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The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

GOP exploiting 9/11, Kalb says

Journalist Marvin Kalb criticized Republicans’ use of September 11 for political gain at a conference on understanding the events and the consequences of the national tragedy.

“The way it is used, and not the extent it is used, is disturbing,” Kalb said.

In particular, Kalb described the use of clips from the HBO documentary “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” at August’s Republican National Convention as “a political prop.”

Clips of the film were shown and discussed throughout the conference, “Teaching 9-11: The Role of Media, Museums and Schools in Constructing National Memory,” held Thursday at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Kalb, who hosts the GW-sponsored discussion series “The Kalb Report,” is a senior fellow at Harvard University and a former host of “Meet the Press.”

HBO described the documentary as a movie illustrating how “the game of baseball provided welcome relief as the country found itself rooting for the New York Yankees, who had come to symbolize the city of New York.” It is scheduled to air on HBO Tuesday at 10 p.m.

The clip used at the Republican National Convention was of the president opening a game at Yankee Stadium by throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Kalb said he had no complaints about the film “if it is shown as an innocent rendition of what happened in 9/11” instead of for political purposes.

Fiona Spruill, associate editor of NYTimes.com, the Web site for The New York Times, said she agreed that September 11 is being used for political gain.

“It’s very easy to put it and spin it in any way you want,” she said.

The convention’s panel on media also featured Ron Simon, the curator of television at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. He said the media did not effectively relay information to the public during the day’s attacks.

James Fallows, a correspondent with the magazine The Atlantic Monthly, served as the event’s moderator. He agreed with Simon’s claim.

“Public opinion polls show most American people still misunderstand many facts of 9/11,” Fallows said.

He referenced a poll indicating that most Americans believe former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the airline hijackings, a claim that lacks factual support.

“The media should have covered issues that they just let go by,” Kalb said. “I think we just blew it.”

Panelists also described the difficulties of covering an event that affected so many in an objective manner.

“Of course, as journalists you’re taught to … look at the news in a sort of detached way,” Spruill said. But she later added that because most members of the NYTimes.com staff were from New York, “It was impossible to divorce ourselves from the news.”

Fallows also discussed the difficulty of getting interviews with Bush.

“I made 30 or 40 interview requests in the Pentagon,” he said, referring to work he did for an upcoming article in The Atlantic Monthly. “How many do you think got back to me?”

Fallows said he suspects the Bush administration was punishing him for his unfavorable reporting – his magazine is generally regarded as a liberal publication.

Other topics discussed were the effects of supposed media bias on educators and innovations resulting from September 11 in reporting and teaching.

Spruill discussed the increasing prominence of digital video on NYTimes.com.

“We put so much emphasis on still images and more and more video as well,” Spruill said. She also outlined the Web site’s appeal to individual people and their need to cope with tragedy.

The discussion was arranged through a Web site project created by Dickinson College’s Doug Stuart, an international relations professor and former GW visiting scholar.

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