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Responding to ‘unfair’ comparisons

| Tuesday, March 1, 2005

In his column in Monday’s The Observer, Joey Falco demonstrated a considerable ignorance of the political situation in Russia and the United States with regards to a freedom and independence of the press.

One, President George W. Bush’s point was that when journalists in the United States are fired, that are done so by their editors, not by the United States government. Either Falco completely missed this point, or he fails to see the difference between this and the case in Russia, where Putin has brought all television news agencies and most newspapers under state control. When Russian journalists are removed from their posts, they are done so at the behest of the government in Moscow. For all of Falco’s warning that the situation in America is analogous to Russia, he fails to provide one specific example where an American journalist was removed from his job under the explicit orders of the U.S. government or the Bush administration, as there are none. The United States government does not have the power to remove journalists from their positions, unlike Putin’s government, which does so with impunity.

Two, Falco provides no evidence that Bush or members of his administration personally directed the compensation of Armstrong Williams or Maggie Gallagher for supporting his domestic agenda. But again, there is a huge difference between an admittedly underhanded attempt by members of the Department of Education or Health to cultivate support from a few conservative syndicated columnists and the absorption of entire media outlets by the Russian state under President Putin.

Three, Mary Mapes was fired by her superiors at CBS News for basing the entire factual foundation of the 60 Minutes story concerning Bush’s service in the National Guard on obviously forged documents from a former Texas national guardsman with a history of mental illness and threats to the Bush family, not because the U.S. president personally ordered her to be fired because she had Dan Rather ask uncomfortable questions about his war record.

Falco, the next time you make such a claim concerning the situations in the United States and Russia, make sure you have a better understanding of the use of state power in both countries in order to avoid making more ludicrously false claims as you did in your column.

Sean Brennan

Graduate Student

Feb. 28