On CNN, Bill Press vs. The Press, Which 'In Large Part, Gave Us This War'

On CNN's Reliable Sources this weekend, liberal former CNN Crossfire co-host Bill Press returned to his old network to deliver an old, reliable liberal talking point: the 'mainstream media' is largely responsible for the war in Iraq, because they failed to ask the tough questions that would have convinced the country about the soundness of leaving Saddam Hussein alone. Laura Ingraham provided the opposition, who said the media opposes the war, and doesn't want to cover the bloody aftermath of an American withdrawal:

BILL PRESS: I beg to differ. Look, the media, in large part, gave us this war, because they went along and repeated everything that George Bush said without asking tough questions. And I'm even talking about The New York Times.

HOST HOWARD KURTZ: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Oh, come on. That's ridiculous.

It's amazing that liberals would be so harsh on their home team of journalists, even as the media complained about a "rush to war" for months and imagined massive casualties (even biological and chemical attacks) as a way to convince the public to oppose a war. But Press pressed on:

KURTZ: Now, it is certainly true that everybody at every news organization I've talked to said that the media were not aggressive enough during the run-up to war. But you're saying they gave us this war?

PRESS: Wait. I'll repeat what I said.

KURTZ: We would not have gone to war had it not been for the press?

PRESS: In part, they are responsible for this war, because they didn't do their job. And yes, I do believe that they if they had asked the questions and more -- and American people knew what the truth was, as opposed to the propaganda we're getting from the White House, I think there would not have been the support for the war.

INGRAHAM: Now the press is supposed to be an intelligence agency, too?

PRESS: No, just tell the truth.

INGRAHAM: I mean, every intelligence agency in the world thought there were WMD.

PRESS: Tell the truth. Ask questions. Don't just take it and swallow it.

INGRAHAM: Well, their answers would have been they have WMDs.

Later in the show, Kurtz discussed Tony Blair and that "Bush’s poodle" imagery with Merril Stevenson of The Economist and BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb. They painted a very clear picture that the Brits think the worst parts of America have seeped into Tony Blair’s political style:

KURTZ: Is Blair's image -- his media image, that is, in Britain, Merril Stevenson, still one to some degree of being Bush's poodle?

STEVENSON: Yes. I think it is very much so. Possibly unfairly. I think the only time at which the press maybe did get it a little bit wrong was the "yo, Blair," incident at the St. Petersburg summit. I come from a place that is probably not very far from where you come from in the United States. And "yo, Blair" could be seen as a sort of streetwise mateyness rather than a condescending summoning of a servant.

We all did make rather a meal of it in Britain. And I think that didn't help Blair any. Yes, I think he is seen very much as man who aligned Britain's interests with America's at the expense of the British.

WEBB: And you know, the manner of his departing is seen as American too. And not American in a good sense.

KURTZ: I read a columnist who said it was very American, is that an insult?

WEBB: It is an insult, frankly speaking. Yes. Let's be blunt about it. It is an insult. Because as I was saying with Winston Churchill, we like our [leaders] to go, Margaret Thatcher just went. He is now staying on, he is doing kind of a world tour. He's not going on until the end of June. What's going on now? It's an un- British thing. The fact that he said in his leaving speech, Britain is the finest country in the world, the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, that's not something a British person would ever say. It's utterly American.

STEVENSON: Absolutely appalling.

KURTZ: Absolutely appalling? I don't understand why.

STEVENSON: I was watching it -- I was watching with a group of people, and as he came to this "British are the greatest people in the world," he subsequently referred to them as "it," which was rather strange. But as he said this, everyone in the room gagged and said, take it back to Texas. (LAUGHTER) But I think it's wrong to think that Blair isn't emotional. After all, he has mastered -- he has made his own that he sort of engineered emotional, vocal hiccup, the short takes, his voice choked with emotion. He plays emotion a lot, but it is not always very popular with the British, I have to say.

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