2. CBS Profile Denies Rather Biased, He Blames His Passion for Image
Though Giuliana Sgrena is hurling accusations that her car did not ignore commands to stop and was fired upon at a checkpoint because she was targeted by U.S. troops in Iraq, with rare exception the networks have not considered relevant to her credibility how she's a vociferous critic of U.S. policy in Iraq and works for a communist newspaper in Rome. Stories over the weekend and on Monday about the wounding of her and the killing of the Italian agent, Nicola Calipari, who rescued her from her kidnappers, repeatedly described her just as an "Italian journalist," "Italian reporter" or "former hostage." NBC's Keith Miller made a rare exception Sunday night when he identified her newspaper, Il Manifesto, as "communist." On Monday night, Dan Rather led with how "U.S. troops opened fire on a car carrying an Italian reporter" and "the reporter insists she was deliberately targeted." Kimberly Dozier soon relayed how "many Iraqi officials have complained American soldiers too often fire first and check what they hit later."
ABC's Peter Jennings, on Monday's World News Tonight, narrated footage of the funeral for the agent taking the "Italian journalist" to airport and referred to how "the journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, was wounded." Martha Raddatz proceeded to outline Sgrena's "sensational charges against the U.S." of how she was shot on purpose, as well as the military's contrary sequence of events.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams began with the case as he described how inside the car fired upon "was an Italian journalist who had just been released." After noting how the agents is being treated as a hero in Italy, he related the charge that the U.S. "targeted the journalist intentionally." Jim Miklaszewski ran through the conflicting scenarios about what happened. He cited how "Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was also wounded in the shooting."
In the morning on Monday, though Keith Miller's Sunday night story had noted how Sgrena's newspaper was a communist one, the version of Miller's piece run on Today, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, did not. Co-host Lester Holt announced: "Those U.S. troops opened fire Friday night on a car carrying an Italian journalist. She had just been freed from captivity. She was wounded and an Italian intelligence operator was killed." Couric set up Miller's story by referring to how "over the weekend the former hostage said she couldn't rule out that U.S. troops may have deliberately targeted her."
Over on ABC's Good Morning America, Martin Seemungal's 8am news update story from Rome made no mention of Sgrena's communist preferences and neither did some brief items on CBS's Early Show, the MRC's Brian Boyd noted.
The major newspapers, which usually guide network news priorities, identified Sgrena's newspaper as communist, if several paragraphs into their stories. "Italian Journalist Shot in Iraq Rejects U.S. Account," read the headline over the Sunday New York Times story from Rome by Jason Horowitz. His fourth paragraph began: "Ms. Sgrena, a 56-year-old reporter for the communist daily Il Manifesto was hit with shrapnel in the shoulder in the shooting Friday night at a checkpoint in western Baghdad...." See: www.nytimes.com
Otherwise, the networks on Saturday night began their avoidance of Sgrena's politics. Check out how the three broadcast networks opened their March 5 newscasts:
-- ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday: "Good evening. I'm Bob Woodruff. In Italy today, a journalist has begun to tell the most harrowing story of her life. Giuliana Sgrena had been freed by her captors in Iraq and on the way to the Baghdad Airport when U.S. troops opened fire on her car. The man who secured her release was killed in what Sgrena described today as a rain of bullets. The Italian people and their leaders say they deserve an explanation. ABC's Mike Lee has the story from Rome."
-- CBS Evening News. Anchor Thalia Assuras: "Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the bittersweet return home of an Italian journalist who had been held captive in Iraq for more than a month. Bittersweet, because her freedom was accompanied by tragedy. Late tonight, the body of the Italian Secret Service agent who helped negotiate her release arrived in Italy. He was killed yesterday after U.S. forces fired on her rescue convoy. The incident has also strained U.S.-Italian relations. Here's Allen Pizzey."
Pizzey avoided labeling her newspaper: "The editor of her newspaper, Il Manifesto, which opposes the war in Iraq, said it was a 'consequence of a situation completely out of control.'"
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor John Seigenthaler: "Good evening, everyone. Italy is mourning the death of one of its top intelligence agents tonight. The agent was shot and killed, apparently by U.S. troops in Iraq as he helped rescue an Italian journalist who had been held hostage for a month and was also wounded by U.S. forces. The body of Nicola Calipari was returned to Rome tonight just one day after a drama unfolded on the dangerous road to the Baghdad Airport. And the Italian journalist he saved is now telling her story. We begin our coverage tonight with NBC's Keith Miller in Rome."
The next night, Sunday, ABC held itself to a brief item read by anchor Terry Moran.
Sunday CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts set up a story: "A state funeral will be held tomorrow for the Italian intelligence agent who was shot and killed by U.S. forces on the Baghdad Airport Road on Friday. Allen Pizzey reports from Rome that in the shootings' aftermath, the questions and the outrage are mounting fast."
Pizzey reported how Calipari "is being turned into an icon for everything the majority of Italians say is wrong about the war in Iraq."
Over on Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Keith Miller reported how "on Friday night, after winning freedom for journalist Giuliana Sgrena, he [Calipari] reportedly shielded her when American troops opened fire as their car sped toward Baghdad Airport. Today, Sgrena, speaking from her hospital bed by telephone, said the shooting may have been deliberate."
Monday's CBS Evening News, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, delivered the most sympathetic take on Sgrena's allegations, without any look at her agenda or ideology.
Dan Rather led his last Monday newscast: "Good evening. President Bush's coalition of the willing in Iraq is under severe strain tonight because of the Friday night shooting on the road to Baghdad's airport. There is increasingly sharp disagreement over exactly what happened and why in the dark of night. U.S. troops opened fire on a car carrying an Italian reporter who had just been freed by kidnappers. She was wounded. An Italian intelligence agent riding with her was killed. The reporter insists she was deliberately targeted. U.S. officials say definitely not. CBS's Kimberly Dozier has the latest on the investigation which has the potential for far-reaching effects on the long-range U.S. mission in Iraq."
Kimberly Dozier began: "The only thing undisputed in this story is that Baghdad's Airport Road is one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the world. Giuliana Sgrena had just been released by militants. The Italian intelligence team who picked her up drove her in a civilian car straight to Baghdad's airport in full darkness. Sgrena says there was relief and laughter. The next thing she heard was gunfire and her bodyguard Nicola Calipari breathing his last breath."
CBS then went to a full story from Allen Pizzey on the funeral for Calipari which "drew thousands who honored him as a hero."
The home page of the communist newspaper: www.ilmanifesto.it
Dan Rather is going out denying any liberal bias and with a CBS News bio segment dismissing any such contention. In a Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer profile, Rather attributed the liberal bias charge to how he's "a passionate" and "aggressively independent reporter" and "when you handle hot material, you're going to catch flak." In a CBS Sunday Morning review of Rather's career, Lee Cowan declared that as for the liberal label applied to Rather: "Those who know him best say Dan never played just one side of the fence." Cowan also ridiculously praised Rather for taking "responsibility" for memogate.
The March 6 Philadelphia Inquirer profile by Gail Shister included this passage:
For Shister's piece in full, "Rather: No regrets at CBS," see: www.philly.com
The MRC's Brian Boyd caught the no bias declaration from Lee Cowan in a Sunday Morning look back at Rather's career, picking up with the relevant portion when Cowan recalled how Rather was "lambasted for a combative interview with then-Vice President George Bush."
Cowan played a 1988 clip of Rather to Bush: "Then how do you explain you can't remember it and the other people at the meeting say he was apoplectic?"
Cowan also skipped over Rather's lashing out against those who realized the memos were fraudulent as he ridiculously praised Rather for taking "responsibility" for the memogate fiasco, though to this day Rather believes the memos are real.
Cowan asserted: "And it may be the lowest point in his career, the highly publicized story about President Bush's Air National Guard Service, nicknamed Memogate. His friends say they knew that Dan would do what he eventually did -- take responsibility."
A reminder of what Rather really thinks about the memogate story, as reported in the March 4 CyberAlert:
-- Brent Baker