Flashback: In 1991 CBS Used Innuendo to Smear Gates with Iran-Contra Link

The MRC's Rich Noyes this afternoon reminded me of how the CBS Evening News smeared Robert Gates, nominated Wednesday by President George W. Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, when President George H.W. Bush nominated him to become CIA Director in 1991. A short item in the June, 1991 MediaWatch, a monthly newsletter the MRC published at the time, recounted:

SPOOKING CBS. President Bush's May 14 selection of Robert Gates to head the CIA was well received by leaders of both parties, but you'd never know that from watching CBS reporter Eric Engberg. Instead, he linked Gates to the Iran-Contra affair through tabloid-style innuendo: "During the time when William Casey was secretly overseeing the sale of arms to the Iranians and aid to the Contras, as laws were broken and money flowed, his loyal number two at the CIA was Robert Gates." Engberg put on Tom Blanton of the (unlabeled) leftist National Security Archive (NSA) to proclaim: "The worst case is that Bob Gates participated in a coverup. The best case is that Bob Gates is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil bureaucrat who watched all this information come through his office and looked the other way."

The brief article, in the “NewsBites” section of MediaWatch, continued:

On the next day's CBS This Morning, Engberg brought on another NSA Contra-basher, former Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong, identifying him on screen as an "Iran-Contra Scholar." The irony is even Iran-Contra inquisitor Sen. Daniel Inouye supports Gates. As Inouye told Knight-Ridder: "We investigated the allegations against him very carefully. I'm convinced he's qualified and he'll do a good job."

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