Numerous conservative media figures have attacked CNN for broadcasting video footage of insurgents attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq: Pat Buchanan said that CNN "ought to be treated like Al Jazeera"; Michael Savage even claimed CNN had "committed murder" by airing the video; Brent Bozell asserted that CNN was "cavorting with the enemy to get video to put on the air in the United States to break the will of the American people."
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In recent days, conservative media figures have attacked CNN for broadcasting video footage of insurgents attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq, first shown during the October 18 edition of Anderson Cooper 360. The video, made by insurgents and obtained by CNN "through intermediaries" from the Islamic Army of Iraq, shows apparent sniper attacks on U.S. soldiers. During a portion of the tape aired on CNN, a U.S. soldier is shown sitting in a vehicle while insurgents discuss an imminent sniper attack. As a gunshot is audible, CNN briefly blacked out the video feed. The soldier is then seen slumping over, apparently having been struck. Cooper and others repeatedly referred to the video as "propaganda" during the program. Brief segments of the video were subsequently replayed on the October 19 editions of Anderson Cooper 360, American Morning, CNN Newsroom, and Your World Today, and on the October 23 edition of The Situation Room.
In response to the broadcast, numerous conservative media figures have accused CNN of seeking to undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and aiding the insurgency by broadcasting the video, while others have falsely claimed that CNN aired footage of U.S. soldiers being killed. Syndicated radio host Michael Savage even claimed CNN had "committed murder" by airing the video. For example:
- On the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin accused CNN of "figuratively flying the Islamic army flag or the Hezbollah flag on their newscasts." Host Bill O'Reilly asked Malkin, "I want to know as much about Iraq as possible. And I think the military wants to know as much about Iraq as possible. Isn't it -- isn't it if you get that kind of a video and you explain what's going on, doesn't that help us a little bit?" Malkin replied, "If you're going to run this thing the way they ran it and negotiate directly with the Islamic army or any terrorist group, you have to be very mindful of being used as a tool."
- On the October 23 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, political analyst Pat Buchanan said of CNN, "I mean, look, if they're going to play the Al Jazeera game, they ought to be treated like Al Jazeera on the battlefield and in the White House and everywhere else." Buchanan further referred to the videotape as a "snuff film."
- On the October 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Media Research Center (MRC) president L. Brent Bozell III asserted that CNN was "cavorting with the enemy to get video to put on the air in the United States to break the will of the American people." In an October 24 MRC press release, Bozell echoed Buchanan by calling the video a "terrorist snuff film."
- In an October 24 editorial, The Washington Times wrote of CNN: "Their goal here is to undermine the war effort, even if that means being a mouthpiece for terrorist propaganda." The editorial also falsely claimed that the video included footage of soldiers being killed, writing: "Instead of heroism, we see unsuspecting American soldiers being dropped one by one."
- During the October 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage attacked CNN and correspondent Michael Ware, who obtained the video for Anderson Cooper 360. Of Ware, Savage said, "I'd like to take this guy and put piano wires through his ears ... I would make certain this guy never sees the light of day again for what he just did. He killed one of our men. He just killed one of our men." Savage further charged repeatedly that "CNN has committed murder," and stated, "[Y]ou don't see it that way. You psychopathic left-wing scum think that that's freedom of the press. This is not freedom of the press. This is murder. This is cold-blooded murder." CNN obtained the film after it was recorded; Ware was not present when the insurgents were firing on U.S. troops.
- On the October 20 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh called CNN's airing of the video "terrorist propaganda, essentially," and asserted that the "unvarnished truth, that is CNN's, is that America sucks, that America is to blame, America deserves to lose." Limbaugh also claimed that CNN is "in league with the snipers."
Media Matters for America issued a press release on October 24 responding to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who called for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to remove CNN from the military's embedded journalist program because "CNN has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film." Hunter was joined by Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) in making the request.
From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: On the CNN program Anderson Cooper 360, video from the terrorist group Islamic Army of Iraq was used in a report about sniper attacks on American troops. Apparently, CNN got the video directly from the terrorists by way of a third-party negotiation. Well, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter, is outraged and wants CNN reporters removed from the battlefield. CNN says it has an obligation to report the war in Iraq in a, quote, "unvarnished way," unquote. Mr. Cooper is on vacation.
With us now, Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers and in Washington, Michelle Malkin, two ladies who never go on vacation. Always at the ready to discuss this. All right, Michelle. What do you think?
MALKIN: I think it's reprehensible, and let me tell you why. CNN has a founder who, just a couple of weeks ago, said that there was a problem with flying the American flag on American newscasts. And he was, of course, implicitly criticizing this network for doing so. These people think that we should never take sides in the war, and particularly this war on terror. But they have no problem figuratively flying the Islamic army flag or the Hezbollah flag on their newscasts. And it's all about the context. It's not just the airing of this sniper video, which undermines troop morale and undermines continuing support for what we're doing there, but it's also a whole history at CNN of choosing the wrong side, whether it's 1998 during the Tailwind scandal, when they falsely accused the -- our military of poisoning defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War. Or whether it's more recently during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, where you had Anderson Cooper admitting, yes, you know, there are Hezbollah guerrilla fighters who are orchestrating our coverage, and they just make stuff up. They're driving around ambulances trying to concoct scenes of emergency. Or more recently Nic Robertson at CNN, who basically admitted belatedly that Hezbollah was again basically directing the news segments for CNN.
O'REILLY: Yeah, they can't get into that -- they can't get into those areas unless they cooperate. But look, I don't know about morale, because everybody in Iraq knows they have snipers that are trying to kill them. So I don't know why morale would be -- would be driven down by using that footage. And that's what I want to get into. CNN, you're right, looks at itself as an international network, not an American network. There's no question it does. And it does give moral equivalency to other nations' point of view, vis-a-vis ours. [CNN chief international correspondent] Christiane Amanpour does that all day long. OK? That's their choice. They can do it. It's America. They can do it. People can watch or not watch. But this thing here is interesting. I want to know as much about Iraq as possible. And I think the military wants to know as much about Iraq as possible. Isn't it -- isn't it if you get that kind of a video and you explain what's going on, doesn't that help us a little bit?
MALKIN: Well, look, I believe in telling the unvarnished truth about what's happening in Iraq, as well. But again, it's about the context. And if you're going to run this thing the way they ran it and negotiate directly with the Islamic army or any other terrorist group, you have to be very mindful of being used as a tool.
From the October 23 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, CNN's saying that what it did was actually a tribute to servicemen who died over in Iraq. What's your take?
BUCHANAN: Oh, cut it out, for heaven's sakes! This is a -- an assassination of American soldiers, a series of assassinations of American soldiers. It's not news. It shows how these people went about killing these Americans. It's a propaganda film for the enemy to encourage the enemy and to show what a fine job they're doing killing the imperialist invaders. That thing should not have been shown. But worse than that, Joe, what about the reaction -- the president of the United States -- sons and daughters -- these are our fellow Americans over there, and the president is their commander-in-chief. What does he have to say about CNN, presumably an American network, showing films of how these soldiers who are under him are being taken down and killed and shot to death? I mean, look, if they're going to play the Al Jazeera game, they ought to be treated like Al Jazeera on the battlefield and in the White House and everywhere else!
STEVE ADUBATO (TV host): Joe?
BUCHANAN: I find this really -- I mean, this is appalling! Look, I'm not for this war. This is a snuff film, is what it is!
From the October 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: You know, Brent, Duncan Hunter the congressman from California is calling for the Pentagon to yank any embedded reporter from CNN. Whether or not we agree that that should or should not have been shown, should the government get involved in terms of editing like that what a news organization does?
BOZELL: Well, in the first place I think, Alan, what you said in one of the promos was exactly right when you called this a terrorist snuff film. That's what it is. It's not an insurgency video, as CNN calls it, it's a terrorist snuff film. I think that Duncan Hunter is entirely correct to raise questions about it. Look, you know, to me, this is the height of something truly appalling that American men and women right now are risking their lives, putting their lives on the line, defending these journalists, who are right now also cavorting with the enemy to get video to put on the air in the United States to break the will of the American people. I think there's something really horrific in this, and what in the world we're doing defending them and protecting their lives and putting our good men's lives on the line for this -- I don't understand it.
COLMES: The issue is: Should the U.S. government be able to stop a news organization from airing this kind of footage? Should they get in the middle of this? And should the government be the arbiter of what gets on the air?
BOZELL: Well, listen, I don't think that suggestion that the government be the arbiter of what's on the air. I think the government is saying what in the world are we doing defending, putting our men's lives on the lines, defending the lives of these people who are working against American interests?
From an October 24 Washington Times editorial:
A new Hollywood movie about the battle of Iwo Jima opened last week right about the time CNN began airing footage it obtained from terrorists showing U.S. soldiers being killed with sniper fire. It is a fitting contrast. The movie tells the story of the three surviving GIs who were immortalized on film raising the flag over Mt. Suribachi. The CNN tape shows the exact opposite: Instead of heroism, we see unsuspecting American soldiers being dropped one by one. No flag raising, no glory; just another dead U.S. soldier.
Of course the Mt. Suribachi photograph is a distortion. The United States did win the battle, but long after the flag had been raised. In fact, three of the flag raisers would never leave the island alive. In 36 days of fighting, there were more than 25,000 U.S. casualties -- one out of every three men -- of which nearly 7,000 were killed. By comparison, in the Iraq war's 1,680 days, the United States has lost 2,800 troops. Yet that single photograph further roused Americans to keep confidence in final victory.
Which brings us to Sen. John Kerry's defense of CNN's decision to air the terrorist footage: "As painful as the images of war are, it's important to understand what soldiers go through." If there had been a CNN equivalent in 1945, would it have been important to air footage of Japanese machine guns mowing down GIs as they waded ashore? Imagine watching hundreds of Americans being killed in one day of battle. Japan's imperial government couldn't have asked for a better propaganda weapon. The impact on a war-weary America would certainly have been emotionally crushing for those with sons and husbands still in battle, and might well have played in to antiwar sentiment. But it is much more damaging today when the nation is not as fully united as it was during World War II.
But let's take Mr. Kerry and CNN at their word and assume that this type of footage has journalistic merit. It follows that CNN should also have shown its hours of footage from September 11. We're talking about the people trapped in the World Trade Center who decided to jump and the other grisly images most Americans have never seen. Or what about the tape showing Iraqi terrorists beheading Nick Berg? CNN has kept this footage locked away out of some faux sensitivity for Americans' fragile spines. The only way one can see the full horror of September 11 and other terrorist carnage is by downloading amateur videos off the Internet.
In a mind-numbing article on Sunday, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi also defended CNN's decision, because, as she understands it, Americans are too dim to appreciate the reality of war. "Without a draft, it is easy for the rest of the country to tune out casualties," she wrote. "Much of what is seen on television makes war feel as bloodless as a video game."
This sort of forced logic does a poor job of masking CNN's and its defenders' real motives. Their goal here is to undermine the war effort, even if that means being a mouthpiece for terrorist propaganda.
From the October 19 broadcast of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation:
SAVAGE: There's another story I want to get to right now. As you know, CNN is a -- is a traitorous network. It's not just a liberal network; it's actually walked over to the other side, crossed over a long time ago. Today, they hit a new bottom. One of their reporters in the following clip can be seen -- or heard, rather -- translating as Iraqi snipers are shooting U.S. troops on video, and listen to what you hear in clip one:
WARE [audio clip]: Wait, wait, he fell down. "God is great," says one of the team as they disappear until it's time for the next strike in Iraq's sniper war.
SAVAGE: I'd like to take this guy and put piano wire through his ears. I don't know what to say to you anymore, and the reason a man like Michael Ware of CNN and CNN itself can get away with running this kind of tape as one of our boys is being shot by an enemy sniper is because of the corruption and the lack of leadership in this country. Mark my words, if we had a real president, this piece of crap would be picked up and he would be tried in this country for crimes against our troops. Mark my words, if we had a real leader, this guy wouldn't last another day. But because we have corruption and because we have weakness, they are running all over our country. Listen to clip two:
WARE [audio clip]: A sniper is watching these America soldiers. You're looking at the unobstructed view from the sniper team's vehicle and they are waiting for their moment as the soldiers mingle with Iraqi civilians. "People are around them," warns the sniper's spotter, who seems to be operating the video camera. "Want me to find another place?" "No, no," comes the reply. "Give me a moment." And then [sound of gunshot] the soldier falls forward. You hear the sniper's vehicle start, and they slip away.
SAVAGE: So I would get this guy tomorrow. I'd send Special Force teams out to find Michael Ware; I would snatch him from wherever in Britain he's hiding; I'd put a mask over his head; I'd put him on a Learjet; I'd fly him back to America; I'd take him to Gitmo [Guantánamo Bay, Cuba]; and I would make certain that this guy never sees the light of day again for what he just did. He killed one of our men. He just killed one of our men. But no, you don't see it that way. You psychopathic left-wing scum think that that's freedom of the press. This is not freedom of the press. This is murder. This is cold-blooded murder.
Now, Bush has nothing to say about it; Rumsfeld has nothing to say about it; but they'll be glad to prosecute your son if he was in the military if he did his job a little too well. Why doesn't Bush have anything to say about this? Where is the great commander in chief? When you're listening to a so-called reporter gleefully reporting as the enemy shoots and kills one of our men -- I'd like to find out which one of our men was just killed. I'd like to find out which one of our men just lost an arm or a leg. And I would like to talk to that family, I would like to pay for that family to hire a lawyer to prosecute both CNN and Michael Ware, and I'd like them to sue them for everything they're worth. That's what I'd like to do. But no, that won't happen because the international sluts, called lawyers, would say that this is simply a reporter doing his job. OK, I can get very angry right now, but I'm going to resist it. I don't want to get angry. Listen to clip three:
WARE [audio clip]: Here, the spotter warns the shooter he only sees Iraqis 'til he's sure he's identified an American. "I'll read you his name --"
SAVAGE: Do you hear this? Do you hear this? Listen to clip five:
[begin audio clip]
WARE: So the insurgents do have accurate sniper fire?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Yeah -- to what I've observed, two very good shots that were definitely more than 300 meters away that aim to kill.
WARE: So it's a trained sniper?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
WARE: Probably working in a team with an observer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, that -- one of the tactics -- you know, the local community, they talk to us about what they see, and they said that they saw a car pull up, a guy get out of the back seat -- get out the front seat, climb into the back seat and move a panel from off his car and aim from the car to our rooftop position, which unfortunately resulted in the death of one -- of one Marine who was on the rooftop.
[end audio clip]
SAVAGE: CNN has committed murder. CNN has committed murder. I want charges brought against CNN, and I'll be right back.
From the October 20 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Stand by, audio sound bites -- let's see -- nine, 10, and, I think, 11. I don't know how many of you have seen this. CNN is airing video footage that is disgusting. It is terrorist propaganda, essentially. It is videotape which shows snipers in Iraq killing American servicemen. Now, we can't see the video of 9-11, because we don't have the mental toughness. "It's too soon. It's too traumatic." We can't see that again on the news. And we can't see pictures of Americans, innocent Americans jumping from the higher floors of the World Trade Center, committing suicide to avoid burning to death. No, no, no, we can't see that, but we can see videotape on CNN of U.S. soldiers being shot by snipers in Iraq. Now, CNN's not entirely insensitive. They do fade to black before the moment of impact when the soldier dies. I wonder if terrorists were taking sniper-type potshots at journalists running around, CNN would find that newsworthy. "A CNN executive said Thursday the network's effort to present the unvarnished truth." -- let's face it, CNN: The "unvarnished truth" to you is not the unvarnished truth of reality. The unvarnished truth that is CNN's is that America sucks, that America is to blame, America deserves to lose.
LIMBAUGH: So CNN's in league with the snipers, has a contact somehow. Do you think they would ever impart the information to the U.S. military so that these guys could be dealt with? No, of course they can't get involved. CNN cannot violate its cherished principles of journalism by choosing sides, it can't do that. It is just there reporting what's going on -- and here is Anderson Cooper after the report.
COOPER [audio clip]: Just a production note. We dipped to black at points in that report so as not to show the moment of a bullet's impact, and I should just restate that sniper video and the interview with the insurgent that you just saw are exclusive to CNN.
LIMBAUGH: Oh, good.
COOPER [audio clip]: Sniper videos have appeared on the Internet and elsewhere on Arab-language stations around the world; this video has not.
LIMBAUGH: Oh, good, Anderson, it's for ratings! You want us to know that it's exclusive to CNN. I'll tell you what I take from that. The insurgents think they're in bed with you.