Planting Fake News Stories
'Hardball with Chris Matthews' transcript for December 1 show
MATTHEWS: When we return, will the Pentagon strategy of planting fake news stories hamper the chances of true democracy and U.S. victory in Iraq? HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Amy Goodman is the radio talk show host for Democracy Now, and Byron York is the White House correspondent for “The National Review.”
Byron, we're going to put you in an interesting position here. Does it offend you, as an American, that we're buying good press in Iraq?
BYRON YORK, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think we shouldn't have been doing it. And I do think that Jim Miklaszewski hinted at this. There is kind of a war going on inside the Pentagon. And I personally think if we had found out there was an article that appeared in the Iraqi press that was very positive to the United States, years later we find out it could be traced back to the CIA, some very black operation at the CIA, big deal. We've done that a lot over the years in many different wars.
But there is a problem when you blur the distinction between that sort of thing and the public affairs officials of the United States military, who should be telling the truth. Did we kill this many people? Have we built this many schools? They should be telling the truth about that. So there is a war in part going on inside the Pentagon and the Bush administration, over how to do this kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: Who makes the decision, do you know? Who made the decision to clear this contract and say, all right, go out there and create some of this bogus positive coverage?
YORK: Well, first of all, I don't know. And I'm not sure a lot of people do know, and I'm sure they're scrambling right now to try to find some answers for Senator Warner.
MATTHEWS: Well, $100 million is a hell of a lien item. And somebody had to approve it.
YORK: Well, yes, but by the way, if I read the stories correctly, the $100 million is for the next five years. It's not as if $100 million was spent on doing this particular stuff we're talking about.
MATTHEWS: Well, at $200 a reporter, $20 million goes a long way this year.
YORK: It does.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me go to Amy Goodman. Your view of this matter. This is of course the story we're getting the last couple of days. It's going to be investigated tomorrow by the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John Warner of Virginia. Senator Warner said he's going to be holding—getting a briefing from the Pentagon as to what role they played at the top. What do you make of it, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACY NOW: Well, Chris, it's an absolute outrage, and there are many levels of it. One is of course the outrage against the Iraqi people, that they're not getting true operations, that this is a kind of psychological warfare, and you've dealt with it well on the program.
But I want to talk about a few other levels of this. You also have the blowback effect. When you have pieces that appear in Iraqi papers and then you have newspapers around the world and in this country as well citing those papers, and the blowback comes to this country.
And then you have the marginalization of a press in Iraq that may well be telling the truth. You have organizations like Al-Jazeera. If you have some news outlets telling the truth and others only telling the, quote, “good news.” In fact, the lies that the Bush administration is putting out, and wants the Iraqi people to believe, that marginalizes those news organizations.
(Apparently, Matthews suddenly resents the fact that Goodman is talking about the fake news yet this is what he referred to in the intro! He challenges her:)
MATTHEWS: Well wait a minutes. There's been nothing in the reporting on this to say that we're putting out this information, though. From what I've been reading, we're putting out factual accounts of what we're doing over there in terms of construction.
GOODMAN: There's no different issues here. One is wanting to put out, quote, “good news stories,” that the military is putting out and paying reporters to take. The other part is the covert operation, what they call the—basically, the information, the psychological operations.
This has been reported in “The Philadelphia Inquirer,” has been reported by Knight Ridder. And that is actually planting false stories. Jonathan Landay had a very good piece on this today. Actually, purposely putting in false stories about what is going on in Iraq. And of course the tragedy for the Iraqi people is that they see what's happening on the ground, and they look at a press and they say, why isn't it reflecting what is happening here?
(Seems Matthews suddenly doesn't like the fake news being talked about, at this point Matthews never asks Goodman another question.)
YORK: The reports I've seen on this is that they were accurate, but one-sided. Which is, they should include all sides, but that's a tradition we see in many American news reports.
MATTHEWS: The news around the street, going to both of you. Dispute here in America now, and we're trying to find this out, the objective fact here. It's not about propaganda. We want to know, how well are we doing in training the Iraqi security forces over there, so we can go home. And let them defend their own government.
And the question now, as we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, putting out a statement today, that people like George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, has been making it too high a standard for these Iraqis, saying they're not doing as well as they should, when in fact, he says, just get the standard down a little, and they'll look better. We're having a dispute among the very highest level of our military over whether we've trained anybody over there.
YORK: Well, not completely over whether we've trained anybody, but...
MATTHEWS: ... sufficient to defend the country.
YORK: The president brought that very thing up yesterday in the speech in Annapolis, and he said that we all remember the incidents when the Iraqis just ran away from battle. But there has been a dispute over how many battalions, battalion being 350-800 people: how many of them are ready to go? I mean, the president yesterday...
MATTHEWS: ... do they look like soldiers when they march around? They don't look like people doing something by the hour, they're getting paid to do it?
YORK: When you see them in a pickup truck in irregular uniform, no, they don't look like American soldiers.
MATTHEWS: They look like those dazed guys.
YORK: It's another part of the world.
MATTHEWS: No, but they look like they're kind of dazed and disinterested. When you look at these guys, they don't look like crack outfits. At least, what they're putting on television.
YORK: Well, they're not crack outfits. But on the other hand, these are people who could be killed by doing this.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I understand that. But they're getting paid, too.
YORK: And they know that. So they made a certain decision.
MATTHEWS: They're getting three squares out of this, too. It's isn't completely volunteer work.
YORK: But it's a dangerous decision to make.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it is, based upon a lot of factors, like pay.
YORK: Well, American contractors do the same thing.
MATTHEWS: I know, but we'll wait to see. But this is interesting. When George Casey is fighting with Peter Pace, the highest levels of our military whether we have any standards at all or not, over this. It's fascinating. It's probably a lot more important than this propaganda story.
Amy Goodman, thank you for joining us, Byron York. When we return, President Bush is about to light the National Christmas Tree in Washington. We'll take you there when we return.
Words Goodman was able to speak: 282
Words York was able to speak: 403