While today's Cyber Alert details the media coverage the networks have given Cindy Sheehan---a California woman who lost her son in the war in Iraq last year---Sheehan's previously positive comments about her visit with President Bush last year has caught the attention of the Drudge Report and prompted a reprint by The Reporter newspaper of Vacaville, California, in order to clear up concerns by left-wing bloggers that Drudge simply lifted comments out of context to "smear" Sheehan.
The newspaper's editor was concerned that comments were lifted out of context which presented Sheehan as having a very positive regard for President Bush last year:
The Reporter republished Henson's 2004 story on www.thereporter.com Monday. It drew hundreds of visits within the first hour.
"It's important that readers see the full context of the story, instead of just selected portions," said Editor Diane Barney. "We stand by the story as an accurate reflection of the Sheehans' take on the meeting at the time it was published."
Even so, the full article in context does show that Sheehan, who then admitted that she wasn't too happy with the prosecution of the war by President Bush, felt at the time that President Bush was "sincere," which contrasts sharply with her recent allegations as leveled to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that President Bush treated the meeting with war dead families as "a party.":
The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.
But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.
"We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us," Pat said.
Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture.
"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."
The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith.
While meeting with Bush, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was an honor, it was almost a tangent benefit of the trip. The Sheehans said they enjoyed meeting the other families of fallen soldiers, sharing stories, contact information, grief and support.
It's quite possible that Sheehan's views have evolved over a year's time towards a more extreme direction (she now, for example, calls for Bush's impeachment), and that her anger and activism are quite sincere. But the issue for the media is that this is an instance where the media very easily could have asked Mrs. Sheehan a tough question or two regarding her positive remarks just last year regarding President Bush's visit. That reporters possibly didn't take the time to research the matter is no less a disappointing scenario than if they knew of Mrs. Sheehan's previous comments but refused to press her on them.