NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski have both stated unequivocally that an October 25 NBC Nightly News report does not prove that 380 tons of high explosives were taken from the Al Qaqaa military installation in Iraq before U.S. troops arrived during the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Still, conservatives have continued to claim the opposite. Nationally syndicated columnist and CNN host Robert D. Novak, Washington Times columnist and chief political correspondent Donald Lambro, and radio host Michael Reagan joined the ranks of conservative media figures who have distorted the NBC News report in an effort to discredit the New York Times's October 25 article titled "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq."
On the October 25 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported: "April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne [Division] as they [took] over the weapons installation south of Baghdad. But they never found the 380 tons." The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign and numerous conservatives cited NBC's segment in an effort to refute Senator John Kerry's criticism of the Bush administration over the missing explosives, as Media Matters for America has noted.
But as MMFA has also documented, Miklaszewski appeared on MSNBC the day after his initial report to clarify that "those troops [from the 101st Airborne Division] were actually on their way to Baghdad, that they were not actively involved in the search for any weapons, including the high explosives HMX and RDX."
And, according to an October 27 New York Times article, Colonel Joseph Anderson, the commander of those troops from the 101st Airborne Division, confirmed that his troops did not search the facility.
On the October 27 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, Brokaw explicitly disavowed the Bush-Cheney campaign's use of the NBC report to claim that Kerry's criticism of the Bush administration over the missing explosives was "proven false." 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."
Nonetheless, conservatives continue to claim that that is what NBC reported:
Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro, in his October 28 nationally sydicated column:
John Kerry swallowed the story whole, saying it was another example of the administration's incompetence in Iraq. But the unconfirmed story fell apart Monday night after NBC News reported that these explosives were already missing, according to one of their reporters who was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne Division, who searched the site on April 10, 2003.
CNN co-host and columnist Robert D. Novak, in his October 28 syndicated column:
On the same day, the Kerry campaign threw out previous plans and made the candidate's centerpiece a New York Times report of 380 tons of explosives found missing from Iraq. Although NBC embedded reporters said the explosives were gone when U.S. troops arrived in March 2003, Kerry insisted for two days that this was another example of Bush's inadequacy in waging the war on terror. Whether such a complex issue appeals to security moms is another matter.
Radio host Michael Reagan, in a clip from his nationally syndicated radio show played on the October 27 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now:
REAGAN: I think everybody now knows that the story again is another bogus story. And I think that people get that. I can't believe people are buying into that anymore, because it's been discounted about those weapons, where they were, what time they were there, and they were discounted why? Not by me at talk radio or talk radio or FOX News. Discounted by embedded reporters from NBC.