A Media Matters analysis of the media coverage of the Iraq war debate shows that the favored Republican talking points on Iraq have gone largely unchallenged in the media and have even been adopted as truths by some media outlets and figures.
On June 21, hosts and guests on several Fox News programs hyped a false assertion by Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Peter Hoekstra that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, despite the network's own reporting that discredited the claim.
Saying that "I know more about Reagan than you do," Sean Hannity attempted to correct a caller to his radio show who criticized former President Ronald Reagan. But Hannity's defense of the Reagan administration included several false or misleading claims.
Fox News' John Gibson and Sean Hannity hosted segments hyping the threat posed by reports that North Korea will soon conduct a test launch of a long range missile. Most notably, Fox News analyst Col. David Hunt baselessly suggested on Hannity & Colmes that North Korea could attack the U.S. with a nuclear weapon at any moment.
On his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity -- after reading the headline of a story on ABC News' website about the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that asked "Al-Zarqawi Killing, More Harm Than Good?" -- commented that "if Adolf Hitler was dead," ABC News would write the headline: "Adolf Hitler Dead, More Harm Than Good?" Hannity also proclaimed that CNN is Osama bin Laden's "favorite channel."
In response to recent remarks by Mark Malloch Brown, the deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who criticized "U.S. administrations of both parties" for allowing the U.N.'s "loudest detractors, such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News," to define the international organization for the "U.S. heartland," Limbaugh and various other Fox News media figures smeared Brown, referring to him, in turn, as a "pointy-headed, elitist liberal" and "a phony."
In the uproar resulting from inflammatory statements made by Ann Coulter in her new book -- and highlighted by NBC's Matt Lauer in an interview with Coulter on Today -- numerous media figures and Republican strategists have defended Coulter and her remarks. Coulter's comment that has perhaps drawn the most attention is an attack on the widows of 9-11 victims, read by Lauer: "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity baselessly compared a June 1 remark by New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi, for which Hevesi apologized hours later, and a December 2002 statement by Sen. Trent Lott in support of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign, in which Thurmond ran as a segregationist.
On his radio show, Sean Hannity stated that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) "picked up 12 points in the polls in the last three months" in his race against Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey (D). Available polls appear to contradict Hannity's claim. While polls indicate that Santorum made marginal gains during the past three months, the totals come nowhere near the 12-point gain Hannity asserted.
Despite the clear risks undertaken by journalists covering the Iraq war, some conservatives in the media have repeatedly questioned the courage of journalists in Iraq, alleging that journalists covering the war fail to report "good news" because they are afraid to leave the heavily fortified Baghdad "Green Zone" to speak with Iraqis and coalition troops elsewhere in the country. Additionally, some conservatives have claimed that journalists' coverage of the Iraq war is distorted by their alleged hostility to President Bush and the war.
Fox News' Sean Hannity falsely claimed that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said they believe that in 18 months, "the new [Iraqi] prime minister [Nuri Kamal al-Maliki] will have security forces capable of taking control of all Iraqi provinces." But neither Bush nor Blair made such a statement. Responding to a reporter's question about whether it is "realistic to think that Iraqi forces will be able to take control of all Iraq by the end of next year," Bush did not address the issue, while Blair merely said it is "possible."
On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Neal Boortz made misleading claims about the Fair Tax Act, introduced by Rep. John Linder, which would replace all existing federal taxes with a national retail sales tax on most consumer and government purchases. In fact, Boortz relied on an unusual method of describing sales tax rates. Moreover, according to President Bush's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, Boortz significantly understated the tax rate necessary for the Fair Tax Act to be revenue-neutral.
On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John E. O'Neill attacked Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) for saying that a pending military report will show that U.S. Marines deliberately killed innocent Iraqi citizens during a November 2005 raid in Haditha. Murtha served in the Marines for 37 years prior to joining the United States Congress. Yet, while condemning Murtha for discussing the Haditha incident, Hannity did not similarly fault Fox chief White House correspondent Brett Baier, who earlier that day also noted the pending report.
On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity and John O'Neill, co-founder of the discredited Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth, attacked Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) for saying that the American military presence in Iraq is helping to fuel the insurgency there, a position held by several U.S. generals conducting the war in Iraq.
On May 5, Fox News' Sean Hannity declared that Rep. Patrick Kennedy's (D-RI) announcement that he will enter a treatment program for a prescription drug addiction was the "big news of the day," while completely ignoring the resignation of CIA director Porter Goss. The Kennedy story spanned four entire segments and received more than 20 minutes of airtime on the May 5 edition of Hannity & Colmes, while news of Goss's resignation appeared in only two short "newsbreaks" that were separate from the show itself.