Couric visits Today to make notable admission: press didn't do job before Iraq War
As expected, ex-Today show anchor Katie Couric took time from fronting CBS's floundering evening newscast to visit her former workplace, flanked by competitors Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson to announce a special one-hour fundraiser for cancer research on ABC, CBS and NBC.
What was unexpected: Couric agreed with charges in former White House spokesman Scott McClellan's controversial new book asserting that the press didn't do its job in the run up to the war in Iraq, failing to ask the kind of incisive questions which might have defused the Bush administration's drive toward the conflict.
"I think he's fairly accurate," said Couric this morning. "I do think we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions. There was a lot of pressure from the Bush White House...They said, well, if you keep it up, we're going to block access to you during the war. Those kind of strong arm tactics were really inappropriate....I think there was insidious pressure that I do think affected some of the coverage from some of the media outlets...I just think they weren't aggressive enough."
Williams, looking a little like a youngster at Thanksgiving dinner who just got moved up from the kids table, countered that, unlike Katrina, the evidence of Iraq's lack of weapons was not right in journalists' faces because they couldn't get to weapons inspectors. Besides the disappointing notion that evidence must literally be floating by a reporter's face before they will act on it, Williams seems to conveniently forget that U.N. weapons inspectors were regularly pleading publicly against war in Iraq so they could complete their work. Here's a CBS News story from before the war on U.N. inspctors' doubts about U.S. claims regarding Iraq's weapons.
By the time Gibson came on to insist in reassuring, avuncular fashion that all the right questions did get asked back then, a slow sense of horror crept over me as I realized these are the highest-paid journalists in the news business. And they aren't even discussing the most important element of McClellan's criticisms and others: What if you ask the right questions, but get back intentionally misleading answers?
Journalism, as we all know, is about more than asking the right question; It's making sure you get truthful answers.
At least Katie had the guts to speak plainly on the issue. Watch the exchange here....