Media Commentators Advocating U.S. Military Action against Syria Have Defense Industry Ties

Friday, October 18, 2013
Stephen Hadley

When the public debate raged over whether the United States should attack Syria because of chemical weapons use, many former government and military officials publicly endorsed action in numerous news stories and programs—without audiences knowing that the experts had ties to the defense industry.


This conclusion was reached by the public interest research organization Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), whose new report says the media failed to inform readers and viewers that the former government and military officials and think tank scholars advocating for attacking Syria stood to benefit from a military engagement.


“The threat of war with Syria may or may not have passed, but the threat that these conflicts of interest pose to our public discourse—and our democracy—is still very real,” PAI wrote.


The group looked at 22 commentators involved in the Syria debate between August 20 and September 18 who had ties to defense and intelligence contractors and defense-focused investment companies and consulting firms. They made 111 appearances as opinion columnists, quoted experts, or on-air guests in major media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post.


But in only 13 of the 111 appearances did the news outlets note the commentators’ financial ties.


One of the spokespersons pushing for military action was CNN national security analyst Frances Townsend, who is a senior vice president at MacAndrews & Forbes, an investment firm that owns a military vehicle manufacturer. Another, Jeremy Bash, appeared on MSNBC and CNN as a former defense and intelligence official, as well as founder of Beacon Global Strategies, but it was not disclosed that his company specializes in national defense and foreign affairs.


An egregious example involved Stephen Hadley, who was often identified during his television appearances as George W. Bush’s national security advisor while calling for the Obama administration to hit Syria.


What wasn’t mentioned was Hadley’s place on the board of directors of Raytheon Company, or that he owns stock in the firm.


Why is this important?


Raytheon manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missile, which likely would have been the weapon used to conduct strikes on Syria.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Syria Debate Skewed by Undisclosed Defense Industry Ties (by Neil Gordon, Project on Government Oversight)

Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate (by Gin Armstrong, Whitney Yax and Kevin Connor; Public Accountability Initiative)

Senators Authorizing Syria Attack Received 83% More Defense Money than Those Opposed (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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