FOX's Vester claimed Pentagon's latest witness handled missing explosivesOctober 29, 2004 7:23 PM EDT ››› GABE WILDAU
Following an October 29 Pentagon press conference attempting to address concerns about high explosives missing from Iraq's Al Qaqaa military installation, FOX News Channel host Linda Vester reported that the Army major who spoke at the conference "handled at least some of these explosives." In fact, Major Austin Pearson's own statements suggest that he did not handle the high explosives in question.
FOX aired the press conference live in its entirety. Soon afterward, Vester reported: "Breaking news about those missing explosives in Iraq: an Army major who handled at least some of those explosives has spoken to reporters." In fact, while Pearson told reporters that he had removed 250 tons of explosives from Al Qaqaa, he declined to assert that he had handled the particular explosives in question -- up to 380 tons of RDX and HMX once stored at Al Qaqaa and first reported on October 25 by The New York Times -- though a reporter asked specifically if he was willing to make that claim.
The Times reported -- and no one has disputed -- that the International Atomic Energy Agency placed seals on the bunkers containing the HMX and RDX in January 2003. A recently unearthed video -- taken on April 18, 2003, by a news crew from Minneapolis TV station KSTP while traveling with the Army's 101st Airborne Division -- appeared to showed a supply of explosives once under IAEA seal. Former chief weapons inspector David Kay judged that the material in the video was probably HMX and RDX, as Media Matters for America has noted.
But Pearson specifically said he did not see, let alone remove, IAEA seals while he was removing munitions from Al Qaqaa. "I did not see any IAEA seals at any of the locations we went into. I was not looking for that," Pearson said, according to an Associated Press article.