Covering Saddam’s Shenanigans, Not His Crimes

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on March 22, 2006

MRC analysts reviewed every mention of [Saddam’s] trial on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news from October 16 (when the networks began previewing the trial) through March 15 (when Saddam himself took the stand).

MRC found the networks spent nearly three times as much airtime on Saddam’s courtroom antics as on the serious testimony of his victims and the documentary evidence that Saddam himself ordered the killing of more than 140 residents of the Shiite town of Dujail and the imprisonment and torture of hundreds more townspeople. Details:

  • Saddam’s trial has been mentioned in just 64 stories (including brief anchor-read items) over the last 5 months. Total coverage amounted to just under 90 minutes. …

In contrast, the first six months of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial garnered 431 stories (824 minutes) from those same networks… Simpson was accused of killing two people; Saddam is thought responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

  • In spite of a record equal to some of the worst tyrants in human history, reporters found Saddam’s personal reactions and orchestrated antics more compelling than the witness testimony against him. The networks gave Saddam’s behavior more airtime than any other topic – nearly 30 minutes, one-third of the coverage. 

In contrast, the networks allotted just 11½ minutes for witness testimony and evidence, just slightly below the nearly 12 minutes devoted to suggestions Saddam would not get a fair hearing….

  • The networks provided merely sporadic coverage of the evidence. ABC was the only newscast to air a full report on Saddam’s admission on March 1 that he ordered the Dujail killings. (CBS and NBC gave that news just 11 and 18 seconds, respectively). Only CBS mentioned the December 21 testimony of Ali al-Haydari, who was 14 when he saw evidence of torture: “I heard screaming and shouting, then silence as a body came out in a blanket.” But that same night all of the networks mentioned Saddam’s claim that U.S. soldiers had beaten him.   


For the complete report, go to