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MacCallum Blames Pelosi for Reyes' Ignorance, Ignores Same Ignorance in GOP

Reported by Judy - December 13, 2006 -

Fox News' "Live Desk" is doing its best to try to make life miserable for House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The latest attempt came Tuesday (December 12, 2006), when Martha MacCallum linked Pelosi to a lack of knowledge on the part of incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes. With Video.

At issue was a piece of "gotcha journalism" by Jeff Stein of Congressional Quarterly, who asked Reyes such questions as the difference between Sunnis and Shiites and similar questions about Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and their relationship to branches of Islam.

The "Live Desk" teased the story repeatedly, starting with giving it second billing in the opening with an announcer saying that Pelosi "strikes again." In all, the show mentioned Pelosi's name five times in connection with Reyes' performance on the "quiz," as well as showed numerous pictures of her, either in video or in stills alongside stills of Reyes and Osama bin Laden. The images were accompanied by biased banners reading "intel Smarts?" and "Real Intelligent."

And at one point, MacCallum stopped just short of calling Reyes dumb, saying, "Democratic Congressman Sylvester Reyes seems to be suffering from a serious lack of intelligence on his part about terrorist organiations. We’re going to tell you, it’s very shocking actually, what Congressman Reyes has said."

MacCallum even brought up the issue in a totally unrelated interview about a film concerning 77 Iraqi veterans who ran for office in November, ambushing a newly elected member of Congress with a question about whether Reyes deserves to be chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

And she also grossly exaggerated the extent of Reyes' alleged ignorance about Al Qaeda, claiming that Reyes "incorrectly described Al Qaeda’s Islamic roots." MacCallum's statement made it sound as though Reyes did not know that Al Qaeda is a brand of Muslim extremism, rather than not knowing that it is rooted among Sunni Muslims rather than Shiite Muslims.

MacCallum also claimed that the information that Reyes got wrong was common knowledge to nearly all other Americans, insisting, "I think that anybody in this country who has been reading the newspaper over the past few years knows that Al Qaeda is a Sunni-based organization." I'm not sure of that at all.

MacCallum's phony shock over Reyes' alleged ignorance of intelligence matters clashes with her willingness to ignore the ignorance of FBI terrorism officials and House Republicans who flunked the very same quiz, according to an article by Stein. MacCallum did not rush to raise questions about the intelligence of House Intelligence Committee Vice Chairs Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and Terry Everett of Alabama. She did not haul Stein onto her program and ask questions about whether they belonged in their positions, even though Davis was in charge of overseeing the CIA's recruitment of Islamic spies.

No, MacCallum was not shocked and appalled then. Only when a Democrat "picked by Nancy Pelosi" screws up does the matter deserve MacCallum's jaw-dropping attention. Yes, she mentioned in her report that Stein had asked the same questions earlier to Republicans, but MacCallum did not name them nor did she splash their pictures all over the screen nor did she link their ignorance to some failing on the part of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Mentioning the fact that some unnamed Republicans also lacked what she deems as essential knowledge is enough to be "fair and balanced" in MacCallum's skewed view of journalistic objectivity.

The whole segment, however, begs the question of whether Stein's quiz is asking really important questions in the first place. As he noted during his interview, knowing what drives Al Qaeda is as important as what team they are on, but MacCallum ignored that comment.

And in his newspaper article, Stein compared knowledge of Sunnis and Shiites with knowledge of the difference between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. But I doubt many people could give a precise theological statement of the differences in those cases either, beyond mumbling something superficial about the pope.

The video of MacCallum's hit-job on Pelosi has snippets from thoughout the show.