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Bill Press: Bergdahl’s media trial

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The special forces helicopter carrying Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to freedom hadn’t even touched down before efforts to undermine his credibility were underway, all with the gleeful help of the mainstream media.

Let’s establish, first of all, that the White House bungled his release. Should President Obama have notified Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other intelligence leaders in Congress first? Are there still serious questions about why Bergdahl walked away from his base? Are critics right to question assurances that the five freed Taliban detainees released from Guantánamo Bay won’t soon be back in action? Yes, yes and yes. But that in no way justifies the wholesale rush by Obama haters to demonize Bergdahl, which the media gleefully joined, with no regard for the facts. 

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The media’s role in trashing Bergdahl has been nothing short of shameful, in two notable ways. First, most reporters are referring to him as a “deserter.” The truth is, we don’t know. We still haven’t heard his story. The “deserter” charge was first leveled by Bergdahl’s former colleague Josh Cornelison, who accused him of abandoning his post. To my knowledge, only David Martin of CBS News has reported that other members of his unit disagreed with Cornelison, and actually called Bergdahl a “good soldier.”

Yes, Bergdahl walked away from Outpost Mest Malek. But, to the amusement of some of his fellow soldiers (who never ratted on him), he’d done so twice before — and returned both times to fight the Taliban. We don’t know why he left a third time. But it wasn’t to join the Taliban or give intelligence to the enemy. Certainly, those at the Pentagon didn’t think so. They promoted him twice while he was in captivity. Last time I checked, the military doesn’t promote “deserters.”

On top of calling the former POW a deserter, the media also echoed Cornelison’s reckless charge that Bergdahl was personally responsible for the deaths of as many as eight other soldiers killed in the same region in the months following his disappearance. CNN even reported that “as many as six soldiers” were killed while looking for Bergdahl. Again, this is simply not true. The Pentagon had already investigated that charge and dismissed it. The New York Times reviewed military records, documented all eight deaths and concluded there was ZERO evidence to connect any of them to the search for Bergdahl.

The media assault on Bergdahl didn’t stop there, especially on Fox News. Gina Loudon, a guest of Lou Dobbs, accused President Obama of conduct at once “irrational, erratic and not sane.” Bill O’Reilly said Bergdahl’s father looked like a Muslim because he sported a beard (has he ever seen “Duck Dynasty”?). Fox contributor Jim Pinkerton even suggested military doctors were part of the conspiracy by hiding Bergdahl from reporters, because they knew that, if he talked, he would embarrass Obama.

Reviewing the media coverage of Bergdahl’s release makes you yearn for the good old days when reporters cared about the truth and took time to learn the facts — before they joined the lynch mob.  

 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.