Accuracy in Media

In what Mollie Hemingway, columnist for The Federalist, called a “sad new low” in media bias, President Trump was attacked relentlessly for approving a mission that took out the world’s No.1 terrorist.

The original Washington Post headline said a leading terrorist had been killed, but after objections apparently from the newsroom that the headline reflected too positively on the president, it was changed to: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.”

Bloomberg responded with “Who Was Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi” by Tarek El-Tablawy, which included this passage:

“It was a far cry from the day he announced his caliphate in 2014, with his supporters vowing to dissolve the Middle East boundaries set by colonial powers almost a century ago.

“Seizing oil wealth in the areas he captured, the Iraqi-born man built an organization that was able to recruit and unite thousands of followers with the promise of an Islamic revival built on ‘dignity, might, rights and leadership.’

“The focus on grabbing territory and capitalizing on captured riches won him the loyalty of extremists from the UK to the Philippines. U.S. intelligence agencies have estimated that more than 40,000 foreigners from at least 120 countries joined the group.”

The New York Times wrote that it would have been a much easier operation if President Trump had not unwisely removed U.S. soldiers from the Turkey-Syria border area on Oct. 6 in “Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid” – subhead: “President Trump’s abrupt decision to pull forces from northern Syria forced the Pentagon to press ahead with a risky night operation that killed the ISIS leader, military officials said,” by Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Julian Barnes.

Trump’s order to withdraw “disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.”

The story is based totally on anonymous sources and provides no information on how they would have known whether operational difficulties were imposed by Trump’s pullout.

Another Times story, under the banner “Trump Impeachment Inquiry,” was headlined: “Al-Baghdadi Raid Was a Victory Built on Factors Trump Derides” – subhead: “The president cast the death of the ISIS leader as validation of his disengagement strategy. But it required intelligence agencies and allies he has spurned.”

The raid “vindicated the value of three traditional American strengths: robust alliances, faith in intelligence agencies and the projection of military power around the world,” wrote David Sanger. “But President Trump has regularly derided the first two. And even as he claimed a significant national security victory on Sunday, the outcome of the raid did little to quell doubts about the wisdom of his push to reduce the United States military presence in Syria at a time when terrorist threats continue to develop in the region.”  

A number of outlets focused on the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not informed beforehand. Trump said at his press conference Sunday morning following the raid that “… we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before. There’s nothing – there’s no country in the world that leaks like we do.”

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Vice-President Pence whether the president trusted Pelosi with national security information. Pence said the operation was risky, that Americans had to fly over hostile territory. He then said it was his job as a journalist to ask why the president didn’t inform Pelosi. Pence said it was to ensure “the safety of our forces.”

Wallace gave up on that, then asked: “The military success comes at the same time that Democrats are pursuing an impeachment inquiry to remove this president. Do you see a conflict there?”

“I don’t understand the question,” Pence said. “Congress has been pursuing impeachment of President Trump for three years.” Wallace then asked if this operation “invalidates or counters the argument by Democrats on the need to pursue impeachment.”

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