CBS's Pizzey Calls McCain's Bright Take on Iraq 'Disgraceful,' Dismisses Bias Charges

CBS’s website’s feature "The Public Eye Chat" interviewed correspondent Allen Pizzey, who completely ignored some positive signs in Iraq in his grim report last month. Interviewer Brian Montopoli asked if John McCain’s optimistic statements on Iraqi progress "really sort of bothered reporters." Pizzey scuffed: "It’s disgraceful for a man seeking highest office, I think to talk utter rubbish." Pizzey claimed, that "no one in his right mind who has been to Baghdad believes that story," but he must not have checked the recent ABC story citing some improvement.

Montopoli followed up with a question of liberal bias, and quickly added that, that charge "has died down a little bit of late." Pizzey, of course denied that charge and accused the Bush administration of thinking "that anything that doesn’t wholly support everything they say is against them." The transcript of the relevant portion is below.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: It seems that some reporters, including yourself and CNN's Michael Ware, have really taken umbrage at John McCain's recent comments, essentially saying that there are a lot of neighborhoods where you can walk around relatively safely. Is it fair to say that that really sort of bothered reporters?

ALLEN PIZZEY: Yes. It's disgraceful for a man seeking highest office, I think, to talk utter rubbish. And that is utter rubbish. It's electoral propaganda. It is simply not true. No one in his right mind who has been to Baghdad believes that story. Now, McCain and some other senators were there on Sunday, and they claimed, "Oh, we walked around for a whole hour…and we drove in from the airport. Gosh, aren't we great, we drove in from the airport." Excuse me, Mr. McCain, you drove in in a large convoy of heavily armed vehicles. The last one had a sign on it saying "Keep back 100 yards. Deadly force authorized." Every single car that they approached or passed pulled over and stopped, because that's the way it is. When one of those security details goes by, every ordinary person gets the hell out of the way, in case they get shot. If he did walk around that market, and I didn't see him do it, and he didn't announce he was going to do it, you can bet your life there were an awful lot of soldiers deployed to make sure that nobody came near that place. He's talking rubbish. And he should not get away with it.

MONTOPOLI: There used to be a pretty vigorous debate about whether the media is reporting the war through an anti-administration liberal bias lens, though that has died down a little bit of late. How do you feel about that argument?

PIZZEY: I dismiss that. Because I think the Bush administration in particular thinks that anything that doesn't wholly support everything they say is against them. And you don't have to support one side or the other. If the administration makes idiotic claims, or claims that are patently, to us on the ground, wrong, why should we not report that they're wrong? All we're doing is reporting what we can see and understand. Now, no reporter is as objective as we'd like to be. Objectivity is a principle to which we strive to adhere, but we all have our own little biases – our upbringing, our personal political beliefs, whatever touches us in a human way. All of that affects our reporting. But I don't think that we have a particular administration bias. I don't care one way or another. I'm not even American. I just happen to work for Americans. I just do my job.