Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can't Let Go: Fox Reporter Insists Error-Laden Smear Of Reporters In Libya Was Right

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

You would think that after being publicly castigated by CNN reporter Nic Robertston for falsely reporting that Libyan officials had used CNN and Reuters reporters as "human shields" who stymied a planned British air attack on Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, the folks at Fox would at least do what they usually do when called out for their lies -- just ignore it and hope it will go away (which it usually does).

But no. Jennifer Griffin -- having stirred up the mess earlier yesterday in her initial report -- went back on the air last night to repeat the allegations to Greta Van Susteren.

A little while later, though, she came back and admitted that she had misled Fox's viewers -- but only about the presence of Fox reporters:
GRIFFIN: Earlier today I reported that Fox News had not gone to Gaddafi’s compound while journalists from other news outlets such as CNN and Reuters had, in fact, gone.

I’ve since learned that FOX did indeed go. Tonight I learned that although reporter Steve Harrigan opted not to go and instead remained back at his hotel - he wanted to stay on the air, I’m told, to provide full coverage of what was going on in Libya. He did, in fact, send a security guard with a camera to Gaddafi’s compound with the journalists from the other news outlets. I did not know about that earlier today. I became aware of that this evening. That was my mistake and I apologize for the error.
Ah, but that wasn't enough. Griffin again doubled down on her claim that these reporters had been used as "human shields":
GRIFFIN: But what is being lost in this discussion is that the Libyan government is using journalists as human shields. There is frustration among military officials that those journalists are being – are going to those sites and have prevented air strikes such as the one that was called off by the British earlier today.
There are, of course, all kinds of problems with this charge -- the foremost being that Libyan officials could not have known that the airstrikes were being planned for the brief period the journalists were there. It would have been impossible for them to have knowingly timed the visit in order to use the reporters as shields and stymie the attack.

As the CNN report on the matter explains:
The incident involved a trip Sunday night arranged by Libyan authorities to the Gadhafi compound that had been bombed earlier by coalition forces.

Robertson said the 40 or so journalists on the bus weren't told ahead of time where they were going, and that there was no attempt by the Libyan minders to restrict anyone from getting on or off the bus before they left.

Upon arrival, the journalists spent about 20 minutes at the damaged building and then were hurried to a tent where they waited with Gadhafi supporters for him to appear, Robertson said. Gadhafi never showed up, and the journalists went back to their bus and departed, according to Robertson.

A government official even pushed him onto the bus as he tried to broadcast a live shot at the end, Robertson said.

"If they wanted to use us as human shields ... they would have kept us there longer," Robertson said. "That's not what happened."
Ellen at NewsHounds observes:
Surely, no matter how big a dent the reporters put in the British plans to strike the compound, this was not the only window of opportunity to do so. Griffin did not address that point, nor did she comment on why, if Fox News had been concerned about being used as a human shield, as she had previously reported, it had sent someone - a non-reporter, no less - to the compound anyway.
Griffin has been getting more airtime on military and national-security stories ever since Catherine Herridge -- far and away Fox's best on-air reporter, and perhaps the sole real journalist at the network -- got crossways with Fox executives over gender discrimination. It's obvious she lacks Herridge's experience and savvy -- especially the ability to tell when she's being manipulated by a lazy Fox colleague and an anonymous military official.

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