The Sharyl Attkisson approach
Producers at CBS News once nicknamed Attkisson ‘Pit Bull.’ | CBS Photo
Sharyl Attkisson has problems.
The Obama administration won’t answer the CBS News correspondent’s questions because her investigations — into Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Solyndra — often reflect negatively on it. Some colleagues at CBS News, where she has worked for two decades and earned multiple Emmy awards, dismiss her work because they perceive a political agenda. And now, she says, someone may have hacked into her computers.
Attkisson’s one piece of solace may come from finally gaining some like-minded colleagues in the media. For years, Attkisson has been one of the few mainstream reporters pursuing critical stories about the Obama administration. Today, as “scandal season” takes hold in Washington, she has seen her longstanding skepticism of the White House and the Justice Department become the conventional attitude among a formerly deferential Beltway press corps.
Attkisson is a dogged reporter, driven by a strong skepticism of government. Producers at CBS News once nicknamed her “Pit Bull,” a source said, because she gets on a story and won’t let go. But that is seen as both a strength and a weakness. Her drive can produce great journalism, but it can also cause her to push stories to the point that colleagues — especially those of a more progressive bent — suspect a political agenda.
Among conservatives who rarely find champions in the mainstream media, however, Attkisson is widely respected.
“She goes after the stories others won’t go after, and she was right to go after them,” Greta Van Susteren, the Fox News host, told POLITICO.
“She is actually doing what journalists are supposed to do,” said Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host. “That’s not easy in Washington, D.C., where we have a president with whom the majority of reporters agree with politically.”
Last year, in a rare moment of right-wing support for a mainstream reporter, the conservative watchdog group Accuracy In Media gave Attkisson an award for her “outstanding contribution to journalism.”
Earlier this week, Attkisson told POLITICO her personal and work computers had been “compromised” and were under investigation. Though she said she was “not prepared to make an allegation against a specific entity,” she said elsewhere that “there could be some relationship between these things and what’s happened to James [Rosen],” the Fox News reporter who became the subject of a Justice Department investigation after reporting on CIA intelligence about North Korea in 2009.
Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesperson, told POLITICO, “To our knowledge, the Justice Department has never ‘compromised’ Ms. Atkisson’s computers, or otherwise sought any information from or concerning any telephone, computer or other media device she may own or use.”
The bulk of Attkisson’s work over the past five years has focused on the failures or perceived failures of the Obama administration, which has led to an icy relationship with the White House and the Justice Department.
In February 2011, Attkisson wrote a landmark report about the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal, which earned her an Emmy award. Months later, she went on Ingraham’s radio show and said that officials from both the White House and the Justice Department had yelled and screamed at her because of her report.