Accuracy in Media

Bob Simon is slated to replace Mike Wallace when Wallace finally retires from CBS News’ 60 Minutes. That is bad news for viewers worried about accuracy and fairness in the media. In his 60 Minutes reports thus far, Simon has been unable to conceal his bias against President Bush and his conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He has publicly stated his opposition to war against Iraq and in a 60 Minutes story last summer, dismissed legitimate concerns about Saddam Hussein’s continuing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons as administration “hype.”

His latest target is the President’s policy on the nuclear crisis in East Asia. In a segment titled “Yankee Go Home,” Simon failed to remind viewers that the current crisis was triggered by the North’s admission that it has been covertly enriching uranium for nuclear warheads. Or that it has been Pyongyang that has steadily escalated the crisis by restarting its moth-balled nuclear reactor and threatening to reprocess its stockpile of spent nuclear fuel. He even made a sympathetic reference to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il as a “vilified leader.”

His focus, instead, was on South Korea’s supposed distrust of U.S. policy and fear of President Bush personally. He portrayed South Koreans as “ungrateful” for the decades of protection they have enjoyed under America’s defensive shield against the North. He cited recent polls that he said showed more than fifty percent of the South doesn’t like the United States and ran video of large street demonstrations featuring signs calling George Bush a murderer. The video included clips of young people holding candles and singing protest songs. Simon compared these scenes to the anti-war protests of the 1960s in the U.S.

He interviewed four Korean youths, with an older Korean man looking on. He didn’t identify the youths, their affiliation, or their “minder,” but one had appeared earlier singing protest songs with anti-American lyrics that Simon said were so vile the “censors” wouldn’t permit him to repeat them. The youths told him they never think of the peninsula as being divided North and South and that their fondest dream is of unification. He didn’t ask them which form of government they would prefer in the event of unification.

Not surprisingly, these students told him they are more afraid of George Bush than of Kim Jong Il. They expressed no fear of Kim’s weapons of mass destruction, his long-range artillery or his threats to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.” Simon didn’t press them on just what it is about George Bush that scares them so badly. Disturbing as it may be, radical students clashing with riot police is hardly a new phenomenon in South Korea. Student protests that are often violently anti-American have been a common feature of political life in the South for years.

But Simon ignored polling data that show nearly 80% of South Koreans opposing any reduction in U.S. forces on the peninsula. He also ignored recent pro-U.S. demonstrations at which a million South Koreans expressed their support for the U.S. He opted, instead, to take another cheap shot at President Bush.

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