Fox News' Angle, Wash. Post editorial misrepresented upcoming Iraq report as "Petraeus' report"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER & MATT GERTZ

Fox News' Jim Angle asserted that the upcoming report to Congress on the Iraq war will be "General David Petraeus' report." In fact, the bill mandating the report requires that President Bush submit the report to Congress and that Petraeus "be made available to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of the Congress." Similarly, a Washington Post editorial contradicted its own paper's reporting in asserting that Petraeus is "expected to elaborate" on his claims of progress in Iraq "in a report to Congress in September."

During the August 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest host and chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle asserted that "Republicans and Democrats are cranking up the spin machines in anticipation of General David Petraeus' report on the Iraq war next month." In fact, contrary to Angle's description of the impending report as "Petraeus' report," the 2007 supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war requires that President Bush submit the report to Congress and that Petraeus "be made available to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of the Congress." Indeed, an August 15 Los Angeles Times article reported that "administration officials said [the report] would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government." Similarly, an August 16 Washington Post editorial contradicted its own paper's reporting in asserting that Petraeus and other officials "claimed to be making progress in their campaign against al-Qaeda in Iraq" and that he is "expected to elaborate on that progress in a report to Congress in September," as Talking Points Memo blogger Greg Sargent noted.

Further, Angle stated that "House Majority Whip James Clyburn [D-SC] told The Washington Post last month that a positive report from Petraeus would be 'a real big problem for us.' "In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, during a July 30 "PostTalk" interview for washingtonpost.com, Post reporter Dan Balz asked Clyburn, "What do Democrats do if General Petraeus comes in in September and says, 'This is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it'?" Clyburn responded: "Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that, simply because of those 47 Blue Dogs. I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course, and if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us." In other words, Clyburn said that a recommendation from Petraeus against "back[ing] away" from the current course in Iraq would impede Democrats' efforts to garner support in Congress for legislation to begin withdrawal. Angle also did not mention that immediately after Clyburn said such a recommendation would be a "real big problem," Clyburn asserted, "None of us want to see a bad result in Iraq. If we are going to get in position to yield a good result, I think Democrats want to see that." During the segment, an on-screen graphic featured photos of Petraeus and Clyburn alongside text reading: "Good News, Bad News."

While Angle referred to "General David Petraeus' report," the August 15 Los Angeles Times article reported: "Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government." The article continued: "And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data." Additionally, the August 16 front-page Post article, headlined "An Early Clash Over Iraq Report," noted that the legislation requiring the report "clearly states that the president 'will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress' after consultation with the secretaries of state and defense and with the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador."

Indeed, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 lays out 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government, and states that "[t]he President shall submit" the September 15 report "assessing the status of each of the specific benchmarks established above, and declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved." From the text of the bill:

(2) REPORTS REQUIRED-

(A) The President shall submit an initial report, in classified and unclassified format, to the Congress, not later than July 15, 2007, assessing the status of each of the specific benchmarks established above, and declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved.

(B) The President, having consulted with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Commander, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, and the Commander of U.S. Central Command, will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress.

(C) If the President's assessment of any of the specific benchmarks established above is unsatisfactory, the President shall include in that report a description of such revisions to the political, economic, regional, and military components of the strategy, as announced by the President on January 10, 2007. In addition, the President shall include in the report, the advisability of implementing such aspects of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, as he deems appropriate.

(D) The President shall submit a second report to the Congress, not later than September 15, 2007, following the same procedures and criteria outlined above.

(E) The reporting requirement detailed in section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 is waived from the date of the enactment of this Act through the period ending September 15, 2007.

(3) TESTIMONY BEFORE CONGRESS- Prior to the submission of the President's second report on September 15, 2007, and at a time to be agreed upon by the leadership of the Congress and the Administration, the United States Ambassador to Iraq and the Commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq will be made available to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of the Congress.

In addition, when asked "So who writes the report? Is it the NSC, is it senior staff?" during an August 16 press briefing, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe responded: "Sure. Just like the July 15th report of just over a month ago, it is a report written by -- it was submitted by the President, so therefore the White House staff, the NSC staff, but it's very clear that it is based on inputs from our commanders, as well as the ambassador on the ground, as well as [commander of U.S. Central Command] Admiral [William J.] Fallon and Secretaries [Condoleezza] Rice [secretary of state] and [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates."

Similarly, while the August 16 Post article reported that the legislation requiring the report "clearly states that the president 'will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress,'" a Post editorial published the same day regarding the August 14 bomb attacks on the Yazidi religious sect in Northwest Iraq asserted that Petraeus "claimed to be making progress in their campaign against al-Qaeda in Iraq" and that he is "expected to elaborate on that progress in a report to Congress in September."

As Media Matters also documented, on July 31, the Republican National Committee issued a "research briefing" titled "They Said It!" that cropped Clyburn's quote to read: "[It Would Be] A Real Big Problem For Us." The "research briefing" reads, in full:

They Said It!

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) On Gen. David Petraeus Providing A Positive Progress Report In Iraq

Clyburn: "[It Would Be] A Real Big Problem For Us." (Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, "Clyburn: Positive Report By Petraeus Could Split House Democrats On War," The Washington Post, 7/30/07)

From the August 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: And now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine.

Republicans and Democrats are cranking up the spin machines in anticipation of General David Petraeus' report on the Iraq war next month. The Hill reports lawmakers are trying to anticipate what Petraeus will say, how the other side will spin it, and then how they should spin it back.

House Pelosi -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told journalists, "I'm very concerned that they" -- Republicans -- "will kick the can further down the road, or talk about a few anecdotal successes that they'll try to pass off as the situation in Iraq."

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner [R-OH] says, quote, "Liberal Democrats are going to approach this with closed minds and open mouths."

House Majority Whip James Clyburn told The Washington Post last month that a positive report from Petraeus would be, quote, "a real big problem for us."

From the August 16 Washington Post editorial:

The suicide bombers targeted members of the ancient religious sect known as the Yazidis. Women were killed at market; children were buried as clay and mud houses collapsed. At least 250 people were killed and hundreds more wounded, according to Iraqi officials, which would make the attack the deadliest of the war. Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. military commander in Iraq, blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for the "horrific and indiscriminate attacks." Another U.S. general called the bombings "an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide." Extremist Sunni elements have been targeting the Yazidis at least since the spring, when a cellphone video was widely circulated on the Internet showing -- also unfathomable to most Americans -- a 17-year-old Yazidi girl being stoned to death because she had fallen in love with a Sunni man.

The bombings came as Gen. Petraeus and others claimed to be making progress in their campaign against al-Qaeda in Iraq. The general is expected to elaborate on that progress in a report to Congress in September and to ask for more time for his strategy to work, while acknowledging -- as he also said yesterday -- that the U.S. military presence in Iraq will have to be "a good bit smaller" by next summer.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, The Washington Post
Person
Jim Angle
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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