So House Democrats have resoundingly rejected anti-war Congressman John Murtha as their next Majority Leader, not the best news for his patron Nancy Pelosi. (For details, everybody but Larry King can click here.) But as an MRC Media Reality Check pointed out earlier this week, a secret ballot by network reporters might have led to a very different result.
Murtha has been a liberal media darling since he demanded retreat without victory in Iraq almost exactly one year ago, on November 17, 2005. ABC, CBS and NBC that night all led by touting Murtha’s credentials. “John Murtha is not a household name, but on military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential,” CBS’s Bob Schieffer gushed.
The next night, CNN’s Bill Schneider awarded Murtha his “Political Play of the Week,” likening his call for withdrawal to Walter Cronkite’s 1968 anti-Vietnam War commentary. The media’s bias became even more obvious when another top Democrat, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, wrote a November 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed saying the troops should stay: "What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory." The same networks that led with Murtha’s defeatist rhetoric two weeks earlier said nothing about Lieberman.
What did Murtha have that Lieberman did not? The rhetoric that liberals liked to hear.
After that, Murtha could do no wrong. On May 17, he convened a press conference to claim U.S. Marines in Haditha had "killed civilians in cold blood." Instead of pressing him to justify the inflammatory charge, the networks followed Murtha’s cue and began an anti-military feeding frenzy. Over the next three weeks, ABC, CBS and NBC aired 99 stories suggesting U.S. military misconduct. ABC Nightline host Terry Moran darkly suggested a comparison to the notorious My Lai massacre: "Will Haditha be the My Lai of the Middle East?"
Just five days after his "killed in cold blood" smear, Katie Couric (then with NBC) was happy to laud Murtha for being honored by the Kennedy family as a "Profile in Courage." Murtha, Couric chirped, "definitely" fit the definition of courage, which she read to her Today audience: "Mental or moral strength enabling one to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty firmly or resolutely."
Just this Monday, Couric hosted candidate Murtha on her CBS Evening News. Reminding Murtha of his call for retreat, Couric set him up as a victim: "There was hell to pay, though, Congressman, for what you said. You were called a ‘defeatocrat, a ‘liberal turncoat.’"
But every step of the way, Couric and the rest of the liberal media were defending and admiring Murtha’s cut-and-run prescription.