Knoller Reflects On His Critics

On Thursday, we posted CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller's response to Bill Moyers' claim that members of the press corps were, as Knoller puts it, "easily-manipulated stooges on bended-knee to the President and his top aides" in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Knoller's post, which took issue with that claim, generated a strong response from those who agree with Moyers.

On Friday we posted Knoller's follow up piece, in which he challenged his critics to come up with the questions they would have asked the president. (Both posts here.)

Knoller has read through the responses to that challenge, and below you can read his comments.

Be Careful What You Ask For...

When in good faith, I challenged you to offer questions that you would have asked President Bush at that news conference two weeks before the war in Iraq, a few of you did.

But the vast majority of the more than 200 responses were of the variety that told me what I could do with my challenge.

The depth of the anger and outrage directed at me and others in the White House press corps was profound, to say the least.

But I promised to read your responses and I did. Here's a few excerpts from what you wrote:

"You have failed democracy itself."

"I don't know if you can ever be forgiven."

"You failed your profession. You failed your country."

"Knoller's contempt for the people is palpable."

"...spineless sycophant."

"...lazy propagandistic reporting."

"You continue to enable this sociopathic administration."

"(You've) given the Administration a free ride since the war began."

"(Knoller) still doesn't get it. He's hopeless."

"A member of the liberal media."

"CBS and others still act as mouthpieces for the Bush Administration."

"You owe us an apology."

"What a pathetic defense of his profession."

"Knoller et al need to get a clue."

"Knoller talks exactly like the good little lapdog."

"The MSM (mainstream media) were Bush's clown shoes. Knoller. Just...clown shoes."

"Knoller is a hack who helped lead the nation into war and he's just making up stuff here."

Not what I'd call constructive criticism but you get the idea.

I guess some of my detractors didn't read the Rules of Engagement for posting comments on Public Eye.

But a few, and only a few, had anything positive to offer.

"Hats off to Knoller for his willingness to participate in a dialogue."

"Hey Knoller. Let me give you a bit of advice. Do not try to reason with this crowd. They have turned on you now. Your only way out is to grovel and say how wrong you and the entire media were. You can't reason with them."

"Those who are most angry at you, Mark, are the people who believe that the media's job is to advance the agenda of the Liberal Democratic Party."

Now remember, all this began when I took issue with Bill Moyers' portrait of White House reporters as compliant cheerleaders for the Administration who asked "no hard questions" at that news conference on March 6, 2003 – which turned out to be two weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Moyers responded on his own blog to what I wrote and to letters from my CBS News colleague Bill Plante and reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Network.

Moyers stands by his criticism and again made the case that reporters knowingly took part in a news conference that was "scripted."

Now, there can be no doubt that President Bush prepared responses to the questions he expected to get. That's standard procedure for presidents to ready themselves for news conferences by staging mock sessions with top aides posing the questions.

But it's just plain wrong for Moyers to insist that the session was scripted, based on the President's disclosure that he had a written list of reporters on whom he planned to call.

As Moyers well knows, the President is free to call on any reporter he wants. And whether it's written down on paper, or he just wings it, doesn't make it a scripted news conference.

I can assure you that no one told me what to ask or knew in advance what I would ask. In fact, I wasn't sure what I would ask until just before I was called on.

And one more thing. A number of you wrote that you considered most reporters, myself included, as nothing more than stenographers.

I certainly don't see myself that way, though I do believe that accurately reporting what the president says is an indispensable part of a good reporter's job.

And if the day comes when reporters substitute what they believe for what they know, we'll all be poorer for it.