A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Troop Support for Candidates


Q: Did ABC News misrepresent which candidate troops in Iraq support, as a chain e-mail alleges?

A: No. The e-mail is bogus, and the major general to which it is attributed says he never wrote it.

FULL QUESTION

I received this e-mail: Is it true?

Just in case you happened to see the ABC News piece (if you watch ABC News) with interviews of 6 military folks in Iraq, 4 planned to vote for Obama and 2 for Hillary; no mention of any McCain supporters. Well, here’s the ‘Rest of the Story.’

 This from Major General (ret) Buckman, a close friend of ours.

[EET ] My niece, Katelyn, stationed at Baluud, Iraq was assigned, with others of her detachment, to be escort/guard/ watcher for Martha Raddatz of ABC News as she covered John McCain’s recent trip to Iraq . " Katelyn and her Captain stood directly behind Raddatz as she queried GI’s walking past. They kept count of the GI’s and you should remember these numbers. " She asked 60 GI’s who they planned to vote for in November. 54 said John McCain, 4 for Obama and 2 for Hillary. "Katelyn called home and told her Mom and Dad to watch ABC news the next night because she was standing directly behind Raddatz and maybe they’d see her on TV. " Mom and Dad of course, called and emailed all the kinfolk to watch the newscast and maybe see Katelyn. " Well, of course, we all watched and what we saw wasn’t a glimpse of Katelyn, but got a hell’uva view of skewed news. "After a dissertation on McCain’s trip and speech, ABC showed 6 GI’s being asked by Raddatz how they were going to vote in November; 4 for Obama and 2 for Clinton .. No mention of the 54 for McCain. [/EET]

FULL ANSWER

This chain e-mail, attributed to a Maj. Gen. Buckman, has been circulating the Web and blogosphere this summer. It claims that Martha Raddatz, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, gave a biased account of the answers she received when she asked a number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq which candidate they planned to vote for in the presidential election.

Almost nothing about this e-mail is true. While there really is a Maj. Gen. Buckman, who retired from the Air Force in 1986, he told FactCheck.org that he didn’t write the e-mail, he has no idea why it would be attributed to him and that he has no niece in Iraq. Snopes.com and TruthorFiction.com debunked the e-mail in July, and a blogger that had posted comments about the e-mail on his site has since issued an apology to Raddatz and ABC News.

The e-mail refers to a report that aired April 7 on ABC about which issues are important to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and which presidential candidates they support. It contains footage of Raddatz interviewing several American military personnel. The segment does show more supporters of Barack Obama than John McCain, and the focus of the story was that it was surprising that these service members voiced a preference for Democratic candidates who were calling for a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq.

The numbers in the e-mail, however, are a bit off. It claims that the segment shows four military personnel who support Obama, two for Hillary Clinton and none for McCain. Actually, the piece includes quotes from three service members supporting Obama, two for Hillary Clinton, and one for McCain. A written article accompanying the video on ABC’s Web site is closer to the e-mail’s count, including comments from four military personnel in favor of Obama, one for Clinton and none for McCain. The e-mail also says Raddatz was accompanying McCain on a trip to Iraq, but that’s wrong. She was there with Vice President Dick Cheney, as the story clearly states.

We contacted Raddatz to ask about the e-mail’s charges, and she forwarded a statement to us that she previously had issued in response to the viral message. Raddatz says she didn’t interview anywhere close to 60 people, as the e-mail alleges. She talked to about a dozen service members and hadn’t attempted to take any kind of poll:

Dear all,

 I just received your email chain from a friend and I must say I am so saddened by it…..saddened because such a distinguished group was so quick to pass on false internet rumors at the expense of my reputation. [EET ] As I write this, I am on my 17th trip to Iraq with our US forces. I have spent countless hours reporting on the troops during this conflict, and also spend a good deal of my personal time with the wounded and US military families when I am back home. I wrote a book last year, “The Long Road Home” about the battle of Sadr City which was praised as non-political and a tribute to our forces. And yet this internet rumor has gone viral precisely because people in your group and others pass this rumor onto others. The story that was supposedly told by “Katelyn” is simply not true. First…she must have a hundred aunts and uncles because whoever is forwarding it usually claims to be a close friend of one of them. I never went on a trip with John McCain…and I certainly didn’t interview 60 soldiers about who they are voting for. These attacks on me started because of a story that aired after a visit I took in March to Balad air base with Vice President Cheney. I followed him down a rope line and was surprised to see how many of the military personnel (largely Air Force) said they supported Barack Obama. I did not talk to many more than a dozen service members. I was with the VP and had no time! There were, of course McCain supporters and Clinton supporters, as well…which I mentioned in the story. But this was not a poll. It was simply surprising that that so many came forward to voice support for a candidate who is advocating withdrawal, just moments after cheering for the vice president. So if there is in fact a “Katelyn” she is making this up. Not only that, she could not possibly have heard me in the noisy crowd. If you would like to check my integrity with some high ranking active duty officers please feel free to do so. And, please, if any of you actually knows retired MG Buckman, please pass on his email address and this email so I can let him know what he has started. I assume he would not want this to continue or have any role in it.

Please feel free to share this email. Thanks so much for understanding how important my bond with the troops is and how important I feel it is to cover the amazing job they do on a daily basis.
Martha Raddatz [/EET]

She issued a similar statement to blogger "John In Carolina," in response to a post he wrote accusing Raddatz of suppressing information about the supposed 54 McCain supporters. After researching the incident, John issued an apology to Raddatz and ABC News.

Raddatz also was able to locate Maj. Gen. Louis Buckman, who lives in Austin, Texas. We called him at his home as well, and he read to us the statement that he had originally sent to Raddatz in July: "The referenced e-mail about the reaction of our men and women in Iraq was not authored by me," Buckman said. "I would not send or forward an e-mail that I knew to be bogus or untrue and would appreciate it not being associated with me." He told us he has received eight or 10 phone calls from around the country about this false e-mail.

Whether the service members featured in the ABC segment make up a representative sample of all those Raddatz interviewed is not for us to determine. But the chain e-mail attempting to discredit Raddatz is a hoax.

-Rachel Weisel, with Lori Robertson

Sources

How Will the Troops Vote?” ABC World News with Charlie Gibson. 7 April 2008. ABC News Web site, accessed 6 August 2008.

 Raddatz, Martha. “SurprisingPolitical endorsements By U.S. Troops: American Soldiers Speak Out About Their Presidential Endorsements.” 7 April 2008. ABC News Web site, accessed 6 August 2008.