CBS News’ “60 Minutes” has drawn backlash over a story it aired Sunday about Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL and convicted war criminal who famously garnered the support of President Donald Trump.
Some viewers, including several journalists, slammed the program for not being critical enough of Gallagher, who was convicted last July of posing in a photo with the corpse of a teenage ISIS fighter during his final deployment in Iraq. Gallagher has called the image a “trophy photo.”
“Glamorizing war criminals,” David Perry, a journalist and historian, tweeted about the Gallagher segment. “Everyone involved with this should resign.”
Gallagher was charged with several other war crimes as well, including stabbing the teen captive to death and obstruction of justice for alleged witness intimidation. He was also accused of shooting Iraqi civilians.
Gallagher’s own platoon turned him in. One member said during courtroom testimony that Gallagher was “freaking evil.” Another testified that he was “toxic.”
But Gallagher was acquitted on all of the charges except for posing in the photo after one witness, a fellow Navy SEAL, changed his story after receiving criminal immunity. The SEAL testified that Gallagher stabbed the wounded teen in the neck but that he, not Gallagher, ultimately asphyxiated him. Prosecutors alleged the witness lied to protect Gallagher.
The Navy removed and replaced a lead member of its prosecution team in June 2019 over his handling of Gallagher’s case.
Gallagher was sentenced to four months behind bars but was released since he had served time in pretrial detention. The Navy demoted Gallagher and stripped him of his Trident pin, a symbol of his membership in the elite SEALs. But Trump restored Gallagher’s rank and ordered that he be allowed to keep his pin.
In the “60 Minutes” story, reported by CBS News correspondent David Martin, Gallagher denied stabbing the teen and said he was only trying to “look tough” in the photo. Gallagher had texted the photo to friends, appearing to boast about the teen’s death with the message: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
“I know how bad it looks when it gets out into the public, which it was never supposed to,” Gallagher told Martin. “It was like a joke text. Dark humor.”
Asked if he feels sorry for the teen, Gallagher said no. He acknowledged that taking the photo, however, was “wrong” and “distasteful.”
However, the “60 Minutes” story failed to mention Gallagher’s remarks about the SEALs who testified against him. After the trial, he posted a video to his Facebook and Instagram pages naming the witnesses and calling them “cowards.” He also identified the current units of those still on active duty ― a move that could jeopardize their safety and the Navy’s mission, according to some critics.
The “60 Minutes” story also did not include any interviews with members of the prosecution team, experts on the military criminal justice system or former Navy SEALs who could have provided additional context about the case.
CBS News did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
“60 Minutes” dedicated a portion of Gallagher’s story to the “glory wall” in the retired SEAL’s garage gym. One photo hung on the wall featured the platoon he led during his last deployment with the unit’s motto engraved in the frame: “Kill ’em all.”
“Kind of has a different meaning after what you were accused of,” Martin said.
“Yeah,” Gallagher replied before showing the journalist the hunting knife from the photo, which is sitting on a table near a couch.
“No blood was ever found on the knife, although it has become tarnished over time,” Martin narrated in a shot of him holding the knife. “Much like the reputations of so many that have been involved in this case.”
“60 Minutes” tweeted a 55-second clip of the “glory wall” segment, prompting a tsunami of condemnation online. As of Monday morning, the tweet had about 1,100 likes but more than 12,000 comments ― many of them expressing outrage.
“WTF is wrong with you, 60 Minutes?” tweeted Parker Molloy, an editor-at-large for the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America.
Marcela Garcia, a member of The Boston Globe’s editorial board, echoed Molloy’s anger, tweeting that the show had hit “a new low tonight letting Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher blatantly lie on national TV. WHY. So enraging.”
Many others tore into “60 Minutes,” with some calling for a boycott of the show for giving Gallagher a platform: