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2004-03-31

Reporter Apologizes For U.S. Media Iraq Coverage

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We speak with a local Virginia columnist who wrote a column apologizing for the U.S. media’s performance in the run-up to the war on Iraq. In his column "Why the Media Owe You An Apology on Iraq" he specifically cites the New York Times and Washington Post. [includes rush transcript]

In an article published on Sunday, March 28, 2004 by The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, VA, entitled "Why the Media Owe You An Apology on Iraq" columnist Rick Mercier writes:

“The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there’s one thing they forgot to say: We’re sorry.

“Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn’t bring ourselves to hold the administration’s feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered.

“Maybe we’ll do a better job next war.

"Of course it’s absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. It’s the elite print media that failed you the most, because they’re the institutions you have to rely on to keep tabs on the politicians in Washington (television news cannot do the kind of in-depth or investigative reporting that print media can do-when they’re doing their job properly)."

  • Rick Mercier, columnist for the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. On Sunday he wrote a column apologizing for the media’s coverage leading up to the Iraq invasion.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

RUSH TRANSCRIPT

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, the War and Peace Report. As I turn now to a piece that was written by Rick Mercier. It was published in the Free Lance-Star Fredericksburg, Virginia. "Why the Media Owe You an Apology on Iraq." "The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there’s one thing they forgot to say — We’re sorry." Rick Mercier joins us on the line right now. Why should the media say, "I’m sorry"?

RICK MERCIER: Certainly, in recent months, they have begun to look at the claims that the Bush administration made before the war and have asked the question, well, did they mislead the nation, did they simply get bad intelligence, but I haven’t seen them really look in the mirror much and ask, you know, what did we do before the war, and should we have interrogated the Bush administration’s claims a little more thoroughly, should we have, you know, asked experts who disputed white house charges about Iraq. I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that they did not do their job and did not perform a really important checks and balances function that they’re supposed to perform in a democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Rick Mercier, "Why the Media Owe You an Apology on Iraq," I just want to read the beginning. "The media are finish with their big blowouts on the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. They forgot to say they’re sorry. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed white house charges against Iraq, sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us, sorry we fell for Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations, sorry we couldn’t bring ourselves to hold the administration’s feet to the fire before the war when it really mattered. Maybe we’ll do a better job next war."

RICK MERCIER: Which may be next year, who knows.

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of response have you gotten to this?

RICK MERCIER: Yeah, well, it came in at first, and you know, it came in trickles, some colleagues at work said they appreciated. One of my big bosses associate publishers liked it as well. That was a bit of a surprise. And then one of the trade magazines, editor and publisher ran a short article on it, and I got more positive response from that. A lot of people out there are just — I think had a sense that the media really let us down prior to the war and perhaps since the war, too, in some respects. And they were just grateful to see someone in the mainstream media say something that, hey, you know — that we as an institution got it wrong and especially the big agenda-setting newspapers that we rely on like "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post." But along with that has come a lot of negative responses to the article from editor and publisher was put on the Drudge website, and so all of Drudge’s followers started sending these — sending me hate mail, much of which was sort of incoherent.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank Rick Mercier for being with us, who has said that reporters should apologize for their coverage of Iraq.

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