Nearly two weeks after the British Sunday Times disclosed a secret British intelligence memo that suggests that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its desire to wage war in Iraq -- and a week after Media Matters noted that the memo has been largely ignored by the U.S. media -- some news outlets are finally starting to take notice.
The Washington Post ran an article about the memo on page A18 of its May 13 edition, five days after Post ombudsman Michael Getler noted that readers had complained about the lack of coverage. Oddly, Getler didn't take a position on the paper's decision not to cover the memo to that point.
CNN.com ran a May 12 article that detailed the memo's contents and noted that 89 members of Congress have sent President Bush a letter about it. There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- in the CNN.com article that couldn't have been written nearly a week earlier. The Sunday Times ran its article on May 1; the members of Congress released their letter on May 6; Media Matters told readers about it the same day. But people who get their news from CNN.com didn't find out about it until May 11.
Still, CNN.com readers are better off than CNN viewers. Since last week, when we noted the network's failure to give the matter more than a passing mention, and wrote that "it's a dark day when CNN's 'witheringly bad' and 'excruciatingly empty' blog segment actually does a better job of covering the news than the rest of the network," CNN has mentioned the memo only twice more -- one of them coming in another "Inside the Blogs" segment on May 12:
ABBI TATTON (CNN political producer): We mentioned before a secret British memo that came out on May 1st in a London newspaper suggesting that the Bush administration was preparing for military action in Iraq in the summer of 2002. Now liberal bloggers have been picking up on this, saying why isn't there more coverage of this in the United States? One of them is Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat of Michigan, who is one of 89 congressman who sent a letter to George Bush asking for an explanation. He's been blogging about this at his blog, ConyersBlog.us, following the coverage, seeing how much it's getting there. What he said yesterday: "Are we nearing the tipping point on the smoking gun Downing Street memo?" We'll be seeing what more he has on that.
There's something seriously wrong with a cable "news" network that virtually ignores a secret intelligence memo that suggests the Bush administration deliberately manipulated intelligence in order to support its policies; virtually ignores a letter signed by 89 members of Congress demanding an explanation -- but covers the fact that one of those congressmen writes about it on his blog. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who boasts nightly that he brings his viewers "hard news," hasn't covered the memo; at CNN, such news is left to "Inside the Blogs."
Well, not just "Inside the Blogs": as we said, CNN mentioned the memo twice in the last week. The other mention? The dozens of CNN viewers who were watching at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, May 7, saw the following report by anchor Tony Harris:
Now, to a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by 90 Democrats in Congress. The lawmakers are asking Mr. Bush to respond to a London tabloid report. It claims the president coordinated military action in Iraq months before Congress actually authorized the action. The report cites confidential accounts of a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who reportedly committed his country to supporting a U.S.-led war.
The Democrats' letter to President Bush alleges in part, quoting now: "If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration."
Harris would have been hard-pressed to downplay the memo more than he did. There was no mention of the most explosive suggestion in the memo: that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to fit its agenda. Still, Harris's report was better than nothing, which is what most media outlets (we're looking at you, New York Times) have done with this story.
We'll give Conyers the last word for now:
On talk radio today, and on the Internet, there is a palpable frustration about the lack of mainstream media (or as many appropriately call it, "corporate media") coverage of the secret Downing Street memo. I share this frustration. In my view, it is inexcusable that the cable news networks and the major newspapers have failed thus far to give this story the attention it deserves. At its core, the disclosure represents a vindication of the assertions of all of us who opposed the war, and truth-telling former Administration officials who were smeared for daring to provide the public the information it is entitled to. More importantly, it shows an Administration that appears to have lied to the American people and their elected representatives, while simultaneously telling the truth to the representatives of the British people, about the most grave matter for any nation -- the decision to go to war.
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