‘Apology’ for Iraq Coverage Draws Strong Response

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By: E&P Staff

Some call him courageous for saying he is sorry. Others claim he is a sorry character indeed.

An E&P Online story on Monday about a local columnist in Fredericksburg, Va., who apologized for the media’s performance in the run-up to the war on Iraq has drawn wide and passionate response.

In a column in Fredericksburg’s daily newspaper, The Free Lance-Star, on Sunday, Rick Mercier wrote: “The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there is 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.”

A veritable flood of e-mailed responses arrived at E&P on Tuesday, most of them negative, many apprently generated via a link on Matt Drudge’s Web site. Typical was this response from a reader in Brownsburg, Ind.: “This apology is as hollow and useless as Richard Clarke’s.”

But reactions were varied. A woman from Bend, Ore., observed that journalists should do more than apologize; they should join the Army and replace some of our soldiers in Iraq “because this really is a media war — and the President’s, of course.” Others said the media should make up for their lack of aggressiveness before the war by probing the true reasons for the war now.

Sandra Todd of Florence, Ore. offered unqualified praise for Mercier: “God bless this courageous man. It’s about time somebody told the truth about what the major media outlets have become in this country.” Another wrote: “In a sad, sad, sad, situation here in the U.S and in Iraq — well, it’s nice to hear a voice of reason. Thanks.”

Mark White of Saint Joseph, Mich., wrote, “I want to thank you for having the courage to present a different opinion. Too many of the available media resources are too willing to cut and paste White House press releases as news.”

But Carol Enloe of Gresham, Ore., wrote: “Tell Mercier to grow up. We don’t want apologies, we want truth. Journalists don’t know the truth anymore and we don’t trust them in anything they say either anymore. So, should I accept an apology? No, write the facts only. A few tears and an apology won’t do anything to me. We just get our information in other places now.”

Most of the letters were critical of Mercier for other reasons, however. The counter-arguments fell into several categories:

* How do we know for sure there are no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq?

* Is Mercier also sorry that Saddam Hussein is no longer terrorizing his own people?

* Apologizing on behalf of others is supremely arrogant.

* Mercier is probably part-French or a Democrat, so what do you expect?

A representative sampling:

Cornelius Geary, CEO, Geary Communications, Brookfield, Wis.: “Please tell Rick Mercier that the Kurds of Halabja might have a different opinion on whether or not Saddam had WMD. The point is we did not know what Saddam had, he was a sworn U.S. enemy who did not live up to his obligations under 17 U.N resolutions. Bottom line, Saddam was a threat, and post 9/11 he needed to be dealt with. End of story.”

Carter Swart of Crescent City, Calif.: “Another leftist journalist siding with the enemy. Ho hum.”

Wray R. Johnson, Professor of Strategic Studies, Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, Fredericksburg, Va.: “As a subscriber to the Free Lance-Star, I had to respond. Rick Mercier is being disingenuous. From the beginning Mercier has excoriated the president, the war on terrorism, and the war on Iraq. So what and who is he apologizing for? Certainly not those of us who found the press’s role in recent events to be just the opposite of what Mercier claims.”

Rodney White, Charlestown, W.Va.: “He’s sorry. He’s sorry that American and British soldiers ended a reign of terror? He’s sorry a source of WMDs is no more? Is he sorry the Bush administration might succeed in nation building, something the Clinton crowd never ever got right? You are damn right he is sorry. He is just the kind of sorry fool The New York Times and its ilk are looking for. I am so, so glad I do not work for the so-called popular press any more.”

Peter Price, San Diego: “The Gaul of Rick Mercier.”

R. F. Guardiani of Sewickley, Pa.: “If Rick Mercier is so sorry, why doesn’t he resign? Then he would prove he was really sorry and not just another Bush-hater who wants to grandstand.”

Jim Chandler of McKenzie, Tenn.: “Yeah, it’s a damned shame we didn’t leave Saddam alone, so he could still be running people through shredding machines and cutting out tongues. You will never get it.”

Robert Welcher, Cow Creek, Texas: “They should be apologizing for the 12 years of misinformation the media provided from Iraq after the first Gulf War. The people in the press have no shame, no guilt and no remorse. Most are cold-blooded opportunists with nothing worthwhile to say.”

But Richard T. Woulfe of Evansville, Wis., seemed to be calling for an end to the growing polarization in the media: “The reason one might apologize is to assume that the news has the power to be independent — with the skeleton staffing of the critical news staff as opposed to the entertainment component, one could argue that news will be political from now on. Sad day.”

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