Accuracy in Media

Remember the show 60 Minutes Wednesday? That’s the program that ran the bogus documents story against President Bush during the campaign. On April 13, 60 Minutes Wednesday was back with a story that was headlined on the CBS web site: “Italian Journalist: U.S. Lied.” It was about the Italian communist journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was taken hostage in Iraq and then, as CBS put it, “rescued” by an Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari. However, trying to escape from Iraq in a car headed for Baghdad airport, Sgrena was injured and Calipari was killed when an American patrol opened fire on the car. The problem for CBS was that, just before the Scott Pelley story aired, NBC News correspondent Jim Miklaszewski broke a story about an investigation into the incident that “has cleared the American soldiers of any wrongdoing.”

It is troubling that the story on the CBS web site would be headlined, “Italian Journalist: U.S. Lied.” Coming from a “journalist,” some might say that has the ring of truth. But Sgrena is not ordinary journalist. As we noted in a press release on this matter, Sgrena represents a communist paper and filed stories from Iraq designed to make U.S. troops look bad, such as a false account of the U.S. using napalm on Fallujah. She was an anti-war activist before she went to Iraq and while in captivity recorded a terrorist video opposing the Italian troop presence there. CBS advertised the Pelley story as “her first American television interview.”

Pelley didn’t have access to the results of the investigation, but noted that the Army issued this statement on the night of the shooting: “Vehicle traveling at high speed refused to stop at a check point.” [The soldiers] “attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots?when the driver didn’t stop the soldiers shot into the engine block which stopped the vehicle.” Sgrena told Pelley all of these statements were lies.

Here’s what Miklaszewski reported, “The investigation found the car was about 130 yards from the checkpoint when the soldiers flashed their lights as a warning to stop. But the car kept coming and, at 90 yards, warning shots were fired. At 65 yards, when the car failed to stop, the soldiers used lethal force?a machine gun burst that killed Calipari and wounded Sgrena and the driver. Senior U.S. military officials say it took only about four seconds from the first warning to the fatal shots, but insist the soldiers acted properly under the current rules of engagement.”

A left-wing group called Media for Democracy is denouncing this probe as an “outrage and cover-up.” Speaking for the group, Danny Schechter of  refers to “the suspicious killings and harassment of journalists in Iraq.” He adds, “We Demand the Truth. Please speak up and speak out.” Schechter has produced a film suggesting that the Pentagon is deliberately targeting journalists for death in Iraq. His film was produced before Eason Jordan of CNN had to resign for making the same kind of charge and refusing to back it up.

This is a smear of our fighting men and women. There’s just no evidence that U.S. troops fired on the car for the purpose of killing the people inside. As we noted in our press release, if Sgrena had been targeted by U.S. troops for death, why didn’t they finish her off? Why did U.S. troops take her to a U.S. military hospital to get treatment for her injuries?

Scott Pelley and CBS should be ashamed of themselves for giving a communist journalist a soapbox to make false accusations against our military personnel.

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