February 3, 2005

Media Bias - or Just Incompetence?

During his State of the Union speech, President Bush introduced an Iraqi citizen with these words:

One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost but most of all to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country - and we are honored that she is with us tonight.

Subsequently, in praise of an American soldier who had given his life for freedom, the President said:

One name we honor is Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah. His mom, Janet, sent me a letter and told me how much Byron loved being a Marine, and how proud he was to be on the front line against terror. She wrote, "When Byron was home the last time, I said that I wanted to protect him like I had since he was born. He just hugged me and said: 'You've done your job, mom. Now it's my turn to protect you.'" Ladies and gentlemen, with grateful hearts, we honor freedom's defenders, and our military families, represented here this evening by Sergeant Norwood's mom and dad, Janet and Bill Norwood.

The National Ledger captures a very poignant moment that followed when Safia Taleb al-Suhail turned and hugged Janet Norwood:

The symbolism was striking. A mother had lost her patriot son so that this woman--a person she had never met before--would have the opportunity to be free. Janet Norwood had her son's dog-tags wrapped around her hand while Safia Taleb al-Souhail's index finger was still slightly stained with ink from her first vote.

It was a moment to make every patriot proud.

By contrast, The Washington Post described the hug with the following words:

The emotional highpoint of last night's event came near the end when Bush introduced the parents of a U.S. Marine from Texas, Sgt. Byron Norwood, who was killed in the assault on Fallujah, Iraq. As Norwood's mother tearfully hugged another woman in the gallery, the assembled senators and representatives responded with a sustained ovation, and Bush's face appeared creased with emotion.

Just "another woman?" And the mainstream media insists it carries no bias. Well, it is either bias or incompetent reporting - their choice.

ADDENDUM:

Power Line offers this update:

A reader says that the Post has now updated its story so that the offending paragraph now reads:
The emotional highpoint of last night's event came near the end when Bush introduced the parents of a U.S. Marine from Texas, Sgt. Byron Norwood, who was killed in the assault on Fallujah, Iraq. As Norwood's mother tearfully hugged Safia Taleb Suhail, leader of the Iraqi Women's Political Council, the assembled senators and representatives responded with a sustained ovation, and Bush's face appeared creased with emotion. Suhail also was a guest of the White House sitting with the first lady in the gallery who had been introduced by Bush earlier in the speech as "one of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates.

No credit to Power Line, however, for pointing out the Post's blunder.

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Did you know Safia is Iraq's new ambassador to Egypt and her husband is a minister in the government? That her father was killed after his second coup attempt against Saddam after living out of the country for 30 years. That he was a shiek leading 1 million Iraqis. That is daughter inherited his tribe (no sons). That her sister wants to sue the U>S> for complicity in the killing of her father. That Safia is trying to get back her families money and properties in Iraq. That she worked for the neo con organizations trying to get the U>S> to invade Iraq before the war. NO??? Oh, guess the media is not doing its liberal job. Keep reading your GOP literature to stay informed.

Posted by: camper at February 5, 2005 9:43 PM

It may come as a disappointment to camper that much of the mentioned historical information on Safia Taleb al-Souhail and her family is also available in what camper describes as the so-called "GOP media." Here are two examples from National Review and The Union Leader.

More to the point, I fail to see how the points offered up by camper change the significance of the State of the Union speech speech and related hug. As examples: A core part of politics anywhere is the formation of alliances to create momentum for change. Are she and her family to be criticized for forming alliances when attempting to topple a tyrant like Saddam? What does it matter that she comes from a leading family? Especially when like many Iraqis who resisted Saddam the family paid the ultimate personal price for that opposition.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at February 8, 2005 10:55 AM

I'm not sure why Safia and her family fought to overthrow Saddam is a bad thing...or why that they had to live outside of Iraq to do it (so they wouldn't get killed) is such an apparent red flag to you. Don has posted links to two sources that provide further information on the background of Safia and her family.

As to campers sources, after a quick search, I found substantially the same points that you brought up also mentioned at the well-known blog Daily Kos. Your assertion concerning Safia's sister is mentioned there. Of note, Kos' source for said info was The Truthseeker, a British conspiracy sight that believes, among other things, that Timothy McVeigh is still alive, that a small cabal of wealthy and influential families, called the Illuminati control the world, and that a rabbi was the mastermind behind 9/11. Ahem.

Nonetheless, I will suppose the facts of the story are credible, but would point out that the story never claimed that Safia's sister, Nora al Tamimi, was suing the U.S. Nora is seeking to sue Saddam at the United Nations, the International Court of Justice at The Hague and before the world organization of human rights, but she is not suing the U.S. She may blame the U.S. government (under Bill Clinton, btw) for not supporting her father, which ultimately led to him being targeted by Saddam. However, it was the writer of the story, not Tamimi, who implied that she held the U.S. as "a virtual accomplice" in her father's murder while at the same time making no explicit mention of Tamimi suing the U.S. I'd recommend two things to camper: 1) check your own sources, 2) read more carefully.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at February 8, 2005 11:46 AM