A war has broken out among TV anchors as Fox’s Chris Wallace declared himself offended by ABC’s Ted Koppel for airing a controversial roll call of American dead in the Iraq war and announced a counter-offensive to tell of the good America has done there.
Wallace, a former ABC employee, son of legendary CBS newsman Mike Wallace and host of “Fox News Sunday” said Thursday he will do a special segment this weekend highlighting U.S. accomplishments in Iraq to counter Koppel’s “Nightline” program on Iraq.
Koppel last Friday devoted an extended version of his show to reading the names of 721 American soldiers killed in Iraq, which sparked outrage from conservative groups who considered it anti-war propaganda.
One chain of TV stations refused to air the broadcast, which Koppel defended as a way to honor the dead soldiers that he has said lacked any ulterior motive.
Wallace, a frequent substitute anchor on “Nightline” before joining Fox News late last year, told Reuters he thought Koppel’s broadcast was both politically motivated and lacking in what he considered the appropriate context.
“When I saw what Ted was doing — and it wasn’t just the fact of what he was doing but the coverage it got, kind of the publicity campaign he and his producer ... went on — I became increasingly bothered and eventually offended by what I saw they were doing,” Wallace said.
“It just seemed to me that their way of paying tribute was wrong-headed,” he said. “I take Ted at his word that he did not intend this to be a ratings stunt or to make a political statement, but I think it ended up that way.”
An ABC News spokesman denied those claims.
A ‘tribute to fallen soldiers’“Nightline has done nothing but provide context to this most important story in the lead-up to war and in its aftermath,” spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.
“The show (was) simply a tribute to the fallen soldiers, nothing more and nothing less, and in fact, to the specific idea that it was for ratings, it won’t even be part of Nightline’s average, as it ran without commercials,” he said.
Schneider also said Koppel was “simply was responding to an avalanche of requests to discuss the broadcast and felt it was important to respond to those requests” when he did a round of interviews about the show.
Wallace said that while he has the idea for the segment in his head, it has not yet been finished, but when done should run about five to 10 minutes on this Sunday’s show.
“We’re calling it ‘What We’ve Accomplished,”’ Wallace said. “We’re going to talk about some of the success stories in Iraq, from the end of the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, to the building of schools and infrastructure, to the rebuilding of the economy.”
Wallace said he has not reached out to Koppel to share his feelings about the program. “Ted and I certainly were colleagues, I can’t say we were close friends, and it wasn’t like Ted was hiding his motivation or his reasoning,” Wallace said. “It was all over the place, it was as if he was doing a book tour.
“We understand there are plenty of questions about the war, we’ve been asking them for months on ‘Fox News Sunday,”’ Wallace said. “I think our approach is more evenhanded than Nightline’s, I think it’s more balanced.”
Fox News part of Fox Entertainment Group Inc., which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Ltd. and ABC News is a unit of the Walt Disney Co.