2. Jennings and Stahl Raise Vietnam, "Are You...Feeling Deja Vu?"
3. Stahl Frets Over War Problems, Powell Dismisses Her "Nonsense"
4. NBC's Couric & Miklaszewski Refute Arnett's Baghdad Reporting
5. "Financial Compensation" for Victims of U.S. Bombing Errors?
6. BBC Reporter "Gobsmacked" by BBC's Distorted War Reporting
When the Red Crescent food trucks arrived in Safwan, ABC's Mike von Fremd heard Iraqis denouncing America. "People are sick and hungry" because of the U.S. invasion one woman complained and von Fremd highlighted a man who channeled Phil Donahue: "It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil." But NBC's Don Teague on Wednesday night suggested the uniform expression of revulsion towards the U.S. and fidelity for Hussein was based on fear of the Iraqi dictator: "Wherever there are cameras, Saddam Hussein is still the hero. Iraqis, not yet convinced he's lost control, worry they'll pay with their lives for speaking against him."
A Sky News story, run of FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, made a similar point.
Jennings set up the March 26 World News Tonight story by pointing out how the Iraqis in Safwan "made a point to say the Americans are not welcome." Von Fremd, in Safwan, showed video of the "frenzied mob" which attacked the Red Crescent trucks filled with water, bread and cheese.
Von Fremd relayed: "While these Iraqis are desperate for this humanitarian aid, they also have a very strong message for the world. 'You brought us chaos,' this mother said. 'People are sick and hungry.' 'Women and children have been killed,' this man says. 'It is all because of U.S. greed for Iraqi oil.'"
But they love the free food.
Over on the CBS Evening News, Erin Moriarty noted the ingratitude as she highlighted their support for Hussein: "A bizarre scene greeted the first trucks filled with 20,000 packaged meals as they arrived today near the Iraqi border town of Safwan. Young men pledging to give their lives to Saddam Hussein, even as American and Kuwaiti groups were trying to save them. But they suddenly lost their appetite for politics when the food appeared" and their chanting ended and "a near riot" began.
NBC's Don Teague, however, in story which ran on MSNBC as well as the NBC Nightly News, figured out that maybe the cameras influence events. Teague observed: "U.S. soldiers escorted this convoy into Iraq, but publicly few here were singing their praises."
Tuesday night at about 8:50pm EST on MSNBC, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, ITV's Bill Nealy revealed how Iraqis are afraid of Hussein agents in their midst:
Barely a week into the war, with coalition forces sweeping through Iraq, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Lesley Stahl decided to raise the ghost of the Vietnam quagmire. Jennings teased Wednesday's World News Tonight by hyping how "one Marine" told an ABC reporter that given the landscape, weather and guerrilla tactics, "sometimes" Iraq "feels like Vietnam." The night before, on CBS's 48 Hours, Lesley Stahl asked a Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?"
Jennings teased at the top of his March 26 show: "One Marine tells our reporter: Given the landscape and the weather sometimes it is Desert Storm and sometimes it feels like Vietnam."
In the subsequent story, embedded reporter John Berman with the Marines near Nasiriyah, recounted the challenges faced by the swampy terrain and how the Iraqis disguise themselves, a point which led into his conclusion which mentioned Vietnam and which Jennings elevated to one of the most newsworthy events of the day:
Tuesday night on a 48 Hours at 10pm EST devoted to the war, CBS's Lesley Stahl provided a segment on the "surprising resistance" offered by the Iraqi regime and how "Americans at home are confronting the reality of this war: Not everything is going as expected."
Interviewing former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb, Stahl proposed: "Was there a miscalculation here of some kind?" Webb suggested planners did not consider the threat of guerrilla war.
Stahl soon asked the Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?" Webb agreed with Stahl's premise, arguing this is the first time since Vietnam that the U.S. is taking casualties and still moving forward.
Stahl versus Powell and Powell wins a knockout on points. In an interview which aired on Tuesday's 48 Hours and Wednesday's Early Show, Lesley Stahl pounded away at Secretary of State Colin Powell over problem encountered in the war as if the coalition were losing. "We're beginning to hear that this force isn't massive enough," Stahl argued before fretting about how "the rear is exposed" and chastising Powell: "But you can't get your supplies" delivered safely.
In a portion shown only on 48 Hours, Stahl proceeded to demand that Powell explain why the whole world hates President Bush: "How did we get to a place where much of the world thinks that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein? How did this happen?"
Usually CyberAlert relays the questions posed by reporters and largely skips over the answers since we are interested in the bias or agenda of the journalist. But as MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted in catching the interview, Powell's retorts to Stahl, point by point, are so good and so well undermine her fussing that they are worth reciting. It isn't often that you hear a high-ranking official dismiss a journalist's premise as "nonsense."
(Stahl's interview on 48 Hours aired after her segment devoted to setbacks to the expected war progress in which she asked, as detailed in item #2 above: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?")
So here, in near complete form, is the Powell interview, starting with the portion carried on the March 25 48 Hours and March 26 Early Show, followed by the part run only on 48 Hours:
Stahl: "The Secretary of Defense said that there are intelligence reports that the chain of command in Iraq has been told to use chemical weapons against our soldiers once that battle of Baghdad starts."
The Early Show ended there, but viewers of 48 Hours the night before were treated to more of Stahl's haughtiness, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Peter Arnett's unquestioning relaying of Iraqi claims that the U.S. employed anti-personnel "cluster bombs" in a residential Baghdad neighborhood prompted NBC's Katie Couric and Jim Miklaszewski to do some fast backtracking on Wednesday's Today to cover for Arnett's unsupported reporting.
Arnett asserted: "Well, Katie, the Iraqi peoples are complaining that two cruise missiles or cluster bomb units did land in a residential area."
Couric alerted viewers: "I know Peter that the Pentagon is, is refuting that cluster bombs have been used in Baghdad." Miklaszewski later maintained that "as far as we know there were no plans to use cluster bombs inside Baghdad" and that "if you look at pictures, so far, outside of Baghdad a cluster bomb would create a Swiss-cheese effect. Thousands and thousands of holes in the target and we don't see that quite yet."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed how the Today team realized Arnett was simply relaying Iraqi propaganda and felt compelled to distance themselves from it.
During the 8am half hour on the March 26 Today, Lauer asked Arnett by phone: "We want to go to Baghdad now where veteran correspondent Peter Arnett is reporting for National Geographic Explorer and NBC. And Peter joins us on the phone. Peter, I would like to ask you about the reports that there may have been some collateral damage in the bombing of Baghdad recently. Civilian casualties. Have you seen that with your own eyes?"
An hour later, Arnett told Couric: "Well, Katie, the Iraqi peoples are complaining that two cruise missiles or cluster bomb units did land in a residential area of the city at 11 o'clock this morning. Me and my crew did go over there around noon and the whole area was devastated. Two sides of a wide street and storefronts blown-in, there were 20 cars are burning. Newsmen had been there earlier, counted 15 scorched corpses and they said there were 30 or 40 wounded. Soon after Minister of Information of Iraq, Mr. El Sahaf complained that these, these were cluster bomb units and they're being used infrequently, more frequently in the Baghdad area, Katie."
A few minutes later, after Today cut off coverage of a Centcom briefing, Miklaszewski at the Pentagon reviewed the briefing and then went out of his way to refute Arnett: "Now there were also reports from the Iraqis that cluster bombs were being used in Baghdad and as Peter Arnett reported earlier they are indeed anti-personnel weapons. As far as we know there were no plans to use cluster bombs inside Baghdad. There were plans, apparently, to use them, perhaps, against arrayed troops outside of Baghdad. So it would be very unusual if in fact cluster bombs were used inside Baghdad. And if you look at pictures, so far, outside of Baghdad a cluster bomb would create a Swiss-cheese effect. Thousands and thousands of holes in the target and we don't see that quite yet."
Biased question of the day. Usually the wackiest "questions" at the Centcom briefings in Doha come from non-U.S. or British reporters, often those for Arab or African news agencies. But at Wednesday's briefing, an ABC News producer's concern was whether the U.S. would provide "financial compensation" to victims of errant U.S. bombs.
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd took down the question during te 8am EST briefing on March 26, but like me, he couldn't make out the questioner's name, though he did identify himself as an "ABC News producer." He asked: "Iraqi civilians will probably die. We don't know how many or if any have died thus far in the war. If they do die and if it is determined that they die because of a coalition force bomb or a horrendous accident by coalition forces, will the coalition forces provide financial compensation for their families?"
A BBC reporter, covering the war from coalition headquarters in Qatar, denounced his network's coverage as "one-sided" and distorted. In his memo to his bosses, which was obtained by London's The Sun newspaper, BBC correspondent Paul Adams asked: "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?'" In fact, he contended, "the truth is exactly the opposite" since "the gains are huge and the costs still relatively low."
FNC's Brit Hume on Wednesday night highlighted the Sun's story about Adams' scolding of the BBC, a story to which the MRC's Liz Swasey first alerted me.
An excerpt from the March 26 Sun story by Trevor Kavanagh:
The BBC was last night sensationally condemned for "one-sided" war coverage -- by its own front line defence correspondent.
Paul Adams attacks the Beeb for misreporting the Allied advance in a blistering memo leaked to The Sun....
On Monday, he wrote from US Central Command in Qatar: "I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering 'significant casualties'.
"This is simply NOT TRUE. Nor is it true to say -- as the same intro stated -- that coalition forces are fighting 'guerrillas'.
"It may be guerrilla warfare, but they are not guerrillas."
Adams' memo was fired off to TV news head Roger Mosey, Radio news boss Stephen Mitchell and other Beeb chiefs.
It adds stunning weight to allegations that BBC coverage on all its networks is biased against the war.
In one blast, he storms: "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?'
"The truth is exactly the opposite.
"The gains are huge and the costs still relatively low. This is real warfare, however one-sided, and losses are to be expected."...
END of Excerpt
The story is online at (scroll down the page):
Now that is definitely the first time in 1,466 CyberAlerts that the word "gobsmacked" has appeared. Oxford defines the word as an informal British term for "utterly astonished."
I'll be gobsmacked if any U.S. network reporter ever has the guts to take on any war coverage bias at his or her own network.
> Don't forget: Those planning to attend the MRC's DisHonors Awards, they are tonight, Thursday March 27, at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. -- Brent Baker