On Monday, ABC announced the new anchor pairing, starting in January, of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff (see this NewsBusters item). Alerting viewers to it at the end of Monday’s newscast, Vargas asserted that “we are committed to every way maintaining the standard of excellence established by Peter Jennings” and Woodruff promised that “we will try to make Peter proud.” One Woodruff resume listing ABC is proud enough to tout is his trip to North Korea. The ABCNews.com announcement boasted of how “in June 2005 he got unprecedented access to the secretive country of North Korea.”
But, as documented at the time by the MRC, Woodruff’s reports during his week inside the totalitarian regime showcased North Korean officials denouncing the U.S. and happy kids doing art and playing music. The June 10, 2005 CyberAlert, “ABC: North Koreans Hate Americans, Offer Great Music/Art for Kids,” recounted: “North Koreans are isolated from outside information and fed a steady diet of anti-American propaganda, but that apparently doesn't make the anti-American comments from regime operatives, or citizens with minders standing nearby, unnewsworthy to ABC. ‘There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people,’ World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted before asserting that ‘many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans.’ From Pyongyang, Bob Woodruff went aboard the captured USS Pueblo and relayed how the ‘officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans.’ The uniformed woman declared: ‘They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry.’ Woodruff traveled to a collective farm where found an 11-year-old girl who said of Americans: ‘They killed Korean people.’ Finally, Woodruff went to the ‘Children's Palace’ where ‘5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports.’ The video showed healthy kids in colorful uniforms playing instruments, painting and dancing." (Full transcript and pictures follow.)
Two days later, Woodruff conceded that "because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying." So they could have been praising Americans for all we know? (See more below in the excerpt from the June 15 CyberAlert.)
Now, back to more from the June 10 CyberAlert report about Woodruff’s June 9 story:
All week, World News Tonight, and on some mornings GMA too, have been carrying Woodruff's "exclusive" reports from inside North Korea. An earlier segment showed a nearly empty capital city, since many were shipped out to work in the fields, with traffic lights turned off and no cars, yet still people at each intersection to direct the non-existent traffic.
World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the [Thursday] June 9 offering: "We have another exclusive report tonight from the most secretive nation in the world: North Korea. Access to the country is incredibly hard to come by. There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people. But many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans. ABC's Bob Woodruff reports again from North Korea."
Woodruff, walking with a uniformed North Korean woman and then over historic video of ship: "The USS Pueblo, the American ship which North Korea caught spying off its coast in 1968, is now a museum on the river here. One American crewman was killed during the assault, and 82 men were captured, then imprisoned, for 11 months under horrible conditions. The officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans."
Kim Mee Kyong, with words on screen: "They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry."
Woodruff: "Do you have any good feelings about Americans?" [Kim Mee Kyong laughs]
Woodruff, in front of ship: "This is the kind of image of America that goes completely unchallenged here. There are no American products in the markets, no American programs on television. And since almost no U.S. citizens ever visit North Korea, most North Koreans have never even met one. What all North Koreans do hear is a steady drumbeat of anti-American propaganda. So when we traveled two hours north of the capital today in our SUVs and with our government minders, we found anti-U.S. feeling. On this collective farm, three 11-year-old girls. Do you know about America? Have you heard about America?"
Korean girl through translator: "They killed Korean people."
Woodruff: "When did they kill Korean people? [voice of translator, but no translated reaction] This 18-year-old we found fishing told us he plans to join the army to protect his country. What do you think about the Americans? 'I curse them,' he said, 'as the sworn enemy of the Korean people.' Have you ever met an American before?"
Korean boy, through translator: "No."
Woodruff: "I'm an American. [translator speaks, guy looks down, no response provided]"
Woodruff, over video of well-dressed and healthy looking kids playing string instruments, a kid painting with Woodruff sitting next to him, and a shot of a swimming pool]: "Our final stop today was at the Children's Palace in Pyongyang where 5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports. This was their final performance for foreign dignitaries today, [long pause] stunning reminder of how well children can learn if the state decides to teach them. Bob Woodruff, ABC News, Pyongyang."
END of Reprint of June 10 CyberAlert article
The June 15 CyberAlert, “ABC Admits America-Bashing Relayed by North Korean Translators,” followed up with what Woodruff admitted on the June 11 World News Tonight/ Saturday:
Last Thursday ABC framed a story from Bob Woodruff around how North Koreans hate Americans, but on Saturday Woodruff conceded that "because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying." So they could have been praising Americans for all we know?
Reviewing his week in North Korea, on Saturday's World News Tonight Woodruff pointed out how the regime assigned three minders for his five-person team and then observed, from the capital of the communist regime:
"Most North Koreans have never met an American, especially one with a camera, so some were nervous. And some were surprised by our direct questions. Gradually our minders grew more comfortable with us. They let us travel outside the capital. And when we asked them to stop at a village or by the road, they did, so we could speak to ordinary North Koreans unannounced. But because we were not allowed to bring in our own translator, we had to rely on our minders to tell us what people were saying.
Woodruff to one of the three 11-year-old girls: "Do you work here in the fields or do you go to school?"
Without providing her answer, Woodruff continued: "Of course, there were many places completely off limits to us. They refused our request to visit their nuclear facilities. We didn't even bother asking to see military installations or the prison camps that North Korean defectors have described. But of the material we did gather, not one word was censored. And the only picture they stopped us from transmitting was this shot of the country's founder, Kim il Sung, because they said it was partly blocked by a tree. Even in this more open North Korea, there are still some absolute limits. Bob Woodruff, ABC News, Pyongyang."
Allowing one U.S. reporter to pass along images they like hardly constitutes a "more open" North Korea.
END of Excerpt from June 15 CyberAlert