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Fact Check: ABC Spreads Fear About Syrian Chemical Weapons

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Posted on Jan 29, 2013

You know you’re on shaky ground when you quote a source like the defense secretary with the words, “He basically said. ...” FAIR’s Peter Hart compares ABC’s lazy quoting on Syrian chemical weapons to the kind of WMD fear mongering that led the U.S. to war with Iraq.


So did [Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta ever “basically say” that the United States government “knew” that Syria had loaded artillery shells that are “sitting there loaded with chemical weapons”? No. He said they received “intelligence”–which is not the same thing as something that is actually happening. (See: Iraq, late 2001-early 2003).

[ABC News reporter Martha] Raddatz is failing at the most basic act of stenographic journalism, which is to record what powerful people say. She’s going a step further and declaring that intelligence he laid out–allegations, really–are facts, the same thing too many reporters did 10 years ago when it came to Iraq intelligence.

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This may seem nitpicky to some, but it’s important to remember that the administration has called the use of chemical weapons a “red line.” If using chemical weapons is something the Assad regime could do in a matter of hours, as ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz, citing Leon Panetta, claims, then it stands to reason that the U.S. is only a matter of hours from declaring war. That’s kind of an area where you want to get your quotes straight and your facts checked.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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