Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to elements of ten of the twenty-two charges he faces on February 28. Manning also read a statement he typed up himself that explained his thoughts about the documents and video he disclosed and when and how he transmitted the information to WikiLeaks.
A review of three major United States cable news networks shows MSNBC did not mention Manning once on February 28 or the day after. Though, “Up w/ Chris,” hosted by Chris Hayes, covered the hearing where Manning testified about his pretrial punishment, his statement did not receive coverage on the Saturday edition of his program. (Note: It could still be covered on his Sunday program.)
Rachel Maddow used her program on February 28 to cover the sequester, GOP opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, Democrats versus the NRA, Pope Benedict and also promoted her appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Lawrence O’Donnell used his program on February 28 to cover the sequester, GOP opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, Speaker John Boehner, three Democrats who plan to “tax Wall Street” and the Obama administration weighing in on Proposition 8. Ed Schultz used his program to cover Bob Woodward’s claims about the Obama administration, the Supreme Court and voting rights, the Subway co-founder’s opposition to Obamacare, Eric Cantor’s threat of GOP “civil war,” religious fundamentalist Pat Robertson talking about “demons” in “sweaters” and Pope Benedict.
CNN mentioned Manning’s statement and guilty pleas nine times over the course of February 28 and March 1. No full segment with a guest was done, but they did briefly acknowledge it was happening during news hours. For example, on Erin Burnett’s program “OUTFRONT”:
I want to begin with new developments in the WikiLeaks case. Private First Class Manning has pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, except for the most serious one, aiding the enemy. Former Army JAG Attorney Greg Rinckey tells us a major challenge for the government now is going to be proving that Manning intended to harm the United States.
In court today, Manning said he only made public the classified documents that upset him, and he didn’t intend to disclose anything he thought would harm the United States.
Burnett’s mention is factually inaccurate. Manning pled not guilty to more than just “aiding the enemy.” However, at least, she noted Manning made a statement in court today during her evening news program
On the Fox News channel, it was mentioned. Bill O’Reilly also chose to have a reactionary discussion with Geraldo Rivera that one would expect from his program:
O’REILLY: “Fridays with Geraldo” segment tonight. The U.S. soldier who violated national security by providing classified information to the vile Web site Wikileaks has pleaded guilty. Could receive up to 20 years in prison. Joining us now from New York to update this, Geraldo Rivera. So what is this weasel pleading guilty to?
GERALDO RIVERA, Fox News: He pled guilty to the less serious charges. There are 22 charges in all. He pled guilty to the 10 that really had to do with kind of the general information that was out there, like the most famous video from Baghdad in 2007, where a U.S. helicopter took out a group of men they thought were al Qaeda, turned out they were a Reuters reporter and two other civilians. It’s that stuff. It’s him having access, unauthorized access to this classified material, posting it on the Internet. Providing it to Wikileaks. He pleads guilty to the 10 less serious charges. He is facing up to 20 years, as you suggest.
The reason he pled guilty to those less serious charges is that if he were tried in a civilian court, ironically, Bill, he would, for even those 10 less serious charges, have been facing over 90 years in prison. So he allows the military hearing to accept the guilty plea to the 10 less serious charges. But — and this is the big but — he is still facing 12 charges of aiding the enemy. This is a lot more serious. This is treason. [emphasis added]
Generally, Rivera captured the essence. The military is attempting to convict of charges that are tantamount to treason.
O’REILLY: Right. And that will be a military court as well. Now, just so people know this Bradley Manning and what he did, he was in Iraq. He is some kind of gay militant guy, and I guess that was his beef, that he wasn’t being treated the way he wanted to be treated.
But he put out information that included the names of Afghans who were helping the U.S. military. And that — that get them killed. The government says that in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, they actually found some material that Manning had given Wikileaks. And Osama bin Laden, according to the government, was asking for more material from him. So this isn’t some little beef. This is a pretty big deal.
RIVERA: I will argue if you want on whether or not substantively I thought he aided the enemy. Clearly, Osama bin Laden thought that Bradley Manning was important. He wanted access to this material.
O’REILLY: Yes. [emphasis added]
It is not clear that bin Laden even knew of Bradley Manning. The facts, which are irrelevant to O’Reilly, is the government claims to have digital media showing bin Laden was interested in the documents posted on WikiLeaks. But, hey, O’Reilly hates homosexuals and has an authoritarian devotion to national security. So, Manning is “some gay militant guy.”
RIVERA: That Manning was posting on the Internet through Wikileaks. And when the SEAL Team 6 heroes busted into bin Laden’s compound there in Pakistan, they did discover much of the material that Bradley Manning had leaked through Wikileaks. The question I have, though, is when you look at the big picture, putting aside the emotion of the moment and the passions, we want to string this guy up. He is a traitor in war time. Aiding the enemy, what was it he really accomplished, this private first class Bradley Manning? Did he aid the enemy in the sense that he gave them the upper hand? Did his actions result in the death of any GI’s, for example? Any U.S. diplomats, for example? I don’t think any of that is proven.
That’s why I’m a little curious. They got him now for the 20. It seems to me they could have gotten him to plead to twice that. But now they are going all out. They are going to have dozens and dozens of witnesses. They may prove their case. It is speculated, Bill, and this is interesting, that one of the members of the team that raided the bin Laden compound will make a surprise appearance at the military tribunal, at the military court, and testify that when he busted into bin Laden’s offices or the digital material they seized, remember, they emptied those file cabinets, that that material contained Manning’s stuff, that bin Laden specifically asked for it.
O’REILLY: That’s what the government alleges.
RIVERA: They do allege that–
O’REILLY: The reason they are doing this is to send a message to other people, you better not do this. You make an example out of this guy, that is what you do. [emphasis added]
Authoritarian news anchors do have some value, as they can sometimes present the exact view of the people in government pursuing dissidents or whistleblowers. The intent is definitely to “send a message to other people.” Now, Rivera is incorrect in the sense that he thinks this is some deal and the government settled for these pleas when they could have pushed for him to plead guilty to more charges.
Interestingly, O’Reilly is not as authoritarian as the government or US military that is prosecuting him:
RIVERA: Well, I think the reason he generates any sympathy at all is that the war was so deeply unpopular, the war in Iraq. He is seen as a martyr to the antiwar cause, and he was held under abysmal conditions in solitary and all the rest of it. I can understand how they tried to get the sympathy for him. But as a traitor, he doesn’t deserve much sympathy. I, Bill, think 20 years in prison is enough for Bradley Manning, just my opinion.
O’REILLY: Yeah. If he gets 20, I’m fine with it. [emphasis added]
O’Reilly does not say, “Give him life in prison.” He should rot in his cell. Even though he is “some gay militant guy” and a “weasel,” he would be fine with twenty years, as a way of “sending a message.”
Even his defense lawyer, David Coombs, has suggested that twenty to thirty years would be acceptable if the government agreed to this sentence instead of life in prison. However, the military wishes to make an even greater example of Manning thanFox News anchor Bill O’Reilly.
What does it matter what O’Reilly thinks? It deserves to be highlighted because this is what a section of Americans is hearing. They are hearing what is said on CNN and/or Fox News. And, they aren’t hearing anything from MSNBC because Democrats basically do not care.
When Manning had his “unlawful pretrial punishment” hearing on his confinement at the Quantico Marine Brig in Virginia, the only program to mention Manning’s testimony was “Up w/ Chris.” Why is this?
If one agrees the content of MSNBC news programming has become increasingly partisan and focused on issues of the utmost concern to Democratic Party operatives, it is possible to explain why.
Democrats do not have a lust to make an example out of Manning, but they also do not support him. They just trust that the military is handling him appropriately. The result is no coverage
For the record, there was a large number of press at Fort Meade, Maryland, to cover this development in Manning’s court martial. Spencer Ackerman of the Wired was there for the first time. Charlie Savage of the New York Times was present for most of the day. Ed Pilkington of The Guardian was there to cover. NBC News had a reporter, along with CNN. The wire services, like Agence France Presse, was there. The Washington Post had Julie Tate, who has been regularly covering proceeding. Foreign press were there too.
As always, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, independent journalist Alexa O’Brien and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network were there, as they have been regardless of whether Manning will be saying something that constitutes “breaking news.” (And I was there as well and have attended all proceedings since December 2011 except his one-day arraignment.)
Both “NBC Nightly News” and “PBS Newshour” highlighted Manning’s statement and guilty pleas. This statement Brian Williams read was awkward, “He leaked thousands of documents and videos, mainly to WikiLeaks.” They all went to WikiLeaks.
Of the news shows on cable, network and public news, coverage on “Newshour” was the most in-depth, as it featured an interview with the Times‘s Charlie Savage and FRONTLINE’s Arun Rath.