BLACKOUT: Networks Ignore Report Finding Massive Waste In Iraq Reconstruction

Broadcast and cable news networks have largely ignored a new report which concluded that the United States' rebuilding efforts in Iraq squandered billions of dollars due to widespread fraud, abuse, and waste.

Last week, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, released a report concluding that of the $60 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction projects in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, at least $8 billion of it was “wasted.”

In the five days since its release, only PBS and MSNBC have offered substantial coverage of the report.

NBC, ABC, and CBS have all ignored it during their evening newscasts (though it warranted passing mention on NBC's Today, the other networks' morning news programs also ignored the findings). Fox News' Bret Baier gave the story less than twenty seconds of coverage during Special Report.

CNN has completely ignored the report.

Though NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN have devoted a combined thirty five seconds to the story, PBS and MSNBC have each spent more than ten minutes discussing the report and its conclusions.

During an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS' Newshour, Bowen, who was appointed to his position by President Bush nine years ago, highlighted several of the takeaways from the report. According to Bowen, while “a lot of our money paid off in the capacity-building side of the security sector,” a significant amount of money devoted to major construction projects was wasted.

Bowen points to a widespread failure of the United States to consult with Iraqi leadership about reconstruction efforts as a source of much of the waste.

In his report, Bowen also documents a staggering amount of fraud and criminal behavior (82 convictions and counting) among U.S. contractors and government personnel involved in the reconstruction.

During the interview with Woodruff, Bowen explained that the lessons derived from his report are especially important in light of the United States' reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.  

In addition to multiple news briefs about the report scattered across several shows, MSNBC also featured a long discussion of it on their program The Daily Rundown. In a March 7 segment, host Chuck Todd ran through several of the report's findings and labeled the amount of waste “mind-boggling.” Todd also hosted Washington Post editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran to discuss its findings. (Chandrasekaran was previously Baghdad bureau chief for the Post and wrote an acclaimed 2006 book on the Iraq occupation and reconstruction.) 

Current TV's Viewpoint also featured Bowen's report. Host John Fugelsang concluded, “People who supported the Iraq War don't ever, ever, ever get to complain about deficits or spending.”  

In 2011, Media Matters reported that news outlets devoted far more coverage to the failure of the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra than to reports about billions of dollars being wasted by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the military waste represented a significantly larger amount of taxpayer money. 


Media Matters searched video for all news programs on broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) and cable news (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) for any variation of “Iraq” between March 6 and 10. We included and timed any teasers and full segments on the $8 billion of wasted Iraq reconstruction funds as well as any mentions of the wasted funds within segments on other topics.

Graph by Alan Pyke.