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PAULA ZAHN NOW
President Bush Addresses Arab World; New Trial For Martha Stewart Denied
Aired May 5, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn.
The Iraqi prison scandal and the Bush administration's all-out effort at damage control dominate the news tonight.
ZAHN (voice-over): New details come to light about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Tonight, a U.S. general says he's sorry.
MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, U.S. ARMY: I would like to personally apologize to the people of Iraq.
ZAHN: And President Bush addresses the Arab world trying to diffuse its anger.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent.
ZAHN: But will it work? And the fallout in Washington. Will Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lose his job?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I called for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation months ago.
ZAHN: And those endless photos. Is the media stoking the fire?
ZAHN: Also ahead tonight, will the U.S. soldiers in the abuse scandal be able to get fair trials?
And speaking of trials, Martha Stewart found out whether she will get a new one. I'll be talking about that with legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
First, though, some of the other headlines you need to know right now. A U.S. offensive in southern Iraq is targeting the militia loyal to a renegade Iraqi cleric; 10 militants and one U.S. soldier died today in fighting around Karbala.
The State Department is shooting down a "GQ" magazine article that portrays Secretary of State Colin Powell as frustrated, tired and ready to leave the Bush administration. A Powell spokesman says the secretary is very proud and satisfied with his service in the Bush administration.
Cooler weather thankfully is helping Southern California firefighters as they battle wildfires that have consumed some 20,000 acres. No fatalities have been reported, but hundreds of people remain evacuated from their homes tonight.
Back to our main focus tonight, conflict within the Bush administration as it tries to cope with the Iraq prison scandal. At the very least, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has a lot of explaining to do both on Capitol Hill and in the Oval Office.
Let's go to senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre in a moment.
But our extensive coverage begins with senior White House correspondent John King.
Lots of seniors here tonight. Let's start with you, John. Good evening.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And good evening to you, Paula.
And just the fact that the president himself needed to take the lead in this damage control operation here at the White House is proof the administration realizes it has a significant perception problem, not only in Iraq, but across the Arab world.
Mr. Bush began his day with a meeting here at the White House in the Oval Office with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The main subject of discussion, we're told, was the prisoner abuse scandal. Mr. Bush said he told Secretary Rumsfeld to get to the bottom of this and hold those responsible accountable. And the president then discussed his meeting in one of two interviews he gave to Arab- language television net works.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We want to know the truth. I talked to the secretary of defense about this morning, by the way. I said, find the truth and then tell the Iraqi people and the world the truth. We have nothing to hide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the administration already has a very sullied image across the Arab world. Its relations with Israel, its failure to deal directly with the Palestinians directly, its invasion of Iraq already causing controversy in the Arab world.
In those interviews, the president himself acknowledging the administration has a very tough time now in trying to change Arab perceptions about America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Terrible. I think people in the Middle East who want to dislike America will use this as an excuse to remind people about their dislike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, here at the White House, a damage control effort, but still the administration cannot or will not answer some key questions.
The investigation into these abuses began by the military back in January. Here at the White House, they say the president was informed sometime after that, but they say they do not know exactly when. They also say it is true that he did not read a classified report on this, did not even know about it until that report was mentioned in media accounts, and that the president did not know about those graphic, horrific pictures until they were featured in media accounts.
And tonight, Paula, administration officials publicly defending Secretary Rumsfeld, but we are told in that private meeting in the Oval Office this morning that Mr. Bush bluntly told the secretary that he was not happy, not satisfied and believed that he been kept out of the loop, if you will, not sufficiently informed about what was going on in the investigation and about the abuses to begin with -- Paula.
ZAHN: John King, thanks so much for the update.
And in a few minutes, we're going to hear from one of the Arab journalists who interviewed President Bush earlier today.
Now, before that, we have more on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's troubles, this time with Congress as well.
Here is senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
The secretary must be smarting a little from what the president reportedly had to say to him earlier today, too, Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A little bit.
He's not one to admit he was wrong about anything. It would have been very interesting to hear that conversation. Also, tension between the Pentagon and Congress today, daylong negotiations between the Senate Armed Services Committee and Secretary Rumsfeld's office about when Rumsfeld might come up and testify. Rumsfeld wanted to put off any appearance until next week. The committee wanted to hear from him tomorrow. The comprise is that he will testify on Friday.
The big question, a version of the old Howard Baker question: What did Rumsfeld know, when did he know it and in this case why didn't he tell Congress sooner?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: We should have been advised of this situation long ago. And I'm not sure when the secretary find out about it. But he is going to be grilled pretty good about what happened, how it happened, and how far up the chain it looks like it went.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: One of the questions he'll be asked no doubt is why he took so long to read that damning Army investigation that has been out for more than a month detailing all of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Some members of Congress has been calling for Rumsfeld to possibly resign, noting that he was a former Navy officer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: In my heart of hearts, I believe that the responsibility rests at much higher levels. Look, you know, there is a tradition in the United States Navy. If a captain of a ship goes up on the shoals, almost regardless of whether it is his fault or not, he loses command. It is time for a little grace and dignity here. It is time for someone to step forward and take a hit for the team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Now, Rumsfeld likes to say that he serves at the pleasure of the president. And while the White House has indicated, as John King reported, some displeasure with how Rumsfeld handled this, key aides to Rumsfeld say tonight that they don't believe he's really in any trouble of possibly losing his job -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thank you.
Now, after a closed-door hearing today, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said so far there is no evidence that intelligence personnel directed any of the Iraqi prison abuse.
Senator Pat Roberts stresses, the investigation continues into whether operatives were involved at all. Meanwhile, some lawmakers are asking why they weren't told about this abuse earlier. But the Defense Department says an investigation into the report of mistreatment was announced back in January. Now, a press release sent out by Central Command on January 16 that you're looking at right now on the screen mentions that investigation.
And today, I discussed the report with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
ZAHN: Senator Snowe, always good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: If these pictures hadn't been made public, would we have ever seen the fallout we're seeing today from this alleged prison abuse? SNOWE: Well, that's a very good question since this report was not formally or officially transmitted to Congress.
So this is regrettable and it is hard to believe that Congress would not have been informed in any way about the nature and the extent of these atrocities and these abuses.
ZAHN: Senator Snowe, I have in my hand a copy of the news release that CENTCOM put out on January 16, 2004, basically saying that an investigation had been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a coalition forces detention facility and that specific information concerning the investigation would not be released because they didn't want it to hinder the investigation.
Who responsibility is it to get this kind of information to Congress?
SNOWE: Well, obviously, it is their responsibility.
I mean, obviously, you would expect that the Pentagon would understand that they are accountable to Congress as well.
ZAHN: But going back to Congress being out of the loop, the president seemingly out of loop. He said he learned about this on television. Is it a case of CENTCOM being tone-deaf about what these allegations might inspire as far as public opinion goes or does it go further than that, or the suggestion that someone was trying to minimize the damage ahead of time?
SNOWE: Well, I think that you have identified a problem. And that is a failure to understand and recognize the severity of even one instance of this type of abuse. And, frankly, that may have well led to the point that we had some systemic failures.
We're talking about one prison. There could be several prisons. We don't know the extent of this problem and the magnitude of this problem.
ZAHN: Your Democratic colleague Senator Biden is saying that if he doesn't get the answers he thinks the American public is entitled to as far as the arc of this investigation that perhaps someone should call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Do you agree?
SNOWE: Well, you know, we're going to look at the issue and I think we have to find out how pervasive, what happened, who knew what when, where the failure exists. Accountability is obviously going to be part of our decision-making process, a part of the investigation. And so until we get the facts, it is pretty hard to determine it.
ZAHN: But, Senator Snowe, couldn't you make the argument that CENTCOM did cover its rear end by putting this press release out in January, many months ago before these pictures ever surfaced, calling attention to the fact that an investigation had been launched?
SNOWE: Well, if that was their intent, then, you know, then obviously they failed at that, because ultimately we don't even know the extent of the problem that might have occurred this year. I mean, basically the report that has been issued was for a period of time last fall from October to December.
But we don't even know the instances in which these atrocities or abuses could have occurred this year as well or prior to the reporting period of last year. So, again, I think that frankly had they acknowledged the severity of even one instance, several instances and probed deeper and further, they would have discovered how severe this problem was.
ZAHN: Senator, you raise a critical issue here. And it is something that Senator Kennedy weighed in on earlier today when he says he believes the abuse reports we have heard so far only represent -- quote -- "the tip of the iceberg." Do you believe that to be true?
SNOWE: It could well be. I hope these instances are an aberration. But, again, it remains to be seen. And we really don't know, to be honest with you. We're just going to see one period in this report.
We don't know this year or prior to that reporting period of October and December as to what else occurred and where it occurred.
ZAHN: Final question for you. What are you learning about the extent of the involvement in intelligence officers in the abuse of prisoners?
SNOWE: Well, you know, again, we understand that, you know, many of these abuses occurred under the leadership of the military intelligence community. And it could be far-reaching. We don't know.
And so, again, we have to determine how pervasive and how wide- ranging it is and who was involved, who is responsible for setting the stage and creating the culture and the conditions to allow this to happen. It is unimaginable, frankly, that this could have been going on for any extended period of time and the numerous instances that have already cited and no one was able to detect it. I think that that is really surprising.
ZAHN: Senator Snowe, good of you to join us tonight. Thank you so much.
SNOWE: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And now we return to the question of how the Arab world will react to the president's interviews today.
A short while ago, I spoke with Mouafac Harb, the news director of Al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored Arabic network. He was one of the two reporters who interviewed the president today.
ZAHN: So did you expect President Bush to apologize today during your interview?
MOUAFAC HARB, DIRECTOR OF NETWORK NEWS, AL-HURRA: I did not ask him directly to apologize. But I tried to see where the buck stopped, who should be responsible. And I asked him a question, because he kept saying, in a democracy, people investigate.
And I said to him, don't you think also someone should be held responsible and step down and if you still have confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld? And he said, yes, he still had confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld.
ZAHN: Do you believe that the president's words of condemnation were strong enough to ameliorate many of the bitter feelings in Iraq right now?
HARB: I think it is so difficult to get the impact of the president's speech today.
But all I can tell you, the worst-case scenario, it did not hurt. And what was so evident and obvious that the administration and the president himself, he understands the magnitude of the problem that we have today in Iraq. And he was very forthcoming.
ZAHN: Mouafac, one thing you would have to acknowledge is that there are critics in the Middle East who charge your network is simply an outlet for U.S. propaganda. You certainly don't expect that president to make any sort of traction with those folks, do you?
HARB: I do understand why people would say that, that we are propaganda, because most media outlets in the Middle East are propaganda. And they're all funded by the governments.
However, there is a slight difference between what we do and what they do. That is, the political system in the United States does not allow for the government or the Congress to use taxpayers' money for propaganda. I understand where they're coming from. But if our political system and the U.S. is similar to the political system of Arab regimes today, I would accept this analogy. But, unfortunately, they are not the same.
But I do understand why people in the Middle East find it difficult to get the mission and what we're trying to do. But we do understand the challenge and I know why people are kind of testing our credibility. It takes time before people can -- it is a track record. It will take time before people can see and rely on us as a credible source of information.
ZAHN: So basically, what you're telling me tonight, in spite of the fact that Al-Hurra is owned and operated by the U.S. government, you don't...
HARB: It is not operated. I'm sorry. It is not operated. We are a grantee. We are funded by the government. We're not operated by the government. There is a huge difference.
(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: All right, but you maintain that there are absolutely no constraints put on you about what you can broadcast, what you can say and how you can say it.
The only constraint is mission of the broadcasting board of governors. We have a journalistic mission. I'm a journalist. And all the people we have recruited to work in our newsroom in Washington and worldwide, they accepted the job as journalists. And they have not accepted the job to be part of a propaganda machine. And this is not what we intend to do. And this is the only constraint.
ZAHN: Mouafac, were there any ground rules for the interview today with the president?
HARB: Not at all. It only was like, I had only 10 minutes. And it ran for 12 minutes. I had more questions to ask. And that's the only thing.
ZAHN: Well, we always feel that way at the end of an interview. What was the one question that you wanted to ask that you didn't have time to ask of the president?
HARB: Actually, I wanted to ask more about the plan right now in Iraq? Do we have really a strategy? Is there a reversal of policy? What has changed over the past two months and if there is a new dynamic in Iraq that we did not anticipate. I wanted to get into more details about this subject. But I didn't have time.
ZAHN: All right. Mouafac Harb, thank you for sharing your interview with us tonight. Appreciate it.
HARB: Thank you.
ZAHN: Will U.S. soldiers accused of allegedly abusing prisoners be able to get fair trials? Well, one of their attorneys says no way and he blames the president for that. He'll tell us why.
And did the media underplay the killing of four American contractors while going overboard on coverage of Iraqi prisoners? We'll have that debate.
And it seems Martha Stewart is running out of options, the latest legal setback in her fight to stay out of prison.
ZAHN: Are the alleged abusers of Iraqi prisoners being found guilty even before they're tried?
Well, last week, after the pictures first aired, President Bush said -- quote -- "There will be an investigation. I think they will be taken care of." Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers said in an interview -- quote -- "The perpetrators of those acts that we see in the pictures, were soldiers, actually. The folks that perpetrated it will have to face justice by our system."
So, do these comments like these prevent an alleged abuser from getting a fair court martial? We'll debate that.
Joining us now from Houston tonight, attorney Guy Womack, who represents one of the accused soldiers. He believes the comments could taint a potential jury. Also joining us is retired Army Colonel John Jay Douglass, a law professor at the University of Houston. He believes the alleged abusers could still get a fair court-martial.
Welcome to both of you.
GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR ACCUSED SOLDIER: Good evening.
ZAHN: Mr. Womack, I want to start off tonight by all of us looking at a picture of your client with his arms folded behind the pile of naked Iraqi soldiers. Are you going to tell me tonight there is an innocent explanation for your client's actions?
WOMACK: Yes. Yes, there is.
ZAHN: And what are they?
WOMACK: He was complying with orders that he believed to be lawful.
ZAHN: Can you share with us who gave him those orders?
WOMACK: Well, actually, General Karpinski has been sharing that all week. That prison was being run by officers with the military intelligence command, other government agencies collecting intelligence, and even civilian contract intelligence officers. It had an intelligence and interrogation mission. And these guards were working directly for intelligence officers and at their direction.
ZAHN: Have you had a chance to talk to Charles Graner, the man you're representing, about what would have happened if he hadn't complied you say with the instructions he was given?
WOMACK: Well, of course.
He had, as every American serviceman has, an obligation to follow any lawful order. You can only refuse to obey those orders that you know must be unlawful. We don't want soldiers debating the niceties of an order during time of war. If an order appears to be lawful or could be lawful, you have an obligation to obey it. Under the climate that existed at Abu Ghraib, Specialist Graner thought that he was complying with a lawful order because he had seen similar things being done for the weeks and months that he was in that facility working directly for intelligence officers.
ZAHN: So you're going to tell us tonight your client wasn't aware of the Geneva Convention which prohibits the kind of behavior that would humiliate an Iraqi prison?
WOMACK: He's aware of the conventions generally. And they require that servicemen follow lawful orders.
And from what he saw in the prison, the way the intelligence officers were crafting and using psychological methods to control and to interrogate prisoners, what he was asked to do, what he was told to do appeared to be lawful.
ZAHN: And do you really believe that the pictures we're looking at tonight are almost as prejudicial as what the president has had to say and high-ranking military officials about the behavior of these soldiers?
WOMACK: They're different.
The photographs are evidence that certain acts were staged and were committed in that prison. And at trial, I'll put into context exactly what those pictures depict and why they come to exist. Those are staged photographs. The comments by the president, by Secretary Rumsfeld, General Miller today, by a spokesman for the Army, by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, more statements than the one that you have quoted earlier have implied that my client and the other soldiers guarding these prisoners are guilty and should receive severe punishment.
ZAHN: What about that, Mr. Douglass. Do you to think his client has a shot at getting a fair trial here?
JOHN JAY DOUGLASS, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LAW CENTER: Well, of course they do.
When I first heard the president's statement, whenever it was, a week or two ago, I was so amazed. I said, well, he has got some good advice from some Army legal officer who told him what he could say. So he didn't destroy the case in any way. I think there is plenty of opportunity. And I don't know the facts of the case at all. I must say that. I'm only concerned about this question of whether the court-martial has been tainted in some way by the statements being made.
I'm convinced that this is not the case with the statements that have been made. If you look at them carefully, there is no indication that the president or the secretary of the Army or the secretary of the defense or anyone else has said convict these people and send them to jail forever.
ZAHN: All right, but, Mr. Douglas, why don't we reread what the president had to say when he -- the president basically says they'll be taken care of. Does that imply to you that -- and we can I guess parse this any way you want -- that the president thinks perhaps they're guilty of what they're being accused of?
DOUGLASS: I don't think he even knows who the prisoners are. I don't think he even knows who those people are that are being tried. He's unable -- he doesn't have the evidence. And there is no indication that "They'll be taken care of" means that somebody is going to find them guilty. I think this is -- this is really reaching for it, to my mind, to try to parse a statement like that, which is a phrase of the statement, I might add, right at the end of the statement that would somehow taint the entire proceedings.
I think this is really carrying it too far. Now, if I were on the side of Colonel Womack, I would certainly raise this issue. But I don't think it is a valid issue.
ZAHN: Mr. Womack, are you guilty of overreaching here when it comes to what you think the intent was of what the president said?
And believe me, there have been many other comments paraphrased from the president and other officers beneath him. And I certainly don't think that President Bush is trying to taint anything. But, as Colonel Douglass would agree, rule for court-martial 104 provides that no person subject to the code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, shall make any statements or commit any act that would tend to coerce or influence a court or a member, which is a juror, of that court.
There are two ways I think this could be influential and could taint this trial. The first time is right now, while the commanding general who appointed the Article 32 investigation is considering whether to levy charges. Having heard the comments by the president and the chain of command, he may be hard-pressed to dismiss the charges even if he thinks he should.
ZAHN: And the second point, quickly?
WOMACK: And the second part would be the members themselves know that the general officers in their direct chain of command have taken the position publicly that these soldiers must be guilty and deserve severe punishment.
ZAHN: Mr. Douglass, you get the last word and you can react to both of those now.
DOUGLASS: Well, I think he's going to be hard-pressed not to bring charges. I'll agree to that.
But he's going to be hard-pressed because of the evidence that apparently is available to him. And that's the problem he faces. And he's going to be given legal advice as to whether charges are warranted or not.
ZAHN: Guy Womack, John Jay Douglass, thank you for the fascinating look at a very controversial topic. Appreciate your time.
WOMACK: Thank you.
ZAHN: And some new pictures from inside Iraq's most notorious prison where the alleged mistreatment of Iraqis took place. We're going to show you what we were allowed to see.
Also, does the U.S. media have a built-in bias against the White House when covering events in Iraq? We'll debate that question.
ZAHN: We've spent some time tonight looking at the Bush administration's effort to regain the trust of the Iraqi people in light of the prisoner abuse scandal. In Iraq itself, the military took the very unusual step of letting reporters and cameras inside the prison where the abuse took place and gave assurances that it will not happen again.
Ben Wedeman has been listening to the Iraqi response. He joins us tonight from Baghdad.
Good evening, Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good evening, Paula.
Well, outside Abu Ghraib Prison, when -- while the journalists were inside, I was outside within -- among the Iraqi crowd. This was a demonstration of several hundred people. They had assembled, organized by the Society of Muslim Scholars to present a list of demands to the prison authorities. They want free access to prisoners by Iraqi lawyers and international human rights organizations. They want all those prisoners who are inside the prison who haven't been formally charged to be set free. They want more Iraqi control of the prison.
Now, I spoke with one of the Muslim scholars who spoke with the prison authorities, and he said that the -- as much as they would like them to respond to their list of demands, he felt that they didn't -- they rather -- this group of scholars simply didn't have faith in the American authorities' willingness to make good on their promises to make changes inside the prison -- Paula.
ZAHN: So do you believe that President Bush's message today on various Arab television outlets will have any resonance at all there?
WEDEMAN: Well, people are listening, and that's obviously a positive aspect. And we did conduct a rather unscientific poll of opinion on one street, asking people what they thought. Some people said it just won't make any difference. Others said it's a positive thing that he is saying that those involved in this incident will be brought to account. But by and large, we have to take into account the fact that this is just the latest incident in which Iraqis have expressed disappointment and frustration and anger at the coalition authority. And really, the U.S. has a long way to go before it really restores its credibility with the average Iraqi -- Paula.
ZAHN: And Ben, going back to the top of your report, when you showed us some of those protests that broke out earlier today, tell us who all those protesters were.
WEDEMAN: Well, some of those people are former prisoners. Some of them have relatives inside the prison. Others are simply concerned Iraqis. And in addition to that, on a normal day without a protest, you will find dozens, scores of people outside the prison who are simply looking for relatives who seem to have disappeared into the detention system, others who are waiting for some sort of visit with relatives inside. So this is the sort of event that will not be difficult to draw a crowd when it happens -- Paula.
ZAHN: Ben Wedeman, we're going to leave it there tonight, reporting from Baghdad. Thanks so much.
Coming up: Did the media underplay the killing of four American contractors while going overboard on coverage of Iraqi prisoners? We'll debate that coming up next.
Plus: The president reaches out to the Arab world, but makes no apologies. Can a presidential "I'm sorry" make a difference in the court of public opinion? We'll have a broad look at that tonight.
And tomorrow, deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. I will talk with him about the June 30 handover and the challenges for the U.S. in Iraq. And I believe his first name is Richard there, Mr. Richard Armitage.
ZAHN: Time for some of the headlines you need to know right now. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld goes to Capitol Hill Friday morning. He will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners and about why Congress wasn't told about the problem earlier.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, has informed Congress it's getting ready to ask for another $25 billion to cover the cost of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration had been hoping to put off a request for more money until after the November election.
Filmmaker Michael Moore says the Walt Disney Company has blocked the distribution of his new film, "Fahrenheit 911," because it's critical of George Bush. Well, Disney issued a statement saying Moore has known since May, 2003, that a subsidiary, Miramax, would not release his film.
And Pablo Picasso's painting, "Boy With a Pipe," was auctioned today for a record-setting -- get this -- $104 million. The previous record for the most expensive painting ever sold was $82.5 million for a Van Gogh.
Back to the issue of Iraq prisoners. Is the media coverage in Iraq slanted now? Some media watchdogs think so. They say us U.S. journalists are giving far more attention to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners than they did to the brutal killing of four Americans in Fallujah in March. Others, though, disagree with it -- that. And that is our debate tonight.
Joining us now from Washington is Peter Beinart. He is the editor of "The New Republic." He does not believe the media coverage has been unfair. And Brent Bozell, the founder and president of the Media Research Center, a watchdog group. He believes there is a bias. Good to see both of you.
PETER BEINART, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Hi. How are you?
L. BRENT BOZELL III, FOUNDER AND PRES., MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Hi.
ZAHN: I'm fine, thanks.
But Brent, I want to start with you this evening. First of all, do you think the media is justified in covering the story of the alleged abuse in an Iraq prison?
BOZELL: Sure. It is a story, and it needs to be covered. I think I'll also say that you can't compare pictures of a murder with pictures of abuse. There's is difference in degrees there. That said, however, I think there is -- pardon the pun -- an overkill that's taking place here. In the cosmic order of things, there's a war going on, and it's as if everything else has stopped and what was going on in that jail is the only story. And the bigger problem that I had is that everything is attached to George Bush politically, where somehow this is politically damaging to him. And I think he's done everything correct so far. So I don't know why the media...
ZAHN: Well, who would you attach it to, Brent?
BOZELL: Pardon? Well, I think you've got to look at the military investigation. But you know, if you're going blame George Bush for everything that goes wrong, then the media should also be crediting him for everything that goes right. But you never hear that side of the story, Paula.
ZAHN: Well, that about that, Peter? Do you think, as you look at the -- you analyze the coverage you've seen or -- seen in newspapers, on TV and heard on the radio, is all directed at George Bush, or have you seen evidence, as we saw with our interview earlier tonight with Senator Snowe -- she's highly critical of the military.
BEINART: They're both coming in from criticism. But the problem that Brent Bozell can't get around is that when you're president and you take the country to war, if the war is perceived as going well, you'll get the credit, as Bush did a year ago when he went out to that aircraft carrier, and if it's going badly, as even many Republicans now admit it is -- I wish it weren't, but it is -- you get the negative flak.
You know, the idea that we've been overcovering the prison story is ridiculous, when you think about the fact that it's actually gotten far more coverage in the Arab world and in Europe than it has in the United States. It's a bigger story abroad. And it should because the effects -- pretty much every foreign policy expert who's spoken on this agrees. The effects on American foreign policy could be -- could last for years from this. It's a big story.
ZAHN: You don't deny the impact of that, do you, Brent?
BOZELL: No. No. But I -- no. First of all, I don't think that we ought to set our standards by the standards of Al Jazeera and what...
BEINART: I'm talking about democratic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) media.
BOZELL: But secondarily, I've already said this is a story that needs to be covered. But you talk about the perception of what's going on in Iraq. There -- you talk to anybody who's come back from Iraq, and they will tell you everyone is clamoring about the fact that there's so much good that's taking place. None of it's covered because it -- you know, it doesn't bleed, it's not sensationalistic and the media aren't covering it. If you're going to attach the blame on George Bush, then also give him the praise for the good things that are going on.
ZAHN: All right, Peter, let's -- let's pose a narrow version of that question. Do you think that the stories we've seen lately in the last couple of weeks would reflect that the power grid system has been improved in Iraq, that Iraqi schools are open and kids are beginning to feel safe going to some of these schools for the first time? Have you seen that enough in newspapers and heard it enough on TV and radio?
BEINART: What's happened is that the media coverage has gotten very negative as a result of things that were very negative -- the uprising in Fallujah, the uprising in Najaf and now the prison story. Those things...
ZAHN: So these other stories, you think, get buried.
BEINART: But the problem is that those stories were getting a lot of attention, but reconstruction is now essentially at a halt because the insecurity has spiraled out of control in large parts -- not in the Kurdish north, but in large chunks of the Sunni center and in the Shia south. That's why this isn't getting -- you're not getting as many stories on the power grid, nor should you, because the insecurity issue is right now the central issue. If they get those two cities cleaned up, then you probably will see a return to some stories about reconstruction. Right now, there's not a lot of reconstruction going on.
ZAHN: Give us a historical perspective on this tonight, Brent. Take us back to Somalia and the crisis there. Do you think the media was fair to President Clinton?
BOZELL: Well, I think -- I don't think that the American media did a very good job in Somalia, period, and I don't know that I'm making a political statement here. But I think this was just pretty much off the American radar screen, what happened to Somalia. Those people who say that if you think Iraq was an atrocity, with what Saddam Hussein was doing, what about Somalia, I think have a very good point.
ZAHN: Oh, come on, Brent.
BOZELL: Far more people have been killed...
ZAHN: You remember the coverage being highly negative of President Clinton.
BOZELL: I'm sorry?
ZAHN: Don't you remember that coverage being highly critical of President Clinton, in a broad sense?
BOZELL: Well, I think that if you look back on it, I think what you'll find is that the coverage was very, very swift on Somalia. It came and it went.
ZAHN: What about that, Peter?
BEINART: That's because we pulled out.
BOZELL: Yes. Yes. But it really wasn't that big a story.
ZAHN: Peter, what about that?
BEINART: Look, the truth is that when Americans are dying and it looks like we're losing, when is fortunately the way it looks now -- I mean, you can say that things are going great in Iraq all you want, but the recent polls show a fairly dramatic swing in Iraqi public opinion, unfortunately, against the U.S. The other countries that were in our coalition that have pulled out haven't pulled out for no reason at all. These are facts on the ground, and all of us, liberals and conservatives, have to try to deal with them...
BEINART: ... to save this occupation and not blame the media.
BOZELL: That is absolutely not true! It is absolutely not true...
BEINART: What's not true?
BOZELL: ... that American -- that public opinion is against Americans in Iraq.
BEINART: Did you just see the recent poll?
BOZELL: And it's absolutely -- it's a laughable proposition that we're losing!
BEINART: No, it's not a laughable proposition. If you look at the...
BOZELL: How are we losing?
BEINART: If you looked at the recent poll, you would see that the number of people who want American to leave right now and the number of people who disapprove of the media (ph), particularly when you factor out the Kurds, is much larger than it was when the last big series of polls were done this spring. That's indisputable. I don't know if you've seen these recent polls, but...
BOZELL: I have seen the polls!
BEINART: ... the numbers have increased dramatically.
ZAHN: But there were also, Peter -- there were also some contradictions in that poll...
ZAHN: ... about the Iraqis feeling safer if American troops stayed in there and hung in there longer.
BEINART: Sure. If you look at the progression, the progression was unfortunately not in the right the right direction. And we did not have insurgencies in two major cities, with insurgents in control of those cities, a few months ago. That's a -- that's a downward slope, unfortunately.
BOZELL: That doesn't mean we're losing a war! It's preposterous that you would say that, Peter!
BEINART: It's not preposterous. Unfortunately -- read George Will's column. He essentially says the same thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not a noted liberal. More -- I don't want us to lose this war, but we have to acknowledge the realities if we're going to turn this thing around.
ZAHN: Peter, you're not suggesting tonight that you think the press wants the U.S. to lose this war...
BEINART: Not at all!
ZAHN: ... I'm asking Brent that. Brent, is that -- is that what you're arguing tonight, Brent?
BOZELL: No, no. No. No, I think what the press is doing is sensationalizing a sensationalistic story. And I think that it's getting blown out of proportion. There's more to what's going on in Iraq than this one story.
ZAHN: All right, gentlemen, we're going to leave it there. Brent Bozell, Peter Beinart...
BEINART: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: ... thank you, both.
ZAHN: Will Martha Stewart get a new trial? We change our focus quite a bit. We will tell you what the judge decided in her case coming up.
ZAHN: Time to talk law now. A setback for Martha Stewart in her bid for a new trial. The judge in the case today rejected her request on the grounds that one juror's failure to reveal a prior arrest did not mean the original trial was unfair. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here now with some insights into this latest development in the case.
Good to see you.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hi.
ZAHN: So the judge do the right thing here, Mr. Prosecutor?
TOOBIN: I think -- I think this was a pretty easy call for the judge. There is a strong bias in the system against investigating jurors because if you could investigate jurors after every conviction, the defense would then go pore over the voir dire, the questioning of the jurors, and say, Well, they didn't tell the truth, let's have a new trial. So it's got to be...
ZAHN: There'd be a lot of even richer attorneys...
ZAHN: ... is what you're saying!
TOOBIN: That's always the case..
ZAHN: So go into further detail about the grounds on which Martha Stewart was trying to get a new trial.
TOOBIN: Right. Chappell Hartridge, who became a -- briefly a celebrity, he was the juror who was sort of the spokesman after -- the self-appointed spokesman after the verdict, who came out...
ZAHN: Yes, the first one on the steps.
TOOBIN: He was the first one on the steps, gave a long press conference, talked about how this was a message to the -- you know, in favor of the little guy against the big guys. And in -- during jury selection, he was asked about -- as all jurors were, about his legal history, and it turns out Mr. Hartridge had quite a colorful legal history. He had been involved in some lawsuits. His son had been arrested. And the defense argued that he lied to get on the jury because he wanted to get Martha Stewart.
And what the judge did I thought was a very intelligent decision. She said, Well, maybe some of the statements were arguably false, but what you have to show, defense, is you have to show that he wanted to get Martha Stewart -- not that he lied, but he lied to get her. And there was really no evidence of that.
ZAHN: So let's take a look now at a statement put out by Ms. Stewart's attorneys. Quote, "We regret that a case about false statements was decided by a juror who appears to have made many false statements in an effort gain access to the Stewart jury." Why don't you think his statements had that big of an impact on the judge? I mean, she -- I think, basically, you said there was an acknowledgement that some of the things might have been false.
ZAHN: But you had to prove that he wanted to get Martha Stewart?
TOOBIN: Right. False is not enough. It has to be false in such a way that indicates a real bias against Martha Stewart. And they weren't really biases in that way. In fact, what was interesting, what Judge Cedarbaum pointed out, is that, you know, in fact, these statements might have made you think he'd be more sympathetic to the defense because he had all this connection to the criminal justice system between his son and accusations against him. That -- he looked like a defense juror, if he had told the truth. So I just think this was -- this was kind of a -- an understandable attempt by the defense, but a losing one.
ZAHN: And another movement under way by the defense to appeal the verdict.
TOOBIN: Right. But I think by writing such a thorough and thoughtful opinion, Judge Cedarbaum makes an appeal even less likely.
TOOBIN: Well, because the judge -- the courts of appeals judges, they always want to know that the issues were fully aired in the district court and that the district court judge took them seriously, considered them. And once they know the district judge has done that, they are even less likely to overturn. And remember, over 90 percent of cases are affirmed on appeals. So the odds are heavily stacked against an appeal, to start with.
ZAHN: Let's fast-forward to June 17. That is the day that Martha Stewart is sentenced. Do you believe she's going to end up getting some jail time?
TOOBIN: I do. The way I figure the federal sentencing guidelines which control all sentencings in federal court...
ZAHN: A little bit of latitude in them.
TOOBIN: A little bit of latitude, but it seems pretty clear that we're talking about 10 to 16 months as the range. And that, I think, indicates she's probably going get probably on the low end of that, but certainly jail time.
ZAHN: Pretty good chunk of time to inspire a book, too, isn't it.
(LAUGHTER) TOOBIN: It could be. I think it's really -- it's really lousy being in jail. You know, people talk about "country club prisons." There's, in fact, no such thing, really, as a country club prison and...
ZAHN: And she would be likely to be put in a prison in Connecticut, not far from her home.
TOOBIN: Although, you know, the Danbury prison, which is not far from her home, is a pretty heavy security prison. Because there are so few female prisoners compared to the number of male prisoners, there are not a lot of minimum security women's prisons. And Danbury is not one of them. So she might want to travel a little farther because Danbury's a tough place.
ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for dropping by tonight. Appreciate it.
Coming up: What could a presidential apology about the Iraqi prison scandal do for the White House? We're going to look at how some past presidential apologies have been received.
ZAHN: They are two simple words that could go a long way, but many people, especially those in power, have trouble saying "I'm sorry." As the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is investigated, there have been some apologies and calls for many more. Of course, this isn't the first time powerful figures felt the need to say sorry. Bruce Morton takes a look at some famous apologies.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a matter that reflects badly on my country.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush didn't formally apologize for the mistreatment of prisoners, but one of his generals did.
MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, U.S. ARMY: I would like to personally apologize to the people of Iraq for the actions of the small number of leaders and soldiers who violated our policy and may have committed criminal acts.
MORTON: Do presidents, administrations, apologize? Well, sometimes. We all remember Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official in four administrations, before the 9/11 commission.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ANTI-TERRORISM ADVISER: Those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.
MORTON: When a crippled U.S. plane landed without permission at a Chinese air base in 2001, the U.S. ambassador apologized. "We are very sorry the entering of China's air space and the landing did not have verbal clearance but very pleased the crew landed safely." Be nice, so the Chinese will release the crew, and they did. On the other hand, when the U.S. shot down an Iranian airliner in 1989, the first President Bush said, "I will never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are." Bill Clinton apologized a lot -- for slavery once, though he had nothing to do with it, for Monica Lewinsky often.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have acknowledged that I made a mistake, said that I regretted it.
I've already said that I made a bad mistake. It was indefensible, and I'm sorry about it, so...
MORTON: Ronald Reagan denied and denied the U.S. had sold arms to Iran to gain the release of American hostages but finally admitted he was wrong. "My heart and my best intentions still tell that is true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." And a young John Kennedy, after the failed U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, didn't use the "A" word but did shoulder the blame. "I'm the responsible officer of the government." Voters like that straight talk. His poll numbers went up.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: And we'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. Tomorrow night: She is known for her hit songs, "Anticipation" and "You're So Vain." You want to join me as Carly Simon shares the story of her career and of her struggle with cancer, an intimate portrait of Carly Simon tomorrow, and an exclusive, too.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a good night.
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