This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", May 5, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Practices that took place in that prison are abhorrent. And they don't represent America.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's unacceptable, but we are a nation that believes in justice.
MCCLELLAN: What took place is appalling. And it is shameful. It is inexcusable.
KIMMITT: On behalf of my Army, I apologize for what those soldiers did to your citizens. It was reprehensible and it was unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: That is just a sample of what is coming from the Bush administration and coalition forces today. Apologies and explanations for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers, incidents which have turned into a very large public relations problem in Washington, Iraq and the Arab world.
So how is the damage control going? We turn now to Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert by profession.
ERIC DEZENHALL, PRES., DEZENHALL RESOURCES: Thanks for having me.
HUME: So, how about the damage control. First of all, as a matter of principle -- just sort of, you know, how do you go about trying to deal with a crisis like this?
DEZENHALL: Well, whoever owns the visuals, the optics of victimhood, wins the P.R. war. Whoever is perceived in those pictures as the aggressor loses. Period. End of story.
The name of the game now is not damage disappearance, it's damage control. There's no way to make it go away. What you can begin to do is lay the path forward to repentance.
HUME: Now, we now know that this matter, the fact there's been an investigation, the general nature of the offenses suspected was briefed to the press in Iraq some months back by military officials there. So it seems from what you are saying, and what we now know, is that the reason that wasn't a big deal at the time was is that it was abstract and now we have pictures.
DEZENHALL: Exactly. There is -- you can allege anything, but unless you have the photographs, it won't take off. I mean you need to use homicide terms, find the body. And when you see those very vivid photographs that overwhelms any rhetorical or printed message you can come up with.
HUME: It seems to have had a more powerful affect on not only in the Arab world, but also here in this country among the political classes, than for example, the incident in Fallujah (search). Where you had the killing, murder, of those civilian contractors. But their mutilation of their bodies and they're being dragged through the streets. Is that another...
HUME: What about that?
DEZENHALL: What I always tell a client is look at the story that the media want to do. Don't look at the story that is. The story that we've been waiting for a long time.
HUME: We being?
DEZENHALL: I think those who are hostile to Bush and conventional media like the story of the arrogant America. The proof that, see, I told you they were arrogant after all. And what this incident with the photographs of the Iraqis does is it validates the notion that you see; these guys are heavy-handed imperialists. So it's the story that everyone wants to do.
Just like, nobody wants in a murder mystery for it to turn out that the little cute little girl did it. You want to have somebody evil do it. And this validates that narrative. That's why it's so tough to get out of.
HUME: Because people in this country think the U.S. government is evil?
DEZENHALL: I don't think people in this country as a whole think that. I think that you have an elite community that doesn't like this war. And the notion of the military perpetrating something like this validates the notion that all things military are bad. All things assertive are bad and that all things Bush are bad. So you have a nice little package here.
HUME: Talk to me about the efforts that are being made now. You saw a sample of them there. Of course, earlier in the program we had reports on what the president has done today and others. Is this the wise thing to do? Can this stem the tide here of this?
DEZENHALL: Bush had no choice but to do what he did. But the way to look at it is not what his appearance on Arab television will accomplish. But what would have happened if he didn't do it? If he didn't do it, all of his enemies would have to many places to go. It would be again with the arrogance, no apology.
So the way to look at this is not that Bush's appearance will achieve great things. It won't. But imagine what would have happened if he didn't do it. So the reason to do it is not to get the Arab community to like the president, but simply to placate those that would continue two on a hemorrhaging basis criticize him.
HUME: Now, there's -- it maybe that there will be no further information about the nature of these offenses; in other words nothing new to feed it. Of course, there could be new things to feed it. And we all know what the obvious consequence of that would be; the whole thing gets a new lease on life and on it goes.
Assuming not, is there a chance this, in your judgment, just watching the cycle of these things that this begins to die down now? Or do you think it's too early in the cycle?
DEZENHALL: I think that this story is too hot. I mean we have an election year. You have a controversial war. And the other thing, I don't mean to come back to this, but you have pictures. And when you have photographs of something that is this disquieting, you need to keep these things in the news. It's too good a story not to do. So the problem is with this is there's something in it for everybody. That's why a story lasts.
HUME: Anything you could recommend that the Bush team do that it hasn't done? Just a few seconds left.
DEZENHALL: Well, I think they might want to consider a resignation somewhere.
HUME: How high up?
DEZENHALL: I don't think that it has to go to the very top, but that often has the effect of placating people even though it shouldn't.
HUME: Cauterizing the wound.
DEZENHALL: Well, and demonstrating action.
HUME: I got you. In other words, it gets you -- it's ahead of the news cycle, right?
DEZENHALL: It shows you've done something. Even if it's really not the answer, it shows action; and sometimes that's all people need to see.
HUME: All right. Eric Dezenhall, it's good to have you. Thanks for coming in Eric.
DEZENHALL: Thanks. You bet.
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