One month ago. long-time investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson left CBS amid rumors that she had grown frustrated with the network stifling her investigations. Thursday night on Bill O' Reilly's Fox News program she confirmed those rumors. "There is unprecedented, I believe, influence on the media, not just the news, but the images you see everywhere. By well-orchestrated and financed campaign of special interests, political interests and corporations. I think all of that comes into play."
After introducing his guest, O'Reilly asked Attkisson about her investigation into the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.
The former CBS reporter asserted that she began to make inroads into the story but had to drop it:
Attkisson: I found out that we had to quit pursuing the story more or less due to lack of interest well before we found 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 similar strategies to transfer weapons down to Mexico. And how did this, if at all, play into a strategy the United States may be using to draw support or give support towards one of the cartels in Mexico against one of the others much like they had done in Columbia and other places.
O'Reilly: Playing one off against the other. You said something interesting that you had to abandon the 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 is room for, they felt fairly early on that this story was over when I felt as though we had barely begun to scratch the surface. They didn't ask me what was left to report. They decided on their own the story was done.
O' Reilly moved to her investigation into Benghazi.
Attkisson: Benghazi I was assigned to look into about three weeks after the attacks happened by management, and pursued 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 there is no 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," "you know, you are kind of a troublemaker because you are still pursuing it." 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 look at you all of the sudden, "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 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 financed campaign of special interests, political interests and corporations. I think all of that comes into play.
Attkisson's last big investigation at CBS was Obamacare:
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 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 the story to a large degree on the critical looks that we were taking, security issues, the lack of transparency, the lack of providing figures and information, that I think belonged in the public domain, belonged to us, that were being withheld, while being provided in some cases to corporate partners of the government being withheld from us, though.
…Just before Christmas came word that the top security official, the computer person who still works there at HHS, had refused to sign off and recommended, in fact, that this web site not go live because of all the security issues. That was not considered a big enough story, I suppose, is the way to put it by those who decide what goes on the air. I thought it was hugely important, because this is an insider, someone who works in the Obama administration who had made this assessment. 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. Here it was the United States government doing it.