WASHINGTON – A leading Republican lawmaker on defense issues has asked the Pentagon to bar CNN reporters from traveling with military units in Iraq because the network showed insurgent snipers shooting at U.S. troops.
"Does CNN want America to win this thing?" Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., asked in an interview Monday on the network. In past wars, he said, the press was more pro-American.
"You can't be on both sides of the war," Hunter said.
CNN issued a statement saying the decision to air the insurgents' video was "a difficult one, but for a news organization, the right one. Our responsibility is to report the news."
In a letter released Monday, Hunter asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to yank CNN from the military embedding program, in which journalists spend time with combat units in Iraq.
Hunter, a staunch defender of the Bush administration and its handling of the war in Iraq, said the decision was irresponsible because it could encourage more attacks on U.S. troops.
"CNN has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film featuring the killing of an American soldier," wrote Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. California Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray also signed the letter.
CNN last week aired the footage, which was delivered through a contact with an insurgent leader.
The footage does not show the actual death or wounding of any service member. In one instance, the tape shows a service member milling around a public area. A shot rings out, and the tape fades to black.
Hunter's fury over the video underscores the tightrope often walked by news media in the war. Critics of the war say Americans see very little of the daily violence in Iraq because of television's reluctance to show gory footage. Dangerous conditions also keep journalists from reporting independent of military units that provide them protection.