By Dick Morris - 05/18/05 12:00 AM EDT
The Newsweek magazine story falsely reporting desecration of the Koran by American military interrogators in Guantanamo, Cuba, where terror suspects are being held, is the fourth major false report printed or aired by a highly respected arm of the Anglo-American journalistic establishment in the past year.
Each of those inaccurate stories has roiled the political waters and threatened to inflict colossal damage on either President Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair and on American and British efforts to defeat terrorists and the regime of Saddam Hussein.
It is high time that the American people got the point: The organs of establishment journalism are slanted and biased toward the left and disregard the standards of fair and accurate reporting, with impunity, when an election is on the line.
The list of false stories is telling:
• In the spring of 2004, the BBC reported that Blair had ordered his intelligence people to “sex up” reports of the Iraqi program to make weapons of mass destruction. For months, Blair was on the defensive because of the report, and the intelligence operative who was the alleged source of the story committed suicide.
It took a parliamentary commission to debunk the story and to force a BBC retraction. The ongoing damage to Blair’s credibility likely helped to account for his marginal showing in the most recent U.K. election.
• In September 2004, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” television program used forged and phony documents to try to besmirch Bush’s record in the Texas National Guard. It was only the careless error of the forger in printing the suffix “th” above the line that led to the truth.
• In the week before the election, The New York Times, the citadel of journalistic accuracy, ran a front-page story alleging that 370 tons of explosives had disappeared from an Iraqi storage site during the American occupation. The implication was that the carelessness of the Bush administration had put into the hands of the insurgent terrorists the very weapons now being used to kill our troops. But the Pentagon soon established that the weapons either had been removed early in the U.S. occupation or had never been there when our troops arrived. The Times story led John Kerry to change his TV ads and focus his endgame campaign on the allegation.
• And now Newsweek has published an inflammatory story that has led to massive anti-American demonstrations in Afghanistan — the first since the war — protesting the seeming defilement of sacred texts. Sixteen people are dead because Newsweek got the story wrong, and the image of the United States is damaged in the Islamic world. And Newsweek refuses to hold anyone to account for this outrageous error, least of all its own senior management.
Each of those “mistakes” was biased in favor of the left and was committed in the haste of liberal journalists to get some ammunition to discredit Bush and the Iraq war. But when the same reporter who wrote the current story filed the first disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky affair with his editors at Newsweek, the magazine piously refused to run the story.
In fact, in all the years of the Clinton presidency, I cannot recall a single instance of a similarly inaccurate high-profile story attacking the Democratic president.
Each of the scandal allegations ultimately proved to capture the Clintons in some sort of ethical violation. The sole exception that comes to mind is the FBI-file story, but, even there, the journalist reports that the files had been available to the White House staff were accurate.
But when a Republican president is waging a war of which the left does not approve, a different journalistic standard appears to apply.
The media need to examine their own bias and correct it, lest still more readers and viewers turn away in the face of their obvious manipulation of public opinion.
Morris is the author of Rewriting History, a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History.