NBC: Arnett out after Iraqi TV interview
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN - 31 March) --NBC announced Monday that both NBC and National Geographic severed their relationships with veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett.
In an interview that aired on Iraqi TV Sunday, Arnett said that the U.S. "war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces."
On Sunday, NBC News had issued a statement supporting Arnett, saying that Arnett gave the interview to Iraqi TV as a "professional courtesy" and that his remarks "were analytical in nature and were not intended to be anything more."
But a day later, NBC issued a different statement. "It was wrong for him to grant an interview to state-run Iraqi TV, especially in a time of war."
Arnett is not an NBC News reporter but an employee of the MSNBC show, "National Geographic Explorer," according to The Associated Press. The network began airing Arnett's reports after NBC reporters evacuated Baghdad.
Monday morning, Arnett appeared on NBC's Today Show and apologized for his comments.
"I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment over the weekend by giving an interview to Iraqi Television," said Arnett, who added that what he said in the interview was "what we all know about the war."
"There have been delays in implementing policy and there's been surprises. But clearly by giving that interview to Iraqi Television, I created a firestorm in the United States and for that I am truly sorry, Matt," he said.
During the Sunday interview, Arnett also said that Iraq had given him and other reporters a "degree of freedom which we appreciate." Iraq has expelled several journalists, including CNN's Baghdad team, and apparently has imprisoned two journalists from the New York newspaper Newsday.
Arnett is a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is trying to locate the missing journalists.
During the Iraqi TV interview, Arnett said, "I'd like to say from the beginning that the 12 years I've been coming here, I've met unfailing courtesy and cooperation, courtesy from your people and cooperation from the Ministry of Information."
Arnett told the Iraqi TV interviewer, who was dressed in an Iraqi Army uniform, that President Bush is facing a "growing challenge" about the "conduct of the war" within the United States.
"President Bush says he is concerned about the Iraqi people, but if Iraqi people are dying in numbers, then American policy will be challenged very strongly," he said. In the interview, Arnett said reports from Baghdad about civilians being killed are being shown in the United States, and "it helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments."
He pointed out U.S. claims that civilians killed in an explosion at a downtown Baghdad market were the victims of Iraqi missiles, and that Iraq had said the missiles were definitely incoming coalition fire.
Arnett also said "clearly this is a city that is disciplined, the population is responsive to the government's requirements of discipline," and "Iraqi friends tell me there is a growing sense of nationalism and resistance to what the United States and Britain is doing."
The longtime war correspondent, who reported on the Persian Gulf War for CNN in 1991, said U.S. war planners miscalculated the will of Iraqis and he does "not understand how that happened."
He said his reports "would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government and the willingness to fight for their country."