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CBS Discredits Pentagon Version of U.S.-Iran Strait of Hormuz Incident

You'd think CBS would give the benefit of the doubt to America in a dispute with Iran.  You'd be wrong. 


CBS adopted a pretense of neutrality over conflicting versions of an encounter between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, but provided details that undermined the U.S. interpretation of events while leaving the Iranian version unchallenged. 


In a piece called “Tale of the Tapes” on the CBS Evening News last night, reporter Richard Roth acknowledged that Iranian boats “circled” U.S. Navy ships during the incident.  According to Roth, the Pentagon is calling it an “act of aggression,” while the Iranians are describing it as “a routine encounter.” Both the Pentagon and Iran have released videotapes of the incident.


Iran is dismissing as a “fabrication” the Pentagon tape, which combines video shot from the Navy ships and audio threats broadcast in English over a maritime radio channel during the incident: “I am coming to you … you will explode after minutes.”  The October, 2000 al Qaeda attack that killed seventeen sailors on the U.S.S. Cole was mounted by a small boat.


Roth asserted that the Pentagon has “no proof” that threats came from the Iranian boats, and he said the Pentagon “concedes” its audio and video were recorded separately.  


Roth should have observed that the U.S. Navy could have recorded the radio threat and video simultaneously only if the Iranian boats had a Navy film crew aboard.  He also should have mentioned that the Iranian boats initiated the encounter and persisted in their aggressive behavior for twenty minutes.


Anchor Katie Couric introduced the piece by reporting that the U.S. had lodged a formal diplomatic complaint “accusing Iran of provoking the incident last Sunday in the Strait of Hormuz,” and that Iran had released its own video of the encounter.


The Iranian video, shot on board one of the patrol boats, records a nonthreatening radio exchange between the boat and one of the U.S. ships.


Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.