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Posts Tagged ‘AM General’

News networks use retired military brass as war analysts without disclosing their defense-industry ties – SFGate

Posted by M. C. on January 14, 2020

The larger issue is whether viewers – or readers – are adequately informed about where pundits are coming from on matters of life and death…

I stopped watching network news 25 or more years ago.

Paul Farhi, The Washington Post

During eight appearances on Fox News and Fox Business Network in early January, Jack Keane was introduced several ways: as “a retired four-star general,” as the former “vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army,” and as Fox News’s “senior strategic analyst.”

All of those are accurate descriptions. Keane is a distinguished veteran, having commanded American troops in such places as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. Fox employs him to provide analysis of national security and military operations, such as the unfolding hostilities between the United States and Iran.

But another part of Keane’s résumé wasn’t mentioned: the former general is also executive chairman of AM General, a leading defense contractor, best known as the manufacturer of the Humvee and other tactical military vehicles. He is also a partner at a venture-capital firm that specializes in the defense industry.

In other words, viewers never learned that Keane has a direct financial interest in the war policies he was assessing on the air.


Fox News’s nondisclosure of Keane’s role in the military-industrial complex is standard operating procedure for network news programs. Many of the retired military leaders employed by the networks as paid contributors have secondary affiliations that are rarely, if ever, mentioned, leaving viewers in the dark about whose interest they’re promoting.

Like Fox News, none of leading networks – ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC – makes a regular practice of announcing its military analysts’ financial ties to the Pentagon, connections that could color their on-air comments.

NBC News and MSNBC, for example, often turn to retired Admiral James Stavridis, the networks’ “chief international security analyst,” for commentary. But neither NBC nor MSNBC has mentioned that Stavridis, NATO’s former supreme allied commander, currently works for the Carlyle Group and McLarty Associates. Stavridis advises Carlyle on its multibillion-dollar portfolio of defense companies; he is chairman of the board of counselors at McLarty, which advises military contractors, among others.

CBS’ own in-house military expert, retired Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is also on the board of Raytheon, a major defense contractor, a fact that hasn’t come up during Winnefeld’s recent appearances on the network.

News organizations typically prohibit their employees and contributors from working for another entity that might profit, even indirectly, from the employee’s analysis or reporting. Others permit such affiliations but disclose them to readers or viewers.

The underlying principle is transparency. Disclosures help readers and viewers understand a commentator’s personal stake and possible motivations…

The larger issue is whether viewers – or readers – are adequately informed about where pundits are coming from on matters of life and death, said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

“When there is so much public concern about these wars, including among veterans, it becomes that much more important for people to know what the financial connections are,” she said. News organizations “should absolutely disclose this. It could change the conversation around war” if people were aware of who was profiting from it.

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