Jessica Lynch: An American Tale

For the Record


After the fog of war came the fog of media, followed by the fog of war and media, then clarifications and alternative views, then the fog of publicity and the war of competing media.

Then Sunday night brought the start of sweeps week and a TV docudrama. Today, Veterans Day, brings the launch date for writer Rick Bragg's biography of former Iraqi POW Jessica Lynch, the West Virginia "get" girl being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC tonight and appearing on the Today Show tomorrow, David Letterman on Friday, Larry King on Monday night and live at the Barnes & Noble store in Annapolis Monday afternoon.

Did someone say today is Veterans Day?

How in the world did this happen?

March 23: U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch is injured in a Humvee crash during an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq. An Army inquiry later shows that exhaustion, a few wrong turns and faulty communications contributed to the deaths of 11 Americans and the capture of Lynch and six other soldiers.

April 3: The Washington Post reports an exclusive story about Lynch's capture and heroic rescue from an Iraqi hospital under a front-page headline: "She was Fighting to the Death." The story details Lynch's alleged gun battle with Iraqi ambushers, in which she reportedly killed several attackers and sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Defense Department officials described her rescue on April 1 as a classic Special Operations raid, with U.S. commandos in Black Hawk helicopters engaging Iraqi forces on their way in and out of the medical compound, according to the newspaper.

April 4: Lynch's father says doctors found no gunshot wounds on his daughter.

April 7: A Nexis search of major world publications over the two weeks since Lynch's capture shows 652 references to the name "Jessica Lynch." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's name shows 331 references.

May 8: Military officials say Lynch has no recollection of what happened between the time of her unit's ambush and when she awoke at a nearby hospital.

May 15: The BBC airs an interview with an Iraqi doctor who says no Iraqi troops had been at the hospital during Lynch's rescue. Hospital staff say Iraqi military and civilian leaders fled before the raid occurred.

May 23: New York Times staff writer Rick Bragg is suspended for writing a story under his byline using information and observations gathered by a stringer from scenes Bragg did not witness for himself.

May 23: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen weighs in on the emerging controversy over the newspaper's initial report of the Jessica Lynch story: "Journalism is alchemy with words. We turn nuances, lies, denials, spin and unreturned phone calls into something called The Truth. Often we succeed. When we don't, we don't want anyone to notice."

May 25: Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler, responding to reader complaints about the paper's Lynch story, writes that "If there is a different version [of the story] ... I hope somebody will write it, along with a more probing account of her rescue."

May 28: Rick Bragg resigns from The New York Times.

June 16: The Times reports on media efforts to woo Lynch for interviews and appearances, referring to her as "the get." The report says Katie Couric of NBC News sent Lynch a bundle of patriotic books, and Diane Sawyer of ABC sent her a locket.

CBS News, it says, sent Lynch a letter that included a pitch for a two-hour TV documentary, an offer from MTV for a possible news special, a music-video program or a concert in her honor with "a current star act such as Ashanti" in her hometown, and a potential book deal with Simon & Schuster. CBS News correspondent Jane Clayson, it says, sent Lynch a birthday greeting in May noting that they shared the same astrological sign.

June 17: The Washington Post runs a story of more than 5,000 words correcting its original version of Lynch's actions in the war and providing competing versions of the rescue.

June 29: Post ombudsman Getler writes in a column: "This was the single most memorable story of the war, and it had huge propaganda value. It was false, but it didn't get knocked down until it didn't matter quite so much."

July 21: Lynch is awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious combat service, the Purple Heart and the POW medal.

July 22: Lynch returns to a hero's welcome in Palestine, W. Va. Former Times reporter Bragg is spotted climbing out of a state-police car in the crowd. He tells a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is just "hanging around," but rumors circulate that he is writing a book about Lynch.

Aug. 5: NBC announces its choice to play the lead role of Jessica Lynch in a planned TV movie: Laura Regan, star of Wes Craven's 2002 horror movie They.

Aug 7: The New York Times reports that "representatives" of Lynch are close to arranging a deal for her paid cooperation to make a TV movie about her experience as a prisoner of war.

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