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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalists' Coverage Under Scrutiny

NEW YORK -- In a fast-paced day of media cross-fire over how reporters are covering the war, Peter Arnett was fired by NBC for an interview he gave to Iraqi state television, and a correspondent for a rival network, Fox News' Geraldo Rivera, found himself under Pentagon scrutiny for a report in which he drew troop positions in the sand.

NBC News, which on Sunday stood by Arnett after his interview was shown, abruptly reversed itself Monday and said it had severed ties with the veteran correspondent. Arnett was reporting for NBC and its MSNBC cable channel via an arrangement with his employer, National Geographic Television, which also cut ties with him.

Arnett is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose Baghdad reporting for CNN in the 1991 Persian Gulf War helped put the then-upstart cable channel on the map.

Arnett said on NBC's "Today" show Monday that the interview was a "stupid misjudgment," although he insisted his remarks were in line with what experts have been saying. But the venue, coupled with the nature of his comments -- he praised Iraq's treatment of foreign reporters, said his own reports were helpful to the U.S. antiwar movement, and said the initial U.S. war plan has failed due to Iraqi resistance -- amounted to an ethical violation for many observers.

Although a chastened Arnett said on "Today" that he would be swimming off to a desert island in shame, he was hired late Monday by Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper, which has vocally opposed Britain's involvement in the war.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding a Sunday night report by Rivera, in which he was shown on air drawing a diagram in the sand showing the location of the U.S. troops he was traveling with and their strategy. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that although Rivera was not officially "embedded" with the troops he reported on, the Army's 101st Airborne unit, "we take all violations of operational security, inadvertent or not, very seriously."

CNN, MSNBC and several wire services reported throughout Monday that Rivera had been asked to leave Iraq, citing Pentagon and military officials. But Fox reported Monday evening that Rivera was still in the country. A Fox spokesman said, "We've been in contact with the Pentagon, and we're looking into the matter."

Debate over journalists' roles in the war has grown along with the sheer volume of on-the-ground coverage from reporters traveling with the military.

Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, in a speech Monday at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York, was critical of Arnett's remarks, saying, "He has committed an almost despicable act in sitting down for the interview and criticizing our forces."

MSNBC President Erik Sorenson said Monday that granting the interview to a "state-run, Saddam-controlled TV station in Baghdad" was a "complete total outrageous mistake.

"He has strong points of view about the war and its conduct. For him to be betraying these opinions of his, much less on Iraqi TV, is arguably aiding and abetting the enemy in Baghdad."