On October 26, two NBC network hosts -- CNBC's Ron Isana and MSNBC's Chris Matthews -- failed to correct guests who erroneously asserted that an October 25 NBC Nightly News story refutes a New York Times report that 380 tons of explosives went missing from the Al Qaqaa military installation sometime after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A third NBC network host, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, made the false claim himself.
As Media Matters for America noted on October 26, some members of the media said that the New York Times story had been refuted by an October 25 NBC report that U.S. military troops arriving on April 10, 2003, with an embedded NBC reporter, did not find the explosives at the site. But as MMFA also noted, NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported the next day: "[T]hose troops were actually on their way to Baghdad. ... [T]hey were not actively involved in the search for any weapons, including the high explosives HMX and RDX."
CNBC's Street Signs anchor Ron Insana, when Bush-Cheney '04 deputy communications director Jennifer Millerwise made the erroneous assertion on the October 26 edition of Street Signs:
CHAD CLANTON (Kerry-Edwards '04 spokesman): A stunning report yesterday that 380 tons of high-grade explosives are on the loose now, presumably --
MILLERWISE: Chad, you know this has been discredited by NBC, the very network we're on. You're using the false attacks that have been discredited by the very network we're on.
CLANTON: The NBC producer who was there with them today said that there was no search. Look, the president won't take responsibility for any mistakes --
INSANA: All right, guys. I have to leave it there.
MSNBC host Chris Matthews, when conservative syndicated columnist Debra Saunders made the erroneous assertion on the October 26 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
SAUNDERS: I have a problem with this New York Times/60 Minutes story, because it seems to be, people are convinced that this is because of looting. We don't know that. We don't know if Saddam Hussein moved those weapons. And your NBC story suggests that the weapons may have been gone by the time U.S. troops could have done anything about it.
I wonder, how do we win a war if the media put every single thing that happens, every casualty, every goof-up on the president? How do you win?
MATTHEWS: Well, I've been asking the question myself on this show yesterday.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough made the erroneous assertion himself on the October 26 edition of Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Here you have The New York Times and CBS News forwarding an Iraqi explosive story that's nothing more than a fraud. They made this sound like an October surprise that would prove, like the editorial page said, that George Bush was too incompetent to be commander in chief. But there's one problem. It's a lie, and an old lie at that.
As you know, Pat Buchanan, NBC reporters who were embedded with the 101st Airborne reported on April 10, 2003. Now, remember, that was the day after we took over Baghdad, that these weapons that The New York Times and John Kerry claim to be stolen under George Bush's nose were already gone back in 2003. John Kerry knows that.
The fact that The New York Times knew that and ran the story, not just the first day, but ran it again today, after having knowledge that NBC News reported on April the 10th, 2003, that they went through this weapons site and the weapons in question were already gone. The fact that they would run the story is despicable and speaks to their character and the character of John Kerry.
On the October 26 edition of NBC's Nightly News, anchor Tom Brokaw reiterated that NBC's report did not contradict the New York Times story. Brokaw stated: "For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived. That is possible, but that is not what we reported."
And, as MMFA has noted, although NBC's Miklaszewski reported on October 25 that the U.S. troops arriving on April 10, 2003, at the Al Qaqaa installation "never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives called HMX and RDX, which is now missing," at no point did the NBC report claim that the April 10 stopover of U.S. troops, which included an embedded NBC reporter, was the first time the U.S. military visited the Al Qaqaa installation. Indeed, the Associated Press reported that U.S. soldiers had been there six days earlier, and did find evidence of explosives.