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Thursday, February 27, 2003


For reasons inaccessible to me, Rod Dreher and Kathryn Jean Lopez are often allowed to pass as journalists. Today both registered expressions of outrage at NRO's Corner over CBS's alleged refusal to allow The Administration a response to the content of Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein. Dreher was the first to fume, expressing disbelief over "CBS' COJONES" while no doubt contemplating the inadequacy of his own. "According to our spy in the White House press corps," Dreher allowed, CBS "turned down a White House request to have a senior official on tonight to rebut Saddam" unless that official was POTUS himself. Lopez apparently bypassed copy edit to commit a post which, typical of her work, contributed precisely nothing to reasoned discourse: "...CBS us [sic] just showing it's [sic] loyalties. Iraqi government says 'No, Mr. Rather, you can not use your own crew. No, Mr. Rather, you can not air on Tuesday morning.' ETC. White House ASKS, 'How about a White House response now that you handed your network over to a tyrant?'

A few calls such as those completed by competent Guardian staffers would have revealed what actually happened:
Mr Fleischer said CBS had refused to give a right of reply unless it came from Mr Bush in person, an offer the administration spurned "in the name of not making a moral equivalence between a dictator and a democracy".

But the network denied the charge, saying it had only refused an offer to have Mr Fleischer appear intermittently throughout the broadcast to counter President Saddam's remarks. That "wasn't appropriate for the form of our broadcast, but [the producer] said in an offhand way, 'We'd be happy to have President Bush on,'" said Sandy Genelius, a CBS spokeswoman.

"I think there was a misinterpretation. So we went back and said, 'Look, how about a senior administration official - the president, the vice-president, or secretary of state Powell?' And they came back and declined that."

But the White House was interested in "equal time", Mr Fleischer said - "in the same interview and the same time".

Ms Genelius said: "The issue of equal time ... is a little curious, because the truth is that the American people see the president and his administration virtually every day. We report the White House position on key issues virtually every day."
Of course the practice serious journalism is seldom as exhilarating as mounting your hobby horse and heading out for a ride on moral high grounds, perhaps accounting for Dreher and Lopez's obvious preference for the latter over the former.

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