Wednesday, May 18, 2005
( 2:07 PM )
The White House doesn't much care for press at all, much less a free one. And the mainstream media has conveniently forgotten its professional duty to actually report facts and investigate those who have power over us. The "Fourth Estate" has lost all its sense of duty or purpose. After this ridiculous Newsweek thing, Scott McClellan, spokesman for a president who proudly admits he doesn't read the news and doesn't care, thinks that to make up for doing nothing wrong in the first place, Newsweek should now become the next Armstrong Williams and do the White House's bidding.
Q Scott, you said that the retraction by Newsweek magazine of its story is a good first step. What else does the President want this American magazine to do?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's what I talked about yesterday. This report, which Newsweek has now retracted and said was wrong, has had serious consequences. People did lose their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged; there is lasting damage to our image because of this report. And we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region.
And I think Newsweek can do that by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran. The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled -- or is handled with the utmost care and respect. And I think it would help to point that out, because some have taken this report -- those that are opposed to the United States -- some have taken this report and exploited it and used it to incite violence.
Q With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help --
Q You're pressuring them.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that we would encourage them --
Q It's not pressure?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that's all I'm saying. But, no, you're absolutely right, it's not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report.
Q Let me follow up on that. What -- you said that -- what specifically are you asking Newsweek to do? I mean, to follow up on Terry's question, are you saying they should write a story? Are you going that far? How else can Newsweek, you know, satisfy you here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, we would encourage them to continue working diligently to help repair the damage that has been done because of this --
Q Are you asking them to write a story?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- because of this report. I think Newsweek is going to be in the best position to determine how to achieve that. And there are ways that I pointed out that they can help repair the damage. One way is to point out what the policies and practices of our United States military are. Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care --
Q Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth, let me finish my sentence. Our military --
Q You've already said what you're -- I know what -- how it ends.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm coming to your question, and you're not letting me have a chance to respond. But our military goes out of their way to handle the Koran with care and respect. There are policies and practices that are in place. This report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent and -- incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America. It has had serious consequences. And so that's all I'm saying, is that we would encourage them to take steps to help repair the damage. And I think that they recognize the importance of doing that. That's all I'm saying.
Q As far as the Newsweek article is concerned, first, how and where the story came from? And do you think somebody can investigate if it really happened at the base, and who told Newsweek? Because somebody wrote a story.
Q In context of the Newsweek situation, I think we hear the caution you're giving us about reporting things based on a single anonymous source. What, then, are we supposed to do with information that this White House gives us under the conditions that it comes from a single anonymous source?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure what exactly you're referring to.
Q Frequent briefings by senior administration officials in which the ground rules are we can only identify them as a single anonymous source.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I know that there is an issue when it comes to the media in terms of the use of anonymous sources, but the issue is not related to background briefings. But I do believe that we should work to move away from those kind of background briefings. I've been working with the bureau chiefs on that very issue. And I think we have taken some steps, and I think you have noticed that.
But there is a credibility problem in the media regarding the use of anonymous sources, but it's because of fabricated stories, and it's because of situations like this one over the weekend. It's not because of the background briefings that you may be referring to.
Q What prevents this administration from just saying from this point forward, you will identify who it is that's talking to us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of background briefings, if that's what you're asking about, which I assume it is, let me point out that what I'm talking about there are officials who are helping to provide context to on-the-record comments made by people like the President or the Secretary of State or others. I don't think that that is the issue here when it comes to the use or widespread use of anonymous sources by the media. I think it's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish -- I think it's a much larger issue. And as I said, one of the concerns is that some media organizations have used anonymous sources that are hiding behind that anonymity in order to generate negative attacks.
Q But to our readers, viewers and listeners, I think it's all the same.
MR. McCLELLAN: And then you have a situation -- you have a situation where we found out later that quotes were attributed to people that they didn't make. Or you have a situation where you now learn that a single source was used for verifying this allegation -- and that source, himself, said he could not personally verify the accuracy of the report. And I think that that's -- you know, that's one of the issue that concerns the American people when they look at the media, and I think sometimes the media does have difficulty going back and kind of critiquing itself. And sometimes it's convenient for the media to point to others or to point to something other than internally. I think it's an issue that they need to work to address internally, and we'll work to address from our standpoint, as well. And those bureau chiefs that I met with have indicated that it is a problem that they're working to address internally, as well.
So I think we need to talk about the larger issue here when we talk about it.
Q With all due respect, though, it sounds like you're saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else's aren't.
Not only should Newsweek print a story that the White House writes for it, but all reporters who use anonymous sources shouldn't do that anymore, unless it's a White House anonymous source.
So much for Deep Throat. Guess Woodward and Bernstein made a sham of reporting with that crackpot stuff they wrote.