In their coverage of Saddam Hussein's November 5 guilty verdict, several print news outlets reported U.S. officials' assertions that the announcement had not been timed to coincide with the midterm elections but ignored reporting that conflicts with these denials -- in particular, the fact that the full verdict in Saddam's trial is not set to be released until November 9.
Fox News' Steve Harrigan underwent what he described as three "phase[s]" of the controversial interrogation technique known as "waterboarding," on camera, concluding that the technique is "a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes." Psychologists have asserted that "such forms of near-asphyxiation" can lead to long-term psychological damage.
A New York Times article uncritically reported White House press secretary Tony Snow's assertion that it is "preposterous" to suggest that the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein "was timed to coincide with this week's elections in the United States," despite the U.S. government's heavy influence on the tribunal that tried Saddam and the Bush administration's history of reportedly timing Iraq- or terrorism-related actions to the U.S. political calendar.
Fox News' John Gibson repeatedly asserted -- falsely -- that because The New York Times reported that the United States had posted Iraqi documents related to constructing an atomic bomb, the Times "said today Saddam had nukes." Similarly, conservative radio host Pat Campbell falsely suggested that the Times reported Iraq was "a year away from making the atomic bomb" at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In fact, Iraq did not have nuclear weapons in 2003 or at any time -- including prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- and Iraq did not have a nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Contradicting her earlier reporting, The Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer reported that "U.S. officials close to the trial deny" that they have the "power to set [the] date" for the announcement of Saddam Hussein's verdict. Knickmeyer had previously reported that the U.S. government "run[s] much of the day-to-day arrangements for the trial."
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos prompted Cheney to again blame the recent upsurge of violence in Iraq on an insurgent "strategy" to "influence" the midterm elections, asking Cheney if "that mean[s] that a Democratic victory is a victory for the insurgents," not mentioning the administration's recent pattern of attempting to extract political benefit from the ebb and flow of violence in Iraq by claiming success in both increases and decreases in levels of violence in Iraq.
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."
Matt Lauer asked former White House chief of staff Andrew Card whether he "question[s] the timing" of a New York Times report that documents that weapons experts say "constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb" were posted on a government website functioning as a clearinghouse for documents found in Iraq. Separately, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell asked NBC's Andrea Mitchell if the report "helps the [Bush] administration by reminding people about potential weapons of mass destruction that were developed before the first Gulf War."
Fox & Friends co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson touted articles on right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com and in the The New York Sun purporting to show that, in Carlson's words, "[s]enior terrorist leaders" have indicated "that they hope Americans sweep the Democrats into power because of the party's position on withdrawing from Iraq."
A November 2 Washington Times editorial suggested that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi would eliminate "funding for military operations in Iraq," citing Pelosi's October 2003 vote "against the $87 billion supplemental appropriation to fund the war effort." Pelosi supported an alternate funding proposal that she claimed "did more for our troops and was fiscally responsible."
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