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August 21, 2005
Unbalanced Coverage Of An Unbalanced Protest

Patterico gets an op-ed in today's LA Times, as part of their "Outside the Tent" series of external criticism. He focuses on the coverage provided by the LAT on the Sheehan protest in Crawford, a scolding that applies to more outlets than just California's largest daily:

The Times uncritically reported Sheehan's claim that the president had behaved callously in a June 2004 meeting with her and her husband, refusing to look at pictures of Casey or listen to stories about him. The Times claimed without qualification that Sheehan "came away from that meeting dissatisfied and angry."

But the article failed to mention that Sheehan had previously described Bush as sincere and sympathetic in the meeting. According to an interview with her hometown paper, the Vacaville Reporter, Sheehan had said that although she was upset about the war, she decided not to confront the president who clearly left a favorable impression: "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

Of that trip, Sheehan said: "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together." In the 11 articles and columns about Sheehan that The Times had run on its news pages as of Friday, there is no hint of her previous praise for the president. ...

Sheehan's changing accounts of her meeting with Bush are relevant to understanding the president's decision not to meet with her again. So are her descriptions of the president in a Dallas speech reported by leftist newsletter Counterpunch as a "lying bastard," a "maniac" and the leader of a "destructive neocon cabal." In an article for CommonDreams.org, she called that supposed cabal "the "biggest terrorist outfit in the world."

She also has turned her son's death into a tax protest, refusing to pay her income taxes for 2004, the year her son died, reportedly saying in the Dallas speech: "You killed my son, George Bush, and I don't owe you a penny." Sheehan's use of such inflammatory rhetoric sheds light on why Bush likely sees little upside in a public confrontation with her. But you would never know about these statements from reading The Times' news pages.

These problems do not just relate to the coverage granted by the LAT. Most of the coverage given by the Exempt Media has included little of the actual rhetoric spouted at Camp Casey and by her supporters. Even when the radical-leftist screeds get any mention, almost no mainstream newspaper reports that Sheehan has engaged in that rhetoric for months. In an appearance last May in San Francisco, Sheehan appeared with now-convicted lawyer Lynne Stewart -- who assisted a terrorist leader in prison in ordering his minions to attack civilian targets -- to spew unbalanced vitriol such as this:

We have no Constitution. Were the only country with no checks and balances. We want our country back if we have to impeach George Bush down to the person who picks up the dog sh-t in Washington! Let George Bush send his two little party animals to die in Iraq. Its OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but we are waging nuclear war in Iraq, we have contaminated the entire country. Its not OK for Syria to be in Lebanon. Hypocrites! But Israel can occupy Palestine? Stop the slaughter!

Had the Exempt Media covered these kinds of speeches from Sheehan, it would create the proper context for the understandable decision not to allow Cindy Sheehan to get anywhere near George Bush. Her demands for another meeting with Bush came after these appearances by Sheehan, and at least the White House did some Googling before making a decision about her credibility as an apolitical Gold Star mom just wanting some answers about why her son had to die in Iraq. It's too bad that the media hasn't done the same thing.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 21, 2005 8:49 AM

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