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Media, Who Got War Wrong, Take Exception to Scott McClellan's Charges

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Media, Who Got War Wrong, Take Exception to Scott McClellan's Charges

Article excerpt

(Commentary) Ironically, word leaked of bombshell revelations in the upcoming Scott McClellan memoir -- including his unexpected charge that the "liberal media" fell for Bush "propaganda" during the Iraq war run-up -- almost exactly four years to the day The New York Times offered its famously weak "mini-culpa" for its role in helping to pave the way for war.

For much of the day on Wednesday, top reporters and news anchors defended their Iraq coverage from McClellan's charge that most of them had been sleepwalking as his former boss hoodwinked the country into war. As documented by E&P then, and since, the defense for most of them does not hold.

It was clear to some in 2003 that the country was misled into war, but few probed the president's drive for an attack, and all of the tough questions they asked afterward -- which many cited today -- came far too late. And almost none of them apologized for their shortcomings.

Most, on Wednesday, still defended their coverage. But few have ever really come to terms with the magnitude of their failure.

The New York Times, you remember, reluctantly published a short piece, admitting that a half dozen of its stories in the run-up to the war were fatally flawed, but didn't name any of the guilty scribes and buried the story on Page A10 -- about where many of its articles that had raised doubts about Saddam's WMD had ended up.

Now here is McClellan in his book, "What Happened," as quoted by Mike Allen of Politico.com, admitting that the Times and other media had been too easily hoodwinked by the White House.

McClellan charges that Bush relied on "propaganda" to sell the war. Allen summarizes: "He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war. ... McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush's liberal critics."

In the book, McClellan charges: "If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. ... In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

McClellan also calls the news media "complicit enablers" in the White House's "carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval" in the march to war. …

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