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FOX News Playing Heavy Defense On Haditha

Reported by Ellen - June 4, 2006

Friday night (6/2/06) on Hannity & Colmes, the top story was Haditha once again. But, in a mockery of FOX’s “we report, you decide” mantra, the sole guest was nobody with any direct knowledge of the events. Ben Mathes was the father of the current commander of the unit involved in the Haditha incident. His son was not involved in the incident. Quick as you could say “fair and balanced,” I’m sure everyone could guess what kind of perspective this guest provided.

Before getting to Haditha, a clip was played of a military spokesperson saying troops had been cleared of any wrongdoing in another alleged attack on Iraqi civilians, this one in Ishaqi. It was easy to confuse the two incidents (even I got confused) and it’s hard to believe that was unintentional.

Mathes described himself as a Christian journalist whose reporting is “all positive and encouraging.” As a journalist, Mathes said, he went on patrol with the unit in January and – surprise, surprise – he was positive and encouraging about what he saw. “I found them to be professional, proficient, focused and dedicated.”

Mathes said he visited the troops in Haditha six weeks after the alleged massacre and claimed that nobody discussed it. He responded, “I can’t address that,” when Alan Colmes asked about allegations of a military cover-up, not just from Congressman Murtha but also from a Republican Representative John Kline. You can read more about the cover-up allegations in the Washington Post.

“Our job as Americans is to stand up and support these troops,” Mathes predictably said. “What those young men need to hear is that America is standing behind them and on their side.”

Sean Hannity showed his support for the troops in his customary fashion – by attacking Democrats, particularly decorated war veteran with 37-years in the Marines, Congressman John Murtha: “This isn’t about a free press. This is about Congressmen, with our enemies hearing what they’re saying, without a full investigation, the investigation is not complete, without exculpatory evidence presented and I understand there will be some presented, you know, accusing people like your son of killing civilians in cold blood. We haven’t even heard from these guys yet and these statements are being made. It’s this rush to judgment, it’s this rush to believe the worst about our brave military men that has me and other Americans so offended.”

Suddenly, Mr. Mathes wasn’t so supportive of ALL the military, at least not retired Colonel Murtha. “Unless I’m mistaken, our senators and congressmen are hired hands that we elect and pay to lead us. They led my son and other sons to war – and now to have led them to war and then stand back and criticize them – that doesn’t make any sense to me. I think if they can’t stand up, get out of the way and let’s find somebody who can lead.” Comment: This is a complete distortion of Murtha’s stance. Murtha discussed Haditha and his position on the war in Iraq at length with Alan Colmes in an interview that was only briefly excerpted on Hannity & Colmes. Most of the interview was aired only on Colmes’ late-night radio show.

Just because he complained the other side rushed to judgment, Hannity didn’t seem to feel any hesitation about working to acquit the Marines in advance. He asked Mathes whether “sometimes civilians work in conjunction with the terrorists.” Yes, Mathes reiterated on cue, it was very difficult to tell allies from enemies in Iraq.

Next Hannity rehashed the events at Haditha in an incomplete, one-sided way. "Just to remind our audience what happened on this day that we’re talking about in question, an IED went off, one marine had his body split in two, others were injured. From what I understand, there were shots fired and these guys have to react. And it seems like, in the comfort of our Congressional offices or press rooms that statements are being made and people are not sitting or in that position where they’re the ones watching their fellow marines getting blown up here.”

From the comfort of HIS press room, Hannity conveniently overlooked a few key facts: 1. The reported military cover-up; 2. Heartbreaking stories of the survivors; 3. The anger of the Iraqi government and their rejection of the US military’s findings about the incident at Ishaqi.

Comment: I think FOX News and Sean Hannity are very, very worried about the repercussions of Haditha. Stay tuned.

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