November 3, 2005 (Washington, DC) A new Media Matters for America analysis shows that, in reporting Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-KS) response to Democratic complaints that he has delayed a Senate Intelligence Committee report about the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence, many news organizations ignored Roberts' history of contradictory statements. In addition, Media Matters showed that initial coverage of the November 1 closed session of the U.S. Senate by CNN and Fox News largely omitted statements by Democrats explaining their reasons for forcing the closed session, focusing instead on Republican criticism of the Democratic action.
Following the closed session, the media echoed Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Roberts's claim that the move was merely "a petty public stunt to attack me personally," while dismissing his prior contradictory statements about the long awaited release of "Phase 2" of his committee's inquiry into pre-Iraq war intelligence. For example, in July of 2004, Roberts said, "It is one of my top priorities," and then in March of 2005, said the investigation is "on the back burner," calling it a "monumental waste of time." Media Matters has documented numerous contradictory statements by Roberts since July 2004, which can be found here: http://mediamatters.org/items/200511020003
"While it is unfortunate that Senator Roberts continues to downplay the promise he made to provide answers on whether the Bush administration misused CIA intelligence in the buildup to the Iraq War, it's perhaps more unfortunate that the media would allow him to spin so wildly without holding him to account for the blatant contradictions he's made over the past 16 months," said David Brock, President and CEO of Media Matters for America.
The unfiltered Republican spin over Tuesday's closed Senate session began almost immediately after Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) motion for Rule 21 was carried. From 2:27 p.m. until 2:41 p.m., three Democratic senators, Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Charles D. Schumer (D-NY), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), held a press conference to explain the rationale for the secret session. A Republican press conference featuring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sens. Trent Lott (R-MS), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Rick Santorum (R-PA), followed, from 2:47 p.m. until 3:01 p.m. CNN covered the Republican event for 11.5 minutes, while airing only 2 minutes of the Democrats' comments. FOX News aired the Republican press conference uninterrupted from 2:47 to 2:57 p.m. and did not broadcast any of the Democratic senators' comments.
"Neither CNN or FOX News were very 'fair and balanced' in their coverage of Tuesday's closed session in the U.S. Senate," added Brock. "Their viewers were shown little or no coverage of the Democrats' comments, but were given more than 10 straight minutes of comments by Republicans."