ABC & CNN Discount Tie to al-Qaeda of Beheading Perpetrators --5/12/2004
2. On Beheading Reaction, ABC Labels Conservatives But Not Liberals
3. "Growing Public" and "Bipartisan" Demands for Rumsfeld to Quit?
4. CBS Marvels Bush Support Not Hurt by Disillusionment with War
5. CBS Back Tonight with More Video Showing Disdain for Prisoners
ABC on Tuesday night discounted any connection to al-Qaeda by those who beheaded American Nick Berg in Iraq. "They could be directly linked to Osama bin Laden," asserted NBC anchor Tom Brokaw while CBS's David Hawkins explained how "the video was posted on an Islamic Web site and titled 'Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American.' al-Zarqawi, thought to be leading al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, is one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants." But at the top of World News Tonight, Peter Jennings cited "several questions about why it was done and by whom" before Brian Ross noted how "the men on the tape claim they are part of an al-Qaeda-connected cell," but that "U.S. officials tell ABC News tonight they cannot confirm that."
Later, on CNN's NewsNight, David Ensor expressed similar skepticism as he relayed how "CNN Arabic linguists" say "the voice on the tape has the wrong accent. They do not believe it is Zarqawi."
None of the networks showed the actual killing, with all but CBS ending the tape just as a terrorist pulled out a knife. The CBS Evening News, however, in a piece narrated by David Hawkins from Iraq, ran the tape through to where Berg was pushed over and a knife put to his throat and then held the still frame as they played the audio of him screaming as his head was sliced off.
Jennings opened the May 11 World News Tonight: "Good evening everyone. We begin tonight with murder in Iraq which the terrorists photographed and put up on the Internet. For those of us who've seen it, and we will not show it here -- it is particularly grisly, there is first a cold-blooded murder and then several questions about why it was done and by whom. The terrorists seem to suggest that it is a response to why American soldiers treated Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison. Which is also to be seen all over the Internet. People everywhere will reach different conclusions. The young man who died is 26-year-old Nick Berg from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was surely in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Brian Ross soon added: "The men on the tape claim they are part of an al-Qaeda-connected cell run by Adman al-Zarqawi, whom the U.S. blames for many of the attacks in Iraq. U.S. officials tell ABC News tonight they cannot confirm that..."
Over on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather announced: "Good evening. Just when it seemed nothing else in Iraq could shock you, something did. And before we go on any further, we caution you you may not want your young children to hear or see this. An American civilian kidnapped in Iraq last month has been executed in a most vicious way, taken before a video camera and beheaded. The pictures are horrifying. CBS is not going to show the worst of it, though as David Hawkins reports, the murderers made sure the full video, in all its horror, and their message got out."
Hawkins explained: "They call it revenge for the abuse and torture of Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison. Five hooded men, claiming to be members of al-Qaeda, stand over their captive....The video was posted on an Islamic Web site and titled 'Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American.' al-Zarqawi, thought to be leading al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, is one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants."
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw teased his newscast: "Barbaric murder: An American civilian in Iraq is beheaded. His executioners could be tied to bin Laden and they were citing the prison abuse scandal."
Brokaw then began: "Good evening. In the Middle East it is beginning to resemble the Middle Ages with the grotesque execution of an American civilian, a flagrant display of Israeli soldiers today and the continuing controversy and rage over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans. The beheading of Nick Berg of suburban Philadelphia was displayed on an Islamic militant Web site mid-day today. It was so deliberately gruesome and cold-blooded, we'll not show you the execution. But the killers apparently wanted the world to hear their warnings and they could be directly linked to Osama bin Laden."
Richard Engel, back in the U.S. from Iraq, reported: "The executioner, identified by the Web site where the video was released, as none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden's top commander in Iraq. This would be the first time a video is released of Zarqawi. U.S. intelligence blamed the Jordanian-born militant for about a thousand deaths in Iraq in the last year."
In a piece on domestic reaction to the beheading of American Nick Berg in Iraq, ABC's Linda Douglass featured a man in Manhattan who blamed the U.S. for it since "our presence in Iraq is just, you know, driving people into the arms of al-Qaeda." Douglass didn't label his ideology, but made sure viewers realized the ideology of Sean Hannity and a caller to his radio show: "That was not the view on talk radio where conservatives argued that the beheading puts the abuse of prisoners into context." Douglass also ran soundbites from five Senators, of both parties, but only identified the party affiliation of "one Republican Senator" who "said he was tired of all the complaints about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners."
Douglass began her May 11 World News Tonight piece with Capitol Hill reaction, starting with Republican Senator John McCain declaring how the beheading proved our enemies have "no regard for humanity and that's why we've got to win in Iraq." Next, she aired a clip of Democratic Senator Carl Levin complaining about how it shows a lack of security in Iraq, followed by Republican Senator Wayne Allard on how the open U.S. investigation of prisoner abuse underscores the difference with terrorists but, Douglass warned, others have a "more ominous view." Viewers then heard from Democratic Senator Bill Nelson: "I think there's a direct correlation between these pictures coming out in public and what these guys are saying that they have done this atrocity of beheading."
As did ABC News.
Though a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, featured on the front page on Tuesday's USA Today, found that 64 percent of the public does not think Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, compared to just 31 percent who do believe he ought to step down, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski contended on that morning's Today that "despite the President's support, there's a steadily growing political and public opinion drumbeat calling for Rumsfeld's resignation." But Miklaszewski was downright rationale compared to CBS's Bill Plante who, without citing the name of any Republican, claimed on the Eraly Show that there are "continued bipartisan calls for Rumsfeld's resignation."
So far as I can tell, no Republican in the House or Senate has suggested that Rumsfeld resign and Senator John McCain, the media's favorite Republican -- and the Republican whose name most often follows the phrase "even some Republicans..." -- moments after Miklaszewski's story rejected the idea that Rumsfeld should resign.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this exchange on the May 11 Today:
Matt Lauer: "The President yesterday, Senator, showed his support for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld but as you know there are a lot of people calling for Secretary Rumsfeld to step down, saying that in some ways that could help repair the damage from this scandal. Where do you stand on that now?"
Over on Tuesday's Early Show, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, Bill Plante asserted from the White House lawn: "The President used a scheduled briefing over at the Pentagon to give his Defense Secretary a ringing endorsement in the face of continued bipartisan calls for Rumsfeld's resignation."
For a rundown of the new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, which also found, as recounted in the May 11 USA Today, how "only 29 percent think" President Bush "should fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld," see: www.usatoday.com
To CBS's astonishment, President Bush's support has not fallen along with declining support for the war in Iraq. From Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jim Axelrod marveled: "In the last month here in the Lehigh Valley, support for the war has plummeted. Support for the President has not." Axelrod talked to a wounded Marine back from Iraq who is tired of seeing his colleagues die day after day. Axelrod wondered: "So why don't you blame the Commander-in-Chief?" The Marine shot back: "I blame the Commander-in-Chief of every Iraqi, not the Commander-in-Chief of the Americans."
Dan Rather set up the May 11 CBS Evening News piece about public perceptions in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area, which CBS had dubbed "Swingtown USA." Rather announced, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
Jim Axelrod began, over video of a man working on a pick-up truck's engine: "In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Marine Corporal Randy Glass is getting therapy, one valve at a time. In the initial invasion of Iraq, Randy took a grenade in the leg, nearly blew it off. What does it look like?"
As if their first round of photos from inside Abu Ghraib didn't do enough damage, tonight 60 Minutes II returns with a personal video diary, from a soldier at another prison camp, which, a CBS Web site plug promises, "shows a young soldier's disdain for the Iraqi prisoners. She says: 'We've already had two prisoners die...but who cares? That's two less for me to worry about.'"
An excerpt from CBS's posted summary for Wednesday's 60 Minutes II set to air at 8pm EDT/PDT, 7pm CDT/MDT:
Long before the pictures taken inside Abu Ghraib were broadcast on 60 Minutes II, there were warning signs that something had gone terribly wrong with the U.S.-run prison system in Iraq.
60 Minutes II exclusively obtained an American soldier's home video from Camp Bucca in Southern Iraq and Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, where American soldiers have been accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners.
The video shows a young soldier's disdain for the Iraqi prisoners. She says: "We've already had two prisoners die...but who cares? That's two less for me to worry about."
Two other soldiers who were at Camp Bucca and are accused of abusing prisoners there tell Correspondent Dan Rather that the problems began with the chain of command -- the same chain of command that was in charge of Abu Ghraib when the pictures of torture and abuse were taken....
"I hate it here," she says. "I want to come home. I want to be a civilian again. We actually shot two prisoners today. One got shot in the chest for swinging a pole against our people on the feed team. One got shot in the arm. We don't know if the one we shot in the chest is dead yet."
Throughout the tape, the soldier records her anger at the thousands of Iraqi prisoners under U.S. control at Camp Bucca. "They usually have three a week that break out and, of course, every time that I'm working they never do it," she says.
"It's 'cause they are scared of me. I actually got in trouble the other day because I was throwing rocks at them."
In her video diary, she also catalogs the dangers in the camp. "This is a sand viper," the soldier says. "One bite will kill you in six hours. We've already had two prisoners die of it, but who cares? That's two less for me to worry about."...
Girman says the chain of command ignored the problems at Camp Bucca. She says, "The ignorance of the chain of command not to listen to the person who was actually on the front line....They see and recognize what's going wrong and then they tell me and then I tell the chain of command and they just ignored me. They just said, 'OK, there's nothing we can do about that now.'"
Girman tells Rather that the MPs shot and killed a prisoner during another riot. "...We did what we had to do, but it should never have got to that point."
Girman and Canjar's families tried to bring attention to the problems at Camp Bucca last year. They called Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office repeatedly and talked to his staff, but got no response. Their letters to the White House and two senators were also unanswered.
END of Excerpt
For CBS's summary preview of tonight's program in full: www.cbsnews.com
# John McCain is scheduled to appear tonight (Wednesday) on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.
-- Brent Baker