CNN Uses Wounded, Homeless Vets to Indict Bush, U.S.

To CNN any stick is good enough to beat the President, even a wounded soldier's crutch.

During the 5 pm hour on Veteran's Day, CNN Newsroom shamelessly exploited the holiday to take some cheap shots at the Bush administration and even the nation.  As CNN reporter Josh Levs put it, “Veterans Day. Each year it's about gratitude and patriotism. But this year it's also about overcoming a national shame.”

Newsroom anchor Fredricka Whitfield presented a few brief clips of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell honoring veterans alive and fallen.   Whitfield devoted far more time, though, to a series of reports defending the controversial design of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial or covering vets struggling with homelessness or inadequate health care.  

Levs's report on health care was marked by a series of setups designed to make Bush look bad.  Amazingly, Levs managed to give the Democrats credit for increases in veteran program spending requested by Bush.

Levs began the segment showing uniformed vets on parade, followed by an emotional clip of a corporal's wife tearfully testifying to Congress: “This is how we treat our soldiers.  We give them nothing.”

Then comes some Bush whacking:   

Levs: “The congressional hearings over deplorable conditions at Walter Reed put into new light what President Bush had often said in the past.”

Bush clip: “I can say to the loved ones in the military that their sons and daughters and husbands and wives get the very best medical care there is.” 

Cut to video of Bush embracing a maimed soldier:

Levs voiceover: “Speaking last week at a new medical facility in Texas, the president called for legislation needed to enact some changes and for a veterans affairs spending bill.”

Bush: “Congress needs to take prompt action.”

Levs: “The Associated Press notes that veterans groups have been thankful to this Congress for large budget increases engineered by Democrats.”

The bias is palpable.  Who does Levs think signed off on those large budget increases?

Levs, anchor Whitfield and CNN reporter Vince Gonzalez all repeated uncritically a claim by the National Alliance to End Homelessness that a quarter of America's homeless are veterans, and nearly 200,000 vets are on the street every night.  To this reporter's first glance, the NAEH study looks questionable.  For example, the study claims “approximately 89,553 to 467,877 veterans were at risk of homelessness.” That's a very large range.  And how do they define “at risk?”  Qualifying categories include “households with a member who has a disability, a person living alone, and those who are not in the labor force.”   Quite a wide net.

Given the overblown statistics disseminated by homeless advocates in the past, you'd think CNN would approach these numbers cautiously.  NAEH's homeless vets claim, however, was a very handy club for bashing Bush, and CNN was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. 

In his report on homeless vets, Gonzalez also resorted to setting up Bush:

Bush: “Under my administration, federal spending for our veterans has increased by more than two thirds. We've extended medical treatment to a million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.”  

Cut to video of two homeless vets:

Gonzalez's voiceover: “But these veterans are bewildered at how quickly they fell through the cracks, and worry they've been abandoned.”

Homeless vet #1: “To a degree, yes. Not really abandoned but just currently ignored.” 

Homeless vet #2:  “It just makes you want to curl up in a ball and say 'You know what? Forget it. Forget it, it's not worth it.'”

In his piece on the Vietnam memorial, CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre sniffed at critics who “wailed” when the design was selected that the memorial was “an ugly gash on the national mall, a gravestone, an attempt to bury the war.”

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