SAN DIEGO -- CNN cable news has become "the publicist for an enemy propaganda film" by broadcasting a tape showing an insurgent sniper apparently killing an American soldier, the chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee said yesterday.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, called for the Pentagon to oust immediately any CNN reporter embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.
"I think Americans like to think we're all in this together," Hunter said. "The average American Marine or soldier has concluded after seeing that film that CNN is not on their side."
CNN said its decision to show the brief tape was motivated by a desire to show the public the growing threat insurgent snipers pose to U.S. troops.
"Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can," wrote CNN producer David Doss in a blog on the network's Web site.
Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, said the insurgents were hoping to "break the will of the American people" by slipping the tape to CNN.
The tape was shown first on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 program, where Doss is executive producer, and then on several news shows. It remains on the network's Web site.
Doss said CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware received the tape after communicating through intermediaries with Ibrahim Shimar, a spokesman for the Islamic Army.
Doss said the decision to use the sniper tape came after "intense editorial debate" at CNN. One compromise was made: The moment when the bullet hits the soldier's head is blacked out. The soldier's face and unit patches are not clearly visible, and so identifying him was impossible, the network said.
Rep. Brian Bilbray, who joined Hunter and Rep. Darrell Issa in sending a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, called the film "nothing short of a terrorist snuff film."
Snow said the video was misleading because it made it appear that Americans were "sitting ducks" and the insurgents were winning. In fact, the insurgents "are dying in much greater numbers and suffering much greater damage," he said.
The Pentagon had no official reaction to the CNN video.
Tony Perry writes for the Los Angeles Times.