Sharyl Attkisson: Obama Has 'Chilling Effect' on Journalism

Sunday, 13 Apr 2014 07:04 PM

By Greg Richter

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Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who quit CBS News last month, says the Obama administration has had a "chilling effect" on news organizations, successfully stifling stories it doesn't want running.

Appearing Sunday on Fox News Channel's "Media Buzz," Attkisson told host Howard Kurtz she was often pressured directly or through her supervisors to not report stories that were unfavorable to the White House.

Attkisson pointed out that while it is common for any administration to attempt to quash unfavorable stories, none have ever had the success of President Barack Obama's White House.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

"There is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job in ways that have never come to bear before," Attkisson said. "But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration, and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized, that’s designed to have sort of a chilling effect and to some degree has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it."

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Some of the changes are political, Attkisson said. She said she has had editors on both sides of the political spectrum who have always put their own beliefs aside in the name of good journalism. But under the Obama administration, she said there seems to be a willingness to go along with the White House's wishes.

But she places some of the blame, too, on successful intimidation tactics.

"Why put on these controversial stories that we’re going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?" she said.

Attkisson asked to be let out of her contract early after her investigative stories began getting less airtime. She reported on Solyndra, Benghazi, and Operation Fast and Furious, all stories of interest to conservatives, but she also had reported unflattering stories on the George W. Bush administration during her two decades at CBS.

"I didn’t run into that same kind of sentiment [from the network] as I did in the Obama administration when I covered the Bush administration very aggressively," she told Kurtz.

She also defended coverage of stories such as Benghazi, which critics on the left, have said are political and therefore not worthy of investigative efforts.

"Watergate was at its heart a political scandal in every sense of the word, but it didn't mean it wasn't a legitimate issue to look at," she said. "But there's sort of this tendency now to use this strategy that says, it's political, therefore don't listen to it."

Ultimately, she said, she became uncomfortable convincing sources to go out on a limb and give her information on stories because they were important, only to have them spiked.

"It's this kind of thing you can't do to people," she said.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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