On March 2, two U.S. airmen, Nicholas Alden and Zachary Cuddeback, were gunned down at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Two other Americans were wounded. The assailant was a radical Muslim. This was a huge story to most Americans -- but, naturally, not to our news media. If the amount of airtime is any measure, the assassination of our troops drew a yawn.
That night, ABC's "World News" offered a full report, but CBS and NBC each gave it less than 30 seconds. "Troops under attack in Germany, targeted by a gunman shouting in Arabic about jihad," reported ABC anchor Diane Sawyer. Neither CBS nor NBC found room for "jihad" talk and never found time to ask about the young American lives extinguished.
CBS saved room that night for Mickey Rooney's testimony about "elder abuse." NBC needed to save four minutes and 15 seconds for semi-retired Tom Brokaw's report on the decline in Reading, Pa., and then devoted another two and a half minutes to promoting the Smithsonian's attempt to find a "'Candid Camera' in the Wilderness" with animal spy cams.
Even after the radical-Muslim motivations were confirmed, the anchors were still downplaying it. On March 3, Katie Couric relayed: "It appears 20-year-old Arid Uka had a grudge against the U.S. military. Sources tell CBS News that when he was arrested, Uka said, 'They are at war with us.'"
I'm sure Mark David Chapman had a "grudge" with John Lennon, too. CBS did go to a reporter in Germany on Thursday morning ... but the whole story was over in 90 seconds. NBC offered two minutes.
The same yawning thing happened at the newspapers. No one put this story on the front page. USA Today just reprinted the Associated Press on A-5. The New York Times put it on A-4. The Washington Post offered a story on A-6 that day, and then when it discovered over the weekend that one of the assassinated airmen was a Virginia native -- Cuddeback, gunned down at the wheel of the bus -- they promptly reported it on B-6.
The story itself is far more offensive than anything chronicled in last week's obsession over the craziness of Charlie Sheen. The Times reported a German security official said, "The bus was waiting at the terminal, and one serviceman after the other got on it," Uka asked the last one for a cigarette, "then he asked the soldier if they were heading to Afghanistan."
When the serviceman answered yes, Uka shot him with a handgun in the back of the head. "He then entered the bus, shouted 'God is the greatest' and opened fire and killed the driver with a shot in the head and injured two other soldiers," the official said.