CyberAlert -- 12/19/2001 -- Worried About Walker's Rights
Worried About Walker's Rights; Journalists Suddenly Concerned About Rivera's Credibility; Letterman's Osama bin Laden Complaints
1) During Tuesday's White House press briefing ABC's Terry Moran repeatedly pressed Ari Fleischer over John Walker's access to a lawyer, arguing: "As an American citizen, he has a constitutional right...to talk to a lawyer." Moran followed-up: "Should the authorities refrain from interrogating him and placing him in jeopardy of incriminating himself?" Helen Thomas lectured: "Lawyers aren't that few around. You could get one to him."
2) Tuesday's World News Tonight devoted a story to concerns about how John Walker is not being given access to a lawyer, but in worrying about his rights, ABC ignored how Newsweek had learned that Walker "admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises" and met Osama bin Laden.
3) After years of ignoring his liberal antics, now that he's with FNC the CBS News Web site jumped on a charge in the Baltimore Sun that Geraldo Rivera could not have seen what he claimed to have eyewitnessed. An ABC News VP proclaimed: "If credibility is important to you as a news organization, you'd want to correct any mistake immediately." Yet ABC never retracted its stories which gave credibility to specific Taliban claims about civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombing.
4) Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland noticed Geraldo Rivera in the background of a color photo run in Monday's Washington Post of Eastern Afghanistan security chief Hazrat Ali walking "with soldiers near the front line at Tora Bora."
During Tuesday's White House press briefing Ari Fleischer was tag teamed by ABC's Terry Moran and Helen Thomas of Hearst Newspapers over why American Taliban John Walker hasn't been provided with access to a lawyer. Moran demanded: "As an American citizen, he has a constitutional right...to talk to a lawyer. He hasn't. Why not?" Moran followed-up three times, worrying: "Is this an indication of the kind of due process that people caught up in these terrorist investigations are going to face?"
Walker, at least, was a bit more than just "caught up" in terrorism.
Moran continued pressing the interests of the man who likely committed treason: "Should the authorities refrain from interrogating him and placing him in jeopardy of incriminating himself?" In the midst of Moran's questioning, Thomas sarcastically interjected: "Lawyers aren't that few around. You could get one to him."
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught the exchange which occurred about mid-way through Fleischer's December 18 briefing carried live by the cable news networks starting at 12:40pm EST.
Moran, the ABC News White House correspondent,
raised Walker's cause: "John Walker's now been in custody, in
U.S. custody, for more than a week and interrogated pretty regularly. As
an American citizen, he has a constitutional right -- in that he's
facing very serious criminal charges -- to talk to a lawyer. He hasn't.
I'd bet Walker is enjoying a lot better physical conditions and food on the Navy ship than he did wandering the desert with the Taliban.
ABC's interest in John Walker's access to legal counsel, expressed by Terry Moran at the White House press briefing as described in item #1 above, carried through to Tuesday's World News Tonight. Pierre Thomas, not Moran, however, handled the story prompted by a complaint from Walker's lawyer.
But in worrying about Walker's rights, ABC didn't tell its viewers how Newsweek had learned that in interviews with U.S. officials Walker "admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises -- including learning to use explosives and poisons -- and met with visiting Qaeda officials, including Osama bin Laden."
Anchor Peter Jennings set up the December 18 story on a subject not considered newsworthy by either the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News: "The attorney for the American John Walker, who was found among Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, insisted today that he have access to his client. The young man has now been held by the U.S. for more than 16 days without access to lawyers while the government decides if or how it will prosecute him. ABC's Pierre Thomas joins us tonight. Pretty insistent was his lawyer today, Pierre."
Thomas explained, as taken down by MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth: "Yes, he was. John Walker's parents still have not
been able to talk to their son so far. They're increasingly concerned
and they argue he should be given the same constitutional rights as any
"Walker is being provided food, water, shelter, and medical attention." That's a lot better than what Walker's Taliban and Al Qaeda buddies provided a few thousand Americans.
ABC failed to mention evidence of how Walker
was personally involved in terrorist training. Newsweek's Michael
Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman reported in the December 24 issue out this
week that in interviews with U.S. officials:
To read the Newsweek story in full, go to: http://www.msnbc.com/news/673497.asp
Now that Geraldo Rivera is with the Fox News Channel CBS News has suddenly decided to critique his reporting, something I don't recall CBS ever doing during Rivera's years of liberal advocacy and Clinton promotion at CNBC and NBC News. The December 17 story on the CBS News Web site cribbed from a couple of Baltimore Sun stories from last week which seem to have fairly solidly nailed Rivera for claiming he was a witness to a scene he could not have seen.
"Where's Geraldo? Nowhere Near Site Of
U.S. Casualties, As He Claimed," announced the headline over the CBS
story highlighted by the DrudgeReport.com. The unbylined CBS News Web site
For the entire CBSNews.com story, go to:
Actually, on December 12 Baltimore Sun TV
reporter David Folkenflik first broke the story of Rivera interjecting
himself into events. Folkenflik disclosed: "The day after three
American servicemen and several Afghan opposition troops were accidentally
killed in a U.S. bombing raid last week, Fox News Channel war
correspondent Geraldo Rivera told viewers that he had said the Lord's
Prayer over that 'hallowed ground,' where 'the friendly fire took so
many of our, our men and the mujahedeen yesterday.'
Indeed, MRC analyst Patrick Gregory tracked down Rivera's December 6 report which aired at about 8:30am EST during Fox & Friends. With the on screen graphic listing his location as Tora Bora, Rivera emotionally recalled: "We walked over what I consider hallowed ground today. We walked over the spot where the friendly fire took so many of our, our men and [could be "in"] the mujahedeen yesterday. It was just, the whole place just fried really, and bits of uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere. I said the Lord's Prayer and really choked up. I can almost choke up relating the story to you right now, it was so melancholy, so sad."
An excerpt from Folkenflik's December 12 story:
....For 72 hours, Rivera said, the "fog of war" had obscured the fact that there had been two separate "friendly fire" incidents. One was a misguided U.S. bombing raid in Kandahar Wednesday, he said. Another was a run by bombers over Tora Bora, hundreds of miles to the northeast, that took the lives of several Afghan fighters.
Rivera said he had visited the site of Afghan casualties in the mountains of Tora Bora Thursday in the mistaken belief that the Americans had died there rather than Kandahar. Throughout his two to three weeks in Afghanistan, Rivera said, he has been courageous and accurate in his reporting, and called last Thursday's dispatch an aberration. He indirectly alluded to the matter on the air late Monday night. Robert Zimmerman, a spokesman for Fox News, called it "an honest mistake."
But a timeline offered by the Defense Department appears to contradict that explanation. Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that the deaths in Tora Bora took place sometime after Sunday morning, or at least three days after Rivera's report was broadcast....
Tunku Varadarajan, a cultural critic for the Wall Street Journal, mocked another Rivera report last Thursday in which the correspondent ducked in the face of apparent sniper fire. Rivera is "really the subject of the story," Varadarajan wrote Monday, "lest you thought, in a moment of stupidity, that it was about Afghanistan."...
Yesterday, in a 20-minute interview peppered with profanity, Rivera railed against those who would question his work.
"It's time to stop bashing Geraldo," Rivera said. "If you want to knife me in the back after all the courage I've displayed and serious reporting I've done, I've got no patience with this [expletive].
"Have you ever been shot at?" Rivera demanded. "Have you ever covered a war?"...
So far in Afghanistan, he said, he has been the first television reporter to have covered the fall of Kunduz and the fighting in Tora Bora.
Later in the interview, however, Rivera also displayed an acute self-awareness of how he frames the stories he tells.
"There is an interesting journalistic debate over patriotism and covering the war on terrorism," Rivera said. "I have said publicly that I do not believe there's a moral equivalence between the two sides. But I don't change the facts of the war because of ideology.
"There's been an aspect of boosterism that I would cop to," he said later. So al-Qaida becomes "the forces of evil," in Rivera-speak, and their network of caves are described as "the rats' nest." Tallies of deaths are described as "good guys" vs. "bad guys."
"I clearly have indulged in, not the [style of] Geraldo of syndicated days, but a more impassioned presentation," he said, adding, "It doesn't affect my factual presentation."...
Although he had shown video footage from the Tora Bora ranges in other stories on Thursday, he did not identify where he had seen the site of the so-called "friendly fire" incident.
A few minutes earlier, Fox News had run captions across the bottom of its screen describing the previous day's events, with some details about the deaths Wednesday of the three American special operations troops. The captions said they had been killed outside Kandahar.
As Rivera had been seen live on the air from Tora Bora both Wednesday and Thursday, journalists, Defense Department officials and international aid workers expressed skepticism that anyone could make a round-trip across such treacherous, distant terrain in that time. It would take 20 hours to 36 hours by car across ravaged roads each way, people with knowledge of the region said. They said helicopter flights were almost unheard of and would have afforded dubious safety.
Late Monday, after he had been told this newspaper raised questions about the report, Rivera briefly referred to the incident on the air. He noted the American deaths occurred in Kandahar but said that he had paid a visit to the site of the Tora Bora deaths.
"You know," he told viewers, "I know that Kandahar is the place that suffered that dreadful friendly fire incident involving our special operators and some of the mujahedeen. But we had one here as well. You know, I walked that hallowed ground. At least three mujahedeen fighters [were] killed because of the fluidity of the front line."...
END of Excerpt
For the entire Baltimore Sun story, go to:
Folkenflik followed up with another article on December 15 which featured NPR's Ombudsman suggesting Rivera be fired ("If it's found that a reporter hasn't let the facts get in the way of a good story, then I think that's a firing offense") and ABC News VP Paul Friedman proclaiming: "If credibility is important to you as a news organization, you'd want to correct any mistake immediately."
That's some chutzpah coming from an ABC News executive given that ABC reporters gave credibility to questionable claims, to put it mildly, from the Taliban.
On the October 14 World News Tonight, for instance, ABC reporter David Wright relayed: "The Taliban claims some 200 civilians in a village near Jalalabad were killed by a stray U.S. missile. If that's true, it would be the deadliest strike so far in the war. The Islamic militia escorted the press to a residential area littered with shrapnel. Inside one house, a blood-stained pillowcase. Outside another, dozens of dead sheep and goats, as well as what appeared to be body parts." Four days later, on October 18, Wright again reported as established fact that "for the ninth time, American bombs hit residential areas in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed, including five members of one family."
For more about ABC's reporting on civilian
casualties, refer to the November 5 Media Reality Check by the MRC's
ABC has yet to retract those stories, though
on December 4 World News Tonight aired a piece by Jim Wooten on how those
in a village destroyed by U.S. bombs were pleased the bombing drove out
the Taliban. See the December 5 CyberAlert:
Folkenflik added: "Someone from Fox made a huge error in not making sure the facts were there before going on the air," said NPR's Dvorkin. "Mistakes will be made by all journalistic organizations. Making sure that you 'fess up is also part of the profession."
Now that's a standard to apply to all of the networks.
For the entire December 15 article by
Folkenflik, go to:
Geraldo in action. Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland noticed Geraldo Rivera in the background of a color photo which ran in Monday's Washington Post above this caption: "Eastern Afghanistan security chief Hazrat Ali, center, walks with soldiers near the front line at Tora Bora. Ali said 500 al Qaeda fighters may have escaped."
Eastland asked online beneath the photo: "Do you see what I see? Look carefully at the photo above, which ran in Monday's Washington Post. It was taken by Kevin Frayer of the Canadian Press and transmitted by the Associated Press. The Post used the photograph to illustrate its lead story -- about how al Qaeda forces are fleeing to Pakistan. The photo actually appeared on the jump page for the story -- A16 -- where, taking up no fewer than 50 square inches, it could hardly be missed. And plainly visible in the photograph is Waldo, I mean Geraldo, as in Geraldo Rivera....Rivera is right there on the left, looking (for once) not into the lens of a cameraman (here the Canadian Press's Frayer) but at someone or something else we can't see. Above his head is a boom microphone. He's ready, man."
Eastland observed: "The war on terrorism is deadly serious. Diversions are few. Kevin Frayer has -- with or without Geraldo's help -- provided one."
To see the photo as posted by The Weekly
Standard, go to:
From the December 18 Late Show with David Letterman, as announced by an Osama bin Laden impersonator over video of the real bin Laden in a cave, the "Top Ten Osama Bin Laden Complaints."
10. "Can't get premium channels in the cave, only basic
A RealPlayer video clip of Osama bin Laden
reading this list is now up on the Late Show home page where it will
remain until early evening today:
To find it after it's replaced by a fresh
clip, go to Dave TV:
#1 is a reference to Letterman's ongoing quest to get invited on Oprah's show. -- Brent Baker