NPR's "On The Media" Trashes CNSNews Murtha Report, Hails Ignoring It As "Objective"

Since it's a slow posting day, allow me to note how the NPR show "On The Media" aired a typically liberal commentary last weekend attacking CNSNews.com (a project of the MRC) for investigating Rep. John Murtha's military record. (Forget the idea that the show is "pro-journalism." They're obviously "pro-journalism that aids the liberal cause, anti-journalism that doesn't.") Co-host Brooke Gladstone attacked the story as "arson," not reporting:

And now a recent case in which reporters largely lived up to the old adage "once burned, twice shy." This time when would-be arsonists tossed a match, instead of fanning the flames, reporters reached for the hose.

She then said MSNBC's Keith Olbermann "put it more emphatically than most" in naming our leader Brent Bozell as the "Worst Person in the World" and claiming the CNS story is a "rehash of unproven allegations." Wrong. You can argue the story is a "rehash," digging up old news stories and documents, often from local Pennsylvania media sources that a national audience has never seen. But some of the story's elements are hardly unproven, for instance, explaining how Murtha's told several differing stories about what war wounds he actually suffered. But Gladstone was still huffing and puffing: 

Like I said, emphatic. I mean, Osama's still out there. But nerves are still raw from when the last so-called Swift Boat incident occurred, the one that smeared Democratic candidate John Kerry during the 2004 election. An ad campaign launched by a GOP-connected group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth labeled Kerry a liar and his Vietnam war decorations a sham. Cable news went wall-to-wall on the ads and the charges therein...It was classic he-said/she-said coverage, and it gave the story traction, which, in hindsight, most agree it didn't deserve. It would have been funny if it weren't so sad.

What a classic liberal NPR line: "most agree" that John Kerry was the victim of a "smear." But wait: how can something be a he said/she said story, and still be a "smear"? Clearly, that's not what NPR felt when they allowed Nina Totenberg to air completely unproven charges about Clarence Thomas sexually harassing Anita Hill. Hmm. Kerry was not wronged by someone dissenting from his war-hero narrative. The public was wronged by a liberal media that accepted every claim Kerry made about his war record without making any attempt to verify it. Gladstone then went on to argue -- ridiculously -- that ignoring the Murtha-medal story was the dictionary definition of objectivity:  

According to the dictionary, it's "judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices." The media applied "The Daily Show's" definition to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, but reporters do seem to be sticking with the dictionary when it comes to the Cybercast News Service assault on Murtha.

There was a recent Washington Post piece that was slammed for the way it picked up the Cybercast News story, citing the attacks against Murtha without much examination of the attackers, who either carried old grudges or were explicitly partisan or were apparently dead. But for the most part, the news pages declined to spill much ink on the charges while the op-ed pages took umbrage at yet another attempt to smear a veteran exercising the right to dissent.

Maybe the story hasn't stuck because we're not in the midst of an election. That's when torrents of campaign money soaked and spread the mud hurled at Kerry and at Senator Max Cleland, maimed in Vietnam, and, in 2000, at former prisoner-of-war John McCain. Or maybe that particular tactic has finally run its course. Maybe it's a little too obvious or, in its shabby treatment of former soldiers, a little too crude. We'll see next election season. For now, we'll just offer a provisional bon voyage to the little Swift Boat that couldn't.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis