Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Republican Media- No. 38

In May, 2008 correspondent Jessica Yellin had a conversation with AC 360 host AC about the runup to Persian Gulf II:

ANDERSON COOPER: Jessica, McClellan took press to task for not upholding their reputation. He writes: "The National Press Corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The 'liberal media' - in quotes - didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."
Dan Bartlett, former Bush adviser, called the allegation "total crap."
What is your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?

I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.

And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives - and I was not at this network at the time - but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

I think, over time...

COOPER: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?

YELLIN: Not in that exact - they wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.

Yellin got a lot of e-mail responses to that extraordinary admission.  (Luckily, there was no twitter and no twits then.)   She explained that she was not working at CNN when she was pressured from network executives to spin the news about preparations for the war in Iraq in a positive way.  Surely, then, she was employed by GOP house organ Fox News or at least by one of the three major networks.   Mais, no, as she noted when she came on the next night and explained

I find myself in an interesting position. Today the blogs lit up with comments I made last night on AC360° and suddenly I’m being reported on.

It's not the most comfortable position for a reporter.

So let me clarify what I said and what I experienced.

First, this involved my time on MSNBC where I worked during the lead up to war. I worked as a segment producer, overnight anchor, field reporter, and briefly covered the White House, the Pentagon, and general Washington stories.

Also, let me say: No, senior corporate leadership never asked me to take out a line in a script or re-write an anchor intro. I did not mean to leave the impression that corporate executives were interfering in my daily work; my interaction was with senior producers. What was clear to me is that many people running the broadcasts wanted coverage that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the country at the time. It was clear to me they wanted their coverage to reflect the mood of the country.

And now I'm going back to work covering the Puerto Rico primary from San Juan.

Of course, MSNBC was different back then, though then as now, it subservient to the President of the United States. Currently it poses as a liberal station, delighted there is a black president, conservative though he may be; exhilarated at the thought that the Defense of Marriage Act may be overthrown and prohibition on same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional while reproductive freedom and voting rights are eroded state-by-state; and on board with the idea that Social Security and Medicare be cut, as long as a few tax loopholes are (temporarily) eliminated.

It is, nonetheless, the most liberal,or least conservative, cable news network.   In a report, de-emphasized if not ignored by MSNBC and its competitors, The Guardian of the UK finds

Fresh evidence has been revealed about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein's foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.

Tony Blair told parliament before the war that intelligence showed Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme was "active", "growing" and "up and running".

A special BBC Panorama programme aired on Monday night details how British and US intelligence agencies were informed by top sources months before the invasion that Iraq had no active WMD programme, and that the information was not passed to subsequent inquiries.

It describes how Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister, told the CIA's station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, through an intermediary that Iraq had "virtually nothing" in terms of WMD.

Sabri said in a statement that the Panorama story was "totally fabricated".

However, Panorama confirms that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq's head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Saddam had no active WMD. The meeting in the Jordanian capital, Amman, took place days before the British government published its now widely discredited Iraqi weapons dossier in September 2002.

The "liberal media" went in the tank for the Bush administration when it spun its tales to justify an upcoming war again Iraq.  Since the folly of the war became evident, the excuse has been: at least everyone thought that the regime in Baghdad had "weapons of mass destruction."   But Scott Ritter and a few others- including, it now seems, British and U.S. intelligence- knew otherwise.  Meanwhile, the mainstream media maintains the fiction that American policymakers were, at worse, misguided.

(hat tip to Digby/Hullabaloo)

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