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McClellan, Yellin, and the Press Under Pressure

May 29th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Foreign Policy, Journalism, Media, News, Politics, Video

Boy, Scottie McClellan’s decision to come clean — well, I say clean, I mean slightly less dirty — on his role as the Mouth of Sauron, and how the press corps passed along the White House’s propaganda to sell the invasion and occupation of Iraq, has really opened all sorts of floodgates.

In addition to all of the outrage pouring out of the various die-hard Bush defenders this morning, and the various mediatrons pretending to be shocked at these revelations, there’s this riveting bit of video (via Crooks & Liars) from CNN last night. Congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin (who worked for MSNBC and ABC News before moving to CNN) acknowledges to Anderson Cooper that yes, reporters got pressure from corporate executives to slant the news in favor of the Bush administration and its message.

You really have to see the video above for full impact, but in case you’re somewhere you can’t watch, here’s the transcript:

Cooper: Jessica, McClellan took the press to task for upholding their reputation. He writes “the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington. The choice of whether to go to war in Iraq…the ‘liberal’ media didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.” Dan Bartlett, former Bush advisor, called the allegation “total crap.” What’s your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?

Yellin: I think the press corps dropped the ball in the beginning when the lead up to war began, uh the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the President’s high approval ratings and my own experience at the White House was that the higher the President’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives, and I was not at this network at the time, but the more pressure I had from these executives to put on positive stories about the President. I think over time….

Cooper: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the President?

Yellin: Not in that exact…they wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes. That was my experience.

Look, at this point, anyone with a lick of sense who’s been paying attention the last few years already knew this to be true. The myth of the “liberal media” is so thoroughly discredited at this point that a little flock of magic pigeons should automatically appear to rain down guano upon the head of anyone who ever again utters those words in earnest.

Still, to hear it finally said out loud in the mainstream corporate media, after all these years, is a remarkable thing. Turns out two and two equal four after all, Winston … sorry about all the unpleasantness in the little room.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    “magic pigeons should automatically appear to rain down guano upon the head of anyone who ever again utters those words in earnest”

    Great! I look forward to seeing the staff of The Heritage Foundation sporting their lovely new poo hats…

  • Steve Sturm

    The missing element when referring to “the liberal media” is the yardstick, the standard of reference. Compared to Dave Awl? Not so liberal. Compared to me. Liberal. Compared to the “statistically average” American? I suspect, if we make sure we include the frequently underrepresented in polling middle America rural types, the media is probably still more liberal than the “average American.”

    It seems from her guarded comments that she was upset at editing changes made to her work, and she is presuming this was intentionally done due to corporate influence in support of Bush. There is no indication that she was told that. Perhaps the editing was in response to excessively negative spin in her reporting. At this point, it is merely her biased perception, we don’t have the input of anyone else involved. I couldn’t say this interview is conclusive of anything.

    What I find most alarming, liberal or conservative, is the continuing effort by most of the media to blur the distinction between reporting and editorials. I’m not talking about Air America, Limbaugh, Hannity or other talk shows, they generally are clearly editorial. It disturbs me to see increasingly greater spin, regardless of the political bias, in what purports to be factual reporting. The spin, at times, results in clearly, obviously, provably false “assertions of fact.” The increasing trend to cite “consensus” as fact is as disturbing as the many recent grudging admissions by media outlets of the outright fabrication of stories. I am not surprised when a press secretary may engage in spin and falsehood, they are spokespeople, not journalists. I resent seeing it in news coverage from persons posing as objective journalists. It’s not the bias that is the problem, it is the failure to disclose the bias.