2. ABC: "Long War" Ahead; CBS: Iraq's Military Status "Disastrous"
3. ABC Exec "Wary" of Pro-U.S. Sentiment, U.S. Troops Intimidating
4. NY Times Frets Over "Uneven" Casualties, No Dead Bodies on TV
5. "Top Ten Saddam Hussein Weekend Plans"
ABC's Peter Jennings so liked an al-Jazeera report, about how U.S. bombing supposedly killed 18 Iraqi civilians near Mosul, that he used it twice, citing it on successive editions of World News Tonight. Jennings on Thursday night: "The television network al-Jazeera reported that 18 civilians died during bombing near the northern city of Mosul." Jennings on Friday night: "The al-Jazeera network reported today that 18 people were killed near Mosul during a U.S. bombing raid."
The April 3 citation came in the midst of this rundown by Jennings of uncorroborated claims about civilian numbers:
The next night, on the Friday, April 4 World News Tonight, Jennings repeated the same allegation about what occurred in the Mosul area, as if it were fresh news:
Apparently, in his eagerness to highlight allegations about civilian victims, it's "immensely difficult" for Jennings to keep track of which claims he's already showcased.
With "U.S. intelligence sources" saying "that some of Saddam Hussein's toughest security forces are now apparently digging in, apparently willing to defend" Baghdad "block by block," ABC News Pentagon reporter John McWethy warned Peter Jennings on Friday's World News Tonight: "This could be, Peter, a long war." Jennings expressed vindication: "As many people had anticipated."
In contrast, on Friday's CBS Evening News, McWethy's Pentagon press corps colleague, David Martin, declared that Hussein's "military situation is disastrous" and so "there's every reason to believe it's only a matter of time before all of Saddam's divisions are gone."
NBC's Pentagon reporter, Jim Miklaszewski, came down closer to McWethy's take: "Tonight U.S. military officials say the next couple of days could be critical, that if the Iraqi regime does not fall quickly both sides could be in for a lengthy siege of Baghdad."
A fuller rundown of those quotes from the Friday, April 4 evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. John McWethy, after reporting on how U.S. special forces are going into Baghdad to get Iraqi regime leaders and how special forces had taken control of a dam before Iraq could destroy it and flood roads, concluded:
-- CBS Evening News. David Martin observed, after video of a man purported to be Saddam Hussein walking in the streets of Baghdad, "Saddam may look confident and in charge, but his military situation is disastrous. Enemy troops at his airport and in his suburbs and his best divisions being chewed up by a ceaseless rain of bombs and artillery shells."
-- NBC Nightly News. Jim Miklaszewski forecast from the Pentagon: "U.S. troops will keep Baghdad and the Iraqi regime isolated, cut off from the rest of Iraq, an attempt to force a possible coup and eventual surrender....And tonight U.S. military officials say the next couple of days could be critical, that if the Iraqi regime does not fall quickly both sides could be in for a lengthy siege of Baghdad."
Who is correct? Are McWethy and Miklaszewski prescient or is Martin? As they say in local television news, "only time will tell."
"I am as wary of pro-Saddam sentiment as I am of pro-United States sentiment," World News Tonight Executive Producer Paul Slavin told Friday's New York Times in contending that it is rational for an Iraqi citizen to be just as intimidated by Hussein's thugs as by American soldiers.
Slavin's attitude goes a long way to explain the reticence of reporters on World News Tonight to see popular support for the U.S. amongst the Iraqi populace.
Slavin's comments came at the very end of an April 4 story by Times reporter Jim Rutenberg on the travails of journalists in Baghdad who must work under the watchful eye of Iraqi minders.
Rutenberg quoted Slavin's equivalence of Hussein's operatives and U.S. soldiers: "If I had a bunch of fedayeen and Republican Guard around me, I'd say, 'Yeah Saddam!' But if I had a bunch of American soldiers around me, I'd say, 'Yeah America!' We're going to try not to draw any broad conclusions out of any of this."
Read the entire April 4 New York Times story, "Reporting War Under Eyes of Iraqi 'Minders,'."
World News Tonight certainly hasn't drawn "any broad conclusions" as ABC reporters with stories on the program have been, compared to other media outlets, very reluctant to concede any popular support for the U.S. troops.
Before citing Slavin's comments, Friday night on his 6pm EST FNC show, Brit Hume picked up on a Thursday night contrast, which was highlighted in Friday's CyberAlert, about how Ted Koppel in his World News Tonight story perceived only "moderately enthusiastic onlookers" for U.S. troops while CBS and NBC conveyed stories about much more enthusiastic receptions. Hume relayed this item in his April 4 "Grapevine" segment:
For more on those Thursday night reports read the April 4, 2003 CyberAlert.
Koppel represented only World News Tonight's latest effort, under the guidance of Jennings and Slavin, to downplay Iraqi public support for U.S. troops, try to attribute it to just wanting our food or to play up Iraqi disgruntlement with coalition efforts.
From previous CyberAlerts:
-- On the April 2 World News Tonight, Jennings saw the world in a remarkably similar way to Slavin's view, and painted the U.S. not as good, but as only the lesser of two evils for an average Iraqi: "In at least one Iraqi city today, at Najaf, when given the choice between irregulars and the Americans, much of the local population seemed to be with the Americans."
-- Public support for U.S. lessens the closer you get to Baghdad. Jennings announced on the April 1 World News Tonight over a map showing the progress of U.S. forces: "Countryside is changing here now, passing from desert into farmland, and one embedded reporter with the U.S. forces, beginning we think now to move forward, said earlier today: 'When we came out of the desert where they waved at us, notice they don't wave at us any more.'"
-- When the Red Crescent food trucks arrived in Safwan last week, 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 suggested the uniform expression of revulsion towards the U.S. and fidelity for Hussein was based on fear and playing to cameras: "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." See the March 27, 2003 CyberAlert.
-- They just want our food. Bob Woodruff, embedded with the Marines, wondered on March 24, in what Jennings considered "an interesting thought," whether Iraqis along the side of the road are smiling and waving because "they are welcoming the U.S. military or whether we are simply a curiosity, maybe a source of food." World News Tonight also re-ran (see March 23 CyberAlert) video of John Donvan's trip to Safwan "where we were besieged by people demanding food and water, angry that the U.S. was not providing it." Donvan warned that if humanitarian aid does not arrive soon, "the case that this war has made Iraqis' lives better gets much harder to make." See the March 25, 2003 CyberAlert.
-- ABC decided celebrating Iraqis were a ruse. Iraqis "tore down a picture of Saddam Hussein and jumped in the streets" when coalition forces arrived in Safwan -- "at least for the cameras," Peter Jennings snidely added before turning to ABC's John Donvan who maintained that when he went to Safwan "I didn't see anything like that." Donvan found residents who wanted to know: "Are you here to steal our oil?" See the March 23, 2003 CyberAlert.
But ABC reporters aren't the only ones reluctant to assume Iraqi cheers are genuine. On Friday's Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, embedded CBS reporter
John Roberts expressed his suspicions:
It's certainly not what ABC's Jennings and Slavin want to see.
Friday's postings by Clay Waters on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site dedicated to documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times.
-- Utah: Conservative, Religious, and (Naturally) Bigoted
-- It's Not Fair
-- Bring Out Your Dead
-- The "Elsewhere on the Web" section links to: Journalist William Powers labels the Times' R.W. Apple the most famous member of "The Quagmire Club" -- journalists who constantly compare the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to Vietnam. See the entire section on TimesWatch.org.
10. Setting clocks one hour ahead on time bombs
9. Antiquing with wives two and seven
8. Giving go-ahead for "Operation Run Like Hell"
7. Ordering bullet-proof mustache
6. Brunch with Geraldo
5. Boosting Republican Guard morale by playing Tony Robbins tapes
4. No plans, due to the fact that he's been dead for quite a while
3. Posing for ten thousandth giant mural
2. At Baghdad tennis club, playing doubles with doubles
1. Kissing his ass goodbye
Number 4 earned the most applause, but I laughed hardest at #6.
-- Brent Baker