Downplaying Iraq war casualties, KCOL's James echoed right-wing falsehood about military deaths under Clinton

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Scott James of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL parroted other conservative commentators in falsely claiming on his June 6 broadcast that "it was a more dangerous time to be in the military" during former President Bill Clinton's administration than it is under President Bush because U.S. military personnel deaths are "pacing far below many ... statistical averages." In fact, the number of military deaths under Bush has, six years into his presidency, surpassed the total for Clinton's eight years.

Complaining about "the way that the liberal-dominated mass media is so fascinated today with the death count from Iraq" during his June 6 Fox News Radio 600 KCOL show, Scott James falsely asserted that "it was a more dangerous time to be in the military" during former President Bill Clinton's administration than "what it has been in the [President George W.] Bush administration just because of deaths." However, as Colorado Media Matters has pointed out, six years into Bush's tenure, total U.S. military deaths already have surpassed those during Clinton's eight years in office.

James, who hosts Ride Home with The James Gang and who is KCOL's program director, made his dubious assertion after claiming to have seen "research and studies" and "the forward of the forward of the forward in your email" showing how military deaths under Bush purportedly are "pacing far below many, many, many, many statistical averages."

From the June 6 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang:

JAMES: Interesting to me the way that the liberal-dominated mass media is so fascinated today with the death count from Iraq. What do we know? I, I don't even listen, I don't -- you know, I -- well, I care immensely, but it's not the point. What are we, 32, 33 hundred persons now, in four and a half years of war? I've seen emails and research and studies, and you've all seen the forward of the forward of the forward in your email that you get showing how we were -- it was a more dangerous time to be in the military than the Clint -- in the Clinton administration that it, what it has been in the Bush administration just because of deaths. I mean, they take a look at deaths and actually, it's pacing far below many, many, many, many statistical averages. Still, it doesn't matter; we shouldn't count bodies.

James was echoing a common distortion of U.S. military death figures by conservative pundits who misleadingly have compared combat deaths under the Bush administration to all military deaths -- combat and noncombat -- under the Clinton administration. The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Manpower Data Center Statistical Information Analysis Division figures of combat and noncombat deaths of U.S. military personnel show that during Clinton's eight-year presidency, full-time, active-duty military personnel deaths totaled 7,500. In contrast, full-time, active-duty military personnel deaths during the first six years of Bush's presidency have totaled 8,792.

James' distortion of military death statistics is similar to other conservative attempts to downplay U.S. military deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Colorado Media Matters noted, a May 31 column in The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction by Gary Harmon misinterpreted statistics on deaths of U.S. military personnel to falsely assert that "American soldiers, sailors and marines under fire have died at a slower rate during the five years of shooting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than they did during the eight years of the supposed peacetime of the Clinton years." Harmon also claimed that "Americans in uniform died at a faster rate under Clinton's 'peace' years than Bush's war years." As Media Matters for America noted, there were fewer total military deaths in Clinton's first term (4,302) than in Bush's first term (5,187). Media Matters also noted that military deaths have increased year-over-year since Bush took office in 2001 -- both in raw terms and as a percentage of the total number serving -- and have increased dramatically since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.

Later in the broadcast, James asked whether "the world [would] be safer" if "we take [U.S. House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi's [D-CA] advice" and "cut and run" from Iraq. He then alluded to a story about "the number-one male name for babies in Britain [being] Mohammed," and asked, "How soon will that be the number-one name in the United States?"

JAMES: If we take Nancy Pelosi's advice, John Murtha's advice, if we cut and run today because we have seemingly lost the American way, will the world be safer because of it, or will we see, as indicated by a story that I'll give here before the show is over, the number-one male name for babies in Britain is Mohammed. How soon will that be the number-one name in the United States?

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