It was hard enough for Blackwater USA to get a fair shake from the media alone, but when the evening news got star-struck by the Democratic personalities on a congressional committee, that task was monumental.
Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater USA, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform making the lead story on “World News,” “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News.”
“Glad to come here and correct some facts,” Prince said to the committee.
But, out of the 13 comments on the three broadcasts from members of the 41-person committee, only one was a Republican. Rep. Christopher Shays was also the only member to say something positive about the company.
“Thank you for doing a perfect job in protecting the people you’re required to protect,” said Shays (R-Conn.) on “World News with Charles Gibson.” “World News” was also the only one of the three programs to point out that “no official under Blackwater’s protection has ever been killed.”
Another crucial point mostly overlooked by the newscasts was the total cost savings Blackwater is giving taxpayers. According to CBS correspondent David Martin, of the 10,000 security contractors working in Iraq, 1,000 are employed by Blackwater and are assigned to protect American diplomats. If you take into account the cost savings per Blackwater employee versus what it would cost the federal government to offer itself, as reported by ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl, it adds up.
“Well today, the head of the diplomatic security service for the State Department, which would be the group that would be doing this if it weren't Blackwater, said it would actually cost them more than that – about $500,000 to train and equip its guards and send them to Iraq,” Karl said.
According to Gibson, the federal government is paying Blackwater about $400,000 per Blackwater employee. Assuming the cost savings are around $100,000 per employee, for 1,000 Blackwater employees, the government is saving $100 million by hiring the private contractor.
But, unfortunately that was fact and a lot of other facts were lost – as pointed out by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) during the hearing:
“I have no objection to this kind of a hearing, but what really concerns me is that there appears to be a rush to judgment, and I don't think that should happen. It's going to be thoroughly investigated in Iraq by Iraqis and American officials. And until we get that, we won't know exactly what happened or who might have made a mistake or who might have done something they shouldn't have done.”