Sharyl Attkisson: Unprecedented Influence on the Media By Corporations
O'REILLY: "Let's start with fast and furious. What did you find out about that?"
ATTKISSON: "I found that we had to quit pursuing the story, more or less, due to lack of interest well before we found a lot of the answers to a lot of questions, including what about all the other cases besides the one you know as fast and furious that were also using other strategies to transfer weapons down to Mexico. And how did this if at all, play into the strategy the United States may be using to draw support or give support toward one of the cartels in Mexico against one of the others, much like they have done in Columbia and many of these other places."
O'REILLY: "All right, so they were playing one off against the other, but you said something interesting, that you had to abandon this story for lack of interest. Can you clarify that?"
ATTKISSON: "It just came to be that -- I don't think on the viewers part, but on the people that decide what stories go into the broadcast and what there's room for -- they felt fairly early on that this story was over when I felt as though we had just barely begun to scratch the surface. They didn't ask me what was left to report, they just decided on their own that the story was done."
O'REILLY: "All right, so they pulled the rug from you. And I worked at CBS News and I know how it goes. You can't investigate a story unless you get a budget to do so and approval of the higher ups. OK, you're going to do this assignment O'Reilly or Attkisson, and this assignment will go to this show. And that's how the structure works, so they didn't want any part of it over there. OK. How about Benghazi, what did you find out about that?"
ATTKISSON: "Benghazi, I was assigned to look into -- about three weeks after the attacks happened -- by management and pursue that aggressively and as I felt we were beginning to scratch beneath the surface on that scandal as well, which I think had many legitimate questions yet to be asked and answered -- interest was largely lost in that story as well on the part of the people that are responsible for deciding what goes on the news."
O'REILLY: "So did they tell you, look, we don't want you to spend any more time on this? Was it that direct?"
ATTKISSON: "No. It's more as though the time in the broadcast. They really, really liked the story but you start to hear from, you know, other routes that why don't you just leave it alone, and you know, you are kind of a trouble maker because you're still pursuing it. I mean, it kind of goes from hot to cold in one day, sometimes. Where they are asking you to pursue something heavily and then it's almost as if a light switch goes off and they look at you all of the sudden as if -- why are you bringing this story?"
O'REILLY: "Is it possible because CBS News is third in the ratings that they are just doing stories that they think are going to get them audiences? Is that possible?"
ATTKISSON: "I suppose there could be differences of opinion as to what the audience wants to see, but I think there are larger things at play in the industry. Broadly, there are overarching concerns about, I would say just say fear over original investigative reporting. There is unprecedented, I believe, influence on the media, not just the news, but the images you see everywhere, by well-orchestrated and well-financed campaigns of special interests, political interests and corporations. And I think all of that comes into play."
O'REILLY: "OK. So on fast and furious and Benghazi you started and then you were forced to stop. ObamaCare, you looked into that as well."
ATTKISSON: "I was asked by CBS to look into ObamaCare and it had a similar trajectory whereby we broke some interesting stories that I felt like we were uncovering some good information and making headway. But we, and I feel like a lot of the media after several weeks of this kind of fell off the radar on this story to a large degree on the critical looks we were taking at security issues, the lack of transparency, the lack of providing of figures and information that I think belong in the public domain, belong to us, that were being withheld while in some cases being provided to corporate partners of the government -- being withheld from us though."
O'REILLY: "When you say security, you mean people's health records and things like that, and that they are not secure?"
ATTKISSON: "Right, I mean, just before Christmas came word that the top security official, the computer security person who still works there at HHS had refused to sign off and recommended, in fact, that this website not go live because of all the security issues. That was not considered a big enough story, I suppose is a way to put it, by those who decide what goes on the air. But I thought it was hugely important because this is an insider, someone who works in the Obama administration who had made this assessment. And if you look at having had something like that occur with a private corporation that proceeded to go online with all of these alleged security risks, I think the government would be very upset by that if the tables were turned. But here it was the United States government doing it."