Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Aid and comfort. If you were watching The Ten O'Clock News on WLVI-TV (Channel 56) last night, you might have seen the Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz and me talking with reporter Jon Keller about the firing of Peter Arnett.

My main point was that there was nothing wrong with what Arnett said -- indeed, his contention that the US battle plan hasn't worked has been the principal line in the media in recent days. Rather, it was that he gave an interview to the propaganda arm of the Iraqi government, a government with which we are, wisely or not, at war.

So I was surprised this morning to read in the New York Times that NBC had undertaken a careful analysis of Arnett's interview before deciding to terminate him. The Times' Jim Rutenberg writes:

[A]fter further inspecting the interview, NBC executives said, Mr. Shapiro [Neal Shapiro, president of NBC News] and others decided that Mr. Arnett had gone too far in feeding Iraqi officials what amounted to useful sound bites....

An NBC official said he took a tape of the interview home with him and carefully scanned it to find some defense of Mr. Arnett's commentary. He said he believed that Mr. Arnett's comments that reports about civilian casualties were useful to war protesters seemed to cross a line.

The logic strikes me as backwards. What you want is for Arnett to be candid and truthful, which he was. What you don't want is for him to suck up to the Iraqi regime on Saddam TV. Walter Cronkite, not surprisingly, gets it just right on the Times' op-ed page.

Meanwhile, what can one say about that other media miscreant, Geraldo Rivera? Other than, of course, "good riddance"? Here's an account of Rivera's latest misadventure by David Folkenflik of the Baltimore Sun, the reporter who, in 2001, exposed Rivera's pathetic fiction about standing on "hallowed ground," where three American soldiers had been killed, in Afghanistan.

Actually, he wasn't, and as Folkenflik notes, Rivera's attempts to cover his tracks didn't hold up to scrutiny either.

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