NEW YORK Staffers at McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., Bureau — one of the few major news outlets skeptical of intelligence reports during the run-up to the war in Iraq — claims it is now being punished for that coverage.
Bureau Chief John Walcott and current and former McClatchy Pentagon correspondents say they have not been allowed on the Defense Secretary’s plane for at least three years, claiming the news company is being retaliated against for its reporting.
“It is because our coverage of Iraq policy has been quite critical,” Walcott told E&P. He added, “I think the idea of public officials barring coverage by people they’ve decided they don’t like is at best unprofessional, at worst undemocratic and petty.”
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called such assertions “absurd,” adding, “There is no basis of fact for that allegation. It is not true. There are always more people who would like to travel with the secretary than seats available.”
Jonathan Landay, a former Pentagon correspondent and one of the co-authors of McClatchy’s pre-war coverage, said he last traveled on the plane with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 to Istanbul, Turkey, for a NATO economic summit. Since then, he says, none of McClatchy’s people have flown. “It is unusual because we get aboard about two out of three trips [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice makes,” Landay said. “They have a different policy at the Pentagon. We are definitely being discriminated against.”