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FOX News: The Blame The "Liberal Media" First Crowd

Reported by Ellen - May 17, 2005

I doubt that any of our regular readers would be a bit surprised to know that FOX News covered the Newsweek retraction as if it were a new Hillary Clinton scandal or a new runaway bride. Well, maybe not quite as much as a runaway bride.

First, I saw a large box with links to four different reports on the home page of FOXNews.com. Then I saw a lengthy debate about it last night on Hannity & Colmes. That was followed by a longer discussion on Alan Colmes' radio show. At least this is an important story, worthy of all the coverage. What's staggering is - with the exception of Colmes' coverage - the warped perspective about it on FOX.

The "real journalism" network would have us believe that the Newsweek story is singlehandedly responsible for being disliked in the Arab world. As Bill Press pointed out on Hannity & Colmes, never mind that Bush invaded Iraq on faulty intelligence, has caused far more deaths than the riots in Afghanistan and has yet to apologize. Newsweek's faux pas - for which it HAS apologized - seems to deserve all or most of the blame. For example, an article on FOXNews.com begins

With recent misinformation in one news magazine leading to riots, fatalities and an apology to the Arab world, the Bush administration finds itself still fighting resentment and suspicion from Muslims abroad who claim nothing good can come from America.

... The story, which appeared in Newsweek's May 9 edition, claimed that interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a Koran, the Islamic holy book, down the toilet. The news led to violent protests across the Muslim world, the deaths of 15 Afghans and the injuries of 100 others.

... But while the news agency cleans up its reporting, it's the Bush administration that is tasked with refurbishing the image of the United States, which whether right or wrong on its foreign policy does not seem able to catch a break from angry Arabs.

I'd be pretty angry, too, if someone invaded my country over flawed intelligence but that's an angle that "fair and balanced" FOX seems to have missed. Instead, FOX News reporter Kelley Beaucar Vlahos implies (falsely, as the latter part of the article shows) that the Arabs would hate us regardless of our foreign policy and for a news magazine to report otherwise just makes a bad situation worse.

Nevertheless, in her very next paragraph, Vlahos refers to a GAO report called Interagency Coordination Efforts Hampered by the Lack of a National Communication Strategy which states in its highlights on page 1, "The United States has taken efforts to 'win hearts and minds' by better engaging, informing and influencing foreign audiences; however, recent polling data show that anti-Americanism is spreading and deepening around the world." That report was prepared before the Newsweek story. Yet, there's no mention of either that fact or the highlight.

Ms. Vlahos offers a more muted criticism by reporting "The departments 'have generally not been successful in responding to growing negative sentiments directed towards the United States,' the report states."

And, since Vlahos can't blame Newsweek for what happened before its story came out, she tries to absolve Bush of responsibility by blaming his detractors. "Even the administration's efforts to put Bush's longtime adviser and confidant Karen Hughes into the top Arab PR post in the State Department have been struck by criticism about the administration's approach to that part of the world and the choice of Hughes to spearhead U.S. image-building efforts as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy."

It isn't until about two-thirds of the way through an unusually long story that Vlahos finally tells us that "Experts say it's the message, not the messenger, that's important. Those messages are contained in U.S. policies that have driven a wedge between Arab and American relations. ...The invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the abuse probe at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and the continued support for regional autocrats such as the Saudi royal family are issues that are more significant than a slick media campaign through U.S.-backed radio or television, Mideast expert (David) Phillips (of the Council on Foreign Relations) said."

Meanwhile, Alan Colmes, in an excellent interview with Avi Kover (sp?) reported on his show last night that Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers has stated that the rioting on May 11 in Jalalabad was "not necessarily" connected to the Newsweek story. Colmes and his guest brought up the known climate of abuse in Guantanamo which has resulted in deaths of prisoners. They also decried the lack of proper accountability or an independent investigation into the abuse. Colmes asked, "The question that was not often enough asked on the Dan Rather story was, is it fundamentally true? ...Why is there more outrage about the Newsweek article than all the abuse at Abu Ghraib?"

Good questions. But I don't expect the answers to appear on either FOXNews.com or FOX News television any time soon.

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