First Abu Ghraib, and Now Siegelman

Larisa reports that 60 Minutes has decided to spike its story on Don Siegelman.

60 Minutes Caves to Pressure from White House on Siegelman Story…

Well folks, seems that 60 Minutes is postponing (read "killing") its Siegelman story. The excuse I am told for this lapse in ethics is that the network needs more time to vet the whistle-blower, Dana Jill Simpson. You see, the reason the network suddenly needs more time to vet Simpson is that the White House has launched a direct campaign inside CBS to discredit her and just to make sure the dirt sticks, they have called in some favors too. I am told that Senator Jeff Sessions has been instructed to help the White House discredit Simpson as part of his "Senatorial" duties. Nice system of government we have here, eh?

So, two things are going to happen now. The first is, we will be including what 60 Minutes did not report as part of the Raw Story series on the case. Instead of 5 installments, we will now have 6. Second, all of you as citizens of this nation must voice your concerns about this situation to CBS. You want a free press? Then fight for it!

60 Minutes
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

EMAIL: [email protected]
PHONE: (212) 975-3247

It’s probably worth reminding folks that 60 Minutes attempted to spike–and managed to postpone–another story that was politically damaging to the Administration.

The most interesting thing about the Dan Rather complaint, IMO, is the description it gave of CBS and Administration attempts to spike the Abu Ghraib story.

In late April 2004, Mr. Rather, as Correspondant, and Mary Mapes, a veteran producer, broke a news story of national importance on 60 Minutes II–the abuse by American military personnel of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. The story, which included photographs of the abusive treatment of prisoners, consumer American news media for many months.

Despite the story’s importance, and because of the obvious negative impact the story would have on the Bush administration with which Viacom and CBS wished to curry favor, CBS management attempted to bury it. As a general rule, senior executives of CBS News do not take a hands-on role in the editing and vetting of a story. However, CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Senior Vice President Betsy West were involved intimately in the editing and vetting process of the Abu Ghraib story. However, for weeks, they refused to grant permission to air the story, continuously insisting that it lacked sufficient substantiation. As Mr. Rather and Ms. Mapes provided each requested verification, Mr. Heyward and Ms. West continued to "raise the goalposts," insisting on additional substantiation.

Even after obtaining nearly a dozen, now notorious, photographs, which made it impossible to deny the accuracy of the story, Mr. Heyward and Ms. West continued to delay the story for an additional three weeks. This delay was, in part, occasioned by acceding to pressures brought to bear by government officials urging CBS to drop the story or at least delay it. As a part of that pressure, Mr. Rather received a personal telephone call from General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging him to delay the story.

Only after it became apparent that, due to the delay, sources were talking to other news organizations and that CBS would be "scooped," Mr. Heyward and Ms. West approved the airing of the story for April 28, 2004. Even then, CBS imposed the unusual restrictions that the story would be aired only once, that it would not be preceded by on-air promotion, and that it would not be reference on the CBS Evening News.

By my count, we’ve got:

  • A description of a craven CBS and Viacom hoping to "curry favor" with the Bush Administration
  • Heyward and West postponing a scoop for three weeks and thereby allowing torture to continue unabated
  • Personal knowledge of the scandal by Richard Myers … and personal intervention on his part to hide a scandal
  • The deliberate refusal to publicize a huge news story

I recommend not just a blogger ethics conference, but an entire college curriculum.

So when you call 60 Minutes, you might want to ask them if they’re spiking this story–as they attempted to spike the Abu Ghraib story–at the request of the White House.

38 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Dang, I just got done reading that over at Larisa’s place not two minutes ago and was going to make an OT comment about it here. You’re too quick for me EW. *g*

    OT – while we’re waiting for the Senate to awaken from their 4 martini lunch snooze and get back to erasing the Constitution, one can keep oneself occupied by reading Seymour M. Hersh’s latest on that Israeli Strike on Syria.

    • selise says:

      speaking of hersh… iirc, he was the only reason cbs eventually did report on abu gharaib – he’d had the story for a while, and when the new yorker decided to publish… THEN cbs, knowing the story would be broken, went ahead with their own report.

    • phred says:

      I doubt they are motivated by fear. I suspect they are motivated by profit and favorable legislation/treatment by the exec. branch. The Bushies only trot out fear for our benefit, for everyone else, it is your garden variety graft and corruption…

  2. Mary says:

    what’s CBS afraid of?

    If they do the Siegelman story justice, then it ties specifically and unequivocally to Karl Rove, in the White House, using US Attys to trump up charges to go after political targets on behalf of the Republican party.

    That’s an uncomfortable series of charges to level if you don’t have all the ammo – especially with USAtty and Main Justice also dragging journalists into closed proceedings to testify and especially if Siegelman did do anything – any smidging thing – wrong, that might come back to bite the story as biased.

    To bend over backwards for CBS, I did hear a rationale that they wanted to use this Sunday as a springboard for a Clinton/Obama – history making post Super-Tues special and that is the given reason for moving Siegelman back. It has waited this long, but I guess if they are going to wait that long, they should be sure to put a tag on for the new vendetta (described by Horton here: ) by the same ol USAttys.

    And one for the legislature in Wisconsin coughing up legal fees for Biskupic’s target. I’m thinking by the time you are released as an appellate bench ruling and the legislature passes a bill to pay your legal fees, you might be in a good position to file something that typically never stands a chance – a direct action against the prosecutor. OTOH, since a former DAG has vouched for what a great guy Biskupic is, I guess there’s no there there.

    • skdadl says:

      OTOH, since a former DAG has vouched for what a great guy Biskupic is, I guess there’s no there there.

      Mary, I knew you were going to say that just a split second before I read it. Oh, dang and drat.

      At least two deaths at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan have been ruled homicides by U.S. military doctors. I can find that reference somewhere in the NY Review of Books, along with a graphic description of the injuries to one victim, strung up for days and used as a punching bag for any soldier who strolled in and wanted to hit his legs with a metal bar — the autopsy described his legs as having been turned to jelly, and soldiers who participated have talked honestly and on the record to journalists about what they did.

  3. JohnJ says:

    Let us not forget who controls the FCC. We saw what “good favor” there did for Faux Spews. I would imagine that is a double edge sword.

  4. JimWhite says:

    Jello Jay back up, and again they have shifted directly to language about “companies that have assisted the governement in setting up warrantless wiretaps”. Nothing to hide here.

  5. looseheadprop says:

    Dan rather must be jumping up and down over this one. It just adds more fuel to his case and creates (yippee!) more disocvery material for him to get.

  6. boba says:

    Please protest to CBS also for their attempt to rewrite history with the 60 Minutes episode of two weeks ago. Based on the testimony of one man, Hussein’s interpreter, they put forth the idea that Saddam was insisting to the end that he still had WMD in order to impress Iran or some shit. They ignore the entire record of the 12,000 page document submitted to the U.N. detailing with how Iraq destroyed it’s weapons programs, Saddams complete cooperation with the U.N. Inspectors by giving them unlimited access to the palaces and anywhere they might have suspicions and the interview with Saddam himself on CBS prior to the invasion in which he explicitly denied having any more WMD’s or programs to develop them. Shameful revisionism and they really need to be called on this.

  7. brendanscalling says:

    boy did THEY get mad at me!!

    ”We’re working on the story.”

    ”Really? Because I’m reading all over the internet that you’re spiking the story, just like you did with abu ghraib.”
    ”We’re working on the story.”

    ”What, is that all you’re allowed to say? Then why’s it all over the internet?”
    ”do you believe everything you rerad on the internet?”

    ”Are you telling me that CBS, who had to fire Dan Rather for not having his fact straight on the Bush National Guard story is a paragon of honesty? And wasn’t it the internet that exposed that too?”
    ”Sigh. We’re working on the story. Good bye.”

  8. rapt says:

    It helps to remember that 3 prime networks, CNN, Faux Noos are all owned and controlled by neocons now. All are committed to propaganda so it is pointless to get all upset about their lies and criminality. That is what they do; it is their function so to speak.

  9. JohnForde says:

    Here’s what I sent:

    Dear 60 Minutes,

    If you spike the Siegelman story you will be undermining your own shareholders.
    You will be badly undermining your brand.
    You will be opening up a whole new field of Discovery for Mr Rather’s lawsuit against you.

  10. bonjonno says:

    email sent. Not that I watch TV anymore. It’s so refreshing w/o. Rather read about the boob toob here.

  11. Mary says:

    Dillawar was the cab driver who was beaten until his legs were pulpified and he died, hung in a stress position and torturously swaying between trying to stand on his toes with those legs, or suffocating from the pressure on his lungs.

    Carlotta Gall, who has the byline on the admission of waterboarding story – wrote the biggest story on the dual killings at Bagram. Along with the fact that as they were slowy torturing Dillawar to death, they had already figured out he wasn’t really the guy who had launched the RPGs – that guy was probably the warlord at the checkpoint who assisted in stopping and turning Dillawar over for questioning. Those killings at Bagram were US miliary – using the standards put together by that fine man and excellent candidate for the Fourth Circuit, “Jim” Haynes. Golly, you really can’t say enough nice things about a man who helps make that kind of thing happen, can you? Oh, yeah, apparently you can.…..letter.pdf

    Alberto Mora must have bust a gut laughing while he read that memo. If not, I guess Dillawar’s busted gut will have to do.

    But in the live blog there was a reference to two CIA deaths from exposure I thought, and I only had seen a reference to one.

  12. bmaz says:

    We might also note that Jerky Jeff sessions probably doesn’t need much impetus from the administration to work on killing this story; his own personal petty reasons are more than sufficient. Carrying water for Rove/Cheney/Bush is just an extra added bonus.

  13. HangingJudge says:

    Marcy, I know it’s fun to write and talk about how dastardly CBS is (and has been) and to pressure it to resist the Administration presssure. However, we all have been reading about this on the blogs for some time, and Simpson has been interviewed under oath by a congressional committee. Could not some other msm, print or video, take this story and run with it (i.e. Rove interference, etc., and add on the CBS spiking? This is my first comment to you; I love your writing and your excellent analysis.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, if they wanted to. I think that’s why Larisa is pushing this at RS. I think the chances that anyone is going to push on Rove’s little op are slim. This is very mafioso stuff–remember that Simpson made her affidavit in GA, to avoid the repercussions of what would happen if she did it in AL.

  14. Evolute says:

    This is probably old hat to readers here, but for those who haven’t seen Scott Horton discuss the Don Siegelman affair on MSNBC with Dan Abrams, here it is.

  15. bobschacht says:

    First Rathergate (Bush AWOL). Then Abu-Ghraibgate. Now CBS is going for the trifecta by spiking the Spiegelman story. Is this CBS management culture at work, or is there some supremo executive at CBS who just loves to kiss Bush’s posterior? Maybe CBS News is an acronym for Caught Burying Significant News.

    Bob in HI

  16. Mary says:

    OT but I’ll forget about it completely if I don’t drop it here…..chael.html

    John Michael “pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and to subsequently lying to a federal grand jury” Gov dropped bribery and obstruction (apparently on obstruction it’s one of those things that Gov would rather do than do something about). May 5 sentencing date – free on bond. Probably no Greecian cruises like his uncle was able to fit in via his contacts with the boys back east(remember when that meant something less nefarious than Main Justice?)

    His uncle, Kontogiannis, is recovering from open heart surgery and his sentencing is delayed. Wilkes is up for sentencing on Feb 19

    Court papers indicate probation officials are recommending that Burns sentence him to 60 years in prison.

    • nomolos says:

      His uncle, Kontogiannis, is recovering from open heart surgery and his sentencing is delayed.

      I hope he does not have the same heart doctor as Ken Lay.

  17. maryo2 says:

    Dear CBS,

    Are the testicles on your chin starting to become uncomfortable? They are certainly starting to chafe.

    Chafing Ball Syndrome

  18. stagemom says:

    there’s is such an anti-business concept, anti-profit motive.
    don’t they want to make money?
    it’s the february sweeps, for chrissakes! run the tape!! they
    might get a viewer or two…ya think?

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