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January 21, 2005
ABC Gets Its Pound Of Corpse For Inauguration Coverage

Two days ago I posted about ABC's effort to find a military funeral taking place on Inauguration Day for a casualty from Iraq, presumably to "balance" the coverage of George Bush and his speech. Their web site invited anyone who knew of such a funeral to send the information to ABC News -- they even provided a web form for submission (and Doc Weasel has it better here) -- so that they could exploit the death in order to somehow shame Bush on his inauguration.

After Power Line and I wrote about this and the blogosphere erupted into protest, the page quickly disappeared -- and we presumed that wiser heads at ABC News had prevailed. Unfortunately, it appears that we overestimated ABC's capacity for shame and embarrassment. Several CQ readers have written to me this morning (and The Corner also reports this) telling me that at the 6:12 break, World News Tonight ran a brief report of a military funeral for Matthew Holloway, a 20-year-old soldier killed by an IED in Iraq:

"In Rockport, Texas today, just about the time the President was speaking, there was a funeral for a young Marine reservist: 21-year-old Matthew Holloway was killed in Iraq last week by a roadside bomb."

Just about the time the President was speaking. Of course, that's exactly what they wanted to do from the start -- to tie Bush to the funeral of the young soldier in order to attack Bush passive-aggressively. It's exploitation of the worst order, and more to the point, a cowardly act. Did ABC ever run a funeral of a soldier killed in Bosnia or Somalia during a Clinton event, let alone an inauguration? Moreover, did ABC ever pursue such an angle like this with web pleas to its viewers?

No. ABC reserves that revolting kind of hearse-chasing journalism for Republican administrations. It recalls the infamous Halperin Memo, the instruction from ABC News director Mark Halperin to his staff to focus their investigative energies on George Bush and not John Kerry:

Halperin Memo Dated Friday October 8, 2004:

It goes without saying that the stakes are getting very high for the country and the campaigns - and our responsibilities become quite grave

I do not want to set off and [sic] endless colloquy that none of us have time for today - nor do I want to stifle one. Please respond if you feel you can advance the discussion.

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.

We can argue endlessly about which campaign distorted more, and never reach agreement. I think, however, we can all agree that it isn't ABC's job to make that decision and bend over backwards for their preferred candidate in an attempt to "balance" an election. Even more, the network has no business balancing an inauguration. ABC has decided to go full tilt down the same path as CBS in allowing its political biases to determine the content of its news programs. Those who continue to watch ABC should make their objections known at the highest levels of the network and Disney, its parent corporation.

UPDATE: Just in case, I checked the World News Tonight home page, and they don't even mention the funeral. Do you suppose they want to avoid more blogosphere criticism? If so, they've miscalculated. For more thoughts, be sure to check out LaShawn Barber and all of the trackbacks.

UPDATE: Despite what the trackbacked blog for this says, we did suffer military casualties in Bosnia -- and Bosnia isn't Kosovo. Here's one who got killed by a land mine in December 1995, for example -- Spc. Martin John Begosh.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 21, 2005 12:02 PM

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