Major newspapers, network news still silent on Romney-Blackwater connection

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

On September 22, the Politico reported that Mitt Romney "has remained mum on the alleged killing of 11 Iraqis by a company where one of his top advisers serves as vice chairman, even as the case has led to an uproar in Baghdad and Washington. ... The top counterterrorism and national security adviser to Romney's presidential campaign is Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA." But despite prominent reports by the five major newspapers and the three networks on the Iraqi Interior Ministry revoking Blackwater USA's license, none of those outlets has reported on Romney's connection to Blackwater or his refusal to comment on the matter.

On September 22, the Politico reported that Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney "has remained mum on the alleged killing of 11 Iraqis by a company where one of his top advisers serves as vice chairman, even as the case has led to an uproar in Baghdad and Washington. ... The top counterterrorism and national security adviser to Romney's presidential campaign is Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA." Following the Politico article, a September 24 Associated Press article and MSNBC host Norah O'Donnell both noted the Romney-Blackwater connection. But despite prominent reports by the five major newspapers and the three networks on the Iraqi Interior Ministry revoking Blackwater USA's license, none of those outlets has reported on Romney's connection to Blackwater or his refusal to comment on the matter.

Reports that the Iraqi Interior Ministry had ousted Blackwater were on the front page of the September 18 editions of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and inside the same day's edition of The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and the September 19 edition of USA Today. A September 24 post on the New York Times blog The Caucus referred to the Politico article noting Romney's silence, but the print edition has yet to report on the connection. Similarly, none of the three major networks -- ABC, NBC, and CBS -- in evening or morning broadcasts has noted the connection between Romney and Blackwater USA, despite reporting on the Iraqi Interior Ministry's decision to oust Blackwater, as Media Matters for America noted.

According to an April 26 press release, Romney tapped Black to be his "Senior Adviser for counterterrorism and national security issues." A September 13 press release announced that Black was named the head of Romney's counterterrorism policy advisory group. The September 13 press release, which was noted in a Boston Globe blog post the same day, quoted Black saying, "Governor Romney recognizes the threats before us and has already laid out the policies needed to give our men and women the tools they need to protect our country."

On the September 25 edition of MSNBC Live, during an interview with Romney communications director Kevin Madden, O'Donnell stated: "Let me ask you, then, just finally about Blackwater because your campaign has been criticized for not saying very much about this. Your -- the governor's counterterrorism team is being led by Cofer Black, who also happens to be the head of Blackwater USA. As you know, the Iraqi government at one point asked Blackwater to leave the country. It's very controversial in the wake of a shooting that left 11 Iraqis dead." She later asked Madden if Black "is continuing on the campaign." Madden responded that Black "will continue on our campaign" and that he "advises the governor on a host of issues related to counterterrorism and intelligence policy."

From the September 22 Politico article:

Mitt Romney has remained mum on the alleged killing of 11 Iraqis by a company where one of his top advisers serves as vice chairman, even as the case has led to an uproar in Baghdad and Washington. Barack Obama, John McCain and other politicians have raised the possibility of tighter controls on the firm.

The top counterterrorism and national security adviser to Romney's presidential campaign is Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA.

The Iraqis died after guards employed by the private security firm opened fire following an alleged attack on a State Department convoy under their protection. Blackwater has a lucrative contract to guard U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

[...]

After the shooting, though, a Romney spokesman would not say whether Black has advised Romney on the use of security contractors in Iraq. Nor would he elaborate on Black's role in the campaign or answer specific questions about whether the U.S.'s level of oversight over security contractors is adequate.

The spokesman directed questions to Blackwater, whose spokeswoman did not return telephone and e-mail messages.

From the September 24 AP article:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Monday he was troubled that private security guards working in Iraq for his top counterterrorism adviser have been accused of killing civilians.

But he said he would wait for the results of an investigation before deciding on a response.

Cofer Black, who joined the campaign in April as senior adviser on counterterrorism and national security, also is vice chairman of Blackwater USA, whose workers have been accused of killing up to 11 Iraqi civilians during a Sept. 16 firefight in central Baghdad square.

"I think the allegations are very serious indeed and that there is an investigation which is under way," Romney told reporters in his first public comment on the case. "I don't want to prejudge what will happen from the investigation, but if the investigations go through in a legitimate and appropriate way, then I would expect an appropriate response."

He added, "Clearly, the allegations are troubling."

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the September 25 edition of MSNBC Live:

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you, then, just finally about Blackwater because your campaign has been criticized for not saying very much about this. Your -- the governor's counterterrorism team is being led by Cofer Black, who also happens to be the head of Blackwater USA. As you know, the Iraqi government at one point asked Blackwater to leave the country. It's very controversial in the wake of a shooting that left 11 Iraqis dead. Is Cofer Black going to continue in his role as the head of Blackwater USA and also in the campaign?

MADDEN: Well, obviously Norah, I cannot answer questions about Blackwater USA. I work for the Romney presidential campaign.

O'DONNELL: No, I'm asking you about a man that's on your campaign, Cofer Black.

MADDEN: Right. Well, you asked if he was going to continue with Blackwater USA. That is a question that I --

O'DONNELL: No, I'm asking if he's continuing on the campaign, rather.

MADDEN: But he will continue on our campaign. Cofer Black is a renowned expert on counterterrorism and intelligence issues. He is an adviser to this campaign. He advises the governor on a host of issues related to counterterrorism and intelligence policy.

All the details and all the incidences that have to do with Blackwater USA, I'm unfamiliar with, and I think those are questions that have to be answered outside the purview of a campaign and instead by a private company.

O'DONNELL: Kevin Madden, good to see you. Thanks so much for your time.

MADDEN: Thanks for having me, Norah.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.