Though all other major news outlets, including his own network's Saturday evening newscast, pegged the number of people who attended Saturday's anti-Iraq war protest rally in Washington, DC as in the “tens of thousands,” CBS's Bob Schieffer led Sunday's Face the Nation by endorsing the exaggerated attendance claims of self-interested organizers as he reminisced about the good old days of Vietnam protests. “Yesterday in Washington,” he recalled, “was like a day from yesteryear -- the war that to many seems long ago and far away: the war in Vietnam. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people descended on the capital to protest the war in Iraq.” Schieffer's opening of the January 28 Face the Nation segued into his lead interview with freshman Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia (Republican Senators Arlen Specter and Mitch McConnell were subsequent guests).
“Thousands Protest Bush Policy,” read the front page Washington Post headline over a story which reported: “Under a blue sky with a pale midday moon, tens of thousands of people angry about the war and other policies of the Bush administration danced, sang, shouted and chanted their opposition.”
Sunday's New York Times story began: “Tens of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq...” Deep in the article, Times reporter Ian Urbina relayed what may have been Schieffer's source for his wildly inflated claim: “Police officials declined to provide crowd estimates, but Hany Khalil, a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, said the protesters numbered about 400,000.”
The AP's dispatch on the protest explained: “United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. They claimed even more afterward, but police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than 100,000.”
And if Schieffer didn't believe the Washington Post, New York Times or the AP, he certainly didn't show much respect for his CBS News Washington bureau colleague Joie Chen, who related on Saturday's CBS Evening News (as recounted in Brad Wilmouth's NewsBusters posting):
“But for all the tie dye and familiar chants, the anti-war movement has moved on and changed direction. Today's protest didn't go near the White House, instead leading tens of thousands up Constitution Avenue to the Capitol, bearing a message for the new Congress, now controlled by Democrats.”