WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate has voted to confirm new Pentagon spokesman Dorrance Smith, months after President Bush used a recess appointment to give him the job. Smith’s approval had been held up by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), because of a Wall Street Journal article in which Smith accused U.S. television networks of aiding terrorists through their partnerships with Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
Senators approved the nomination of Smith, a former ABC News producer, to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs by a vote was 59-34.
The job of Pentagon spokesman had been open since Victoria “Torie” Clarke quit in June of 2003 to become senior advisor for communications and government affairs at Comcast Corporation as the cable giant faced numerous big public policy issues.
In 2005, Smith wrote that “Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and al Qaeda have a partner in al-Jazeera and, by extension, most networks in the U.S. This partnership is a powerful tool for the terrorists in the war in Iraq…. In addition to being subsidized by Qatar, Al-Jazeera has very strong partners in the U.S.—ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Video aired by Al-Jazeera ends up on these networks, sometimes within minutes.
“The arrangement between the U.S. networks and Al-Jazeera raises questions of journalistic ethics. Do the U.S. networks know the terms of the relationship that Al-Jazeera has with the terrorists? Do they want to know?”
Levin said the comments were inappropriate from someone who had would become the Pentagon’s chief liaison with the news media. “That you would characterize them as aiders and abettors of the terrorists that attack us…. as far as I’m concerned that is so far over the top, it’s unacceptable.”