Janet Napolitano Got a Free Pass When She Insisted Terrorism Be Called 'Man-Caused Disaster'

The outbreak of conservative anger over Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's mysterious declaration on CNN that "the system worked" when a terror attack almost succeeded on a Northwest Airlines flight is stoking a revisitation of her odd statement to a German magazine in March that "man-caused disaster" is a better term than "terrorism."

If you wondered which media outlets covered that gaffe last spring, the answer is: Most didn't. Here's the zero-mention list: ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, MSNBC (for the shows in the Nexis database). Even newspapers and news magazines skipped it: Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the AP wire were zeroes.

Fox News aggressively reported it. CNN mentioned it several times. The New York Times mentioned it three times. USA Today had one mention -- in a Jonah Goldberg column.

Here's the exchange from an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel:  

SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

NAPOLITANO: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.

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