GOP Representative George Nethercutt recently went to Iraq; after he returned, he gave a speech to a group of college students which was reported on by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on October 14. The P-I titled its story “Nethercutt Hails Iraq’s Recovery,” with the subtitle “‘It is a…better story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.’” The key portion of the story read:
“‘The story of what we’ve done in the postwar period is remarkable,’ Nethercutt, R-Wash., told an audience of 65 at a noon meeting at the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.
“‘It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.’
“He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed.”
The story provoked widespread crititicism of Nethercutt on the ground that he sounded callous toward the deaths of American servicemen.
Nethercutt is now going on the offensive; claiming that the P-I quoted him incompletely and out of context, he demanded a correction. The P-I refused, so Nethercutt is now taking out ads in the P-I and the Seattle Times, which say that the P-I “deliberately distorted” his remarks to make him look bad. Here is the relevant portion of Nethercutt’s speech, in full:
“So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I’m just indicting the news people, but it’s, it’s a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which heaven forbid is awful.” I would agree with Nethercutt that the P-I’s “He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed” does not convey a good sense of his full remark. It is interesting, too, that while the P-I’s defense is that they can hardly be expected to quote Nethercutt’s speech in full, and their paraphrase was accurate, the “paraphrase” was longer than Nethercutt’s actual words. So why not just quote what he said?
This isn’t a particularly bad case of newspaper editing, in my view, but if anyone doubts that the P-I has an agenda here, this is how they wrap up their story on the controversy and Nethercutt’s ads:
“The tempest over Nethercutt’s remarks at the UW is similar to a media flap over comments made by Murray, and criticized by Nethercutt, in December. The senator told a Vancouver, Wash., high school class that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was popular in poor countries because he has helped pay for schools, roads and even day care centers.”
Got that? The controversy over Murray’s utterly misinformed praise of Osama bin Laden was a “media flap,” just like this one.
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