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**UPDATED** – Something Smells Rotten at ABC News

Scott on April 15, 2008 at 12:26 pm

On April 7th, a news hack at ABC News Online put up a story that smells so suspiciously like bat guano (or some other related substance) that I am amazed it was put up at all. The piece was written by Martha Raddatz, the Chief White House Correspondent for ABC. The fact this woman holds the title of Chief White House Correspondent speaks VOLUMES about the state of news reporting.

The story is titled Surprising Political Endorsements by U.S. Troops. In it, Ms. Raddatz discusses her time speaking with soldiers about the presidential candidates and what issues concern them in the upcoming presidential election. What makes this story fail the smell test is that of the ELEVEN soldiers mentioned by name in her story, NONE of them talked of voting for John McCain, ONE spoke of supporting Clinton, FOUR spoke of being in Obama’s camp, and FIVE either said they were undecided or the article did not specify who they planned on supporting.

Really, Martha? None of the soldiers you spoke with supported McCain? NONE? That IS surprising!

Really, Martha? Out of the five soldiers who did specify support, only one sided with Clinton while four stand with Obama? Obama gets the most support of the military, even though he is arguably the weakest on defense, foreign policy, etc? That IS surprising!

It just seems odd that her representation of military opinions are drastically different from most other depictions as reported elsewhere. It also seems odd that the soldiers in her story seem to reflect much of her own personal opinions and political biases.

Perhaps she is just better/smarter than most other reporters.

Perhaps her opinions are more in line with the “regular folks” in the military .

Or perhaps, if one looks a little deeper into Martha’s background, a different possibility will emerge. Maybe her reporting is bias. Why might I think such an unfair thing, you might be asking? If one reads her bio on Wikipedia (which I assume that she wrote herself), we discover that she has written for The New Republic, has reported for National Public Radio, and even penned a best selling anti-war book titled The Long Road Home.

Hmmm….something seems a little odd here. Ms. Raddatz wrote and/or reported for two extremely liberal and anti-war organizations, penned a NY Times best seller that just so happened to have an anti-war slant as well, and now she happens to be saying that most of the men and women in the military are in agreement with her sentiments in every regard.

What are the odds?!

ADDENDUM: SCOTT ADDS MORE ON APRIL 15TH AT 10:00 P.M.

This morning when I wrote my initial post on this “news” story (and I use the term “news” loosely), I didn’t have the time to watch the video. Reading the article was bad enough. But when I did get around to watching the video this evening I was shocked. It is a worse indictment against the quality of Ms. Raddatz’s work and the blatant partisan slant she employs when reporting than is the travesty of writing that she tries to pass off as “reporting.”

The video begins with this breathless pronouncement:

The military is not supposed to engage in partisan political activity, making these endorsements by troops in Iraq all the more striking.

I’m not sure what Ms. Raddatz is talking about when she says, “the military is not supposed to engage in partisan political activity.” It sounds as though she is saying that individual soldiers are not supposed to express opinions on political matters. Maybe this is true, but I’ve never known anyone in the military who has said they are not allowed to express their political views. And I have seen many interviews over the last several years with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan expressing their opinions on the war and on political issues. Since when is any American citizen, be they civilian or military, not allowed to express political opinions?

Perhaps she meant to say that the military establishment is not allowed to endorse a political candidate. That would make more sense, but even then her comment seems out of place. When someone is speaking about the U.S. military, anyone who has gone to school and finished at least the 5th grade can tell you that the U.S. military is not a partisan organization. It is overseen by a variety of governmental bodies and oversight committees to ensure that the military stays nonpartisan.

My belief is that she knew what she was saying, and that she knew what she was saying was misleading. I think she was trying to create a picture of soldiers who are daring to “break the rules” and express their radical political beliefs. She wants her viewers to believe that what she is about to share in the rest of the video is so astounding, so ground breaking, so amazing that we really need to pay attention and listen to what the daring, rule-breaking soldiers have to say.

Having set the stage, she then goes on to present her laughingly slanted, over-produced propaganda piece that pretends to be a news story.

BUT WAIT!!! THERE IS MORE.

If you watch the video you will encounter two times when the actual video footage departs drastically from what Ms. Raddatz wrote in the story. And when I say drastically, I mean DRASTICALLY! In short, there are TWO TIMES within the first 90 seconds of the video when we can watch Ms. Raddatz as she FEEDS answers and opinions to the soldiers being interviewed. Furthermore, the written article and actual video of the interviews completely contradict each other.

EXAMPLE ONE – PFC Jeremy Slate

FROM THE WRITTEN ARTICLE:

PFC Jeremy Slate said he supported Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., because of his stated intention to pull out of Iraq right away. “That would be nice,” Slate said, “I’d like to be home, yea.”

FROM THE VIDEO (30 seconds into the clip):

RADDATZ: “Who do you want for president?”

PFC SLATE: Barack Obama.

RADDATZ: And why?

PFC SLATE: “Cause I think he has our better interests in mind.”

RADDATZ: He wants to pull out of Iraq right away.

PFC SLATE: Yes. So.

RADDATZ: You do too.

PFC SLATE: That would be nice. I’d like to be home.

So while the written version make is sound as though PFC Slate supports Obama because of his plan to pull out of Iraq immediately, the video shows Martha Raddatz feeding PFC Slate the idea that Obama wants to pull out of Iraq right away. Furthermore, she just flat out tells Slate “You do, too,” meaning Obama wants to pull out right away and so do you.

If the interview took place in a court of law, wouldn’t that be called leading the witness?

EXAMPLE TWO – SPC Imas Loto

FROM THE WRITTEN ARTICLE:

Spc. Imus Loto said he supported Obama. “It will be something different. But he’s out there and he’ll probably support us a lot more.” By support, Loto meant pulling out troops. “Pull me out, too.” he said.

FROM THE VIDEO (1 minute into the clip):

SPC LOTO: Obama

RADDATZ: And why?

SPC LOTO: It will be something different

RADDATZ: He wants to pull out of Iraq.

SPC LOTO: Pull me out, too!

Just as in the first example, once again Raddatz feeds the soldier the answer she wants him to express, namely that Obama wants to pull out of Iraq which is why they support him.

Again, while the written version makes it sound as though SPC Loto is favoring Obama because of his stance on Iraq, the video makes it clear that it is Ms. Raddatz who brings up Obama pulling troops out of Iraq. Loto simply agrees that he would like to go home, too.

There is one other thing in this example that is appalling. The written article explains “By support, Loto meant pulling out troops.” It is nice that Ms. Raddatz helped us out by explaining what Spc Loto meant; however, NOWHERE in the actual video footage does Spc Loto say ANYTHING about “support” equating to “pulling out the troops.” It is Ms. Raddatz HERSELF who says, “He [Obama] wants to pull out of Iraq.” Spc Loto simply agrees with her that he would like to go home as well. (And what soldier wouldn’t?!?)

Well, Ms. Martha Raddatz, what a sad example of a reporter you are. If I was still teaching journalism, I would be bringing you up in class tomorrow as an example of WHAT NOT TO DO when trying to be a good reporter.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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