HOW THE PUBLIC GETS MISINFORMED! Senator Bond refused to respond. Margaret Warner said that was OK: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2006
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Despite last Fridays Senate report, major Republicans keep pretending that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda. On Meet the Press, Dick Cheney said it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/11/06). On Fox News Sunday, Condi Rice did the same (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/12/06). Last night, it was Senator Kit Bonds turn. How does the public get misinformed? Just watch Margaret Warner react.
HOW THE PUBLIC GETS MISINFORMED: How do Americans get misinformed about even the most elementary facts? Dissembling pols are part of the problem. And so are cowardly TV hosts, like the NewsHours Margaret Warner.
Here are the questions at hand, questions which were answered last Friday in a Senate Intelligence Committee report: Was Saddam Hussein in league with al Qaeda? Did Zarqawis pre-war presence in Iraq demonstrate such a connection? The Senate Intelligence Committee answered no to each question. Saddam was not in league with al Qaeda, they said. And he was trying to capture Zarqawi.
But so what? Over the weekend, major Republicans kept saying the opposite, as major hosts stared off into air. And the same thing happened last night on The NewsHour, as Warner interviewed—and failed to challenge—Missouris Republican senator, Kit Bond. Bond had voted for the report which put the kibbosh to these treasured old claims. But so what? Speaking with Warner, he suggested that these claims might be true—and Warner allowed him to do it.
Heres the way Warner started her segment. The Senate Intel Committee had actually issued two reports. As Warner notes, Bond voted in favor of the report which debunked the Saddam-al Qaeda link:
WARNER (9/12/06): For more on these two new Senate Intelligence Committee reports, we turn to two members of the committee, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan—he voted for both reports—and Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. He voted for the report debunking the terror links, but against the report on the Iraqi National Congress.Note again: Bond voted for the report which debunked the Iraq-al Qaeda link. But last night, he spent ten minutes ducking Warners questions about this—and sometimes seemed to argue the opposite.
How can such a thing occur? Lets go over the basic steps. First, when Warner asked Bond an obvious question, he launched a long, off-topic discussion, failing to answer Warners question—but taking valuable time off the clock. Below, we offer his entire statement. Note well—at the end of his rambling, off-topic statement, he seems to suggest the claim which his Senate report has debunked:
WARNER: Senator Bond, do you concur on what this report says about the allegations of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda before the war?None of that was actually relevant to the question Warner asked. And the highlighted part of Bonds rambling reply almost surely suggested, to the casual viewer, that Zarqawis pre-war presence in Iraq did suggest a link to Saddam. (The Senate report rejected that claim.) So Warner did what comes natural to the modern broadcaster. Instead of posing her question again, she let Bonds misleading answer stand—and posed a new, different question to Levin! Only after Levins reply did she come back to Bond. To her credit, she then posed the relevant question again: Given the contents of that Senate report, why are Bush and his major aides still asserting that there was a tie between Saddam and al Qaeda? Why are they still citing Zarqawis presence in Iraq as evidence?
WARNER: How do you explain that, Senator Bond, the discrepancy between what your report found, at least now, about what's known about Zarqawi's presence in Iraq, and what the president and vice president, or the president's spokesman is still saying?Superlative question! The report says Saddam was not in league with al Qaeda. It says there was no tie with Zarqawi. So why are Bush and his major aides still saying the opposite? The question couldnt have been more clear—and it concerned what Bush is still saying now. But Bond refused to answer again, going back to what was known prior to the war. Again, for the record, well post his complete non-answer:
BOND (continuing directly): Yes. First, we go back to what was known prior to the war. And we had the testimony of George Tenet, saying there was a relationship, and there are now confirmed instances where people from Saddam Hussein's organizations, the head of intelligence, was working with and had meetings with Osama bin Laden. Now—None of that had a thing to do with Warners perfectly sensible question. It was time for her to ask it again. Does Warner care about her viewers? Heres what she should have said:
WHAT WARNER SHOULD HAVE SAID: But with respect, Senator, Ive now asked you twice: Why are Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rice still claiming that there were pre-war ties, since your report has told us the opposite? Why are they still citing Zarqawis presence in Iraq, since your report debunks a link between Saddam and Zarqawi? Here is the question I am asking: Why are they still asserting these links, even after your committees report has said these links didnt exist?But what did Warner actually say? She actually said this to Bond: OK. And then she asked Levin another new question! Bond had avoided her question twice. To Warner, this was OK.
Last nights NewsHour segment lasted ten minutes. Bond refused to answer Warners question, and kept killing time with rambling non-answers. And he created a great deal of confusion in the process, suggesting again that there had been a link between Saddam and Zarqawi. But the courtesies of our modern press elite are designed to favor such public dissembling. Its awkward to challenger a man like Bond—and its easy to buckle and tell him, OK. Who gets thrown under the bus in the process? That segment of the American public which is getting misled by the NewsHour.
How do Americans get misinformed? Weve been tracking the process all week. Weve now seen Zarqawi cited three times, even after the Senate report. And three different broadcasters—Russert, Wallace, Warner—all seem to think thats OK.
Viewers got confused or misled in the process. But so what? The broadcasters will be able to clink their glasses without awkward feelings at the next cocktail party. And yes, that is a part of the way we rubes out here get misinformed.
THEY AINT NO EXPERTS: Sorry—weve had a nasty cold. Tomorrow or Friday, well show you what a parent confronts when she tries to check up on her kids public school in Virginia.