CBS and NBC Report Nuke Test Confirmation; ABC Suggests Doubt, Could Be 'Fake'

Friday's broadcast network evening newscasts (6:30pm EDT feeds for ABC and CBS, 7pm for NBC) delivered contradictory reports on whether U.S. officials believe North Korea conducted a nuclear test last weekend. On the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod reported from the White House lawn: “The first tests on air samples from near North Korea have been completed and U.S. intelligence agencies now appear ready to confirm this was indeed a nuclear test.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams similarly relayed: “American officials say the very first tests of air samples from the skies above do show some indication of increased radiation, but they say it will be more days now before all the tests are completed.”

On ABC's World News, however, anchor Charles Gibson asserted: “There is still a question tonight as to whether North Korea did or did not conduct a nuclear test. Monitoring of the air over North Korea by the U.S., by the Chinese and by the Japanese has come up negative.” Over a matching graphic, Gibson reported: “No radioactive particles have been found.” Jonathan Karl suggested “that it may have been a failure and they have not ruled out the possibility that it could be a fake. There will be more tests coming, Charlie, it may be several days before we have anything definitive.” (Reid v Foley below)

The complete exchange on the October 13 World News on ABC:
Charles Gibson: "There is still a question tonight as to whether North Korea did or did not conduct a nuclear test. Monitoring of the air over North Korea by the U.S., by the Chinese and by the Japanese has come up negative -- no radioactive particles have been found."

Gibson to Jonathan Karl: "They don't find any radioactive particles, so have we ruled out that it was a nuclear test?"

Karl, at the Pentagon: "No, not at all. But it's another indication that if it was a test -- and they still believe it was -- that it may have been a failure and they have not ruled out the possibility that it could be a fake. There will be more tests coming, Charlie, it may be several days before we have anything definitive."

[Oh, and on the Harry Reid scandal, zilch again Friday on the three broadcast network evening newscasts: CBS gave 15 seconds to the report of an investigation about a 1996 camping trip in which Congressman Jim Kolbe accompanied some congressional pages and ABC, which allocated nearly two minutes to the guilty plea from former Congressman Bob Ney, spent about 15 seconds on Congressman John Shimkus appearing before the ethics committee. NBC gave about 25 seconds to Ney, but nothing to any Foley-related matter.]

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