Reps. gripe over Jennings' war coverage

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One-dozen Republican House members, led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), have
written defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to complain about Peter Jennings'
reporting on World News Tonight and to question the rules governing the
policy of embedding reporters with the troops.

They said Jennings' March 10 broadcast of interviews with troops featured
questions that were "highly inappropriate," including "hypothetical situations
regarding combat, enemy responses and casualties."

They asked Rumsfeld to explain how current policies toward the media differ
from those of Desert Storm; how "subjecting anxious young troops to questions
relating to combat deaths and possible enemy responses serve to foster a better
public perception" (one of the Department of Defense's state reasons for
allowing the embedding); and why the media was not being censored.

For his part, ABC News vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider praised Jennings'
reporting. "Peter is a veteran journalist who did a terrific job for us on his
recent trip on the Middle East," he said.

While saying he had not seen the broadcast at issue, Pentagon spokesman
Lieutenant Commander Jeff Davis stood by the decision to embed reporters.

"We think it is very important, given the Iraqis' long history of deception,
that we have a third-party perspective on everything we do," Davis said. "We
welcome folks covering what we do."

Stearns' office said it has not yet gotten a response from Rumsfeld to the
letter, which was sent March 14.