Why journalist Sharyl Attkisson left her mainstream media career in favor of truthful reporting
For thirty years, Sharyl Attkisson was a correspondent and anchor at CBS News, PBS, CNN, and in local news before she ended her mainstream career to become one of the few who remain true to her journalistic principles. Honest reporting and refusing to give into liberal bias led to being spied on by the Obama administration, and she's here to share her story and outlook for the future in journalism.
In addition to her investigative reporting success, Sharyl is the NYT bestselling author of Slanted: How the news media taught us to love censorship and hate journalism; The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think and How You Vote, and Stonewalled. Learn more about Sharyl and order her books here: https://sharylattkisson.com/
Want daily news without the liberal slant? Subscribe to First Right here: https://www.restorationofamerica.com/first-right/
Doug Truax: Welcome to the First Right podcast, a weekly conservative news show brought to you by Restoration of America. I'm Doug Truax, founder and president of Restoration of America. Today we are blessed to have legendary journalists and bestselling author Sharyl Attkisson as our guest. Sharyl spent years as an award-winning journalist at CBS News before her profession fell apart, and she became one of the scan few who remained true to their principles and continued to practice good journalism. Her courage is extraordinary and she deserves immense respect. Hi Sharyl, welcome to the show.
Sharyl Attkisson: Thank you for having me.
Doug Truax: Well, gosh, it's a real honor to have you on and, and even before I begin kind of going on and on about your great career, I just want to thank you personally for holding the line. I know it's not easy nowadays, but you definitely made the decision to stick to the truth and it has served you well and plus you've got this, this wonderful career to date. And so I guess I wanted to know if like you look back, if you think back way back before you got really going and became a big name, you're just getting going in journalism. Would you have ever thought back then that it would end up like it's ended, ended up now this profession of journalism?
Sharyl Attkisson: No, in fact, I think I have a pretty good skillset toward looking down the road and seeing the impact of things. And I wrote about a lot of these and the books that I've written a lot of what the future may hold based on trends that we had seen. But if you had had me guess, I never would've thought even really 10, 15 years ago that we would get where we are so quickly with information so managed and with the public inviting it and with journalism organizations. So they used to be journalism organizations being party to the censorship and the shaping of information. I think it's just pure propaganda. I would not have guessed that.
Doug Truax: Yeah, it's really crazy. And I, I think about, you know, your book Stonewalled from 2014 and you know, now we're, you know, you you've, you've said some years there going back a while how this has all transpired and I think a lot of this obviously got kicked off under Obama and the trend line has been nothing but negative, but, so let's just talk about that, about, you know, Obama was spying on your personal and work co computers. The administration was. Just give us some more detail on that and also wanna know where that stands as of today.
Sharyl Attkisson: Well, people aren't too surprised when they hear today that the government is spying on them. They should be outraged. But the drip drip of information that that's happened over the past 10 years has numbed people to the outrage they should be feeling about it. So when I first was told by some sources back, I wanna say in the 2011 time period that I was likely being spied on or watched by the Obama administration because of the reporting that I was doing, it sounded far fetched and kind of crazy actually. And until I had had my computers looked at forensically, now we've had five different audits by independent auditors confirming these intrusions. I wouldn't have believed it myself. And I think the worst thing about it, they were coming in according to the forensics. We can tell dates and times and methods. They were using keystroke monitoring programs.
They were activating Skype audio to listen in on my conversations when it didn't look like Skype was actually activated on the computer. They have the power to do that. They have the ability to operate your keyboard or your computer as if they're sitting at the keyboard, but they can do this remotely. They were in the c bs system. CBS issued a press release about the fact that the computers had it been intruded upon. So there's no doubt that that happened. And then looking at the capabilities they used and the the software abilities that they have to do all of this. And also now since then, the years since, we have sources who told us, of course this was the government that did it, but trying to sue and hold the government accountable is nearly impossible if they won't hold themselves accountable. And of course, the Department of Justice isn't prosecuting themselves or the FBI agent's responsible or the contractors they use.
So yes, I'm in a lawsuit that's been going on years and years very uphill. We did win one small battle. One former agent used by the government acknowledged what he did and gave some other names. We're suing somebody else, but we've wanted clerks default against that one former agent for the government. We're suing a former secret service agent who is involved, who's been serving time in prison for other corruptions since this happened to me. But really what we need to do is go to the big guys who ordered it and stop it. But it's impossible really to prove their role without their cooperation. And so far, of course, they're not cooperating. Why is this matter in the big picture? I've said all along, it's not important that it happened to me. It's important that it's happening to a lot of people. And it was happening to other journalists who didn't have the context to let them know. And as long as we don't hold people accountable, we can't be surprised that they did what they did to Donald Trump in the 2016 time period. We can't be surprised that they're spying on both Democrat and Republican staffers and Congress and members of Congress themselves. These outrages will continue if nobody is held accountable.
Doug Truax: Yeah, that's right. That's the most troubling thing is the trend line on all this. And I remember when this happened to you and, and it's, it's hard to say, well, I shouldn't be worried about that. If I, if I talk like that, I'm gonna sound like I'm paranoid or I'm just getting paranoid about this. But if you find yourself in these spots where, you know, you're, you're digging into things and people are looking around and you have people like the Obama administration and then obviously like what you said once Trump came in and then they're just a constant, basically coup against the guy built around these techniques. Probably you can't help but get a little, you know, more and more paranoid, especially if you're, if you're digging into the truth or if you're on the right like we are, it's like what's actually going on out there. And I feel like there's gotta be somewhere out there, to your point, a day of reckoning on all this. I mean, somebody's gotta like come in and say, no, that's it. We're gonna, we're gonna fix all this. We're gonna go back to the way it was. Rule of law. If you do that, you're gonna get in big trouble. Do you ever see that happening?
Sharyl Attkisson: I don't, unfortunately. And here's why. I mean, it would take someone like Trump or an out political outsider because the others are co-opted by these federal agencies and the political and corporate interests that run them. If Congress were not corrupted at high levels, meaning the party leaders of both sides, there's no way knowing just a fraction of what we know the FBI has done, the CIA has done the c d C has done, there's no way those organizations would even exist in their current form. There's very little oversight being done. They should be blown up and rebuilt based on the corruption and the misinformation they've put out. But the fact that we have hearings and demands for documents and never really anything real shows that these federal agencies and those pulling strings in them, I think they're running the show. And when a president comes in, doesn't matter who it is, Democrat or Republic, maybe some of them may agree with these agencies more than others, but these agencies and those running in them and pulling strings, they just wait four years, you know, until the they could, they wait out whoever's president and do whatever they want.
Doug Truax: Yeah, that's right. And the other day on that, the jfk, you know, assassination information that was, I think that was supposed to come out in 2017 and it didn't. And then, you know, it's not coming out for a reason. And I just feel like if we all look back, there's moments in time where these agencies started saying, oh, we can do whatever we want as we go forward because of what you just said.
Sharyl Attkisson: You know, they don't wanna, let me get one current example that's huge. I asked for the after action report after the failed, that horrible pullout from Afghanistan. The military creates an after action report after every military action that gives some insight into what went wrong and what may have gone right. That's the purpose of the after action reports. They've never released the one from Benghazi. That's public information. We are allowed to see that we owe, but they just fla the law and withhold it and nobody holds them accountable. Likewise, I've asked for the after action report from Afghanistan. They've withheld it illegally for, you know, the whole time I've been asking for it. I haven't heard anybody in Congress ask for it. And quite frankly, if they did, I think unless they really pushed it together by, in a bipartisan basis, again, the Defense Department will just thumb their nose at Congress. But I don't know that anybody's asked for this. So these are really important things that are not happening. And unless those things were to happen, we can only expect more of the same.
Doug Truax: Yeah, that's right. And, and it can be super discouraging because it is that concept of these people are in power, bureaucratic power, they figured out how to wait people out, and then you can't really, there's a lot of like red tape around getting anybody fired in the government, you know, and that's, and I think if there was a, if there was an easier way to come through and be like, oh, you don't want to gimme what, what I'm asking for, you're out, you're out, you're out. And then they don't, you know, the president or whoever feels like, well, they can't get that done. And plus it's just so huge now. But yeah, it's, it's a discouraging thing, but hopefully there will be a day of reckoning out there. I was gonna ask you too, was there a moment in time I, I think I had John Solomon on here, and I was asking about how, at what point did you realize that the, that the journalism, the journalists were, you know, basically turning into Democrat operatives and I think he was in his newsroom when Scooter Libby was convicted and they all were cheering and he was like, oh my gosh, this is out of control.
Do you have any moments like that previously, even before you got, were spied upon that you're like, oh man, this is not, this is not looking good.
Sharyl Attkisson: Well, a small moment, which I, I really stuck outta my mind when I went to work for CBS News. I came from CNN at the time. CNN was a news organization and worked very hard to not take sides on issues. I think that we did a pretty good job at it. No one had to tell us that, that was just assumed. That was how the news operated. I went to CBS News in New York and I'm not a political person and I guess I should be embarrassed to say I, I followed politics, so little national politics that I didn't know much about what was going on. And at the time, I believe it was the year that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the house with the contract of Amer for America. I didn't really know that. I knew there was an election and I'm walking around sort of in the middle of the night cause it was the overnight shift and everybody I just sensed in the whole newsroom was just upset and depressed and kind of hanging sad.
And I asked somebody, what's wrong? What's everybody so depressed about? And someone said, didn't you hear we lost the election? And I just was like, we, what are you, what are you talking about? So not only once I examined what they were talking about, not only were they calling themselves we meaning Democrats, they were also assuming I was a Democrat and felt the same way because there was such a monolithic opinion inside that news organization. So that stuck out. But I will say CBS did a very good job, at least with me for many years, telling me to, or encouraging me to cover stories independently and seek things out. It wasn't until the last few years before I quit CBS News that I started seeing this march, not just at cbs, but all the national news organizations where they were starting to censor and shape news in a way that was shocking, which led to my wanting to leave CBS ahead of my contract in 2014.
Doug Truax: Yeah, yeah, I bet that was hard to take and hear that it just looks like a paradigm shift in your own mind. You're like, everybody's just out there for the truth and we're just trying to find the right thing and suddenly you realize they're actually not. And I, I was gonna ask you too, how's it been over time? You were, you're just really good at fighting these truth bombs and throwing 'em out there and, and you know, it's undeniable when you put this stuff out there. Any of your journalist friends from before that you stay in touch with that you're say to them, why aren't you covering this too? And they give you, or they avoid you. I don't guess I understand what happens when you put this stuff out and the rest of the journalists like, I'm not gonna look at it.
Sharyl Attkisson: Well it's interesting because I used to run into journalists and we were all competing for the same stories. We wanted the whistleblower and we'd each try to be first to get a good one to verify their story and if warranted to put it on television or to break a big story and to get it out. And now I find I'm on, I have my independent show full measure, which feeds to 43 million households every Sunday on tv. Different affiliates, ABC n, nbc, CBSs Fox, and so on. I can just pluck stories out of thin air and I'm all alone. People don't want those whistleblower stories unless they're politically against a certain person, not the traditional whistleblower stories. They don't want the stories about the inside scoop happening. That's bad. Unless it's something against, let's say Donald Trump, they only want a specific kind. So it's easy to find really good, interesting stories that are undercover or not reported on at all.
And to the extent I hear from some of my former colleagues, they say things like, how are you allowed to cover those stories? Because some of them were still trying to cover them, but they knew on up the line, you know, we stumble across the same story still. And I hear from people I interview, oh, so-and-so at ABC for example, wanted to do a story and the producer worked with me and then they cut the story out. So up the line, the journalists are learning, even when they wanna do the good stories, there's somebody in the editorial process that won't put them on TV or won't let them ultimately publish them in a fair and accurate way. So they kind of know to go in a different direction. And yeah, so I, I guess my main feedback I do hear from people is how do you get to cover the stories you do, which are just basic stories we all used to cover 10, 15 years ago,
Doug Truax: Right? Yeah. They're just not allowed to, you know, the, the word's gone out, this is how, that's how we're gonna do it. Everybody's, you know, it's a very partisan country now in general and the, you know, the media's controlled by the Democrats and so this is only certain things you can cover. Do you think, last question for you. Do you, do you think that there's a, a way that this, the journalism profession ever does come back?
Sharyl Attkisson: I think it comes back in a different form and people are trying to find out by contacted from time to time, probably by a half dozen entities so far that are looking to do a fair news organization that cuts down the middle on things. They just haven't figured out what platform they could use that can't be canceled, you know, when they're going against the narrative. But there are smart people trying to figure all that out. And I think CK is sort of an example of a transition a way that people on the left and right who are being canceled in other places can get their word out without being censored. But I think there will be something else that comes that's invented or created technically that allows this avenue to happen of something that's more fair. Cause I do think people, maybe they wanna see news that's right-leaning and left-leaning, but they know they're getting a view.
They still, those same people, in my opinion, would like to have a neutral place they could go so they don't have to discount 20% off the top of what they heard because they know they're listening to right-leaning or left-leaning news. I think there's a huge market for it. And technically, well, one of the people, people trying to figure this out, for example, is the co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, who left Wikipedia because it got, it's so taken over now by agenda editors, corporate pharmaceutical interests and critical interests who edit this a certain way, but he's trying to technically think of what is the next thing where information can be freer and more accurate. And so a lot of people are working on the problem. I think something will come of it, but I don't think we'll see the traditional news organizations go back to doing what we used to think of as news.
Doug Truax: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's right. I i it is just this technology piece and the, and having something that can't be canceled, that's where it, where it comes down to it and finding enough people that'll play it straight down the middle too. That's gonna, that's always a tricky time, a tricky thing to do in this time that we're in, but it's doable for sure. Well, Sharyl, how can we, how can we help you more? I mean, obviously we're gonna get this out to our distribution network, but how, how can we support what you're doing?
Sharyl Attkisson: Well, I try to cross publish my work at sharylattkisson.com, but my TV program, full measure.news, has just great neutral reporting on a variety of topics like you don't see anymore that nobody's, no propaganda interests are pushing real topics people are curious about. And I do have a GoFundMe started by Fourth Amendment Advocates cuz Press Advocates did not help me with my lawsuit at all against the government, but some Fourth Amendment advocates and legal scholars stepped up when they heard that. And you could always visit there if you're interested. And if you wanna read more about the lawsuit, I think it's fascinating if, if you wanna dig a little deeper, if you go to sharylattkisson.com and click under I think investigations, there's a whole sort of array of stories under a category that tells you what happened and the misinformation that was even put out about the case by propagandast like Media Matters who had experts commenting and putting out false information that knew nothing about the case. It kind of digs into all that. And some people, if they're interested, might find that a fun read.
Doug Truax: Oh absolutely. And we gotta have a record of all this cuz hopefully there will be a reckoning and then we'll have the, everybody will be able to see the truth, you know, our kids and our grandkids and all this. They need to be looked back on this time and be like, wow, minute that was outta control. But the truth will still be there. So, hey again, thank you so much for your courage. I think you're just a great example for any, you know, wouldbe journalist out there to see how do I do this the right way? You know, that's you and just thankful for all you've done over the years. Sorry, some of these things have happened to you, but you're obviously using your platform to, you know, get the truth out there even more. And in some ways it's created some good fame for you that is, is well deserved. But really appreciate all that you're doing and we just want you to keep up the good work. And thanks for everything, Sharyl.
Sharyl Attkisson: Well, thank you for having me and thanks to the support.
Doug Truax: All right, that's our show for today. Thank you so much for tuning in and for supporting conservative media. Don't ever forget that by working together and staying diligent, we conservatives can bring our country back to true greatness. Until next week, let's all keep praying that God will continue to bless America
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