14 Months Later, CNN’s King Cites Same Retired Marine to Prove Military’s Anti-War Views

Fourteen months after CNN’s John King showcased retired Marine Colonel Jim Van Riper to illustrate military disillusionment with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush’s Iraq policy, on Tuesday night, barely an hour before the State of the Union address, King checked in from New Bern, North Carolina and again featured Van Riper’s criticisms as if they had fresh meaning. In a story, near the start of the 8pm EST Situation Room, about the stresses on Marines and soldiers caused by repeated deployments to Iraq, King highlighted how “retired Marine Colonel Jim Van Riper is more optimistic now that the Pentagon is under new leadership, but says strategic blunders by the President and his team have left the military near the breaking point.” Van Riper asserted: “It’s a horrendous operational tempo and along with that you’ve got equipment problems. These men and women now are operating at a much faster pace than we did, particularly in Vietnam or Desert Shield/Desert Storm.”

King, who in 2005 touted Van Riper's take as "telling," then depicted Van Riper’s view as “striking” in a such a pro-Bush state: “It is striking in a state like this, a place with a deep military tradition, respect for the Commander-in-Chief, a state President Bush carried in two presidential elections, to hear such open skepticism, in some cases open criticism and opposition to the President’s war plan.”

During a November 29, 2005 Anderson Cooper 360 story on the opposition to the war from Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, John King highlighted, as recounted in December 1, 2005 NewsBusters posting: "Vietnam and Desert Storm combat veteran Jim Van Riper supports the war and agrees any talk of specific withdrawal timetables is a mistake. But recently Van Riper wrote his congressional delegation saying he could no longer support the Republican Party, calling Iraq a textbook case of how not to wage a war. Van Riper says the President is in a mess of his own making for standing by his Defense Secretary." After a soundbite of Van Riper declaring that "I'm more convinced than ever that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will be the Republicans' Robert S. McNamara, when history's written that's the way he'll be viewed," King propounded: "Such talk in a patriotic place like this is telling.”

In between King’s two citations of Van Riper, CBS's Byron Pitts traveled to North Carolina and located the very same retired Marine to demonstrate that on the war "even some life-long conservatives are no longer hearing the President's message." On the September 7, 2006 CBS Evening News, Pitts touted Van Riper’s credentials (NewsBusters item with full transcript): "Retired Marine Corps Colonel Jim Van Riper is a Christian, card-carrying member of the NRA who voted for President Bush twice. But as more Marines have died in Iraq, his confidence in the Bush administration died as well." Van Riper asserted: "I don't mind arrogance except when there's dead bodies as a result." Pitts explained how "Van Riper will vote for Democrats across the board," and then cued him up: "If you could sit across from President Bush, what would you say to him?" Van Riper: "Sir, I'm disappointed."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center