[oops, hadn't meant to C&P the whole thing]
Matthew Felling: On the issue of polarization, one of your quotes that got massively publicized was when you compared Fox News Channel to Al Jazeera. In your book, you mention a few anecdotes about how Fox was reporting on the war. How did you view their coverage?
Josh Rushing: When I would go out and give reasons why we were going to invade Iraq, having been given the messages from a Republican operative that was my boss, he would give me the theme of the day. Sometimes it would be “WMD,” others it would be “regime change” and others it would be “ties to terrorism.” I would go out to a Fox reporter and they would say “Are there any messages you want to get across before we get to the live interview?” And we would script the interview around the government messaging, and they would thank me for my service at the end of it. And out of fairness, that wasn’t just Fox. There were a number of American networks who did it. The reporters were in a position where there was no way their editorial leadership or their audience for that matter, wanted to see them be critical of a young troop in uniform.
But the devious part of that, is that the administration knew that and understood that and used young troops in uniform to sell the war in a way it knew couldn’t be questioned or criticized. If you look at MSNBC, they packaged their coverage with a banner that said “Our Hearts Are With You.” So when that banner is under my face and I’m giving the reasons why we need to go to war, is anyone going to ask me a critical question? Of course not, their hearts are with me. And there’s a danger in that.
The media’s purpose in a democracy is to be professionally skeptical of anything that anyone in a position of authority or power says. If they’re not, who is? Nobody, and then the people in authority and power can say and do anything they want. So I was disappointed in that.
There are other examples, with Fox in particular. Fox likes personalities, and Geraldo Rivera covered the war on my TV and was giving away future troop movements by drawing a map in the sand.
There was another case where a Fox reporter was reporting live from in front of an Abrams tank that was on fire. The conventional wisdom was that Abrams tanks were impervious to the technology that the fedayeen had, small arms. But it turns out that if you did hit an Abrams tank in a certain spot with a rocket-propelled grenade, you could stop it and destroy it. So the Fox correspondent is reporting that, live on television: where the weak spot is and how this must have happened. Anyone watching that stuff, Iraqi intelligence officials, fedayeen soldiers – and we know they were watching it – would be like ‘great, next time I see an Abrams, I’m gonna save my shot until I see the money shot and aim for the vulnerable spot I saw on TV. Thank you, Fox News.’ Or anyone being watching the live report from Geraldo – where he’s drawing the map in the sand – could say ‘great, I know where coming and they’re bringing Geraldo with them.’ There’s a danger in that.
And the thing is, Fox likes to see themselves as so pro-military and patriotic and they like to share their knowledge, like they’re one of the guys. It’s also interesting to note now how little Fox covers the war. MSNBC covered the war three times as much as Fox, I think in June. You’ve got to be kidding me. The number one cheerleader for this war is now just leaving it behind?
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Form press liaison in Iraq:
by Atrios at 17:12