National Review column spotlights Sharyl Attkisson’s story

Scott Johnson reviews for National Review Online readers some of the key elements of Sharyl Attkisson‘s new memoir. Among those elements: the Obama administration’s disinformation campaign.

Attkisson is a dogged reporter, and Stonewalled is a gripping book, organized around the Obama-administration scandals she covered at CBS News. With the exception of the IRS scandal, she covered just about all of them: Fast and Furious, green-energy crony capitalism, Benghazi, and Obamacare. Attkisson devotes a chapter to her work on each one.

Each of the scandals falls into a larger pattern of scandal management practiced by the Obama White House. (The reader can infer how the IRS scandal fits the pattern precisely to a T.) Her book is invaluable for how it analyzes and exposes this pattern, combining her reportage and her behind-the-scenes work at CBS News.

The pattern begins with blatant denials — bald lies — and stonewalling. Attkisson deftly articulates one of the bona fide occupational qualifications for service as a spokesperson in the Obama administration. Referring specifically to HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters, whom Attkisson had caught lying to her, she writes: “It takes a certain kind of person to be untruthful and then display utter lack of contrition when caught.”

Next in the pattern, when the lies fail, comes the attribution of responsibility to the lowest level of bureaucrat. Also, rather than responding to straightforward inquiries, administration spokesmen pump reporters for the information they have so they can undermine it. Attkisson calls this technique “pump and mine.” The administration then plants slanted leaks to friendly bloggers and reporters; next, it characterizes any advances in the story as “old news.”

Attkisson also shows how the administration, using a technique she calls “controversialization,” disparages any sources and reporters who move the story forward. As she recounts in the book, Attkisson has extensive personal experience being at the receiving end of this technique.

She singles out Media Matters as the main outlet that moves administration spin into the mainstream media. As Attkisson demonstrates, however, the power of Media Matters derives from the complicity and cooperation of its many allies in the media, i.e., the many Obama allies in the media.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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