Do we all remember the Dan Rather interview of Saddam Hussein in February of 2003, watching and listening as Mr. Rather tossed softball questions to the "Butcher of Baghdad?"
Tim Graham of Media Research Center wrote in Dan Rather's Soft Serve on National Review Online, Dan Rather's big interview with Saddam Hussein Wednesday night was not an exercise in social responsibility. It was a commercial opportunity, no more dignified than Martin Bashir exploiting Michael Jackson. It didn't put the American people first. It put Dan Rather first. On last night's shows alone, Rather was softer than ABC's Barbara Walters was with Robert Blake and CBS's Troy Roberts was with "preppy killer" Robert Chambers. Rather called him "President Hussein" and "Mr. President," and sat cooperatively as he declared that he had won 100 percent of the last election. "100 percent," Rather repeated, with a tone that sounded like "you don't say."
CBS's "retired" Mike Wallace recently interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the show "60 Minutes" but served up more CBS "soft serve" and failed to ask some important and pressing questions.
Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal (subscription) points out Mr. Wallace's failure to ask Mr. Ahmadinejad important follow up questions to his quote: "The time of the bomb is in the past. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue and cultural exchanges." (August 13, 2006)
Q: A follow-up to that, Mr. President: Are you aware of a man named Mansour Ossanloo? He is the leader of the independent trade union representing the workers of the Vahed Bus Company in Tehran. A year ago, your security forces raided one of their meetings and cut out a piece of Mr. Ossanloo's tongue. Now he speaks with a lisp. Is this how "dialogue" is conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Q: Let's talk a bit about your government's relationship to Iranian political dissidents. A few weeks ago, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a member of the Guardian Council who is reportedly close to your boss, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned in his Friday sermon that Iran will execute en masse all dissidents if the U.N. Security Council votes to sanction Iran for your refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The sermon was broadcast on Iranian state radio. Does Ayatollah Jannati speak for you, Mr. President?
Q: Please be specific about the fate of one man: Ahmad Batebi. Mr. Batebi became the face of Iranian dissent when he appeared on the cover of the Economist during the brutally suppressed Tehran University student uprisings in July 1999. After serving six years of a 15-year sentence, Mr. Batebi was furloughed last year and rearrested on July 29; his whereabouts are unknown, which is of special concern because your government recently tortured to death student leader Akbar Mohammadi (http://www.iranpressnews.com
). Can you tell us where Mr. Batebi is and give us assurances for his safety?
Q: More on thoughts, dialogue and cultural exchanges, Mr. President. You are possibly the first head of government to write your own blog: www.ahmadinejad.ir. Yet your government has shut down hundreds of Web sites and Web logs, including the BBC's Farsi service, and harassed the lawyers who represent them. An Iranian blogger who goes by the name Iron Shadow accuses you of "pursuing policies that are reminiscent of some of the darkest days of the Islamic Republic."
Your government also recently arrested and tortured blogger Abed Tavancheh, 23, who reportedly sustained permanent damage to his kidneys. Is this just your idea of beating the competition?
Q: Turn to the past. Kevin Hermening, a Marine sergeant at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis, tells this newspaper that you interrogated him personally on Nov. 4, 1979, while brandishing a pistol. For the record, he remembers you as a "very mean SOB" and described a sense of "déjà vu" while watching your performance on "60 Minutes." The U.S. State Department also believes that you were one of a group of five who planned the embassy takeover. Do you deny these charges?
Q: Numerous Iranian sources allege that in the 1980s you worked as an interrogator and executioner in Evin Prison in Tehran. They say you earned the nickname Tir Khalas Zan, or "The Terminator," for your methods there. You are also suspected of involvement in the assassination of Abdurrahman Qassemlou, a leader of Iran's Kurdish minority, in Vienna in 1989. Do you deny these charges, too?
Q: An American federal grand jury has indicted Ahmed Ibrahim al-Mughassil and Abdel Hussein Mohamed al-Nasser as two of the ringleaders in the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in which 19 U.S. servicemen were killed. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh believes the two are "living comfortably in Iran." Will you hand over for trial the two to the U.S. or some other international authority, as Moammar Gadhafi did with the planners of the Lockerbie bombing?
Q: You are known to be a religious disciple of Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. Among the Ayatollah's teachings is the view that slavery is justified. Do you agree with your mentor?
Q: Your views about Israel are categorical and well known; your views about whether the Holocaust took place have been ambiguous at best. How about the Jews? Do you agree with the December 2004 statement of Iranian academic Heshmatollah Qanbari on Iranian TV, as quoted by Memri, that "all corrupt traits in humanity originated in this group [i.e., the Jews]"?
Q: Another of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi's disciples, Mohsen Ghorouian, has said it is "only natural" for Iran to have nuclear weapons as a "countermeasure" to the U.S. and Israel. And one of your regime's hardliners, Hojjat-ol-Islam Baqer Kharraz, was recently quoted as saying that "we are able to produce atomic bombs and we will do that." Do you disavow these statements, given your repeated insistence that Iran's nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes only?
Q: In your May letter to President Bush, you ask whether the attacks of Sept. 11 could have been "planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services." Is it your belief that those attacks were orchestrated by the CIA, the Mossad or another Western intelligence service?
Q: In the same letter, you discuss the "shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the Liberal democratic systems." Is this a historical inevitability, and do you intend to hasten that fall?
Q: The scholar Bernard Lewis recently made note of your repeated references to the 27th day of Rajab in the Islamic year of 1427. That date corresponds to Aug. 22 -- a week from today. Anything special planned for the occasion? Or is it a surprise?
Should we forget the disgraced Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his reporting of the Vietnam War. Arnett went down in flames for "false" reporting from Iraq in 2003?
On assignment for NBC and National Geographic, Arnett went to Iraq in 2003 to cover the U.S. invasion. After a press meeting there he granted an interview to state-run Iraq TV on March 31, 2003, in which he stated, "Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war against Iraq, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan. The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan… So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments."
When Arnett's remarks sparked a "firestorm of protest", NBC initially defended him, saying he had given the interview as a professional courtesy and that his remarks were "analytical in nature". A day later, though, NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic all severed their relationships with Arnett.
On January 25, 1991 the White House claimed that Arnett was being used as a tool for Iraqi disinformation and CNN received a letter from 34 Members of Congress accusing Arnett of "unpatriotic journalism".
Reporting the news accurately and asking the "hard" questions is what a qualified journalist really is expected to do. Accepting interviews with conditions of not asking tough questions and exploring for the truth is not journalism but a free chance at personal acknowledgement.
Using false documents and making judgements cost Dan Rather his career and false reporting erased any credibility Peter Arnett had established over many years. Mike Wallace would have been better suited to stay retired instead of placing today's most pronounced dictator on a pedestal and going away without any attempt to get answers the world deserves.
In the end these reporters become pawns and surrogates of the propaganda machines, dictatorships and government run media.Bret