On Thursday’s morning shows and Wednesday’s evening newscasts, CBS and ABC discussed a possible visit to Ground Zero by Iran’s President and, at the same time, ignored Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s connections to terror and also his statements about wiping out Israel. On "Good Morning America," Chris Cuomo briefly mentioned the upcoming U.S. trip and only cited construction at New York’s Ground Zero and "security concerns" as reasons to deny the man a visit. On CBS's "Early Show," reporter Russ Mitchell filed a similarly bland report. Neither mentioned that the Iranian leader in 2005 called for Israel to be wiped from the map and Iran is a state supporter of terrorism.
Only on NBC’s "Today," did Ahmadinejad’s extreme statements and actions warrant a reference. Reporter Andrea Mitchell labeled the attempted visit to Ground Zero a "PR stunt" and pointedly observed, "[Bush] Administration officials called it appalling. Presidential candidates condemned the visit and one 9/11 widow said it's like letting Osama Bin Laden visit Ground Zero." With a series of anchor briefs, Wednesday night’s news broadcasts featured a similar pattern. NBC’s "Nightly News" host Brian Williams proclaimed that the request had been rejected because of security and the fact that "Iran is, as the U.S. said today, among the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism." However, "World News" host Charles Gibson provided no reason at all. In a news brief, he simply asserted, "[Ahmadinejad] told New York police he’d like to visit Ground Zero. The New York City police department has said no." "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric didn’t cover the subject at all.
A round up of the coverage on September 19 and 20 follows:
Chris Cuomo: "Iran's president can all but cross a visit to New York’s Ground Zero off his to-do list. Police say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not welcome at the site next week when he is in New York for a United Nations conference. The reason? Construction and security concerns. But the president says he intends to go anyway. And in that case, Secret Service officers will protect him."
The Early Show 7:08am
Russ Mitchell: "New Yorkers are sending a message to the president of Iran, 'forget about it.' This morning's papers tell the story. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, New York police said no because the site is under construction. Ahmadinejad will be in New York next week to address the U.N."
Ann Curry: "New York City officials are denying a request by Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay a wreath at Ground Zero next week. NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has the details now."
Andrea Mitchell: "Iran's controversial president tried to pull of a PR stunt, using the site of America's greatest tragedy for a photo-op. Ground Zero, the symbol of sorrow and loss, sacred ground. So when Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad requested to visit the site when he's here for U.N. meetings next week, New York security officials flatly rejected his request, citing security concerns."
Raymond Kelly (Police commissioner): "It would not be possible to have him go to any area other than the area where most of the public goes."
Mitchell: "His spokesman says he wanted to, quote, 'pay tribute to those killed in that terrorist attack.' Experts are skeptical."
Suzanne Maloney (Former State Dept official): "Well, I think Ahmadinejad has a tendency to engage in political grandstanding. He does this at home quite a bit and he certainly demonstrated some tendency to do this on the international stage."
Mitchell: "And facing possible sanctions from the U.S. and the UN over his nuclear program analysts say Ahmadinejad wanted to improve his image in the eyes of the American people, a move that has already backfired. Administration officials called it appalling. Presidential candidates condemned the visit and one 9/11 widow said it's like letting Osama Bin Laden visit Ground Zero."
World News With Charles Gibson 6:41pm
Charles Gibson: "The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is coming to New York next week, attending the United Nations General Assembly. He told New York police he’d like to visit Ground Zero. The New York City police department has said no."
NBC Nightly News 7:23pm
Brian Williams: "What do you do when Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad, asks to visit ground zero in New York during his visit to the gathering at the UN next week? Well, if you’re the NYPD and the Secret Service, who are, after all, responsible for the security of the man in the tan jacket while he’s visiting, you consider it and then you turn down the request as they did late today. They cite his security and the fact that Iran is, as the U.S. said today, among the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism."