PBS and Iran’s ‘Nuclear Weapons’
NewsHour botches basic fact about Iran
In an October 22 discussion of the foreign policy presidential debate, the PBS NewsHour‘s Jeffrey Brown stated that “Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been a particular flash point.”
A few weeks earlier (10/5/12) on the NewsHour, Ray Suarez said that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez had
continued to thwart American efforts on a range of international issues, such as Washington’s attempt to convince Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to halt his country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As most people following this story should know, there is no intelligence that shows Iran has a nuclear weapons program. The country has long denied the accusation, and regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to turn up evidence that Iran’s enriched uranium is being diverted for use in a weapon (Extra!, 1/12).
Some governments claim otherwise, but journalists are supposed to convey the evidence that is available–not to make claims that are unsupported by the facts. If there was one clear lesson from the Iraq War, it was that reporters need to carefully distinguish between what is known for certain and what some government leaders claim.
There have been questions about the NewsHour‘s Iran reporting before (FAIR Blog, 1/10/12). On January 9 the broadcast reported that Iran’s denial that it is pursuing a nuclear weapon was “disputed by the U.S. and its allies.” The show turned to a clip from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to bolster that point — but edited out the part of his statement in which he said: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” A NewsHour editor (FAIR Blog, 1/17/12) agreed that “it would have been better had we not lopped off the first part of the Panetta quote.”