Earlier this week, Fox News reported that the Qaddafi regime used foreign journalists, including teams from CNN and Reuters, as a “human shield” to thwart an attack on Qaddafi’s compound last night.
The compound had already been hit by allied missiles, but in its exclusive report — which is FoxNews.com’s most read and commented story — Fox alleges that “British sources” told them that allied forces were planning a second attack, which was called off due to the journalists’ presence.
But on the Situation Room tonight, a visibly frustrated CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who was on the CNN team that visited the compound, called the report untruthful and “outrageous.”
Moreover, Robertson acccused Fox of “lies and deceit” for claiming none of their staffers went on the same trip when one in fact did:
WOLF BLITZER: I want you to explain what you know about this suggestion Fox news reporting that you, a Reuters crew, some other journalists were effectively used by Qaddafi as a human shield to prevent allied fighter planes from coming in and attacking a certain position. Explain what you know about this.
ROBERTSON:Wolf, this allegation is outrageous and it’s absolutely hypocritical. When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don’t expect it from the other journalists. […]
They sent a member of their team. He was not editorial. He was nontechnical, not normally a cameraman. […]
I see [Fox‘s corespondent] more times at breakfast than out on trips with government officials here. So for them to say and call this — to say they didn’t go and for them to call this and say this was government propaganda to hold us there as human shields when they didn’t even leave the hotel, it’s ridiculous.
Robertson also essentially called Fox’s team in Libya lazy and uninformed, saying they rarely leave the hotel to do reporting out of cowardice. He said his colleagues from other networks have the “same regard for Fox“.
The always entertaining Jon Stewart sized the whole incident up best with:
“Kudos to Fox for so quickly putting the crisis into service of their real mission, patriotic self-promotion. Only they can turn, ‘our guy missed the shuttle bus’ into, ‘Fox News alone refuses to play patsy to America’s enemies.’“
One would think that after being publicly castigated by Robertson, Stewart and others for falsely reporting that Libyan officials had used CNN and Reuters reporters as “human shields” to stymie 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 noooooooooo. Jennifer Griffin — having stirred up the mess earlier in her initial report — went back on the air to repeat the false allegations to Greta Van Susteren.
A little while later, though, she came back and finally 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.
You get that? She essentially said “I did lie, but only about this one little thing. One little thing that shows we have a complete coward serving as a military reporter in Libya right now mind you…but it was still only that one thing”.
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 possibly known that the airstrikes were being planned for the brief period the journalists were there.
It would have been impressive as hell for them to have knowingly timed the visit in order to use the reporters as shields and stymie the attack, but they simply didn’t have the requisite intelligence or logistics expertise to make it happen.
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.”
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.
That last part is the best part. It screams, “well, we didn’t want to be shut out of any possible story, but the hell if we were going to send one of our precious on-air talents in so we went with the expendable security guard turned cameraman.”
Lately 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 into hot water with Fox executives over her complaints of gender discrimination.
It’s obvious she lacks Herridge’s experience and savvy — especially the ability to tell when she’s being manipulated by either a lazy Fox colleague and an anonymous military official.
In the end, it doesn’t exactly reflect well on “Fixed News”. Cowardice, laziness, misinformation and gullibility aren’t exactly the cornerstones of great journalism and they were all on display in this one.