Former Bush Spokesman Joins CNN One Day After New York Times Reveals How White House Controlled Pundit Generals
I've been cranking out stories for the print newspaper today, so I hadn't yet worked out how I was going to refer to former St. Pete Times colleague David Barstow's most excellent Sunday New York Times piece on how the White House used former military men who appeared as pundits on cable TV news shows to press their talking points about the Iraq war.
Then CNN announced that former White House spokesman Tony Snow was joining their team as a political contributor and the "Wag the Dog" scenarios burst into full flower on their own.
The biggest question left hanging by Barstow's meticulous documentation of how PR strategists manipulated already-conflicted retired military types to counter criticisms of the Iraq war falls on the news outlets which employed these pundits. Imposing looser conflict-of-interest rules on them than the journalists they employ, TV news outlets set up a virtual 'don't ask, don't tell' dynamic, in which the journalism organizations had little idea whether their experts were feeding them accurate, fair perspectives.
Snow, a former Fox News employee, is clearly a major "get" for CNN, which some conservatives still call the Clinton News Network. But is also raises questions: Was the former White House spokesman ever involved in similar manipulations of military pundits? What are his potential conflicts of interest?
Here's Barstow's most excellent story, a call from liberal activists Free Press for a Congressional investigation into the notion that the pundit operation was government-sanctioned propaganda (which is illegal) and Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell's column noting that these same pundits were also featured in newspaper stories.
Wonder if anyone will really pay the price for this brazen manipulation?
Here's CNN's release about Tony Snow:
Former White House press secretary Tony Snow will join CNN as a conservative commentator beginning today, it was announced by Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. A well-known and respected observer of politics with a longstanding news background, Snow will contribute to CNN as the network continues to broadcast winning political coverage.
Snow most recently served as press secretary to President George W. Bush from April 2006 to September 2007. For 10 years beginning in 1996, he appeared on Fox News Channel, hosting Fox News Sunday, Weekend Live with Tony Snow and other programs. From 2003 to 2006, The Tony Snow Show aired on Fox News Radio. Before joining Fox, Snow served as a substitute “From the Right” co-host for CNN’s Crossfire.
“In the White House, Tony brought a remarkably human touch to the discussion of public policy, which he will continue to do as part of the Best Political Team on Television,” Klein said. “He will contribute a unique breadth of political and journalistic expertise to what is already the most provocative and wide-ranging political analysis on the air.”
“I’m delighted to be able to join CNN during the most exciting and unpredictable political year in memory,” Snow said. “The big challenge in 2008 is to develop deep, creative and aggressive analysis of both political parties, their candidates and campaigns. I’m eager to get started, since this race is sure to shape American politics for years to come.”
During the 1990s, Snow was a regular guest host for Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. He was the writer, correspondent and host of a PBS news special, The New Militant Center, a regular commentator for National Public Radio and a frequent guest on numerous televised news programs. Snow joined the administration of President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and served first as chief speechwriter and then as media affairs adviser.
In addition to his experience in government, television and radio, Snow spent more than two decades as an award-winning newspaper writer beginning with the Greensboro Record in 1979. He went on to be a columnist for USA Today and Creators Syndicate and an editorial page editor for The Washington Times.