Media Research Center - "the largest media watch-dog organization in America," it touts
itself - is a non-profit conservative outfit founded and run by L. Brent Bozell, a prominent
conservative activist. Its website compiles lists of what it considers liberal bias in the
media, among which it places Peter Jennings' allegedly anti-American commentary on the Iraq
War. Two years after the War, though, that commentary looks more and more like accurate,
responsible, and at times prescient reporting. It also undermines the self-exculpatory liberal
consensus that Bush "lied us into war" by showing us just how much even broadcast journalists
subject to all the particular commercial and government pressures of TV can manage to put on
the air if they make the effort.
Obviously Bush did lie, but just as obviously a number of journalists who now affect misused innocence not only did not question those lies but avidly went along with them. More than government propaganda, media self-censorship and opportunism has to be to blamed for the dismal non-coverage of the Iraq War in America. Jennings consistently put the focus where it should have been and not on sideshows served up for public distraction, to the everlasting shame of several leading print outlets, not to mention a tidy number of academic and government experts.
Not bad for a high school drop out.
Here are some selections that warranted conservative "cyber alerts," derogatory titles courtesy of MRC:
ABC’s Obsessed with Blaming U.S. for Museum Looting
Peter Jennings and ABC News are still upset about the looting of the Baghdad Museum. “The
U.S. did not act in accordance with international law to prevent it,” Jennings claimed.
(CyberAlert, April 21,)
Peter’s Sympathy for Hollywood Hypocrites
ABC painted a scary picture of Hollywood actors’ right to express themselves “under attack.”
(Media Reality Check, April 17)
ABC’s New McCarthyism
When actor Tim Robbins complained about being "punished" for his unpopular views, Peter
Jennings and company dedicated an entire segment to it and even compared a few “disinvites”
to McCarthy-era “blacklists.”
(CyberAlert, April 17)
Jennings Showcases African Anti-War Protesters
An anti-war picture from Africa that read “KILL Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld and Powell, NOT
INNOCENT IRAQI CIVILIANS” did [get Jennings' attention].
(CyberAlert, April 12)
Jennings Has Tough Time with “Liberators”
ABC’s Peter Jennings just couldn’t bring himself to call American forces “liberator” unless
it was couched in terms such as “many say” or “others think.”
(CyberAlert, April 10)
Jennings Still Predicting Long War
When ABC’s John McWethy reported it could be “a long war” Jennings answered that many people had anticipated just that.
(CyberAlert, April 5)
Jennings and Stahl Raise Vietnam Quagmire
Jennings claimed “one Marine” told an ABC reporter that Iraq “sometimes feels like Vietnam.”
Over on CBS, Lesley Stahl asked former Navy Secretary James Webb if he was getting a feeling
of “déjà vu.”
(CyberAlert, March 27)
War of Contrasts
Peter Jennings and ABC continued with their negative spin, relaying Iraqi propaganda and
claims that the war has hurt Iraqi civilians.
(CyberAlert, March 26)
Celebrating Iraqis A Ruse?
Iraqis tore down Saddam Hussein's picture and celebrated when coalition forces came through
the town of Safwan but ABC News was skeptical. Peter Jennings suggested the actions were
done "for the cameras."
(CyberAlert, March 23)
Jennings Highlights Foreign Journalists Questions About "Big Lie"
Peter Jennings highlighted only one question from Gen. Tommy Franks press conference on
Sunday. The question asked if the weapons of mass destruction claim was "a big lie."
(CyberAlert, March 22)
Jennings: U.S. Will Be Welcomed, But We Kept Saddam in Power
Iraqis will welcome Americans, Jennings said, because they want “to get out from under the
yoke of Saddam Hussein, in part because the U.S. supported him staying in power for a long
time and kept sanctions.”
(CyberAlert, March 21)
ABC Highlights Vatican Opposition
The Vatican is against the war so ABC’s Peter Jennings suddenly decided it is imparting wise
counsel, noting that it “had issued a very strong statement today about President Bush’s
intention to go to war.”
(CyberAlert, March 19)
Jennings Expresses Disillusionment with Bush
ABC’s Peter Jennings took advantage of the time after President Bush’s press conference to
complain that the President is not listening to UN inspectors or allies.
(CyberAlert, March 7)
Iraqis “Continue to Comply With U.N.”
ABC's Peter Jennings: “The Iraqis continue to comply with the UN weapons inspectors.”
(CyberAlert, March 5)
Worried If U.S. is Torturing Al Qaeda Mastermind
Three days after the capture of top al-Qaeda terrorist Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind
of the murder of thousands of Americans, what was the chief concern of Peter Jennings? Have
we tortured him?
(CyberAlert, March 5)
Upset by the Lack of Congressional Dissent
Trumpeting an anti-war speech by Senator Ted Kennedy, Peter Jennings on Tuesday night rued how “there has been very little opposition in the U.S. Congress to war with Iraq.”
(CyberAlert, March 5)
Jennings Hypes “Virtual Protest”
ABC’s Peter Jennings hyped a so-called “virtual protest” conducted by anti-war activists.
(CyberAlert, February 27)
Worried By Bush Saying He Would Assassinate Saddam
Peter Jennings and ABC were worried about a comment, attributed to President Bush, that the
President would have Saddam assassinated if he had the chance.
(CyberAlert, February 26)
Calls Al-Arian Arrest Controversial
Peter Jennings treated a man arrested on terrorism charges as the victim of an
over-aggressive Justice Department.
(CyberAlert, February 21)
Bush Jeopardizing Relations with “Oldest and Best Friends”
According to ABC, it’s not France and Germany that are threatening old alliances; it’s the
(CyberAlert, February 20)
Jennings Trumpets “Enormous Anti-War Demonstrations”
ABC’s Peter Jennings rued the fact that the anti-war demonstrations had done little to
change President Bush’s mind. The anchor did note that the marches had give opponents “some
sense that they have momentum.”
(CyberAlert, February 19)
Touts Iraqi Concession, Claims French Reflects European Opinion
Saddam Hussein banned nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and ABC’s Peter
Jennings treated it as real news. Jennings also suggested that the French government
reflects the feeling of the European public who believe “Mr. Bush is in too much of a hurry
to go to war.”
(CyberAlert, February 15)
U.S. Threatens Allied Solidarity
French recalcitrance doesn’t mean a thing, according to the ABC anchor. It’s America’s
insistence on having its own way that’s threatening to rupture NATO.
(CyberAlert, February 15)
Complaining About a Post-Saddam Iraq
ABC News could not find a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq but did find dissatisfaction
with how the U.S. plans to do things in a post-Hussein Iraq.
(CyberAlert, February 12)
Jennings Stresses "More Time", Brokaw and Rather Don't
Peter Jennings led his newscast with "the inspectors want more time to do their job." Both
(CyberAlert, January 28)
OK, How About Some "Other" Voices?
The January 12 World News Tonight showcased war protesters again, including a Columbia
University professor who claimed "mainstream America" believes the war doesn't make sense.
(CyberAlert, January 15)
Jennings Says Inspections Going Well; Rather & Brokaw Say They're Not
Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw both reported that UN weapons inspectors are having problems in
Iraq. Over on ABC, though, Peter Jennings said the inspections were going "quite well" and
wondered why President Bush disagreed.
(CyberAlert, December 3)
Jennings: Is the Administration "Goading" Iraq?
Peter Jennings asked a question from the Bush critics' handbook, suggesting that U.S.
enforcement of the no-fly zone in Iraq was little more than a taunt.
(CyberAlert, November 21)
ABC Highlights Anti-Islamic Comments
Peter Jennings and ABC News showcased a poll indicating Americans felt Islam encouraged
violence and was disrespectful of other religions.
(CyberAlert, November 19)
Fretting About Too “Powerful”
To Peter Jennings, President Bush asking Congress to approve of using force against Iraq and
saying, “very forcefully,” that if the UN doesn’t go along the U.S. will act on its own
means, smacks of bullying.
(CyberAlert, September 20)
Bush’s “War Drums” and Iraq “Preoccupation”
Just before President Bush addressed the United Nations about Iraq, ABC’s Peter Jennings
referred to how “the sound of war drums being beaten in Washington has become unmistakable”
and described the administration’s concern about Saddam Hussein’s weapons as a
“preoccupation,” as if there were something misplaced about the worry.
(CyberAlert, September 13)
RIP Peter Jennings, even if you were Canadian almost to the end.
Lila Rajiva is a free-lance journalist and the author of "The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media," Monthly Review Press, 2005. She is currently working on a second book on propaganda.