Appearing for the first time together on each of the major networks' morning programs
to promote a Stand Up to Cancer telethon in September, Katie Couric, Charles Gibson,
and Brian Williams defended themselves against claims in a new book by former White Ho
use spokesman Scott McClellan that they fell for administration propaganda in the
lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Although none of the three was anchoring a network
newscast at the time, each acknowledged that they felt pressure from the White House
to present the administration's policy on Iraq in a favorable way. CBS's Couric appeared
to echo previous statements by her predecessor Dan Rather that newsmen did not put
hard questions to administration policy makers, a point McClellan also makes in his
upcoming book, What Happened? Appearing at her old stomping grounds on the
Today show, Couric said, "I know when we were covering it -- and granted the
spirit of 9/11 people were unified and upset and angry and frustrated -- I do think
we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions." Gibson said that he disagreed.
"I think the questions were asked," he said, but the response was "just a drumbeat
of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them." Williams said
that he was in Kuwait at the time and that he received calls on his cell phone from
the the Pentagon "the minute they heard us report something that they didn't like.
The tone of that time was quite extraordinary." He did not identify the Pentagon
personnel who contacted him. Couric said that one unidentified press secretary called
the executive producer of the Today show after an interview she conducted,
"and they said, if you keep it up, we're gonna block access to you during the war."
She added that anyone who questioned the administration's policies was "considered unpatriotic"
and that public opinion affected "the level of aggressiveness that was exercised
by the media."