Media outlets reported that Reid said Iraq war "is lost," but failed to note his further comments

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER & BRIAN LEVY

On April 19 and 20, numerous print and television media outlets reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had said that "the [Iraq] war is lost" during a press conference discussing Congress' standoff with President Bush over emergency funding for the war. However, these outlets did not also report that, later during the press conference, Reid added that "the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically." Other news outlets reporting on Reid's statement -- for example, Agence France-Presse and Reuters -- noted Reid's further comments. Moreover, during a speech on the Senate floor the same day, Reid reiterated his stance, advocating a "political solution" in Iraq and asserting that "there is still a chance to change course."

During his April 19 press conference, Reid said that the Iraq war "is lost" and later stated that the day before, he had told President Bush "what he needed to hear" about the war. He then said that the only way the war could be won is "diplomatically, politically, and economically":

REID: This war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.

[...]

I was like the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but I at least told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. And more people have to start telling George Bush what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. I did that. My conscience is clear, because I believe the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically.

In the subsequent Senate floor speech, Reid again said that the "war is lost" but reiterated his belief that there is a political solution to a stable and secure Iraq:

Mr. REID. Madam President, the White House has been telling America that Democrats are doing the wrong thing by calling for a change of course in Iraq. They say holding the Iraqi Government accountable is wrong. They say finding a political solution Iraq is wrong. They say redeploying troops out of a civil war is wrong. They have said even debating a strategy for changing course is dangerous, and many Senate Republicans have backed that up by blocking several of our attempts to debate this issue here on the Senate Floor.

[...]

Conditions in Iraq get worse by the day. Now we find ourselves policing another nation's civil war. We are less secure from the many threats to our national security than we were when the war began. As long as we follow the President's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course and we must change course. No one wants us to succeed in the Middle East more than I do. But there must be a change of course. Our brave men and women overseas have passed every test with flying colors. They have earned our pride and our praise. More important, they deserve a strategy worthy of their sacrifice.

Yet, in reporting on Reid's statement that the Iraq war "is lost," most media outlets failed to provide the full context of his comments. In addition to the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, the following television news shows did not include the portion of Reid's statements in which he said that "the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically":

  • On the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson said that "you gotta give [Reid] credit for honesty" before airing the "war is lost" clip. After the clip, Carlson summarized: " '[T]he war is lost.' Now, I believe he sincerely believes it."
  • On the April 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, the "war is lost" clip aired before a rebuttal by Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL). Host Brit Hume said that "Harry Reid would later say that the war -- on the Senate floor -- the war is lost if the president doesn't change course." Hume then added that Reid's "staff is contending that what he said there was -- that we showed -- was really surrounded by all these caveats. But, I had never heard him say that in that way," dismissing the part of the press conference that they did not show.
  • The "war is lost" clip also aired on the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Host Joe Scarborough then asked MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan: "[H]ave we lost the war? Is Harry Reid right?" Buchanan replied; "I take the man at his word. He believes the war is not winnable and the war is lost," ignoring Reid's comments about "w[inning] diplomatically, politically, and economically."
  • On the April 20 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell aired "the war is lost" clip, and then described the White House reaction to Reid. Later, co-host Natalie Morales referred to the White House's response to "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's declaration that the surge isn't working and the war in Iraq is lost."

Two other television programs paraphrased Reid's remarks without noting his assertion that "the war ... can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically":

  • On the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL): "Have we lost? Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate, said today that we have lost the war in Iraq."
  • On the April 19 edition of ABC's World News, anchor Charles Gibson said that Reid "says he told President Bush yesterday that he believes this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything. Republicans call Reid's remark evidence that Democrats have turned their backs on the troops."

By contrast, the April 19 AFP article reported Reid's further statements:

The war in Iraq "is lost" and a US troop surge is failing to bring peace to the country, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, said Thursday.

"I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week," Reid told journalists.

Reid said he had delivered the same message to US President George W. Bush on Wednesday, when the US president met with senior lawmakers to discuss how to end a standoff over an emergency war funding bill.

"I know I was the odd guy out at the White House, but I told him at least what he needed to hear ... I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically."

In an April 20 article, Reuters also reported both of Reid's comments:

President George W. Bush and fellow Republicans struggled on Thursday with comparisons between the U.S. wars in Iraq and Vietnam as the Senate's top Democrat declared the Iraq war lost.

[...]

Reid said his message for Bush was to recall the Vietnam war in the mid-1960s, when Reid said President Lyndon Johnson decided to send thousands more troops to Vietnam despite knowing the conflict unwinnable.

"The (Iraq) war can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization," Reid said in a news conference.

On the April 19 edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company, host Larry Kudlow aired video clips of Reid's press conference in which Reid said "the war is lost" and that it "can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically."

From the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

CARLSON: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, quote: "This war is lost." Is it? Back with us again, the two Democratic strategists we love most, Steve McMahon and Peter Fenn.

Well, I want to actually play what Harry Reid said today. Before I do, you gotta give him credit for honesty. I mean, he just says -- sort of like [Gov.] Bill Richardson [D-NM] -- exactly what he really thinks, in contrast to most people in politics.

This is Harry Reid on the Iraq war. Watch.

REID [video clip]: Now, I believe, myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows -- that this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence.

CARLSON: "This war is lost." Now, I believe he sincerely believes it. I think most Democrats in Congress believe that too, and a lot of Americans, for that matter. But if you really believe that, then how could you support, as Harry Reid did, General [David] Petraeus, right? How could you vote in favor of Petraeus? How could you have anything at all to do with funding a war you believed fundamentally was lost? That would kind of be immoral, wouldn't it?

From the April 19 edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company:

REID [video clip]: This war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.

I was like the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but I at least told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. And more people have to start telling George Bush what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. I did that. My conscience is clear, because I believe the war, at this stage, can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically.

KUDLOW: All right. Joining me now is P.J. Crowley, director of national defense and homeland security at the Center for American Progress, and NBC News military analyst Dan Goure. He's a former Defense Department official during the Persian Gulf War and vice president now of Lexington Institute.

From the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Have we lost? Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate, said today that we have lost the war in Iraq. Is that your assertion?

DAVIS: People of Iraq have lost the war in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: But do you believe we have lost it?

DAVIS: Well, it wasn't ours to win. It was the people of Iraq's to win.

From the April 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

REID [video clip]: Now, I believe, myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows -- that this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.

PUTNAM [video clip]: It is a very disturbing development when the political leadership in this country is literally pulling the rug out from underneath our troops, not only in playing games with the funding for those troops, but in sending a message to the enemy that, in his view, this war is lost.

HUME: Some thoughts on this now from syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer; from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and from Mara Liasson -- there's Mort, there's Mara Liasson -- national political correspondent of National Public Radio. And we'll get, in a moment, to Charles, if you haven't seen him yet. There he is. He is a syndicated columnist. These people are all Fox News contributors.

Well, Harry Reid would later say that the war -- on the Senate floor -- the war is lost if the president doesn't change course. And his staff is contending that what he said there was -- that we showed -- was really surrounded by all these caveats. But, I had never heard him say that in that way. It seemed to me that he broke some new ground there, and you saw the response from the -- from one of the leaders of the House Republicans. What about this, Mort?

From the April 19 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: And still on the subject of the war, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has voiced a blunt message of his own about conditions in Iraq. He says he told President Bush yesterday that he believes this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything. Republicans call Reid's remark evidence that Democrats have turned their backs on the troops.

From the April 19 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

REID [video clip]: I believe, myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows -- that this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday. Now, I said this is how I feel, but in addition to my feelings, a majority of the United States Senate and a majority of the United States House of Representatives has said the surge should not go forward.

SCARBOROUGH: So, here to talk about whether the Senate majority leader is right that America has already lost this war is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Pat, have we lost the war? Is Harry Reid right?

BUCHANAN: Well, Harry Reid, obviously -- I mean, I take the man at his word. He believes the war is not winnable and the war is lost. But, Joe, if you believe that, it follows that you've got to cut off the funds, because we're just getting American soldiers killed for nothing. If it is lost, there is no argument for funding the war, and yet his party, Joe, as we've talked about, and as you know, his party is going to fund this war without a deadline after that veto.

From the April 20 edition of NBC's Today:

O'DONNELL: Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed a new line Thursday when he said this about Iraq.

REID: This war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq.

O'DONNELL: The White House quickly called it "disturbing" that Reid would believe he "knows more than commanders."

SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY (D-VT): Raise your right hand.

O'DONNELL: And that's not the only tense exchange.

[...]

MORALES: The White House is rebuffing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's declaration that the surge isn't working and the war in Iraq is lost. The administration calls Reid's comments "a slap at the troops, who are risking their lives in Iraq."

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