Wayne Simmons may have been a fraudulent ex-CIA agent when he repeatedly appeared on Fox but he was a real-deal shill for Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration’s Pentagon. Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, didn’t seem to think it worth mentioning.
From BuzzFeed (with my emphases):
Media coverage of Simmons’s arrest has focused on his TV analysis for Fox News, but Simmons was also involved in a Pentagon program for military analysts that gave them direct access to top officials during the George W. Bush administration. The program, in which officials in former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon recruited former military officers to receive briefings from top officials and transmit talking points on television news, was described at length in a New York Times article from April of 2008. Several dozen military analysts participated in the program.
… The 2008 Times article describes the extent to which the analysts in the program were given access: “a powerfully seductive environment — the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld’s private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel, the appeals to duty and country, the warm thank you notes from the secretary himself.”
The analysts were also taken on government-sponsored tours of Guantanamo Bay, according to the Times.
In other words, as the Times wrote, Simmons was part of a “Pentagon information apparatus that used him "in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.”
Lo and behold, favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance is exactly what Simmons delivered on Fox: He defended the mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees, attacked the left for holding hearings on Bush’s wiretaps. He also talked up torture and the Iraq war. Simmons has appeared on Fox News more recently but not nearly as often as he was during the Bush years.
But Kurtz showed no interest in reporting on how it was that Fox and the Pentagon got duped for so long about Simmons. We saw Simmons on Fox in June, 2004, in the very earliest days of this blog, and as recently as 2015.
As I previously noted, Fox’s Neil Cavuto made a full and righteous apology for having repeatedly booked Simmons. But while Kurtz applauded Cavuto for “taking personal responsibility,” Kurtz didn’t seem to think it was really necessary because Simmons fooled “everyone else.”
KURTZ: Now, Simmons has appeared dozens of times as a guest on Fox News, which was fooled along with everyone else. One anchor, Neil Cavuto, really stepped up to the plate, calling it a rare but very big slip up.
…Good for Neil Cavuto for personally taking responsibility.
But did “everyone else” book Simmons the way Fox did? I think not and Kurtz never said so. In fact, Kurtz never mentioned who anybody of the “everyone else” was.
Instead, he went on to paint Fox as a media victim:
KURTZ: But some media folks are practically depicting Simmons, who hasn’t been on the network since March, as a Fox employee.
…Simmons has never been a Fox News contributor, he’s never been paid a dime. He was a guest whose alleged fabrications got him a platform that he did not deserve.
Actually, the reason “some media folks” might be calling Simmons a paid contributor is because Fox’s own Brian Kilmeade said so.
Would Kilmeade have made this error if Simmons was not such a trusted regular? I doubt it.
We can just imagine Fox's 24/7 outrage if the Obama administration had promoted a phony ex-CIA agent as an expert to chat up Obama's policies on MSNBC for more than a decade. But hey, it's OK if you're a Republican.
Watch Kurtz pretend the whole thing is no biggie below, from the Octobe 18 MediaBuzz.