Last week, Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon had contracted The Rendon Group to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces. Rendon was rating whether reporters were giving the military “positive” coverage. Journalism groups immediately criticized the arrangement, calling it “alarming.” One week later, the Pentagon has announced that it is canceling the contract with Rendon:
“The decision to terminate the Rendon contract was mine and mine alone. As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon’s support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction from our main mission,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, in an e-mail sent Sunday to Stars and Stripes.
“I have been here since early June and at no time has anyone who worked for me ever conducted themselves in a manner as your newspaper alleged. I cannot and will not speculate on the past, although I have found no systemic issues with fairness or equity in the way U.S. forces have run their media embed program.”
Although military officials denied using Rendon’s work to reject reporters wishing to embed with U.S. troops, a public affairs officer with the 101st Airborne Division said that “when his unit was in Afghanistan and in charge of the Rendon contract, he had used the conclusions contained in Rendon profiles in part to reject at least two journalists’ applications for embeds.”