Recently, CBS anchor Katie Couric traveled to the Middle East for a “heavily promoted week in the war zone,” reporting the situation on the ground from Iraq. Her reporting was superficial and uncritical, airing several “puff pieces” mouthing Bush administration talking points.
This week, Couric spoke at the National Press Club with host Marvin Kalb to discuss “Democracy and the Press.” Couric explained that her goal in Iraq was to appear neutral and avoid “a Walter Cronkite moment,” as she put it:
Is it my job to go over and say this war is terrible and withdrawal is necessary? I don’t necessarily think that is the case. … I don’t necessarily feel that [I should pass judgment] unless there is a clear cut factual element to it. … I have never really saw it as my role, unless something is really egregious and without question wrong.
Kalb rebutted Couric’s assertions, charging that she offered only neutered judgments about the status on the ground and missed an opportunity to critically assess the situation in Iraq:
You offered only one judgment about the war. And you cushioned that by the way. You said, “There are definitely areas where the situation is improving.” Fine. But you then asked nine questions, nine important questions about Iraq. But you didn’t even make an effort to answer them. … You have been there. You’re an anchor every night. You’ve seen the material that flows into you. Surely on some of those nine issues, you must have had a strong feeling.
Couric tried to defend herself, using an example of when she “came down hard” on a man several years ago for making racist statements. But with respect to Iraq, she maintained: “I think you need to be careful though quite frankly on coming down on certain positions when it’s unclear.”
In addition to her implicit assumption that there is nothing currently “egregious” or “unclear” about the war, Couric’s efforts at neutrality are ironic. In her attempts to avoid a “Walter Cronkite moment,” she spewed Bush administration talking points. “You do see signs of life that seem to be normal,” she reported from Iraq. “It really is a trend.”
Ultimately, Couric made a case for staying in Iraq, denying reality and undermining her desired impartiality.