The Bush administration’s skill in working the media to promote its interests is not a new story, but The New York Times has just uncovered a new twist: According to the paper, administration insiders courted a troop of retired military men to serve as trained PR agents for the White House on major broadcast outlets.
What was in it for them? Well, as the report explains, “Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” Access to top administration officials equaled money, and lots of money was on the line.
The New York Times:
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse—an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.
Talking heads: Retired Col. Kenneth Allard (upper left) says he felt “hosed” by the administration after information that conflicted with what he and others had been told about Iraq eventually emerged.