While CNN continued to hype the divisions among Democrats on the issue of U.S. redeployment from Iraq, stemming from the debate over two Senate proposals on the issue, the network entirely ignored a recent display of dissention within the Republican Party, as did Fox News and MSNBC.
As the debate intensified over two Senate proposals calling for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, CNN continued to hype the divisions among Democrats on the issue and persisted in depicting Republicans as "giddy" over this purported display of weakness and uncertainty. But CNN's coverage overlooked a recent display of dissention among Republicans. The network completely ignored the strong denunciations by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) of his party's message strategy on Iraq -- the centerpiece of which appears to be to repeat over and over the accusation that the Democrats advocate "cutting and running." Specifically, during a June 21 floor statement, Hagel decried the use of "focus group-tested buzz words like 'cut and run' " and "catchy political slogans," which he said "debase the seriousness of war." Like CNN, both Fox News and MSNBC largely ignored Hagel's remarks in their coverage of the Senate deliberations.
In recent days, Media Matters for America has noted that CNN has cast the current debate over U.S. redeployment from Iraq as politically favorable to Republicans, despite the unpopularity of the war and the fact that a majority of Americans support a timetable for withdrawal -- "the very policy that Democrats have embraced and Republicans are now fighting," as The New York Times reported. At issue are two Democratic proposals regarding U.S. pullout from Iraq: the first, sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), calls for the Bush administration to begin redeploying U.S. troops by the end of 2006, while the second, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), sets a deadline of July 1, 2007, for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops. On the June 21 edition of CNN Live Today, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash cited the two proposals as evidence of divisions within the party and highlighted the GOP argument that Democrats "want nothing more than to cut and run from Iraq." She further reported that Republicans "are having nothing short of a field day with what they see going on with the Democratic Party" and that "they believe that this fundamentally plays into their plans ... to make Democrats look weak on national defense." The evening before, CNN host Paula Zahn had asserted that the Democratic Party is "getting creamed as the party of cut-and-runners, the wobbly, the weak."
During his June 21 statement on the Senate floor, Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, commended Levin's amendment as "thoughtful" and a "responsible contribution to this debate." Hagel then took aim at the "catchy political slogans" put forth by his Republican colleagues:
HAGEL: This debate should transcend cynical attempts to turn public frustration with the war in Iraq into an electoral advantage. It should be taken more seriously than to simply retreat into focus-group tested buzz words and phrases like "cut and run," catchy political slogans that debase the seriousness of war. War's not a partisan issue, Mr. President. It should not be held hostage to political agendas. War should not be drug down into the political muck. America deserves better. Our men and women fighting and dying deserve better.
Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) similarly complained that the "rhetoric is too heated" on the issue and said, "[M]y soul cries out for something more dignified."
But in its coverage that evening, CNN did not mention the apparent division among Republicans regarding their party's handling of this debate -- characterized as a crucial part of their election-year strategy for holding the majority in both houses of Congress. Further, on the June 22 edition of CNN's American Morning, Bash filed four reports on the issue in which she continued to hype the divisions among Democrats over the two proposals. In one case, she reported, "[I]t is the differences inside the Democratic Party that will be on display with those votes this morning" and went on to note Republicans' argument that the amendments "give hope to insurgents and terrorists." In another instance, Bash described GOP senators as "happy ... to stoke Democratic differences and paint them as weak on national security." During a separate segment on the debate over the two amendments, CNN senior national correspondent John Roberts remarked, "The Republicans have just got to be loving this," to which Bash responded, "They're downright giddy, John." But nowhere in any of her four reports did Bash note the apparent disagreements among Republicans regarding the use of such rhetoric. Further, an examination of CNN's full coverage from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET found no mention of Hagel's criticism.
In its June 21 and 22 coverage of the Senate debate, Fox News also failed to inform its viewers of Hagel's comments. MSNBC largely ignored the GOP dissension as well, with the exception of the June 21 edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann.