MSNBC Fires Back at CNN’s Jessica Yellin

CNN Congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin Friday backed away and/or clarified remarks she made on Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday night that the press was under "enormous pressure from corporate executives" to present a war consistent with the nation's "patriotic fervor" and from news executives to "put on positive stories about the president."

But that didn't do much to appease her former employer, MSNBC, which called her a disgruntled short-term employee whose comments should be discounted.

After Cooper pressed her on the point of corporate pressure for positive stories in the Thursday-night interview, Yellin said those weren't directives from her bosses, but rather came through in how her pieces were edited and in what stories her news bosses put on or turned down.

Conceding that the blogs had "lit up" after those comments, Yellin wrote on Cooper's blog Friday "to clarify what I said and what I experienced."

She said it involved her time at MSNBC, "where I worked during the lead-up to war," adding, "I worked as a segment producer, overnight anchor, field reporter and briefly covered the White House, the Pentagon and general Washington stories."

But she said Friday, "Senior corporate leadership never asked me to take out a line in a script or rewrite an anchor intro," instead saying that it was her producers. "I did not mean to leave the impression that corporate executives were interfering in my daily work; my interaction was with senior producers," she added.

"What was clear to me is that many people running the broadcasts wanted coverage that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the country at the time,” Yellin said. “It was clear to me that they wanted their coverage to reflect the mood of the country."

MSNBC fired back Friday: "Jessica Yellin was a free-lance overnight news reader at MSNBC for one year who was not renewed," the network said in a statement. "She had little to no contact with editorial decision-makers and certainly was not a part of the editorial process on a daily basis. Given how her story has changed so dramatically since her appearance on CNN -- her current employer -- less than 24 hours ago, we find it hard to believe that anyone would take this disgruntled former employee's comments seriously."

Yellin's initial comments came in response to suggestions by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan in a new book that the media had been too soft on the administration in the run-up to the war -- a point numerous journalists conceded, including Katie Couric, who said earlier this week, also in response to McClellan's book, that there was corporate pressure to quash dissent in the run-up to the war.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.