CBS Downplays Graphic Afghanistan Photos as a GOP 'Distraction,' ABC Minimizes

CBS's Bill Plante on Friday downplayed graphic photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with severed body parts of suicide bombers as a GOP "distraction," insisting that Republicans were "somehow" trying to portray this (and other issues) as a failure of leadership. None of the networks wondered if this reflected poorly on Barack Obama.

Since the Los Angeles Times first reported the 2010 pictures, ABC has only offered one report, airing on World News. CBS allowed a lone segment on the April 18 Evening News and a brief mention by Plante on Friday's This Morning. He spun, "...Republicans keep pointing out several recent distractions: this incident, the troops posing with body parts in Afghanistan, and the big party that the General Services Administration threw itself in Las Vegas." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Plante derisively added, "And they're suggesting that, somehow, all this adds up to a lack of presidential leadership." Somehow? The correspondent continued, "One thing to remember, of course: it's an election year."

NBC provided the most coverage, so far, on the photographs. The network featured full reports on Wedensday's Today and Nightly News. Today followed up with news briefs on Thursday. On April 18, reporter Jim Miklaszewski explained:

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI: These controversial photos taken by American soldiers were actually taken two years ago, but it makes them no less embarrassing today. The uncropped photos are too graphic and disturbing to show on television. In this shot, Afghan soldiers are holding up the severed legs of a dead Taliban suicide bomber while American soldiers in the background mug for the camera. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Secretary Leon Panetta today strongly condemned the soldiers' conduct.

When George W. Bush was president, journalists repeatedly tried to link embarrassing incidents that occurred in the military to the then-President. Yet, there has been no similar effort to showcase these current photos as bad news for Barack Obama.

A partial transcript of the April 20 CBS This Morning segment can be found below:


PALIN: The buck stops with the President, and he's really got to start cracking down and seeing some heads roll. You know, he's got to get rid of these people at the head of these agencies where so many things, obviously, are amiss.

PLANTE (on-camera): Well, the President did talk about the scandal last weekend when he was in Colombia. He said he'd be angry if the allegations turned out to be true. Now, the White House is trying to keep its distance, but Republicans keep pointing out several recent distractions: this incident, the troops posing with body parts in Afghanistan, and the big party that the General Services Administration threw itself in Las Vegas. And they're suggesting that, somehow, all this adds up to a lack of presidential leadership. One thing to remember, of course: it's an election year. Charlie, Erica?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org