Jessica Yellin: Press Succumbs To Patriotic Fever

In a discussion on CNN of the book by former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, Anderson Cooper quoted a passage that criticized the press for not being sufficiently aggressive in their coverage of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration.

McClellan: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.”

CNN reporter Jessica Yellin then described her experience with network news executives who pressured her to deliver stories that were slanted in favor of the President.

Yellin: “The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings. And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives.”

Yellin’s admission provides a stark confirmation of McClellan’s criticism. The press was indeed too deferential – because their bosses ordered them to be.

The real tragedy of all this is that these confessions always come far too late. Too late for the 4,000+ dead American soldiers and their families. Too late for the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians. Too late for the next generation af Americans who will be burdened by the loss of international respect and trust, not to mention the burden of $2 trillion (and counting) of war debt.

Yellin is not the first journalist to issue this sort of belated mea culpa. I documented several other examples a year and a half ago. You just have to wonder where these people’s ethics were at the time.