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Never Mind Our Troops, Just Save Rummy (and Bush)!

Reported by Melanie - December 10, 2004

Fox News aired three consecutive segments today (December 10, 2004) during Dayside w/Linda Vester about the question asked of Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday in Kuwait about the lack of tank armor. If the amount of time Fox spends killing the messenger is any indication of how much the Bush administration fears a story (and I think it is), then the Bush crowd must be mighty worried about this one.

First came Bret Baier reporting from Washington. He began his report with this sentence: "The question may have been sent up to that soldier" but the issue of armored vehicles has been around for a long time. Baier reported that 78% of the Humvees, l0% of medium-sized trucks, and 15% of heavy trucks in Iraq are armored. (COMMENT: I'd say those percentages are actually quite bad.) He said the House Armed Services Committee is seeing to it that 30 armored trucks are going off to Iraq today. Baier reported that Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the chairman of the Committee, thinks the "military bureaucracy needs a jump start." The military though, according to Baier, says it's "meeting goals" and "moving as fast as possible." Periodically throughout the segment this banner appeared at the bottom of the screen: Anti-war groups speak out on Rumsfeld-Troops exchange.

The next segment was a live telephone interview with Regina Wilson, the ex-wife of Spec. Thomas Wilson, the man who asked Rumsfeld the armor question. Ms. Wilson said she could "guarantee" the question about tank armor was an issue to Thomas Wilson "long before Jerry was even deployed." She said she and her ex-husband watched a television program showing Marines welding metal plates to their vehicles before he left for Iraq. She said "I know it wasn't just a planted thing that somebody else came up with. It was a sincere concern of his. He wouldn't stick his neck out on the line unless he really felt strongly about something."

Vester asked Wilson what she would say to those who thought it was a "bogus issue" because a reporter (Lee Pitts of the Chattanooga Times Free Press) was "heavily involved?" Wilson said the reporter may have helped her ex-husband with the wording of the question but that, "there's no way that this man planted this in Jerry's head."

After Vester told Wilson that the Pentagon says it's working as quickly as possible to remedy the situation, Wilson said she'd heard that 20% of combat-related casualties were the result of a lack of armor and "if we're missing something, we need to fix it and bring these boys home."

Next came an interview with Bob Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Lichter said the question was whether "this fellow" wanted to ask the question to begin with and asked the reporter for help in phrasing it, or if the reporter wanted to ask the question and used Spec. Thomas Wilson as a kind of "ventriloquist's dummy" to get the question asked. Vester said that the reporter's email to his "buddies seems to indicate the latter." (COMMENT: I disagree. Here's a copy of that email.)

Lichter said the reporter should have revealed his past contact with the troops when reporting the story; that the Pentagon has received a lot of "positive press" from embedded reporters but journalists "felt used," they want to "get tough now," and are trying to find "anything wrong" that they can, which, he conceded, could help the troops.

Finally, at the end of the next segment, which featured a marine who was reporting on his experience in Fallujah, a Dayside audience member asked this question: "Do you feel the Humvees and the tanks have enough armor?" The young man answered: "Ah, ma'am, we kinda laugh in the Marine Corp. We tend to refer to ourselves as a step-child of the Department of Defense, in a laughing manner. But, in all reality, when we rolled into Fallujah with the Humvees and tanks, 7 tons, the armor was sufficient. We had sandbags stacked on the roofs and floors of the Humvees. [COMMENT: Sandbags? Isn't this precisely the point, that our troops are using sandbags because the vehicles aren't armored?] I felt secure. Everybody had body armor, eye protection and ear protection. I feel that's all we could have asked for." At that, the audience clapped loudly and the interview ended.

COMMENT: In sum, the reporter's motives were in question throughout this 20 minute period. Baier emphasized that the government is doing its best and working as fast as it can; Lichter brought up the possibility of ulterior motives as did Vester; Spec. Thomas Wilson's ex-wife was convincing but what she said was undermined by the optimistic report by the soldier who'd been to Fallujah. In the end, I was left feeling that things aren't nearly as bad as they appeared just two days ago, which, I think, was Fox News' goal. Never mind if the troops are unprotected, what matters most is protecting Bush.

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