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Couric Critiques Iraq War Run-Up Coverage

In a new book, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan charges that the White House press corps was too easy on the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War. McClellan served as press secretary for nearly three years before leaving in 2006 and was a longtime aide to President Bush stretching back to their days in Texas.

The three network anchors were asked about those claims on CBS News' Early Show Wednesday morning, while promoting a special on cancer to air in September.

"I think it's a very legitimate allegation," said CBS News' Katie Couric. "I think it's one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism.

"And I think there was a sense of pressure from corporations who own where we work and from the government itself to really squash any kind of dissent or any kind of questioning of it," Couric added. "I think it was extremely subtle but very, very effective."

ABC News' Charles Gibson disagreed with Couric.

"I think that the media did a pretty good job of focusing and asking the questions," he said. "We were not given access to get into the country … to go along with the inspectors. But the questions were asked.

"It was just a drum beat from the government, and I think it's convenient now to blame the media, but I don't," he added.

NBC News' Brian Williams said it was the mood of the country after 9/11 that influenced the coverage.

"I think people have to remember the post-9/11 era and how that felt and what the president felt he was empowered to do, and that Colin Powell speech at the U.N.," he said.

Couric, however, countered Williams' assessment.

"Our responsibility is to sometimes go against the mood of the country," she said, "and ask the hard questions."

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