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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 01:26 GMT 02:26 UK
US network sacks top journalist
Peter Arnett on Iraqi TV
NBC initially defended Arnett for his "analytical" remarks
US broadcaster NBC has sacked celebrated journalist Peter Arnett after he gave an interview on Iraqi television saying the US-led coalition's initial war plan had failed.

NBC said on Monday: "It was wrong for Mr Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war.

"And it was wrong for him to discuss personal observations and opinions in that interview."

Within hours of his dismissal, Arnett was hired by the Daily Mirror, a UK tabloid newspaper strongly opposed to the war in Iraq.

The newspaper said Arnett had been "Fired by America for telling the truth" in its front page headline.

"I am still in shock and awe at being fired," Arnett is quoted as writing in the Mirror.

"I report the truth of what is happening here in Baghdad and will not apologise for it."

Household name

Arnett, one of the few US correspondents left in Baghdad, became a household name reporting for CNN there during the Gulf War in 1991.

NBC broadcast a statement from network officials on its Monday morning Today show announcing the sacking of the New Zealand-born journalist.

I want to apologise to the American people for clearly making a misjudgement
Peter Arnett
On the same broadcast, Arnett, 68, apologised to NBC and to the US public, saying he was "embarrassed" by the controversy.

"I want to apologise to the American people for clearly making a misjudgement," he said.

"I am not anti-war, I am not anti-military," Arnett said, although he added: "I said over the weekend what we all know about the war."

Arnett, a naturalised American, is in Baghdad for NBC and MSNBC's National Geographic Explorer.

Iraqi television broadcast him saying "the first war plan has just failed because of Iraqi resistance. Clearly the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces".

Initial defence

NBC had initially defended him on Sunday, saying he had given the interview as a professional courtesy and that his remarks were analytical in nature.

But by Monday morning, after Arnett had spoken to NBC news president Neal Shapiro, the broadcaster said it would no longer work with him.

During the television interview, broadcast in English and translated by an Iraqi anchor, Arnett said: "Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States.

Peter Arnett on CNN, 1991
Arnett fell foul of the US military for his 1991 Gulf War reports
"It helps those who oppose the war, when you challenge the policy, to develop their arguments."

Arnett's comments drew criticism from US lawmakers.

Former New York senator Alfonse D'Amato said they gave "aid and comfort to the enemy".

Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called them "just crazy" and Democrat Brad Sherman labelled them "absurd".

Arnett won a Pulitzer Prize reporting in Vietnam for the Associated Press before making his name on television with CNN in Baghdad.

His reporting of an allied bombing of a baby milk factory there in 1991 drew criticism from the US military, which said it was a biological weapons plant.

Arnett stood by his report.

He was later the on-air reporter in the 1998 CNN report who accused American forces of using sarin gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill US defectors.

Two CNN employees were sacked and Arnett was reprimanded, later leaving the network.




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