John Leo

On August 6, as her 15 minutes of fame was just beginning, Cindy Sheehan used an odd term in a TV interview with Mark Knoller of CBS. She referred to the foreign insurgents and terrorists in Iraq as “freedom fighters.” Knoller cut those words out of his report, he told me, because he “really wasn’t interested.” He should have left them in. In fact, alarm bells should have rung in his brain. First of all, it’s startling that an antiwar mother would talk that way about people who blow up children and who may have killed her own son. Second, “freedom fighters” in this context is the telltale lingo of the hard, anti-American left. When the grieving mother starts talking that way, it’s news.

Knoller recalls that other reporters on the scene were watching his interview that day in Texas, but apparently they weren’t any more interested in Sheehan’s little linguistic adventure than he was. Apparently none bothered to report it. The “freedom fighter” remark reached the public only because an antiwar group, Veterans for Peace, filmed the CBS interview. It was picked up by an anti-Cindy Sheehan website,, where bloggers and conservative commentators noticed and circulated it.

Sheehan, before and after her arrival in Texas, said a great many colorful things that failed to interest mainstream reporters. Some of her acid comments registered with the public mostly because of George Will’s powerful column of August 25 and his similar comments on the Sunday ABC TV news show This Week. A few made it on to cable news. Others simply failed to make it into the mainstream media. It’s worth reviewing what she said: The neocons deliberately allowed the terrorist attacks of 9/11. American soldiers are “being sent to kill innocent people” in Iraq. Her son, Casey Sheehan, “died for oil” and was “murdered” by President Bush. The United States is “not worth dying for.” The president, who “stole the election,” is part of the “Bush crime family,” a “lying bastard,” a “führer,” a “filth spewer,” “the biggest terrorist in the world,” and an “evil maniac” who is guilty of “blatant genocide.” Sheehan also compared Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer convicted of aiding terrorists, to Atticus Finch, the heroic lawyer who battled racism in the book and movie To Kill a Mockingbird. She has been accused of making vaguely anti-Semitic remarks, but she attributes those remarks to her political opponents. On Hardball, she said the American attack in Afghanistan was “almost the same thing” (i.e., just as evil) as the invasion of Iraq.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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