Are Some in the U.S. Media Siding with North Korea Over Its Nuke Test?

The following is a transcription of the October 14, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: North Korea claims that it set off a nuclear bomb last weekend. And its president, Kim Jong-Il, says that more are coming. The Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, charges that some American news organizations are, to an extent, defending the action because North Korea is worried about an attack from the United States and hopes the bomb tests will be a deterrent.

Let me be more blunt about it, Cal: Some conservatives in the press think some liberals in the press are justifying the Korean bomb because Bush is a warmonger, and they have to do what they can to keep Bush out of their country.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, this is nothing new, and doesn't relate only to Bush. I mean, ABC's Mark Litke made this point on "World News Tonight." Andrea Mitchell got close to it on NBC.

This isn't something that is unique to Bush and the current situation. There's a presumption in much of the media that what America does affects what others do, or that if we -- you know, people are denied certain things, that if we just give them what they want, they'll leave us alone. The Neville Chamberlain going to Munich ought to be a good example of that.

But you get this in the media, that somehow the reason people hate us is that we're not giving them what they want. And I think that is a false diagnosis.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: I mean, I look at it very, very differently.

First of all, MRC can find the needle in the haystack. We ought to sick them to find Usama bin Laden, because they always find what they're looking for, and liberal bias is what they're looking for.

But I disagree with what Cal said. What I find in the coverage is that it was very American-centric. I mean, the general idea is -- these North Koreans are nuts! You know, Kim Jong-Il is absolutely crazy. You can't deal with them. They're out of control.

BURNS: Shouldn't coverage in America be American-centric.

GABLER: No, I think -- no. I think what coverage in America ought to be is to examine the situation. Because it behooves the American public to know what's going on in the North Korean mind, which -- a wonderful article this week in The Los Angeles Times did precisely that. There was another one in The Washington Post that did the same thing -- so that what we know what's going on from their point of view. And that enables us as informed citizens to determine what to do here.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You know, I would make a different point. This -- the allegedly liberal media let President Bush make statements about how much he appreciated the failed efforts of the Clinton administration. And that just was left hanging there on NBC. ABC -- I didn't see CBS, but ABC ran Madeleine Albright's response to that. I mean, we're into this blame game thing.

And I agree with Neal: we need to know what the perspective is.


HALL: I don't think Mark Litke was editorializing. He covered Asia for a long time. He was saying how they perceive it.


HALL: That's not bias!

BURNS: I know someone who's not going to leave that point hanging... Jim?

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: I mean, I think Clinton did fail. I think Bush failed. I mean, if in fact -- and it's not 100 percent clear -- the North Koreans set off a nuclear weapon, then obviously, 20 or 30 years of effort to keep the North Koreans from getting to this proliferating point has failed. I think that, you know, there's been of triumphalism in the media bashing the Bush. The Washington Post headline: "Bush Axis of Evil Comes Back to Haunt U.S." That's clearly a dig at Bush. Fair enough.

But I think the most insightful headline I saw anywhere was in a newspaper from Vancouver, Canada, that said: "North Korea Test May Be Plea for Attention." I think what the reality is closer to what Cal said...

THOMAS: Put him on "Dr. Phil"! -- A cry for help!

PINKERTON: If we could have put them on "Dr. Phil" or "Oprah", we might have said, Look, will you trade away your nuclear weapons for a chance to be on "Oprah"? He might have said yes.

THOMAS: I think you're on to something!


PINKERTON: That's the point. I think that the reality is, this is not about us; this is about them. They want a nuclear weapon, in part for strategic reasons; in part because it does get them world -- Kim Jong-Il world attention. And that -- let's face it -- that's what people crave.

BURNS: And if he knows he's getting three or four minutes on "News Watch," that's not going to stack up with an hour on "Oprah". Is that your point, Jim?

PINKERTON: I think we could be outbid...

HALL: The guy owns something like 20,000 Hollywood movies, you know?

I think there's a very serious question about whether the United States should be negotiating him. That's what we need to be talking about; whether the policy of not talking to him -- I mean, even former Secretary of State James Baker said we should talk to our enemies on ABC's This Week this week.

GABLER: You know, I disagree with Jim's interpretation. But he's right in the fact that we have to look at reasons. Reasons, reasons. And that's what the media ought to be doing.

THOMAS: The reasons is, they're communists. That's the reason.

GABLER: Well, that's...

THOMAS: They lie! That's it!

GABLER: Well, it's much more complex than that.

BURNS: Jim, would you like to wrap it up, or just have me go to break? What's your choice?

PINKERTON: I would say, Look, the -- as I've said before on this show -- the media create an attractive nuisance. It's a moral hazard that we give people --bad people, from John Mark Karr to Kim Jong-Il, attention.

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