As a general matter, I think it’s naive to indulge any sense that Gen. McChrystal didn’t know just what he was doing and getting into with this Rolling Stone profile. He’s a pro. He knows how to play this game. And to think otherwise just doesn’t do him justice. However, there are a few points about what he knew specifically that I think should be addressed.Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates went on TV this morning to defend the piece and noted that it had been fact-checked thoroughly. But that got picked up by Politico (in a now-revised) as him saying that McChrystal “saw the piece prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone’s standard fact-checking process.”
Now, for those of you who aren’t working journalists, allowing the subject of a piece to read the piece in advance of publication is a big no-no. That’s not to say it never happens. Because the big glossies especially are always super hungry for the big celebrity exclusives and sometimes that’s something that a celeb’s publicity person will demand. But it’s not supposed to happen. So we followed up with Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana who confirmed that McChrystal definitely was not given the article to read in advance but was rather dealt with as a fact-checking normally would — which is to say that McChrystal would have had the substance of his own quotes read back to him and be asked about specific factual assertions in the piece.
Again, I don’t think you can buy the idea that McChrystal just stumbled into this. But it’s not true that he actually read the piece and didn’t object.