Nov
14
2011

Martha Raddatz, Insider War Correspondent

The New York Times (11/13/11) had a Sunday Style section profile of ABC Pentagon correspondent Martha Raddatz that started off on a bad note–only to get much worse.

First the bad:

If there has been a glamour beat in television news in recent years, it may well be war correspondent. Starting with the original "Scud Stud," Arthur Kent of NBC in the 1991 gulf war, conflict reporters, including the current slate of Richard Engel (NBC), Lara Logan (CBS) and Ms. Raddatz's ABC colleague Alexander Marquardt, have become news media celebrities not just for acting fearless but for looking fabulous.

You might think the fact that Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while reporting from Egypt–which the Times piece mentions toward the end–would make Times reporter Jennifer Conlin think twice about referring to war coverage as a "glamour beat." But then you probably wouldn't have introduced the subject of your profile this way:

Glamour is probably not an adjective at the forefront of Ms. Raddatz's viewers' minds. At 58, she is older than most of her on-air competitors, and though she looks great–petite, blond and remarkably put together

I suppose a Style profile is the place one should expect a reporter to point out that a female TV reporter is "put together" and yet still not totally glamorous.

Then the piece gets much worse. Conlin writes:

Her approach to the beat is to cover war in its entirety, not just not on the battlefield.

What does that mean? The piece says Raddatz goes to warzones, which is part of the job. What they seem to be saying is that she knows to keep American troops first: "Her network of sources also includes numerous families at bases back home." Again, it's hard to see how that would all that remarkable for a network correspondent.

The truth is that Raddatz is a faithful Pentagon correspondent who rarely strays from the preferred storyline. Drone strikes in Afghanistan? Sure, they kill innocents, but there's no other way, according to Raddatz:

They simply have to carry out air strikes over there. It's a very rapid response. It's real-time intelligence. It's certainly flawed at some points.

But I've been on these missions. I've been on a combat mission in a fighter jet. I've seen all the very, very careful steps they take. They go through what's called the nine line. In fact, the mission I went on, some French soldiers were calling for them to bomb and the pilot and the weapons officer said, "We can't bomb, we think there's a school, we think there might be people in there."

Praising American military leaders? Raddatz knows how to do that too:

A warrior and a scholar, Petraeus is sometimes jokingly referred to as a water walker, since almost everything he touches seems to turn to gold.

The point the Times drives home is that Raddatz is close to her U.S. sources– she is "a reporter who shows the human side of war," a point illustrated by the fact that one general like her work. Raddatz "calls us and invites us over for dinner…. She knows both the soldier's side and the military family's side."

The "human side," meaning the humans from her own country. As Raddatz says:

"I know how they notify families of the dead," she said. "No matter how you feel about this war or how we got into it, you have to care about our servicemen. I can't pretend to be objective when it comes to service or sacrifice."

You read all of that, and yet the Times comes up with this idea in the very next sentence:

Despite her worldview, Ms. Raddatz is very much a denizen of the Beltway culture, having been married to three well-known Washington figures. Tom Gjelten, her husband of the past 15 years, is a correspondent for National Public Radio; Julius Genachowski, her second husband, was a law school classmate of President Obama and is now chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Her first marriage was to Ben Bradlee Jr., son of the legendary Washington Post editor–a relationship that propelled her into a gossip column dust-up earlier this year.

What exactly in her "worldview" would make her a Beltway outsider? All evidence would seem to point the other way.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.