Accuracy in Media

In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Pensacola, Florida, at a U.S. Navy base, the mainstream media clamored for President Donald Trump to criticize longtime U.S. ally Saudi Arabia for the role of one of its officers perpetrating the attack.

The FBI is investigating the attack, which killed three American sailors, as a terrorist attack.

The officer, Saudi national Mohammed Alshamrani, served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and opened fire in a classroom on the military base last week. He was killed after exchanging gunfire with two deputies.

The Saudi government did not issue an official statement, but has been in contact with the Trump administration since the attack and sent lawyers and other officials to Pensacola to demonstrate solidarity between the allied countries. However, the mainstream media awaited a statement from President Trump that would criticize Saudi involvement in the attack, but none such statement came. Instead, Trump passed on the Saudi government’s message, which said that “the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”

CNN’s article on the Saudi-Trump relationship noted that “[d]espite major incidents seeming to highlight rising tensions in the last two years, leaders of the allied nations have appeared to stay close.” The cable news channel also mentioned Trump’s support for the Saudi government “even as details of the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi emerged.” Also, CNN added that the CIA concluded the Saudi crown prince “personally ordered Khashoggi’s murder” and yet it did not deter Trump from supporting Saudi Arabia’s government. CNN then discussed America’s reliance on Saudi Arabia for weapons purchases as a reason behind Trump’s reluctance to put distance between the allies.

It was apparent that CNN rooted for the Trump administration to condemn Saudi Arabia and distance itself from the longtime U.S. ally. However, CNN failed to recognize that the allies have vested strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, as both countries oppose Iran’s growing influence in the region. Additionally, even though CNN wrote about the increase in U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, it did not mention that Saudi Arabia is stockpiling weapons to counter Iranian influence.

CNN’s criticism of Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia lacked geopolitical strategic context and its article was yet another example of the media ignoring context and history in order to criticize the Trump administration.

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