NBC Reporter Waves the White Flag: 'Time to Start Leaving' Afghanistan

In 2006, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz found that NBC correspondent Richard Engel had strong political feelings: "I think war should be illegal...I'm basically a pacifist." That pacifist opinion is still surfacing, Kurtz reported Monday, although he didn’t recall the sentence from 2006:

Richard Engel, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, has kicked up a fuss with some decidedly pessimistic comments on the war in Afghanistan.

"I honestly think it's probably time to start leaving the country. I really don't see how this is going to end in anything but tears," Engel said last week on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He added: "The idea of going in to nation-build and win hearts and minds, I think, over the long term is kind of a loser."

That sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter, but Engel says in an interview that he wasn't "taking sides. If it came across that I was giving my opinion or advocating one particular policy or another, I was just trying to reflect what I'm seeing on the ground....A lot of Afghans tell me that over the long term there can't be a military solution to this."

But if a reporter is a pacifist, does he really need to take an unscientific survey of the locals to declare there are no military solutions? There's more:

Engel, who recently returned from Kabul and is going back Tuesday, says he's "not a military commander" and that it is probably necessary to beef up U.S. forces in the short term. But, he says, "the idea of sending in more troops for a population that isn't asking for protection just seems problematic."

Jon Banner, executive producer of ABC's "World News," takes issue with Engel's remarks: "The audience has to be convinced that our reporters are objective and unbiased, and I'd be concerned that expressing a personal opinion dilutes that, or worse."

That sounds right. But this Jon Banner is the same guy who dismissed the lack of ACORN coverage on ABC with "We’re not in the business of noise." Perhaps he was just sticking for Charlie Gibson giving a radio interview in which he said ACORN should be "left to the cables." That doesn’t help sell the notion that ABC’s current top reporter is objective and unbiased.

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