Fox News heavily covers McChrystal's troop-increase recommendations after largely ignoring Shinseki's

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

According to searches of the Nexis database, Fox News has reported on Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan on 17 programs in the week since it was reported by The Washington Post, but mentioned Gen. Eric Shinseki's February 2003 recommendation that that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to successfully occupy Iraq on only six programs available in Nexis in the three and a half months between his testimony to Congress and his retirement as Army chief of staff. Moreover, Fox News personalities have repeatedly criticized President Obama for not yet acting on McChrystal's advice but almost entirely avoided criticizing the Bush administration for not heeding Shinseki's 2003 recommendation.

Fox News offered far more coverage of McChrystal's recommendations than Shinseki's

Fox covered Shinseki's recommendations on only six programs over three and a half months. During the period between Shinseki's February 25, 2003, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to successfully occupy Iraq and his resignation as Army chief of staff on June 11, 2003 -- a period of about three and a half months -- Fox News mentioned his troop-level recommendation on only six programs, according to a search of the Nexis database.

By contrast, Fox covered McChrystal's recommendations on 17 programs in the past week. On September 21, a Washington Post article broke the news that McChrystal, current commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, had recommended an increase in troop levels. Between its publication and the following Monday, September 28, 17 different Fox News programs mentioned McChrystal's recommendation, according to a search of the Nexis database.

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Fox personalities repeatedly criticized Obama WH in coverage of McChrystal's recommendations

Hannity: "Just listen to what the generals on the ground want to be successful." Discussing McChrystal's reported request for more troops, Sean Hannity stated, "But isn't it simple? Just listen to what the generals on the ground want to be successful. I mean, it's not for President Obama sitting in the comfort of the Oval Office." [Hannity, 9/22/09]

Krauthammer: "Who are you going to believe, a commander on the ground or Biden?" Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said of the request: "What's happening here is we have on the one hand advice from our commander on the ground who wants more troops and who sees a strategy which is the only strategy he thinks will work. On the other hand, advice of the vice president, the sage of Wilmington, the man who proposed splitting Iraq into three, who wants a minimalist strategy of attacks by drones and kind of half -- hands-off warfare." Krauthammer subsequently asked, "Who are you going to believe, a commander on the ground or [Joe] Biden?" [Special Report, 9/23/09]

O'Grady: "[T]he president [is] revealing to the enemy his lack of commitment, well, we have troops on the ground over there." Discussing McChrystal's recommendation on Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O'Grady asserted "I think that what's really disturbing here is the president revealing to the enemy his lack of commitment, well, we have troops on the ground over there. Imagine that you have a son, a daughter, a loved one in Afghanistan and that the commander-in-chief is, you know, telling the enemy that he's not really committed to the fight. I mean, that's going to be an extremely expensive -- politically expensive to Obama. He could make the argument that we shouldn't be there, I don't agree with him. He could make that argument. We have to get in or get out." [The Journal Editorial Report, 9/26/09]

Krauthammer: "So when I hear the vice president, with his vast experience in this area, give the counter-argument, I think I know which way I want to go." Echoing his remarks on Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Special Report from a few days earlier, Krauthammer asserted that "McChrystal is the world's expert on this. He conducted exactly these surgical strikes, the late-night raids on Al Qaida in Iraq, for four years. If there's anybody who knows -- and he was extremely successful. He killed hundreds of bad guys. If there's anybody on the planet who knows how to do it, who knows all about it, knows its potential and its limitations, it's McChrystal. And he's the guy who says it can't be done. He's the guy who says, 'Unless we have the counterinsurgency strategy, boots on the ground to protect the population, like the surge in Iraq, we will not succeed.'" Krauthammer went on to say of Biden: "So when I hear the vice president, with his vast experience in this area, give the counter-argument, I think I know which way I want to go." [Fox News Sunday, 9/27/09]

Hayes: "McChrystal has done a strategic assessment. It is now time for the president to make a decision and act on the decision." Discussing McChrystal's recommendation on Special Report, The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes asserted of Afghanistan: "This is the war -- it is not any war. It is the war that he campaigned on as the good war dating back as far back as 2002. And he said a couple weeks ago in his question and answer session I believe with Steven Harper from Canada that he doesn't want to rush this decision. He wants to take his time to get it right. But that seems to me a bogus excuse. He has been campaigning on it as the right war. He has done his own strategic policy review. McChrystal has done a strategic assessment. It is now time for the president to make a decision and act on the decision. I think this looks like a distraction. And even if you say he is going to spend all this time on the plane studying Afghanistan problems, the optics of it at the very least are terrible." [Special Report, 9/28/09]

By contrast, Fox's minimal coverage of Shinseki's recommendations was not critical of Bush admin.

Fox guests critical of Shinseki's recommendations. During the April 1, 2003, edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News contributor Mort Kondracke asserted during a discussion of the Iraq war that "it's time for this to be over" and suggested that people should stop "backing and forthing about whether there was adequate force or not" and "everybody should shut up and let daddy drive." Similarly, in response to host Alan Colmes' question, "What's going on at the Pentagon? You have a General Shinseki saying that 700,000 troops will be needed in a post-war Iraq. Then up have Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who says that's just not true, it's wildly off the mark. Why would there be a conflict between what a general at the Pentagon says and an undersecretary?," Richard Perle, a guest on the February 28, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes, responded in part by describing Shinseki's recommendation as "an absurd number."

In only one instance did a Fox personality support Shinseki's recommendations. During the April 5, 2003, edition of Big Story Weekend Edition, Fox News analyst and Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor Clift asserted: "We are just beginning, and I think the former Army chief of staff, General Shinseki, who speculated that we would need 200,000 troops to keep the peace in Iraq. I think after what we've witnessed over the last two and a half weeks, I don't think that's an outlandish sum, so I think we are in for a very big commitment here."

Methodology

Media Matters for America searched the Nexis database for "Shinseki" in Fox News transcripts between February 25, 2003, and June 11, 2003, and conducted a separate search for "McChrystal" in Fox News transcripts between September 21, 2009, and September 28, 2009. Broadcasts of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday were included in the search.

Media Matters found that the following Fox News programs reported about or referenced Shinseki's recommendations: the June 10, 2003, edition of Special Report with Brit Hume; the April 5, 2003, edition of Big Story Weekend Edition; the April 1, 2003, edition of Special Report with Brit Hume; the March 14, 2003, edition of On the Record with Greta van Susteren; the February 28, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes; and the February 28, 2003, edition of The Big Story with John Gibson.

Media Matters found that the following Fox News programs reported about or referenced McChyrstal's recommendations: the September 28, 2009, edition of On the Record with Greta van Susteren; the September 28, 2009, edition of Hannity; the September 28, 2009, edition of The O'Reilly Factor; the September 28, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier; the September 27, 2009, edition of Fox News Sunday; the September 26, 2009, edition of The Journal Editorial Report; the September 26, 2009, edition of Fox News Watch; the September 25, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier; the September 24, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier; the September 24, 2009, edition of Glenn Beck; the September 24, 2009, edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto; the September 23, 2009, edition of On the Record with Greta van Susteren; the September 23, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier; the September 22, 2009, edition of Hannity; the September 22, 2009, edition of The O'Reilly Factor; the September 22, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier; and the September 21, 2009 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier.

Transcripts

From the September 26 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report:

PAUL GIGOT (Wall Street Journal editorial page editor and host): Mary, there are a lot of people that think, and some in the military, that the reason the president is doing this is he doesn't want to anger the left while health care debate is going on in Congress. After health care is done, assuming it succeeds, he'll get back and say we need this and now you need to vote this?

O'GRADY: Well, I mean, I think that what's really disturbing here is the president revealing to the enemy his lack of commitment, well, we have troops on the ground over there. Imagine that you have a son, a daughter, a loved one in Afghanistan and that the commander-in-chief is, you know, telling the enemy that he's not really committed to the fight. I mean, that's going to be an extremely expensive -- politically expensive to Obama. He could make the argument that we shouldn't be there, I don't agree with him. He could make that argument. We have to get in or get out. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

From the September 27 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (host): Let me -- let's talk, Charles, about the merits of this debate. You've got McChrystal. You've got General [David] Petraeus, the author of the surge and now the head of Central Command. You've got Admiral [Michael] Mullen, who is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all apparently support a beefed-up counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, what McChrystal is calling for, like a surge in Iraq.

And then you have, on the other side -- and not just him -- but Joe Biden, who wants a scaled-back presence on the ground and more counterterrorism, as Mara was saying, drones, special forces over the border in Pakistan. Who's right?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, you've got the sage of Wilmington, the man who wanted Iraq split into three, arguing for a surgical strike policy.

Here is the irony and the problem. McChrystal is the world's expert on this. He conducted exactly these surgical strikes, the late-night raids on Al Qaida in Iraq, for four years. If there's anybody who knows -- and he was extremely successful. He killed hundreds of bad guys.

If there's anybody on the planet who knows how to do it, who knows all about it, knows its potential and its limitations, it's McChrystal. And he's the guy who says it can't be done. He's the guy who says, "Unless we have the counterinsurgency strategy, boots on the ground to protect the population, like the surge in Iraq, we will not succeed."

So when I hear the vice president, with his vast experience in this area, give the counter-argument, I think I know which way I want to go. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

From the September 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

HAYES: Juan [Williams, NPR], I think most Americans would like Chicago to get the Olympics. As a Milwaukee native, we consider Chicago our greatest suburb.

But I think the real problem here is one of priorities, as Byron [York, The Washington Examiner] said. It is rather stunning that the president hasn't met in person with Stanley McChrystal yet.

This is the war -- it is not any war. It is the war that he campaigned on as the good war dating back as far back as 2002. And he said a couple weeks ago in his question and answer session I believe with Steven Harper from Canada that he doesn't want to rush this decision. He wants to take his time to get it right.

But that seems to me a bogus excuse. He has been campaigning on it as the right war. He has done his own strategic policy review. McChrystal has done a strategic assessment.

It is now time for the president to make a decision and act on the decision. I think this looks like a distraction. And even if you say he is going to spend all this time on the plane studying Afghanistan problems, the optics of it at the very least are terrible. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

From the April 1, 2003, edition of Special Report:

BRIT HUME (host): OK. Now let's not spend any more time on poor, old [retired Gen.] Barry McCaffrey; he's had a tough day, it sounds like.

But what I want to ask is, when [then-Gen. Richard] Myers made -- this was the most emphatic statement that's come out of anybody with a uniform on, on this issue from the beginning now. This has been going in Washington now since practically day one.

[...]

HUME: What about the credibility of what he said?

KONDRACKE: What Myers said?

HUME: What Myers said, that the level of agreement throughout the uniformed services ...

KONDRACKE: The only question involved here is what the General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, actually said. And that's -- you know, it's variously reported that he complained that the force, that there wasn't enough ground forces. He has yet to appear and yet to say anything, and I'm sure that now he won't say a word.

But I agree, fundamentally, with Myers. It is time for this to be over. That we've got forces in the field and to have everybody backing and forthing about whether there was adequate force or not. We're now engaged in the ultimate battle of the campaign with apparently the Republican Guard. And one side or the other will be vindicated and everybody should shut up and let daddy drive.

MARA LIASSON (NPR): Yes, and it's very possible they will after that statement. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

From the February 28, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes:

ALAN COLMES (co-host): What's going on at the Pentagon? You have a General Shinseki saying that 700,000 troops will be needed in a post-war Iraq. Then up have Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who says that's just not true, it's wildly off the mark. Why would there be a conflict between what a general at the Pentagon says and an undersecretary?

PERLE: I don't know why General Shinseki said that. I don't know what basis he had for it. But it seems to me an absurd number. Maybe he's assuming that all of the Iraqis will be opposed to the United States coming into Iraq. I believe, and I think there's a lot of evidence to suggest, that most Iraqis will regard us as liberators and it will not take anything like that number of troops to maintain peace and order in Iraq. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

From the April 5, 2003, edition of Big Story Weekend Edition:

RITA COSBY (host): Well, the question is will we see war crimes tribunals for either Saddam or members of his elite group. And how is Operation Iraqi Freedom playing to the public on both sides of the ocean? Well, we are joined by Fox News analyst and "Newsweek" contributing editor, Eleanor Clift there. And here with me in New York, Fox News analyst, attorney Peter Johnson. Eleanor, what do you think of the progress of the war so far?

CLIFT: Well, I think militarily it's a success. I mean, we -- coalition forces have reached Baghdad with stunning speed, but ...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY: And publicly?

CLIFT: ... we are going against -- I would caution against euphoria because I think we still don't know the level of resistance within Baghdad, and we still don't know if Saddam Hussein has a trick up his sleeve. I mean, he could yet use chemical-biological weapons, or threaten to use them. He could blow up religious sites, try to blame them on the U.S.

He could try to prompt a humanitarian crisis. I mean, there are still some dark (UNINTELLIGIBLE) areas.

COSBY: Do you support this war, Eleanor, because at first you didn't -- you know, you were ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: ... saying you had some very serious concerns about the premise of should we go to war. Do you believe in it now?

CLIFT: I've never -- I've never thought this was a wise war, but I'm a good American and I support the troops and I want the war to brought to as rapid a conclusion as possible with as little loss of life on both sides. And I think the notion that this is the end of our involvement with Iraq. We are just beginning, and I think the former Army chief of staff, General Shinseki, who speculated that we would need 200,000 troops to keep the peace in Iraq. I think after what we've witnessed over the last two and a half weeks, I don't think that's an outlandish sum, so I think we are in for a very big commitment here. [Retrieved from the Nexis database]

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