April 17, 2003


IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DEBRIS. Media Watch is now claiming that its dismissal of the "Pentagon flag on Saddam's statue" story is based entirely on the Daily Telegraph's description of the position of Pentagon debris relative to the flag prior to its recovery on September 11. Here's the original Telegraph report:

The Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square was under the debris at the Pentagon following the September 11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

Media Watch dismissed the Telegraph's claim - not specifically the claim that the flag had been under debris, but the claim in general - as "incredible even by the Tele's standards". The program contacted U.S. Central Command in Qatar to determine if "the Tele’s claim could possibly be true".

An unnamed "moderator" at Media Watch's website now offers this:

We can't find any other source to support the claim that this flag was pulled from under the debris of the Pentagon attack. Lt McLaughlin doesn't make that claim nor does Associated Press. But The Tele does and that's why they were singled out.

As part of our research last week we wrote to The Tele and asked them "Could you explain why you believe the flag to be from under the debris of The Pentagon?" We have received no reply.

Only The Tele and Tim Blair claim it was rescued from the debris of The Pentagon after the attack.

(I never made any such claim, but that's Media Watch for you. Scroll down the page to read my earlier piece on this.)

The London paper wasn't quite as graphic in its claims as its Sydney namesake. They said the flag was "recovered from the Pentagon" rather than "under the debris". Still waiting for Tim Blair's correction.

And I'm still waiting for theirs (incidentally, it's perhaps a measure of the program's confidence in their ultra-legal, microfine-splitting defence that nobody from Media Watch has contacted me requesting a correction).

Media Watch's original criticism didn't focus upon the flag's precise Pentagon recovery point. Rather, Media Watch called into question the entire issue of the Pentagon as the source of the flag. Or are we expected to believe that Media Watch didn't think it was "incredible" that the flag had come from the Pentagon, didn't wonder if it "could possibly be true" that the flag had been at the Pentagon on September 11, but was sceptical only about the debris?

If so, why didn't they say that?

Posted by Tim Blair at April 17, 2003 01:46 PM