NBC and ABC cite conservative criticism of criminal terror trials but ignore conservative endorsements

Following Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to hold criminal trials for five Guantánamo detainees, nightly news broadcasts on NBC and ABC have reported on conservative criticism of the move but ignored the endorsement of numerous conservative scholars and officials, including Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, and former Reps. Barry Goldwater Jr. (R-CA) and Bob Barr (R-GA). Indeed, a Media Matters for America review of nightly news broadcasts from November 13 through 17 found that neither network reported on the prominent conservatives that support criminal trials for terror suspects.

Nets report on conservative “outrage” over Holder's decision

NBC's Rosen: "[O]utrage on the right. ... And commitment on the left." Reporting on the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in a New York City federal court, NBC News correspondent Jeff Rosen claimed: “This weekend, a political line in the sand, with outrage on the right.” Rosen then aired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's comments that "[m]aybe the Obama administration doesn't think we're at war with them, but they're very clear on the fact that they are at war with us," and Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-MI) saying, “They're going to do everything they can to disrupt it and make it a circus and allow them to use it as a platform to push their ideology.” [NBC Nightly News, 11/15/09]

ABC's Thomas: Giuliani and "[o]ther Republicans were equally critical." ABC News' Pierre Thomas reported: “New York's mayor during the attacks issued a blistering statement, accusing the Obama administration of a pre-9-11 mentality. Other Republicans were equally critical.” Thomas then aired a clip of Rep. Pete King (R-NY), who stated, “I am absolutely outraged. This is the most disgraceful decision any president has ever made.” [ABC World News, 11/13/09]

NBC's Pete Williams quotes Bush AG, who “says it's a mistake.” After quoting a family member who supported the criminal terror trials and another who opposed them, NBC correspondent Pete Williams reported that “a former Bush attorney general says it's a mistake to treat the 9-11 attack simply as a crime.” Williams then aired a comment from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who stated: “What we are involved with here is a war with people who followed -- who follow a religiously-based ideology that calls on them to kill us.” [NBC Nightly News, 11/13/09]

NBC and ABC ignored broad-based support for criminal trials of Guantánamo detainees

Retired generals, admirals, conservative scholars, and statesmen support criminal trials. In reporting on conservative criticism of criminal trials for terrorism suspects, NBC and ABC news ignored endorsements from conservatives such as Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; former Rep. Thomas B. Evans Jr. (R-DE), who also is former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee; David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and board member of the National Rifle Association; and former Reps. Barry Goldwater Jr. (R-CA) and Bob Barr (R-GA). In a November 13 statement supporting the administration's decision, Barr stated:

“Trying these individuals in federal courts for the heinous acts they allegedly committed, is by no means treating them 'as common criminals,' as Senator [John] Cornyn inaccurately describes such process. Those federal courts which Senator Cornyn impliedly disparages have in fact and historically, tried, convicted and sentenced to appropriately lengthy prison terms, individuals who have perpetrated serious terrorist acts on our country and our citizens. It is mystifying why Senator Cornyn today has so little faith in the ability of federal prosecutors, federal agents, federal judges, and federal juries, to handle such cases.”