Rhodes' 'Echo Chamber' Group Paid NPR To Cover Iran Deal
In a disturbing revelation of how much the Obama Administration’s plans to sell the Iran nuclear deal involved the corruption of the media, AP reports that The Ploughshares Fund, a group identified by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes as one of the groups that helped build an “echo chamber” to promulgate the administration’s narrative, gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year to report on the deal and ancillary issues.
The Ploughshares Fund's mission is to ostensibly "build a safe, secure world by developing and investing in initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate the world's nuclear stockpiles," but as Rhodes revealed in an article in The New York Times Magazine, the fund was one of a group of nongovernmental organizations that worked to engender support for the deal. Rhodes said brazenly, "We created an echo chamber.”
The GOP had slammed the deal as being a product of White House spin.
Ploughshares’ 2015 annual report stated that the grant to NPR supported "national security reporting that emphasizes the themes of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and budgets, Iran's nuclear program, international nuclear security topics and U.S. policy toward nuclear security.” Board chairwoman Mary Lloyd Estrin bragged in the report that the success of the Iran deal was "driven by the fearless leadership of the Obama administration and supporters in Congress, less known is the absolutely critical role that civil society played in tipping the scales towards this extraordinary policy victory."
Ploughshares spokeswoman Jennifer Abrahamson protested to AP, "It is common practice for foundations to fund media coverage of underreported stories,” adding that funding "does not influence the editorial content of their coverage in any way, nor would we want it to." NPR admitted that Ploughshares has funded NPR's coverage of national security since 2005; every grant descriptions since 2010 mentions Iran.
NPR stated, "It's a valued partnership, without any conditions from Ploughshares on our specific reporting, beyond the broad issues of national and nuclear security, nuclear policy, and nonproliferation. As with all support received, we have a rigorous editorial firewall process in place to ensure our coverage is independent and is not influenced by funders or special interests."
Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas called Ploughshares' links to the media "tremendously troubling," adding that he consistently had attempted to be interviewed in 2015 to balance the perspective offered by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who was selling the deal on the network repeatedly. NPR denied the accusation, saying it had no record of Pompeo’s requests.
But Joseph Cirincione, Ploughshares' president spoke on NPR at least twice in 2015 to sell the deal; only once was his identity as an NPR funder mentioned.
Ploughshares gave the anti-Israel group J Street $576, 500 last year to push the Iran deal; the National Iranian American Council received over $281,000. Princeton University got $70,000 to sustain former Iranian ambassador and nuclear spokesman Seyed Hossein Mousavian's "analysis, publications and policymaker engagement on the range of elements involved with the negotiated settlement of Iran's nuclear program."
Ploughshares isn’t about to stop; its "Cultural Strategy Report" on its website states the group will attempt to ensure “regular and accurate coverage of nuclear issues in reputable and strategic media outlets" including The Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post or Pro Publica. Because its prior efforts fell short of its expectations, including "funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with The Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk,” Ploughshares wants to create "web videos, podcasts, photo-based stories" and other "attention-grabbing formats" for "creatively reframing the issue."