MSNBC's Peter Arnett, one of the few Western TV correspondents reporting from Baghdad, has been booted out, not by Saddam Hussein, but by his own employers. Parent NBC announced Monday that it had fired the veteran war reporter over comments he made Sunday while being interviewed on state-run Iraqi TV, opining that America's initial war plans had ''failed.''
Arnett's offending remark concerned U.S. military officials' reaction to the intensity of Iraqi forces' response. ''The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance,'' he said. ''Now they are trying to write another war plan,'' he said.
MSNBC president Erik Sorenson said he'd been deluged with thousands of e-mail complaints about Arnett's remarks. ''When I heard he had given an interview to Iraqi TV, I immediately thought it was about as bad a judgment that a reporter in the field could make,'' Sorenson told the Associated Press. ''I held out hope initially that maybe he had given the interview at gunpoint or there was some extenuating circumstance.'' He told Reuters, ''It's just inappropriate and arguably unpatriotic for an American to be communicating these things to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people,''
Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Vietnam War reporting, and whose CNN reports during the Gulf War also caused some observers to question his patriotism, appeared on NBC's ''Today'' on Monday, where he said he had merely stated ''what we all know about this war.'' He said, ''I gave some personal observations, some analytical observations, which I don't think are out of line with what experts think. But clearly I misjudged the firestorm.''
Arnett is not the only high-profile TV war correspondent to face ejection over his reports. CNN and MSNBC reported Monday that the Pentagon was kicking Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera out for reports that allegedly disclosed troop movements. Rivera denied on the air that he'd been removed, but Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Reuters that Rivera had ''reported on things that were of tactical value and compromised operational security.'' Whitman added, ''I would say that he is going to be leaving Iraq. Fox has talked to us and they have indicated to us that they are going to remove him from the area of operations.''