Despite the clear risks undertaken by journalists covering the Iraq war, some conservatives in the media have repeatedly questioned the courage of journalists in Iraq, alleging that journalists covering the war fail to report "good news" because they are afraid to leave the heavily fortified Baghdad "Green Zone" to speak with Iraqis and coalition troops elsewhere in the country. Additionally, some conservatives have claimed that journalists' coverage of the Iraq war is distorted by their alleged hostility to President Bush and the war.
On NBC's Today, Philadelphia-based radio host Michael Smerconish falsely claimed that "no one died at Abu Ghraib" -- a detention facility operated by U.S. forces in Iraq -- and that the abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib was merely "a lot of ridiculous actions ... carried out by nine knuckleheads." Additionally, in a report that aired repeatedly on CNN, senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre falsely reported that "[n]one of the abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib died." In fact, detainee Manadel al-Jamadi reportedly died at Abu Ghraib during an interrogation by CIA personnel on November 4, 2003. The Pentagon has labeled al-Jamadi's death a "homicide," indicating that it resulted from the treatment he received at the prison -- not from natural causes.
Chris Matthews devoted the first 12 minutes of his 30-minute, NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show to asking his panel 17 questions based on The New York Times article that examined the state of the marriage between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton. Matthews asserted that Bill Clinton "doesn't get special press scrutiny." Panelist and Time magazine assistant managing editor Michael Duffy also appeared to validate the Times' decision to publish the story, stating: "I think if [the Times] hadn't done the story, someone else would have." And in an appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders falsely claimed that the Times article only discussed the Clintons' "public social lives," adding that "The New York Times would be derelict if it didn't report on this" because "it's something people want to know about."
In their reporting on the conviction of former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling on fraud and conspiracy charges, the network news programs all failed to mention the ties between the fallen corporation and President Bush. Further, the Los Angeles Times ran six separate articles on the Enron verdicts on May 26, but not a single one noted Bush's connection to Enron and, in particular, his close personal and political ties to Lay.
Following the publication of a New York Times article on the purported state of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton's marriage, numerous news outlets ran reports and aired discussions on the story. The 2,000-word article by Times reporter Patrick Healy was based on the accounts of "some 50 people," "many" of whom "were granted anonymity to discuss a relationship for which the Clintons have long sought a zone of privacy."
On Today, Kelly O'Donnell uncritically reported President Bush's claim that the formation of a new government in Iraq is a "fundamental change." Similarly, the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler noted that Bush "embraced the new leadership in Iraq as a turning point in the war." In fact, the Bush administration has touted several purportedly pivotal moments since the beginning of the Iraqi occupation, suggesting each time that the situation in Iraq was about to improve.
On the May 21 Chris Matthews Show, Matthews, Time columnist Joe Klein, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, and BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay discussed former Vice President Al Gore's possible presidential aspirations, with Matthews commending Parker for her description of Gore in a February column, in which she said that Gore is "one slice short of a loaf," and Klein saying that Gore "looked like a madman" delivering a speech in 2002.
Loading the player leg...
On Meet the Press, Tim Russert interviewed two Republican members of Congress -- Rep. Charlie Norwood and Sen. Lindsey Graham -- but no Democrats, allowing Norwood to level unchallenged attacks on Democrats.
In reporting on the formation of the Iraqi cabinet, ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show, and NBC's Today each failed to note that three of most critical positions in the new government -- the heads of the defense, national security, and interior ministries -- remain vacant.
Reports by both ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News on the Senate hearing for Gen. Michael Hayden's nomination to be CIA director aired Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) comment that he had "a difficult time with [Hayden's] credibility." But neither network mentioned the reasons cited by Wyden to explain his concern, including Hayden's misleading statement to Congress in 2002 that the National Security Agency did not have the authority to electronically eavesdrop on residents without a warrant -- even as the NSA was reportedly conducting such surveillance.
In an interview with White House press secretary Tony Snow, NBC's Today co-host Katie Couric allowed Snow's misleading claims -- as well as his use of the racially charged term "tar baby" in his first live televised press briefing -- to go unchallenged.
On NBC's Meet the Press, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood said of presumptive presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "I tell you what, when you have taken on a president of your party on taxes, torture, and campaign finance reform, your street cred as a maverick is pretty solid." Harwood, however, did not explain how, or if, his assessment of McCain was affected by McCain's February vote to extend President Bush's tax cuts, which McCain had long opposed.
Media Matters documents the misleading or false claims advanced by media figures and Bush administration supporters in the wake of news that the National Security Agency had since 2001 been secretly collecting records of phone calls made by millions of Americans.
NBC's Lisa Myers and CNN's David Ensor both asserted that data collected by the National Security Agency through a just-exposed program include only "phone calls made and received, but not customers' names and addresses." But they failed to inform viewers about a key point made by USA Today, which broke the story -- that the NSA can easily obtain this information through other databases.