Peter Jennings, Voice of al-Jazeera? Relays Anti-U.S. Complaints --4/8/2004
2. Rather Treats as Newsworthy Enemy's Claim Iraq "Another Vietnam"
3. Retired General Sets Gibson Straight on His Dour View of Iraq
4. For Expertise on Rice's Appearance, CNN Turns to...Anita Hill
5. Sawyer Retorts Willis Claim Same President Needed to Stay Course
Peter Jennings, the voice of al-Jazeera? On a day of continued anti-U.S. fighting by extremist elements in Iraq, Jennings opened Wednesday's World News Tonight on ABC by stressing how "the U.S. is being hammered editorially all over the Arab media. On one of the Arab television channels today people are heard to ask, 'is this the freedom which the U.S. promised?'" After recounting a battle in which insurgents used mosques, David Wright relayed, over al-Jazeera video, how "the casualties appear to include many civilians." As viewers saw video of an injured kid in a bed, Wright elevated the emotional impact by translating his plea: "'Why do they have to do this?' said this boy from his hospital bed. 'So many dead and I can't walk anymore Why?'"
NBC Nightly News and CNN's NewsNight ran stories on how Arab TV is covering the conflict by focusing only on the supposed victims of the U.S. military, but neither of those networks read aloud such a complaint from an injured person.
Jennings, anchoring from Washington, DC, led the April 7 broadcast by running through the battles of the day in Iraq. Joining him mid-way through his re-cap, he intoned:
In a subsequent story, David Wright in Baghdad provided a rundown of what occurred in a battle in Fallujah: "According to the U.S. military the insurgents used two of the mosques as fortified positions from which they fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine guns. The Marines called in an air strike. At first their commanders refused, eventually from air and ground they damaged both mosques and killed dozens of people inside."
But that doesn't inhibit ABC News when they have al-Jazeera as a source.
CBS's Dan Rather and ABC's Peter Jennings did their best on Wednesday night to advance Senator Ted Kennedy's notion that Iraq is "Bush's Vietnam," though neither mentioned the Senator as they raised the comparison to the earlier quagmire. Rather treated the allegation of the enemy as newsworthy as he announced at the top of the CBS Evening News: "In Najaf, the militant Shiite cleric Al-Sadr echoed the refrain Iraq could become quote, 'another Vietnam' for America." Over on ABC's World News Tonight, Jennings sat down with two retired military leaders and when one noted that though the U.S. military is superior, it cannot eliminate the threat from an insurgency, Jennings jumped in: "Well that sounds like Vietnam."
Rather made the situation in Iraq seem as dire as possible as he teased at the start of the April 7 CBS Evening News: "Tonight it's a city by city, street by street battle to fight down Iraqi rebellions..."
Rather then led his broadcast: "The renewed battle for control of Iraq raged for a fourth day today with street clashes in nearly ever corner of the country. Fighting was especially intense in towns west of Baghdad, towns in the so-called 'Sunni Triangle.' U.S. Marines, under heavy fire from two mosque areas in Fallujah, called in air strikes, killing dozens of Iraqis. Since Monday, at least 15 Marines have died in fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. In Najaf, the militant Shiite cleric al-Sadr echoed the refrain Iraq could become quote, 'another Vietnam' for America."
On screen, CBS displayed a map of Iraq with flashing lights in areas with fighting. As Rather quoted al-Sadr, CBS highlighted his words with text on screen:
Rather finished his opening summary: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld downplayed the importance of the new fighting, but said the U.S. may boost its forces in Iraq by keeping some troops scheduled for rotation there longer than promised."
(CBS made no mention of how Muqtada al-Sadr's words matched the theme expressed by Ted Kennedy on Tuesday, though Bill Plante did highlight how on the Senate floor on Wednesday Senator Robert Byrd declared, in reference to calls for more troops to go to Iraq: "Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development." Plante followed with a clip of Senator John McCain insisting now is not the time to panic or to cut and run.)
On ABC's World News Tonight, Jennings sat at a table with retired Lt. General Gregory Newbold, former Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Major General William Nash, a former commander in the Gulf War and in Bosnia.
In the taped and edited session, Jennings asked late in the segment: "I think that one of the things the public probably doesn't get at the moment, is here's the United States with the largest, most potent military force in the world and soldiers and Marines continue to be killed."
Setting Charlie Gibson straight. Channeling the narrow view of Iraq seen via television's focus on violent scenes, on Wednesday's Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson proposed to retired General Jack Keane that the military situation is going badly, that the U.S. is losing control of the country and that the U.S. attacks on the extremist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are making him more popular. In each case, Keane rejected Gibson's dour perspective.
Gibson contended that "the ferocity of the fighting that is going on up around Fallujah and the number of casualties that we've now taken in the last couple of days, and the fact that we're fighting in so many cities -- from a military stand point, we got troubles, don't we?"
When Gibson suggested that "it seems each day as if we have less" control over Iraq, Keane fired back: "No we don't." And when Gibson argued that the more the U.S. takes on al-Sadr the more support he gets, Keane pointed out that the crowds you see on TV don't convey how he does "not represent the views of the Shia majority."
Gibson began his April 7 in-studio interview with retired General Jack Keane, the former Vice Chief-of-Staff of the U.S. Army:
And, he could have added, on the part of journalists watching TV pictures from afar and assuming failure.
Gibson's next question: "Alright, given the number of areas where there's fighting going on, you're the military man, do we need more troops over there?"
Gibson moved on to whether troops will be required to stay longer and what tactics could be used to regain control of Fallujah.
Gibson then queried: "The number of casualties. As a military man, does that begin to eat into the morale of your troops?"
With National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice set to testify before the 9/11 Commission the next day, the minds of CNN producers naturally were reminded of...Anita Hill! Apparently thinking solely along a racial basis, CNN's American Morning on Wednesday featured an interview with Hill, the discredited accuser against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and asked her to draw "parallels" with Rice, a respected foreign policy expert who has earned her top level position.
Co-host Heidi Collins proposed to Hill: "Like you, Condoleezza Rice is going to be facing some very highly-anticipated public testimony. How difficult is it to step into the spotlight when all of that attention is focused on you?" Collins also tried to link the plight of the two women: "Your situation was very much about conflicting testimony. 'He said, she said,' if you will. Is that the case here? Of course, referring to Richard Clarke versus Condoleezza Rice, if you will."
The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed CNN's news judgment in bringing aboard Hill via satellite, and the MRC's Ken Shepherd checked the transcript against the tape.
Collins set up the April 7 session: "At this time tomorrow, Condoleezza Rice will be testifying before the 9/11 Commission. Live coverage right here on CNN. As national security adviser, Rice is accustomed to being in the fish bowl. Back in 1991, Anita Hill was a little known law professor when she was thrust into the glare of the Washington spotlight. It was during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill joins us now from Watertown, Massachusetts. Good morning, Ms. Hill. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate your time this morning."
Collins' first question: "You know, of course, your situation was very, very different from what Condoleezza Rice is going through right now, but there are some parallels to make. Like you, Condoleezza Rice is going to be facing some very highly-anticipated public testimony. How difficult is it to step into the spotlight when all of that attention is focused on you?"
Sawyer comes to Kerry's defense. When actor Bruce Willis a rare conservative in Hollywood, praised the successes in Iraq, declared that "it would be a terrible sin to abandon the Iraqi people now" and argued that "I think it would be a drastic mistake to change administrations now while we're still at war," ABC's Diane Sawyer retorted on Wednesday's Good Morning America: "Well, somebody might argue that changing American Presidents doesn't mean abandoning the Iraqi people."
The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught this exchange, on the April 7 GMA, between Sawyer and Willis in a taped interview segment to promote Willis' new movie, The Whole Ten Yards:
Sawyer: "Bruce Willis flew into war-torn Iraq not long ago to thank the troops."
For a picture of Willis, though with hair despite the fact he's shaved his head, and a rundown of his movie and TV credits, check his page on the Internet Movie Database: imdb.com
# "Burning Blair: Is there an irrelevant, disgraced ex-journalist in the House?" National Review Online on Wednesday posted a review, by Clay Waters, Director of the MRC's Times Watch project, of Jayson Blair's little-purchased book. Go to: www.nationalreview.com
For the latest on bias in the New York Times, check the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker