Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Washington and Fox News Shed a Tear for the Departure of Brit Hume

Last night, Brit Hume signed off for the last time as the anchor of the Fox News program, "Special Report". Hume was treated to a video presentation from his colleagues and friends (including both Presidents Bush and Vice President Cheney), praising his journalistic integrity and all of his years of hard work:

Is it any surprise that President Bush and Vice President Cheney would appear in a video to heap praise upon an anchor that has provided this Administration a platform from which they have spread their propaganda? It is only appropriate to take a look back at a few instances which show exactly what type of "journalist" Brit Hume was during his tenure as anchor. In order to do this, I turn back to Glenn Greenwald, author, activist, and commentator for who has written about Hume over the years. Let's go back to an entry from Greenwald on September 11, 2007, in which he analyzed Hume's performance when General David Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker appeared on "Special Report" to "brief America" about the situation in Iraq. Greenwald writes:

The model for the entire hour was not a journalist asking questions of
government leaders, but instead, a direct examination at a trial, where a
friendly lawyer gently leads his own witness to present claims in the most
persuasive manner possible, with the lawyer interrupting only to clarify the
witness' statements and to provide helpful suggestions as to how the witness can
make his case even more effectively.

Greenwald goes on to describe how during the first ten minutes of this program, Petraeus (with help from charts and a video presentation) spoke uninterrupted, carefully laying out his talking points with Hume only speaking to raise points that helped to clarify points that Petraeus was making. The program continued in this manner with Hume lobbing softball after softball at both Petraeus and Crocker and refusing to critically challenge or follow-up the responses. Greenwald writes of Hume:

Even before this obscene propaganda show last night, the very idea that
Hume could be considered a "journalist," and that there is nothing deemed
improper about Gen. Petraeus choosing him for an exclusive interview, speaks
volumes about the broken and corrupt state of our media. Hume is an outspoken
proponent of the war,
having called Jack Murtha senile for advocating withdrawal and proclaiming the Democrats untrustworthy on national security for opposing the war. A country with a functioning political press would never pretend that the pro-war, Bush-worshipping Hume could conduct an actual interview with Petraeus, let alone be the only journalist allowed to do so.

What other kind of "journalism" passed the so-called "fair and balanced" test during Hume's tenure? Let's fast forward to the coverage that Fox News gave the U.S. raid on the Afghan village of Azizabad. It quickly became clear that the United States had killed around 95 civilians in this raid as villagers spoke of their outrage and news reports began to surface that this had not been a military target. The U.S. government continued to insist that this target was legitimate and that only 5 civilians had been killed in this attack. Brit Hume's program joined alongside the Pentagon, suggesting the witnesses had lied and that few civilians had been killed in the strike despite mounting evidence that led the U.S. to reinvestigate the raid.

All the while, the U.S. government did everything from accusing villagers from spreading Taliban propaganda to doubting the claims that 50 of the civilians that were killed, were children, despite contrary information from investigations, independent journalists, the UN, and video footage of the aftermath that showed the large number of civilians that had been killed in this raid. The Pentagon did an investigation at the time and said that they based their conclusion (that many Taliban members had been killed) on an account from an "independent journalist" and his first-hand account of the incident. This "independent journalist" turned out to be Oliver North, Fox News reporter, main player in the Iran-Contra scandal who admitted lying to Congress, and regular guest on Brit Hume's program.

Glenn Greenwald also wrote about this incident and Hume's involvement in spreading these dubious claims:

Nobody -- other than Brit Hume's news show -- ever denied that civilians were
killed in this airstrike. The only "debate" -- prior to the emergence of
documentary evidence -- was over how many were killed. Yet Fox began by telling its pitifully misled viewers that while "some locals claim [the airstrike]
killed civilians," "a Fox crew" had a "different story."

Greenwald continues:

Fox's news show -- not Bill O'Reilly, but Brit Hume's "legitimate news
program" -- continued to insist, based upon the "reporting" of "journalist"
Oliver North and his cameraman, that the U.S. military's original claims were
true, and the villagers and the U.N. were lying, even as the U.S. military
itself was, in light of the ample evidence,
severely backtracking on its story

This is the type of reporting that is consistent with the the "fair and balanced" coverage for which President Bush and Vice President Cheney heap praise upon Hume in his farewell video. Is it any wonder why they hold Hume in such high regard? Now that Hume will be "limited" to his new role as "Senior Political Analyst", one wonders what kind of analysis he will be giving as a guest on the very same "news" program that he just spent over a decade anchoring. I bet the only difference that we will be able to see, is the side of the table on which Hume will be seated.

Happy trails Brit!

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