On Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes" (11/30/08), Lara Logan profiled Army hero Private Monica Brown, an 18-year-old medic who was awarded the Silver Star. Yet as wonderful as Brown's heroics were, Logan's profile could not shake the impression that it really wanted to get in some cheap shots at the United States military. Here's how Logan opened her piece:
Private Monica Brown is only the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since the Second World War. She’s an Army medic who risked her own life to save two critically wounded paratroopers of the 82nd airborne division in Afghanistan.
O.K. so far. But then Logan abruptly switched gears:
Under Army regulations, women cannot be assigned to front-line combat units, but in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq today, that’s exactly where they often end up. Some male soldiers aren’t so happy about that, including members of Private Brown’s own unit. But her superior officers say she’s a hero, a hero who earned one of the military’s highest awards for exceptional valor when she was only 18 years old.
That women "cannot be assigned to front-line combat units" is a theme that Logan hammered throughout her piece. The problem? Private Brown was not on a front-line combat mission. As Logan's own story indicated, Brown was a medic in a unit that had been "searching for weapons in a village" when it was ambushed while returning to base. (By the way, Logan identifies those who ambushed our men and woman simply as "hidden enemy fighters.")
Logan pressed a pair of Army commanders on this point.
LOGAN: Women are not supposed to be, according to the strict guidelines, are not supposed to be on [the] front line of combat.
COLONEL MARTIN SCHWEITZER: We do not assign our female soldiers to the infantry and the armor. We do attach female soldiers to units for a specific mission for a specific period of time, absolutely in accordance with Army policy ... Anywhere you go outside of the forward operating base you can, you know, run into the threat, or a threat.
Yet even after being debunked by Col. Schweitzer, Logan tried to press the issue with Brown herself.
LOGAN: The Army has very strict rules about women not being on the front line. And, I mean, there's no question that you were on the front line.
PVT. BROWN: There is no front line in Afghanistan or Iraq. You go out on missions. Whether it be humanitarian aid or, you know, help building schools, or pulling support for another unit while they're building roads, or searching for Taliban. You go out there and you do your job. And you don't know what's gonna happen. Anything could happen.
Oops. After being refuted twice, you'd think that Logan would have wanted to edit out the "front-line" theme in her story. But she didn't. Why let the facts get in the way of a good swipe at the U.S. Military?
Thank you, Private Brown, a real hero. And thank you to all our men and women in uniform. It's just too bad that journalists like Logan can't do a nice story without taking cheap, baseless swipes at you.
This is a shortened, edited version of this critique. For the full version, go to TheMediaReport.com.