NBC’s Mitchell Should Resign Over Telling Gaddafi’s Lies*

September 5, 2011

After years of spreading the lie that Gaddafi’s “adopted daughter” had died in the 1986 American bombing raid on Libya, many in the media are finally admitting it was all a hoax. Will Andrea Mitchell of NBC News now apologize and resign for passing off terrorist disinformation as “news?”

As we noted in a column earlier this year, Mitchell went on the NBC Nightly News to say that Libya was “accused of bombing a Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. soldiers” and that “Ronald Reagan retaliated, ordering an air strike against Gaddafi’s tent, accidentally killing his young daughter. Gaddafi escaped unharmed.” Mitchell even showed Gaddafi visiting a hospital. It was pro-Gaddafi and anti-Reagan propaganda.

The facts, which we have consistently provided, are that there were no public media reports of Gaddafi having a daughter at the time of the raid, and so it wasn’t possible that she was killed. Now it appears that Gaddafi did have a daughter with the same name, Hana or Hanna, who may have been born around the same time as the raid, and is said to be very much alive.

Whatever the ultimate truth about this girl, who may have studied to be a doctor in Libya, the dead “adopted daughter” story was a pure lie, as we have maintained for years.

The revelations are a big black eye for Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and host of an all political hour from 1 to 2 p.m. EST on the MSNBC cable channel. Her bio says, “Mitchell currently covers foreign policy, intelligence and national security issues, including the diplomacy of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for all NBC News properties.”

In addition to parroting Gaddafi propaganda and disinformation, Mitchell is known for her “extensive and varied reports [which] include a series of exclusive interviews over the years with Cuban President Fidel Castro. Her unprecedented access resulted in a one-hour documentary on Cuba in December 2003.” (In fact, Humberto Fontova’s book, Fidel: Hollywood‘s Favorite Tyrant, portrays Mitchell as a Castro shill, noting that she said about the dictator, “Castro is old-fashioned, courtly—even paternal…a thoroughly fascinating figure!”)

We noted that Gaddafi had “adopted” the girl after the strike in order to generate sympathy for himself. The phrase, “adopted daughter,” is the usual formulation that we found in reports about the raid. Mitchell omitted the “adopted” part in her story, which means she further embellished the phony story.

This should go down in journalism history as a case study of how easy it is to fool the American media. In fact, it was too easy. In the case of NBC News, however, this was not a poorly paid stringer who was duped. Rather, it was one of their top correspondents and the host of an MSNBC talk show.

The facts are important. As we noted in a 2004 column, “Back in 1986, before the bombing of Libya, Time magazine had carried a photograph of Gadhafi and ‘three of their sons’ but no daughter. After the raid, Time said that an 18-month-old girl, ‘reportedly’ his adopted daughter, had been killed. The New York Times reported that she was 15 months old. The Washington Post said she was a year old.”

But these different ages and reports of sons but no daughter didn’t cause the major media to review the facts in the case and question the information.

In a profile of Gaddafi, Al-Jazeera reported that “Libya’s alleged involvement in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub in which two American soldiers were killed prompted US air attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 35 Libyans, including Gaddafi’s adopted daughter. Ronald Reagan, the then US president, called him a ‘mad dog.’”

This serves as an explanation by an Arab propaganda channel of why the story was so important to Gaddafi. The lie about the daughter was designed, in part, to generate sympathy for Gaddafi and hatred toward Reagan, never a favorite of the U.S. news media. Gaddafi and his henchmen, who had learned the techniques of disinformation and propaganda from their Soviet patrons, knew that the ploy would work with suckers in the U.S. and foreign media.

Little did they realize it would still be working 25 years later on NBC News.

It would seem hard to generate sympathy for a global terrorist like Gaddafi, but the major media led by Andrea Mitchell were determined to try. Mitchell should resign in disgrace because of her service for the dictator.

*This is a special report from the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism.

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