Skip to comments.NBC Forces Out Bob Arnot Who Delivered Upbeat Stories from Iraq(Arnot Charges Bias)
Posted on 02/20/2004 9:01:25 AM PST by fight_truth_decay
A week before NBC News President Neal Shapiro hired Rick Kaplan, a Friend of Bill, to take over MSNBC, the New York Observer ran a story by its "NYTV" columnist, Joe Hagan, who recounted how at the end of last year Shapiro did not renew the contract for Dr. Bob Arnot, who contributed positive stories from Iraq. Hagan relayed how "Arnot called NBC News' coverage of Iraq biased" and he, Hagan summarized, "wondered why the network wasn't reporting stories of progress in Iraq, a frequently heard complaint of the Bush administration." Hagan quoted from a letter Arnot sent to Shapiro: "'As you know, I have regularly pitched most of these stories contained in the note to Nightly, Today and directly to you,' he wrote. 'Every single story has been rejected.'"
Hagan reported how "Dr. Arnot said he knew for 'a fact' that Mr. Shapiro's problem with his reporting was that 'it was just very positive.'" Indeed, "NBC sources said that when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declined to put Dr. Arnot on the air, even though he was the sole NBC reporter on the scene."
While NBC News may have been resistant to Arnot's reporting, last November, MSNBC's Hardball featured his upbeat stories for a week, in a series titled, "Iraq: The Real Story." The two CyberAlert items on his efforts:
-- November 12 CyberAlert: Bob Arnot, who rarely appears on NBC News programs, popped up Monday night on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews to contradict the image of chaos in Iraq hyped by the media. Launching Hardball's week-long series, "Iraq: The Real Story," Arnot recounted the challenges faced by troops in hostile areas, but countered the negative image of the Iraqi situation he knows Americans get from TV news. Arnot argued: "The fact is in 85 percent of the country, it's calm, it's stable, it's moving forward." Touring a shopping area, Arnot relayed how, "from what you see on TV from Baghdad you'd think that, with the mortars and rockets, that this was a city under siege." In fact, he contended, "nothing could be further from the truth in many neighborhoods."
For the CyberAlert item, which features a still shot of Arnot: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20031112.asp#4
-- November 14 CyberAlert: U.S. TV network news about Iraq as distorted as al-Jazeera? Checking in from Iraq on Wednesday's Hardball, Bob Arnot highlighted a Muslim ayatollah in Iraq who "is furious at the press coverage. He says not only American television, but Arabic satellite TV, such as Al-Jazeera and the Abu Dhabi station, have mis-portrayed the great success that is Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein." The night before, Arnot contrasted the negative TV news image of widespread destruction and disgust for Americans with the reality he sees of Iraqis who "love the Americans and their President for cleaning up their streets, providing clean water, opening the schools." See: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20031114.asp#3
Now, an excerpt from Hagan's piece in the February 16 New York Observer, a weekly newspaper, "Dr. Bob Arnot's Parting Shot."
Bob Arnot, the medical doctor turned foreign correspondent for MSNBC and NBC News -- the onetime chief medical correspondent "Dr. Bob" on NBC News, who has been filing prickly, Geraldo-like dispatches from Iraq -- has been conspicuously absent from TV lately. Dr. Arnot's contract was up at NBC in December 2003 and, according to the network, won't be renewed in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Arnot did not leave willingly.
Although personal, his departure has also exposed the divides over TV coverage of the war in Iraq.
In a 1,300-word e-mail to NBC News president Neal Shapiro, written in December 2003 and obtained by NYTV, Dr. Arnot called NBC News' coverage of Iraq biased. He argued that keeping him in Iraq and on NBC could go far in rectifying that. Dr. Arnot told Mr. Shapiro that NBC had alienated the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since it shot and then aired footage of correspondent Jim Miklaszewski at the scene of the November bombing of the Al Rashid Hotel, in which a C.P.A. staffer was shown injured. That incident, he wrote, "earned the undying enmity of the C.P.A."
"We've been at a significant disadvantage given NBC's reputation in Iraq," Dr. Arnot wrote Mr. Shapiro. He argued that due to his excellent relationships with military and C.P.A. personnel, NBC News could repair its standing with government authorities by airing more of his material.
"I'm uniquely positioned to report the story," he wrote. "NBC Nightly News routinely takes the stories that I shoot and uses the footage, even to lead the broadcast," but "refuses to allow the story to be told by the reporter on the scene."
In other words, he suggested, NBC News did not like putting him on the air.
Dr. Arnot included excerpts from an e-mail from Jim Keelor, president of Liberty Broadcasting, which owns eight NBC stations throughout the South. Mr. Keelor had written NBC, stating that "the networks are pretty much ignoring" the good-news stories in Iraq. "The definition of news would incorporate some of these stories," he wrote. "Hence the Fox News surge."
Reached for comment, Mr. Keelor said that he was "not lambasting anyone" and that NBC News "indicated they were sensitive to the issues." But he added, "Of course it's political. Journalism and news is what unusual [events] happened that day. And if the schools are operating, they can say that's usual. My response to that is, The hell it is.' My concern there is that almost everything that has occurred in a Iraq since the war started is unexpected."
That pretty much summed up Dr. Arnot's attitude as well. In his letter to Mr. Shapiro, he wondered why the network wasn't reporting stories of progress in Iraq, a frequently heard complaint of the Bush administration. "As you know, I have regularly pitched most of these stories contained in the note to Nightly, Today and directly to you," he wrote. "Every single story has been rejected."
Reached at home in Vermont, Dr. Arnot said Mr. Shapiro was no longer interested in his kind of coverage. "On the MSNBC side, they've been very generous and they want me back," he said. "But from the NBC vantage point, Neal neglected to put any money into the pot, and that's the reason I'm not back in Baghdad."
Did Mr. Shapiro respond to his e-mail? "That particular e-mail, I didn't get any response," he said. "There was an earlier e-mail, and the response said, 'We're just too strapped. We don't have the money to be able to afford the editorial oversight.'"
Dr. Arnot said he knew for "a fact" that Mr. Shapiro's problem with his reporting was that "it was just very positive."
Mr. Shapiro responded by e-mail, saying that NBC News had re-evaluated its coverage for 2004, determined that "we were in the post-war period in Iraq" and shifted its resources to political coverage....
A number of high-ranking military officials contacted by NYTV complimented Dr. Arnot's superior reporting skills, especially in light of what they perceived as the chronically negative war reporting on TV in the United States....
Maj. Clark Taylor e-mailed NYTV from Baghdad to state that Dr. Arnot "highlighted what is really happening over here....He generally reported positive things because, generally, that is what is happening. Of course there are occasional bad things...and he reported those as well. The fact was, he reported what he sawwhich generally was positive."
"As you probably know, he is quite a renaissance man (doctor, athlete, TV journalist, etc.)," wrote Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus in an e-mail, "and the 'Screaming Eagles' (the nickname for the 101st's soldiers) really took to him. Our soldiers and leaders were particularly pleased that he demonstrated so much interest in the nation-building endeavors that were carried out by our troopers and our many superb Iraqi partners."...
In his e-mail to Mr. Shapiro, Dr. Arnot argued that his relationships with the authorities earned him access to stories that other reporters couldn't get.
"I was the only reporter to be shown the actual list of terrorists found in Saddam's briefcase," he wrote. "The military even let me witness the capture of one of the leaders of the insurgency a major general in the Baathist military wing."
And Mr. Shapiro had a number of complimentary things to say about Dr. Arnot, calling him an "intrepid live reporter."
But in the halls of NBC News, a number of insiders at the network said, Dr. Arnot was seen as a cheerleader for the military and the C.P.A. Some questioned his accuracy as a reporter.
In 1998, Mr. Arnot's best-selling book, The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet, came under intense scrutiny from medical watchdogs for its broad claimsso much so that both the American Cancer Society and MemorialSloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City complained of inaccuracies and misstatements in Dr. Arnot's book. "In the end, there were no technical faults with the book," said Dr. Arnot.
In 2001, Dr. Arnotthen chief medical correspondent for NBC's Today show and for Dateline NBCgave up his stethoscope and donned a flak jacket for some foreign adventures....
[Arnot in e-mail to Shapiro] "What happens if NBC is wrong[?]" he wrote. "What happens if this is a historical mission that does succeed...that transforms the Middle East...that brings peace and security to America. What if NBC's role was like that of much of the media in general...allowing the terrorists to fight their war on the American television screen, where their stories of death and destruction dominate rather than that of American heroes?"...
NBC sources said that when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declined to put Dr. Arnot on the air, even though he was the sole NBC reporter on the scene. Instead, Mr. Brokaw aired a British reporter from a news agency called ITN. "They used ITN, their British affiliate...rather than someone on the NBC payroll," said the NBC staffer. "They don't use his reporting because they don't trust his reporting."...
Dr. Arnot was not the first NBC employee to complain about coverage in Iraq. In fact, Noah Oppenheim, the producer of the Hardball series, a self-identified neoconservative and onetime producer for Scarborough Country, wrote an article for The Weekly Standard upon his return from his three weeks in Iraq, asserting that reporters rarely got out of the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad, and that they cribbed wire reports. Mr. Oppenheim left MSNBC when Nightly News executive producer Steve Capus and anchor Tom Brokaw complained openly that the article was unseemly coming from a NBC-affiliated news producer.
While Dr. Arnot's fitness as a reporter may be under scrutiny, his criticism of NBC News does go to the heart of an ongoing issue in this election season, the media perception of the war in Iraq. On Sunday, Feb. 8, when Tim Russert asked President Bush on NBC's Meet the Press if the administration had miscalculated "how we would be treated and received in Iraq," Mr. Bush's responded that he disagreed with the premise of the question: "Well, I think we are welcomed in Iraq. I'm not exactly sure, given the tone of your questions, we're not."
The exchange showed the distance between the White House and the media on how the war had been presented to Americans. They were two men watching different TV shows -- Mr. Bush had his sources, and Mr. Russert saw what he saw.
And so did Dr. Arnot.
END of Excerpt
LONG LIVE THE INTERNET AND TALK RADIO! (Dean learned first hand the power of the internet).
"NBC's "Nightly News" won the evening news ratings race, averaging 10.9 million viewers (7.5 rating, 14 share). ABC's "World News Tonight" had 10.4 million (7.3, 14) and the "CBS Evening News" 8.3 million (5.8, 11).
Nielsen Ratings, Febuary.18,2004
Pinged the list to a similar article last week, so I think I'll hold off, though we both know it's telling, for sure...and not surprising.
Glad this is getting more coverage.
We're rooting for FoxNews to hire him.
More comments, links:
8 Dr. Bob Arnots Parting Shot ~ New York Observer | 2/11/04 | Joe Hagan
Will add the pro-Dr. Bob links to my homepage.
NBC sources said that when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declined to put Dr. [Bob] Arnot on the air, even though he was the sole NBC reporter on the scene. Instead, Mr. Brokaw aired a British reporter from a news agency called ITN. "They used ITN, their British affiliate...rather than someone on the NBC payroll," said the NBC staffer. "They don't use his reporting because they don't trust his reporting."...Isn't that a coincidence! I don't trust NBC's reporting, either! See also,
Here are the FR links from the time: