Pentagon Pundits: New York Times Reporter David Barstow Wins Pulitzer Prize for Exposing Military’s Pro-War Propaganda Media Campaign
In his first national broadcast interview, New York Times reporter David Barstow speaks about his 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning expose of the Pentagon propaganda campaign to recruit more than 75 retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as military analysts ahead of and during the Iraq war. This week, the Pentagon inspector general’s office admitted its exoneration of the program was flawed and withdrew it.
Barstow uncovered Pentagon documents that repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration themes and messages to millions of Americans in the form of their own opinions.
The so-called analysts were given hundreds of classified Pentagon briefings, provided with Pentagon-approved talking points and given free trips to Iraq and other sites paid for by the Pentagon.
David Barstow wrote: “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.”
The officials appeared on all of the main cable news channels – Fox News, CNN and MSNBC – as well as the three nightly network news broadcasts. The Pentagon program started during the build-up to the Iraq war.
The Pentagon continued to use retired generals to counter criticism on various issues ranging from Guantanamo to the surge in Iraq. In some cases analysts would appear on cable news programs live from the Pentagon just minutes after receiving a special briefing.
Since the New York Times first report appeared 13 months ago, the major cable news programs and television networks have responded with what has been described as a “deafening silence.” Even after David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize last week, the story–and even Barstow"s prize—went unnoticed on cable news and television networks.
Up until this week, the Pentagon defended its actions. In January the Pentagon’s inspector general dismissed allegations the program violated laws barring propaganda and rejected reports showing the analysts used their Pentagon access to win government contracts for defense companies. However, on Tuesday the Pentagon took the unusual step of admitting that the report was flawed and withdrew it.
David Barstow joins us in the Firehouse studio. He is an investigative reporter at the New York Times and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting.
David Barstow, investigative reporter at the New York Times. He won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his articles Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand and One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex.