It was NBC's decision to offer both sides of the argument that propelled the saga of those 15 British seamen into Story of the Day status. From England, both ABC's Jim Sciutto and NBC's Jim Maceda covered the explanations by navy and marine officers that they agreed to apologize for their territorial violation after their Revolutionary Guard captors threatened them with seven years in prison. The seamen "acknowledged that they were on the defensive," Maceda conceded, facing "major questions about the crew's willingness to fight." They recounted their surrender, capture, detention, fear of execution, interrogation and solitary confinement. They even had to explain why cameras had caught them smiling when they shook hands with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The crew's defense of those soundbites was that they "couched their statements to make it clear they were not in their own words," as Sciutto put it. When the crew's press conference was aired on Iranian TV, the anchor called the statements "dictated by the British government," Sciutto added.
Then Ned Colt filed a follow-up on the opinions of combat veterans. Had the 15 displayed poor military judgment by cooperating with their captors? In London, Colt found no critical soundbites from military pensioners in the Rose & Crown pub. However, the retired brass were not nearly so lenient. A former British army colonel called himself "ashamed" as he mixed his metaphors: "This was a screw-up. They were caught with their trousers down…They were singing like canaries and I do not agree with that." NBC's in-house analyst Jack Jacobs was blistering: "Disgusting. Disreputable. Dishonorable." Jacobs called the crew's leader a "meathead."
UPDATE: Colt did not identify Jacobs as being on the network's payroll--only as a "veteran and Medal of Honor recipient"--although NBC anchor Brian Williams (text link) does on his Daily Nightly blog.
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