MSNBC anchor speculated on NYC terrorist threat and Al Qaeda's “beef” with Bushies

During the July 7 broadcast of MSNBC News Live, MSNBC anchor Amy Robach, in an interview with former FBI New York bureau assistant director Bill Gavin, echoed unsubstantiated claims that New York City will be a “bigger target” than Boston when the cities host this summer's Republican and Democratic National Conventions, respectively. She asked if that was because New York will host President George W. Bush and the Republican National Convention -- “the same government that chose to go to war with Iraq and Al Qaeda has much of a beef against.”

From the July 7 broadcast of MSNBC News Live:

ROBACH: Officials have said New York is a bigger target than Boston. Do you think that's because President [George W.] Bush will be there? This is the Republican Convention, the same government that chose to go to war with Iraq and Al Qaeda has much of a beef against. Or is it because of the symbolic targets that are available in New York?

GAVIN: I think probably a little bit of both, Amy. The fact that the president and vice president and their families will be there, and the fact that the initial catastrophe of 9-11 occurred in New York, and to have somebody do something else to that city would just be hideous. In Boston, of course, you have a presidential candidate and a vice-presidential candidate will be here as well, so, it may be -- I don't know how these people think. They could think totally different than the way we believe they will.

As Media Matters for America has noted, the unsourced speculation that New York is a bigger terrorist target than Boston, which will host the Democratic National Convention, is consistent with recent predictions made by Bush administration officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and President Bush. Referring to the March terrorist attack in Madrid, both Rice and Bush expressed the concern that terrorists might try to affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November just as many believed they were able to do in Spain, where three days after the attack the pro-Bush president lost his bid for reelection.

Robach's statement on MSNBC recalled The New York Times' July 4 assertion that “New York is regarded as a higher risk than Boston by counterterrorism officials because President Bush is a Republican and because of consistent intelligence.” And on May 27, CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena, also under the guise of a statement of fact, reported on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports: "[T]here is some speculation that Al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House." As Media Matters for America has previously noted, repetition of this unsourced speculation has the effect of, in the words of the Center for American Progress, "spread[ing] the unsubstantiated myth that al Qaeda has a preference [for Kerry] in the upcoming U.S. elections."

On May 28, Media Matters for America cited a March 17 Reuters article reporting evidence that suggests terrorists have precisely the opposite preference: In a statement claiming responsibility for the Madrid bombings that killed nearly 200 people in March, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades -- a terrorist organization that claims to have ties to Al Qaeda -- said it wants to see President Bush reelected in November.

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