In its prime-time coverage of President Bush's June 28 speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, NBC News anchors Brian Williams and Tim Russert noted that Bush referenced the September 11 terrorist attacks several times in his speech, but they failed to mention Bush's own previous admission that there was "no evidence" of a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks.
Russert commented before the speech that Bush was "going to link Iraq directly to September 11 and Osama bin Laden"; after the speech, he noted that Bush had "mentioned September 11 several times" as he "redefined this mission" to "prevent[ing] Iraq from becoming a haven for Al Qaeda" and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Williams added that Bush had mentioned September 11 five times. But neither Russert nor Williams told viewers that Bush acknowledged in 2003 that "[w]e've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the [sic] September 11th," a conclusion supported by the independent 9-11 commission.
From NBC's June 28 coverage prior to Bush's address:
WILLIAMS: Tim, what are the stakes for the president going into this tonight?
RUSSERT: Enormous, Brian. He must raise the morale of the American fighting men and women, he must harden the resolve the American people, and Brian, he's going to link Iraq directly to September 11 and Osama bin Laden.
After the speech, Williams turned to Russert for analysis:
WILLIAMS: NBC's Tim Russert has been watching along with us. Tim, your reaction?
RUSSERT: Well, Brian, clearly the president's expression of support and admiration for the troops will meet with unanimous approval from the American people. A couple other things, however, I think will be a bit more controversial. Clearly, the president tonight officially redefined this mission. Everyone will recall that the primary rationale for the war in Iraq were the weapons of mass destruction. They, in fact, did not exist. We are now told by the president that the primary rationale for the war -- the mission -- is to prevent Iraq from becoming a haven for Al Qaeda. He mentioned September 11 several times, quoted Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi, not Hussein, is now the new threat from Iraq, and he is going to focus all of the attention in that battle. The interesting thing, Brian, is that he also said we will stand down as a military when the Iraqis stand up. A suggestion that that could still be in doubt. Our only exit strategy is having enough Iraqis step forward who are trained to defend their country, willing to spill their blood, so that we can leave. And that may take some time. And so the president's strategy tonight is to buy time. Let the election process go forward. Try to train enough Iraqis to replace the Americans. Hoping that the insurgency will then begin to subside. The great unanswered question in terms of completing this mission is, how much silent support is there in Iraq for the insurgency? Will, in fact, the Iraqis stand up? And if they don't, what will America do if we have a choice of standing and fighting the terrorists and the insurgents without strong Iraqi support or coming home?
WILLIAMS: Tim, two points. One, by our count, there were five references to September 11th within the body of the speech, and as we look at the president greeting the officers and enlisted soldiers, a lot of Special Forces insignias visible on a lot of their soldiers as this is -- a lot of those soldiers, as this is where they are headquartered. Let's talk about this venue for a moment.