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Couric 'Uncomfortable' with Post-9/11 Patriotic Fervor

By Media Research Center
September 28, 2007

The wearing of flag lapel pins and saying "we" when referring to the United States in the days after 9/11 made Katie Couric "uncomfortable," she revealed at a Tuesday forum in which she also fretted that "corporate America owning a lot of media outlets" dissuaded questioning of "this inevitable march toward war." She claimed that "anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic." On Iraq, she declared: "People in this country were misled in terms of the rationale for war." Couric's politically-charged comments came during a "Kalb Report" interview conducted at the National Press Club that aired Wednesday night on C-SPAN2.

     The Kalb of the "Kalb Report" is Marvin Kalb, a former CBS News and NBC News correspondent now working at Harvard University. His "Kalb Report" is produced in conjunction with George Washington University. GWU's page for it: www.kalb.gwu.edu

     Some of these quotes may be familiar to CyberAlert e-mail subscribers since a September 26 MRC Appearance Alert included an excerpt from a Washington Examiner article about Couric's comments. For "Couric weighs in on Iraq, Rather," by Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin, go to: www.examiner.com

     For video of MRC President Brent Bozell's appearance on Wednesday's Hannity & Colmes about Couric's comments: newsbusters.org

     For video of MRC Director of News Analysis Tim Graham's appearance on FNC's Your World with Neil Cavuto on Wednesday: newsbusters.org

     The MRC's Brad Wilmouth now, however, has reviewed the video aired by C-SPAN2 and provided a lengthier transcript, including some phrases left out of the key quotes in the September 26 Washington Examiner story, of Couric's September 25 observations:

     KATIE COURIC: Right now, there's so much emphasis, as I said, on whether or not it was a wise decision in the first place. I think certainly people who covered that fell down on the job in terms of getting the right information and kind of rolled over in terms of U.S. policy and really didn't do their due diligence on that, in that period of time....
     I've talked about this a lot with people in the business and thought about it a lot because I remember at the time the buildup was happening, I felt really uncomfortable with the whole atmosphere of the country. I think, you know, sometimes we forget that people in the press are, you know, the press is made up of human beings who experience the same raw emotions, believe it or not, not automatons, and, looking back on it, of course everyone, everyone in the United States was reeling from September 11th. And I think there was a lot of fear in our culture. I think, on some level, we were looking for some kind of patriarchal hero to help us and protect us. And I think we failed to ask really important questions.
     And, you know, the whole culture of wearing flags on your lapel and saying "we" when you were referring to the United States, which, and, and, you know, even the "shock and awe" in the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling when I was anchoring the Today show this inevitable march toward war and kind of feeling like "Will anybody put the brakes on this?" and "Has this been properly challenged by the right people?" And I think at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic, and it was a very difficult position to be in, and corporate America owning a lot of media outlets, there's a lot of pressure, and I remember getting an email from one of my bosses when I had asked a challenging question of Condoleezza Rice. And he sent, forwarded an angry email from a woman in Atlanta who was an office manager at a law firm saying I was unnecessarily confrontational and antagonistic. And, quite frankly, I thought I was firm but polite. And he forwarded the email to me with no explanation, which I thought was a fairly insidious way of saying "Back off" to me in terms of questioning the administration....

     MARVIN KALB: Lately I've been hearing that the military is again beginning to finger the media as the culprit in this war. And I'm presenting as evidence, but just one very small bit of evidence, the statement by Major General Rick Lynch, who's one of our top people in Iraq, and he said this war is "winnable," his word, if only the media cooperates properly. What's in his mind?
     COURIC: Well, I think that is the oldest trick in the book, of course, to blame the media. I mean, that's, you know, Marvin, that's been happening forever, and I think that that's a sign of probably his desperation-
     KALB: His only?
     COURIC: Well, probably maybe the other members of the military, as well, feeling desperate. You know, I think that, you know, it's hard to say, I think it's very difficult to get a complete picture of the situation in Iraq. For security reasons, many reporters don't even leave the Green Zone, and it's not as if you can walk around knocking on doors. We did speak to an Iraqi family while I was there in central Baghdad about sort of what their quality of life was like on a daily basis....So, you know, it is very, very difficult to get the full picture, and you talk to as many experts as you can and get as many opinions as you can. But I know in preparation for this trip I talked to many people from different think tanks, and, you know, there's a different point-of-view from almost everyone with whom you speak....

     COURIC: I think it's accepted far and wide that this war was probably, that this might not have been on the President's, top of his agenda, and that people have questioned, you know, what was really behind this. And I think there, it's been very well documented-
     KALB: I'm not sure I understood that very last sentence. What did you mean by that?
     COURIC: Well, that the war might have been a mistake, you know? I think that's pretty much accepted.
     KALB: Do you have a personal opinion about that?
     COURIC: I don't, I've never quite understood why it was so high on the administration's agenda when terrorism was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that it had no true connection with al-Qaeda. Now, there was talk of that early on, and still many people in this country believe there is a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and I think obviously, I think everyone in this room would agree that people in this country were misled in terms of the rationale for war. I think that's clear.
     KALB: Did you just said that there is a connection-
     COURIC: There is not-
     KALB: There is not?
     COURIC: -a connection between Iraq and September 11th. Ironically, there is now -- between Iraq and al-Qaeda, which is interesting, I guess. But, and I think that the mistakes that were made, disbanding the Iraqi military and leaving 100,000 Sunni men feeling marginalized and angry was questionable [audio gap] there were enough boots on the ground, the feeling that we would be welcomed as liberators and didn't need to focus as much on maintaining security. I mean, I think those things are accepted truths. And I feel totally comfortable saying any of that at some point, you know, if required, on television, but I think everybody is sort of operating from that context.

     The September 4 CyberAlert has a list of Couric's worst bias from the past year, including on Iraq: www.mrc.org

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