NBC Repeats CBS Piece Challenging U.S. Version of Strait of Hormuz Incident

Nearly a week behind the curve, the January 15 NBC Nightly News program virtually repeated the January 10 CBS Evening News story undermining the American version of the U.S.-Iran confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Pentagon described the January 6 incident as “an act of aggression,” and released a videotape with added audio of an English-language threat the U.S. ships received during the encounter: “I am coming to you ... you will explode after minutes.”

As CBS did last week, NBC emphasized that the radio threats received by U.S. ships did not necessarily come from the Iranian boats.  Also like CBS, NBC failed to provide any details that undermined the Iranian version of the story, that the incident was a “routine encounter.”

NBC anchor Brian Williams suggested U.S. sailors may never have been under any threat:  “And there are new questions tonight about what has been reported as a confrontation between U.S. Navy warships and Iran in the Straits of Hormuz, a report that surfaced on the eve of the president's trip to the Middle East you may recall. The question is -- was there in fact a real threat to American sailors ever? Or some sort of a hoax?”

NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski added his own skeptical note: “The navy says seven minutes into the encounter their warships received an ominous-sounding radio call.” [emphasis added]

Miklaszewski failed to report that the Iranian boats sped around the U.S. ships for at least twenty minutes.  The Pentagon's assessment that a threat existed was based primarily on the aggressive actions of the boats, not the brief radio transmission. Also, Miklaszewski failed to observe that because the threat was broadcast in English, it must have been intended for an English-speaking audience. 

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.