TVNewser talked with Fox News Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin this afternoon about the battle that has broken out between CNN and Fox News over Griffin’s reporting of a Libyan government-sponsored trip to the ruins of Muammar Gaddafi‘s compound Sunday night. Griffin reported the 40 or so journalists, including a Fox News security guard, who went on the trip were being used as human shields, preventing a second British airstrike. CNN correspondent Nic Robertson called that “outrageous.”
“I just think this has gotten ugly,” Griffin tells us. “I think it’s beneath Nic to be saying these things about Steve Harrigan. If he has something to say he can say it about me. But to question his reporting and why he stayed at the hotel… it’s just nonsense.
Frankly, CNN should be focusing on getting more scoops and not attacking Fox News. They should get back to reporting and stop this petulant behavior.”
TVNewser: What do you think about these government-escorted trips. Do you think they’re propaganda and not news?
Griffin: I think anytime you’re in that situation, you have to be aware that when there are regimes like Muammar Gaddafi‘s and Saddam Hussein‘s, they send government minders for a reason. They’re trying to shape what they tell you, shape what they show you. They use journalists. You can see by the fact that there are 13 journalists missing. There have been journalists who’ve been arrested and held for a variety of propaganda reasons by the Gaddafi government. We all know that that happens with regimes like this. We as journalists who work in those situations have to make tough decisions about what you do and what you don’t do. Certainly it is factual that the Libyan government, what remains of it, is in the business of trying to use journalists to shape what they are doing and putting out what I describe as propaganda.
TVNewser: You’ve reported from the field, would you have gone on this trip?
Griffin: I can’t say what I would have done on this particular trip because it was a split-second decision by colleagues on the ground. My reporting was not meant to point fingers; it was to get the facts out there. That was my point. It was not about attacking anyone personally. I feel, unfortunately, CNN decided to make this personal, by saying what I think are extremely unprofessional things about my colleague Steve Harrigan who is a fabulous reporter and who is a great war correspondent and I think what they said about him was indefensible. They made this personal. I did not.
TVNewser: There was another trip this morning, do you know if Steve or his cameraman or the security guard went out on that one?
Griffin: I don’t know, you’d have to check with them. (Editor’s note: No one from Fox went on the trip today) But I do know Steve Harrigan spoke with the security guard that Nic Robertson (right) said in his account on air that the guard had seemed puzzled why Steve wasn’t on the trip. That guard told Steve that that was absolutely not true.
I just think this has gotten ugly, and I think it’s beneath Nic to be saying these things about Steve Harrigan. If he has something to say he can say it about me. But to question his reporting and why he stayed at the hotel… it’s just nonsense. Frankly, CNN should be focusing on getting more scoops and not attacking Fox News. They should get back to reporting and stop this petulant behavior.
TVNewser: At one point Robertson said, “you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don’t expect it from the other journalists.” What do you say to that?
Griffin: Again, I didn’t make this personal. I’m not going to get personal with CNN. The facts stand.
Let me add one thing, Chris. There was one mistake in my reporting and that was I did not know that a security guard had been sent on the trip from FOX with a camera. I did not know that when I went on at Noon. 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.
I have received emails from other correspondents who are over in Tripoli right now. And they say that at that hotel where the journalists are staying that there are constant debates about — and these are their words — how not to be used as human shields because they know that that is a possibility at all times.
TVNewser: So it would just have to be case-by-case, and there might be a trip that your crew would go out on?
Griffin: You have to make split-second decisions at any given moment. I’m not going to say what I would have done, or what FOX would do at any given moment. They’ll make the best decision on the ground at that given moment.
(edited for clarity)