Fox, MSNBC reports of "local opposition" to housing Guantánamo detainees omit reports of local support


Following the announcement by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that the Obama administration is considering housing Guantánamo detainees in a largely vacant prison in Thomson, Illinois, Fox News' Catherine Herridge reported that that "we're seeing some signs of local opposition" among the residents, and MSNBC's Monica Novotny said there was local "outrage." Both omitted additional reporting that some residents welcome the decision, which could provide employment and economic stimulus to the community; indeed, Herridge ignored an earlier report on Fox News that some residents are "pretty open" to the decision.

Fox's Herridge and MSNBC's Novotny claim "outrage" and "local opposition" to housing detainees

Herridge: "[W]e're seeing some signs of local opposition." During Fox News' Happening Now, Herridge noted Durbin's and Quinn's support and claimed that "already since this story first surfaced over the weekend, we're seeing some signs of local opposition, people questioning whether their community could really handle up to a hundred detainees." [Happening Now, 11/15/09]

Novotny: "Outrage" in Thomson over detainees. Novotny claimed: "Now there's outrage in Illinois over the prospect of a prison just 150 miles outside of Chicago being turned into the next Guantánamo Bay." [MSNBC Live, 11/16/09]

No evidence cited to support their claims. Neither Novotny nor Herridge provided evidence to support the claim that Thomson residents are generally opposed to holding the Guantánamo detainees in the prison.

Chicago Tribune, Fox News report Thomson residents support housing detainees

Fox News' Carina Sonn: Thomson residents "pretty open" to housing detainees. Less than an hour before Herridge's report, correspondent Carina Sonn reported live from Thomson that she had spoken to local residents at a nearby diner and that the residents were "pretty open" to housing the detainees and that "[t]his deal could usher in a couple thousand jobs and up to a billion dollars, over the first four years of operation, in economic activity." During Herridge's report, Sonn's reporting was not mentioned, despite Herridge's claim that Fox News was "seeing some signs of local opposition."

Chicago Tribune: "Town welcomes idea of Gitmo detainees' arrival" A November 16 Chicago Tribune article reported on local residents, including Thomson Village President Jerry "Duke" Hebeler, supporting the transfer of detainees to their town's prison.

From the Chicago Tribune article:

News that the federal government seems interested in transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center was greeted warmly in this small, rural farm town along the Iowa border.

After holding out hope that the sprawling $145 million prison might improve the economic conditions in this remote area of the state, residents say any prisoners would be a welcomed sight.

"It would help the businesses here, and God knows we could use that," said Kay Lawton, 59, a Thomson resident. "It doesn't matter to me who they bring here."


But most now know how crucial the prison is to the town's survival, said Carroll County resident Gary Harris.

"I don't want (enemy combatants) walking the street, so they have to go some place," said Harris, 64. "Might as well come here."

Thomson Village President Jerry "Duke" Hebeler said Saturday that he met with state officials in October about the possibility of bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to this rural outpost in the northwestern corner of the state. He said the state came up with the original idea but that he quickly bought into it, believing the people of Thomson and its surrounding communities would understand the bigger picture.

"A murderer is a murderer no matter where he's from," Hebeler said. "That's the way I look at it." [Chicago Tribune, 11/14/09]

Herridge ignores broad-based support for criminal trials of Guantánamo detainees

Herridge claims ACLU and senior Democrats" support criminal trials for Guantánamo detainees. Happening Now co-host Jon Scott asked Herridge who supports Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to bring terrorist suspects to criminal trial in the United States. Herridge responded: "ACLU and senior Democrats here in Washington."

Retired generals, admirals, conservative scholars, and statesmen support criminal trials. In responding that the "ACLU and senior Democrats" support criminal trials, Herridge ignored endorsements from conservatives like president of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist, former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and former Rep. Thomas B. Evans Jr. (R-DE), 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."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Fox News Channel, MSNBC
Catherine Herridge, Monica Novotny
MSNBC Live, Happening Now
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