Rolling Stone Writer: McChrystal Pals 'Were Lying' About Ground Rules

McChrystalMichael Hastings, the Rolling Stone writer whose reporting compelled the White House to fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, does not mince words when it comes to allegations that he broke pre-arranged ground rules or agreements to go off the record.

"They were lying," Hastings said, referring to the unnamed sources who leveled the accusations last month as fallout from his story mounted. "What they said to The Washington Post and, I think, to the Army Times is fiction. And they know that."

He was speaking Thursday at a small luncheon hosted by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Not only did he adhere to the ground rules, Hastings said; he even went beyond them, running some quotes from McChrystal's staff without attribution that he had every right to attach to names. He did that not to protect the speakers, he said, but merely as "an editorial decision."

"Whatever ground rules were put down, we followed them," he said. "Whenever someone said something was off the record, I followed that. There is absolutely no gray area here. How it works is the reporter goes and hangs out with a subject and writes down what the subject says and does."

One bit of evidence that Hastings played fair: He's already been approved by the military for another assignment. "There's actually an embed that's waiting for me in Afghanistan," he said.

A 'Fake Controversy'

Hastings dismissed as a "fake controversy" the idea, propagated by The New York Times's David Brooks and a few others, that he somehow took advantage of his subjects' trust or naivete. Never for a moment, he says, could they have failed to realize they were in the presence of a reporter. "I don't look like these guys," he said. "The only thing I was missing was the Matt Drudge press hat."

McChrystal and his aides said what they said, he believes, not because he lulled them into a false sense of security but because they already had a false sense of security going in. "His team viewed themselves as basically untouchable," he said. Such was their confidence, Hastings himself failed to realize the potential impact of the material they were giving him. "I was thinking it would get people's attention in Washington for maybe six hours or so."

Hastings said he personally found McChrystal charming and likable, but he didn't think being likable generally makes much difference in how a subject gets portrayed when there's a juicy story to be written. "These guys are nice guys," he said. "I'm a nice guy. We're all nice guys. Who gives a shit?"

Despite the danger illustrated so vividly by McChrystal's downfall, he said, people will continue talking to journalists -- and to him personally -- because there's something in it for them, he said. "Having a journalist around is like having a pet bear. Most of the time it's really cool, but once in a while it'll bite your hand off."

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Mr. Brooks. As a Vietnam Vet, I persona;ly detest the media and have since I was 21 years old. They never reported the Vietnam War correctly. When I got back, Lt. Calley was on the front page forever while the NVA atrocities in Hue were on page 26. The media wanted us to lose the war. The media agitated, lied, and convinved enough people who never were in Vietnam that we should leave. I am sure Mr. Brooks that you knew when things were on the record and things were off the record. You are just another anti American anti military commie that has permeated the media since WWII. Ask yourself this Mr. Brooks. Would Ernie Pyle do what you did? Enough said.

July 30 2010 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I suggest that we all that have subscription to the Rolliong Stone cancel there subscription now and lets not support a group that would stoop this low for sales.

July 30 2010 at 3:42 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Arrogance always leads to stupidity and shooting yourself in the foot. McC should have been more careful in having professional staff instead of a bunch of dumb kids as aides. It was McC war to win and he said more would die, well he won't be there to see it happen, but they will still die.
Yes, I hate Fox News becuase the truth is not important just the thoughts of Murduch and the Saudia Arabian that owns Fox. It is to their benefit if USA goes down the tube with hate, selfishness and bigotry.

July 30 2010 at 2:18 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Janet's comment
barbara catelli

So you are saying at all times...our Genera knew...not his pals...but, he knew you were at all times on the record, recording his every saying?

July 30 2010 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The increase in casualties is not because McChhrstal left but because deployments are up and so is the OPTEMPO. Putting spin on matters to serve an agenda does not make it true. This is a horrible situation we find ourselves in and denying that is foolish.

July 30 2010 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to's comment

Rolling Stone and investigative reporters are critical during a time when the American professional media is in critical need for protection. Sophisticated propaganda is a wieldy instrument that chips away at democracy and the institutions that are core to the Bill of Rights. "This is the fear that the founders sought to guard against...they threw the full weight of the American government into the work of creating and sustaining a diverse, competitive, skeptical and combative media system for a nation that would rest power with an informal people rather than an enthroned magistrate..." (See McChesney, Robert, Nichols, John, The death and Life of American Journalism - The Media Revolution That Would Begin the World Again). Up until President Obama's administration, (who has recognized for the crisis for journalism equates to a crisis in democracy) this country has seen the deterioration of journalism..."largely ignored by the political mainstream, and not surprisingly, by the commercial news media..." (McChesney and Nichols) like Fox news and similar outlets - organizations that hire individuals who may lack the professional journalistic credentials or the professional ethics or both. The prolific sums of money entering the coffers of Murdoch are obscene and profits, once again in real time, mean more to these people than the cherished American values that Murdoch took for granted in amassing his wealth. "...A debauched and deteriorating journalism is all around us at some extent we see the consequences of what happens when journalism deteriorates and disappears in taken-for-granted corruption, endless foreign wars, crumbling infrastructure and social services, and vast increases in inequality. These pathologies are metastisizing rapidly, and the end result of the evolution could be disastrous." (McChesney and Nichols' aforementioned book)

July 30 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dlo's comment

Rolling Stone, a worthless piece of trash magazine. Period.

July 30 2010 at 10:02 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Rolling Stone has become the best investigative journal in the US. How ironic that a magazine founded as a rock and roll alternative newspaper would mature into one of the few truth telling institutions we have. I have been subscribing for 30 years now and I would buy it just for Matt Taibbi's reports.

July 30 2010 at 7:40 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

I wish he'd gotten Washington's attention for around 10 minutes or so!

July 30 2010 at 7:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

McChrystal was set up! He didn't make any of the statements to this reporter. The statements were made by aids and most likely disgruntled aids. However, General McChrytal's day were numbered anyway. Because Obama is a blundering dolt and couldn't bother to read or be briefed on General McChrytal's request for the additional troops. Obama had that report for months and wouldn't have made a decision if someone hadn't leaked it to the media that he had been sitting on the report! General McChrystal should still have his job and Obama should be sitting in Levenworth doing hard time for gross stupidity!

July 30 2010 at 6:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply