Conflicts of interest

The New York Times has a massive piece, One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex, about Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired American four-star Army general, military analyst for NBC News, paid lobbyist for American defence contractors, and early enthusiastic supporter for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

McCaffrey, said the Times, “reveals the myriad and often undisclosed connections between the business of war and the business of covering it.”

Noted the Times: “On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.”

How does a supposedly credible news organization use as a commentator a military lobbyist without someone raising flags about conflict of interest? The Times quoted NBC News president Steve Capus calling the general a man of honor and achievement who would never let business obligations color his analysis for NBC. Capus also said that as a consultant, not an employee, McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC’s formal conflict-of-interest rules.

I expect there will be many more such stories as America re-evaluates the past eight years, from the Iraq debacle to the role of players from the president to generals. The media will not get an easy pass.