On June 21, 2006, WOOD TV 8 ran a story hyping claims made by Representative Peter Hoekstra of Holland that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) prior to the invasion of Iraq. According to analysis posted on the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy’s “Dissecting the Local News” site, WOOD TV 8 uncritically allowed Hoekstra to make the claim that the weapons, despite being from before 1991, were “still very, very dangerous.” GRIID takes WOOD TV 8 to task for not asking “the obvious questions of how dangerous are these two decade old shells, did they actually constitute a threat to the United States, and were they part of an ongoing WMD development program by Iraq.” GRIID’s analysis goes on to state that:
The station also plays various background footage while Hoekstra was speaking, much of it unrelated to the actual topic addressed. Footage of Ahmed Chalabi attending a meeting is shown, despite the fact that he has nothing to do with this particular story. Also, footage of US troops uncovering a box of munitions that appear to be conventional detonating caps, Iraqi’s pulling unidentified crates out of a hole in the ground, and a room full of unmarked metal barrels are shown. None of these images are actually are of these particular artillery shells and yet if a viewer is not paying close attention, it gives the impression that these are images of WMD’s being found. And no other voices or opinions are presented in this story, congressman Hoekstra is the only source used.
According to CIA weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, who headed the US mission to find WMD’s in Iraq and authored the Duelfer report; ‘the ones which have been found are left over from the Iran-Iraq war. They are almost 20 years old, and they are in a decayed fashion. It is very interesting that there are so many that were unaccounted for, but they do not constitute a weapon of mass destruction, although they could be a local hazard.’ He further said that ‘these do not indicate an ongoing weapons of mass destruction program as had been thought to exist before the war. These are leftover rounds, which Iraq probably did not even know that it had.’
Previous studies of the local media’s coverage of the Iraq War (2003, 2004, 2005) have found that the local media routinely reports the positions of official government or military sources uncritically.