s journalistic reputation? (and stick it to McChrystal and the NYT!). Ihope that Elise Jordan decides to posthumously publish Michael Hasting’s transcripts (and release the audiotapes) of his interviews with “Team America”&General McChrystal.