The executive editor of Rolling Stone -- the magazine responsible for the bombshell profile of General Stanley McChrystal -- scoffed at the fact that the first official to be fired for the slew of controversial remarks was the public relations hand that set up the interview.
"The PR person is always the first to go," said Eric Bates, executive editor of "Rolling Stone, of the immediate firing of Duncan Boothby, a civilian press aide to McChrystal. "I don't know if that is really the issue. It is not like McChrystal and his team didn't know who is in the room and how much time was spent with them."
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Bates offered some illuminating details as to how the magazine -- known best for its music coverage and biting, cynical take on the political process -- scored one of the widely discussed profiles of the Obama years. The article's author, freelance reporter Michael Hastings had approached McChrystal's camp many months ago with the proposition of doing a profile for the magazine, said Bates.
He pitched it as a "broad piece," in which he would cover a wide scope of the general's military history, talk to those who knew him on a personal level, and spend time with him in Afghanistan. Much of the reporting took place in April, with Hastings scoring an unusual and profoundly lucky break: Volcanoes over Iceland required McChrystal to travel to Berlin by bus, during which he and his aides were drinking on the road trip "the whole way," according to Hastings.
The magazine, said Bates, knew it was sitting on something deeply newsworthy months before the article was published. "Like any reader you can't read this story and not know from the first sentence that the comments in there are really explosive," he said. "Even before that, Michael had been in touch with me and we had been in touch along the way and it became clear he was getting amazing access."
The magazine did not ask the White House for comment prior to the article being sent on an embargoed basis to reporters on Monday night. The president and his team, Bates said, would have to have heard word about the information either from McChrystal's camp or from reporters who were calling up administration officials for comment.
"I think many of us found out about the [contents] when we were reading the article last evening," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.
The editors did a thorough fact-check as evidenced by the lack of dispute over the veracity of the quotes or exchanges. "I haven't heard a word about that and would be shocked if I did," said Bates. They did not, as reported by Politico, show the general and his team the entire article before publication.
"That all stems from Politico misunderstanding my comments on Morning Joe this morning," said Bates. "We never show a story to a source before publication."
The Rolling Stone editor had some other choice words for Politico, beyond an irritation over its inaccurate take on the fact checking behind the piece. Bates chastised the publication for linking Hastings story to its own site, as a means of driving web traffic there and not to Rolling Stone. "They posted our story on their site, which was inappropriate," said Bates. "We contacted them immediately and they took it down."
As for the fallout of the piece, Bates pledged that the Rolling Stone would be posting follow up material some of which could include information that was left on the chopping block during Hasting's first piece.
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