AP Calls Criticism of Pulitzer Win for Photos 'Deeply Offensive'

By: Greg Mitchell As always, not everyone in the press and on the Web agrees with the selection of Pulitzer Prize winners, announced earlier this week. But what?s relatively rare is that criticism surrounding one choice this year has a partisan edge.

The Pulitzer Board anointed 11 Associated Press photographers as winners in the category of breaking-news photography. The award-winning photos were from war-torn Iraq -- and some in conservative circles claim the images were, on the whole, overly helpful to the insurgent cause. At least one of the photos raised an uproar from the same quarters when it was first published late last year.

According to a count by The Jawa Report site, ?11 of the 20 photos would likely cause anti-American inflammation. Only two show Americans in a positive light.? By a count on another blog, called Riding Sun, three photos reveal U.S. troops ?looking overwhelmed or uncertain,? two showed ?Iraqis celebrating attacks on U.S. forces,? and zero featured U.S. forces ?looking heroic.?

Columnist Michelle Malkin and the popular Powerline blog, meanwhile, returned to the controversy over the widely published AP photo of terrorists executing Iraqi election workers in Baghdad. Malkin asked on Tuesday if the Pulitzer judges were ?ignorant of the controversy.? Powerline called the award a "Pulitzer Prize for felony murder." Last December it had charged that ?the terrorists wanted to be photographed carrying out the murder, to sow more terror in Iraq and to demoralize American voters. That?s why they tipped off the photographer, and that?s why they dragged the two election workers from their car, so they could be shot in front of the AP?s obliging camera.?

The ?tipped off? refers to the AP revealing that the photographer had been notified that a car bombing had occurred in the area where the attack on the election workers eventually took place. Contrary to the Powerline assertion, however, there is no evidence that the photographer knew anything about the attack in advance or, indeed, that the killers knew a photographer was poised and ready to snap that image. According to AP, he was standing about 50 meters away. [Note: Due to a misunderstanding, an earlier version of this story said that AP described the photographer standing 300 meters away.] Salon.com quoted an unnamed AP source calling this charge of pre-arrangement ?ridiculous.?

Today, Kathleen Carroll, the AP's executive editor, told E&P: "The allegations on these Web sites are complete baloney and deeply offensive."

As for possible political bias of the Pulitzer judges: They hailed from a hardly liberal group of papers (The Washington Times, The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y.) plus the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

And a leading conservative Web site, Lucianne.com, today featured at the top of its site one of the winning AP photos -- showing a group of U.S. soldiers paying tribute to a fallen comrade.

Mounting the strongest defense of the AP win so far is the Philadelphia Daily News' blog, Attytood. A photog for the paper, Jim MacMillan, was among the Pulitzer honorees.

The blogger with Attytood is Will Bunch, senior writer for the paper and its former political writer. He was a member of the Newsday news team that won a Pulitzer in 1992.

Today, referring to the war photographers in general, Bunch wrote: ?These are people of remarkable bravery -- dodging bullets and crawling through slime on a regular basis for nothing more than the public's ability to see war as it really is fought.

?The AP's crime? In so many words, they are guilty of showing the conflict in Iraq the way that it is, and not the way that the conservative blogosphere wishes that it were. The right wants those pictures of rose petals and liberation parades that Dick Cheney promised them three years ago, and now they're mad they didn't get them.

?If reality bites, don't blame them.?

One of the prize-winning photos, he points out, was taken by an Iraqi, Khalid Mohammed -- the now famous shot of the charred bodies of four American contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah. He was threatened right after shooting the picture and had to flee.

Was he pro-insurgent? Not likely. The photographer?s brother had been pulled out of high school and executed by the Saddam regime in 1982 for refusing to join the Baath Party, and Mohammed was arrested soon after and held several months.

Bunch observed that the Daily News? MacMillan, talking to his paper this week, called the war ?tragic and horrible. It's a full-blown insurgent war. I was stunned that there is so little coverage of it. People are dying every day. ... I never imagined how much we have it made at home, how easy and safe and free."

Bunch closed with this comment: ?That's right, Jim. Easy and safe and free -- free to sit at a computer and try to smear the courageous Americans -- and Iraqis -- who are getting shot at while they bring our cherished First Amendment back home.?


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