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Fox News’ “CNN Reporters As Gaddafi’s Human Shields” Story Reveals Fox News Deceit, Laziness And Likely Cowardice

Reported by Ellen - March 22, 2011 -

On Monday (3/21/11), Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported that CNN and Reuters journalists had been used as human shields at Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli and thus prevented the British from firing on and possibly taking out the compound. She also claimed that Fox News’ journalists had avoided going to the compound because they were concerned about being used in such a way. But as it turned out, a Fox News representative - a security guard who had been given a camera - was among the reporters, while Fox's correspondent and cameraperson stayed back at their hotel. Furthermore, in a stinging rebuttal, CNN’s Nic Robertson revealed a number of other details that cast serious doubt on the “human shield” claim. "When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don’t expect it from the other journalists," Robertson told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Griffin came back on the air later with a "correction" that raised even more questions about Fox News' so-called reporting.

Earlier in the day, Griffin told Fox's Jon Scott

We have learned that… British fighter jets had seven missiles. They were, in fact, going to be fired from tornado planes, fighter planes onto that compound, but the mission had to be cut short because of the presence of CNN television crews and Reuters journalists on the ground who had been taken to the site by the Libyan Ministry of Information. So the British generals in charge of the operation and flying those tornado planes called off the operation to fire those seven missiles that were supposed to be fired at Gaddafi’ s compound, at what’s being described as a command and control center to us, because of the presence of CNN crews, Reuters crews, as well some civilians that had been brought essentially, as human shields by the Minister of Information to that compound, Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli.

Griffin went on to explain that two cruise missiles had previously struck the compound and the Libyan Ministry of Information had invited journalists to view the damage.

This was, from their point of view, a propaganda opportunity to show that Gaddafi himself was being targeted because his compound had been targeted. Some news crews decided to go; others including our Steve Harrigan did not go to the compound. They were concerned that they could be used as human shields and what we are now learning is that British defense forces had to call off tornado fighter planes that were loaded with seven missiles that were destined for that compound because of the presence of those news crews on the ground.

As Jason Easley at Politicususa noted, “The FNC point being that if Gadhafi stays in power it could very well be because of those five British Tomahawk missiles that did not get fired on his compound. This was a very clever way for Fox News to question the patriotism and journalistic integrity of CNN.”

But with CNN’s integrity called into question, correspondent Robertson struck back:

This allegation is outrageous and it’s absolutely hypocritical. You know, when you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don’t expect it from the other journalists.

Robertson added that Fox had sent a non-reporter, non-cameraperson with the other reporters – who were free to get on and off the bus – and had expressed surprise that he had been sent instead of Harrigan and the usual cameraperson. Was Robertson suggesting that this flunky had been sent because Fox had deemed the visit too dangerous for its regular crew? Or were Harrigan and the cameraperson just too lazy? Or both?

Robertson continued, saying that it was “nuts” to say that the journalists were used as human shields and that if Harrigan had bothered to show up, he would have known.

I see (Harrigan) more times at breakfast than I see him out on trips with government officials here. Other correspondents here who go out regularly say the same thing… All the other news teams here go out, not on all the government trips… But we very, very rarely see the Fox News team out on the trips. So for them to say …this was government propaganda, to hold us there as human shields, when they didn’t even leave the hotel, the correspondent didn’t leave the hotel and go and see for himself, is ridiculous.

Robertson said that the reason he and other journalists go out on trips like that is to see for themselves what has happened, rather than to allow the government to do the filming and editing. Noting again that Harrigan “very rarely leaves his hotel,” Robertson said, “I don’t know who he’s talking to here to pick up and find out what the story is.”

In the wake of Robertson’s remarks, Griffin returned to the Fox News airwaves on On The Record. She admitted to having made a mistake about Fox News not going to Gadaffi’s compound with the other journalists. But now she claimed - without explanation as to the change - that the reason Harrigan didn’t go was to “stay on the air” and “provide full coverage of what was going on in Libya.” From his hotel room, apparently.

Griffin told host Greta Van Susteren,

Earlier today I reported that Fox News had not gone to Gaddafi’s compound while journalists from other news outlets such as CNN and Reuters had, in fact, gone. I’ve since learned that FOX did indeed go. Tonight I learned that although reporter Steve Harrigan opted not to go and instead remained back at his hotel - he wanted to stay on the air, I’m told, to provide full coverage of what was going on in Libya. He did, in fact, send a security guard with a camera to Gaddafi’s compound with the journalists from the other news outlets. I did not know about that earlier today. I became aware of that this evening. That was my mistake and I apologize for the error.

In other words, Harrigan stayed at the hotel to provide “full coverage” while sending a security guard to do the covering.

Laughably, Griffin stood by her “human shields” claim.

But what is being lost in this discussion is that the Libyan government is using journalists as human shields. There is frustration among military officials that those journalists are being – are going to those sites and have prevented air strikes such as the one that was called off by the British earlier today.

Robertson described a trip to the compound that lasted about a half hour all told. Surely, no matter how big a dent the reporters put in the British plans to strike the compound, this was not the only window of opportunity to do so. Griffin did not address that point, nor did she comment on why, if Fox News had been concerned about being used as a human shield, as she had previously reported, it had sent someone - a non-reporter, no less - to the compound anyway.

Predictably, host Greta Van Susteren accepted Griffin’s fishy update without asking a single question.

If ever there was proof that Fox News is more interested in propaganda than news, this is it.

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