Objectivity shows up in the funniest places on TV news. Take, for example, the latest taped message from Osama bin Laden, where the architect of Sept. 11 spits in America's face by comparing the "criminality" of the American military to that of Saddam Hussein. The TV networks repeated this robotically, without comment. Far be it from them to pass judgment.
On the morning shows, they merely passed along Osama's message of moral equivalence, reading it with no attempt to rebut it, rethink it, or reject it. On the evening news, Osama's Uncle-Sam-same-as-Saddam message wasn't treated as a stinging lie about our forces. It was, instead, forced through the same well-worn storyline: It's more proof that the plotters of the Iraq war were wrong to connect Saddam to al-Qaeda.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell insisted that "On its face, that would seem to contradict the administration's pre-war claims of a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda." CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asserted: "It sounds like Osama didn't like Saddam any more than we do." Apparently, there's no lower way to insult Saddam Hussein than to compare him to the U.S. military.
For the last few years, the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists. The lion's share of media attention has been focused on the errors, setbacks, and depredations of the American military and their commanders. They've been insistent in their refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt about the Iraqi thug's connection to terrorism, and jump at the opportunity to denounce the administration, believing instead the words of Osama bin Laden.
ABC briefly broke the mold on Feb. 15, when they devoted a "Nightline" segment to some 12 hours of tapes recorded in the 1990s of Saddam talking to aides about all manner of incredible things, including how they were lying to United Nations weapons inspectors, and how, according to Saddam, terrorism was coming to the United States. ABC's investigative reporter Brian Ross also offered a shorter version of his story on "World News Tonight" and "Good Morning America."
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