On April 1, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted an "exclusive" alert on his website, the Drudge Report, claiming that CNN international correspondent Michael Ware, during a press conference in Baghdad, "heckled" Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC). Drudge's only source for this "exclusive" was an anonymous "official at the press conference" who claimed that Ware was "laughing and mocking their comments," adding: "I've never witnessed such disrespect." Ware denied the heckling allegation on the April 2 edition of CNN's American Morning, saying: "I did not heckle the senator. Indeed, I didn't say a word, I didn't even ask a question." The Washington Times uncritically reported Drudge's allegation on April 2 and quoted John Hinderaker of the conservative weblog Power Line, who wrote in an April 1 entry: "Having publicly committed himself to the proposition that everything that happens in Iraq is a disaster, having publicly ridiculed those who pointed to optimistic developments, how can anyone trust that Ware's future reporting is giving us anything like the straight story from Iraq?"
Hinderaker was not alone among conservative bloggers to seize on Drudge's reporting of the claim of one anonymous "official," whose "official" status was not otherwise explained or identified. Michelle Malkin's Hot Air weblog noted Drudge's story, as did Lorie Byrd of Wizbang, who opined: "CNN should be able to find someone to replace Ware -- unless his type of reporting is exactly what they want." NewsBusters, a weblog run by the conservative Media Research Center, cited Drudge's report to question whether Ware's alleged "heckling" will "be swept under the rug as usual."
The Washington Times reported on April 2:
During a live press conference in Baghdad, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were heckled by CNN reporter Michael Ware, according to the Drudge Report. But that's modern journalism, according to John Hinderaker of Power Line.
"Ware is an extreme manifestation of an all-too-common phenomenon -- the journalist who wants to make the news, not report it. One of the many problems with a reporter who becomes an activist, agitating for a particular side of a public issue, is that he loses any hope of objective [sic]. Having publicly committed himself to the proposition that everything that happens in Iraq is a disaster, having publicly ridiculed those who pointed to optimistic developments, how can anyone trust that Ware's future reporting is giving us anything like the straight story from Iraq?" Mr. Hinderaker asked.
From the April 2 edition of CNN's American Morning:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (co-host): Let me ask you a question. There was a report that said you were heckling and you were laughing during the senators' press conference. Is that true?
WARE: Well, let's bear in mind that this is a report that was leaked by an unnamed official of some kind to a blog, to somewhere on the Internet. No one is going to put their name forward. We certainly haven't heard Senator McCain say anything about it, or any of his staff have come forward to say anything about it. I did not heckle the senator. Indeed, I did't say a word, I didn't even ask a question. In fact, when I raised my hand to ask a question, the press conference abruptly ended. So what I would suggest is that anyone who has any queries about whether I heckled, watch the videotape of the press conference.
On April 2, the website The Raw Story obtained footage of the Baghdad press conference. Raw Story presents the video in two parts -- opening comments and a question-and-answer session. At no point in either part is Ware shown or heard speaking. At the end of the question-and-answer part, viewers can see a reporter -- apparently Ware -- with his hand up, but the press conference adjourns before that reporter can ask a question.