MEDIA ETHICS PROJECT REQUESTS THORNBURG COMMISSION TO REVIEW CIRCUMSTANCES OF CBS NEWS STORY CONCERNING MISSING IRAQI EXPLOSIVES
GROUP’S FILING WITH VIACOM APPOINTED COMMISSION ASKS EXPANSION OF INVESTIGATION TO INCLUDE POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO IMPROPERLY INFLUENCE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BY USING NEWS REPORTS BASED ON MISLEADING, UNCONFIRMED AND FALSE INFORMATION
New York, NY , October 29, 2004 . Media Ethics Project (“MEP”) of New York today submitted a request to the Thornburgh Commission to investigate the recent news reports of CBS News concerning 350 tons of missing explosives in Iraq. The Commission headed by former US Attorney General Richard Thornburgh was recently appointed by Viacom, Inc. to investigate certain reports by CBS News concerning the Reserve Guard service of President Bush allegedly based on use of forged documents. MEP is a newly formed group seeking to focus on the public interest responsibilities of mass media organizations.
A key focus of today’s MEP filing is to seek an expansion of the Thornburgh Commission investigation to determine whether CBS News actions in the Reserve Guard and Iraq explosives stories were part of a plan to air anti-Bush stories based on misleading, unconfirmed, false and distorted information with the purpose to influence the outcome of the 2004 election campaign.
In announcing the filing, MEP Chairman William L. Whitely stated: “The actions of CBS News over the last week have once again raised alarming concerns. Working in tandem with the New York Times, CBS News disseminated what has turned out to be unsupported, misleading and outright false information concerning the supposed theft of 350 tons of explosives from a holding facility in Iraq. Most disturbing was the statement by an executive producer at CBS confirming that the network’s original plan had been to broadcast the story as a 60 Minutes exclusive report on Sunday, hours prior to the election. Clearly, the airing of such an October surprise by one of our nation’s primary broadcast news organizations would have been an irresponsible, unprincipled, and highly dangerous assault on our democratic system. ”
The MEP filing with the Thornburgh Commission includes the following points of inquiry:
1) The Commission has been asked to determine whether the airing of the reports on President Bush’s National Guard service based on apparently forged documents and the broadcasting of the poorly researched, misleading and incomplete story on the allegedly missing explosives were part of a plan to present false reports designed to harm the re-election campaign of President Bush.
2) The Commission has been asked to determine whether the actions of CBS News in working in cooperation with the New York Times in reporting the missing explosives story constituted a deliberate effort to avoid regulations of the Federal Communications Commission prohibiting the airing of falsified, distorted, faked or staged news reports.
3) The Commission has been asked to establish strict guidelines for programming carried by CBS News during election eve periods (72 hours prior to elections) to protect against the presentation of falsified, distorted, faked or staged news reports.
4) The Commission has been asked to investigate the agreement between CBS News and the New York Times which resulted in the joint reporting of the explosives story and to establish procedural guidelines for such arrangements in the future.
Mr. Whitely added, “Given the information which has now come to light answering many of the questions concerning the unaccounted for explosives, it is once again clear that CBS News, as it did in the Reserve Guard story, has acted unprofessionally in failing to follow accepted standards in its reporting. It rushed forward with unconfirmed, inaccurate, misleading and false information concerning the explosives. It is critical that the Thornburgh Commission act to root out the causes of such unprofessional conduct, and assure that CBS News establishes ethical standards and practices based upon the unbiased, objective search for the truth. ”
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