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Daily Show Beat Meet The Press To The Punch On Jon Krakauer

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Here's an excellent observation from Mediaite's Rachel Sklar, who reminds us that while the "big news to come out of Meet The Press this week has been author Jon Krakauer's assertion that General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was implicated in the cover-up about the death of Pat Tillman," that big news had already been more or less broken by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show:

Krakauer was on [The Daily Show] over a month ago. It's surprising that this one flew under the radar, given how many sharp-eyed journalists, bloggers and media-watchers tune into the Daily Show, and regularly report on the news it makes. But it can and does happen, and happened here. What this says about Krakauer, McChrystal and his book is no different than what was picked up from Meet The Press. But what this says about so-called 'fake' news is, keep your eye on it. People with important things to say make a point of trying to say them on the Daily Show. So don't fall asleep before the interview.

All of that is absolutely right, and it's worth pointing out that Stewart conducted his interview with a greater awareness of where the "news" is in an interview with Jon Krakauer. That meant that Daily Show viewers got an interview that began with the Pat Tillman story and went on for six probing minutes. Meanwhile, at Meet The Press, Krakauer sat on the set like window dressing, and the subject of Pat Tillman wasn't broached until the show's final sequence of questions. Why have him on then?

GREGORY: Jon Krakauer, I want to get to a key element of your book, "Where Men Win Glory," about Pat Tillman and how it relates to this current conversation about Afghanistan. Because it does involve General Stanley McChrystal, who was obviously critical on the stage now and was critical in the Tillman story of well. As a reminder, if you look at pictures of Pat Tillman, the NFL star with the Arizona Cardinals, decides to enlist in the Army, serves in the Rangers after 9/11. This was certainly a big story when he enlisted. And at the time, General McChrystal was actually head of Special Operations command. So Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident and ultimately won the Silver Star, and that's what you focus on in the book and in a subsequent piece that you wrote for The Daily Beast. And here's what you wrote: "An October 5 Newsweek article [said, about General McChrystal] that `he has great political skills; he couldn't have risen to his current position without them. But he definitely does not see himself as the sort of military man who would compromise his principles to do the politically convenient thing.' In the week after Tillman was killed, however, this is precisely what McChrystal appears to have done when he administered a fraudulent medical" -- excuse me -- "a fraudulent medal recommendation" -- we're talking about the Silver Star -- "and submitted it to the secretary of the Army, thereby concealing the cause of Tillman's death." Briefly explain what happened.

MR. KRAKAUER: The--after Tillman died, the most important thing to know is that within--instantly, within 24 hours certainly, everybody on the ground, everyone intimately involved knew it was friendly fire. There's never any doubt it was friendly fire. McChrystal was told within 24 hours it was friendly fire. Also, immediately they started this paperwork to give Tillman a Silver Star. And the Silver Star ended up being at the center of the cover-up. So McChrystal -- Tillman faced this devastating fire from his own guys, and he tried to protect a young private by exposing himself to this, this fire. That's why he was killed and the private wasn't. Without friendly fire there's no valor, there's no Silver Star. There was no enemy fire, yet McChrystal authored, he closely supervised over a number of days this fraudulent medal recommendation that talked about devastating enemy fire.

GREGORY: And that's the important piece of it. And, and he actually testified earlier this year before the Senate, and this is what he said about it.

(Videotape, June 2, 2009)

LT. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: Now, what happens, in retrospect, is--and I would do this differently if I had the chance again--in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture--or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.

GREGORY: Even those who were critical of him and the Army say they don't think he willfully deceived anyone.

MR. KRAKAUER: That's correct. He, he just said now he didn't read this hugely important document about the most famous soldier in the military. He didn't read it carefully enough to notice that it talked about enemy fire instead of friendly fire? That's preposterous. That, that's not believable.

GREGORY: All right, part of this debate. Thank you all very much.

All part of the debate! But not a part deemed important enough to televise.

Krakauer did get to respond to other matters on Meet The Press and, in one instance uttered a line that was pure Beltway anathema when he suggested that the answer to the War in Afghanistan wasn't an immediate, Kagan-style troop surge:

GREGORY: And, Jon, the fear that you hear among critics of the president, or even if they're not critics, they're just skeptical of the policy, is that he'll ultimately choose a half measure, which they believe would be deadly in the circumstance.

MR. KRAKAUER: I don't, I don't agree with that. I mean, there's a, there's a huge range of options between pulling out and bringing in 40,000 or 85,000 troops. I mean, 40,000 isn't going to be enough to make much of a difference. Most--I think most people would agree to that. There's a whole, there's a whole range, and, and so I think you have to be careful of that black or white, either/or, all or nothing thing.

RELATED:
Tillman-McChrystal Controversy? Jon Stewart Had It First [Mediaite]

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Around the Web

Krakauer's new book examines Pat Tillman's death - USATODAY.com

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Jon Krakauer's Inside Story of Pat Tillman - WSJ.com