CBS memo mea culpa received significantly more media coverage than NYT acknowledgment on WMD


If media coverage bore any relationship to a story's significance, The New York Times' May 26 admission that it too readily accepted administration claims about weapons of mass destruction would have received at least comparable coverage to that of CBS's September 20 mea culpa regarding National Guard memos. It did not. Not even close.

In the 48 hours following reports that CBS would announce later that day that it "should not have used" memos critical of President George W. Bush's military service because of unresolved questions about their authenticity, that acknowledgment was reported 167 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and 57 times on cable news broadcasts. In the 48 hours after The New York Times published its acknowledgment that it "was not as rigorous as it should have been" in investigating the Bush administration's claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that story was reported 38 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and seven times on cable news. Notably, while no FOX News Channel primetime program reported the Times acknowledgment during those 48 hours, every FOX News Channel primetime program has addressed the CBS memo story.

Consider again the substance of the two admissions: The CBS acknowledgment, which received wall-to-wall coverage, involved the questionable authenticity of documents that -- if proven authentic -- would merely add to the extensive body of evidence that Bush did not fulfill his National Guard responsibilities, that he benefited from family connections, and that he has been less than truthful regarding his military service; conversely, The New York Times' acknowledgment, which received notably less coverage, involved inadequate reporting on what was ultimately proven to be a false pretense for going to war with Iraq.

NYT acknowledgment, 5/26-27 CBS acknowledgment, 9/20-21
U.S. newspapers and wires 38 167
Cable news 7 57
Network news 0 3

Methodology: Based on MMFA LexisNexis database searches of "U.S. Newspapers and Wires" and cable news broadcasts on September 23. Totals for New York Times story include all relevant hits that return for the search "New York Times AND weapons of mass destruction" for May 26-27. Totals for CBS memo story include all relevant hits that return for the search "CBS AND memo" for September 20-21.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Prewar Intelligence/WMD
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