Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III and right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin have trumpeted the recent controversy over a retracted Newsweek article as evidence of "liberal" or "anti-military" bias in the media. To further this allegation, they also used the Newsweek story to attack another example of supposedly "biased" reporting: coverage of the alleged looting of explosives from the Al Qaqaa weapons facility in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion. Bozell derided the Al Qaqaa story as "ridiculous," while Malkin cited the media's "hyping" of the story as an example of "bias." The evidence, however, strongly suggests that Al Qaqaa was in fact looted of its high explosives after U.S. troops had passed through the site, and though conservatives tried aggressively to dismiss or debunk the story, their objections to it have been discredited.
The New York Times first reported on October 25, 2004, that Iraqis looted the weapons facility after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
On the May 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Bozell alleged that the Newsweek story fit into a pattern of "personal attacks" on the Bush administration by the "hard left" in the media -- a pattern that includes the Al Qaqaa story:
BOZELL: Look, Sean [Hannity, co-host], you and I have talked about this on the air on countless occasions. This is what the hard left has been reduced to. They can't debate conservatives. They can't debate George Bush on the issue. It's just attack, attack, attack, attack. Personal attacks. Personal attacks. We saw it with the National Guard story. We saw it with the Al Qaqaa ridiculous story. Now you're seeing it with this [Newsweek] story.
Malkin similarly used the Newsweek controversy to allege a pattern of "entrenched, anti-military" bias in the media in her May 18 nationally syndicated column, then cited other examples of what she said was "bias," including "the hyping of stories like the military's purported failure to stop looting of explosives at al Qa Qaa right before the 2004 presidential election -- stories that have since dropped off the face of the earth."
In fact, strong evidence exists that the Al Qaqaa weapons facility was looted after the invasion, including eyewitness accounts from American soldiers [Los Angeles Times,11/4/04] and a video of Al Qaqaa, recorded by a Minnesota television crew, indicating that high explosives were present at Al Qaqaa two weeks after U.S. troops first arrived at the site.
Moreover, efforts by conservatives to debunk the story do not hold up. As Media Matters for America documented, conservatives in the media falsely claimed that an NBC News report debunked the story; touted a Washington Times article that falsely claimed Russian troops had removed the explosives; and simply denied the truth of the reports without citing specific objections.
Additionally, Malkin's assertion that the Al Qaqaa story has "dropped off the face of the earth" is false. The New York Times has twice revisited the story, on March 13 and April 26. The Associated Press also followed up the story on April 15. -- S.S.M.