During Tony Snow's recent series of appearances on cable news channels, interviewers on CNN and Fox News left unchallenged a number of false, misleading, and baseless Republican talking points on a variety of issues. After allowing Snow to misrepresent the Democratic position on the surveillance and detention of suspected terrorists, CNN host Wolf Blitzer told Snow that he is "a straight shooter."
Numerous news outlets -- including the Los Angeles Times, ABC, CNN, and CNBC -- uncritically reported President Bush's false claim that Democrats oppose "listening to," "detaining," "questioning," and "trying the terrorists." In fact, Democrats have repeatedly acknowledged the need to eavesdrop on, detain, question, and try terrorists, while objecting to specific Bush administration antiterrorism policies that they consider to be violations of current U.S. or international law, or unwarranted expansions of presidential powers.
On Fox News Sunday, Michael Barone falsely claimed that Democrats would prefer to "hang up the phone and go to court," rather than "listening to what ... terrorists are plotting." In fact, Democrats -- and numerous Republicans and conservatives -- have said nothing of the sort, pointing to a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Bush administration has apparently violated, that allows the government to undertake surveillance in emergency situations for up to 72 hours before obtaining a warrant.
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Although Washington Post, New York Times, and Reuters reports on President Bush's signing of the Military Commissions Act included general criticism of the legislation, they were all silent on its most controversial provision: allowing the president to detain noncitizens in the United States or abroad for any reason, indefinitely.
In her report on President Bush's signing of the controversial detainee bill, ABC's Martha Raddatz noted Sen. Russ Feingold's general opposition to the bill but gave no indication of Feingold's specific criticism -- that the bill "allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court." Nightly news broadcasts on NBC and CBS devoted little attention to the bill's signing and ignored Democratic criticism of it altogether.
In their coverage of President Bush's signing later that morning of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell reported that "there has been plenty of controversy" surrounding the bill but did not elaborate on what that controversy might be, while ABC News' Kate Snow did not mention that there is opposition to the bill, much less any of the reasons for that opposition.
In an interview with former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep failed to challenge Yoo's many assertions on the recently passed terror detainee bill, including the claim that a U.S. citizen captured in the United States and detained as an "enemy combatant" would have the "right," under this law, to challenge his or her detention in federal court.
On Special Report, Fox News' Major Garrett falsely suggested that the House's approval of a bill to govern detention and interrogations of U.S. detainees would allow all detainees to challenge their detention in court. In fact, the bill does not provide a procedure for a person who the government initially held as an enemy combatant but is subsequently determined not to be an "enemy combatant" or deemed release-eligible to appeal to a civilian court.
Los Angeles Times staff writer James Gerstenzang reported that the recently released National Intelligence Estimate said "that the militant movement opposing U.S. forces in Iraq had grown stronger." In fact, the NIE found that the Iraq war has boosted terrorist recruitment worldwide. By downplaying the NIE's judgments, Gerstenzang failed to provide proper context for the Democratic criticism noted in the article and added credence to President Bush's recent attack on those critics.
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Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer baselessly asserted that the September 22 deal struck by Republican senators and President Bush on the detention, interrogation, and trial of detainees "shows how we do things in a democracy -- out in the open, and in accordance with the law, even when dealing with the worst of the worst." In fact, the details of the agreement are largely unknown. Schieffer also allowed Sen. John McCain to suggest that Democrats are the reason, in Schieffer's words, that Congress "can't seem to get anything done," even though Republicans control both houses of Congress and the presidency.
Matt Lauer failed to ask Sen. John McCain if he still trusts the White House to abide by the terms of a deal on detainee treatment, in light of President Bush's signing statement accompanying McCain's anti-torture bill in December 2005.
Brit Hume uncritically reported Alberto Gonzales's defense of the Bush administration's alleged decision to send a Canadian-Syrian citizen to Syria, where he was tortured and falsely confessed to terrorist affiliations, as documented in a recently released Canadian judicial report. Hume failed to note that Syria reportedly has a history of using torture.