CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl says it was just an “oversight” that, in her story about former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, she didn’t mention that his new book is published by a company owned by the CBS parent company. That was a conflict of interest for 60 Minutes.
On the same show, however, Andy Rooney compounded the problem by delivering a commentary on charitable organizations making pitches for money. He held up a letter asking for money in an envelope bearing a photo of Walter Cronkite, the long-time CBS Evening News anchorman. Viewers could see that it was for something called the Interfaith Alliance. That, too, is a conflict of interest; according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Cronkite remains on the CBS payroll as a special correspondent.
That brief display amounted to a national commercial for one of Cronkite’s pet causes. The Interfaith Alliance is a liberal religious group that seeks to counter the “religious right.” On its website, there’s a message from Cronkite, who says, “When I anchored the evening news, I kept my opinions to myself. But now, more than ever, I feel I must speak out.” He proceeds to attack conservative Christian leaders and “their influence over American politicians.” Of course, Cronkite didn’t keep his views to himself on the evening news. He’s best known for turning the public against victory in the Vietnam War.
The Interfaith Alliance has more support in the media than just Cronkite. Its “2003 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award Dinner Ceremony” included CNN’s Larry King, who received one of the awards. King recently embarrassed himself on the air by confusing Michael Isikoff of Newsweek with Michael Weisskopf of Time.
On the same 60 Minutes show that included Rooney’s plug for Cronkite, correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Bradley flatly declared that “there’s no proof that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 or al Qaeda?” It’s difficult to know what he means by “proof.” But links between the Saddam Hussein regime and al Qaeda were documented by the CIA itself and this information was provided to Congress. The links went back for many years. One of those involved in the first attack on the World Trade Center, back in 1993, fled to Baghdad and is still at large. As far as 9/11 is concerned, U.S. forces invading Iraq confirmed that Saddam’s Salman Pak training camp taught terrorists how to hijack airliners.
Ed Bradley makes dubious claims on national television because he either doesn’t know the truth or doesn’t think the White House will challenge him. Both are probably correct. In an excellent new report on Saddam’s terror ties, columnist Deroy Murdock reports, “One Bush Administration communications specialist told me that the government is bashful about all of this because those links are difficult to prove.” They were substantial enough for a U.S. federal judge to rule, on May 7, 2003, that evidence indicates that Iraq had a hand in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A story about the judge’s ruling is still posted on the CBS website. We’re sure it was just an “oversight” that Ed Bradley missed it.