AP, CNN, LA Times ignored Bush's repudiation of "global struggle against extremism" moniker

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On July 26, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Bush administration officials had dropped the moniker "war on terror" in favor of "global struggle against violent extremism." In the days following, numerous other media outlets noted the shift in terminology. Although the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, CNN [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 7/26/05], MSNBC [Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 7/28/05], and Philadelphia Daily News were among the outlets that noted the change in terminology, they failed to report on an August 3 speech in which Bush publicly overruled those who had pushed for the change and in which he defended using the "war on terror" formulation.

In its July 26 article, The New York Times reported that according to senior administration and military officials, "[t]he Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission." The Times cited remarks by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, noting that these officials had de-emphasized the notion of a "war on terror," framing the struggle against terrorism as, in Hadley's words, "a global struggle against extremism."

But in an August 3 speech, Bush overruled his advisers, declaring, "Make no mistake about it, we are at war." On August 4, The New York Times reported on the president's remarks, also noting that, on August 3, the White House had circulated emails to reporters containing remarks by Rumsfeld, in which the defense secretary backed away from his earlier endorsement of the "global struggle against extremism" language: ''Let there be no mistake about it. It's a war. The president properly termed it that after Sept. 11." (Media Matters for America has noted, however, that the Times erred in reporting that Bush himself had been consistent in his use of the phrase "war on terror.")

Additionally, CNN reported on Rumsfeld's return to the original "war on terror" rhetoric on the August 4 broadcast of Lou Dobbs Tonight, but did not note the president's August 3 contradiction of previous statements by Rumsfeld, Myers, and Hadley.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
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