CNN’s Roberts Can’t Stop Calling Troop Surge in Iraq the ‘So-Called Surge’

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterOver the course of at least nine months, CNN’s John Roberts has regularly labeled the troop surge in Iraq, the amassing of 28,000 additional troops in the country, the "so-called surge." Liberals, such as George Lakoff, have objected to the term "surge" in the past, since using the term would "subscribe to Bush’s misleading frame." Roberts' latest use of the phrase took place on Monday’s "American Morning." He posed the following question to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. "The President is also going to be talking about Iraq tonight, Dana. He'll be talking, I guess, about the so-called surge, progress that's been made in terms of security and safety there. But there still has been little political progress. What's the President's message to Nouri Al-Maliki and the people who are in charge there in Iraq going to be tonight?"

This isn’t the first time Roberts has used the "so-called surge" phrase in an interview with Perino. In an April 20, 2007 interview with then-Deputy White House Press Secretary, Roberts asked, "You say that this so-called surge is working, that things are getting better. There are 182 people killed the other day in Baghdad, is that really getting better?"

Two weeks before Roberts’ first interview of Perino, during CNN’s "This Week at War" program on April 7, 2007, Roberts used the phrase "so-called surge" three times in the course of a segment. First,, Roberts inquired CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr about a recent statement made by Senator John McCain. "[T]he military likes good PR, likes to have people say, hey, what's happening on the ground with the so-called surge is a success. But do they think that McCain has gone off the reservation with this proclamations of how good things are?"

After Starr gave her answer, he then directed a question to CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips, who was then on-location in Baghdad. "Is there a concern there, Kyra, that the political debate here could hamper the chances for success of this so-called surge?" Following Phillips’ reply, Roberts, in his third question in a row that used the phrase, asked Flynt Leverett of the New American Foundation, "Does this so-called surge need to be given a chance without all this heated political rhetoric surrounding it?"

Over two months later, during a June 20, 2007 interview of Lt. General Raymond Odierno, the then-commanding general of the Multi-national Forces in Iraq, Roberts again used the "so-called surge" phrase. "Let me go to you there on the ground there and ask: the so-called surge, is it working or not?" The interview took place five days after the surge had reached full strength and its operations had begun.

During a November 30, 2007 interview of Rep. John Murtha, after the Pennsylvania Democrat came out and said that he thought the surge was working, Roberts introduced the segment by stating, "First, he was a hawk, then he was a dove. But now, Democratic congressman John Murtha has changed his mind again apparently. He's just back from Iraq and says the troop build-up there, the so-called surge, is working."

Less than a month later on December 26, 2007, Roberts interviewed another American general in Iraq, Major General Kevin Bergner, and bested his previous "record" by using his phrase twice in the same question. "You know, the big story of 2007 was this fairly significant reduction in violence, particularly in Baghdad. But Democrats here in Washington are still saying that the so-called surge is a failure because it has not paved the way for political progress, particularly on the issue of reconciliation. So, when you look at the troop increase, and the idea it was to set the stage for political reconciliation, has this so-called surge been a failure or a success?"

Roberts hasn’t always used the "so-called" label to describe the surge. The most notable example of this was his August 8, 2007 interview of Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Bob Casey, after the two made a visit to Iraq. Roberts only directly referenced the surge once in his questions, and he didn’t use the "so-called" label. "But Senator Durbin, everybody in the Democratic Party is saying that the surge has failed. Senator Casey, do you agree with your colleague that there are some signs of military progress here?"

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