Thursday, December 09, 2004

Oh, those pesky reporters! Planting questions for Rummy! 

Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts worked with the soldiers who asked Rummy the famous question. Drudge (via the Poynter Institute) has his email. Here's the question, and Rummy's stammering response:

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]

SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
(Pentagon transcript)

Now, it turns out a reporter helped the soldier craft the question:

NEW YORK The editor/publisher of the Chattanooga [Tenn.] Times Free Press offered support late Thursday for his embedded reporter who has been criticized for working with a national guardsman to ask Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a controversial question during a visit to Kuwait.

Implying that the emperor has no clothes does tend to be controversial...

"I think he was doing what he felt he was embedded to do: tell the stories of the soldiers of this unit, " said Tom Griscom, editor and publisher of the paper. But he criticized his story about the incident, which did not mention the reporter's onnection to the soldier who ask the question.

The embed, Edward Lee Pitts, sought a response from Rumsfeld about why military units in Iraq are lacking proper armor for many vehicles. A lengthy email that he wrote to a fellow reporter ended up on several Web sites, including Romenesko, the Drudge Report and E & P Online, which Griscom lamented.

"He is there to write stories, not make news himself," Griscom said of Pitts

But since Rummy wouldn't take questions from reporters, the question otherwise might not have gotten asked. Is that what Griscom wants?

Griscom was communications director in the Reagan White House in 1987-1988.

He said Pitts' story on the incident, which ran Thursday, should have included an explanation of how the embed, barred from questioning Rumsfeld himself during an appearance in Kuwait Wednesday, convinced a Tennessee national guardsman to pose the question.
(via Editor and Publisher)

Aren't selective ethics strange? Rummy sends the troops off to war without armor. No ethics problem there. The soldier asks the question—and other soldiers cheer! Is there a problem there? I don't think so. What is the ethics problem? A reporter aggressively organizes a question...

Unbelievable? All too believable.Expect the winger frothing and stamping to begin...

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