Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Letter to the PBS NewsHour concerning George Galloway

I don't know how many of my American readers caught the NewsHour segment that covered George Galloway's testimony last week, but I've been rather in a stew over it ever since. Finally I dropped them a note.
Dear Sirs or Madams:

I realize that you are under a great deal of pressure to confer a right-wing perspective on everything you report, and I also realize that covering a figure such as George Galloway must have made that very difficult. Overall, however, I'd say that Terence Smith's report of Galloway's testimony before the Senate subcommittee was one of your very best shots.

One of the problems with the report is that—given the title "U.N. Oil-for-Food Probe" taken side by side with the report's actual content—you have to wonder why the segment was done at all. It dealt precious little with the oil-for-food probe.

Of course, we all know. This report was not about the investigation; it was about George Galloway's testimony.

You opened by repeating the Senators' charges against Galloway and noted that he "vehemently denied the allegations." What you did not report was that his testimony was entirely voluntary, which rather throws his testimony into a different light, doesn't it?

Nor did you note that Galloway had already won a libel suit against a British newspaper on those same allegations, and that the Christian Science Monitor had apologized and paid him a substantial award for having made those same charges.

What you did instead was give us your own character study of George Galloway.

You noted that "Galloway is famous as a radical who was kicked out of Tony Blair's Labour Party for his opposition to the Iraq War and his sharp, personal attacks on the prime minister."

I'm always leary of the "radical" characterization, since your "radical" may be my "Mother Teresa" or "Dietrich Bonhoeffer." The word generally amounts to nothing more than a personal attack upon the person so characterized. Frankly, I don't think it should ever be used by a news organization of your stature without clearly delineating its meaning by other than a wink and a nod.

According to the BBC, Galloway was kicked out of the Labor Party by a Labor Party panel for having brought "the Labour Party into disrepute by behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party." Mr. Galloway described the event as a "politically motivated kangaroo court whose verdict had been written in advance in the best tradition of political show trials."

As for his "sharp, personal attacks on the prime minister," what he said specifically was—if the BBC is to be believed—

They have lied to the British Air Force and Navy when they said the battle of Iraq would be very quick and easy.

They attacked Iraq like wolves. They attacked civilians.

We are not children, your viewers. We should be allowed, if you are to mention this event at all, to know what Mr. Galloway actually said and decide for ourselves whether this is "a personal attack."

But for this viewer, a personal attack would be something such as accusing Mr. Blair of poor diction or bad breath—not an accusation that he knowingly lied about the duration of a war or that he had invaded a defenseless country and killed civilians. This is not my understanding of a "personal attack"; it comes much closer to my understanding of "accusations of war crimes."

Not content with the "radical" characterization, your report then leapt back to the early 90s to drag out the Galloway statement to Saddam, which was made in the context of Galloway's opposition to the U.N. sanctions placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War.

I might have credited you for reporting the concluding sections of Galloway's opening statement—if you hadn't so insidiously edited it.

Here's the text as given by the Times of London, and the boldface text is the portion that you chose to report.

.... I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens.

Your report then captures a brief exchange between Sen. Coleman and George Galloway concerning whether Mr. Galloway knew that Mr. Zarikat was in the oil business in 2001, which Galloway denied, and ended with Sen. Coleman's implication that since Mr. Zarikat was chairman of Mr. Galloway's relief organization, Mr. Galloway should have known how Mr. Zarikat was making his money.

One brief sentence finally brought the viewer back to the nominal subject of your report—the oil-for-food scandal.

In addition to Galloway, the Senate reports also charged that Russian and French officials and a Texas-based oil company, Bayoil, allegedly profited from the oil- for-food program.

What a fine piece of misinformation you have produced! I believe you will be able to count on continued and perhaps even additional support for the NewsHour from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting if you continue to produce segments in this vein. For this viewer, however, it was simply appalling.

Follow-up post
Trying to get Galloway: The Right goes gaga over website (5/27/05)

Previous posts
Complete testimony of George Galloway (5/21/05)

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