THE BLOG
06/07/2006 06:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Unhinged Over Haditha, The Right Beats The Press

Lapdogs---RS-Fix.jpg Wingers have become unhinged over the alleged massacre and cover-up in Haditha. Or more specifically, they've become unhinged over the Haditha news coverage, which they insist has been laced with barely contained glee on the part of the press. But as usual with the press-hating conservatives, whose first concern is always the Bush White House and not the state of American journalism, don't actually point to any evidence to support their wild-eyed partisan critiques. Seems they can just sense reporters behaving badly.

Rush Limbaugh this week announced the press was "gleefully" reporting about Haditha, and was "ecstatic" about the blood-soaked tale. But he offered no examples to illustrate his allegation. Fox News analyst and right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin insisted she could see "puddles of drool in the offices of the L.A. Times and The New York Times" as they reported out the atrocities allegedly carried out by U.S. Marines. Malkin also demanded that there be "a ratcheting down of all the hyperventilation and treat this incident with the seriousness and sobriety that it deserves."

Malkin, as is her custom, cited no examples on Fox to back up her charges that journalists at major dailies were thrilled about the unfolding mass murder story. (There's a whole chapter in my new book about Malkin, detailing her often unusual relationship with facts.) She also offered no evidence to support the claim that the press was hyperventilating over the Haditha story, which, contrary to Malkin's claim, has been treated with "the seriously and sobriety that it deserves." Also on Fox, Bill O'Reilly claimed that the "left-wing press" and others were "rejoic[ing]" over Haditha...O'Reilly also cited no examples. Same with National Review's Rich Lowry, who wrote that the coverage to date telegraphed the press' "instinctive glee" over the failings in Haditha.

Where, readers and viewers were left to wonder, were the all the gleeful articles, quotes, headlines, and cable news talk shows about Haditha? Where was all the rampant, distasteful gleefulness hiding? Apparently it's been invisible to the naked eye, but detectable among pro-war, super sleuths like Limbaugh, Malkin, O'Reilly and Lowry, who have perfected the art of media criticism via mental telepathy. Frustrated conservatives can't actually point to any sort of demented press gloating, so instead they pretend to read the minds of journalists to determine that beneath the surface they love--love--reporting the fact that U.S. Marines may have lined up dozens of innocent Iraqis in Haditha, including women and children, and shot them execution-style.

Unable to document their allegations, which purposely perpetuate the right-wing myth about elitist, unpatriotic journalists, some conservatives have half-heartedly argued that the sheer volume of coverage was proof enough that the press was hysterical for all things Haditha. Take Lowry's claim that the press was "wallowing in Haditha" and that it will "be treated as the story of the century, or at least the biggest story since Abu Ghraib." (Senate Republicans on Tuesday stepped all over the wingers' talking points about too much attention being paid to Haditha when Republicans announced they needed to hold a series of hearings on the matter.)

Would it surprise anyone tha Lowry's common refrain--that the press has wildly over-covered Haditha as compared to other current events--doesn't stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny? For instance, a search of Lexis-Nexis shows that over the last week the New York Times has published approximately 22 articles and columns mentioning "Haditha," compared to more than 40 articles and columns that mention the GOP hot-button issue of "immigration." Same for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times; both devoted far more print space in the last week to the Republican-fueled immigration debate than they did to the alleged war crimes in Haditha.

On television, the imbalance was even more pronounced. Between Mary 23 and May 30, back when the White House was most aggressively pressing the issue of illegal immigration, CNN mentioned "immigration" and "immigrants" 463 times, according to TVEyes.com. Compare that to the last seven days when, according to conservatives, Haditha media mania was raging. How many times did CNN anchors, reporters and guests utter "Haditha" on the air? 263 times, or 200 fewer times that they mentioned "immigration" and "immigrants." The same was true at all-news MSNBC, where there were 220 fewer mentions of immigration than Haditha. Of course the disparity was more pronounced at Bush-friendly Fox News--614 mentions of "immigration" and "immigrants," compared to just 155 references to "Haditha."

NOTE: Fox News has made more on-air mentions to "gay marriage" this week than it has to "Haditha."