Two disturbing questions linger on the follow-up to the New York Times story exposing that former military officers presented as experts on TV were actually spouting Pentagon spin on the war in Iraq:
1. Why did TV outlets, the networks as well as the more culpable cable units, rush these folks on the air with little regard to potential conflicts of interest?
2. Why did the story attract little or no interest from other print organizations when it certainly should have?
The television networks became enablers, largely for Pentagon spin. The generals and colonels called in for quickie interviews should have been vetted for independent thinking. They weren't.
Of course, Fox was the most willing to put the Bush administration's best foot forward on almost any aspect of the nonending conflict. Nothing new there.
The motto of "we report, you decide" from Fox has been a joke all along. Roger Ailes, the news organization's top newsman and a former Republican consultant, knew what he was doing when he formed the GOP-slanted network.
Back when the war started—so long ago—the Pentagon invited former top brass in for a briefing. It amounted to a Don Rumsfeld snow job.
One well-known Marine general told me he never went back to a Rumsfeld briefing and did his own reporting with private visits to the Pentagon.
The second question is equally puzzling. Once this story broke in the Sunday Times , it apparently was too exclusive for the rest of the media to follow up. Perhaps the TV organizations were too embarrassed, but the editors of newspapers didn't give it any legs.
USA Today did write a tough editorial deserving of quoting: "It was a tour de force in deception and manipulation, a credibility killer but nothing new in Washington."
Nothing new is right.