Meet the New Boss: NBC’s Pentagon Beat Sweetener

You may have heard about new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta‘s trip to Iraq–mainly because while in the country he told some U.S. soldiers that they were there because of 9/11. That led to coverage like this in the Washington Post:

On Monday, in his first visit to Iraq as Pentagon chief, Panetta appeared to justify the U.S. invasion of the country as part of the war against Al-Qaeda, a controversial argument made by the George W. Bush administration but rebutted by President Obama and many Democrats.

Also rebutted by…reality.

Panetta’s visit was covered on television too. But on NBC Nightly News (7/11/11), Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski was paying tribute to the new boss at the government agency he’s paid to cover (a practice known as a “beat sweetener”). Panetta’s Al-Qaeda gaffe? Well, in Miklasziewski’s view, “Panetta misspoke when he appeared to suggest to these soldiers that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of al-Qaeda.”

What you really need to know is that Leon Panetta’s a stand up guy: “Throughout this trip, Panetta showed he’s a different kind of Defense secretary, bold and outspoken.” I think we very recently had a Pentagon leader who was “bold and outspoken” and attempted to link Al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Miklaszewski closed with this:

At 73, Panetta’s s already had a lifetime of public service. And he told us today he took the Pentagon job because he loves the work. And so far, Brian, there’s no holding him back.

Way to hold his feet to the fire.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.