Missing from much of the coverage of yesterday's revelations that Senior White House adviser Ben Rhodes coordinated an effort to obfuscate the truth behind the Sept 11 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi was a key detail about the insidious relationship between politics and media in Washington.
The brother of Ben Rhodes is David Rhodes, president of CBS News.
It isn't enough for CBS News to mention the relationship as a parenthetical statement as they did in yesterday's coverage. Larger questions deserve to be answered about the atmosphere and culture at CBS News and how open Rhodes is to any investigations into the Benghazi story and his brother's involvement.
How much freedom is given to reporters to pursue Obama's Rhodes and does CBS' Rhodes encourage the investigation? Has CBS' Rhodes ever made a blanket statement to his employees that there will be no repercussions against any reporter or producer investigating his brother? How does Rhodes avoid an "unspoken understanding" in his news rooms that his brother is off limits or that reporters should tread carefully because if the boss gets a call from the White House it could be a career-ender?
These questions are even more relevant in light of Sharyl Attkisson's recent departure from CBS News and her assertions that she was considered a "troublemaker" for continuing to pursue the unanswered questions about the terror attacks and the White House's efforts to misdirect the American people.
In an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, Attkisson described the atmosphere at her former network:
"They really, really liked the story but you start to hear from, you know, other routes that "why don't you just leave it alone," "you know, you are kind of a troublemaker because you are still pursuing it." It kind of goes from hot to cold in one day, sometimes. Where they are asking you to pursue something heavily and then it's almost as if a light switch goes off and look at you all of the sudden, "Why are you bringing this story?""
Attkisson has never suggested that her former boss, David Rhodes, personally intervened and stopped any investigations into his brother's involvement in the Benghazi cover-up, but the conflict of interest is obvious.
Let's be clear: this is not an appearance of conflict, it is an actual conflict. Whether that conflict actually affects the way the story is being covered at CBS News is an open question.
It may very well be that David Rhodes has let it be known that his brother is fair game and if a CBS reporter can catch the White House adviser holding a smoking gun they'll be rewarded not punished. But why should it be a mystery? Why aren’t Rhodes and CBS out in front of this issue? Why aren’t they leading the charge on the Benghazi story to erase any suspicion of a conflict where one clearly exists?
It's past time for David to address this question head-on and erase any concern in his newsrooms and any question in the minds of CBS News' dwindling audience. And it's also time for other journalists in Washington to point out the obvious conflict.