Rush Limbaugh claimed without evidence that “the media” had reversed their position on the condition of American troops' body armor in response to reports that ABC World News Tonight co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt survived a roadside bombing in Iraq because they were wearing body armor.
Responding to reports that ABC World News Tonight co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt survived a roadside bombing in Iraq because they were wearing body armor, Rush Limbaugh claimed without evidence on his nationally syndicated radio show that “the media” had reversed their position on the condition of American troops' body armor. Asserting that the media were doing “180s” on the issue, Limbaugh cited unnamed reports “telling us about how poor the body armor was.” In fact, multiple media outlets -- including ABC News and The New York Times -- have recently noted that a large number of fatalities have resulted from the military's failure to provide troops with armor for their sides, shoulders, and outer torsos. They have not claimed -- as Limbaugh suggested -- that existing body armor is entirely ineffective.
On his show, Limbaugh played comments by ABC News correspondent David Wright, who reported on the January 30 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America that Woodruff and Vogt were wearing “helmets and flak jackets.” From the January 30 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
WRIGHT [audio clip]: Both of them, when they went out on this assignment, serious veteran war reporters. And they knew full well that this is a dangerous place.
Bob and his team were riding in the lead vehicle in the convoy, an Iraqi light armor personnel carrier. Wearing helmets and flak jackets, they stood in the back hatch, taping a stand-up when the explosion hit.
LIMBAUGH: They stood in the -- they stood in the back hatch taping a stand-up when the explosion hit. Now, this just seems to be so out of touch and so far removed from reality. “Serious veteran war reporters, they knew full well this is a dangerous place. Bob and his team were riding in the lead vehicle, an Iraqi light armored personnel carrier, wearing helmets and flak jackets.” By the way, body armor, which -- how long ago was it the media was telling us about how poor the body armor was? The body armor wasn't working, American troops didn't have the proper equipment, they weren't properly equipped, they weren't properly protected. Bush and Cheney didn't care, Rumsfeld should be fired. And now they're out there saying it was the body armor that literally saved the lives of Bob Woodruff and his cameraman over there. How fast these 180s are made. At any rate, it just, it's -- I have all the sympathy here in the world for Bob Woodruff; don't misunderstand here, folks. I just think it is instructive to look at what it takes for these people to understand that this is real and that this is dangerous.
Limbaugh was apparently referring to recent media reports highlighting the military's failure to provide troops in Iraq with certain types of life-saving body armor. But these reports did not claim -- as Limbaugh's “180” comment suggested -- that existing body armor was ineffective. Rather, they noted that additional armor could have prevented a significant portion of American fatalities in Iraq.
On January 7, The New York Times reported that "[a] secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor." The Times reported: “Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.” The Times further explained: “The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.” On January 8, the Times editorialized:
Marines in the field have been clamoring for additional body armor (and vehicle armor) almost since the Iraq war began. Military officials initially turned them down because of concerns that the added weight might constrict movement. Once the study results came in last summer, Marine Corps leaders belatedly reversed themselves and started speeding armor to the troops.
Still, as of last month, less than 10 percent of the 28,000 sets of armor plates on order had actually reached the Marines in Iraq. Similar delays have plagued deliveries of improved vehicle armor. And the much larger Army contingent in Iraq has faced even more extensive delays.
Following the Times' report, Good Morning America ran a week-long segment on the issue. On January 9, for instance, co-anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed a mother who had helped her son purchase “extra body armor not supplied by the Marines.” Sawyer reported: “In the end, the added protection cost $3,000 and shields the shoulders, sides, and the outer edges of the torso, areas left vulnerable by his current equipment.” Sawyer asked viewers: “So why didn't they have it? Why is the Pentagon moving so slowly, and why are some mothers not waiting for the military?”
A January 21 New York Times article reported: “Under pressure to speed the delivery of armor to troops in Iraq, the United States Army has awarded an emergency contract for ceramic plates to protect the sides of soldiers' torsos from insurgents' attacks, military officials said yesterday” -- a move “expected to shave three months off the typical contracting process” The Times further noted that “the Senate and House Armed Services committees said they planned to hold hearings in response to concerns raised by a report in The New York Times on Jan. 7 about the military's body armor program.”
It is not clear from media reports whether the armor worn by Woodruff and Vogt is the same as that issued to troops by the military.