CNN Exploits Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq to Critique Bush Absence from Vermont

CNN used an old tactic in the mainstream media’s play book - a person overcome by emotion - to drive home the point they wanted to make - that the only state that hasn’t been visited by President Bush is Vermont. In a segment during the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room" detailing this apparent "snub," CNN chief national correspondent John King played a clip from an interview of Regina Gilbert, the mother of Kyle Gilbert, who was killed serving in Iraq four years ago. Gilbert fought back tears as she made her plea for a visit from the President.

Video (1:46): Real (1.54 MB) or Windows (1.74 MB), plus MP3 audio (309 kB).

In his introduction to King’s piece, host Wolf Blitzer highlighted how Vermont "was the first state to outlaw slavery... the last state to get a WalMart, and it is the only state in the union not to have been visited by President Bush." Blitzer then asked King, "Is this a snub or an oversight?" King replied, "I think you can safely say ‘snub,’ Wolf," and detailed how the President has visited Missouri more than 30 times since his election, and how in 27 consecutive presidential elections between the 1850s and 1960, Vermont voted Republican.

King’s report then played with the caption, "Vermont, Forgotten State." The word "forgotten" is also used by King at the beginning of his report. "Yet Vermont is the forgotten place in the crowded travelogue of George W. Bush, the only state he's failed to visit in his presidency."

King then cut to the "self-described socialist" U.S. Senator for the state, Bernie Sanders, who, as King put it, "all but dares Mr. Bush to visit, saying he would benefit from sitting down with his critics whether the issue be Iraq, the economy, or climate change." Sanders claimed in one sound bite from the report that "this president will probably go down in history as being the least popular president in [the] modern history of this country. He should go forward and find out why that is so." King juxtaposed Sanders with a clip from Garrison Nelson, a political science professor at the University of Vermont, who saw "no upside" to a visit from the President. "It's a photo opportunity he does not need. I cannot imagine any assemblage in the State of Vermont that would give him an unalloyed positive reception."

After a clip from Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, a "throwback to the moderate breed of Republicanism that once thrived across New England," King then played clips from his interview of Regina Gilbert. The full transcript from this portion of King report:

REGINA GILBERT: He [President Bush] asked something that surprised me. 'Does it ever get easier?' And I just looked at him, and I looked at my husband, and I said absolutely not. I said this is a hole in my heart and it's always going to be there.

KING: Regina Gilbert traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to meet the president. Her only child, Kyle, was killed in Iraq four years ago. Vermont has lost 18 soldiers in Iraq. 41 states have lost more, but because it is so tiny, Vermont has the highest per capita death toll. More than reason enough, Regina Gilbert says, for the President to visit.

GILBERT: Hopefully we're making strides. But I want to hear something good about it, so my son can look down and say, 'See, Mom, I told you.' But I'm still waiting for that day. So, I hope he does come, to our little state, 'cause I think that we've -- like I said, we've stepped up. And I'm hoping he will reflect and step up as well.

Perhaps King didn’t realize it, but Regina Gilbert expressed the wish of many military families concerning the Iraq war, that "I want to hear something good about it." But don’t expect too much of that kind of reporting on the war from CNN.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center