Published July 21, 2010
WASHINGTON -- The Army is holding retirement ceremony full of military VIPs for Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan who was fired last month for disparaging comments he and his aides made about the Obama administration -- but don’t expect much coverage in the media.
Fox News has learned that McChrystal and the Army closed his retirement ceremony to all but three reporters: Greg Jaffe from the Washington Post, Julian Barnes from the Wall Street Journal, and Gordon Lubold from Politico.
So far, the military has not provided any restrictions or reporting guidelines to the three journalists who were invited to cover the event.
It's no surprise that McChrystal would want to keep the media at arms length after a disastrous magazine profile cost him his leadership commanding role, but it's highly unusual for the military to make such a high-profile event exclusive to only hand-picked journalists.
Two military officials, who wished not to be named for this story, said the Army made its case to McChrystal that if one journalist is invited, the ceremony should be open to all press. These officials said McChrystal and his staff were unyielding in their stance and had no interest in opening the event to others.
Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army, will host the retirement ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will also be there and is scheduled to deliver remarks.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Fox News that despite the fact that Gates is involved, it's McChrystal's event and he has the right to invite who he wants. "It's not a public event and we respect General McChrystal's decision to have a private ceremony," Whitman said.
The only reporters invited were from print publications, however the Whitman said the Pentagon plans to send a video camera of its own.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell seemed to have no problem with the decision to only invite three journalists. "It is his retirement and that is how he wishes it to be," Morrell told Fox News in an e-mail.
Jane Hall, a professor of journalism at American University, says it's hard to understand how the Pentagon can rationalize this decision.
"It sounds somewhat contradictory," Hall said. A social event that journalists will attend but leave their notepads at home is one thing. But, Hall said, if reporters there are going to write about it, the Pentagon needs to make a decision: "Is it a retirement ceremony or is it a news event?"
Earlier this month Secretary Gates came under intense scrutiny from the news media after he signed a two-page memo directing all media interviews within the military of "national or international significance" to be approved through his public affairs office.
He defended his decision saying it wasn’t a problem with the media, but rather an internal issue, in which not all the people speaking to the press had the right facts. The memo was signed soon after the McChrystal fiasco.