BBC apologises for its anti-Blair bias (and sexing up the ‘evidence’). Is this a first?

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    16th February, 2010

    BBC apologises for its anti-Blair bias (and sexing up). Is this a first?

    BBC Complaints Dept: ‘We have spoken to the editor on duty that day who accepts that the opening headline could have been clearer in reflecting that Tony Blair had said it would have been “right” to get rid of Saddam Hussein without evidence of weapons of mass destruction.’

    This from the BBC was in response to a complaint about the BBC’s televised news coverage of the Fern Britton interview of Tony Blair.  The relentless and frankly odious and lying BIAS against Mr Blair is astounding and shameful. This kind of apology should and could have been sent by ALL of the other news outlets and broadcasters in print and online. Unfortunately, only the BBC is accountable to us, the licence payers.

    It is my humble opinion that we have never EVER been served so badly by our press. If you doubt this, ask yourself this – “WHAT DID TONY BLAIR SAY TO FERN BRITTON?”

    I can almost guarantee that your response will be – “THAT HE WOULD HAVE INVADED IRAQ EVEN IF HE’D KNOWN THAT SADDAM HAD NO WMDs.”

    He did NOT say that.

    Jump here to read what he DID say and then jump back. Jump here to read the complaint to the Beeb and the rest of their answer, if you can’t wait. Then jump back. All this jumping… exhausting.

    And it is worth noting that although the BBC has apologised of their headline, they had already boobed by their (generally missed) alteration of the headline, which I shall show below, AND in this, as Stan Rosenthal says:

    “Of course they don’t cover the questions of misrepresentation and giving ammunition to the anti-Blair lobby.”

    MOVING THE GOALPOSTS aka ADJUSTING THE ‘FACTS’

    It’s interesting how the BBC put “right” in inverted commas in their response to this complaint. Why is it interesting? Because that’s how they put it on their own website when they first reported it

    Removal of Saddam Hussein ‘right’, says Tony Blair

    So does that mean they were fairer online than on the TV news coverage? Well, yes but no but…

    CHANGING THE RULES OF THE GAME HEADLINE

    You see, shortly after their first publication of this article at their website they actually altered their first headlinesexed up the dossier, as it were – to suit the message. And possibly to compete for readers with other broadcasters and online press outlets who had all run with versions of – ‘Tony Blair would have invaded Iraq without WMDs’.

    THE BBC DID A DOUBLE WHAMMY

    I only realised this when I checked out my own coverage of this BBC report at my “yes, but no but” post.  In fact I had actually praised the BBC report as being reporting and not opining, here at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8408918.stm. (This link is here in case you want to complain about any bias at the BBC.)

    I wrote:

    “The BBC, which will broadcast the interview on Sunday at 10:00am, has a far more accurate account of Blair’ s words. They simply quote him. Now THAT’S more like it! How novel.

    BBC: Removal of Saddam Hussein ‘right’, says Tony Blair

    ‘It would have been “right to remove” Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein even without evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction, Tony Blair has said.’

    So am I slipping in my hunt the blair baters expedition? Not at all. It’s Spot The Difference time. In my headline when I first spotted it, it said –

    Removal of Saddam Hussein ‘right’, says Tony Blair

    Later on that day it had been changed to –

    Removing  Saddam was right, even without WMD – Blair”

    WHO COMPLAINED TO THE BBC?

    Stan Rosenthal is the complainant.  Not quite a ‘complainant’ in the legal sense as this is not a judicial complaint. There is no point, anyway, in a judicial complaint. Mr Blair, seemingly uniquely for a citizen of this country, is not protected by any laws of libel or from the chattering press.  If he were, there would already have been a crackdown on the torrent of opinionated abuse and, to put it bluntly, lying he has received since and even long before his appearance at the Iraq Inquiry (a reminder here)



    Stan Rosenthal’s e-mail:

    “You may be interested in this exchange I’ve had with the BBC about their reporting of the Fern Britton interview.

    This is the first time they’ve admitted that they got it wrong, albeit putting it in terms of it could have been expressed more clearly.

    Of course they don’t cover the questions of misrepresentation and giving ammunition to the anti-Blair lobby.”


    The BBC’s Stan’s response to Stan Rosenthal’s complaint, which he sent on 12th December (TWO MONTHS AGO) to the BBC here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/homepage/

    ————Original Message—————

    {Complaint:} Blair’s remarks about Iraq were headlined and reported as “Blair said he would have taken the decision to invade Iraq even if he had known there were no WMD.” No doubt this will be the theme of future radio and TV news broadcasts today. What Blair actually said in reply to a question about whether he would still have gone in if he had known there were no WMD was “I would have still thought it right to remove him (Saddam Hussein). Saying he believed it was (morally) the right thing to do is not the same as saying he would have invaded regardless, as the BBC coverage indicated. The BBC’s coverage fell in with anti-war propaganda of a man bent on war irrespective of all other considerations and included comment by a leading opponent of the war to underline the point without any balancing view. Whereas the reality was that Blair was simply expressing a moral judgement which, implicitly in the context of what he said, would have had to conform with diplomatic and legal considerations if action was to be taken on that judgement. Moreover he did NOT say that he would just have gone in. He said he would HAVE MADE OTHER  ARGUMENTS for going in, which any leader in a democratic is expected to do if he believes something is the right thing to do.

    The way it was presented by the BBC clearly misrepresented what Mr Blair had said (providing ammunition for the anti-war lobby in the process) and was therefore in conflict with your accuracy guidelines and possibly your guidelines concerning bias. I expect someone to be called to account for this disgraceful episode.

    ————Reply follows—————
    REPLY FROM THE BBC:

    From: <complaintresponse@bbc.co.uk
    To: Stan Rosenthal
    Sent: Monday, February 15, 2010 3:37 PM
    Subject: BBC Complaints

    Dear Mr Rosenthal

    Thanks for your e-mail regarding BBC News on 12 December. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we’re sorry that you’ve had to wait on this occasion.

    We have spoken to the editor on duty that day who accepts that the opening headline could have been clearer in reflecting that Tony Blair had said it would have been “right” to get rid of Saddam Hussein without evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

    It should be noted that this point was reflected in the introduction to the main report:

    “Tony Blair says he believes it would still have been right to invade Iraq, even if he’d known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.”

    Headlines of course are necessarily brief and here it was intended to summarise the thrust of Tony Blair’s point – that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed.

    However, the headline could have been better and we can assure you that senior figures at BBC News have been made aware of your concerns.

    We’d also like to assure you, Mr Rosenthal, that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

    The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

    Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

    Regards

    Jonathan Carberry
    BBC Complaints
    ________________________________________________

    Pardon? Headlines “are necessarily brief”?

    It was actually shorter BEFORE altered. On a wordcount check the original was 8 words, 43/50 characters BEFORE the BBC decided to change it. Their altered headline was 9 words, 43/51 characters.

    Reminder:

    Removal of Saddam Hussein ‘right’, says Tony Blair

    Later on that day it had been changed to –

    Removing  Saddam was right, even without WMD – Blair

    Back to top of page


    RELATED

    An earlier post on ‘Invading Iraq if it had no WMDs – yes, but no but…’

    Excerpts from above  post:

    1.‘Tony Blair admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway’

    DID HE? Yes but, no but … all over again.

    He is not QUOTED AS SAYING THOSE WORDS, as far as this (and the Times) article shows. But of course what he says and what he meant are two different things. Except they’re not.

    2. Times – Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, and David Brown

    ‘Blair ‘would have gone to war without Iraqi WMD’

    Tony Blair would still have led the country to war in Iraq even if he had known that it had no weapons of mass destruction.

    The former Prime Minister has confessed that he would have had to use different arguments to justify toppling Saddam Hussein.’


    Blairs christian crusade pt1 (9:10)

    Blairs christian crusade pt2.wmv (2:50)

    YouTube playlist on Tony Blair


    MORE MEDIA OPINING AND WHAT BLAIR REALLY SAID

    Sky news report. Mark Langford says this – (reporting or opining?)

    Persuading the nation to go to war in Iraq was a tortuous process for Tony Blair. Given what we know now, proving that what he did wasn’t an unforgiveable sin looks a lot harder. With his appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry looming, though, he’s trying to lay the ground suggesting weapons of mass destruction, the official justification, weren’t really the point.

    Fern Britton: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs would you still have gone on?”

    Tony Blair: “I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean, obviously you would have had to use and  deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat…”

    “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons still in charge but it’s incredibly difficult.”

    Back to top


    MY THOUGHTS

    If this is the best our professional journalists can do, we’re doomed Cap’n Mainwaring. Perhaps the press’s inability to cope with the facts regarding anything that Blair ever does or says is the reason he seemed, at the Iraq Inquiry, to step back from his words to Britton. (“Seemed” is the operative word.)

    He has other arguments to make and bigger fish to fry than the British press.




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    5 Responses to “BBC apologises for its anti-Blair bias (and sexing up the ‘evidence’). Is this a first?”

    1. Ross Kelly Says:

      And where is Blair’s posthumous apology to Dr David Kelly? Walter Mitty.
      Retracted.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Oh, you are hysterical, Mr Ross, in the original meaning of the word.

        For a writer your use of language is a little muddled. Mr Blair’s “posthumous apology” means an apology he would give after his death.

        Now go back to your Bounty hunting nonsense on Facebook, and don’t chase us around here. I really can’t be doing with your nonsense.

    2. margaret walters Says:

      It took them along enough to apologise didn’t it 8 weeks after a complaint . How about apologising to Tony Blair now for misconstruing his words

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Yeah, quite, Margaret. The day one of them EVER apologises to Tony Blair is the day I start buying newspapers again.

        That’s the problem though. They have dug themseves into such a deep hole on the “Blair lied” story that they can’t get out of it, without admitting he didn’t.

        Whhhoooops! I can (can’t ) see the headlines –

        “The Papers Got Blair Wrong. He was Right”

    3. European Football Everton – BBC Sport | Sports Headlines Today Says:

      […] BBC apologises for its anti-Blair bias (and sexing up the … […]

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