Bozell claimed media refused to give Bush "the benefit of the doubt" on Iraq's ties to terror

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

L. Brent Bozell III claimed that "the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists" because of what Bozell described as their "refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt." In fact, various media experts and major newspapers tell a very different story -- that the media failed to effectively question the administration's attempt to link Iraq to Al Qaeda in the run-up to the war, a link that has since been discredited by the September 11 Commission.

In his February 28 syndicated column, Media Research Center (MRC) president L. Brent Bozell III claimed that "the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists" because of what Bozell described as their "refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt." In fact, various media experts and major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post tell a very different story -- that the media failed to effectively question the administration's attempt to link Iraq to Al Qaeda in the run-up to the war, a link that has since been discredited by the September 11 Commission.

As Media Matters for America has noted, "Staff Statement 15" of the 9-11 Commission's report documented not only that Iraq did not collaborate with Al Qaeda in any of Al Qaeda's attacks against the United States, but also that Iraq did not provide Al Qaeda with training, funding, or any other assistance worthy of note.

Yet many media experts and major media outlets agree that critics who could have questioned the administration's claims of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link were underrepresented in the media during the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, and in news reporting, the Bush administration's unfounded statements linking Iraq to Al Qaeda were not effectively challenged or investigated. As the Christian Science Monitor reported in a February 11, 2004, article, some media experts "say the US media was far too sycophantic in their coverage of the Bush administration's positions on Iraq."

Perhaps most significantly, both The New York Times and The Washington Post have acknowledged that they failed to question or investigate many of the administration's claims in the run-up to the war and ignored those who did. Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. has acknowledged that, in its coverage leading up to the invasion, the Post "didn't pay enough attention" to the "voices raising questions about the war." The Times editorial board has similarly conceded that the newspaper's coverage of the administration's claims was "not as rigorous as it should have been," and that many dubious claims were "insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged."

From Bozell's February 28 column, titled "TV Yawns at Saddam Tapes":

For the last few years, the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists. The lion's share of media attention has been focused on the errors, setbacks, and depredations of the American military and their commanders. They've been insistent in their refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt about the Iraqi thug's connection to terrorism, and jump at the opportunity to denounce the administration, believing instead the words of Osama bin Laden.

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