Fox Hypes False Story That Journalists, But Not Fox Personnel, Were Used As Human Shields In Libya

On March 21, Fox News repeatedly claimed that reporters from other U.S. outlets, but not from Fox News, were lured to Muamar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli and successfully used as human shields. But Fox had to “clarify” the story late that evening when it turned out that someone from Fox News was also at Gadhafi's compound.

Fox: Reporters On Trip To Gadhafi Compound Were Used As Human Shields, But Fox “Declined” To Go Libyans Use Journalists “From CNN, Reuters, And Other Organizations” As Human Shields. In an article headlined, “EXCLUSIVE: Libyans Use Journalists as Human Shields,” Fox News reporters Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel wrote: “British sources confirmed that seven Storm Shadow missiles were ready to be fired from a British aircraft, but the strikes had to be curtailed due to crews from CNN, Reuters and other organizations nearby.” The article, published on March 21, further stated: “Officials from Libya's Ministry of Information brought those journalists to the area to show them damage from the initial attack and to effectively use them as human shields.” [, 3/21/11]

Happening Now: “Some News Crews” Went To Gadhafi Compound But “Others. Including Our Own Steve Harrigan, Did Not Go” Out Of Concern That “They Could Be Used As Human Shields.” During the March 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Griffin reported that British officials “cut short” an attack on Gadhafi's compound “because of the presence of CNN crews, Reuters crews, as well as some civilians that had been brought essentially as human shields by the Ministry of Information to that compound, Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli.” She later added: “Some news crews decided to go. Others, including our own Steve Harrigan, did not go to the compound. They were concerned that they could be used as human shields.” [Fox News' Happening Now, 3/21/11]*

Fox's Special Report: “About 15 Journalists Including CNN And Reuters Crews” Were Used As Human Shields. During the opening segment of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Baier stated, “Libyan rebels are trying to exploit the international strikes across the North African country, as Gadhafi's army is using journalists and civilians as human shields at key targets.” Jennifer Griffin, Fox News' Pentagon correspondent, then added:

GRIFFIN: About 15 journalists, including CNN and Reuters crews, were taken to the compound and unwittingly found themselves serving as human shields for the Gadhafi regime. Seven Storm Chaser missiles had been loaded onto British Tornado fighter planes ready to be dropped on the compound. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 3/21/11]

Special Report: Fox News Declined To Go On “Propaganda” Trip To Gadhafi Compound. Later on Special Report, Baier returned to the story, with Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan claiming that “the government organizes trips almost every day at best. It's pretty much propaganda. We decline to get on the bus to go over there. Not a lot of trust for us where they are taking us or what the intentions are.” Baier hosted Fox News military analyst, retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, to continue the discussion. From Special Report:

BAIER: The president said today that he hopes that this mission -- the lead of this military mission can be transferred over to the allies in a few days. Is that possible?

McINERNEY: I don't see how it is. Who's he going to transfer it to, the French, the Brits, or NATO? NATO won't take it and the French and the Brits don't have the sustainability to keep a program going like this in my opinion. They have never done it before at this magnitude. And again, it's going to devolve, I believe, quickly into counterinsurgency type thing depending on how it goes. So it's going to be very interesting how he does this.

BAIER: With precise strikes, you know -- I know from covering the Pentagon for years -- that in order to be that precise, you need some targeting on the ground. We say -- the U.S. says we're not sending ground forces in. What can you tell us about targeting?

McINERNEY: Well, you're spot on in that analysis. When you have troops in contact, which we're talking about the rebels against Gadhafi's forces, you don't want fratricide. So you have what we call a JTAC, joint tactical air controller system team that is there looking at it, putting lasers or giving direction coordinates, this type thing. And so, you've got to have friendlies -- and I'm assuming they're Brits, SAS, could be French Special Forces -- and I don't know if we have our own Special Forces. So it is not an easy thing to do with troops in contact.

BAIER: We're gonna go back to Steve quickly talking about the contact. You were approached by the Libyans to report from the compound that was struck by British missiles, correct?

HARRIGAN: That's right. The government minders here organize trips almost every day -- at best pretty much pure propaganda. They asked us to go over to the compound, if we wanted to go; we just declined to get on that bus and go over there. There's not a lot of trust on our part towards where they're taking us or what their intentions are.

BAIER: OK, Steve, stay safe there. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 3/21/11]

America's Nightly Scoreboard: Gadhafi Is Using “CNN Journalists As Human Shields To Prevent More Bombing.” During the March 21 edition of his Fox Business show, David Asman stated:

ASMAN: This is what happens when the U.S. cares more about being friends than it does about doing what's right. When you try to be friends with everybody, you'll end up with the respect of nobody, and respect is what this world is all about. We don't want folks to love us; we want folks to respect us, our enemies and our friends. But there's no respect for an administration that fears taking a lead. And when the United States does not lead, it is seen as weak.

And like the clever devil he is, Gadhafi knows how to take advantage of our weakness. He's got his socialist buddies, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua's Danny Ortega, building a leftist coalition against any more action. He's also using New York Times journalists as hostages and CNN journalists as human shields to prevent more bombing. God help us, he's probably gonna stir the terrorist pot, again. [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 3/21/11]

The Fox Report: Reuters Was In The Way Of Bombs, And U.S. Defense Official Warns Journalists Against “Hug[ging] SAM Missile Sites” In The Future. From The Fox Report:

SHEPARD SMITH: More on the air strikes that British forces called off last night after they learned journalists were at Gadhafi's compound. One reporter who was there says he did not feel that the Libyans were using them as human shields. He's Nic Robertson from CNN. And he says they just wanted to show them the damage at the compound. Team Fox coverage continues. Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon.

Jennifer, the timing of the show-and-tell of the damage certainly was of interest. What more do we know about what happened?

GRIFFIN: Well, what we know from British sources is that British Tornado jets were loaded with seven Storm Chaser missiles and they were preparing a second wave of attacks on Gadhafi's compound when they realized that journalists were there. So, after those first two Tomahawks which were fired from British subs landed, they were going to follow up with these Tornado strikes.

But when they saw the journalists, they called off the strike, and they called off the strike. They said that the Reuters team was exactly in a spot where one of the missiles was supposed to land. The journalists had been taken there by the Libyan government minders, and as one U.S. defense official told me tonight, he said, if those -- essentially, if those journalists decide to hug SAM missile sites or go to Gadhafi's command and control center in the future, they can't guarantee that coalition bombs will be able to be stopped.

SMITH: Well, I don't think they would consider it hugging the SAM missile sites. [Fox News, The Fox Report, 3/21/11]

Fox Later “Clarif[ies]” Reporting: “Fox Did Indeed Go” To Gadhafi Compound

Fox's Griffin: “I Just Want To Clarify Something ... Fox Did Indeed Go” To Gadhafi Compound. On the March 21 broadcast of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Griffin stated:

GRIFFIN: Hi, Greta, I just want to clarify something about my reporting earlier tonight and earlier today. Earlier today, I reported that Fox News had not gone to Gadhafi's compound while journalists from other news outlets such as CNN and Reuters had in fact gone.

I've since learned that Fox did indeed go. Tonight, I learned that although reporter Steve Harrigan opted not to go and instead remained back at his hotel -- he wanted to stay on the air, I'm told, to provide full coverage of what was going on in Libya -- he did in fact send a security guard which with a camera to Gadhafi's compound with the journalists from the other news outlets. I did not know about that earlier today. I became aware of that this evening. That was my mistake and I apologize for the error.

But what is being lost in this discussion is that the Libyan government is using journalists as human shields. There is frustration among military officials that those journalists are being -- are going to those sites and have prevented airstrikes such as the one that was called off by the British earlier today. And that is what we were trying to get on the air, is that those British airstrikes had been called off and that there was frustration among coalition members that journalists were being used as human shields. [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 3/21/11]

Times of London Was Also Reportedly On Trip To Gadhafi Compound. Staffers from the Times of London, which is owned by Fox parent company, News Corp., were reportedly also on the trip to Gadhafi's compound. [The Wrap, 3/21/11; TVNewser, 3/21/11]

CNN's Robertson Criticizes Fox For Faulty Reporting

CNN: Fox News' “Allegation Is Outrageous And It's Absolutely Hypocritical.” CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson heavily criticized Fox News for their faulty reporting during an interview with Wolf Blitzer. When asked to comment on Fox News' reporting that journalists were “effectively [being] used by Gadhafi as a human shield,” Robertson replied:

ROBERTSON: This allegation is outrageous and it's absolutely hypocritical. You know, when you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don't expect it from the other journalists. Why do I say that? Because Fox News has said that they didn't send somebody on this trip last night because they said it was a quote-unquote “propaganda trip.”

They sent a member of their team. He was non-editorial. He was non-technical, not normally a cameraman. He was given a camera by the team and told to come out and come on the bus with the 40 other journalists who were there, who were free to get on the bus, free to get off the bus when they wanted; told us when he was on the bus that even he, this member of the Fox team, was surprised that the correspondent and the normal cameraman weren't coming out, that he was being sent -- this isn't his normal job -- that he was being sent.

So that's why I say what Fox is saying is outrageous and hypocritical. And the idea that we were some kind of human shields is nuts. I mean, if they had actually been there -- Steve Harrigan, the correspondent here, is somebody I've known for many years. I see him more times at breakfast than I see him out on trips with government officials here.

Other correspondents here who go out regularly say the same things -- NBC, CBS. All the other news teams here go out, not on all the government trips -- we didn't go out on another one yesterday -- but we very, very rarely see the Fox News team out on the trips.

So, for them to say and call this -- to say they didn't go and for them to call this and say this was government propaganda to hold us there as human shields, when they didn't even leave the hotel -- the correspondent didn't leave the hotel and go and see for himself -- is ridiculous.

We were taken there. We went in through the security. We filmed the building. We were given 15, 20 minutes to do that, five minutes at Gadhafi's tent, and then we were taken out. And I was literally, physically pushed back on the bus when we left. That's how quickly the government officials wanted to get us out.

If I sound angry, it is because I am. As I say, I expect lies from the government here; I don't expect it from other journalists. And it's, frankly, incredibly disappointing to me. [CNN, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, 3/21/11]

*Item updated with new paragraph.