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Arnett Fired for Iraqi TV Interview

BY Admin  March 31, 2003 at 12:00 PM EST

NBC said in a joint statement with National Geographic, for whom Arnett was also working, ”Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC.”

Arnett apologized on NBC’s “Today” show Monday for the statements he made. “I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment,” he said.

“I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war, that there have been delays in implementing policy, there have been surprises,” Arnett said Monday morning.

“But clearly by giving that interview I created a firestorm in the United States and for that I am truly sorry.”

NBC, which is owned by General Electric, initially defended Arnett, saying Sunday that he had granted the interview out of professional courtesy. By Monday, however, the network had come to a different conclusion.

“It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war,” said NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust. “And it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview.”

In the interview, broadcast by Iraq’s satellite television station and monitored by The Associated Press in Egypt, Arnett sat opposite an Iraqi anchor who was dressed in military uniform.

He told the interviewer that, “Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces.”

He said that, as a result of such misjudgement, the U.S. was revising their war plan.

“Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan,” Arnett said. “The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan.”

He told the state-run broadcaster there is a “growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war.”

Arnett also told the interviewer how much he has appreciated the cooperation of Iraq’s Ministry of Information.

While apologetic on Monday’s “Today” show, Arnett also said his beliefs are often “out of line with what experts think.”

“Maybe some people think I’m insane, but I’m not anti-military,” he said. “This is the biggest story of my life.”

Fox News’ John Gibson reported the story closely Sunday, saying Arnett’s interview seemed “to be supporting the Iraqi regime.” Gibson interviewed former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato, who said of Arnett, “He gives aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Arnett went to Iraq this year as an employee of MSNBC’s “National Geographic Explorer.” When other NBC reporters left the Iraqi capital out of safety concerns, the network began airing his reports.

Arnett received a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War, but achieved both fame and notoriety while covering the first Gulf War for CNN. The Iraqi government censored his reports, and he raised Washington’s ire by reporting a U.S. missile had bombed a baby-formula factory, which the first Bush administration said was a biological weapons factory.

After pressure from the Pentagon, CNN fired Arnett in 1998 over a documentary suggesting U.S. commandos had used sarin nerve gas on American troops who had defected to Laos during the Vietnam War.