This week Fox News broadcast an “exclusive” report by correspondent James Rosen that asserted that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier held captive by the Taliban for five years, had converted to Islam and declared himself to be a jihadist. The report was widely criticized for the absence of any substantive evidence or credible confirmation. Additionally, the source for the information was a disreputable private intelligence operative who was previously indicted for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal.
None of that stopped Rosen and Fox News from airing the story of Bergdahl’s conversion as fact. Rosen appeared on numerous segments throughout the day, including in primetime with Bill O’Reilly and Greta Van Susteren. While Rosen acknowledged that Bergdahl may have pretended to convert in order to avoid further mistreatment, or that he might have been suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, in same breath he posited that Bergdahl might just as well have been an active enemy collaborator. However, other segments on the network ignored the exculpatory explanations entirely, brazenly accusing Bergdahl of treason and willful collaboration with the enemy.
It’s ironic that Fox News would permit these reports to air considering their prior experience with one of their own reporters. In August of 2006, correspondent Steve Centanni was stationed in the Middle East when he and his photographer were abducted by Palestinian terrorists. They were held for two weeks, during which time a video was released that showed them declaring their faith in Islam and making disparaging statements about the United States.
At no time following the release of the Centanni videos did Fox News report that Centanni had converted to Islam. They never accused him of treason or joining forces with terrorists. Instead, they patiently waited until he was released to hear his side of the story. When that occurred, Centanni told reporters that the conversion was “something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
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Sadly, Bergdahl has not been afforded the same benefit of a doubt on Fox News that Centanni received. And the fact that the Centanni affair occurred at all makes Fox’s bias and hypocrisy all the worse. Centanni’s experience should have served as a lesson for Fox not to make blanket condemnations on dubious evidence before the facts are available. Fox didn’t even wait for a statement from Bergdahl before judging him guilty of a crime that is punishable by death.
It’s astonishing that there are still some people who consider Fox to be a credible news enterprise. It’s bad enough that a couple of million deluded and politically myopic viewers have been taken in, but it’s even worse that other journalists haven’t disassociated themselves from the fraudulent and un-American miscreants at Fox News.