Echoing Cavuto's baseless criticism of Haditha coverage, Thomas blamed media for covering -- and not covering -- violence in Iraq

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On Fox News Watch, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas complained of "an imbalance" in the media coverage of the alleged killings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, because "[e]very time we see one of these atrocities ... we never hear much about the atrocities of the other side. Certainly not by name, certainly not the killing of women and children and innocent people on the other side." But Thomas has previously alleged that the media focus too heavily on the violence in Iraq and that public opposition to the war in Iraq is a direct result of such reporting.

On the June 3 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas complained of "an imbalance" in the media coverage of the alleged killings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, because "[e]very time we see one of these atrocities ... we never hear much about the atrocities of the other side. Certainly not by name, certainly not the killing of women and children and innocent people on the other side." But Thomas has previously alleged that the media focus too heavily on the violence in Iraq and that public opposition to the war in Iraq is a direct result of such reporting.

For instance, on the August 20, 2005, edition of Fox News Watch, Thomas suggested that the media's mentality in covering Iraq and the war on terror is that "[i]f it bleeds, it leads." Thomas complained that such coverage provided "an incomplete picture" and argued for more coverage of "[p]ositive things" in Iraq. He concluded:

Now, look: "If it bleeds, it leads" might be fine for the local crime story, but this is a world war. It seems to me the media have a responsibility, a journalistic responsibility, to inform the people fully so they can make up their own minds.

More recently, Thomas has articulated a similar argument. On the March 18 edition of Fox News Watch, media writer Neal Gabler commented that "we're on the verge of civil war, it hasn't turned out the way it was supposed to have turned out, the casualties have been enormous. This is not good." Thomas responded by suggesting that the media's coverage of Iraq focused excessively on the negative and that such coverage was eroding public support of the war, stating it was "incumbent upon" President Bush "to tell more of the story." Thomas argued that Iraqi insurgents "think they're winning when they read polls and they see the American media coverage" is "discouraging" the public.

Thomas' contradictory complaints about the media's coverage of Iraq echoed those made by Fox News host Neil Cavuto, who argued on May 31 that the media were "bias[ed]" for covering insurgent attacks, but complained on June 1 that the media are "bias[ed]" for covering the Haditha allegations while providing "virtually no coverage" of insurgent attacks.

From the June 3 edition of Fox News Watch:

JANE HALL [Fox News contributor and weekly panelist on Fox News Watch]: Well, I think we are. And let me make what may sound like an opposite point, or a conservative point, which is: We've got -- what -- 130,000 troops over there? I do think that the United States military is held to a higher standard, and I think the media need to put this story in context, however it comes out.

THOMAS: Every time we see one of these atrocities -- and they are, if they're true, atrocities -- we never hear much about the atrocities of the other side. Certainly not by name, certainly not the killing of women and children and innocent people on the other side. That is an imbalance.

From the August 20, 2005, Fox News Watch:

THOMAS: Does the media go out and take these polls, the polls are based on perceptions of the people who are getting their news from The Washington Post, New York Times, and the major television media. If it is an incomplete picture, then their opinions cannot be fully formed.

There were 700 embedded journalists at the beginning of this war; there are only about three dozen right now. And what prompted this AP consideration was a lot of soldiers coming back and telling their relatives that they were doing and seeing things and the relatives were saying, "Wait a minute, we never read that in our newspaper."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Positive things.

THOMAS: Positive things. Building schools, handing out candy to kids. Now look: "If it bleeds, it leads" might be fine for the local crime story, but this is a world war. It seems to me the media have a responsibility, a journalistic responsibility, to inform the people fully so they can make up their own minds.

From the March 18 Fox News Watch:

GABLER: Absolutely. Let's face it: Even now, this is not a stellar moment in the history of media coverage. This is going to rank with the Spanish-American War.

But in the ramp-up to the war, they were cheerleaders. They did not ask tough, hard questions. For the first two and a half years of the war, they virtually bought the Bush line, hook, line, and sinker. And believe me, there are a lot of mea culpas that ought to be issued out there, especially by the right-wing press.

But lately -- I mean, it is -- it is undeniably, except being denied by Bush and [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld and [Vice President Dick] Cheney -- this war is a disaster. And there is no way that the press -- to the extent it can cover the war, which is very difficult for them to do -- can say anything other than the fact that we're on the verge of civil war, it hasn't turned out the way it was supposed to have turned out, the casualties have been enormous. This is not good.

THOMAS: The president should be reminding the public, and we should be reminding ourselves, that the media war is an important component in [Al Qaeda leader] Osama bin Laden's strategy, and those who are insurgents in Iraq. It's fine for the president to say that -- what he just said in that sound bite. But what is he doing to counter it with information that proves his point?

He ought to be having Iraqis over here. He ought to be having Kurds praising the United States. He should have had the mayor of Tal Afar, who wrote this incredible letter -- I think I'm the only columnist that wrote about it -- praising the troops and thanking them for liberating his town. Where are the pictures? Where are the people who are benefiting?

GABLER: Yeah, but -- but Cal, you're talking about PR.

THOMAS: I am.

GABLER: We're talking about reporting.

THOMAS: No. No. Well, but he's saying -- he's making the case that basically one side of the story has been told. It's incumbent upon him to tell more of the story, if there's one to tell.

GABLER: On him, but not on reporters.

THOMAS: Well, them, too.

[...]

THOMAS: Once again, Osama bin Laden has said that Vietnam, "Black Hawk Down," Lebanon, all of this stuff is his model. And General [Vo Nguyen] Giap, of course, from North Vietnam, said, "We knew we couldn't win the war on the ground. We had to use the American media to undermine the resolve of the American people." Three years is nothing. They think they're winning when they read polls and they see the American media coverage going discouraging on us.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Cal Thomas
Show/Publication
FOX News Watch
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