Newsweek’s Fineman Joins Media Herd Overstating Murtha’s Iraq War Support

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, in a new article entitled “Bush at the Tipping Point,” joined an expanding list of media representatives that have not only completely ignored statements made by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) concerning his disappointments with the Iraq war that came before his Thursday call for troop withdrawals, but also thoroughly misrepresented the level of support that Murtha gave to the initial war resolution back in October 2002:

“Murtha was the one-man tipping point. Initially a strong supporter of the conflict, he had voted for it and the money to pay for it. But on his last trip to Iraq, he had become convinced not only that the war was unwinnable, but that the continued American military presence was making matters far worse.”

As reported by NewsBusters here, Congressman Murtha first voiced dissent for this war in September 2003, and then again in May 2004. However, maybe most important, the record before the war resolution passed on October 11, 2002 shows Murtha as having initially been against invading Iraq, and only getting onboard when a revised resolution was proposed on October 2. Prior to those revisions authored by Democrats in the House to assuage dissenters like Murtha, the Congressman was quite vocal against an invasion:

  • “Some Democrats questioned the White House's urgency to oust Saddam.“‘I don't like to say this is a political issue, that he's trying to distract the public from what's going on (domestically), because it's so serious that I hope it isn't,’ said Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.” 9/12/02, AP
  • “Gephardt must balance his presidential aspirations with his desire to have Democrats win control of the House in November. Some Democrats, among them Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a former Marine who recently flew to the Middle East to talk to military personnel, are telling him there is opposition to Bush's approach within the military and within the party.” 9/14/02, Washington Post
  • “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said he doesn't understand why Bush is moving so quickly. ‘I read every intelligence report once a week. I have seen no information that's different from a year ago,’ he said.” 9/20/02, USA Today
  • “In 1991, John Murtha helped lead the charge on Capitol Hill for war with Iraq. This year, the Pennsylvania congressman is among the doubters.”“Eleven years ago, Murtha was one of the first President Bush's chief Democratic supporters in the effort to win congressional approval for plans to take on Saddam Hussein. He was a member of the president's inner council, advising Bush and his aides on congressional strategy. It was a role that put Murtha at odds with the leaders of his own party.“Today, the powerful backroom dealmaker finds himself in an even more politically lonely position: questioning a war-powers resolution that even most Democratic leaders seem reluctant to oppose.” 9/24/02, USA Today
  • CHRIS MATTHEWS: How about some of the conservative Democrats like Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania? They don't like this war, either.JULIET EILPERIN (Washington Post): They don't. They're skeptical. A lot of them, interestingly enough, people like Jack Murtha, someone like Carl Levin--a Democrat in the Senate--they say they're hearing from generals, they're hearing from military people who think it's not a good idea, and this also gives them an opportunity to raise their questions. 9/28/02, NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show”
  • MARK SHIELDS: Just one, just one quick question. You disagree, then, with Jack Murtha, the Democrat from Pennsylvania, says there is absolutely no evidence of an imminent threat to the United States. 9/28/02, CNN’s “The Capitol Gang”
  • “Opposition to an Iraqi invasion includes Democratic Reps. John. P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Silvestre Reyes of Texas and Mike Thompson of California. Mr. Thompson was in Iraq last weekend along with Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington and David E. Bonior of Michigan.” 10/2/02, Washington Times

Clearly, what the media are conveniently ignoring is that Murtha’s support for the resolution came only about a week before the historic vote when House Democrats got the president to agree to some important revisions not in the original resolution. As reported by the Los Angeles Times on October 3, 2002:

“These Democrats pointed to language in the revised resolution that supports efforts to end the crisis diplomatically, defines the scope of the authorization of use of military force and requires the president to report to Congress on diplomatic efforts, the war on terrorism, any military operations in Iraq and plans for reconstruction and peacekeeping. “Much of the revised language attempted to address criticism of the original resolution by senior Democrats, including Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania--leaders on defense matters whose support would be crucial.” 

This raises an important question: Why are the media almost universally ignoring all of this history?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.