Fox News’ hourlong Petraeus and Crocker commercial

The network, long derided as a Republican mouthpiece, did nothing to dispel that image with Brit Hume's post-hearing interview.

Topics: Fox News, War Room, Iraq, Brit Hume, Middle East,

We didn’t think it was possible, but this time, we actually gave Fox News too much credit.

We expected that the exclusive hourlong interview that anchor Brit Hume did Monday night with Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, would actually be a journalistic affair. That seemed especially necessary given the pre-interview criticism Petraeus and Crocker had come under for giving their big post-congressional hearing exclusive to a news source widely seen as a shill for the Bush administration and an apologist for the war in Iraq.

Well, we were wrong. Indeed, the hour could not even fairly be described as an interview. It was an advertisement, an opportunity for Petraeus and Crocker to reprise their testimony unchallenged.

Hume started the hour fairly enough, asking Petraeus just to give a synopsis of what he told Congress earlier Monday. But then it was a solid 15 minutes before Hume actually asked his next question. So, based on a transcript of the interview provided by CQ Transcripts Wire, we did a quick bit of figuring. In those 15 minutes, 2,600 words were spoken. Of those 2,600 words, Hume got in seven prompts — calling them questions would be silly; they were just attempts to clarify for the audience what Petraeus was talking about, or nudge Petraeus in directions more favorable to his own position — and spoke a total of just 55 words.

After a commercial break, Crocker got similar treatment for 10 minutes of his own. In fact, it wasn’t until after the second commercial break (and by now we were halfway through the hour) that Hume got ready to ask his first truly penetrating question.

“Gentlemen, in both your testimony today, you indicated that there had been this bottom-up reconciliation which was sort of unpredicted and much welcomed, but it seemed to be mostly in Sunni areas. And the situation with the Shia seem — and the possible misbehavior, difficulty, problems with Shia militias, and so on,” Hume began.

And when, with the end of Hume’s question still hanging, the camera panned to the faces of Crocker and Petraeus, both looked to be bracing themselves for the blow surely coming. Would Hume ask whether the Sunni reconciliation had come solely because of fear of the majority Shiites? Or whether Shiite partisans dominate the Iraqi army and police force, turning them into sectarian militias and leading to the conclusions of the Jones report, which said that the national Iraqi police force should be disbanded altogether?

Not quite.

Instead, Hume wanted to talk about the new boogeyman of the right and Fox News: Iran. He blamed the Iranians for the aforementioned Shiite “misbehavior” and problems with Shiite militias, saying, “With Iranian influence [that's] always something you worry about when it comes to the Shiites,” then going on to ask,

“You indicated that Iran would be a big winner, in its own eyes at least, if this all went badly in Iraq. Why should we not believe that as progress is made with the Sunni, that progress is made militarily, that Iran could simply rachet up its interference in Iraq to the point where it would in the end spoil whatever progress is being made?”

At one point, Hume went so far in presenting pro-war propaganda that Petraeus actually had to walk the anchor’s statements back. In fact, the general actually looked shocked when Hume said to him, “You’ve suppressed the insurgency by al-Qaida to a considerable extent.”

“Well, we still have concerns about sectarian violence on either side, some still carried out by al-Qaida when they can,” Petraeus responded. “They are less active. They are off balance is the way I think we’d like to describe it, but still dangerous.”

Even that couldn’t slow Hume down. He’d just been handed an opportunity to further an administration talking point, that the war in Iraq is an inextricable part of the war on terror and specifically on the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Would you — you — you said today — I think the phrase you used, correct me if I’m wrong, about al-Qaida was — when I guess you were asked the question about who is the principal enemy there — you said al-Qaida was — I think you called it the wolf closest to the sled,” Hume asked.

Then it was:

“Would you say that we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today, in terms of sectarian violence in Iraq, generally, had not al-Qaida been present and active there?”

And then:

Has “this, in an ultimate sense, turned out to be, more than anything else, a war with al-Qaida?”

In a courtroom, they’d call that leading the witness. At Fox, though, it’s just “fair and balanced.”

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>