On the April 2 edition of MSNBC News Live, on-screen text highlighted Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) recent assertions that the security situation in Iraq is improving, while NBC News correspondent Tom Aspell simultaneously rejected McCain's rosy assessment. The on-screen text read: "Sen. John McCain: Baghdad crackdown is working," and, "Sen John McCain says there are reasons for 'cautious optimism.' " But as these captions flashed across the screen, Aspell reported on the increasing Iraqi civilian casualties and said of McCain: "It's hard to see where he's getting his information from."
While separate captions appearing during the segment noted a suicide truck bomb attack in Kirkuk, at no point did the on-screen text note that NBC's own reporter rejected McCain's assertion that the overall situation is improving or warrants "cautious optimism."
From Aspell's direct rebuttal of McCain's assessment on the 9 a.m. ET hour of the April 2 edition of MSNBC News Live, in which he noted that McCain walked in a so-called "safe area of Baghdad" while "guarded by more than 100 American soldiers with three Black Hawks, 2 Apaches overhead":
AMY ROBACH (host): Tom, Senator John McCain made a trip through Baghdad over the weekend, and he said, "The situation here is not as bad as reporters -- as the media makes it out to be." What's your reaction to that?
ASPELL: Well, certainly, the press here are quite disturbed about those -- the figures really don't back that up. In fact, last month, in the month of March, 1,860 Iraqis were killed, which was a 13 percent increase over the figures in February. Just 500 Iraqis died just last week. And as Senator McCain was talking, in fact, the military was announcing the death of six more American soldiers.
It's hard to see where he's getting his information from. In fact, the senator went on a tour of what he called a safe area of Baghdad yesterday. He visited an open-air market, but neglected to mention -- as he said it was safe to walk around and mingle with the Iraqis -- that, of course, he was guarded by more than 100 American soldiers with three Black Hawks, 2 Apaches overhead. It's not the kind of military protection that the average Iraqi gets when he strolls around Baghdad.
So, I think, really, when he said that the American people are not getting the full picture, he was really telling the media that they're distributing the news through a filter, but to its -- in its own the defense, the media is saying they're just reporting the casualty figures and what happens, as it happens.
Similarly, as Media Matters for America noted, CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, discussing McCain's assessment of the security situation in Baghdad, said on the March 27 edition of CNN's The Situation Room that the claim that "an American can walk freely [in Baghdad] is beyond ludicrous." Further, Time national political correspondent Karen Tumulty reported that Baghdad-based Time correspondent Brian Bennett said of McCain's claim that an American could walk around in Baghdad: "McCain needs a reality check."