Accuracy in Media

Congressional Democrats and their friends in the media continue to distort President Bush’s case for war on Iraq. The controversy that erupted over the President’s reference to Iraq’s quest for uranium is one example of how his opponents have misrepresented what the President has actually said. Recall that in his State of the Union address, the President said the British have told us that Iraq had been seeking to purchase uranium in Africa. A British parliamentary investigation recently validated that conclusion.

David Kay’s interim report on the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq has occasioned another outburst. Kay reported that his team had uncovered dozens of WMD activities and programs that had been concealed from United Nations inspectors. But he also said that his team had yet to find stockpiles of existing WMD. Kay told reporters that the preliminary finding “does not mean we’ve concluded there are no actual weapons.”

But the President’s political opponents seized on Kay’s report to charge that the administration had misled the American public. In a New York Times “News Analysis,” for example, David E. Sanger wrote that Kay’s report shows that “nothing found so far backs up administration claims that Mr. Hussein posed an imminent threat to the world.” CBS News’ coverage of a recent speech by Vice President Cheney concluded that he had “offered no new evidence that Saddam posed an imminent threat as the administration claimed before the war.” ABC News made similar claims on its Internet site. It ran a wire story that charged “administration claims that Iraq posed an imminent threat were unfounded.”

Other media outlets were content to endlessly replay similar allegations levied against the President by congressional Democrats. For example, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that it was “very clear to me that there was no imminent threat of WMD.” Similar allegations by Senators Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller received widespread media coverage. Senator Ted Kennedy could be seen over and over again charging that the President’s case against Iraq was all lies.

But numerous Internet websites, like AndrewSullivan.com, reminded readers that the President had said no such thing in his State of the Union address. To the contrary, he rejected the advice of those who “said we must not act until the threat is imminent.” Instead, he said America could not afford to wait until terrorists and tyrants “politely [put] us on notice before they strike.” Journalists have yet to uncover an explicit Presidential reference to an “imminent threat.”

With a few notable exceptions, however, such distortions have gone unchallenged. On Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow openly disputed Senator Rockefeller on this point. He even quoted Rockefeller as saying more than a year ago, “I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat.” The fallback for the President’s opponent is now to claim that, even if he didn’t say it, that’s what he really meant. One said that while it was not an exact quotation, “it’s a summary of the president’s assessment.” He didn’t say whose summary.




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