Reporter Apologizes for Iraq Coverage

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By: E&P Staff

In the wake of Richard Clarke’s dramatic personal apology to the families of 9/11 victims last week — on behalf of himself and his government — for failing to prevent the terrorist attacks, one might expect at least a few mea culpas related to the release of false information on the Iraq threat before and after the war.

While the major media, from The New York Times on down, has largely remained silent about their own failings in this area, a young columnist for a small paper in Fredericksburg, Va., has stepped forward.

“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,” Rick Mercier wrote, in a column published Sunday in The Free Lance-Star.

“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.

“Maybe we’ll do a better job next war.”

Mercier admitted that it was “absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.”

Mercier, an editor and writer at the newspaper who writes a column two or three times a month, told E&P that the column was sparked by what he saw as “a need for accountability and reflection” given the seriousness of the current conflict in Iraq and the failure to find WMDs there or a strong Saddam link to al Qaeda. He saw little of that soul-searching in the one-year anniversary coverage. “By neglecting to fully employ their critical-thinking faculties, the media not only failed their readers and viewers, they failed our democracy,” Mercier said.

Concluding his column, Mercier declared, “there’s no excusing that failure. The only thing that can be said is, Sorry.”

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