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In their coverage of the Clinton-Wallace interview, the media largely ignored the substance of former President Clinton's criticism of the Bush administration's efforts to combat terrorism, instead focusing on Clinton's behavior during the interview or the possibility that his reaction was motivated by politics.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend's claims that "there's no question that terrorism was a priority" in the Bush administration before 9-11 and that the Bush administration was unaware of the "comprehensive strategy to proceed with the war on terror" former President Clinton said he left with the incoming administration, despite the fact that the 9-11 Commission offered claims to the contrary.
CNN and the Associated Press reported without challenge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's misleading response to former President Bill Clinton's recent assertion that the Bush administration failed to adequately address the growing terrorism threat during the eight months prior to September 11, 2001.
In discussing former President Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Howard Kurtz wrote in his column that Clinton gave an "impassioned, finger-wagging answer" to Wallace's question about why he failed to "do more ... and put [Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda] out of business." On CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz asserted, "[I]t would seem that ... the former president just went overboard." But in neither instance did Kurtz indicate that Clinton gave a substantive defense of his administration's anti-terror efforts in response.
CNN's Kelly Arena uncritically reported U.S. government officials' claim that the interrogation of Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and terrorism suspect Ramzi bin al-Shibh led to the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Arena failed to note evidence indicating that the interrogation of Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh had little to no impact on Mohammed's capture.
Wolf Blitzer continued to tout his September 20 interview with President Bush, during which Blitzer failed to point out the contradiction between 1) Bush's assertion during the interview that he would "absolutely" send military forces into Pakistan to capture or eliminate Osama bin Laden if intelligence revealed that he was there, and 2) Bush's assertion at a press conference on September 15 that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and the United States would have to be invited in. Moreover, at no point during any of three segments touting the interview did Blitzer note this contradiction or Bush's myriad statements on the priority his administration placed on capturing bin Laden.
In recent reports on President Bush's September 20 statement that he "[a]bsolutely" would order U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture Osama bin Laden, Bloomberg News and Reuters joined CNN in ignoring Bush's contradictory statement that the United States could send troops into Pakistan to hunt for bin Laden unless it was "invited" to do so, because Pakistan is a "sovereign nation."
Many television news outlets touted a USA Today/Gallup poll putting President Bush's job approval rating at 44 percent as a success for Bush, asserting that his rating is "the highest it's been in a year." But four days earlier, the same news organizations ignored a Pew Research Center poll showing Bush's approval rating at 37 percent.
Wolf Blitzer left unchallenged John Bolton's claim that "the Europeans have been saying, the Security Council has said, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said" that Iran must suspend its enrichment of uranium as "the precondition" for negotiations on its nuclear capability. But moments earlier, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux had reported that U.S. officials "will allow the Europeans to continue to talk with the Iranians."
In his recent interview with President Bush, Wolf Blitzer did not challenge Bush on his statement that he "[a]bsolutely" would give the order to pursue Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In a previous press conference, Bush had asserted that the United States could not send troops into Pakistan to hunt for bin Laden unless it was "invited" to do so, because Pakistan is a "sovereign nation."
A Media Matters for America review of cable and broadcast networks and major newspapers showed no coverage of a September 17 front-page Washington Post report by Rajiv Chandrasekaran detailing the process by which many individuals who "lacked vital skills and experience" were assigned to positions in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq based on their "loyalty to the Bush administration."
On CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz asserted that CBS News' "Jim Axelrod, and some of the other White House correspondents, sounded almost offended that Bush delivered what they considered to be a partisan speech on the 9-11 anniversary." But there was a reason reporters might have reacted as they did to Bush's speech: Before the address, the White House had repeatedly pledged that Bush's September 11 address to the nation would not be "political," but rather a "reflection" of what the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks meant to him and to America.
The Associated Press and CNN's The Situation Room reported on a press conference organized by Sen. George Allen, in which female Naval Academy graduates criticized challenger Jim Webb for a 1979 article in which Webb wrote, "There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat." However, neither outlet noted that Allen has also spoken against women serving in combat.
House Majority Leader John Boehner received widespread media coverage for his remark about Democratic colleagues: "Sometimes, based on the votes that get cast, you wonder whether they're more interested in the rights of the terrorists than in protecting the American people." Sen. Mary Landrieu responded to similar criticism in the Senate with an indictment of the Republicans' counterterrorism policies. Will the media highlight Landrieu's comments as they did Boehner's?