The Mysterious Tango Between a News Spinner and Those He Spins

They must think we’re all gullible, or at least just a bit lazy. Take the recent spin from the Petraeus camp delivered by Ret. Col. Steve Boylan, a friend and former spokesman who appeared Monday on NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America to share personal information Petraeus told him in extended conversations over the weekend, most notably that the affair with Paula Broadwell began two months after he became CIA director in (around November 2011) and ended four months ago (July 2012.)

Twelve hours later Boylan was on CNN telling Anderson Cooper the same talking points. No one challenged Boylan or even asked if the general would be willing to testify about the timeline under oath.

When did they go “All In?” The wrong answer could lead to a court-martial.

For all the embarrassing details that have surfaced so far, earlier reports at least marked his appointment as CIA chief as the end of his extramarital affair, showing somewhat a more sober frame of mind. So why would he send Steve Boylan out with a story to specifically refute that point?

I suspect it’s all about Article 134 which covers the crime of committing adultery under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)  The penalty? Court martial, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pension, even confinement.

At the risk of sounding preachy, the latest 4-star scandals should serve as a warning to journalists who have covered military and national security beats, along with their editors, anchors and producers. (George Stephanopoulos did ask if the affair began in while working on the book in Afghanistan; Boylan denied it.)

Petraeus seems to have been controlling his press image for decades as telegraphed years ago in his Princeton dissertation unearthed by journalist Michael Hastings.

“Perception” is key, Petraeus wrote in 1987.  “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”

Hastings is best known for his bold reporting that ended the career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the predecessor of General Petraeus. He has written best-selling books and now digs into “The Sins of General Petraeus,” for BuzzFeed.com.

Hastings calls Petraeus “world class bullish** artist,” and details many of the ways he sees Petraeus has manipulated the media. As the scandal unfolds, a pattern does emerge.

We Now Know Petraeus Kept his Friends Close and his Biographers Closer

Before Paula Broadwell, biographer Linda Robinson wrote a glowing biography of General Petraeus and widely publicized it. He then hired her to work for him at U.S. Central Command.

Before Paula Broadwell, Petraeus spent time charming his first female biographer, Linda Robinson a highly regarded former national security and military reporter with U.S. News & World Report. Just as he broke the ice with Paula Broadwell, the general got to know Robinson on runs in Afghanistan and in 125-degree heat. Both journalists were ultimately welcomed in to his inner circle,  deemed fit for duty to tell his personal story.

In 2008, Linda Robinson wrote her take on David Petraeus and his war record: Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq. After the book came out he rewarded her with a post alongside him at U.S. Central Command.

There is no suggestion that Linda Robinson and David Petraeus had an affair;  the similarities between her and Broadwell raise more questions about the development of a media cult around him.

Linda Robinson, 58, is currently an adjunct senior fellow on foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and is a Nieman fellow at Harvard University. She has also been a senior editor at the respected Foreign Affairs magazine and her work has appeared in the New York Times, theWashington Post and a string of policy journals. She has helped spread the gospel of General Petraeus.

In a series of interviews she also heaped praise on the man himself, including one in 2008 with NPR in which she expressed her affection for him, not dissimilar to the words of his second biographer, Paula Broadwell.

So, we now ask: through what prisms have we been viewing the general?  Has he mastered relationships with selected reporters to portray him as a man of military brilliance, honor and integrity.

“How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long?” Michael Hastings asks.

“His first affair – and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two – was with the media.”

Hastings Calls Out A Shocking Media Conflict of Interest

The media, either for access or straight up cash (laundered through an organization Petraeus started called Center For A New American Security or CNAS), gave favorable reports or used quotes from unnamed sources which painted favorable pictures for one such strategy or another.

(CNAS) put the journalists who were covering those same plans and policies on its payroll. For instance, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker took money and a position from CNAS and still covered the Pentagon; Robert Kaplan, David Cloud from The Los Angeles Times, and others produced a small library’s worth of hagiographies while sharing office space at CNAS with retired generals whom they’d regularly quote in their stories.

Since the Petraeus/Broadwell affair scandal broke, all gloves are off; new investigations are underway into a possible abuse of power by Petraeus, unchecked until now –taking a girlfriend on a private military jet for his round-the-world “goodbye tour,” reportedly traveling with rock-star-worthy entourages that includes a CIA assistant assigned to provide fresh water and pineapple on his morning runs? It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s now the time for beat reporters to dig deeper, take off the kid gloves that have protected their access at the expense of what the rest of us need to know.

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PATERNO ISN’T THE ONLY ONE WHO FAILED TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN

UPDATE July 24, 2012The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s $60 million penalty for Penn State’s football program has underscored the severity of the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky, the assistant coach found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors.

In addition, the NCAA officially stripped legendary coach Joe Paterno of his victories over the past decade, denouncing his role in a system-wide cover-up of the sex crimes which including including a rape of one boy in the team shower that was reported directly to him by an eyewitness.

I’m with NCAA executive chairman and Oregon State President Ed Ray who said yesterday, “The fundamental story of this horrific chapter should focus on the innocent children and the powerful people who let them down.” 

Joe Paterno’s bronze statue was removed the day before the NCAA stripped him of his victory record.

Joe Paterno isn’t the only one who failed to protect the children, so let’s not stop our public repudiation with the one guy who’s already dead.  Yes the president of Penn State was pressured to resign as was the chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, but it shouldn’t stop there.

It is now time to hold accountable Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett who was attorney general during at least six of the 15 years Sandusky was molesting children and, as governor, was automatically given a seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees. 

BRINGING NEW MEANING TO “AT-RISK YOUTH”

Public records show that Tom Corbett, during his campaigns for attorney general and governor, received  $647,481.21 in political donations from present and former board members of The Second Mile, the non-profit charity for at-risk youth founded and run by Jerry Sandusky.

What’s more, despite personal knowledge of  the Sandusky child molestation investigations, Gov. Corbett approved a $3 million state grant to The Second Mile. The grant has been put on hold, but Gov. Corbett should now address possible conflicts of interest, influence peddling and, at best, his failure to lead.

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Matt? Savannah? GMA? NBC Execs? You won’t believe who did what in this summer network mystery special!

When high crimes are committed against network news careers  you can be sure of one thing: finger prints are never left behind.  Given the challenge, this kind of unsolved mystery needs a top television sleuth, someone willing to follow the trail while the blood is still fresh and revisionist publicists have yet to spin the story into infinity.

Preferably, the best choice to solve the high-profile case of the sudden disappearance of Ann Curry should have experience in the crime beat of morning news. So, for the greater good (of the blogosphere at least) I must volunteer myself, a long-time morning show executive and, just like NBC’s Detective Olivia Benson, a crime fighter whose skills have been sharpened by once having suffered a personal assault as well.

THE TALE OF THE TAPE
Curry Cringe w/Matt v. Teddy Bear Hug w/Al

And so we begin, first examining the suspects who were last seen with the victim, sitting on that couch as she tearfully said goodbye to her beloved audience.   Natalie? No, she’s not All About EveAl? No, he doesn’t even qualify as a red herring although he  likes to eat them. Matt? Now we might want to put Matt in a line up at least and not because he’s just re-signed a ridiculous new contract, one we can fairly assume was designed to make all his dreams come true.  No, we just need to look at the victim’s body language and Matt’s not off the hook quite yet. Read the rest of this entry »

For all fans of the ABC Megastunt broadcast, here’s another inside look at Nik Wallenda’s “life on a wire.”

 shelley ross daily Xpress

AMAZING NEW POLE CAM VIDEO**** : NIK WALLENDA’S  “LIFE ON A WIRE” 


 

 

Nik Wallenda and his 58-year-old mother, Delilah, on 10-story high wire in San Juan, Puerto Rico on June 4, 2011. Photo by Shelley Ross

 

I just witnessed the most extraordinary event: not just for its daredevil -“ishness”  or athletic feat of balancing on a wire strung between two hotels ten stories above the ground in the light wind and rain.  I certainly have an excruciating respect for what that takes.

The extraordinary event that took place this weekend, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a mother and son celebrating their lives together and the lives of all their generations past. They were both steeped in  the knowledge  passed down,  with DNA of high performance and courage.

Filmed for Discovery Channel’s “Life on a Wire,”  Nik Wallenda had set out to honor his great grandfather, the Great Karl…

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Eulogy Delivered June 20, 2012, Golders Green Memorial Park, London, U.K.

*note from the author: I have never before posted a public blog on my personal family; I hope you agree the inspirational story of the life and death of my brother-in-law, Ray, is a worthy exception.

Raymond Julian Simone (April 17, 1956 – June 18, 2012)

To be born a Simone (nee Garcia) is a rare privilege. The rest of us, we all quickly learn, do not simply befriend or even marry someone in this family. Rather, one gets inducted into this clan who, like modern Musketeers, are all for one and one for all.

I learned that right away during my introduction to Dinah, the family’s legendary matriarch. She ended our first ever conversation about David with: “Just wait ‘til you meet my other son, Ray-mond.”

Well, Dinah, no one can ever say you didn’t prepare me. And right through to his last days at the North London Hospice, my sweet, sweet brother–in-law continued what I’ve been calling Ray Simone’s Great Adventure.

Somehow, defying the doctors’ timetable, Ray fought his way out of the fog of the war, the one he’d been waging against end stage liver disease. From what might have been his final sleep, he suddenly sat up and asked for a roast beef sandwich, an ice-cold beer and a cell phone.

Then for hours, which turned into days, Ray entertained us with stories, Monty Python impressions and his wry humor, some of it at my expense I’m extremely proud to say. I believe Ray mustered his strength not just to tell, but to show the ones he loved it will be okay; we are supposed to laugh again.

Dinah was right. Ray was amazing in so many ways, not the least his courage and humanity and grace. I will confirm that in the 22 years Ray has been my brother-in-law, I never once heard him feel sorry for himself or ever limit himself because of the obstacles he faced… like being legally blind. In fact, I routinely forgot he was blind and I bet a lot of people did as well. Now just think about that for a moment: you fall, you get up and you have detached retinas; you are going blind and you’re only four years old. Read the rest of this entry »

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March 19, 2055, Broadway: the Belasco Theater in New York and it is opening night for the previews of “I Will Always Love You,” the story of the last days in the life of Whitney Houston which takes place, almost in its entirety in the Hilton Hotel suite where she was found dead just hours before her anticipated performance at a pre-Grammy party…

Whoops, it is March 19, 2012 and the Belasco Theater in New York is debuting the preview of End of the Rainbow, the story of last brilliant weeks in the life of Judy Garland.  It takes place almost in its entirety in a hotel suite in London where, with fits and starts, she delivers what will tragically be her final comeback tour.

When I heard the first reports of Whitney Houston’s death at age 48, just hours before she was set to perform at the legendary Clive Davis Grammy Eve party, I was neither shocked, nor stunned nor saddened in contrast to the mounting numbers of television reporters and fans gathering at the Hilton Hotel where her lifeless body was found in her fourth-floor bathtub. I had already grieved the loss of Whitney Houston for more than a decade.

I have now spent what remains of “Grammy weekend” wondering if all the people around Whitney Houston throughout the second half of her life were enablers, unwitting or not. Or did they help extend her life throughout these final turbulent years. Read the rest of this entry »

Michelle Obama: "I really like this job." Gayle King thought bubble: "So do I."

If an interview with the First Lady is, indeed, a litmus test for the strength of a new morning show anchor, Gayle King has lit up the internet. Based on the first two inaugural days of the new CBS The Morning, void of any real news, who knew the woman previously known as the BFF of O would nail the first real news-making interview of the week.

Wow.

To start, there was something smart and intimate about conducting the interview in the First Lady’s office, away from the West Wing and the grandure of the White House public rooms.

Michelle Obama’s office , which I don’t remember seeing on television before, felt a bit more cramped than expected, sending a subliminal message of the humility she was trying to express as she and King addressed some of the more sensational content of the new Jody Kantor book about the Obamas.

It wasn’t just the interview questions that made this interview particularly engaging. King’s unique poise, warmth and, yes, star power ensured this viewer was glued to the set for part two. Read the rest of this entry »

As a former Senior Executive Producer of a past CBS News morning show incarnation, I write this headline with a more generous heart than may appear; I always root for news shows to thrive and hope headlines like this just might help trigger a surge of competitive juice that pumps ferociously to prove the observer wrong.

The new morning team at CBS News.

While television critics have been kind about the launch of CBS This Morning — at least respectful of anchors Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill — the morning show’s new Facebook Fan Page is overwhelmed by vitriol from viewers, real viewers who put their name and photos to their comments, some with whom I actually agree. Read the rest of this entry »