As the talk of possible chemical weapons use in Syria heats up, reporters from the McClatchy group of newspapers have been noticeably more skeptical than many of their peers—just as they were in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the left-wing media watchdog, compiled a list on Monday of what it said were hawkish or uncritical news stories about the weapons. It cited multiple television and print outlets, such as CBS News and USA Today, that used words like "confirmed" to describe the White House's findings, even as less-hyped portions of the articles or segments said that there had been no confirmation.
McClatchy, which gained fame for its questioning—and, ultimately, correct—reporting about Iraq's weapons in 2002 and 2003, went in the other direction, publishing a series of pieces which ran counter to the hardening narrative. The stories came less than a month after McClatchy's Syria bureau chief was abducted inside the country.
In a piece on Monday, reporters Hannah Allam, Matthew Schofield and Jonathan Landay flatly said that the case for chemical weapons use has not been proven:
Despite rising calls for some kind of increased U.S. military involvement in Syria, scant evidence exists, at least in public, that Syria’s vicious civil war has breached President Barack Obama’s “red line” on the use of chemical weapons.
In the 10 days since the Obama administration notified Congress that it suspected, with “varying degrees of confidence,” that chemical weapons had been employed in Syria, no concrete proof has emerged, and some headline-grabbing claims have been discredited or contested. Officials worldwide now admit that no allegations rise to the level of certainty.
Yet political rhetoric on Syria has overtaken actual evidence in a high-stakes Washington debate that’s increasing pressure on Obama to lend more military support to the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Compare that to a recent New York Times story, which began:
The White House insisted on Monday that it would not be thrown off its cautious approach to Syria, despite Israeli military strikes near Damascus and new questions about the use of chemical weapons in the civil war there.