But no other part of Keane’s curriculum was mentioned: the former general is also executive president of AM General, a leading defense contractor, better known as the manufacturer of Humvee and other tactical military vehicles. He is also a partner in a venture capital company that specializes in the defense industry.
In other words, viewers never knew that Keane has a direct financial interest in the war policies he was evaluating on the air.
Fox News’s non-disclosure of Keane’s role in the military-industrial complex is a standard operating procedure for network news programs. Many of the retired military leaders employed by the networks as paid taxpayers have secondary affiliations that are rarely, if ever, mentioned, leaving viewers in the dark about the interests they promote.
Like Fox News, none of the leading networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC) make a regular practice of announcing the financial ties of their military analysts with the Pentagon, connections that could color their comments on the air.
NBC News and MSNBC, for example, often turn to retired Admiral James Stavridis, the “leading international security analyst” of the networks, for comments. But neither NBC nor MSNBC have mentioned that Stavridis, the former NATO allied supreme commander, currently works for Carlyle Group and McLarty Associates. Stavridis advises Carlyle in its multi-million dollar portfolio of defense companies; He is chairman of the board of directors of McLarty, who advises military contractors, among others.
CBS ‘own internal military expert, retired admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., is a former vice president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is also on the board of Raytheon, a major defense contractor, a fact that has not been mentioned during Winnefeld’s recent appearances on the network.
News organizations generally prohibit their employees and collaborators from working for another entity that could benefit, even indirectly, from the employee’s analysis or report. Others allow such affiliations but disclose them to readers or viewers.
The underlying principle is transparency. The disclosures help readers and viewers understand a commentator’s personal interest and possible motivations.
“While former officials employed by defense contractors are in fact experts and have a useful vision, they also have financial interests that are of concern when those interests align with a certain course of action,” said Daniel Auble, principal investigator of the Center for Political Response, a Washington-based organization that tracks lobbying and money in politics. “Not making this clear to viewers only amplifies those concerns.”
Representatives of ABC News, Fox, NBC News and MSNBC declined to comment on their taxpayers, but as a general matter, the networks said they conduct background checks on their analysts and require them to list any possible financial conflict. Representatives of the network refused to explain what they considered a conflict or to detail their disclosure policies on the air.
A CBS News spokeswoman, Brooke Lorenz, said in a statement: “We always consider the background and affiliations of taxpayers when making reserve decisions to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Sometimes, an airborne disclosure may be necessary, either in writing or verbally or other opportunities within a discussion to provide more context if appropriate. “
She refused to offer examples of revelations on the air.
Former military officers played a key role in promoting Bush administration policies before and after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. As documented in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the New York Times in 2008, the Pentagon Orchestrated the comment of 75 former officers. who served as radio and television analysts, turning them into “message strength multipliers” for the administration’s point of view.
Many of the retired officers who appeared on television worked for companies that had military contracts, creating a built-in conflict that news organizations did not mention when presenting to analysts. Some of the analysts said they had doubts about the Pentagon’s war claims, but they did not express their reservations on the air because they worried that it could jeopardize future contracts for their companies.
Among others, James “Spider” Marks, a retired Army general, served as a CNN analyst between 2004 and 2007, while seeking military and intelligence contracts for a company, McNeil Technologies. (CNN said at the time that he did not know the nature of Marks’ work for the company).
Marks, who resumed his role as a CNN military analyst, is no longer affiliated with McNeil. Instead, he is a risk partner and advisor to a company that invests in companies run by veterans, including military contractors. CNN did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Several other CNN analysts and frequent guests also have defense industry connections that have not been mentioned on the air.
Among others, CNN’s political collaborator, David Urban, is president of the American Continental Group, a Washington lobbying firm whose clients include General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Textron, which are among the world’s largest defense firms . CNN generally presents Urban as an advisor to President Trump’s re-election campaign without mentioning his lobbying activities.
After Iran shot down an American drone in June, Urban told host Jake Tapper: “If I were a gambler, I would bet there would be some type of Tomahawk missile attack at the site that launched this, a very limited response, to the missiles that hit this, and not climbing much. ”The Tomahawk is made by Raytheon, one of Urban’s clients.
Another frequent guest is Stephen Hadley, the former national security advisor to President George W. Bush. In an appearance by Hadley last week to talk about Iran, CNN identified Hadley’s role in the Bush administration, but did not mention that he has been a member of the Raytheon board for the past decade.
(Hadley’s Raytheon connection was also not revealed in a Washington Post opinion article last week, which generated some criticism. In response, Post editorial editor Fred Hiatt said: “More disclosure is usually better than less, and such We were wrong. But since his column was clearly anti-war and pro-diplomacy, I think a lot of the criticisms are out of place. “
The most important issue is whether viewers, or readers, are adequately informed about where life or death experts come from, said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Defense Information Center at the Government Supervision Project, a group of vigilance.
“When there is so much public concern about these wars, even among veterans, it becomes much more important for people to know what the financial connections are,” he said. News organizations “should absolutely reveal this. I could change the conversation about war ”if people knew who is benefiting from it.