Networks Allow Scant Coverage of Obama's 'Stunning Reversal' on Guantanamo, Harassed Bush
The three evening newscasts on Monday and the morning shows on Tuesday
mostly ignored Barack Obama's abandonment of a campaign pledge to close
Guantanamo Bay and end trials of detainees there. NBC's Today, CBS's
Early Show and ABC's Good Morning America all covered the story only in
news briefs. Yet, when President Bush was in the White House, the
networks obsessed over the issue.
Today's Ann Curry called the move to resume military trials there a "stunning reversal
but the network allowed just two brief anchor reads during the four
hour program. ABC almost completely ignored the development. Monday's World News skipped the topic entirely.
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Juju Chang offered a single mention,
explaining, "And an about-face from President Obama on Guantanamo Bay.
He is resuming military trials for terrorism suspects held in Cuba, two
years after he pledged to close the prison."
Todd on Monday's Nightly News managed to shove the news into the end of
a story on another topic. He added, "Now, Brian, I've got one other
important note here from the White House. No issue's bedeviled this
President more than trying to keep his promise of shutting down the
prison at Guantanamo Bay." Yet, for a problem "bedeviling" the
President, NBC didn't seem terribly interested.
CBS's Katie Couric blandly related the development in a news brief.
Yet, when George W. Bush was President, the coverage was far different. According to a 2006 study
by the Media Research Center's Rich Noyes, between September 11, 2001 and August 31,
2006, the nightly newscasts on the three networks devoted 277 stories to
Guantanamo Bay. Noyes explained:
Most of the network coverage of Guantanamo Bay focused on charges that
the captured al-Qaeda terrorists were due additional rights or
privileges (100 stories) or allegations that detainees were being
mistreated or abused (105 stories). Only 39 stories described the
inmates as dangerous, and just six stories revealed that ex-detainees
had committed new acts of terror after being released.
Network reporters largely portrayed the Guantanamo inmates as victims,
with about one in seven stories including the word "torture." The
networks aired a total of 46 soundbites from Guantanamo prisoners, their
families or lawyers, most professing innocence or complaining about
mistreatment. Not one report about the Guantanamo prisoners included a
comment from 9/11 victims, their families or lawyers speaking on their
On the May 19, 2006
Evening News, guest anchor Bob Schieffer complained, "Has the U.S.
prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo become more trouble than it's
worth? Even those who created it have to be asking that question
tonight. It has generated reams of bad publicity for the United States,
today a UN committee said it ought to be shut down because it violates
the Geneva Convention..."
Additionally, Politifact, which is keeping track of Barack Obama's broken promises, has yet to update its Guantanamo section
This is how the Barack Obama campaign described the then-candidate's promise
Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Guantanamo has become a
recruiting tool for our enemies. The legal framework behind Guantanamo
has failed completely, resulting in only one conviction. President
Bush's own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, wants to close it. Former
Secretary of State Colin Powell, wants to close it.
The first step to reclaiming America's standing in the world has to be
closing this facility. As president, Barack Obama will close the
detention facility at Guantanamo. He will reject the Military
Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent Geneva Conventions
in the handling of detainees. He will develop a fair and thorough
process based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice to distinguish
between those prisoners who should be prosecuted for their crimes, those
who can't be prosecuted but who can be held in a manner consistent with
Transcripts of the scant coverage can be found below: