In keeping with a pattern at The Washington Post, Shailagh Murray and Howard Kurtz dismissed suggestions that the Post should follow up on a National Journal article on an internal Bush administration review, which found that President Bush had been specifically advised that claims he made during his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's nuclear program might not be true. Despite the Post's failure to report on the revelation, Murray suggested readers already knew "that Bush had some indication" the intelligence he cited "was faulty."
In an April 3 online chat, Washington Post congressional reporter Shailagh Murray dismissed a reader's suggestion that the Post should follow up on a March 30 article by National Journal investigative reporter Murray Waas, who reported that an internal Bush administration review found that President Bush "had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true." Asked by the reader whether the Post would follow up on this revelation "because it strengthens the argument that Bush intentionally misled the country about this issue," or whether it was too busy reporting "puff pieces about how the President's new, more open style is winning audiences over," Murray responded that the Post's White House reporters were "working on profiles of the [Bush] twins and that cute dog Barney." She instructed readers "to check out the National Journal piece" for themselves, adding: "Does anyone out there really doubt at this point that Bush had some indication that the intelligence on the tubes was faulty?" The Post has yet to cover Waas's National Journal disclosures.
In a separate chat later that day, a reader asked Post media critic Howard Kurtz about Murray's comments, specifically whether the Post's White House reporters would appreciate Murray's assertion that they are too busy profiling the Bush twins and the Bush family dog to follow up on the National Journal story. Kurtz responded: "I think our White House correspondents possess an actual sense of humor. Personally, I can't get enough about Barney."
Murray's suggestion that the Post does not need to cover a story of the magnitude of Waas's because readers already know "that Bush had some indication that the intelligence on the [aluminum] tubes was faulty" -- as well Kurtz's failure to even acknowledge the issue -- fit into a larger pattern at the Post of brushing aside, as "old news," revelations about the Iraq war that could be damaging to the Bush administration.
The Post editorial page dismissed the disclosures contained in the Downing Street memo, claiming that the memo "add[s] not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations" or to "what was publicly known in July 2002." Moreover, as Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), three years after the start of the Iraq war, the Post editorial page has yet to acknowledge its failure to question the Bush administration's claims in the run-up to the war, and has not retracted the falsehoods it put forth in promoting, and subsequently defending, the invasion.
From Murray's April 3 chat:
Rochester, N.Y.: Last week Murray was (sic) reported in the National Journal that Bush was explicitly warned that portions of the case for WMD was likely faulty -- specifically the part about the infamous aluminum tubes. This seems important, because it strengthens the argument that Bush intentionally misled the country about this issue. Is The Post planning on following up on this? Or do you have your hands full with puff pieces about how the President's new, more open style is winning audiences over?
Shailagh Murray: Just a sec, let me check with the White House reporters -- nope, they're working on profiles of the twins and that cute dog Barney.
Readers are herein instructed to check out the National Journal piece.
Does anyone out there really doubt at this point that Bush had some indication that the intelligence on the tubes was faulty?
From Kurtz's April 3 chat:
Alexandria, Va.: Shailagh Murray just joked a few minutes ago with a chatter who wanted more media coverage of the Murray Waas report on Bush's level of knowledge on WMD intelligence. Shailaugh (sic) quipped:
"Just a sec, let me check with the White House reporters -- nope, they're working on profiles of the twins and that cute dog Barney."
Do you think the White House reporters for The Post would appreciate that? And what about Helen Thomas writing a book about her colleagues in the W.H. press being wimps? How do they react?
Howard Kurtz: I think our White House correspondents possess an actual sense of humor. Personally, I can't get enough about Barney.