Worried About Walker's Rights; Journalists Suddenly Concerned About Rivera's Credibility; Letterman's Osama bin Laden Complaints
1) During Tuesday's White House press briefing ABC's
Terry Moran repeatedly pressed Ari Fleischer over John Walker's access
to a lawyer, arguing: "As an American citizen, he has a
constitutional right...to talk to a lawyer." Moran followed-up:
"Should the authorities refrain from interrogating him and placing
him in jeopardy of incriminating himself?" Helen Thomas lectured:
"Lawyers aren't that few around. You could get one to him."
2) Tuesday's World News Tonight devoted a story to
concerns about how John Walker is not being given access to a lawyer, but
in worrying about his rights, ABC ignored how Newsweek had learned that
Walker "admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its
camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises" and met Osama
3) After years of ignoring his liberal antics, now that
he's with FNC the CBS News Web site jumped on a charge in the Baltimore
Sun that Geraldo Rivera could not have seen what he claimed to have
eyewitnessed. An ABC News VP proclaimed: "If credibility is important
to you as a news organization, you'd want to correct any mistake
immediately." Yet ABC never retracted its stories which gave
credibility to specific Taliban claims about civilian deaths caused by
4) Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland noticed
Geraldo Rivera in the background of a color photo run in Monday's
Washington Post of Eastern Afghanistan security chief Hazrat Ali walking
"with soldiers near the front line at Tora Bora."
5) As announced by Osama bin Laden himself, Letterman's
"Top Ten Osama Bin Laden Complaints."
Tuesday's White House press briefing Ari Fleischer was tag teamed by
ABC's Terry Moran and Helen Thomas of Hearst Newspapers over why
American Taliban John Walker hasn't been provided with access to a
lawyer. Moran demanded: "As an American citizen, he has a
constitutional right...to talk to a lawyer. He hasn't. Why not?"
Moran followed-up three times, worrying: "Is this an indication of
the kind of due process that people caught up in these terrorist
investigations are going to face?"
Walker, at least, was a bit more than just
"caught up" in terrorism.
Moran continued pressing the interests of the
man who likely committed treason: "Should the authorities refrain
from interrogating him and placing him in jeopardy of incriminating
himself?" In the midst of Moran's questioning, Thomas sarcastically
interjected: "Lawyers aren't that few around. You could get one to
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught the exchange
which occurred about mid-way through Fleischer's December 18 briefing
carried live by the cable news networks starting at 12:40pm EST.
Moran, the ABC News White House correspondent,
raised Walker's cause: "John Walker's now been in custody, in
U.S. custody, for more than a week and interrogated pretty regularly. As
an American citizen, he has a constitutional right -- in that he's
facing very serious criminal charges -- to talk to a lawyer. He hasn't.
White House Press Secretary Fleischer replied:
"Terry, on questions like this, the facts are still being gathered to
ascertain what, if any, charges will be brought, and that needs to be
addressed to the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice. As
they gather those facts, they will take the appropriate action."
Moran worried: "Does the President, is this
an indication of the kind of due process that people caught up in these
terrorist investigations are going to face? Because as an American citizen
facing -- as the Attorney General and others have said -- very serious
criminal charges, he has a constitutional right to see a lawyer and he
Fleischer: "I don't think this is the
Moran piped up: "He's an American
Fleischer continued: "This is a case where
an American citizen was found in a country abroad which was doing battle
with the United States. It's not as if there was a lawyer on the street
corner who was available at that moment. Of course, constitutional rights
will be obeyed. But I think you need to talk to the specific agencies
involved with this, and that's the Department of Defense or the Department
Thomas then demanded: "But, is he being
denied legal help?"
Fleischer tried to respond: "Helen, again,
this is all up-"
Thomas talked over him, lecturing: "Lawyers
aren't that few around. You could get one to him."
Fleischer kept going: "-to the Department of
Defense and the Department of Justice to make determinations about how to
hold people and when people should be accessible."
Moran jumped back in: "Wait, wait, wait. One
more: Is the Administration then thinking of stripping him of his American
citizenship and he wouldn't have those rights because of his allegiance
to the Taliban?"
Fleischer reminded the reporters there's a war
going on: "No. No. I just indicated that there aren't exactly --
there are different arrangements that have to be made in order to provide
somebody who was a battlefield detainee access to the same, immediate
availability of an attorney, as is the case here with somebody arrested on
Undeterred, Moran pressed again: "And in
that interim should the authorities refrain from interrogating him and
placing him in jeopardy of incriminating himself?"
Fleischer: "Terry, these questions all need
to be addressed to the proper agency which is responsible and is
knowledgeable of the legalities involved."
CNN's John King then joined the debate:
"You speak for the government, Ari, and the President's involved in
a lot of these deliberations, obviously you know these questions are
coming. I mean, are you aware of his status? Has he waived his right to
Fleischer: "John, speaking for the
President, the President is more than satisfied that all rights are being
fulfilled and that the Department of Defense and the Attorney General are
doing the appropriate thing in accordance with the Constitution and given
the on-the-ground practicalities and realities of the situation with Mr.
I'd bet Walker is enjoying a lot better
physical conditions and food on the Navy ship than he did wandering the
desert with the Taliban.
interest in John Walker's access to legal counsel, expressed by Terry
Moran at the White House press briefing as described in item #1 above,
carried through to Tuesday's World News Tonight. Pierre Thomas, not
Moran, however, handled the story prompted by a complaint from Walker's
But in worrying about Walker's rights, ABC
didn't tell its viewers how Newsweek had learned that in interviews with
U.S. officials Walker "admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and
training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises --
including learning to use explosives and poisons -- and met with visiting
Qaeda officials, including Osama bin Laden."
Anchor Peter Jennings set up the December 18
story on a subject not considered newsworthy by either the CBS Evening
News or NBC Nightly News: "The attorney for the American John Walker,
who was found among Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, insisted today that
he have access to his client. The young man has now been held by the U.S.
for more than 16 days without access to lawyers while the government
decides if or how it will prosecute him. ABC's Pierre Thomas joins us
tonight. Pretty insistent was his lawyer today, Pierre."
Thomas explained, as taken down by MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth: "Yes, he was. John Walker's parents still have not
been able to talk to their son so far. They're increasingly concerned
and they argue he should be given the same constitutional rights as any
"An attorney hired by the Walker family
released this statement demanding access to his client. 'All we've
heard is speculation and rumor,' he wrote. 'No one from the outside,
other than the Red Cross, has seen John. Whatever the accusation, John has
constitutional rights.' Legal scholars are uncertain of what Walker's
rights are because the U.S. military. Holding him on board a ship in the
Arabian Sea, has not yet defined his status."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer:
"I don't think this is the typical case. This is a case where an
American citizen was found in a country abroad which was doing battle with
the United States."
Thomas picked up: "The military has given no
indication of when they will hand Walker over to civilian
Tom Connolly, former Assistant U.S. Attorney:
"At some point, Mr. Walker's constitutional rights do kick in, and
I think the military will be concerned about holding him too long."
Thomas: "All the Pentagon will say is that
Walker is being provided food, water, shelter, and medical
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense:
"He's being treated consistent with the Geneva protections for
prisoners of war, so he enjoys all the protections that would go with
prisoner of war status."
Thomas concluded: "Peter, the military has
been trying to figure out exactly what Walker did while he was in
Afghanistan. A decision is expected soon on his fate."
"Walker is being provided food, water,
shelter, and medical attention." That's a lot better than what
Walker's Taliban and Al Qaeda buddies provided a few thousand Americans.
ABC failed to mention evidence of how Walker
was personally involved in terrorist training. Newsweek's Michael
Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman reported in the December 24 issue out this
week that in interviews with U.S. officials:
"Walker acknowledged a lot more than
fighting for the Taliban: according to administration sources, he also
admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he
participated in terrorist exercises -- including learning to use
explosives and poisons -- and met with visiting Qaeda officials, including
Osama bin Laden. Walker also admitted having been instructed in how to act
in airports so as not to attract police attention. 'He was no innocent
bystander,' said one official. 'This wasn't like learning to be a
soldier in Patton's Army. He was training to commit terrorist
To read the Newsweek story in full, go to: http://www.msnbc.com/news/673497.asp
Geraldo Rivera is with the Fox News Channel CBS News has suddenly decided
to critique his reporting, something I don't recall CBS ever doing
during Rivera's years of liberal advocacy and Clinton promotion at CNBC
and NBC News. The December 17 story on the CBS News Web site cribbed from
a couple of Baltimore Sun stories from last week which seem to have fairly
solidly nailed Rivera for claiming he was a witness to a scene he could
not have seen.
"Where's Geraldo? Nowhere Near Site Of
U.S. Casualties, As He Claimed," announced the headline over the CBS
story highlighted by the DrudgeReport.com. The unbylined CBS News Web site
"Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who
couldn't bear being away from the action in Afghanistan, was hundreds of
miles from the site of a friendly fire incident he reported on, the
Baltimore Sun said in a Dec. 15 report.
"Rivera reported in a Dec. 6 piece that he
became emotional and choked up while standing on the 'hallowed ground'
in Afghanistan where 'friendly fire took so many of our, our men and the
mujahedeen yesterday.' Rivera said he had recited the Lord's Prayer.
"But, according to a report on the Baltimore
Sun's Internet site, Rivera admitted that he was several hundred miles
from the site -- outside Kandahar -- where three Americans were killed on
Dec. 5 by an errant U.S. bomb."
For the entire CBSNews.com story, go to:
Actually, on December 12 Baltimore Sun TV
reporter David Folkenflik first broke the story of Rivera interjecting
himself into events. Folkenflik disclosed: "The day after three
American servicemen and several Afghan opposition troops were accidentally
killed in a U.S. bombing raid last week, Fox News Channel war
correspondent Geraldo Rivera told viewers that he had said the Lord's
Prayer over that 'hallowed ground,' where 'the friendly fire took so
many of our, our men and the mujahedeen yesterday.'
"But Rivera now acknowledges that he never
visited the site where the U.S. servicemen died last Wednesday, just north
of Kandahar in the southern region of Afghanistan. In an interview by
satellite phone yesterday, Rivera said he had been mistaken in his report,
which aired last Thursday."
Indeed, MRC analyst Patrick Gregory tracked
down Rivera's December 6 report which aired at about 8:30am EST during
Fox & Friends. With the on screen graphic listing his location as Tora
Bora, Rivera emotionally recalled: "We walked over what I consider
hallowed ground today. We walked over the spot where the friendly fire
took so many of our, our men and [could be "in"] the mujahedeen
yesterday. It was just, the whole place just fried really, and bits of
uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere. I said the Lord's Prayer and
really choked up. I can almost choke up relating the story to you right
now, it was so melancholy, so sad."
An excerpt from Folkenflik's December 12
....For 72 hours, Rivera said, the "fog of war" had obscured
the fact that there had been two separate "friendly fire"
incidents. One was a misguided U.S. bombing raid in Kandahar Wednesday, he
said. Another was a run by bombers over Tora Bora, hundreds of miles to
the northeast, that took the lives of several Afghan fighters.
Rivera said he had visited the site of Afghan casualties in the
mountains of Tora Bora Thursday in the mistaken belief that the Americans
had died there rather than Kandahar. Throughout his two to three weeks in
Afghanistan, Rivera said, he has been courageous and accurate in his
reporting, and called last Thursday's dispatch an aberration. He
indirectly alluded to the matter on the air late Monday night. Robert
Zimmerman, a spokesman for Fox News, called it "an honest
But a timeline offered by the Defense Department appears to contradict
that explanation. Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said
yesterday that the deaths in Tora Bora took place sometime after Sunday
morning, or at least three days after Rivera's report was broadcast....
Tunku Varadarajan, a cultural critic for the Wall Street Journal,
mocked another Rivera report last Thursday in which the correspondent
ducked in the face of apparent sniper fire. Rivera is "really the
subject of the story," Varadarajan wrote Monday, "lest you
thought, in a moment of stupidity, that it was about Afghanistan."...
Yesterday, in a 20-minute interview peppered with profanity, Rivera
railed against those who would question his work.
"It's time to stop bashing Geraldo," Rivera said. "If
you want to knife me in the back after all the courage I've displayed and
serious reporting I've done, I've got no patience with this [expletive].
"Have you ever been shot at?" Rivera demanded. "Have you
ever covered a war?"...
So far in Afghanistan, he said, he has been the first television
reporter to have covered the fall of Kunduz and the fighting in Tora Bora.
Later in the interview, however, Rivera also displayed an acute
self-awareness of how he frames the stories he tells.
"There is an interesting journalistic debate over patriotism and
covering the war on terrorism," Rivera said. "I have said
publicly that I do not believe there's a moral equivalence between the two
sides. But I don't change the facts of the war because of ideology.
"There's been an aspect of boosterism that I would cop to,"
he said later. So al-Qaida becomes "the forces of evil," in
Rivera-speak, and their network of caves are described as "the rats'
nest." Tallies of deaths are described as "good guys" vs.
"I clearly have indulged in, not the [style of] Geraldo of
syndicated days, but a more impassioned presentation," he said,
adding, "It doesn't affect my factual presentation."...
Although he had shown video footage from the Tora Bora ranges in other
stories on Thursday, he did not identify where he had seen the site of the
so-called "friendly fire" incident.
A few minutes earlier, Fox News had run captions across the bottom of
its screen describing the previous day's events, with some details about
the deaths Wednesday of the three American special operations troops. The
captions said they had been killed outside Kandahar.
As Rivera had been seen live on the air from Tora Bora both Wednesday
and Thursday, journalists, Defense Department officials and international
aid workers expressed skepticism that anyone could make a round-trip
across such treacherous, distant terrain in that time. It would take 20
hours to 36 hours by car across ravaged roads each way, people with
knowledge of the region said. They said helicopter flights were almost
unheard of and would have afforded dubious safety.
Late Monday, after he had been told this newspaper raised questions
about the report, Rivera briefly referred to the incident on the air. He
noted the American deaths occurred in Kandahar but said that he had paid a
visit to the site of the Tora Bora deaths.
"You know," he told viewers, "I know that Kandahar is
the place that suffered that dreadful friendly fire incident involving our
special operators and some of the mujahedeen. But we had one here as well.
You know, I walked that hallowed ground. At least three mujahedeen
fighters [were] killed because of the fluidity of the front line."...
END of Excerpt
For the entire Baltimore Sun story, go to:
Folkenflik followed up with another article on
December 15 which featured NPR's Ombudsman suggesting Rivera be fired
("If it's found that a reporter hasn't let the facts get in the way
of a good story, then I think that's a firing offense") and ABC News
VP Paul Friedman proclaiming: "If credibility is important to you as
a news organization, you'd want to correct any mistake immediately."
That's some chutzpah coming from an ABC News
executive given that ABC reporters gave credibility to questionable
claims, to put it mildly, from the Taliban.
On the October 14 World News Tonight, for
instance, ABC reporter David Wright relayed: "The Taliban claims some
200 civilians in a village near Jalalabad were killed by a stray U.S.
missile. If that's true, it would be the deadliest strike so far in the
war. The Islamic militia escorted the press to a residential area littered
with shrapnel. Inside one house, a blood-stained pillowcase. Outside
another, dozens of dead sheep and goats, as well as what appeared to be
body parts." Four days later, on October 18, Wright again reported as
established fact that "for the ninth time, American bombs hit
residential areas in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed, including five
members of one family."
For more about ABC's reporting on civilian
casualties, refer to the November 5 Media Reality Check by the MRC's
ABC has yet to retract those stories, though
on December 4 World News Tonight aired a piece by Jim Wooten on how those
in a village destroyed by U.S. bombs were pleased the bombing drove out
the Taliban. See the December 5 CyberAlert:
Folkenflik added: "Someone from Fox made
a huge error in not making sure the facts were there before going on the
air," said NPR's Dvorkin. "Mistakes will be made by all
journalistic organizations. Making sure that you 'fess up is also part of
Now that's a standard to apply to all of the
For the entire December 15 article by
Folkenflik, go to:
in action. Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland noticed Geraldo Rivera
in the background of a color photo which ran in Monday's Washington Post
above this caption: "Eastern Afghanistan security chief Hazrat Ali,
center, walks with soldiers near the front line at Tora Bora. Ali said 500
al Qaeda fighters may have escaped."
Eastland asked online beneath the photo:
"Do you see what I see? Look carefully at the photo above, which ran
in Monday's Washington Post. It was taken by Kevin Frayer of the Canadian
Press and transmitted by the Associated Press. The Post used the
photograph to illustrate its lead story -- about how al Qaeda forces are
fleeing to Pakistan. The photo actually appeared on the jump page for the
story -- A16 -- where, taking up no fewer than 50 square inches, it could
hardly be missed. And plainly visible in the photograph is Waldo, I mean
Geraldo, as in Geraldo Rivera....Rivera is right there on the left,
looking (for once) not into the lens of a cameraman (here the Canadian
Press's Frayer) but at someone or something else we can't see. Above his
head is a boom microphone. He's ready, man."
Eastland observed: "The war on terrorism
is deadly serious. Diversions are few. Kevin Frayer has -- with or without
Geraldo's help -- provided one."
To see the photo as posted by The Weekly
Standard, go to:
December 18 Late Show with David Letterman, as announced by an Osama bin
Laden impersonator over video of the real bin Laden in a cave, the
"Top Ten Osama Bin Laden Complaints."
10. "Can't get premium channels in the cave, only basic
9. "New laundry guy using too much starch on my turbans"
8. "I wash and wash and wash, but at the end of the day I still smell
like a camel"
7. "You try to remember four wedding anniversaries"
6. "Itchy beard"
5. "With Giambi, the Yankees are going to win another four damn World
4. "You just can't trust those unfaithful Pashtun tribesmen, am I
3. "MTV never plays videos anymore"
2. "Mullah Omar answers the phone, 'Yello'"
1. "What the hell do I have to do to get on 'Oprah'?"
A RealPlayer video clip of Osama bin Laden
reading this list is now up on the Late Show home page where it will
remain until early evening today:
To find it after it's replaced by a fresh
clip, go to Dave TV:
#1 is a reference to Letterman's ongoing
quest to get invited on Oprah's show. -- Brent Baker
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