I’m not talking about the vitriol directed at him by former White House colleagues like Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer. I’m talking about McClellan’s other war collaborators: the movers and shakers in corporate media. The people McClellan refers to in his book as “deferential, complicit enablers” of Bush administration war propaganda.
One after another, news stars defended themselves with the tired old myth that no one doubted the Iraq WMD claims at the time. The yarn about hindsight being 20/20 was served up more times than a Rev. Wright clip on Fox News.
Katie Couric, whose coverage on CBS of the Iraq troop surge has been almost fawning, was one of the few stars to be candid about pre-invasion coverage, saying days ago, “I think it’s one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism.” She spoke of “pressure” from corporate management, not just Team Bush, to “really squash any dissent.” Then a co-host of NBC Today, she says network brass criticized her for challenging the administration.
NBC execs apparently didn’t complain when – two weeks into the invasion – Couric thanked a Navy commander for coming on the show, adding, “And I just want you to know, I think Navy SEALs rock!”
This is a glorious moment for the American public. We can finally see those who abandoned reporting for cheerleading and flag-waving and cheap ratings having to squirm over their role in sending other parents’ kids into Iraq. I say “other parents’ kids” because I never met any bigwig among those I worked with in TV news who had kids in the armed forces.
Given how TV networks danced to the White House tune sung by the Roves and Fleischers and McClellans in the first years of W’s reign, it’s fitting that it took the words of a longtime Bush insider to force their self-examination over Iraq. Top media figures had shunned years of well-documented criticism of their Iraq failure as religiously as they shunned war critics in 2003.
Speaking of religious, it wasn’t until two days ago that retired NBC warhorse Tom Brokaw was able to admit on-air that Bush’s push toward invasion was “more theology than anything else.” On day one of the war, it was anchor Brokaw who turned to an Admiral and declared, “One of the things that we don’t want to do is destroy the infrastructure of Iraq, because in a few days we’re going to own that country.”
Asked this week about the charge that media transmitted war propaganda, Brokaw blamed the White House and its “unbelievable ability to control the flow of information at any time, but especially during the time that they’re preparing to go to war.” This is an old canard: The worst censors pre-war were not governments, but major outlets that chose to exclude and smear dissenting experts.