Is Engel Too Opinionated–or Does He Have the Wrong Opinion?

When NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel recently returned from Afghanistan, he told MSNBC‘s Morning Joe, “I honestly think it’s probably time to start leaving the country.” Engel added, “I really don’t see how this is going to end in anything but tears.”

Engel’s comments caused Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz (10/12/09) to raise an eyebrow at a reporter stating an opinion: “That sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter,” wrote Kurtz.

But we had to wonder if what really attracted Kurtz’s scrutiny was Engel’s stating of an opinion, or the opinion itself?

After all, for years FAIR has documented the phenomenon of journalists stating opinions in support of hawkish U.S. policies with virtual impunity–even when their views were catastrophically in error.

And so we wondered if Kurtz would even have commented if a network news reporter had suggested that the U.S. needed to escalate its military efforts in Afghanistan. We needn’t have wondered.

Lara Logan, who holds the same position at CBS News as Engel does at NBC–chief foreign affairs correspondent–may be a more vehement cheerleader for escalation than Engel is for withdrawal. In a recent interview with Bob Orr on CBS NewsPolitical Hotsheet, Logan expressed a disturbing devotion to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and chief proponent of escalating the war there: “I don’t understand why no one will listen to the man you put your faith in and said he is the guy who is going to do this for us….”

Since Logan too “sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter,” we wonder how it is she escaped Kurtz’s scrutiny?

For us, it isn’t so much that journalists have and express opinions–the public is better served when we know what reporters are thinking–but we are troubled when disapproval and despair over the lost standards of journalistic objectivity are trotted out only for reporters whose opinions are at odds with official views.

So we are glad to know of Logan’s hero worship, even if it is at odds with the worthwhile journalistic ethic that says reporters should hold the feet of the powerful to the fire–not massage them.
Corrected version: The original version of this post gave Stanley McChrystal’s first name incorrectly.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.