Monday, March 17, 2008 | Contact: Colleen O’Boyle (703) 683-5004
MRC Studies: Nets Minimize Iraq Success and Heroism, Emphasize
Setbacks and Purported Atrocities
Five Years of Slant Against Iraq War Success
years ago this week, an international coalition of troops led by the U.S.
invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam Hussein's tyrannical dictatorship in just
three weeks. Since then, Iraqis have voted in free democratic elections to seat
a representative parliament; Saddam and several of his henchmen have been tried
and convicted in public war crimes trials; and a bloody insurgency fomented by
al Qaeda in Iraq is in retreat after a surge of U.S. troops and a shift to more
aggressive counter-insurgency tactics.
Analysts at the Media Research Center have studied TV news coverage of the Iraq
war from the beginning, even before the first bombs fell on Baghdad in March
2003. The record shows the networks have trumpeted bad news — setbacks for the
U.S. coalition and allegations of misdeeds by American troops — while minimizing
good news such as the success of the 2007 troop surge and acts of heroism by
■ Pre-War Opponents. Contrary to prevailing liberal mythology, all three
ABC) tilted their pre-war news in favor of Bush administration opponents.
congressional debate over using force, for example, the networks gave a
majority of soundbites (59%) to the losing anti-war side. Reporters also sanitized
the "peace" movement, masking the radical affiliations of left-wing
organizers while showcasing more sympathetic "middle class" demonstrators.
■ Combat Coverage. Soon after coalition troops liberated Iraq, MRC
decent grades to most of the TV networks, praising the fine, factual reports
presented by the embedded journalists who rode along with U.S. troops. But poor
marks went to TV reporters stationed in Baghdad, who often passed along the
enemy's unverified propaganda. Worst of all was MSNBC's Peter Arnett, who
reported lies about U.S. use of "cluster bombs" against Iraqi civilians.
Arnett was later fired for denouncing the U.S. in a Saddam propaganda video.
■ Hyping Misdeeds, Hiding Heroes. In less than two weeks during the
spring of 2004, NBC alone pumped out
58 stories on the Abu Ghraib prison abuse story, but in the preceding year
devoted only five stories to the discovery of mass graves of Saddam's victims.
In 2006, the networks jumped on unproved charges of a Marine "massacre" at
Haditha, with more than
200 minutes of coverage in three weeks. During the preceding five years,
those networks gave just 52 minutes to the stories of America's
highest-decorated soldiers in the war on terror.
■ Mostly Bad News. In 2005, Iraq was a mixed bag — historic democratic
elections, but continued violence. But an
MRC study showed the network coverage emphasized the bad news. Out of 1,712
evening news stories, the lion's share (848, or 61%) focused on U.S. casualties,
bombings, kidnappings or political setbacks, compared to just 245 (14%) that
reported positive developments. (The remainder were mixed or neutral.) An MRC
study of cable news coverage in 2006 found that all three networks
emphasized bad news, although the Fox News Channel aired nearly as many stories
about coalition success in Iraq (81) as CNN (41) and MSNBC (47) combined.
■ Little Time for Good News. The last six months have seen a massive
reduction in insurgent attacks and U.S. casualties. But the three broadcast
evening newscasts have shown
little interest in the good news, with coverage
dropping every month since September. (See chart.)
2005 survey of top journalists conducted by the Pew Research
Center found the media were far more anti-war than the general
public. The networks' performance over last five years makes that
painfully obvious. -
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