Pentagon Finally Gets New Press Spokesman — A Year After He Said U.S. TV Networks Were Aiding Terrorists

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By: E&P Staff

The U.S. Senate voted Friday to confirm a new Pentagon spokesman, months after President Bush bypassed the Senate to install him in the job after objections were raised about a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

Senators approved the nomination of Dorrance Smith, a former ABC News producer, to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. The vote was 59-34. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had held up the nomination because of an opinion article in which Smith accused U.S. television networks of helping terrorists through their partnerships with Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

The job of Pentagon spokesman had been unfilled since Victoria Clarke quit the post in June 2003. Bush used a recess appointment in January to put Smith in the job.

So what, exactly, did Smith write? And why did a Wall Street Journal editorial later declare, ?Contrary to Sen. Levin’s assertions, Mr. Smith’s op-ed is evidence of why he is qualified for the job??

In a column in the Wall Street Journal on April 25, 2005, Smith cited ?the ongoing relationship between terrorists, al-Jazeera and the networks?.Isn’t it time to scrutinize the relationship among al-Jazeera, American networks and the terrorists? What role should the U.S. government be playing?

?Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and al Qaeda have a partner in al-Jazeera and, by extension, most networks in the U.S. This partnership is a powerful tool for the terrorists in the war in Iraq. Figures show that 77% of Iraqis cite TV as their main source of information; 15% cite newspapers?.

?In addition to being subsidized by Qatar, Al-Jazeera has very strong partners in the U.S.–ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Video aired by Al-Jazeera ends up on these networks, sometimes within minutes.

?The arrangement between the U.S. networks and Al-Jazeera raises questions of journalistic ethics. Do the U.S. networks know the terms of the relationship that Al-Jazeera has with the terrorists? Do they want to know?

?There has been no in-depth reporting about Al-Jazeera in the U.S. and virtually no scrutiny of Qatar and its relationship with the network. Why not? Is it that the American networks don’t want to give up their tainted video? And since they all get the same material and all air it at the same time, do they feel a certain safety being in bed together??

Sen. Levin, in opposing Smith’s appointment, said the comments went too far for someone who had been picked to be the Pentagon’s chief liaison with the news media. “That you would characterize them as aiders and abettors of the terrorists that attack us,” he told reporters, “as far as I’m concerned that is so far over the top, it’s unacceptable.”

Smith was a top producer for ABC’s “Nightline” and “This Week.” When he left ABC in 1999, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post observed, “Smith, a friend of Linda Tripp from their days in the Bush White House, has told friends that he believes ABC management was displeased with some of the reporting he helped provide during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

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