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imperialism & war | media criticism

Corporate Media Reporter Regrets Iraq WMD Stories As "Mistakes"

CBS news correspondent and "60 Minutes" co-editor Leslie Stahl talked about work she's less proud of: two pre-Iraq war reports casting doubt on Saddam Hussein's claim to have rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

"I look on those two stories as mistakes, journalistic mistakes," Stahl told a crowd of about 1,000 gathered in the Princess Anne High School auditorium. "I made them, and I regret it."
Reporter regrets Iraq stories

By KATE WILTROUT, The Virginian-Pilot
April 22, 2004

VIRGINIA BEACH Lesley Stahl has had her share of journalistic triumphs in the 14 years she has traveled the world interviewing newsmakers for "60 Minutes ."

But Wednesday night, the CBS news correspondent and "60 Minutes" co-editor also talked about work she's less proud of: two pre-Iraq war reports casting doubt on Saddam Hussein's claim to have rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

"I look on those two stories as mistakes, journalistic mistakes," Stahl told a crowd of about 1,000 gathered in the Princess Anne High School auditorium. "I made them, and I regret it."

Stahl described a trip to Iraq in October 2001 , where she interviewed Iraqi officials, military leaders and scientists. They told her that Saddam had no ties to Osama bin Laden, that their secular Muslim country was just as much his enemy as the United States.

Stahl said she believed that.

They also told her that the country had gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction - the continued possession of such weapons was later cited by President Bush as justification for a pre-emptive war.

Stahl didn't buy the Iraqis' claims. Her instincts, she said, told her they were lying. "I didn't believe anything the Iraqis were telling me about weapons of mass destruction," Stahl said. "Nobody believed their denials."

Stahl said she double- and triple-checked with lots of other sources.

No one had any doubts the weapons existed, she said - something she agonizes about now, but doesn't know what she could have done differently.

In her speech to the Virginia Beach Forum, co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center Forum, Stahl touched on many of the biggest Washington stories of the past 30 years or more. She started at CBS's Washington bureau in 1972 on a story none of the "big boys" wanted to cover, involving a burglary at the Watergate hotel.

For 10 years , she was the network's White House correspondent, reporting on the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administrations.

George W. Bush reminds her of an earlier occupant of the White House. "I'm hearing echoes, not of his father's presidency, but of Ronald Reagan's," Stahl said.

Both convinced the nation they were "staying the course" even as they changed their positions, she said, citing Reagan's six tax hikes despite a pledge not to and now Bush's emphasis that the U.N. help out in Iraq.

Stahl said come November, Bush might be haunted by last year's appearance in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier, when he declared the end of major combat in Iraq. But it's way too soon to predict who will win the election, Stahl said.

In response to audience questions, the newswoman guessed that presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry might choose North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as his running mate.

Stahl fended off a question about for whom she would vote for president.

"You do know that news reporters have their opinions surgically removed," Stahl said. "I don't go there."

Reach Kate Wiltrout at 222-5108 or  kate.wiltrout@pilotonline.com

homepage: homepage: http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories/story.cfm?story=69322&ran=122315
address: address: The Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads, VA)

really 22.Apr.2004 12:33

sorrow-not

i wonder if her new story is that were in iraq, so we got to stay?