Before American hostage Paul Johnson was executed by Saudi terrorists, FOX News Channel host Oliver North asserted that U.S. media and politicians -- specifically Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) -- who continue to raise the issue of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib "have blood on their hands if they keep this up." After Johnson was beheaded on June 18, North proclaimed that those media and politicians "do have blood on their hands." North made this assertion during an interview with ABC radio host Sean Hannity during Hannity's June 18 radio show. North also continued to trivialize the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, stating, "[I]t was a crime, but it's not horrific."
The partial transcript from the June 18 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: And you said -- and you said politicians in Washington -- specifically, Ted Ken[nedy] -- have blood on their hands of people like Paul Johnson.
NORTH: Well, let me say it again -- those who continue these hearings on Abu Ghraib, trying to create the -- out of the malfeasance of 15 or 20 malefactors, and moving it into the realm of international scandal, have created the situation where they refer to Abu Ghraib and murdering people like Paul Johnson and conducting these kinds of heinous acts, and those politicians and those people in the media who keep this story alive as though it were some horrific crime -- it was a crime, but it's not horrific -- they keep it alive, they give ammunition to our enemies, and they do have blood on their hands.
While North asserted that "those politicians and those people in the media who keep this story [the abuses at Abu Ghraib] alive ... give ammunition to our enemies," the San Francisco Chronicle reported on May 13 that "most experts said they doubted [American civilian Nick] Berg's videotaped death was a result only of those abuses. Several, noting that Berg apparently had been kidnapped nearly a month ago before he was killed, suggested that the prison scandal merely provided the terrorists with an opportunity to make a point." Further, according to the Chronicle, "The terrorists' real motives, the experts said, probably were more wide-ranging and more subtle than simple revenge [for the abuses at Abu Ghraib]."
In May, Hannity aired the audio of Berg's execution on his radio show, which is nationally syndicated by ABC Radio Networks. That same May 13 San Francisco Chronicle article (written by staff writer Matthew B. Stannard and titled "Beheading video seen as war tactic; Experts say terrorists employing grisly form of propaganda") featured interviews with several scholars: Columbia University adjunct professor Brigitte Nacos said, "Without the media communicating what they want to say, terrorism doesn't really make sense"; Jim Walsh, an international security expert at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, stated that the Berg video is used to "get more followers, get more cash" and to find "more political support"; and Juan Cole, who is a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan, advised, "(Berg's slaying) was done in order to get on the front page of the New York Times, and the New York Times should resist that temptation. ... I think we should be very careful about giving a lot of space and a lot of attention to what is essentially a monstrous, horrendous publicity stunt."