Making A "Federal" Case

NRO media blogger Stephen Spruiell has an issue with this story that appeared on CBSNews.com and was the lead item for much of the day. He says the story "misquotes" President Bush in the story's opening, which reads:
President Bush Tuesday took responsibility for government failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and said the disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks.

Spruiell writes:
Read on and you see that Bush actually said, "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

It's admirable the Bush is taking responsibility for FEMA's failures. But he made very clear that this breakdown occurred on the federal, state and local level. Meanwhile, CBS News rushes to pin all the blame on Bush. Why?

I asked Michael Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, to answer the question and here's his response:
Although our story clearly stated "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," we could have been more clear higher up in the piece, adding the word "federal" before "government."

Seems to me like a rather semantic issue but one illustrative of the current dialogue. Spruiell says leaving the word "federal" out of the story's lede was an intentional attempt to mischaracterize Bush. Sims admits outright they should have been clearer. But journalistically, how does journalism-guardian Spruiell know with such certainty that CBSNews.com intentionally piled on Bush?

What do you think?
  • Vaughn Ververs

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