Media conservatives attack Murtha over Haditha comments

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Various conservative media figures have attacked Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) for his recent appearances on ABC's Good Morning America and This Week, in which Murtha addressed the alleged murder of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines at the Iraqi town of Haditha. Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto, among others, accused Murtha of "bomb-throwing" and "bashing" the military. In fact, Murtha, who had been briefed on the matter, limited his criticisms to those allegedly involved in the incident and the reported cover-up.

Various conservative media figures have attacked Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) for his recent appearances on ABC's Good Morning America and This Week, in which Murtha addressed the alleged murder of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines at the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005. Murtha, one of several lawmakers to have been briefed on the military investigations into the matter, said the Marines shot the Iraqis "in cold blood," and, citing sources within the military, claimed that there was an attempted cover-up of the incident. Murtha also said: "It's an isolated incident. But that's why it's so important to get it out in the open and get the punishment at the appropriate places." However, Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto, among others, attacked Murtha for "bomb-throwing" and "bashing" the military, when in fact Murtha, who had been briefed on the matter, has limited his criticisms to those allegedly involved in the incident and the reported cover-up.

The alleged Haditha massacre was first publicly revealed in an article in the March 27 edition of Time. According to that article: "In January, after TIME presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors." The Los Angeles Times reported on May 29 that Murtha, Sen. John Warner (R-VA), and other members of Congress "have been briefed on the U.S. military's investigation into the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians." Murtha appeared on the May 28 broadcast of This Week and the May 30 broadcast of Good Morning America to address the Haditha investigation. The weblog Think Progress has a partial transcript and video of Murtha's Good Morning America appearance.

O'Reilly accused Murtha of "bomb-throwing" and claimed Murtha "indict[ed] the entire military on a national program." From the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Now, what is Murtha's intent here? Is this an "I told you so" because he opposes the war? The Marines respectfully asked us to wait until they had concluded their investigation. I said that was fair. But Murtha is obviously bomb-throwing.

Again, why? Murtha should answer that question because 95 percent of the military is performing heroically overseas in the chaos of war. Perspective and fair play are vitally important. And that's the "Memo."

[...]

O'REILLY: The Marines came to me and said, "Hey, Mr. O'Reilly, would you do us a favor and wait until we release our report?" Because I had confronted [Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld on this very issue and used the My Lai massacre as a starting point. And I said to the Marines, "Fair enough. Fair enough. I will let you put out your report before I start to advance a story."

Murtha, a U.S. congressman, goes on and indicts the entire military on a national program. And I'm mad about it. And Murtha doesn't have the stones to come on this program and back up what he says.

Similarly, on the May 30 edition of Fox News' Your World, Cavuto suggested "the media and Murtha" are "creat[ing] another Abu Ghraib prison scandal." During his interview with U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gary Hall, Cavuto featured on-screen text reading: "Is the media too quick to bash America's military?" While introducing the segment with Hall, Cavuto featured a graphic reading: "Ba$hing [sic] our Military." Fox did not explain why it replaced the "s" with a dollar sign in the graphic, but it was presumably done to justify attacking Murtha as the lead story on what it claims is "the No.1 business news show on cable."

From the May 30 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: We've got new developments today in those alleged shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians. We are learning today that the Pentagon investigations are reportedly focused on now about a dozen U.S. Marines, but not their commanding officers. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman John Murtha renewing his explosive charge of a cover-up. Welcome everybody, glad to have you. I'm Neil Cavuto and this is Your World.

The Pentagon now examining images from a drone taken over Haditha, Iraq, from last November. That's when, you might recall, John Murtha claims U.S. soldiers killed unarmed civilians in, his words, "cold blood." The newspaper headlines following all of that lead, but is the media and Murtha too quick to create another Abu Ghraib prison scandal?

On the May 30 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck called Murtha a "nightmare" and claimed that Murtha "put an umbrella over all of our troops and tr[ied] to make them all look like they were involved in something as horrific as this." From the May 30 edition of Glenn Back:

BECK: If -- if -- it turns out that a couple of Marines lost it in a Sunni stronghold northwest of Baghdad and killed innocent civilians, they're going to face criminal charges, as they should. The key word here is "if."

But not to Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. What a nightmare this guy is. This is what he said when the story first broke. Are you ready? "There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

[...]

BECK: You know, he said -- and it's so interesting that he said, you know, our troops are under stress, et cetera, et cetera, and, you know, they killed people, you know, in cold blood. It really intrigues me that he can put an umbrella over all of our troops and try to make them all look like they were involved in something as horrific as this. I can't imagine what this will do to our troops if this did happen. I mean, I gotta believe that the troops were as outraged by Abu Ghraib as we were.

In her May 31 nationally syndicated column, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin attacked Murtha and "media outlets" for "calling the alleged massacre a massacre before all the facts are in," and for "serving as al Jazeera satellite offices."

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