CBS and NBC Lead by Trumpeting Anti-War Activists Confronting Rumsfeld's "Lies"

Matching cable news networks interest during the day, two of the three broadcast networks (CBS and NBC, as well as MSNBC's Countdown) led Thursday night with how, at an event in Atlanta, a handful of protesters confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and accused him of “war crimes” and “lying” about Iraq. ABC also aired a story, but put the Moussaoui sentencing first. All three featured former CIA analyst Ray McGovern who demanded: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary?”But all failed to note McGovern's long record of hostility to the Bush administration. As McGovern boasted when he first got to the mike (video not shown by ABC, CBS or NBC), he's a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and if you Google “Ray McGovern of CIA” you get a plethora of returns from far-left sites (DemocracyNow.org, antiwar.com, truthout.org, alternet.org, TomPaine.com and CommonDreams.org).

CBS anchor Bob Schieffer trumpeted: “Not since the Vietnam War has a Secretary of Defense been under the kind of criticism that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been getting lately. A group of retired generals has called on him to resign, and today he caught it from another front when he went to what has been Bush country -- Georgia -- and ran head on into hecklers that included a former CIA analyst.” Of course, Atlanta is hardly “Bush country” and CBS offered no proof the protesters were locals. David Martin concluded by admiring the guts of the protesters: "This is not the first time a former CIA officer has accused the Bush administration of misusing intelligence. But, Bob, it's never been done in such an in-your-face way." NBC's Brian Williams saw a greater meaning: “Today the Secretary of Defense received a blunt and personal reminder of the split in this country over the war in Iraq.” He then showcased a woman shouting in the audience: “You lied to the American people!...You lied! You lied that Iraq's oil would pay for the war! You lied about everything the CIA told you was lies!..You're a liar!" Jim Miklaszewski next touted how “today's protests join a growing chorus of criticism against the Secretary and follow the calls from at least six retired Generals for Rumsfeld's resignation.” (Transcripts follow)

[UPDATE, 12:30am EDT Friday: Keith Olbermann topped Countdown with the confrontation, heralding how the “former CIA analyst cut Rumsfeld to ribbons today using only his own words” and cheering how “the cone of silence from the old TV series Get Smart this afternoon broke down again for the second time in six days,” the first time being “the President's lambasting by Stephen Colbert,” and “now today's vivisection of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.” Of Rumsfeld's denial that he ever said he “knew” the location of WMD, Olberrmann charged that “charitably, it's dementia. And not charitably, it's lying."

Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser over on-screen text of “PEOPLE VS. RUMSFELD: SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER”: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The wrath of public political protest, now against the Secretary of Defense."

Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary?"

Donald Rumsfeld: "I'm not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction."

McGovern: "You said you knew where they were."

Rumsfeld: "I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were."

Olbermann: "No, he literally said he knew where they were. Protesters in Atlanta, including that former CIA analyst, cut Rumsfeld to ribbons today using only his own words. The political gloves have come off."

Olbermann soon opened his show: "Good evening. There have been many explanations offered for why in one of the times of the greatest political turbulence in American history, there has been comparative apathy in places that have been past venues for public protest. One answer that the administration has been outstanding in cherry-picking not just intelligence but also the make-up of the crowds that greet or interact with its key players. Our fifth story in the Countdown, that latter component, the governmental equivalent of the cone of silence from the old TV series Get Smart, this afternoon broke down again for the second time in six days. First, the President's lambasting by Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner and now today's vivisection of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld with only Rumsfeld's own words as weapons at a speech in Atlanta. One of several interchanges with critics, in this case a former CIA analyst, lasting four minutes. Here it is in its entirety..."

Later, after quoting Rumsfeld on the March 30, 2003 This Week saying of WMD in Iraq “we know where they are,” Olbermann proposed to Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe: "'Not in the intelligence business' might have been a Freudian slip more than an accurate description, but when somebody goes out there and blithely denies that they said such and such a thing, and the exact thing is on tape and on the public record, how can that not result in some kind of political fallout or even disaster? I mean, charitably, it's dementia. And not charitably, it's lying."]

A couple of weeks ago, ABC and CBS featured McGovern's defense of fired CIA staffer Mary McCarthy who was reportedly relieved for providing Washington Post reporter Dana Priest with information on secret overseas sites used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. McCarthy, a John Kerry campaign donor, has denied the charge. (See two NewsBusters postings, “

Schieffer Denounces 'Dubious First' Firing of Leaker & Totenberg Praises Stories” and “Journalists on Sunday Shows Hail Leaker's Actions to Expose Improper Prisons.”)

On the Saturday, April 22 World News Tonight, ABC reporter Liz Marlantes asserted:
“To supporters, Mary McCarthy is a woman of conviction who exposed actions she believed were against the law.”

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst: “This is a matter of principle where she said, 'my oath, my promise not to reveal secrets is superseded by my oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Marlantes: “To critics she's a traitor who put the nation's security at risk...”
The same night on the CBS Evening News, Joie Chen relayed:

“Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern defends McCarthy and says she's a whistle blower with no other way to stop what she saw as an agency run amuck.”

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst: “She saw a war crimes act in progress. She saw no oversight by Congress. She said, 'Well, all right, somebody's got to do it. I'll take the risk.'”

The May 4 broadcast network evening newscast coverage of the attack on Rumsfeld as he spoke, in an auditorium, to the Southern Center for International Studies -- as compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth who corrected the closed-captioning against the video:

ABC's World News Tonight. Elizabeth Vargas, in opening teaser:

"Secretary on the defense: Protesters and an ex-CIA analyst confront Donald Rumsfeld over his statements on weapons of mass destruction."

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, off-camera: "I'd just like an honest answer."

Donald Rumsfeld: "I'm giving it to you."
Vargas soon got to the first segment story:
"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was repeatedly challenged about the war on terror, and on Iraq, during a visit to Atlanta today. Several protesters were removed for disrupting his speech at the Southern Center for International Studies. Then, in a question and answer session, a former CIA analyst, who identified himself as Ray McGovern, accused Rumsfeld of lying about the reasons for invading Iraq."

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, off-camera: "Atlanta, September 27, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld said, and I quote, 'There is bullet-proof evidence of links between al-Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein.' Was that a lie, Mr. Rumsfeld? Or was that manufactured somewhere else? Because all of my CIA colleagues disputed that. And so did the 9/11 Commission."

Donald Rumsfeld clip #1: "Well, first of all, I haven't lied. I did not lie then. (Applause) Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate. And he presented that to the United Nations."

Rumsfeld clip #2: "It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there."

McGovern, off-camera: "You said you knew where they were."

Rumsfeld: "I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were just-"

McGovern, off-camera: "You said, you said you knew where they were, near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and north, east, south and west of there. Those are your words."

Rumsfeld: "My words, my words were that, no, no, no. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let him stay one second. Just a second."

McGovern: "This is America, huh?"

Voice: "Go ahead."

Rumsfeld: "You're getting plenty of play, sir."

McGovern: "I'd just like an honest answer."

Rumsfeld: "I'm giving it to you."

Vargas: "The Defense Secretary in some spirited debate today."



CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer, in opening teaser:
"I'm Bob Schieffer. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld goes to Bush country and ends up in a debate with a retired CIA man."
Schieffer opened:
"Good evening. Not since the Vietnam War has a Secretary of Defense been under the kind of criticism that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been getting lately. A group of retired generals has called on him to resign, and today he caught it from another front when he went to what has been Bush country -- Georgia -- and ran head on into hecklers that included a former CIA analyst. Here's David Martin."

David Martin: "Run of the mill hecklers were hauled away while one man simply turned his back on the Defense Secretary in silent protest. But a retired CIA officer waited his turn to ask a question, and then went for Rumsfeld's throat."

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, off-camera: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary?"

Martin: "He was asking about faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. When guards started to take him away, Rumsfeld stepped in."

Donald Rumsfeld: "No, no, no. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let him stay one second."

McGovern, off-camera: "Your allegation that there was bullet-proof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you misled?"

Rumsfeld: "Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact."

McGovern, off-camera: "Zarqawi, he was in the north of Iraq in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That's where he was."

Rumsfeld: "He was also in Baghdad."

McGovern: "Come on, these people aren't idiots. They know the story."

Martin: "Zarqawi is certainly in Iraq now, and today the U.S. military tried to take his fearsome image down a notch by releasing scenes edited out of a video he had posted on the Internet. His weapon apparently jams, and he needs help clearing it."

Major General Rick Lynch, U.S. military spokesperson: "The warrior leader Zarqawi who doesn't understand how to operate his weapon system and has to rely on his subordinates to clear a weapon stoppage. It makes you wonder."

Martin: "But the Zarqawi blooper reel was upstaged by the ex-CIA officer who also accused Rumsfeld of lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

McGovern: "You said you knew where they were."

Rumsfeld: "I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were just-"

McGovern: "You said, you said you knew where they were, near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and north, east, south and west of there. Those are your words."

Rumsfeld: "Why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style?"

Martin: "This is not the first time a former CIA officer has accused the Bush administration of misusing intelligence. But, Bob, it's never been done in such an in-your-face way."



NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams, in opening teaser:

"War of words: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a tough time escaping his critics during a speech today in Atlanta."

Williams led:

"Good evening. Today the Secretary of Defense received a blunt and personal reminder of the split in this country over the war in Iraq. While U.S. service men and women serve and fight and die overseas, today's speech in Atlanta by the President's man at the Pentagon was peppered with interruptions and responses like the one you're about to see."

Woman in audience, shouting and being removed: "You lied to the American people! ... You lied! You lied that Iraq's oil would pay for the war! You lied about everything the CIA told you was lies! But you lied! You lied! You're a liar!"

Donald Rumsfeld: "That charge is frequently leveled against the President for one reason or another, and it is so wrong and so unfair and so destructive of a free system where people need to trust each other and government, and the idea that people in government are lying about something is fundamentally destructive of that trust and at bedrock untrue."

Williams: "That is how the day went for Donald Rumsfeld who battled back from each interruption with help from the mostly supportive and respectful audience to try to get his own message across. We get more on the event and the protest tonight from NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim, good evening."

Jim Miklaszewski, at the Pentagon: "Good evening, Brian. Today's protests join a growing chorus of criticism against the Secretary and follow the calls from at least six retired Generals for Rumsfeld's resignation. Under heavy political fire in Washington, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ran into a firestorm of public protests today in Atlanta.”

Woman holding sign about “war crimes” that other wrestle away from her: "You personally ordered an illegal war in Iraq! You are planning a nuclear war in Iran!"

Miklaszewski: “Only three minutes into his speech, Rumsfeld was interrupted at least three times by protesters shouting their opposition to the war in Iraq."

Woman: You lied! You lied that Iraq's oil would pay for the war!"

Miklaszewski: "The protests turned personal and ugly."

Man in audience: “How can you sit here and listen to this war criminal? You are a serial killer! This man needs to be impeached like George Bush! How can you sit here and listen to this criminal? You're a war criminal, Rumsfeld!"

Miklaszewski: "One silent protester turned his back on Rumsfeld showing a sticker calling for impeachment [sticker of an image of a peach with “Impeach” over it]. But the most contentious exchange came during questions from the audience."

Ray McGovern, Retired CIA Analyst: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?"

Donald Rumsfeld: "Well, first of all, I haven't lied. I did not lie then."

Miklaszewski: "But the questioner, a long-retired CIA analyst, persisted, challenging Rumsfeld's claims Saddam Hussein had prior links to al-Qaeda."

McGovern: "Was that a lie or were you misled?"

Rumsfeld: "Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact."

Miklaszewski: "Now, Rumsfeld appeared to pretty much hold his own during today's protest, but given the political season and an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, officials here predict this won't be the last, Brian."
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