by Peter Johnson
CNN's top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN "was intimidated" by the Bush administration and Fox News, which "put a climate of fear and self-censorship."
As criticism of the war and its aftermath intensifies, Amanpour joins a chorus of journalists and pundits who charge that the media largely toed the Bush administrationline in covering the war and, by doing so, failed to aggressively question the motives behind the invasion.
On last week's Topic A With Tina Brown on CNBC, Brown, the former Talk magazine editor, asked comedian Al Franken, former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke and Amanpour if "we in the media, as much as in the administration, drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the war."
Said Amanpour: "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."
Brown then asked Amanpour if there was any story during the war that she couldn't report.
"It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone," Amanpour said. "It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."
Clarke called the disinformation charge "categorically untrue" and added, "In my experience, a little over two years at the Pentagon, I never saw them (the media) holding back. I saw them reporting the good, the bad and the in between."
Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti said of Amanpour's comments: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."
CNN had no comment.