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Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush rebuts accusations, AP repeats accusations, omits rebuttal

Driven by a firestorm of Democrat accusations that his administration manipulated and misrepresented pre-war intelligence to make the case for war, President Bush used his Veteran's Day address to offer two key points of rebuttal. First:
These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.
Second, the President reminded that "intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein," and that the accusing Congressmen had access to the same intelligence he did, and came to the same conclusions, voting overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Now they are trying to rewrite that history for partisan advantage, President Bush charged, instead of honoring their commitments.

AP's coverage of the the President's speech repeats the accusations against the President, both in reporter Deb Riechmann's own voice, and in the voices of various critics, five separate times. Not once does the AP story mention either of President Bush's two rebuttal points. It quotes him as calling the accusations "false" and "deeply irresponsible," but it completely avoids the substance of his speech, as if he had not offered any rebuttal at all beyond bare denial.

Ted Kennedy, for instance, is reported to have:
...accused Bush of using Veterans Day as "a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War."
Even if the President had not mentioned that such accusations had been debunked by the Senate Intelligence Committee report last year, the reporter should have. Whenever a politician makes accusations that are known to not be supported by the evidence, it is the responsibility of reporters to report the evidence and expose the politician as a demagogue. Not only does Riechmann fail this basic responsibility, she goes further, refusing to report the evidence even when it was the substance of the speech she is reporting on.

Could this malfeasance possibly be taken further still? Indeed, and Riechmann finds the way, reporting that Republican Chuck Hagel
has said he agrees with Democrats who are pressing the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to move forward with an investigation into whether the administration manipulated intelligence.
She omits any clarificaton that this proposed investigation would be a second stage follow-up of last year's extensive investigation, leaving the uninformed with the clear impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet investigated the accusations of manipulated intelligence. Not only doesn't she report the evidence against the accusations, even when that evidence is the core of the President's speech, but she takes additional steps to actually misrepresent the evidence and positively imply that it does not exist!

Of course a reporter like this has to throw in other malfeasances too. She repeats Joe Wilson's well known lies, without any indication that he has been authoritatively exposed as a liar (by the omitted Senate Intelligence Committee report, in fact):
Criticism about prewar intelligence has been stoked by the recent indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in the CIA leak investigation.

The probe aims to identify who leaked the identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband, a former ambassador, alleged that the administration relied on faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
From there she launches immediately into repeats of the seemingly unrebutted accusations:
Kerry accused the president of playing politics on a holiday set aside to honor veterans.

"This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition. That's why Scooter Libby has been indicted. That's why a statement in the State of the Union Address was retracted," said Kerry, who voted in 2002 to give Bush the authority to wage war but later voted against additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction.

"It's a dangerous day for our national security when an administration's word is no good," Kerry said.
Kerry represents himself as misled, which Ms. Riechmann should follow with the known fact that he had access to the same information that the President did, especially given that this was the second main point of the President's rebuttal of the accusations Kerry had just repeated, and especially given that President Bush had quoted Kerry specifically to example how others reacted to the same pre-war intelligence that the White House was seeing:
'When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security.'
But just as Riechmann buries the first half of President Bush's rebuttal, even where it screams out to be reported, so too does she bury this second half of his rebuttal where it screams out to be reported. She reports the President’s observation that his critics voted overwhelmingly to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, but omits his answer to those like Kerry who claim that they were misled into that vote: that they "had access to the same intelligence" he did.

She also cherry picks comments from Republican congressmen, manipulating and misrepresent the intelligence she has in her possession about what they actually said. Riechmann quotes Rick Santorum as admitting that "mistakes were made," and characterizes it as a "counter-attack" against Bush's defense. Altogether, the piece is as thorough a hatchet job as an utterly dishonest piece of left-wing moral trash could possibly come up with.

People wonder why President Bush does not come out and fight more. I think it is because he knows that no matter what he says, the press will make sure that most of the country never hears him. If you didn't see the speech on TV, or find the text on the internet, all you saw was the press extensively repeating the accusations that the president lied, counterbalanced by nothing but a bare denial by the President.

UPDATE: Impacted Wisdom Truth links a second AP report President Bush’s Veteran’s day speech, also by Deb Riechmann, but this one does not omit the President’s two main rebuttal points. Just the opposite. It focus on them. Both are quoted both near the top of the article:
He said those critics have made those allegations although they know that a Senate investigation "found no evidence" of political pressure to change the intelligence community's assessments related to Saddam's weapons program.

He said they also know that the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing Saddam's development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

"More than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power," Bush said.
The second version of Riechmann’s article also lacks the endless repeats of the accusations that the President was rebutting, the repeat of Joe Wilson's lies, etcetera (making it overall much shorter).

It is hard to see how Riechmann could have written both articles. The likely explanation is that the some AP or My Way editor is responsible for the slanted version of the article. I will contact Riechmann and see if she can shed any light on the process that led to these two radically different versions of her report.

A revealing point to get answers on would be the repeat of Joe Wilson's lies, without reporting that Wilson has long since been exposed as a liar. Is that how Riechmann wrote it? Or did she give an honest report, explaining how Wilson's accusations played into the need for the President to issue rebuttals, along with the information that Wilson's is know no have been lying in his accusations, only to have some My Way editor edit out that Wilson is a liar? A third possibility is that some editor threw in the repeat of Wilson's lies on his own.

The second version of Riechmann's article suggests that she has integrity. Hopefully she is willing to defend it, because the first version of the article suggests that she is utterly without integrity. Which is the real Deb Riechmann article, the one that conveys the actual substance of the news event (the President’s rebuttals of the accusations against him) or the one slanted in every possible way to repeat the accusations against the President while entirely omitting his rebuttals?

If an editor did it, can we pin down who it was? The blogosphere has had some success in exposing biased reporters. Editors are harder to expose because they operate anonymously, but maybe, just maybe, when they produce radically different versions of the same reporter's report, the exposure of such extreme bias might be sufficient to enforce a demand that such bias not be able to operate anonymously.

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