This is a partial transcript from "FOX News Watch," on March 31, 2007:
ERIC BURNS, HOST: Were these British soldiers in Iranian waters, as Iran claims? Or were they in Iraqi waters, as the British claim? Regardless, Iran seized them in the Persian Gulf nine days ago.
A big story this week, Cal, which didn't start out big. Tell me if I'm right or wrong on this — and remember that I'm sensitive — so if you think I'm wrong, be gentle.
Didn't it get big once we saw the statements - there have been two taped statements now from captured British naval people -- isn't that when it got big, when it got to be more of a picture story?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right, when it got on television.
And we've seen these kinds of things before. Hostages, beheadings -- this goes back in modern times to the Pueblo incident in 1968 when American sailors were captured by the North Koreans. Film of them, grainy film -- it even goes back in the Vietnam period, you saw hostages paraded.
The - the enemy understands the power of the picture, and the ability to weaken resolve by people in the old days who might have put a bomb down their chimney.
BURNS: And Jane, that being the case, what should the media do with these pictures?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, it's interesting; I've seen a couple of criticisms saying the media weren't doing enough with this story. I mean, "Nightline" was born out of the - out of the - the hostage crisis many, many years ago.
I think partially it's because Iran, you know, is under sanctions about building nuclear weapons. There's fear we may go to war with Iran. The British have been sort of, some people have said, low - low-key, and - and Prime Minister Blair has been criticized.
Now I think it's being ratcheted up, and now I think the media are doing more with the story.
BURNS: Was it not, Neal, ratcheted up initially in part because it was foreign news? They were British. I mean, they're our allies, but they weren't Americans.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: No, I - I think there's another reason, and that is that I don't think anybody in the American media really takes this story very seriously, because they know that there aren't going to be serious consequences, or at least they suspect there aren't going to be serious consequences. They see as a - as a matter of brinkmanship. It's politics; ultimately, this is going to get resolved. At least that's the assumption.
And so I think because of that assumption, it's kind of been under the radar, until Thursday night, when it finally jumped to the head of the pack on the network news broadcast, and because there was video.
GABLER: But - but I really think that they feel, Look it, this is not going to end with an explosion; it's going to end with a whimper.
BURNS: It also jumped in the head of the - to the head of the pack with someone who is not whimpering, and who was not on in the nighttime, but during the daytime - Rosie O'Donnell, who is the host of an entertainment show, and more and more talking about public issues - had this to say about this issue:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": There were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters, and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin. Google it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNS: Let's not Google it.
You explain it, and tell me what she's trying to get at.
JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: The - the Gulf of Tonkin was a murky incident in 1964 in which two U.S. destroyers thought they were being attacked by North Vietnam. It became the - the casus belli for the Vietnam War for the United States. And so the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress, enabled the U.S. to go into Vietnam.
Very controversial, and many people think the - the incident was an allusion. And I think that's what Rosie O'Donnell, in her Noam Chomsky-like way, is getting at. She's trying to make the argument that the U.S. - that the U.S. and Britain are provoking the Iranians somehow. She said flatly, `They were Iranian waters.' Well, the British deny that; the Iranians can't prove that they were in Iranian waters. So Rosie is simply, to put it bluntly, taking the Iranian side on this controversy.
BURNS: On an entertainment show.
HALL: You know what's really interesting to me is that she has gotten more and more provocative. I mean, she's now talking about her conspiracy theories about 9/11; Bill O'Reilly has been talking about whether ABC should take her off. And what was interesting to me, when she was hired, I think ABC made a calculation that public opinion had moved on the Iraq war, and she could say that.
But when she's talking about conspiracy theories about 9/11, it'll be interesting to see what happens.
THOMAS: The left has a problem here. If they were really smart, they would have a Sista Souljah moment. They'd have some major liberal person, a credible person, maybe in the Senate, telling her to shut up, that she doesn't represent the majority of liberal opinion in this country.
This woman is a Marxist. She is an unredeemed America hater, and - and they are going to be boycotts by some conservatives. But she's also a perfect foil. Just as the left has certain people on the right that they use for fundraising and sliming all people who are conservatives, the left has a problem here. And responsible liberals ought to get up and denounce her.
BURNS: Will you take your Rosie poster down from your room, or.
GABLER: Yes, I - I mean, I think Cal is absolutely right. This is a pseudo controversy that's pretty much been generated by the right-wing media. Nobody is paying that much attention to Rosie O'Donnell as a political commentator. And by sliming her, what you do is you take your eye off the ball.
Seymour Hersh wrote a long piece in "The New Yorkers," very heavily documented with people from this administration talking about how this administration has a thirst to go to war with Iran. That's important stuff to look at.
PINKERTON: It's - it's - it's one thing to do a seriously documented story like Seymour Hersh does in "The New Yorker." It's another thing just to blank - blanket, make bluster shots at the U.S. government and the - and the American government at a time when - when hostages are being held and lives are at stake. She is — shouldn't be doing what she's doing. She should be.
GABLER: She's been marginalized.
BURNS: Ironically, it's a lot easier to get the press when you do the bluster than when you do the long, serious story. Don't agree with me; time for a break.
BURNS: It's time for a break. Why is that so funny?
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