Jake Tapper has the big story right now: "Fellow Soldiers Call Bowe Bergdahl a Deserter, Not a Hero." That's GOP-friendly spin of the weekend's news, and that's what Tapper is emphasizing:
The sense of pride expressed by officials of the Obama administration at the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not shared by many of those who served with him -- veterans and soldiers who call him a deserter whose "selfish act" ended up costing the lives of better men.But back in January, the site for Tapper's CNN show, The Lead, linked to a Jim Sciutto story titled "New Hope for American POW," that said nothing about the desertion rumors. (Sciutto merely said that "Bergdahl was 23 when he was captured after finishing a guard shift at a combat outpost in southeastern Paktika province.") On February 12, Tapper did a segment on The Lead in which he discused Bergdahl's case with Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast without ever mentioning the desertion narrative:
"I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on," said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. "Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
Vierkant said Bergdahl needs to not only acknowledge his actions publicly but face a military trial for desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice....
Read the transcript. Not a word about desertion.
On February 23, Tapper appeared on a segment of CNN's Reliable Sources to talk about Bergdahl with host Brian Stelter. This time, Tapper did mention the desertion rumors -- only to argue that they were no reason to end efforts to bring Bergdahl home:
STELTER: ... the muddied circumstances of this man's capture as outlined by Michael Hastings in "Rolling Stone" a couple years ago seemed like they're not a traditional kind of story you hear about a POW in any war.(Emphasis added)
He was disillusioned with the war. He apparently walked off the base. That led some people to call him a deserter. Do you think those are -- because the story is muddied, is that one of the reasons why it doesn't get more attention?
TAPPER: Absolutely. Absolutely. The fact is, and you mentioned the late great Michael Hastings, and he got some emails that Bowe Bergdahl sent to his family, emails that suggested that he wasn't just disillusioned with the war, he had become -- he had turned against the war. He didn't think the war was a good idea.
He left the base on his own. The American military does not refer to him as a POW. They refer to him as missing.
STELTER: That's an interesting detail, that they don't call him a POW. Maybe that's why the country doesn't realize there is a POW.
TAPPER: That's one of the reasons I would think, and the murky circumstances of why he left the base that night definitely makes the story different than other POW stories where a soldier on a mission is captured by the enemy. It's different.
That's not to say that he shouldn't be freed, that the U.S. government shouldn't be doing everything it can. But in terms of how much his cause has taken root among activists, I think that's one of the reasons why you haven't seen, outside of his family and some troops and veterans, a huge push.
When not getting Bergdahl's home was an Obama-era failure, Tapper downplayed the questions surrounding Bergdahl's actions. Now that the administration has freed Bergdahl, suddenly Tapper's emphasis has changed. Funny how that works.