Fox News' Brit Hume and Carl Cameron both took issue with Sen. Harry Reid's statement that in allowing state-owned Dubai Ports World (DPW) to manage terminal operations at six major U.S. ports, the Bush administration gave "another country control of our ports." Cameron retorted that DPW "is not taking control of any U.S. ports" and Hume later claimed that Reid's assertion was "factually challenged." However, numerous Fox News reporters and anchors -- including Hume himself -- have described DPW as "assuming control" of the ports.
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On the February 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, both chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron and host Brit Hume took issue with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) statement that in allowing Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- to manage terminal operations at six major U.S. ports, the Bush administration gave "another country control of our ports." Cameron retorted that DPW "is not taking control of any U.S. ports," and Hume later claimed that Reid's assertion was "factually challenged." But if Reid is "factually challenged" in his use of the word "control," then so is Fox News. Since the ports controversy erupted, numerous Fox News reporters and anchors -- including Hume himself -- have described DPW as assuming "control" of the ports.
DPW recently purchased the British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O) in a $6.8 billion deal, thereby acquiring the leases to terminals at six major U.S. ports. Lawmakers from both parties have objected to the Bush administration's approval of the deal, many claiming that the administration flouted the law by failing to conduct a full review of its national security implications. In response to these concerns, DPW offered on February 26 to submit itself to the full review and has suspended the part of the transaction relating to U.S. ports pending further approval.
If members of Congress and the Bush administration ultimately agree to allow the transfer of these leases, DPW would assume control of the terminal operations at ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans. Whether this can accurately be described as "controlling" the ports is a matter of dispute. Supporters of the deal have noted that ownership of the terminals would remain in the hands of the public, and that both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the U.S. Coast Guard will still perform the work of checking cargo and overseeing security. Critics have countered that, regardless of the oversight provided by these agencies, meeting federal security standards "is the job of the port operators."
On this edition of Special Report, Cameron was the first to object to Reid's characterization of DPW as "taking control" of U.S. ports:
CAMERON: The deal will be reinvestigated for 45 days by the same administration panel that already approved the transaction, the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment [sic] in the U.S., or CFIUS.
Unsatisfied, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accused the Bush administration of, quote, "dangerous incompetence that has left America less secure."
REID: How in the world was the decision made to give another country control of our ports? It's not another company taking control of our ports. It's another country.
CAMERON: But the UAE-owned firm is not taking control of any U.S. ports. It will simply operate terminals loading and off-loading cargo. Security and port ownership remain entirely in U.S. hands.
Later in the show, Hume replayed the clip of Reid and similarly asserted that "they [DPW] are not getting control of the ports." He later claimed that Reid's statement had been "factually challenged":
REID: How in the world was the decision made to give another country control of our ports? It's not another company taking control of our ports. It's another country. This is a state-owned company.
HUME: In fact, Senator Reid is right. Dubai Ports World is owned by the United Arab Emirates. However, they are not getting control of the ports. They are getting management of some parts of some ports. But never mind.
HUME: Now, Nina [Easton, Boston Globe deputy Washington bureau chief], let's assume, for example, we have -- everybody has kind of said what they were going to say, and they said it again today, and made a bit more news with it today. Harry Reid made some news, even though some of what he said was factually challenged.
But Cameron's unqualified objections to Reid's statement and Hume's assertion that Reid was "factually challenged" not only ignore the issues in dispute, they implicate Fox News' own reporting. Indeed, in the past week on Special Report, Hume and Fox News correspondent Major Garrett have repeatedly described DPW as assuming "control" of U.S. ports. For example, on the February 20 edition of the show, Garrett used such language to describe the deal:
GARRETT: Dubai Ports World may also gain control of two other U.S. ports in Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas, both now managed by Peninsula and Oriental.
On the February 21 edition, both Garrett and Hume employed the term "control" in reporting on the story:
GARRETT: President Bush today defended his administration's approval of a deal giving the company owned by the United Arab Emirates control of cargo operations at six major U.S. ports.
HUME: Arab Americans are blaming the uproar over that Arab company assuming control over some U.S. ports not on security concerns but on bigotry.
Hume characterized the controversy as over "who should control some of the nation's ports" on the February 22 edition of Special Report:
HUME: The Bush administration was trying today to dig itself out of a political hole on the question of who should control some of the nation's ports.
Numerous other Fox News anchors and reporters have used similar language in recent days, including hosts John Gibson, Sean Hannity, Bill Hemmer, and Eric Burns, and anchors Uma Pemmaraju and Page Hopkins.
From the February 20 edition of Fox News Live:
PEMMARAJU: Well as we've been reporting, a firestorm of criticism rising over plans to give control of some major U.S. ports to a company from the United Arab Emirates. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to block the deal.
From the February 21 edition of Fox News Live:
HEMMER: In a moment, from Washington, now, the head of the Senate, Bill Frist [R-TN], is saying that the White House should review this case about this company out of United Arab Emirates to control U.S. ports -- half a dozen major ports. And if the White House doesn't do it, he says he's gonna fight for legislation to stop it.
HOPKINS: Fear that terrorists could sneak weapons of mass destruction through American ports igniting a firestorm of criticism against a deal to give an Arab firm control of six U.S ports.
From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Big Story with John Gibson:
GIBSON: President Bush vows to veto any effort to stop Dubai Ports World from taking control of six major seaports.
From the February 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: As we continue on Hannity & Colmes, President Bush today assured Americans that the plan to allow a United Arab Emirates-owned company to control six U.S. ports would not compromise national security.
From the February 25 edition of Fox News Watch:
BURNS: The president wants a government-owned company from the United Arab Emirates to take over control of six major American ports.