LAT Falsely Claimed Murtha Had Been Briefed Before Making Charges

Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha has become a liberal media darling for his non-stop pounding of the surrender drum, and his jumping on the bandwagon to accuse the Marines of misconduct and covering up an alleged massacre in Haditha, Iraq.

The Haditha talk got started after Marine general Michael Hagee briefed certain members of congress about the start of an investigation into the deaths of at least 20 Iraqi civilians. After some of the briefings, Murtha almost immediately began accusing the Marine Corps of engaging in war crimes.

Trouble is, though, Murtha had not been briefed on the investigation before he began his media campaign. That is not what the L.A. Times reported, however. The paper said, over the protests of Patterico who argued the opposite, that Murtha had been briefed before making his remarks.

Failing to convince the Times to double-check its sources better (whodathunkit?) and with Murtha's office unwilling to correct the record since it might have made the congressman look bad, Patterico took matters into his own hands:

I heard back from General Hagee’s office yesterday regarding my inquiry about when Gen. Hagee briefed John Murtha about Haditha. The bottom line: Gen. Hagee’s office has directly contradicted an assertion by the L.A. Times that Gen. Hagee briefed John Murtha on Haditha before Murtha accused Marines of killing civilians in cold blood. Gen. Hagee’s office confirmed to me that the General’s first briefing to Murtha took place a week after Murtha had already made his public accusations. [...]

I heard back yesterday from the Public Affairs Officer for the Commandant. She directly contradicted the L.A. Times’s version of the facts — but declined to criticize the article specifically. Here is her statement:

While it would not be appropriate to comment on any particular press article, I can confirm that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee, provided a progress update on the Haditha investigations to Congressional leaders, to include Rep. Murtha, on May 24, 2006.

In a follow-up phone call, she confirmed that May 24 was the first progress update Gen. Hagee gave Murtha and others. I specifically asked her whether May 24 was the first time Gen. Hagee spoke to Congressman Murtha about Haditha, and she said “yes.” So Hagee first briefed Murtha on Haditha on May 24 — a solid week after May 17, when Murtha first accused Marines of killing civilians “in cold blood.” Yet the L.A. Times specifically said that Hagee had briefed Murtha first, and Murtha “later” made his “in cold blood” accusation.

If Hagee’s office is right, then the L.A. Times May 26 article was wrong.

I can only speculate about where Murtha got his information, but according to Gen. Hagee’s Public Affairs Officer, it wasn’t from General Hagee himself (as Murtha had claimed to the Philadelphia Inquirer). Not only did Murtha make his statements before the investigation was complete, he didn’t receive his preliminary information from the top brass before accusing Marines of cold-blooded murder.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013