The Bill O'Reilly imbroglio has become quite amusing -- certainly moreso than the cognate Brian Williams imbroglio. When all is said and done, Williams is nothing more than an ambulatory hairdo, while Bill-O has, over the years, transformed himself into a genuine annoyance. His only saving grace is that he can be very funny. How can one not
guffaw at the sight of a Fox News host accusing someone else of using journalism as a political weapon?
What's interesting here is not the fact -- and it does seem to be a fact -- that the Fox superstar has hyperbolized his war reporting experiences. What interests me is the way he has responded
to the charges leveled by Mother Jones
writer David Corn. Basically, O'Reilly outdid even the Great Dershowitz in the hysteria of his couter-attack, claiming the whole affair was a Great Liberal Conspiracy. Then he changed the topic to Al Franken, supposedly the worst liar ever
. (If Franken lied about you, Bill, why didn't you sue the guy?) Sadly, O'Reilly neglected to call Corn a "serial prostitute."
If you closely compare O'Reilly's statement to Corn's charges
, you'll see that many specifics go unanswered.
Undoubtedly, right-wing ops will now go after David Corn. They will scrutinize every aspect of his career, looking for any scrap of info that can be used to "prove" his godless bolshevism.
They'll be surprised to learn that a lot of people on the left don't trust the guy. A few even suspect that he maintains some sort of relationship with the CIA.
Why the mistrust? Much of it has to do with the fact that Corn has always had one foot in the mainstream while keeping the other planted in the alternative media. There aren't too many other Pacifica network alumni who could have developed the kinds of sources that make a piece like this
possible. Like Adam Strange
, Corn seems to pop back and forth between two worlds.
In the 1990s, Corn infuriated progressives when he helped to whip up the lynch mob against Gary Webb
, the brave journalist who did so much to expose the Agency's ties to the cocaine trade. Corn went on to assail Greg Palast's important stories about vote tampering during the 2000 and 2004 elections.
In short: Corn made his name by going after our few remaining real
journalists. Assailing a fake
journalist like O'Reilly is, for Corn, rather uncharacteristic.
Corn wrote a book called Blonde Ghost
, about the CIA's infamous Ted Shackley -- a work which few read, yet which nevertheless managed to piss off people on both the right and the left. Pro-Agency reviewers consider the biography biased, and its Amazon
page features critical "reviews" from enough plants to start a small arboretum. More liberal critics feel that Corn's reliance on anonymous sources indicates that the project must have had the quiet approval of someone "on high." (Those who rely on the CIA for a paycheck or a pension usually won't talk to a reporter unless they've been given the go-ahead.) One of Corn's sources was a former CIA employee named Bradley Ayers
, who worked with Shackley; he has called Corn's book a whitewash.
In 2002, Corn worked to discredit a group called ANSWER, which was organizing anti-war demonstrations. Basically, he called them a bunch of commies. He wrote a piece for the formerly progressive L.A. Weekly
which, thirteen years later, looks a little snake-in-the-grassy:
Few of the dozens of speakers, if any, bothered suggesting a policy option regarding Saddam Hussein other than a simplistic leave-Iraq-alone. Jesse Jackson may have been the only major figure to acknowledge Saddam's brutality, noting that the Iraqi dictator should be held accountable for his crimes. What to do about Iraq? Most speakers had nothing to say about that.
stage of the game, that "simplistic leave-Iraq-alone" stance sounds like pretty good advice.
The next year, Corn helped to get the Valerie Plame scandal rolling. On July 14, 2003, Robert Novak wrote his infamous piece outing Plame. Two days later, in The Nation
, Corn responded thus:
This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent.
Eventually (though with no great haste), liberals picked up on this theme and used the Plame case to hammer away at Cheney and the Dubya administration. That was all to the good, of course -- but in hindsight, we should note that Corn's words can be interpreted as protective of the CIA's interests. Some cynics (not me
, of course) might even suggest that the writer had personal reasons to feel angry about the blowing of a CIA agent's cover.
At any rate, it'll be very interesting to watch the conservative outrage battalions go after David Corn. How will they make use of the information listed above? In their zeal to damn Corn as a left-wing hit man, will any of them notice that some actual
progressives have long suspected Corn of being an infiltrator?