The latest from the perpetually outraged Media Matters is that soldiers coming forward to speak about Bowe Bergdahl talked to Richard Grenell. Research Fellow Oliver Willis writes:
Fox News Contributor Behind PR Campaign For Soldiers Critical Of Bowe Bergdahl
Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his public relations firm have been coordinating interviews for soldiers criticizing the actions of recently-released Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
Those critics have said that Bergdahl, who had been imprisoned by the Taliban since 2009, risked the lives of soldiers who tried to find him after he reportedly walked off his Afghanistan base.
Several media outlets have reported on these soldiers and their concerns, including Fox News, The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Beast. According to a report in Buzzfeed, Fox News contributor Richard Grenell and his firm Capitol Media have “played a key role in publicizing” these critics.
Grenell served as a spokesman for former U.N. ambassador (and current Fox News contributor) John Bolton in the George W. Bush administration, and also worked for a short time on the Romney 2012 campaign.
The New York Times reported on June 2 that “Republican strategists” arranged for the paper to interview soldiers who served with Bergdahl and have animosity towards him because they believe he is a deserter.
One of the soldiers quoted in the article, Cody Full, sent out a tweet thanking Grenell “for helping get our platoon’s story out.”
Buzzfeed reported that Grenell’s partner at his firm, Brad Chase, confirmed that they were behind the public relations campaign (Grenell also sent out a tweet explaining his firm offered “pro bono services” to the soldiers). Chase disputed the Times’ characterization of his firm as “Republican strategists” because he is not a Republican.
This is some cracker-jack reporting from all involved as Grenell made his overtures in public via Twitter. Pick up your Pulitzers at the nearest courtesy desk.
But even if Media Matters is right and political motives were 100 percent behind the bookings, so what? What counts is whether the soldiers are telling the truth. Willis is careful not to say the troops are lying, but the implication is that their stores shouldn’t be trusted.
For what it’s worth, CNN’s Jake Tapper has had probably the best coverage of the Bergdahl story, and he denied any contact with Grenell or his firm. Media Matters conveniently left out that there are soldiers critical of Bergdahl telling their stories who aren’t connected to Grenell or Fox News or the Koch Brothers or whatever moronic thing they’ll think up next.
The New York Times went after the soldiers today, too:
Can Bowe Bergdahl Be Tied to 6 Lost Lives? Facts Are Murky
Did the search for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl cost the lives of American soldiers?
Since last weekend’s prisoner exchange in which Afghan insurgents turned over Sergeant Bergdahl after five years of captivity, a number of the men who served with him have called him a deserter. Some have gone further, blaming him for the deaths of six to eight soldiers.
That second claim is hardening into a news media narrative. CNN has reported in scrolling headlines that six soldiers died looking for Sergeant Bergdahl after senior American military officials say he wandered off his base. The Daily Beast published an essay by a former member of Sergeant Bergdahl’s battalion, Nathan Bradley Bethea, who linked the search to the deaths of eight soldiers whom he named. “He has finally returned,” Mr. Bethea wrote. “Those men will never have the opportunity.”
But a review of casualty reports and contemporaneous military logs from the Afghanistan war shows that the facts surrounding the eight deaths are far murkier than definitive — even as critics of Sergeant Bergdahl contend that every American combat death in Paktika Province in the months after he disappeared, from July to September 2009, was his fault.
Let’s examine why this is murky in the first place. For starters, the soldiers involved in rescue operations were told to sign NDAs. Secondly, the Pentagon is just now getting around to investigating if the soldiers died while searching for Bergdahl. And finally, the Times is relying on logs of daily activities that they call “terse and contain few contextual details.”
Just thinking out loud here, but maybe a report from the Pentagon on what the soldiers were doing when they died or interviews with who were in those battles would clear up some of these “contextual details.”
If Media Matters wants to arrange interviews with soldiers more sympathetic to Bergdahl to help the Times demurkify the story, please do so. I eagerly await that report. But until then, stop insinuating that the soldiers we have heard from are being anything other than truthful and forthright.