PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer hosted a segment on grassroots groups seeking to influence Iraq policy that included conservative radio host and Move America Forward chairman Melanie Morgan, whose history of false, misleading and unsubstantiated claims regarding the Iraq war went unmentioned during the segment, as did her numerous smears.
On the May 8 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, correspondent Judy Woodruff hosted a segment titled "Grassroots Groups Seek to Influence Iraq Policy" featuring Jon Soltz, co-founder and chairman of VoteVets.org, and Melanie Morgan, chairman of Move America Forward (MAF). Morgan, a conservative radio host who has appeared several times on MSNBC's Hardball, has previously spread several false, misleading and unsubstantiated claims regarding the Iraq war, which went unmentioned by Woodruff.
Also, as Media Matters for America has noted, Morgan, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said, “We've got a bull's-eye painted on her big, wide laughing eyes,” and that “it's time to put the bull's-eye” on Pelosi. Morgan has also said that she “would have no problem” with New York Times executive editor Bill Keller “being sent to the gas chamber” if he “were to be tried and convicted of treason” for the paper's reporting of a Treasury Department program that monitors international financial transactions for terrorist activity. Morgan recently attacked Media Matters as “left-wing free speech Nazis” and likened Media Matters to the Virginia Tech gunman who killed 32 people before shooting himself to death.
During the segment, Morgan claimed that MAF is “a group that speaks loudly for the military families” and told Soltz, an Iraq war veteran, that his organization was focused on “political games.” Morgan also offered a brief assessment of the Iraq war:
MORGAN: The Iraqi army is working very hard to accomplish that [stabilize Iraq]. We are working very hard with them. We have attained many of the benchmarks already that the president set out when we invaded Iraq. We have deposed President Saddam Hussein. He's now dead. We have a democrat, freely elected government in place, and we are trying now to secure that peace. And that is the difficult and grinding slog that we face.
In July 2005, Morgan traveled to Iraq with other conservative radio hosts as part of the " 'Voices of Soldiers' Truth Tour" that, in Morgan's words, was intended to “get the story straight from them [the troops] without the filter of the liberal media.” The tour was organized by MAF, a conservative activist group. Media Matters for America noted that in an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews following the tour, Morgan said that during the tour, a top-ranking Iraqi military leader told her that “4,000 terrorists who were related to Al Qaeda” were working in Iraq under the direction of Saddam Hussein prior to the March 2003 U.S. invasion. But despite the explosive nature of this allegation, the claim has not appeared in any news reports, nor has any additional evidence been provided to substantiate it.
As Media Matters also noted, the 9-11 Commission found “no evidence” that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda “developed into a collaborative operational relationship.” Also, on April 5, the inspector general of the Defense Department declassified a report that reviewed the pre-Iraq war intelligence gathering activities of the department's Office of Special Plans, run by then undersecretary of Defense for policy Douglas J. Feith. While the report stated that the actions of Feith's office were “inappropriate,” it also reported that "[t]he Intelligence Community discounted conclusions about the high degree of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida," adding that it is “noteworthy” that the post-war debriefs of Saddam Hussein and other former high ranking Iraqi government officials “as well as document exploitation by [the Defense Intelligence Agency] all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories” before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as The Washington Post reported.
Morgan also asserted that, according to the “troops” and “top brass” with whom she spoke on the 2005 trip, the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last gasps” and the U.S. can begin “drawing down” its troop deployments following election of a permanent constitutional government in Iraq the upcoming December. Yet Media Matters for America noted that evaluations of the conflict at that time by top military and defense officials suggested that the insurgency had maintained its strength, and President Bush has repeatedly stated that the U.S. will withdraw its forces only once the Iraqi military is prepared to fight the insurgency.
Also, in another August 2005 appearance on Hardball, Morgan falsely suggested that Iraqi armed forces had reached 60 percent “readiness.” In fact, while Iraqi forces had reached 60 percent of their recruiting goals, a July 2005 Pentagon brief contradicted Morgan's claim of readiness. The brief indicated that only a small fraction of current Iraqi units were capable of fighting insurgents without coalition support.
Duriing the May 8 NewsHour segment, Morgan claimed that she would like to see Soltz “say to the troops in the field” “that they are failing, that they have failed, miserable performance, that they are losing.” She also said that Soltz was “shameful and really disrespectful to our troops.” Soltz replied, “I am the troops.”
From the May 8 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:
WOODRUFF: And, Melanie Morgan, whom does your organization, Move America Forward, whom do you speak for?
MORGAN: Well, we have over a million people who belong to our organization, which is the largest pro-American, pro-troop organization in the United States. And we are a group that speaks loudly for the military families, Gold Star family members who still support the war, who still support the president, and our efforts to stabilize Iraq, and the global war on terror, which is even more important in the long term.
WOODRUFF: And, Melanie Morgan, Move America Forward, what do you want to see happen in Iraq?
MORGAN: I want to see victory, and apparently the Democrats don't, because otherwise why would you possibly conceive of funding a war in six-month increments? I would like to see Congressman Rahm Emanuel [D-IL] explain that plan or whatever it is that he seems to be proposing, along with commander in chief Nancy Pelosi, to our troops directly to their face.
Tell them that they are failing; that they have a failed, miserable performance; that they are losing. I'd like to see Mr. Soltz say that to the troops in the field, as well. I don't think that you would get that exact same opinion from them, nor from the millions of other Americans who wish for us --
SOLTZ: We are the troops.
MORGAN: -- to succeed, to find a strategy that will work, to give it time to work, to be patient, and to win.
WOODRUFF: And I'm going to have Mr. Soltz respond to that, but, just to be clear, you're saying you want the troops to stay how long?
MORGAN: I want the troops to stay until the job is done. And that will be determined by our generals who are running and prosecuting this war.
When there have been political benchmarks that have been reached, when we have a stabilization -- I have often said, we've already won the war in Iraq. We have not won the peace. And that is the difficult job.
The Iraqi army is working very hard to accomplish that. We are working very hard with them. We have attained many of the benchmarks already that the president set out when we invaded Iraq. We have deposed President Saddam Hussein. He's now dead. We have a democrat, freely elected government in place, and we are trying now to secure that peace. And that is the difficult and grinding slog that we face.
WOODRUFF: Jon Soltz, what do you have to say to that?
SOLTZ: Well, we are the troops. And there was nothing worse than when I was in combat in Iraq and a soldier that I sent on a convoy was killed, and I had to hear my president, a man who never had the courage to serve in Vietnam, entice my enemy with words like, “Bring it on.”
MORGAN: Oh, please!
SOLTZ: So this is a very important thing. This week, VoteVets.org is launching a major, massive campaign component, or not campaign, but an education of sorts, where we're running commercials across the country. And we're not just using Iraq war veterans. We're having General [John] Batiste, the [former] commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.
Of course, President Bush says he listens to the commanders on the ground, but General Batiste, going in to four different states, where there's four different senators, and House districts across the entire country, saying, “Mr. President, you don't listen to the commanders in the field. You've put our Army and our Marine Corps in peril.”
And it's up to these senators to protect America, and not George Bush. And that's what this is about. This is about victory against Al Qaeda.
MORGAN: No, this is exactly what it's about, Mr. Soltz.
SOLTZ: We are a pro-troop organization. We fought for this country --
MORGAN: We are a pro-troop organization, as well.
SOLTZ: -- and we do not support -- excuse me, ma'am. Excuse me.
MORGAN: What it is about for you is political games.
WOODRUFF: I want to let each one of you speak. So, Mr. Soltz, finish that sentence, and then I want to hear --
SOLTZ: Yes, ma'am. I have fought for this country, and I have earned my right for you to hear my opinion on this show.
SOLTZ: But she's [Morgan] right. I couldn't agree with her more. Al Qaeda is listening, and that's the entire point. And Al Qaeda supports their policy. They have undermined our troops in field. They've empowered Iran.
Al Qaeda said it two days ago. They want us in Iraq. They've strategically fixed our assets to defeat them in the war on terror inside the middle of a Shia-Sunni conflict in the middle of the Middle East. And it's absolutely ridiculous.
MORGAN: Well, it's nice to know that you really believe in the fearsome firepower of Al Qaeda and in their ability to win a war. And I think what you're saying is shameful and really disrespectful to our troops.
SOLTZ: You're undermining our troops in the field right now by these comments. I am the troops.