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WaPo, ABC Defend Use of Anonymous Military Sources Attacking Rolling Stone

An ironic ambush on Michael Hastings; McChrystal story gets even more meta

It's been a week since Rolling Stone's story — and story behind the story — of General Stanley McChrystal broke online. But the furor over Michael Hastings' reporting continues to simmer, with a meta call-and-response that might make your head spin.

Here's the latest wrinkle: On Monday, both the Washington Post and ABC defended their use of anonymous sources to attack Hastings' report.

The Post said their use of a source described as a "senior military official" was necessary.

“Given the significant impact of the Rolling Stone story," Washington Post National Security editor Cameron Barr told Yahoo, "we felt the public's interest in seeing what military officials had to say about how it was reported and fact-checked was greater than in keeping that information to ourselves because the officials wouldn't come on the record."

ABC said essentially the same thing about its blog post.

“We’ve covered this story extensively across all ABC News broadcasts and platforms, including Diane Sawyer’s interview with Michael Hastings last Tuesday,” an ABC spokeswoman told Yahoo. “This was an incremental development in a story that we gave airing to in a blog post written by one of our Pentagon reporters who is well sourced in the military community.”

The irony in news outlets using anonymous sources to criticize a writer's use of what he says were on-the-record comments is striking. "While Rolling Stone defended itself," Michael Calderone noted, "the magazine doesn’t get the benefit of knowing who's actually making such charges."

Meanwhile, the issue, which hit newsstands Friday, is reportedly selling five times the number of copies it normally sells — and they sure ain't picking up the issue to see Lady Gaga's backside.