Journalists using DoD press briefings to plant politically charged questions

Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio questions US Air Force Central Command Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, Jr during a Centcom Commander briefing in February 2015.

Republican presidential candidates – mainly Ted Cruz and Donald Trump – have recently been the topic of headlines for their comments regarding their strategies for defeating ISIS.

During a Pentagon briefing this morning, CNN’s Barbara Starr, asked United Kingdom Maj. Gen. Doug Chalmers, deputy commander, Strategy and Sustainment (S&S) Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve about whether the military has considered the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS.

Starr referenced it as being a popular topic of discussion in the media and inquired about whether it has been considered in the current strategy.

After a long pause, possibly due to a communication delay, Maj. Gen Chalmers simply replied, “No.”

Last week Donald Trump came under fire for comments he made to Bloomberg TV regarding the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS.

“I’m never going to rule anything out…I wouldn’t want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it,” Trump said.

Barbara Starr did not specifically mention Donald Trump’s statements but these statements – related to the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS – were the only mention of the topic in the media during the past week.

Starr’s lack of follow up questions following the general’s remarks suggest her intention was to bait the General into making a public statement against the use of nuclear weapons.

Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio planted a question in a similar fashion to counter Ted Cruz’s comments on the use of carpet bombing at a Pentagon press briefing in February.

Unlike Starr, his questions did not shy away from directly using a Republican candidate’s name when questioning US Air Force Central Command Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, Jr.

“There’s been a lot of campaign rhetoric around the country from Ted Cruz, the Presidential candidate, on ‘carpet bombing ISIL,” he said.

“From your perspective, is that the… that the most correct way to review the use of airpower against ISIL? If not, why not?,” he continued to ask.

(Question asked at 7 minutes in video below)

General Brown stated that the coalition uses precision-guided munitions against the Islamic State forces, given that the enemy does not congregate in large enough numbers to justify such a tactic as carpet bombing.

General Brown’s initial statement, before opening to questions from the press, highlighted the extreme accuracy of USAF assets – even stating that “we are conducting the most precise air campaign in history.”

Critics suggest that journalists have lost their ability to remain objective due to their publication’s alignment with certain political interests.

Journalists using official Department of Defense briefings to ask questions that are redundant or have obvious answers, but more to score political points against a candidate suggest the motive for their inquires is not objective reporting.

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