Rendon's Embed Vetting Scandal

The military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that the Pentagon was using one of its favorite public relations firms, the Rendon Group, to produce profiles of reporters requesting to embed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan; that the profiles graded reporters' past coverage as "positive," "neutral" or "negative," sometimes suggesting how to "neutralize" expected negative coverage or how to design embeds to "result in favorable coverage"; and that, in some cases, the profiles prompted military officials to reject reporters' embed requests. After the series of exposes, the Pentagon announced that it was terminating the Rendon contract. Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith told Stars and Stripes, "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." In a statement on the firm's site, Rendon maintains that its profiles did not rank reporters, and weren't "provided as the basis for accepted or rejecting a specific journalist's inquiries." The statement doesn't mention that the profiles suggested how to shape reporters' future coverage. Rendon is infamous for organizing the pro-regime change Iraqi National Congress and has also worked in Colombia, Haiti, Kosovo and Zimbabwe.