Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

Special Report's Pathetic Coverage of Walter Reed

Reported by Janie - March 6, 2007 -

During last night's (3/5) Special Report, Brit Hume spent a small portion of the show covering the House hearings on the Walter Reed scandal. The segment, which was filed by Fox Correspondent Major Garrett, was an attempt to provide damage control for the Bush Administration and left out significant parts of the story, while framing the story only as failure of bureaucracy.

Brit Hume began the segment, before introducing Garrett, by complaining about the House hearings on the scandal, "Although the army has been patching and painting facilities for US troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington and in other hospitals, the conditions were raked over again today, this time in a House hearing. Today's witnesses complained not only of run down and filthy accommodations, but of a molasses slow military bureaucracy."

This introduction sets the whole tone for the segment, as Hume makes it clear that he feels the hearings are unnecessary, since the work has already begun to patch up the problems in the hospital.

Hume then turned the segment over to Garrett.

MG: "Two soldiers and a wife who sought for better care of her soldier husband testified today that the problem at Walter Reed AMC isn't healthcare."

Garrett opens his portion of the segment with the only positive he can think of in the story, rather than addressing the issue at hand. He also doesn't tell the whole story.

Christopher Shays (clip): "Almost all of you have said the help you received from the doctors when you received help was outstanding."

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon: "Yes."

CS (clip): "Would you agree Sgt.? I mean, Specialist Duncan?"

Army Specialist Jeremy Duncan: "Yes sir."

CS: "Um, Mrs. McLeod, would you agree with that?"

Annette McLeod: "50%, yes."

But the medical care wasn't up to any semblance of normal standards, as Garrett is trying to paint. After allowing McLeod's short clip, Garrett doesn't mention what else she had to say about the medical treatment her husband received.

In an interview with Democracy Now, McLeod had this to say about the medical treatment received from Walter Reed, "However, they did not rate his brain injury. They rated the cognitive dysfunction from the brain injury, and he got more for anxiety than he did for any of the other injuries. However, their thinking is -- they rated him 30% for the anxiety. They would not classify him as PTSD. The thing is, they're saying that this may get better with time, and then if it does so-called in time, then he'll wind up with nothing."

I'd say misdiagnosing, or down playing a diagnosis must just fit under the headline of "a problem with healthcare."

After setting up the positive in the story, Garrett framed the remainder of the story as a problem with bureaucracy, an issue that would appeal to conservatives, while ignoring the issues caused by privatization.

MG: "But squalor in building 18 and adjacent outpatient facility where soldiers waited for medical care, was a problem.

A road side bomb left Specialist Jeremy Duncan with a broken neck, ripped away his left ear, and blinded his right eye. He stayed in Building 18 waiting medical treatment."

JD: "The conditions in the room, in my mind, were just it was unforgivable for anybody to live. It wasn't fit for anybody to live in a room like that, I know most soldiers have, are just coming out of recovery, have weaker immune systems, black mold can do damage to people, holes in the walls, I wouldn't live there, even if I had to."

MG: "Annette McCloud told the committee she fought doggedly against Pentagon Bureaucracy, quoting a case manager eager to give up on her husband Wendell of South Carolina, a National Guardsman."

AM: "She told me I cannot maintain him the way you want to maintain him. She said I'm going to send him home until we can decide what to do with him and we'll probably turn him over to the VA. I fought tooth and nail, and that's an old saying for me, because he should have been taken care of."

MG: "Later, the General fired for Walter Reed's shortcomings, offered this."

Major General George Weightman: "I'd just like to apologize for not meeting their expectations. (Comment: Expectations?!? Sanity conditions, and proper treatment of our soldiers returning from war are just "expectations"?!) Not only in the care provided, but also in having so many bureaucratic processes that just took your fortitude to be an advocate for your husband, which you shouldn't have to do."

Of course, the next move for Garrett was to make sure his audience was clear that the Administration knew nothing about the problems, and are very concerned and working on getting them fixed.

MG: "And across the capital, in a speech to the veterans of foreign wars, Vice President Cheney promised improvements."

DC: "There will be no excuses, only action, and the federal bureaucracy will not slow that down. We will fix the problems at Walter Reed, period."

As you can see, using "federal bureaucracy" as the scape-goat came straight from the Vice President himself, allowing Fox to frame the story, once again, with right-wing, Administration talking points.

MG: "The Generals in charge of the medical center say they knew little of the housing problems, but had been trying to streamline the Army's medical bureaucracy. Under questioning from CA Democrat Henry Waxman, the other witnesses scoffed."

AM: "I have one question. Were they deaf? Because I went to anybody that would listen, so, if you don't want to hear, you don't hear."

JD: "There's no way they couldn't have known, I mean, everybody had to have known somewhere."

Garrett finished, "They're essentially two problems here. Building 18 at Walter Reed and those like it (Comment: How many exactly?). They're being repaired and renovated. That's what the military calls a bricks and mortar problem.

One, in the case of building 18, it essentially hid in plain sight. Law makers have said since the war began, how many trips they've made to Walter Reed to honor wounded soldiers, but they went in the front door of that world class medical facility, unaware it appears now of the dilapidated outpatient hotel just across the street.

The other problem is more systemic. How the military processes wounded soldiers, how it ranks the severity of a soldiers injury, how it prepares them and their families for cheap medical care, how it administers outpatient care, and how patients move from Pentagon care to Veterans Administration care. That is a much, much tougher problem to solve, one brought to light by moldy wall paper and squalid mattresses at building 18, now receiving the most attention they've received since the Iraq war began."

The entire segment, was once again, used to spin a story to favor the Administration and serve as damage control. So many of the problems at Walter Reed were glossed over in this story, and the right-wing favorite, "privatization" wasn't mentioned once.

Again, according to Democracy Now:

"Meanwhile Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said a major factor in the conditions at Walter Reed might be the result of the privatization of services. Welch cited a five-year $120 million contract given to a company called IAP Worldwide Services, which is operated by a former Halliburton executive. The Corporate Research Project is reporting IAP has close ties to the Republican Party. Ownership of the company is controlled by the giant hedge fund Cerberus, whose chair is former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary John Snow. The IAP board of directors includes former Vice President Dan Quayle and retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee."

Despite the bi-partisan outrage over this story, "Support Our Troops" Fox - ever the Administration mouth piece - decided to cover for the Administration and create a story of less magnitude, rather than help ensure the American people are fully aware of the treatment our soldiers returning from war are receiving.

Politics over the best care for our soldiers. Supporting the troops? Hardly.