Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria Violates Obama's 'Red Line'; NBC, ABC Yawn

 A chemical attack in Syria that may have killed as many as 1300 people was of little interest to ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday. The network morning show allowed a mere 25 seconds to the large scale gassing. In such a small amount of time, it's not surprising that guest news anchor Amy Robach skipped the salient point that this attack violated the so-called "red line" set out by Barack Obama in 2012.

NBC's Today allowed a little more time, two minutes and eight seconds, but also ignored the red line angle and any mention of Barack Obama. It was only CBS This Morning that noticed this. Anchor Charlie Rose pointed out, "President Obama has said that Syria's government would cross a red line if it uses chemical weapons against its own people. We're monitoring the White House for any response." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Almost one year to the day, on August 20, 2012, Obama told NBC's Chuck Todd: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized...That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."

This wouldn't be the first of Syria's chemical attacks, but would be the largest.

GMA's Amy Robach dispatched the poison gas attack in 25 seconds, noting, "Two Syrian rebel groups claim today's attack killed hundreds of people." Robach and the other journalists on the show never returned to the story, not even in the 8am hour news briefs.

In contrast, the same program on Tuesday devoted a minute and seven seconds to a superficial story such as the President's new dog.

Over on Today, Richard Engel avoided mentioning the President or his "red line" threat, but did explain the gassing: "If this is confirmed, it would certainly be one of the worst atrocities of the war in Syria."

He added, "The death toll, according to rebels we spoke to who are in these affected areas, more than 1,000."

On CBS This Morning, Rose teased the story by questioning, "Will the White House act? "

A transcript of the CBS This Morning segment is below:


CHARLIE ROSE (teaser): Syrian rebels claim hundreds were massacred in a poisonous gas attack. Will the White House act?

07:02 am EDT

CHARLIE ROSE: We begin this morning in Syria, where there are unconfirmed reports that say hundreds of people were killed overnight in a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

GAYLE KING: Disturbing video posted online by Syrian opposition activists claims to show many of the victims are women and children. Syria's government says those reports are not true.

Holly Williams is in London. Holly, good morning to you.

[CBS News Graphic: "Syrian Opposition Claim Gas Attacks Kill Hundreds"]

HOLLY WILLIAMS: Good morning, Charlie and Gayle. These Internet videos show horrific, desperate scenes, most of them too graphic for us to show on TV. We see people struggling to breathe, writhing in pain, and seeming to go into seizure. We also see dozens of bodies lined up in rows, many of them very small children. Syrian opposition groups say it was a chemical attack, carried out by the Syrian regime, delivered by a barrage of rockets that hit rebel-held areas around Damascus.

Now, we need to be clear that these videos are impossible to verify at this stage. But a former British military officer, who's an expert on chemical weapons, told CBS that there are indications that this was a chemical attack. He said the number of bodies, their frozen appearance, and their lack of any obvious external injuries all suggest a chemical weapon was used.

If this was a chemical attack, its timing is surprising, because a team of United Nations weapons inspectors arrived in Damascus just three days ago. If those inspectors can get to the scene, they could test mucus and soil samples, and determine whether a chemical was used within hours. But we don't know if they'll be allowed by the government to go there.

The U.S. government believes several chemical attacks have already occurred during Syria's civil war, killing up to 150 people. Opposition groups say this alleged attack was, by far, the biggest so far. The Syrian regime has denied any use of chemicals weapons since the Syrian conflict began over two years ago. It's a war that has killed more than a hundred thousand people so far. Charlie, Gayle?

ROSE: Thank you, Holly. President Obama has said that Syria's government would cross a red line if it uses chemical weapons against its own people. We're monitoring the White House for any response.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org