The President, Press and Weapons of Mass destruction

Moeller, Susan
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p66
This articles examines why the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) story has been so difficult for the press to investigate and tell. U.S. President George W. Bush set the tone for an apocalyptic approach to the WMD issue, not only through his administration's insistence that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed WMD that posed an urgent and immediate threat, but also through his identification of WMD as an integral part of the 21st century terrorist arsenal. A study conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, at the University of Maryland and released in March 2004, evaluated how the American and British press covered events related to weapons of mass destruction. The study assessed press coverage of WMD during three critical periods of time: May 1998, when nuclear tensions escalated between India and Pakistan; October 2002, when the U.S. Congress approved military action to disarm Iraq and when revelations about the North Korean nuclear weapons program surfaced and May 2003, when combat operations in Iraq were officially said to have ended and the hunt for WMD escalated. Most journalists did not report evidence that might have helped readers and listeners challenge the Bush administration's argument that WMD were inseparably part of a global terrorism matrix. The study also discovered that the priority news organizations give to breaking-news stories gave greater weight to the administration's point of view on WMD issues, at the expense of presenting alternative perspectives.


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