Were Ground Rules Set for McChrystal Interview Or Not? Contradictory Answers from Rolling Stone Editor & Hastings

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SO WHICH IT IT? Michael Hastings told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that there weren't any conditions set for the McChrystal profile but his Rolling Stone editor, Eric Bates, said there were ground rules that they followed. (Credit: Screen shot detail, Firedoglake on YouTube, MSNBC report).

Were those quotes in Michael Hastings’ profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for Rolling Stone off the record?

Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates has been clear in media’s coverage of the profile’s fallout, saying repeatedly that Hastings and the magazine didn’t break any ground rules and only reported from on the record comments.

But, interviews with Hastings leave open contradictions and questions to be answered.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Hastings offers his very clear answer to the question of was it on the record or off the record, but his answer contradicts his editor’s response (emphasis ours):

There were no conditions set before I began the profile.  And it was my understanding that it was all on the record.  And that‘s why I continued to report on them for the following number of weeks.”

(Note: The transcript of the interview posted on MSNBC’s Web site accurately quotes Hastings as saying “there were no conditions.”  Yet the transcript posted on Maddow’s blog on MSNBC quotes Hastings as having said “there were no permissions [sic].”  StinkyJournalism listened to the interview and found Hastings said “there were no conditions.”)

To add to the confusion, on that same day, June 22, CBS News reported Hastings said “there were parts that were off the record that I didn’t use.”

So…”it was all on the record,” but some parts weren’t?  Hmmm.

And in an interview June 22 with Diane Sawyer for ABC News, Hastings also says “There were no ground rules set for any of the interviews and I had my tape recorder out in front of his face with my notebook.”

An ABC News segment on the interview reports that “when (Hastings) first began the project nothing was off-the-record,” and that he understood everything to be on the record.  But, ABC News reported that “towards the end of his reporting, Hastings found that more conversations, phone calls and meetings became off-the-record.”

So how does it make sense that Bates has stated in interviews that there were ground rules for Hastings’ profile, and none had been broken?

The Washington Post reported that Bates “denied that Hastings violated any ground rules when he wrote about the four weeks he spent, on and off, with McChrystal and his team. ‘A lot of things were said off the record that we didn’t use’…’We abided by all the ground rules in every instance.’ ”

iMediaEthics has written to Rolling Stone about the contradictory claims and will post any response.

See more iMediaEthics reports on the McChrystal profile: here, here and here.

The only post iMediaEthics found that cited a factual error in the Rolling Stone report was from a blogger. “Trzupr” wrote June 27 on “Threedonia” noting Col. Charlie Flynn was misidentified in the McChrystal profile.  In the article, Flynn is described as McChrystal’s chief of staff, but an e-mail with answers to fact check questions for the article between a Rolling Stone fact checker and a McChrystal aide shows that Flynn was McChrystal’s executive officer (XO).

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Were Ground Rules Set for McChrystal Interview Or Not? Contradictory Answers from Rolling Stone Editor & Hastings

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