NPR Truth-Checks Bush. Do they report the Truth?
NPR Truth-Checks Bush. Do they report the Truth?
What follows here is the gist of an NPR/ATC report on ll/17/05 advertised as a "Truth Check" of the President’s criticisms of Dems. It is accompanied by a (typical?) conservative analysis that highlights the ironic and inaccurate.
This no doubt appears as a familiar rant to NPR Ombudsman and staff. Nevertheless, it highlights the frustration felt by many conservative listeners, who feel they have no productive outlet for addressing the controversy over truth in journalism that so agitates them.
Bush: It is irresponsible to say that I deliberately misled the American people when it came to the very same intelligence that they looked at. And many of them came to the very same conclusion I did.
Michelle: … we are going to look at some of the President’s statements to assess their accuracy…Bush and Cheney have been saying that Democrats had access to the same intelligence that they had in the lead up to the war. Is that correct?
Jackie: No! Its not. First of all Congress is not privy to something called the President’s daily brief which is a compilation of highly classified recent intelligence regarding real national security concerns… and there is just no way of knowing for sure what was in those briefs each day and definitely its hard to say how much if any was kept from Congress. The other issue about pre-war intelligence was based on really bad information most of which has proved to be false. For example listen to President Bush in early October 2002.
Bush: We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.
Jackie: Now this is the type of intelligence that was widely disputed at the time by the CIA and DIA. Eight months earlier the DIA said the info was unreliable and should not be used…So this is the type of thing that has caused many members of Congress to say that they were misled.
Michelle then asks Jackie to truth check the Presidents claim that investigations found "no evidence of pressure" to change intelligence. Jackie says two reports concluded just what the President says but says one emphasized in Jackie’s words, "a huge pressure at the time." She also concentrates on pointing out that these investigations did not deal with the question of whether the administration lied about the intelligence.
Michelle then notes their obligation to point out that many Dems voted for the war so they have some explaining to do themselves. Jackie says yea, that this is politics and everybody has some explaining to do.
The Dems assertions of the Lying President have been repeated without challenge in NPR’s news coverage for weeks. NPR News has further amplified these charges by repeated references to polls saying most people believe these charges. These reporters rarely if ever use characterizing language that associates doubt with these charges that they repeat over and over whenever covering the President.
After weeks of accusations the President finally began responding to these charges less than a week ago, and one of the first stories NPR News thinks to do is to "truth check" his claims. Of course, they never thought to truth check the Dems and their facts, if any are even offered, to back up these incredibly serious allegations which would no doubt be impeachable if true. No doubt, their political sympathies don’t motivate the idea of truth-checking Dems, but they do motivate truth-checking the Pres. And of course the result of the truth check has got to be "NO! It (what the President said) is not correct." Yet amazingly, the unqualified conclusion is not at all supported by Jackie’s explanation. First, she has to twist the President’s meaning. Can any serious minded person believe that the President was claiming that all Senators got every detail from his personal daily intelligence briefings from the CIA Director? Granted, that’s the Dem’s rhetorical reply, but apparently folks at NPR adopt it without question. And even accepting that ridiculous rhetorical twist of his words, she contradicts her own unqualified conclusion when she states "…and there is just no way of knowing for sure what was in those briefs and definitely its hard to say how much if any was kept from Congress."
So even the flawed case Jackie makes contradicts her unqualified conclusion that the President’s claim is incorrect. Does Jackie have a responsibility to correct the record? My hunch is that she will not do so, because everyone at NPR News is convinced along with the Democrats that her conclusion is correct even if she did not state the proper facts to back it up. This is the Mary Mapes syndrome.
She also attempts to back up her claim by referring to the "the type of thing that has caused many members of Congress to say that they were misled." Of course, this is a conflation and has nothing to do with supporting her claim or Michelle’s question. Rather it is intended to suggest that the President is wrong to criticize Dems. So she sights a case which apparently justifies the criticism that Bush lied about the intelligence. Here Jackie has apparently done her own research. (One might ask why she doesn’t just rely on a case made by one of the Dems). Is Jackie behaving responsibly here, using her investigative journalistic stature to say she has found evidence suggestive of the claim the President lied us to war? Has she examined: How many times did the President make this particular claim? How central was this specific detailed claim to his decision to go war or the case he made to go to war? If a misstatement at all on his part, was its use intentional or accidental? What was the intelligence opinion at that time (rather than eight months previous)? Was it perhaps something that had recently been brought to his attention in one of those daily intelligence briefs that Jackie tells us about? Of course she says there is no way of knowing that. It’s hard to see why an objective journalist would want to lend personal credibility to those claims without doing complete fact checking first. Has she? Can she show he was intentionally lying in this case? If not, is it appropriate to offer it as an example? Am I the only one that sees the irony here, in a fact check story about President Bush? Why do I the listener have to be the one that fact checks the journalist? Don’t tell me that journalists expect that. If they do, then why don’t they humbly listen to us on the assumption that we may well have done a more thorough investigation that they have? Why do they so rarely correct themselves?
On the "pressure" question. Why is it that though Jackie admits that there are two reports that support the President’s claims, she has got to end with something which creates an impression in the listeners mind that the Administration nevertheless did apply pressure which fouled up the intelligence?
On the "Dem responsibility" question. Gee, thanks for pointing out they might have some explaining to do. But one must ask why the President gets all the scrutiny, not the Dems. And if it is all politics, not real impeachment level stuff, then why aren’t NPR reporters characterizing it that way whenever they bring it up, over and over and over again. They sure emphasized it was all about politics when President Clinton was actually being impeached. But that is part of the bigger picture.
In the bigger picture if we go back and review your coverage of President Clinton when his poll numbers were down we won’t find the same kind of harping at every chance. If we review P. Clinton’s battles with Congress we will find harping on Congressional Republican leaders rather than P. Clinton. If we review coverage of P. Clinton’s scandals we find characterizing language which generally more negative with respect to his "accusers" and more positive with respect to the President. If we review NPR coverage of his lies (now confirmed in adjudication) we will find full stories with the theme "everybody lies, all the time", "perjury, no big deal", and reporters playing this down and negatively characterizing the critics for distracting the President from doing his job. Look at your characterization of IMPEACHMENT! We hear over and over the President that he is just trying to focus on his job. We hear all about his trips and accomplishments and victories over his critics. Impeachment we are told is just a political ploy. In contrast those who cover President Bush can barely take the time to mention anything he actually says or does because they are so preoccupied with repeating his bad poll numbers and the words of his critics and any kind of scandal occurring in the Republican party. And then they have the gall to ask why he isn’t getting his message out.
Truth-checking… true only in the smug world of NPR and its kinfolk.