A Media Matters analysis of the media coverage of the Iraq war debate shows that the favored Republican talking points on Iraq have gone largely unchallenged in the media and have even been adopted as truths by some media outlets and figures.
Numerous conservative commentators joined the Bush administration in arguing that, in detailing a secret Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions, a June 23 New York Times article tipped off terrorists to the U.S. government's ability to track their financial activities -- some going so far as to accuse the newspaper of treason. But the Times report was hardly the first indication of U.S. efforts to monitor terrorists' financial transactions: President Bush himself repeatedly touted the government's capability to track and shut down terrorists' international financial networks.
On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume derided The New York Times' justification for revealing a Bush administration program that monitors international financial transactions. Responding to the notion that it is "a matter of public interest," Hume said: "Well, that can apply to almost anything. ... That applies to ball scores. And you know, I mean, women with their breasts exposed are a matter of public interest to some people."
Fox News' Brit Hume, John Gibson, and Jim Angle, as well as nationally syndicated radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Janet Parshall, continued to ignore conclusive assertions of intelligence officials that the degraded chemical munitions found in Iraq and hyped by Sen. Rick Santorum and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra were not, in fact, in the category of "weapons of mass destruction" that the U.S. was looking for at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
On June 21, hosts and guests on several Fox News programs hyped a false assertion by Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Peter Hoekstra that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, despite the network's own reporting that discredited the claim.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and Fox News' Brit Hume criticized Democrats because a domestic policy platform unveiled by the congressional Democratic leadership contained "not a single word about the war in Iraq." While the platform focused only on domestic issues, it followed a proposed national security strategy released earlier this year that did address Iraq, which neither Wallace nor Hume cited. Later, during a discussion on ethics, Hume, Wallace, and other Fox News Sunday panelists failed to note the broadening investigation into the ethics of House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Wallace also gushed over White House press secretary and former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow.
Fox News host Brit Hume stated that "Democrats and those who support them" are divided over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, but Hume overlooked the much deeper Republican split on the issue, as evidenced by a Senate vote related to the amendment. Hume introduced a report by Fox News correspondent Major Garrett by stating that a vote on the proposed amendment "is expected to break almost perfectly along party lines, the Republicans for it and Democrats against," but continued: "Nevertheless, the issue has divided some Democrats and those who support them."
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On Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume corrected his false claim -- documented by Media Matters for America -- that in its May 11 report on the National Security Agency's call-tracking program, USA Today waited "until Page 5 in a sidebar" article to note that "[p]hone customers' names, addresses, and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program." In fact, while that sentence did appear in a sidebar on Page 5A of the May 11 USA Today, the same information also appeared in USA Today's main article on Page 1A.
On Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume compared a recent USA Today/Gallup poll -- which found that a majority of respondents disapprove of the National Security Agency's (NSA) reported collection of Americans' telephone records -- with an earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll -- which found that 63 percent of respondents said the program was acceptable. Hume told viewers that "USA Today's poll question does not mention that the NSA database program does not involve listening to or recording telephone conversations, while the Post poll question did mention that." However, Hume did not mention that a Newsweek poll found that even after being told that the program does not involve "listen[ing] to calls," a majority of respondents said the program "goes too far."
Brit Hume selectively quoted remarks by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in order to portray her as laudatory of President Bush. Hume noted that Clinton praised Bush's "charm and charisma" and credited Bush with "t[aking] care of New York" after 9-11. However, Hume did not note that Clinton's statements came during an hour-long discussion in which she criticized the Bush administration's refusal to acknowledge air quality concerns at Ground Zero.
Fox News' Brit Hume leveled a false attack on USA Today's May 11 report on the National Security Agency's collection of the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, claiming that "[n]ot until page 5 in a sidebar, however, does the paper report the following, quote: 'Phone customers' names, addresses and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program.' " In fact, while that quote did appear in a sidebar article on page 5A, the same information also appeared on page 1A, in USA Today's main article.
Fox News' Brit Hume misleadingly reported that after "allegations" that "President Bush had closer ties with the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the White House had admitted, the Secret Service today released records showing only two White House visits by Abramoff in the past five years." In fact, the White House has already acknowledged several Abramoff visits not mentioned in the logs released by the Secret Service, and both the White House and the Secret Service have acknowledged that the records release "would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's" visits.
Fox News' Brit Hume selectively quoted from a memo written by retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, telling viewers that McCaffrey, who has criticized Donald Rumsfeld in the past, "now says the U.S. is achieving its objectives" in Iraq. But in reporting McCaffrey's optimistic statements about Iraq's army and police, Hume omitted a number of negative assessments of these two institutions and criticisms of Bush administration policy that McCaffrey included in his memo.