NBC Nightly News Highlights Viewer E-Mail that Matches NewsBusters Critique

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ended his Wednesday newscast by reading a few e-mails from viewers, starting with one which matched an August 1 NewsBusters/August 2 MRC CyberAlert item I wrote, "NBC's Williams Ignores Declining U.S. Troop Deaths, Highlights Total Iraq 'Death Toll.'" With the text on screen, Williams read aloud the comment from the unidentified e-mailer (a NewsBusters reader?) who complained about how Williams was guilty of "sensationalizing U.S. deaths in Iraq with a huge body count number flashed on the screen," and asked: "Do you think it might also have been news worth noting that July's casualty count was the third lowest in the past 2 years and that they FELL in July for the third straight month? Of course not -- because that does not fit the template of your news program." (Transcript, and the matching NewsBusters item, follows)

Williams set up the August 9 NBC Nightly News segment:
"We will leave you tonight with some of you. Specifically, some evidence of how this broadcast has become more interactive of late and share a few of the mountain of e-mails we receive every day and after every broadcast we do. We read them all and we share them and discuss them and many lately have been to do with the wars being fought half way around the globe and our coverage of them. On August 2nd, a viewer wrote:
"Once again, you are so transparent with your agenda and viewpoints. Instead of only highlighting -- no, make that SENSATIONALIZING -- U.S. deaths in Iraq with a huge body count number flashed on the screen, do you think it might also have been news worth noting that July's casualty count was the third lowest in the past 2 years and that they FELL in July for the third straight month? Of course not -- because that does not fit the template of your news program."

The August 1 NewsBusters posting recounted:
A night after ABC anchor Charles Gibson highlighted some good news on the Iraq front -- how "the U.S. military death toll in Iraq fell in July, for the third-straight month" to "the third-lowest monthly death toll in two years" -- NBC anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday chose to put a downbeat spin on the situation in Iraq as he provided only the total number of U.S. deaths without any mention of whether they are increasing or decreasing. On the August 1 NBC Nightly News, Williams, who on Monday did not report the declining monthly deaths, set up a story from Iraq: "This has also been an especially deadly day in Iraq where dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed and tonight we have an update on the number of American troops killed since the invasion: 2,579. Meantime, attacks and kidnapings are getting worse in the capital city. Our report from there tonight from NBC's Ned Colt..." On screen as Williams spoke, "DEATH TOLL" with this beneath: "2579 TROOPS SINCE THE INVASION."
A July 31 NewsBusters item reported:
One week after ABC anchor Charles Gibson made a special point about how bad the situation in Iraq remained while media attention focused on the Israel-Hezbollah war, specifically noting how "more U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq these past two weeks than Israeli soldiers have died in their conflict," Gibson on Monday night -- uniquely on the broadcast network evening newscasts -- highlighted some good news: How U.S. military deaths are falling in Iraq. Gibson read this short item on the July 31 World News: "One item to mention from Iraq tonight. The U.S. military death toll in Iraq fell in July, for the third-straight month, despite the rising sectarian violence. As of yesterday, 44 U.S. forces had been killed in July. And that's the third-lowest monthly death toll in two years." An accompanying on-screen chart showed the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq declining from 76 in April to 69 in May to 61 in June and 44 in July.
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