Hyped Haditha 'Massacre,' But Little Interest in Marine's Version --6/13/2006
2. On ABC, Charles Gibson Gives Murtha a Spit-and-Polish Shoeshine
3. Liberal Journalists Scold NYTimes for Negatively Spinning GOP Win
4. You Read It Here First: Pinkerton Picks Up CBS Ignoring GOP Win
5. "Top Ten Secrets Found in Al-Zarqawi's Safe House"
The networks have been eager over the last few weeks to highlight every new charge or claim related to the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November (a new study from the MRC counted 99 stories or interviews about it over just three weeks on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows), but when a front page Washington Post article on Sunday recounted Marine Sergeant Frank Wuterich's contention that he and his squad followed the rules of engagement and were justified in their actions, the networks lost interest. NBC gave it a few seconds on Sunday's Today and a fuller story on Sunday's Nightly News, but ABC and CBS ignored it on their Sunday morning shows (GMA and Sunday Morning) while ABC's World News Tonight gave it a mere 20 seconds before a full story on suicides at Guantanamo and the CBS Evening News skipped it completely. On Monday, despite interview segments and stories on Iraq, the broadcast network morning shows ignored Wuterich's version, though ABC and NBC made time for full Guantanamo pieces. Amazingly, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't raise it with Congressman John Murtha, the lead accuser who appeared on GMA. The Monday evening shows also avoided the topic.
CNN, in contrast, has given Wuterich's version, delivered through his attorney Neal Puckett, significant attention. CNN's American Morning on Monday ran a story from Pentagon reporter Jamie McIntyre as well as an interview with Puckett conducted by Soledad O'Brien. Near the end of the 7pm EDT hour of The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer brought McIntyre aboard to explain Wuterich's version of events and fill-in anchor John Roberts dedicated an 11pm EDT hour segment of Anderson Cooper 360 to Wuterich's take. FNC's Bill O'Reilly interviewed Puckett Monday night.
[This item was posted late Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
In an MRC study released on Monday, "Touting Military Misdeeds, Hiding Heroes: ABC, CBS and NBC Broadcast Hours of Charges Against U.S. Marines," the MRC's Rich Noyes reported:
The investigation isn't over, but on May 17 NBC Nightly News opted to put the story back in the headlines after comments from anti-war Congressman John Murtha [for details, check the May 18 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org ]. From that date through June 7, the networks have aired 99 stories or segments suggesting U.S. military misconduct -- three and a half hours of coverage in three weeks. ABC has hit the story the hardest, with 85 1/2 minutes of coverage on Good Morning America, World News Tonight, This Week and Nightline. NBC aired 67 minutes on Today, Nightly News and Meet the Press, while CBS broadcast 58 minutes on The Early Show, CBS Evening News and Face the Nation.
Much of the coverage has been repetitive, reviewing the allegations and the still unfinished investigation. At the same time, the networks have presumed a guilty verdict and a blow to the overall American military's reputation. "Will Haditha be the My Lai of the Middle East?" asked Nightline co-host Terry Moran on May 25, referring to the killing of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians back in 1968. Filling in as anchor of the May 31 CBS Evening News, Russ Mitchell pronounced that "if the allegations prove true, they'd be a huge new blow to the American military's standing with Iraq's government and its people." On the June 7 Today, NBC's Andrea Mitchell similarly labeled Haditha a "black eye for American policy"...
If the Haditha allegations are true, it is certainly a major story deserving widespread attention. But so much coverage -- so far in advance of any authoritative account of what happened -- makes journalists seem eager to spread a story that portrays the U.S. military as bad guys. The networks' heavy coverage of Haditha stands in contrast to their pattern of overlooking the stories of most of America's top military heroes in the war on terror....
END of Excerpt
For the June 12 Media Reality Check: www.mrc.org
An excerpt from the June 11 top of the front page Washington Post article, "Marine Says Rules Were Followed: Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup," by Josh White:
A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.
"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal A. Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the ongoing investigations into the incident. "He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians."
Wuterich's detailed version of what happened in the Haditha neighborhood is the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred. As the leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Wuterich was in the convoy of Humvees that was hit by a roadside bomb. He entered the house from which the Marines believed enemy fire was originating and made the initial radio reports to his company headquarters about what was going on, Puckett said.
The reports that Marines wantonly shot unarmed civilians in Haditha, including women and children, allege one of the most shocking, and potentially damaging, incidents of the Iraq war. A criminal investigation looking into possible charges of murder against half a dozen Marines is underway. A separate probe is examining whether Marines tried to cover up the shootings, and whether commanders were negligent in failing to investigate the deaths.
Three Marine officers have been relieved of command. In the absence of a public response from Marine Corps officials -- who are declining to comment to preserve the integrity of the investigation -- reports of what happened in the western Iraqi town have been leaking out piecemeal from the Haditha neighborhood and in Washington.
Wuterich's version contradicts that of the Iraqis, who described a massacre of men, women and children after a bomb killed a Marine. Haditha residents have said that innocent civilians were executed, that some begged for their lives before being shot and that children were killed indiscriminately.
Wuterich told his attorney in initial interviews over nearly 12 hours last week that the shootings were the unfortunate result of a methodical sweep for enemies in a firefight. Two attorneys for other Marines involved in the incident said Wuterich's account is consistent with those they had heard from their clients.
Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by "a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades" after the Marines responded to an attack from a house....
END of Excerpt
For the Washington Post article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
# ABC's World News Tonight: Back on Sunday, May 28, ABC devoted a full story to Haditha as Dan Harris led World News Tonight: "There is a new eyewitness tonight describing an alleged massacre by Marines in Iraq and now a top Congressman says there is not only killing, but also a cover-up. That's our top story..." The witness: a 12 year-old Iraqi girl and the Congressman was John Murtha on This Week that morning. Harris added: "Right now the military is investigating what happened in this city of Haditha where 24 civilians died. But one Congressman says it's already clear that this was a mass murder and that it was covered up."
But this past Sunday, the day of the Post story, anchor David Muir gave Wuterich barely 20 seconds before a full story on Guantanamo: "And there is news tonight about the incident involving U.S. Marines and the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. The Washington Post reports Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led a squad of Marines in Haditha, says the civilians were not executed and that there was no cover-up. Wuterich maintains the civilians were killed in a chaotic firefight after his convoy was attacked."
Monday night: Zilch on World News Tonight.
In a subsequent story on the 12-year-old girl and what she says she saw, with "Cover-Up? DID MARINES KILL IN COLD BLOOD?" on screen, Jonathan Karl relayed: "Congressman John Murtha says the investigation should have happened a long time ago." Murtha on This Week the day before: "There's no question about what happened. The problem is who covered it up and why did they cover it up? Why did they wait so long?"
Two weeks later, on June 12, Gibson interviewed Murtha live for an entire segment but didn't press Murtha to respond to Wuterich's recounting of events which contradicts Murtha's presumption that murders were committed. (See item #2 below for the questions Gibson posed.)
Monday's GMA, however, had time for a full story on Guantanamo. News reader Kate Snow introduced the 7am news update story: "More pressure on the U.S. this morning to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That after three suicides of three detainees. ABC's Jonathan Karl joins us from the Pentagon with more. Good morning, Jon..."
But on Sunday and Monday night this week, not a syllable about Haditha on the CBS Evening News which on both nights ran at least two Iraq-related stories.
On Monday, however, Today did not display the zeal for the story they did with highlighting charges of Marine misdeeds. Matt Lauer devoted a session with retired General Barry McCaffrey to pushing him repeatedly about pulling troops out and then about Guantanamo. One of Lauer's questions: "Do you worry about a political side of this, that the administration may pull a substantial number troops out of Iraq just prior to November's mid-term elections simply to sway public opinion?"
At 7, 8 and 9am, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, Ann Curry showcased the Guantanamo suicides. At 7am, she set up a full report: "There are new calls for closing down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay including one from the European Union following the suicide of three detainees over the weekend. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski is in Washington for us this morning. Jim good morning...."
McIntyre's taped piece, as aired on the June 12 American Morning:
Miles O'Brien: "Well, was it a Marine massacre, or was it standard operating procedure, procedure in Haditha, Iraq? An attorney for the Marine who led the squad that killed two dozen innocent civilians in Haditha last year says the Marines did nothing wrong. CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre with more."
On Monday's Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson interviewed Democratic Congressman John Murtha, the perfect opportunity to press him on how a Marine has come forward (see item #1 above) to contradict Murtha's presumption that Marines murdered innocent civilians in Haditha and then covered up their crime. But that didn't happen as Gibson instead calmly set Murtha up to turn the entire good news about killing terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi into more grist for getting out of Iraq ASAP.
[This item is adopted from a Monday afternoon NewsBusters posting by the MRC's Tim Graham based on a transcript provided by Brian Boyd: newsbusters.org ]
The June 12 segment began with Charlie playing up Murtha's military credentials:
He did not explain to viewers that Murtha is a liberal or even a Democrat, or a man angling to be a leader of the House Democrats if they win a majority in the fall elections (that never came up). See how open-ended and un-challenging the interview questions were:
-- "Congressman, appreciate you're being back with us...Let me ask you about the situation as it stands now. In the last few days we've had the death of Zarqawi, we've had a completion of the Iraqi cabinet with the most important ministries being filled and we've also had this or about to have this joint U.S. and Iraqi cabinet meeting by video conference with the President in Camp David. So, doesn't this look like it's a good opportunity and a beginning of a troop draw down and disengagement?" Murtha concluded with his usual thought: "I hope the Iraqis ask us to leave."
-- "So, I don't think they're going to consult you at this Camp David meeting given the criticisms you've voiced in recent days, but in your mind what would be the best thing to come out of this two day conference at Camp David?" Murtha muttered about the need to close down Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and "80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there. And I think he's got to listen to realism and what the public wants in the United States. It costs $9 billion a month, Charlie. It'll cost almost $500 billion by the end of this fiscal year." Again, no challenge on any of this from Gibson.
-- Then, more on troop withdrawals. Gibson ran a soundbite of new Iraqi defense minister Mowaffak al-Rubaie saying on CNN that coalition forced will be under 100,000 by year's end, and nearly all will be out by the end of 2007: "And many expect that we'll have a continuing presence eventually of about 50,000 troops. Does that seem about right to you?"
-- "And just finally, Congress has in front of it still a massive appropriations bill to fund this war. It does not seem as if Congress is willing at this point to start tightening the purse strings to get us out."
Shown the Thursday Washington Post headline, "Victory in California Calms G.O.P." followed by the New York Times headline, "Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems," NPR's Nina Totenberg exclaimed on Friday night's Inside Washington: "The Times is wrong!" Syndicated columnist Mark Shields suggested his disagreement with the spin of the New York Times: "I don't think there's any question that if the Democrats had won they'd be yelling at the tree tops." Shields added his analysis that the Times missed: "The culture of corruption, I think, is not a viable campaign message for 2006 for the fall. That ought to be a warning to the Democrats."
[This item was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters: newsbusters.org ]
Thursday on the MRC's TimesWatch site, Clay Waters provided a look at the tilted June 8 front page New York Times article about the congressional race in which Republican Brian Bilbray beat Democrat Francine Busby to replace imprisoned Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Clay's item:
GOP Win in California Means "Fall Problems"
Republican Brian Bilbray won the special election in California's 50th Congressional District to replace Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, beating Democrat Francine Busby by four points. Yet just as he did in yesterday's online filing, chief political reporter Adam Nagourney's off-lead story on Thursday's front page hailed the result as a resounding victory...for the Democrats.
"Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems" began: "The victory that Republicans squeezed out in a high-profile race to fill a Congressional vacancy here eased party anxieties Wednesday but signaled future difficulties as they confront tougher Democratic challenges in increasingly contested districts this fall."
Nagourney again emphasized the moral victory aspect of Busby's loss: "Mr. Bilbray's failure to break 50 percent was striking. The Republican Party had poured workers and millions of dollars into avoiding defeat in a district where Republicans have a sizable registration advantage and where President Bush won by 10 percentage points in 2004."
Get a load of this subhead to Nagourney's front-page story: "Republican Short of 50% Despite a Big Effort -- Democrats Stymied."
Of course, Bill Clinton never broke 50% in the popular vote, but that didn't stop the media declaring he had a mandate.
With a day to reflect, Nagourney at least put some context in to the hard-copy version of his story: "But if the outcome was worrisome to Republicans as they battle to hold control of the House, it was also a clear disappointment for Democrats. Despite a favorable set of local circumstances -- Mr. Cunningham's guilty plea, a rift among Republicans over how to handle illegal immigration and a divided field -- Ms. Busby failed to give her party the lift it was looking for in what had been the most watched race of the year."
"Although she did better than when she ran in 2004 -- and in a district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 44 percent to 29 percent -- her percentage of the vote was about the same as Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts received in the district in the presidential race two years ago."
In other words, in a two-person race, it's conceivable that Bilbray could have nearly matched Bush's 10-point win over Kerry in 2004. Busby's 45% is just one point more than Kerry's share of the vote in 2004. If these count as headline-making "problems" for the G.O.P, the party is probably willing to accept them.
The Times finally mentioned (without actually using Busby's devastating quote): "Analysts said Mr. Bilbray was also helped by a tough anti-immigrant message that resonated here on the Mexican border, all the more so after Ms. Busby was quoted in the final hours of the race as apparently countenancing the support of her campaign by illegal immigrants."
What Busby told a group of mostly Hispanic senior citizens the week before the election was a bit more stark than Nagourney's summary: "You don't need papers for voting."
Nagourney did eventually let the GOP have a say: "Republicans called the outcome a much-needed success during a difficult stretch. They noted that Mr. Bilbray won despite Democratic efforts to make corruption a central issue and also a sour environment for Mr. Bush, Congress and Republicans."
END of Reprint
That's online at: www.timeswatch.org
A transcript of the relevant portion of the June 9 Inside Washington, a half-hour weekly panel show produced by Washington, DC's ABC affiliate which carries it on Sunday morning after This Week. Before that, it airs on the affiliate's all-news cable channel, NewsChannel 8, and Friday night at 8:30pm on DC's PBS station, WETA channel 26.
Host Gordon Peterson over pictures of the headlines: "Here are two headlines from Thursday's newspapers: The Washington Post, 'Victory in California Calms G.O.P.' Same story in the New York Times: '€˜Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems.' What's your interpretation of that?"
You read it here first. On FNC's Fox Newswatch over the weekend, panelist Jim Pinkerton, a columnist for Newsday, picked up on a CyberAlert/NewsBusters item about how the CBS Evening News touted a potential Democratic victory in the California congressional race to replace imprisoned Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, but when the Republican won CBS went silent: "Well, of course the big story that the media wanted to play up was the Tuesday special election in California. So CBS on Tuesday gave a big play, 'hey election coming up, Republicans could lose, doom for Bush.' Then the Republican won and it amazingly enough disappeared off CBS News the next morning."
Well, not the next morning, but the next evening.
The June 7 NewsBusters/June 8 CyberAlert article recounted:
For complete details:
Washington Times "Inside Politics" compiler Greg Pierce on Friday also picked up on CBS's bias: www.washingtontimes.com
From the June 12 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Secrets Found in Al-Zarqawi's Safe House." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. He occasionally liked to dress up in a frilly pink burqa
9. Osama's been staying at a Red Roof Inn in Tulsa for over two years
8. He introduced Saddam to the joy of eating Doritos in your underpants
7. iPod packed with nothing but Tony Orlando and Dawn
6. Was hoping to be the next "View" co-host
5. According to his will, he left everything to the Boys and Girls Club of Long Island
4. The song "Rhinestone Cowboy" always made him cry
3. Refrigerator was fully stocked with Hebrew National Hot Dogs
2. High school yearbook shows he was voted "Most likely to start a Jihad"
1. Signed off on all Al-Qaeda correspondence with "Zarqawi, out"
-- Brent Baker