Sunday, February 18, 2007

in 2003, asking questions was the definition of media bias

Trolling through Google, I stumbled across an interesting post from early 2003. The Media Research Center, which bills itself as America's media watchdog "Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996" had issued its 1,435th CyberAlert. Complaining that Peter Jennings had aired comments critical of the administration's push for war, instead of simply reciting the party line without comment or analysis.
Jennings Again Delivers Most Anti-Bush Spin of the Night

CBS and NBC were satisfied Tuesday night to note how Secretary of State Colin Powell contended Osama bin Laden's audio tape offered proof of his links to Iraq and then to point out how others in the government fear it's a signal of an impending terrorist attack on the U.S. But ABC's Peter Jennings wasn't satisfied with just doing that. He once again offered the most anti-administration spin of the night with a trilogy of three stories addressing subjects not touched by CBS or NBC.

Jennings argued that “a lot of people say they’ve made the connection” between Iraq and al Qaeda, “but haven’t proved the connection.” Reporter Martha Raddatz seemed to imply the administration's tough line toward Iraq may cause more terrorism: “Well, there are some people, Peter, who are saying the administration has created this link, linking up al-Qaeda and Iraq, because of the possible invasion of Iraq. And many believe this may backfire, saying, 'Who stirred up this hornets nest?’”

Jennings charged that taking on al Qaeda and Iraq “might well be stretching the United States quite thin” before highlighting “dissatisfaction” on Capitol Hill from Bush Iraq policy opponents over plans for a post-war Iraq.

Jennings: “Well, certainly one thing this does today is point out that you’ve got Osama bin Laden on one hand, Saddam Hussein on the other, and this might well be stretching the United States quite thin.”
Raddatz: “Yes, remember the war on terrorism. It would certainly stretch the United States military thin, especially Arabic speakers, special forces and intelligence analysts.”

Setting up another story, on a hearing not mentioned by CBS or NBC, Jennings asserted: “There was more about Iraq on Capitol Hill today. And the headline is dissatisfaction. At a Senate hearing, Senators from both parties wanted to know what the Bush administration intends to do in Iraq after the military phase. ABC’s Linda Douglass reports that if you believe the witnesses today, the administration may not know.”
Throughout the post, we're told CBS and NBC were satisfied to simply report the party line. Jennings was constantly bringing up counter arguments. Questioning whether an attack on Iraq would divide our attention, drain resources from the fight on bin Laden and inflame the Muslim world. Mentioning that some Senators were concerned about what would happen after Saddam fell.

That was considered unacceptable bias in 2003. Today, even many Iraq war supporters wish more questions had been asked and plans made for the consequences of opening up a second war front.

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