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Hotel chain drops CNN over Iraq sniper video

A Midwest hotel chain has pulled CNN from the TV channel lineup in its guest rooms. James Thompson, president of the Iowa-based Stoney Creek Hospitality Corp., said the video crossed the line from journalism to propaganda.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Midwest hotel chain has pulled CNN from the TV channel lineup in its guest rooms, saying the cable network was aiding terrorism with the broadcast of a video showing Iraqi snipers shooting at U.S. troops.

The broadcast, which aired Oct. 18 on both CNN and CNN Headline News, featured edited portions of a tape the network said it obtained from a rebel group called Islamic Army of Iraq.

The video crossed the line from journalism to propaganda, said James Thompson, president of the Iowa-based Stoney Creek Hospitality Corp.

“It was shocking and repulsive,” he said. “Their actions supported terrorism.”

Guests at the Stoney Creek Inn’s 10 properties in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin can still view Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC and other cable news channels.

Supportive comments from guests have outnumbered complaints by a 3-1 margin, Thompson said.

A network spokeswoman did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Thursday. A CNN producer previously defended the report as an attempt to show the “unvarnished truth” about the Iraq war.

The video, which first appeared on “Anderson Cooper 360,” shows uniformed U.S. soldiers mingling with Iraqi civilians in a public area. An American gunner is seen standing guard in a turret atop a U.S. military vehicle.

After the insurgent sniper confers with a spotter — presumably the person operating the video camera — a shot rings out. After a fade to black, the soldier in the turret slumps forward as the sniper’s car drives away.

In a CNN Web log entry defending the segment, producer David Doss wrote that the network excluded the “actual impact of the rounds” because “a number of us felt airing that precise moment was simply too horrific.”

Action was ‘moment of conscience’
Only portions of the rebel-supplied tape — which CNN said featured a total of 10 sniper attacks — were included as part of a broader news story that also featured interviews with a U.S. sniper in Iraq and a network military analyst, Doss noted.

Thompson called his response “a moment of conscience.” He said the decision to yank CNN and CNN Headline News from his hotels is permanent.

The company has hotels in Columbia and St. Joseph, Mo.; Des Moines and Waukon, Iowa; East Peoria, Moline, Quincy and Galena, Ill.; and La Crosse and Wausau, Wis.

The CNN report also raised the ire of several Republican lawmakers, who asked former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to bar network reporters from traveling as embedded journalists with military units in Iraq.

On Thursday, opinions among guests were mixed at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia, a central Missouri college town.

‘I didn’t even notice’
Dennis Cunningham, a retired factory worker from northern Missouri staying at the hotel for several weeks while his wife undergoes brain surgery, said he supported Thompson’s decision.

“I agree with him. I think it was inappropriate,” Cunningham said. “We don’t need to see things like that over here.”

Cunningham was not aware of the hotel’s decision until told by a reporter. Neither was Peter Cain of St. Louis, who like Cunningham ate breakfast near the hotel lobby as the Fox News Channel played in the background.

“If he’s trying to make a statement, then why doesn’t he make it known?” said Cain, referring to hotel owner Thompson. “I didn’t even notice (it was missing).”