Michael Hastings (journalist)
Michael Hastings and Valerie Jarrett at Barack Obama's victory party, 2012
|Born||Michael Mahon Hastings
January 28, 1980
Malone, New York, U.S.
|Died||June 18, 2013
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||New York University (2002)|
|Known for||War correspondent (Iraq and Afghanistan)|
|Notable work(s)||"The Runaway General"|
|Awards||George Polk Award|
Michael Mahon Hastings (January 28, 1980 – June 18, 2013) was an American journalist, author, contributing editor to Rolling Stone, and reporter for BuzzFeed. He was raised in New York, Canada, and Vermont, and attended New York University. Hastings rose to prominence with his coverage of the Iraq War for Newsweek in the 2000s. After his fiancee, Andrea Parhamovich, was killed when her car was ambushed in Iraq, Hastings wrote his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story (2008), a memoir about his relationship with Parhamovich and the violent insurgency that took her life.
He received the George Polk Award for "The Runaway General" (2010), a Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan war. The article documented the widespread contempt for civilian officials in the US government by the general and his staff and resulted in McChrystal's resignation. Hastings followed up with The Operators (2012), a detailed book account of his month-long stay with McChrystal in Europe and Afghanistan.
Hastings became a vocal critic of the surveillance state during the investigation of reporters by the US Department of Justice in 2013, referring to the restrictions on the freedom of the press by the Obama administration as a "war" on journalism. His last story, "Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans", was published by BuzzFeed on June 7. Hastings died in a fiery high-speed automobile crash on June 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Life and career
Born in Malone, New York, Michael was the son of Drs. Molly and Brent Hastings. Hastings has two brothers, Jon and Jeff. Growing up, Hastings lived in Malone until he was 11 years old. His family then moved to Montreal, Quebec, where his mother was trained in the field of pediatric ophthalmology at McGill University. He attended Lower Canada College, a private preparatory high school in Montreal, where he wrote a column for the school's paper. When he was 16, his family relocated to Vermont. He attended Rice Memorial High School, a Roman Catholic secondary school in South Burlington, Vermont. In high school Hasting was elected as class president, where he ran on a "anti-administration platform." He also played lacrosse and soccer, and performed in the school's plays before graduating in 1998. After graduation, Hastings wrote for Scholastic, an educational magazine for young adults. He then attended Connecticut College before earning his Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New York University in 2002.
Hastings began his journalism career as an unpaid intern for Newsweek magazine in 2002. In 2005, Hastings began covering the Iraq War while living in NATO occupied Green Zones in Baghdad. Hastings suffered the loss of his fiancée Andrea Parhamovich in 2007. A former spokeswoman for Air America, Parhamovich moved to Baghdad and began working for the National Democratic Institute when her convoy was ambushed by gunmen, killing Parhamovich and her three security guards. Hastings wrote a book on the incident, entitled I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. Hastings was also a regular contributor to Gentlemen's Quarterly and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine.
Stanley McChrystal interview
In June 2010, Rolling Stone published "The Runaway General", Hastings's profile of US Army general Stanley McChrystal, then commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan war. The article reported remarks by McChrystal's staff that were overtly critical and contemptuous of White House staff and other civilian officials. On June 22, the news of the forthcoming article reached the attention of the American print media and the White House. McChrystal immediately issued an extensive apology, and Duncan Boothby, the civilian contractor responsible for coordinating the article with Hastings, resigned. U.S. President Barack Obama summoned McChrystal to the White House on June 23, and relieved him of command. Hastings offered his views on relations between McChrystal and the Obama administration.
Hastings was originally meant to have controlled contact, which expanded when he had to catch a bus to Berlin with the general and his entourage after international flights were grounded, because of the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which gave him sufficient time to pick up less discreet remarks. How Hastings got access to McChrystal's inner circles is detailed in a Newsweek article. The Huffington Post named Hastings a 2010 Game Changer for his reporting, along with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. Hastings was also awarded a Polk Award for his reporting.
Michael Hastings and Eric Bates, executive editor of Rolling Stone, repeatedly defended the accuracy of Hastings' article about McChrystal. In July 2010, the U.S. Army launched its own investigation into whether McChrystal and his team were insubordinate, and concluded that the most inflammatory comments were made by an officer in the Navy Special Warfare Group, according to The New York Times. This was later confirmed in Hastings' book about the war in Afghanistan that was published in January 2012, The Operators, which attributed a number of damning quotes to Lt. Commander Dave Silverman, now CEO of McChrystal Group. A subsequent Pentagon investigation attempted to challenge the accuracy of Hastings' article "The Runaway General" which quoted anonymously people around McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Barack Obama's national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden. The report from the inquiry states “In some instances, we found no witness who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported. In other instances, we confirmed that the general substance of an incident at issue occurred, but not in the exact context described in the article.” In response, Rolling Stone stated, “The report by the Pentagon’s inspector general offers no credible source — or indeed, any named source — contradicting the facts as reported in our story, 'The Runaway General.'"
In an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show on June 23, 2011, Hastings said "I did not think Gen. McChrystal would be fired. In fact, I thought his position was basically untouchable, I thought it would give them a headache for maybe 72 hours."
In January 2012, Hastings published The Operators, a book which gives the most detailed public account of his travels with General Stanley McChrystal and his team. It included extensive quotes, taken from over 20 hours of audio recordings of McChrystal and his inner circle. A close read of the book suggests that McChrystal himself told Hastings that Obama was "intimidated and uncomfortable" the first time the president met him. The Daily Beast called it a "book of great consequence...The Operators seems destined to join the pantheon of great GWOT literature." The Wall Street Journal slammed the book, though the author of the review was a military consultant who had worked for both McChrystal and General David Petraeus, a fact the paper failed to disclose. The book became a New York Times bestseller.
The FBI files on Hastings went on to describe his story on Bowe Bergdahl as having: "ignited a media frenzy, speculating about the circumstances of [redacted] capture, and whether U.S. resources and effort should continue to be expended for his recovery."
Michael Hastings died in a single-vehicle automobile crash in his Mercedes C250 Coupé at approximately 4:25 a.m. in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles on June 18, 2013. A witness to the crash said the car seemed to be traveling at maximum speed and was creating sparks and flames before it fishtailed and crashed into a palm tree. Video from a nearby security camera purportedly shows Hastings' vehicle speeding and bursting into flames after crashing. Witnesses described the car's engine being ejected 50 to 60 yards from the scene. Hastings' body was burned beyond recognition. The coroner identified the body by matching fingerprints with those the FBI had on file. The Los Angeles Police Department said there were no signs of foul play.
Soon after his death, some press reports described the crash as suspicious. Earlier the previous day, Hastings indicated that he believed he was being investigated by the FBI. In an email to colleagues, which was copied to and released by Hastings' friend, Army Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, Hastings said that he was "onto a big story", that he needed to "go off the radar", and that the FBI might interview them. WikiLeaks announced that Hastings had also contacted Jennifer Robinson, one of its lawyers, a few hours prior to the crash, and the LA Weekly reported that he was preparing new reports on the CIA at the time of his demise. His widow Elise Jordan said his final story was a profile of CIA Director John O. Brennan. The FBI released a statement denying that Hastings was being investigated.
Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and MIT doctoral candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a joint suit on July 26 against the FBI for ignoring their FOIA requests concerning a possible file on Hastings. The FBI had failed to respond to the requests within the allotted 20-day period. On August 15, Leopold released a statement that read, "The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that the FBI has likely located responsive records pertaining to investigative journalist Michael Hastings." Al Jazeera, along with Shapiro, released results from a FOIA request showing that the FBI had opened a file on Hastings in June 2012 "to memorialize controversial reporting by Rolling Stone magazine on June 7, 2012." The attorney who filed the FOIA lawsuit, Jeff Light, suggested that it was uncommon for the FBI to open such files on reporters.
Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke said that what is known about the crash is "consistent with a car cyber attack." He was quoted as saying "There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers -- including the United States -- know how to remotely seize control of a car. So if there were a cyber attack on [Hastings'] car -- and I'm not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it." Several car experts have commented that there is no reason to suspect foul play in the crash; Motor Trend technical director Frank Markus said that the ensuing fire was consistent with a high speed car crash.
Hastings' widow, Elise Jordan, said she believes "it was just a really tragic accident." His older brother, Jonathan, said he believed Michael was experiencing a "manic episode" shortly before his death, and that he may have had suspicions were it not for this observation. Cenk Uygur, friend of Hastings' and host of The Young Turks, told KTLA that many of Michael's friends were concerned that he was "in a very agitated state", saying he was "incredibly tense" and worried that his material was being surveilled by the government. Friends believed that Michael's line of work led to a "paranoid state". USA Today reported that in the days before his death, Hastings believed his car was being "tampered with" and that he was scared and wanted to leave town.
- Hastings, Michael (2008). I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. New York, NY: Scribner.
- Hastings, Michael (2012). The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan. New York, NY: Blue Rider Press.
- Hastings, Michael (October 2008). "Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter". Gentlemen's Quarterly.
- Hastings, Michael (April 2009). "Obama's War". Gentlemen's Quarterly.
- Hastings, Michael (June 22, 2010). "The Runaway General". Rolling Stone.
- Hastings, Michael (2 February 2011). "King David's War". Rolling Stone.
- Hastings, Michael (23 February 2011). "Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators". Rolling Stone.
- Hastings, Michael (October 2011). "Inside Obama's War Room". Rolling Stone.
- Hastings, Michael (April 2012). "The Rise of the Killer Drones". Rolling Stone.
- Hastings, Michael (June 2012). "America's Last Prisoner of War". Rolling Stone.
- Articles in, inter alia, Foreign Policy, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek International, Salon, and Slate.
- Hastings, Michael (January 2013). Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Final Campaign. BuzzFeed/Blue Rider Press.
- The South Reporter, Society: Elise Jordan and Michael Hastings to wed May 21 in Hernando, May, 2011
- "Michael Mahon Hastings Obituary". Minor Funeral Home; Milton, Vermont. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2010. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2010. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC Document Number: H1000192617
- Michael Hastings. "Michael Hastings (mhastings) on BuzzFeed". Buzzfeed.com. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Uygur, Cenk. (June 23, 2013). "Michael Hastings and The War on Journalism". The Young Turks.
- "Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans". By Michael Hastings. BuzzFeed, June 7, 2013.
- Stebner, Beth. (June 19, 2013). "Michael Hastings conspiracy theories: Web goes wild after NSA, CIA reporter killed in crash".Daily News.
- Jenny McCartney (2013-06-21). "Witness: Hastings’ speeding car ‘shook my car like a freight truck going by’". Yahoo!News. Retrieved 2013-06-21.
- Michael Hastings; Simon & Schuster (2010). I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. books.google.com. p. 77. ISBN 141656098X.
- Hurlburt, Casey (November 11, 2010). "Vermonter Michael Hastings on the cover of the RollingStone. Vermont Business Magazine.
- "It’s J-Day: Former LA Times’ Bill Lobdell and Newsweek’s Michael Hastings On The Story That Broke Their Hearts". trueslant.com. August 27, 2009.
- Kim Ashe (May 13, 2013). "From the Pages of Vermont Life – Danger Man". vermontlife.com.
- Gene Maddaus (August 22, 2013). "Michael Hastings' Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted". laweekly.com.
- Silverman, Adam (June 21, 2013). "Michael Hastings email: Feds are investigating". Burlington Free Press".
- Margalit Fox (June 19, 2013). "Michael Hastings, 33, Winner of Polk Award". nytimes.com.
- Ian Tuly; Cardinal Points (March 29, 2012). "Rolling Stone writer shares story with students". cardinalpointsonline.com.
- Scott Johnson (June 19, 2013). "Michael Hastings In Baghdad". buzzfeed.com.
- Damien Cave (January 19, 2007). "Ambush Kills an American Teaching Democracy to Iraqis". nytimes.com.
- Packer, George (April 20, 2008). "What She Did for Love". New York Times Book Review. p. 12. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Wilson, Craig (April 3, 2008). "Grieving journalist writes 'final love letter to Andi'". USA Today (Gannett). p. 3D. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- "Backstory". Gentlemen's Quarterly. April 1, 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-24. "This war. It takes and takes. Drains the budget, flays the soul. Or--immeasurably worse--it claims the person you love most. In January 2007, aid worker Andi Parhamovich was killed in Baghdad while her boyfriend, Newsweek 's Michael Hastings, worked a few miles away (page 166). Hastings has since returned to Iraq; he can't get Andi or the war out of his system."
- Iannotti, Lauren (June 1, 2008). "I Lost My Love in Baghdad". Marie Claire. p. 99. Retrieved 2010-06-24. (interview with the author)
- Freeman, Jay (April 15, 2008). "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.(Brief article)(Book review)". Booklist. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter, GQ, October 2008.
- Hillel Italie (October 17, 2013). "Maya Angelou accepts Mailer Center lifetime award". Associated Press. Archived from the original on October 18, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- Hastings, Michael (June 22, 2010). "The Runaway General". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
- Cooper, Helene; Thom Shanker; Dexter Filkins (June 22, 2010). "McChrystal’s Fate in Limbo as He Prepares to Meet Obama". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Funding the Afghan Taliban. Al Jazeera English. June 22, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-24. "General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and Nato military forces in Afghanistan, has been ordered to report to the White House and explain comments he has made about the Obama administration's Afghan policy. In an ironic twist of events, US citizens have discovered that it is their tax money that indirectly funds Taliban – the very people their troops are fighting in Afghanistan."
- Waterman, Shaun (June 23, 2010). "McChrystal resigns Afghan command". Washington Times. Retrieved 2010-06-24. "President Obama said Wednesday he had accepted the resignation of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, bringing to an ignominious end the storied but sometimes controversial career of one of the country's top soldiers. Mr. Obama, who angrily summoned Gen. McChrystal to Washington after the general and several aides may have disparaged senior members of the administration in a series of interviews with Rolling Stone magazine, ..."
- Michael Hastings (June 23, 2010). Writer explains McChrystal article (4:42). Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Jenny McCartney (2010-06-26). "The volcano claims another victim: General McChrystal – When the ash cloud threw the American commander and a journalist together it was bound to end badly". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Andrew Bast (2010-06-22). "How Rolling Stone Got Into McChrystal's Inner Circle - Newsweek and The Daily Beast". Newsweek.com. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Leo, Alex (October 29, 2010). "HuffPost Celebrates Its 2010 Game Changers With Geoffrey Canada, Sean Penn, Mayor Bloomberg & More (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post.
- Greenwald, Glenn (2011-02-27) The military/media attacks on the Hastings article, Salon.com
- Shanker, Thom (September 22, 2010). "McChrystal Article Inquiry Leaves Questions Open". New York Times.
- Lamb, Brian (January 12, 2012). "Michael Hastings". C-SPAN.
- Shanker, Thom (April 18, 2011). "Pentagon Clears McChrystal Over Rolling Stone Article".
- Inspector General, Department of Defense http://rawreplaymedia.com/media/2011/1104/ROI-508.pdf
- "Reporter believed McChrystal was ‘untouchable’ - today > news - TODAY.com". Today.msnbc.msn.com. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Hastings, Michael (2 February 2011). "King David's War". Rolling Stone.
- Gallagher, Matt (17 January 2012). "The Operators by Michael Hastings (Review)". Daily Beast.
- "Can't Give This War Away: January 2012". Waronterrornews.typepad.com. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Taylor, Ihsan. "Best Sellers - The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- "MICHAEL M. HASTINGS Obituary: View MICHAEL HASTINGS's Obituary by The Burlington Free Press". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
- "Michael Hastings’ Wife Elise Jordan". Daily Entertainment News. June 18, 2013.
- Jason Leopold. "FBI continues to investigate Hastings for 'controversial reporting'". Al Jazeera America. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Heller, Jill. "Michael Hastings Still Under FBI Investigation For ‘Controversial Reporting’ After Death, According To Released Documents". International Business Times. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Curtis, Cartier. "Fact Check: FBI investigating Hastings before death". Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- "AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST MICHAEL HASTINGS DIES". Associated Press. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "Witness to Michael Hastings Car Crash Shares His Story (TYT Exclusive)". YouTube. The Young Turks. June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
- Dvorak, Kimberley. "Details of reporter Hastings' death elusive". San Diego 6. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Michael Hastings death: New video of crash emerges". Los Angeles Times. 27 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
- "Award-winning journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings killed in car crash". NY Daily News. June 19, 2013.
- Los Angeles police see no sign of foul play in journalist's death | Reuters
- Michael Hastings' Body Identified; LAPD Says No Signs Of Foul Play
- Gorman, Steve (June 20, 2013). "Los Angeles police see no sign of foul play in journalist's death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
- K. Ribe, James; Selana Barros (2013). Coroner's report (Technical report). County of Los Angeles. 2013-04353.
- Christopher Hayes: My Tribute to Michael Hastings
- Rachel Maddow Pays Tribute to Michael Hastings - Video | Rolling Stone
- Missing Michael Hastings
- Thank You For Your Service—Remembering Michael Hastings - The Daily Beast
- "Michael Hastings conspiracy theories: Web goes wild after NSA, CIA reporter killed in crash". NY Daily News. June 19, 2013.
- "Michael Hastings: Autounfall – oder doch Mord?". Frankfurter Rundschau. June 21, 2013.
- Brown, David (21 June). "Questions surround death of journalist Michael Hastings". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- Fox News, Michael Hastings' Friend: 'He Drove Like a Grandma,' Crash Scenario Doesn't Add Up, June 25, 2013
- Exclusive: Hastings Sent Colleagues Email Hours Before Crash | KTLA 5
- Journalist Michael Hastings sent chilling email to colleagues before death | Fox News
- WikiLeaks: Hastings Said He Was Being Investigated By FBI « CBS Los Angeles
- "Michael Hastings Probed the CIA Before Fatal Hollywood Crash". LA Weekly. June 18, 2013.
- Piers Morgan, "Hastings' widow: 'Taking it day by day'" CNN, August 6, 2013.
- We're Suing the FBI For Records on Journalist Michael Hastings | Freedom of the Press Foundation
- FBI sued for keeping secret their file on journalist Michael Hastings — RT USA
- Justice Department: FBI Has Started to Process Michael Hastings Documents | Freedom of the Press Foundation
- FBI continues to investigate Hastings for 'controversial reporting' | Al Jazeera America
- Was Michael Hastings' Car Hacked? Richard Clarke Says It's Possible
- Walker, Michael (20 June 2013). "Car Experts on Michael Hastings' Crash: No Reason to Suspect Foul Play". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- Brubaker, Elizabeth. "Elise Jordan on her late husband Michael Hastings: "He always had at least five hot stories going"". CNN Blogs. CNN. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- Sawhill, Ray. "Michael Hastings’ life and death: A brother’s reflections". Salon.com. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
- Journalist Michael Hastings Dies in Fiery Hollywood Crash | KTLA 5
- "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan: Michael Hastings: 9780399159886: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone on the Story that Brought Down Gen. McChrystal – video report by Democracy Now!
- C-SPAN Q&A interview with Hastings, January 29, 2012
- Michael Hastings on CNN debating the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus with Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Lt. Col. Rick Francona, and Piers Morgan