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Coverage of Haditha shootings, FOX News style: Smear Decorated Veteran John Murtha, Give Deferential Treatment To Suspected Felon Ann Coulter

Reported by Ellen - May 21, 2006

Judging from the sudden outbreak of smears against decorated war veteran Rep. John Murtha on Hannity & Colmes last week, it’s a safe bet that FOX News and Sean Hannity are pretty darned worried about an investigation into the alleged murder of civilians by US soldiers in Haditha, Iraq. Murtha spoke of the Pentagon’s soon-to-be released report as part of a press conference last week in which he called again for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Rather than discuss the Haditha incident or the real thrust of Murtha’s statements – that the presence of US troops in Iraq is undermining our own efforts in the war on terror – Hannity & Colmes made Murtha the issue for the second night in a row Friday, 5/19/06.

Murtha’s comment was a small part of his overall statement during a 5/18/06 press conference to commemorate six months since his call for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. You can read the transcript of his press conference and his separate statement on the incident in Haditha on his website. The only sentence Hannity & Colmes focused on was this one from the press conference: “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

The two guests were Democrat Susan Estrich and Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter has a history of smearing Murtha, so there could have been no doubt in a FOX producer's mind that she wouldn't do more of the same.

Alan Colmes started the discussion with Coulter. He told Coulter that what Murtha said has basically been confirmed by the military, that an inquiry into Haditha has already taken place and that what Murtha said is not a matter of dispute.

There was a pause while Coulter apparently figured out a way to work in one of her “witticisms” she had undoubtedly prepared in advance. “Ummmmm, well, I think the reason normal people react badly to it is that, I mean if this were Charles Manson or Mumia, ummm, you know, everyone would be saying ‘oh, allegedly, allegedly – he’s innocent ‘til proved guilty.’ But whenever it’s cops or the military – even before the inquiry’s finished – because the inquiry’s goin’ on, um, they’re adjudged guilty and by a Congressman, himself.”

From there, Coulter segued straight into a Swift Boating of Murtha. “I note that (Congressman Murtha) will not release the records of how he got his purple heart and a Democrat Congressman challenged him about it.”

Speaking of not releasing records, Ann Coulter apparently has yet to explain to the Palm Beach Florida authorities why her true home address does not match the one she swore to when she registered to vote in Palm Beach County. According to Brad Blog, this is a possible third degree felony in Florida. (Brad Blog also notes that Coulter may have committed tax fraud as well.) So you’d think Coulter would not want to be throwing stones at the issue of not releasing records. But she must have felt safe doing so on FOX News. Nobody on the H&C panel confronted her about her own ongoing investigation. Nor has anyone ever confronted her on the fact that she seemed high as a kite during an appearance on Hannity & Colmes last December.

Instead, Colmes turned to Susan Estrich for comment about the allegations about Murtha – not the incident at Haditha, nor the Iraq war.

To her credit, Estrich showed some real strategy Friday night. “I don’t want to go there,” Estrich said about the swift-boating, and she got back to the real issue – the substance of Murtha’s remarks. “I have enormous respect for Jack Murtha… I think he DOES have information about what this report is going to say. And I think he was trying to give it some context. It is six months today since Jack Murtha, who is widely regarded on the Hill as a VERY respected Congressman – it’s six months since he came out with his opposition to the war in Iraq. And I think the point he was trying to make was not to convict the marines in advance – he’s a big supporter of the marines – but rather to say that these marines are in an impossible situation over there, that they’re under tremendous stress and that therefore, he feels bad for these kids and feels like they’re in an impossible situation and he was using this example to underline his opposition to this mission – that these constant redeployments are tough on these kids.”

Colmes – not to his credit – diverted the conversation away from the substance of Murtha’s remarks and opened the conversation up for more attacks on Murtha. He asked Coulter, “Don’t we live in a free and open society where the more information we get, the better we are as a democratic, free and open society?” Surely, he would not have expected Coulter to discuss the issue from the high ground.

“Ummm, yes we also live in a free and open democratic society where you’re innocent until proved guilty – something that liberals only honor in the case of serial killers and child molesters.” It’s interesting how, now that SHE could be facing criminal charges, Ann Coulter has suddenly become sensitive to the rights of the accused. She certainly hasn’t shown such concern in the past. Consider, for example, her allegation that Clinton "was a very good rapist."

Estrich tried to bring the issue back to the substance of Murtha’s remarks. “That’s not right, Ann. You’re missing the point.” But Coulter, gloating over her own cleverness, said, “Hang on, Susan, I let you go on for QUITE a while.” She began a series of lies that Colmes let go unchallenged. “No, Murtha did not come out to oppose the Iraq war six months ago. He started opposing the Iraq war before we went to war… Every six months since before the war began, he opposed the war.” In fact, statements on Murtha's website indicate that he supported the war, albeit with reservations. See, for example, his 10/09/02 statement, Murtha Supports Iraq Resolution with Reservations and Jack's Stance on Iraq.

Coulter continued with the dubious allegation (which I could not verify anywhere) that Murtha’s “inside information that was broadcast around the media right before the last presidential election was that Bush was going to reinstitute the draft.” She paused to admire her own cleverness again.

As he did the night before, Sean Hannity engaged in bullyboy fireworks to attack Murtha and distort his words. Hannity ignored the larger context of Murtha’s comments as well as Murtha’s overtly expressed sympathy for the troops in order to denounce Murtha’s description of the incident at Haditha as “unforgiveable.”

“That’s what the report is going to say, Sean,” Estrich told him.

Hannity, no doubt peeved that she was not cowed by his theatrics, bullied a bit more and mocked her for saying she respects Murtha. “Have you seen the report?” Hannity asked. But it’s hard to believe that Hannity does not know what FOX News has already reported – that the report will, in fact, say that marines killed civilians without provocation.

“Look at his entire statement,” Estrich said repeatedly. “His entire statement said the pressure of this redeployment, the fact that they’re under this kind of stress, the fact that they’re constantly vulnerable has left them in a situation where they are vulnerable to over-reacting.”

Hannity interrupted. “Susan, you’re missing the point… I don’t care what you and Jack are saying about your opinion on the Iraq war.” Hannity continued by making the false allegation that “some congressman and some report” were “convicting” the marines before trial. Comment: Hannity almost surely knows that nobody was convicting anybody. Nobody was accused of a crime, nobody was adjudged guilty. Murtha was commenting on the report about an incident that has been investigated by the Pentagon. There can be no doubt that Hannity was deliberately skewing his facts to smear Murtha, probably in an effort to distract from the facts of the report.

From there, Hannity went on to contradict himself about not caring what Democrats were saying about the war. “Our enemies are listening to a United States congressman saying that our troops are killing innocent civilians in cold blood.”

Estrich was still not bullied. “No, our enemies are listening to us be accountable. And listening to us take a position that says when we do wrong, we will look at it and we will examine it and we will hold ourselves accountable.” Estrich continued, “But I defy you Sean, you’ve never been in the marines, I’ve never been in the marines, but Jack Murtha has. And he’s a better friend than you and I are.”

Coulter repeated her “witticism” (she must have loved it to have used it so often) that all she wanted was for the marines to get the same treatment as Manson and Mumia. Considering that Coulter has attacked Murtha long before his most recent press conference, it seems more likely that all Coulter really wants is to smear him.

“Let me give some context here,” Hannity said, as he deliberately ignored Murtha’s context. “Let’s go through some of the words of other Democrats.” He went on to cite the criticisms of Senators Kerry, Obama and Reid of the handling of the war. Conveniently, Hannity ignored the criticisms from Republican Senator Hagel, Rep. Walter Jones and General Casey, the top commander in Iraq. “What do our enemies think of this? Do they not use it to justify what they’re doing against our troops?” Hannity asked with phoney-baloney Hanctimony.

“Of course,” Coulter agreed, without offering an iota of proof. Suddenly, all her concern about fairness and not pre-judging people had vanished.

You can ask FOX News why they smear a decorated marine like Congressman Murtha but give such deferential treatment to the ethically-challenged Ann Coulter via the following email addresses:

comments@foxnews.com

hannity@foxnews.com

colmes@foxnews.com

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