Despite dramatic video of U.S. sailors with guns near their heads, the journalists at NBC and ABC failed to question the incident's handling by the Obama administration. Only CBS This Morning’s David Martin contrasted, “Although administration officials publicly described it as a rescue at sea, video released by Iran made it look like the American sailors had been captured.”
He added, “That seemed at odds with Secretary of State Kerry's praise for how the Iranians handled the incident.” CBS offered a full report on the subject. NBC’s Today allowed a mere 38 seconds, despite a four hour-run time. Matt Lauer highlighted how “dramatic new video aired on Iran-state television of the moment ten U.S. Sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf this week.”
But there was no mention of Secretary Kerry or the Obama administration. Good Morning America managed 19 seconds. Amy Robach blandly recounted:
AMY ROBACH: Well, the ten American sailors arrested and briefly held by Iran are in Qatar this morning are being debriefed about their ordeal. The Pentagon saying the video that showed one sailor apologizing for entering Iranian waters by mistake was actually staged. Military officials say it was an effort to defuse the situation and protect the crew.
CBS’s Martin actually noted that “some have been critical of the Obama administration saying this is less a diplomatic success than a case of Iran having its cake and eating it too.” He then featured Jim Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation:
JIM CARAFANO (Heritage Foundation): On the one hand, they [Iran] are giving the people back in an expeditious manner, which, oh by the way, they are required under international law to do, and they are to take credit for that. But on the other hand, they released domestic press makes it sound like the Americans screwing up. It's really their fault.
CNN, Wednesday, also explained what NBC and ABC didn’t. AC360's Jim Sciutto analyzed, “You and I, everyone else looks at those images. It's hard to reconcile those sailors on their knees with this story of a diplomatic victory that we've heard from Secretary of State John Kerry from the White House.”
On Wednesday’s network news, it was, again, only CBS that highlighted administration failures. The Evening News’s David Martin said the video “contrasts starkly with Vice President Biden’s account that one of the boats had engine failure.” NBC Nightly News’s Jim Miklaszewski, however, cheered, “Secretary of state John Kerry pulled out all diplomatic stops to personally negotiate the Americans' release.”
World News’s Terry Moran also portrayed the Obama administration in a positive light, touting, “Throughout the night, Secretary of State Kerry makes five calls to the Iranians, demanding the Americans be released.”
On MSNBC, MSNBC guests found “nothing alarming” relating to the video showing the Americans at gunpoint.
A transcript of the January 14 CBS This Morning segment is below:
CHARLIE ROSE: The Navy this morning has begun debriefing the ten United States sailors who were detained by Iran. Images broadcast on Iranian television show the service members apparent capture at sea. One admits the crew made a mistake. The sailors were released within hours were released within hours. David Martin is at the Pentagon. David, good morning.
DAVID MARTIN: Good morning. The speedy release of the sailors is being portrayed by the administration as the product of years of painstaking diplomacy with Iran, but critics are describing the incident as just one more Iranian provocation. Although administration officials publicly described it as a rescue at sea, video released by Iran made it look like the American sailors had been captured. Forced to kneel with their hands behind their heads, and placed in front of a camera to confess.
SAILOR: It was a mistake. That was our fault and we apologize for our mistake.
MARTIN: That seemed at odds with Secretary of State Kerry's praise for how the Iranians handled the incident.
JOHN KERRY: I also want to thank the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response. These are always situations which, as everybody here knows, have an ability if not properly guided, to get out of control.
MARTIN: Both sides agree the two boats accidentally strayed into Iranian territorial waters. Exactly how remains unclear. After being held for 16 hours on Farsi island in the Persian Gulf, the crew was allowed to get back in their boats and sail out to this American warship.
MARTIN: The release came after a series of phone calls between Secretary Kerry and Iran's foreign minister who had developed a working relationship during the long, drawn-out negotiations in which Iran agreed to suspend its nuclear weapon program in return for relief from economic sanctions. The Iranian foreign policy tweeted he was happy to see “dialog and respect, not threats and impetuousness swiftly resolved the sailors episode.” But some have been critical of the Obama administration saying this is less a diplomatic success than a case of Iran having its cake and eating it too.
JIM CARAFANO (Heritage Foundation): On the one hand, they are giving the people back in an expeditious manner, which, oh by the way, they are required under international law to do, and they are to take credit for that. But on the other hand, they released domestic press makes it sound like the Americans screwing up. It's really their fault.
MARTIN: Iran's desire not to reveal the nuclear deal under the two countries may be what resolved this. Under that deal the U.S. is expected to releasing about $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets the next few days.