While civil war has broken out in Libya, even the cable news networks are exchanging fire. Yesterday, Fox News’ Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that a British airstrike on a Tripoli compound of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi had to be called off because journalists “from CNN, Reuters, and the other organizations nearby” were invited to the area by the Libyan government and then used as human shields.
CNN (which like Entertainment Weekly, is owned by Time Warner) sent its senior international correspondent Nic Robertson on that media tour and he expressed outrage over Fox’s story when he appeared on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer last night. “This allegation is outrageous and absolutely hypocritical,” said Robertson, who pointed out that Fox News had also sent a representative on the tour, though it wasn’t a professional journalist. “He was non-editorial,” Robertson continued. “He was given a camera by the team and told to come out… Steve Harrigan the [Fox] correspondent here is somebody I’ve known for many years. I see him more times at breakfast than I see him out on trips with government officials here… If I sound angry, it is because I am. As I say, I expect lies from the government here. I don’t expect it from other journalists, and it’s frankly incredible disappointing to me.”
Fox News later updated its online report, adding “fellow correspondent Steve Harrigan, reporting from Tripoli, chose not [to] join the government-organized tour of the damaged compound, though a security guard hired by Fox News did accompany the group.” Griffin apologized for the error on Greta Van Susteren’s show, but defended her report that a British airstrike had been thwarted by the proximity of western journalists to the target site. In an interview with TVNewser, Griffin said, “When I found out about that later in the evening, I explained on Greta that I made that mistake. But I will say that if I had known that a Fox camera crew or Steve Harrigan had been on that trip. If I had known the Fox security guard was on that trip, I still would have reported the story.”
Fox’s Harrigan told the Huffington Post that Robertson “has a screw loose,” and in an emailed statement to EW, he said, “It’s unfathomable that a journalist could go on the air, without getting his facts straight and attack another journalist while in a war zone. Our security guard Tyrus McQueen made it very clear to me that he never even spoke to Robertson about why Fox reporters were not going on the trip.”
CNN’s response to EW: “Fox News has reported and is continuing to report without an accurate and respectful grasp of the conditions for all the reporters on the ground — we have no further comment on this.”