Faced with widespread criticism in recent weeks, the Bush administration and some of its supporters have promoted numerous false and misleading claims intended to downplay the approval of a deal that would turn over control of terminal operations at six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- and cast critics of the transaction as racist, politically opportunistic, or both. The media, in turn, have often repeated these claims without challenge or correction.
For the second night in a row, in reporting on newly released video showing President Bush receiving warnings that Hurricane Katrina could cause New Orleans levees to fail, ABC's World News Tonight did not mention Bush's comment, made days after the storm, that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
NBC's Nightly News and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume uncritically reported the new White House explanation for President Bush's claim that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." The administration now claims that Bush was warned only of the levees "overtopping," not breaching. However, some key facts undermine this White House explanation.
In recent days, numerous pundits have summarily dismissed concerns about the takeover of operations at six U.S. ports by a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that the Bush administration opted not to conduct the 45-day investigation into the deal's national security implications provided for -- and, critics argue, required -- by federal law.
ABC World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas failed to note the apparent conflict between a newly released videotape that shows President Bush receiving a warning that New Orleans levees could be topped and Bush's later comment that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell similarly failed to note this contradiction during an interview with deputy White House press secretary Trent Duffy.
While interviewing White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy on the March 2 edition of CNN's Live From... about newly released video of President Bush receiving warnings that the New Orleans levees might fail, news anchor Fredricka Whitfield joined a growing list of journalists who seem to have entirely forgotten that Bush claimed, two days after the storm, that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
CBS News correspondent Bob Orr uncritically reported the White House's "explanation" for why President Bush falsely claimed that nobody anticipated that Hurricane Katrina would cause breaches in New Orleans levees and flood the city. Orr reported that the White House stated that Katrina "was a Category 3" storm when it made landfall but did not mention that, at the time, it was assessed as a more powerful Category 4 hurricane.
During a report from the Port of Baltimore intended to clear up "factual confusion" about the Bush administration's deal to let Dubai Ports World assume control of terminals at six major U.S. ports, Fox News' Jim Angle emphasized that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for port security and listed some of the security procedures in place. However, Angle ignored the glaring security deficiencies at the Baltimore port, as well as at other ports, that have been highlighted in recent media accounts.
On MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, Jay Severin, a former "cast member" of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, said that "the only meaningful gesture" Americans could make toward befriending Arab countries would be to "cut off our own heads right now as a gesture of good faith."
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Most major print and broadcast media outlets offered no coverage of House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King's March 1 claim that there was "no investigation into terrorism whatsoever" during the Bush administration's initial review of the proposed deal that would allow Dubai Ports World (DPW) to assume control of terminal operations at six major U.S. ports.
On March 2, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today reported on newly released video footage and transcripts documenting how, on the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, President Bush was warned -- and expressed concern -- about the possibility that the levees in New Orleans would be breached by the storm. But none of these reports mentioned that these new tapes further contradict the claim Bush made on ABC's Good Morning America several days after the storm hit that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
L. Brent Bozell III claimed that "the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists" because of what Bozell described as their "refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt." In fact, various media experts and major newspapers tell a very different story -- that the media failed to effectively question the administration's attempt to link Iraq to Al Qaeda in the run-up to the war, a link that has since been discredited by the September 11 Commission.
Discussing the contradiction between the newly released videotape of President Bush at a FEMA briefing on Hurricane Katrina and Bush's statement during a September 1, 2005, appearance on Good Morning America that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," Chris Matthews invoked alleged flip-flops by Sen. John Kerry. Matthews asked campaign consultant Bob Shrum, "Do you think [Bush] was aware of the Katrina situation before he was unaware of it," then stated, "I'm reminding everybody of your candidate and how his positions changed."
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Following Fox News' February 23 suggestion that a civil war in Iraq might "be a good thing," Neil Cavuto switched gears on the March 1 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto and displayed an onscreen caption that asked: " 'Civil War' in Iraq: Made Up by the Media?"
In a Wall Street Journal commentary, Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson argued that U.S. troops in Iraq "hardly" regard their mission as "lost without a plan." However, a recent poll conducted face-to-face with soldiers serving in Iraq found that, when asked, 42 percent of respondents indicated a less than clear understanding of their mission in Iraq.