Who’s Gunning for Michael Ware?

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Someone’s gunning for Michael Ware. Yesterday, a Drudge Report “exclusive” accused the wild-eyed CNN newsman, who’s covered the Iraq war since the beginning, of heckling Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham during a press conference in Baghdad. Drudge quotes an unnamed “official” — An administration official? Military? A representative of the Baghdad Taxi and Limousine Commission? — calling Ware’s alleged remarks “outrageous” and saying, “here you have two United States Senators in Bagdad [sic] giving first-hand reports while Ware is laughing and mocking their comments. I’ve never witnessed such disrespect. This guy is an activist not a reporter.”

Apparently, this is all news to Ware, who, on CNN this morning, said, “I did not heckle the senator. Indeed, I didn’t say a word. I didn’t even ask a question. In fact, when I raised my hand to ask a question, the press conference abruptly ended.” A video of the press conference backs Ware up, so this seems a fairly shameless effort to smear him and discredit his reporting. But who would want to do that? Well, since Ware has been so persistent about reporting the grim realities on the ground in Iraq and debunking the rhetoric coming out of Washington, it could be any number of people who are paid (i.e. military or administration flacks) or otherwise compelled to put a rosy spin on the horrific situation in Iraq. Painting Ware as an activist certainly makes it easier to claim, as the senator from Arizona did yesterday, that the American public isn’t getting “the full picture about what’s happening” in Iraq. (This after a brief foray to a Baghdad market, where, as the New York Times notes, “scores of people have died this year in multiple car bombings and other attacks.” See Jonathan’s post below.)

It’s also possible that this could be personal. Last week, after McCain commented that “there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today,” Ware said on CNN’s Situation Room that “to suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.” (Ware, who once came fairly close to being executed by insurgents, would probably know.) In this context it wouldn’t be hard to see someone close to McCain, an aide traveling with the congressional delegation perhaps, using Drudge as a conduit to even the score with Ware. Whatever the case, I’d wager there’s a lot more to this story.

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