When asked by Larry King about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld‘s charges that the media had exaggerated the lawlessness and looting in Baghdad in the early days of the US occupation, Dan Rather, not given to picking fights with the White House, couldn’t lay off this one. See the excerpt below and click here for the full transcript from April 14.
KING: Secretary Rumsfeld has said that the media has given an exaggerated picture of the looting and the lawlessness. What have you found?
RATHER: Well, I don’t have any argument with the Defense Secretary. But I will say that I’m here. I try to be an honest reporter, be an honest broker of information. And I–it’s my judgment that if Secretary Rumsfeld had been here, he might have worded that at least in a somewhat different way. There’s no question the looting has been rampant and widespread. It was for several days here. We were told that it began to taper off some today. And in fact, I think it did, but primarily because most things of value have been stripped out of most places where they could be.
But you know, it’s not a time to argue. The Defense Secretary has his judgment, and if that’s his judgment, well, he’ll ride with it. But as a reporter, I can simply say that I don’t–I’ve never seen anything like the looting here. I don’t think anybody else has seen anything like the looting here. It was widespread, and it did have a depressing effect on the population. To say that it was just, quote, “exuberance,” unquote–you know, the Secretary of Defense has to talk about a lot, and he probably would want to take back that word himself, if he had a chance to do so.