According to NBC's top Pentagon correspondent, the Department of Defense is furious with Fox News analyst Ralph Peters, who said on July 19 that the Taliban should murder 23-year-old Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, captured after he strayed from his post, to save the Army "legal hassles and legal bills."
Peters, a well-known Neoconservative and frequent Fox News guest, attempted to clarify his shocking statement on Tuesday night's O'Reilly Factor, telling right-wing host Bill O'Reilly he believes that Bergdahl had "deserted" his unit and deserved no sympathy. He did not apologize. O'Reilly added that Bergdahl must be "crazy."
However, Wednesday night MSNBC's Rachel Maddow fired back, interviewing Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's top Pentagon correspondent, who said the Department of Defense is furious with Peters and Fox News, adding there is no evidence that Bergdahl is a deserter.
Peters' and O'Reilly's insidious comments drew a sharp reaction from a bipartisan group of 22 veteran members of Congress, who all signed a letter demanding Fox News CEO Roger Ailes apologize to Bergdahl's family for allowing a guest on his network to provide "aid and comfort" to America's enemies.
"Mr. Peters' indefensible comments call into question, without any supporting evidence whatsoever, PFC Bergdahl's patriotism and commitment to his country, and suggest in a non-subtle way that he deserved to be captured," they wrote. "The truth is that Mr. Peters' words give more aid and comfort to the enemy…and put PFC Bergdahl at additional risk of harm."
Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY), a former Navy commander who joined the 22 members of Congress in signing the letter, went a step further and called on Fox News to fire both O'Reilly and Peters.
"Their comments aid and abet our enemies during a time of war and the burden is on Fox News to prove that they reject this by taking the tangible action of issuing an apology and firing both of them," he wrote.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent, told Maddow on Wednesday night that Bergdahl "came off patrol on June 30th, dropped off his weapon, his body armor, grabbed up a bottle of water, a compass and a knife and took off out on his own. It was sometime after that, apparently, that some local militants grabbed him and turned him over to the Taliban."
"Should he have left the post alone?" Miklaszewski asked. "Of course not. But that doesn't make him a deserter."
He continued: "Military officials I talked to are quite outraged at Peters' comments, not just the idea perhaps that he suggested that the Taliban should execute Bergdahl, but because it's totally irresponsible. Here you have a kid, 23-years-old, in custody. He's got to be terrified. And now, these Peters comments could actually be used by his captors to get even deeper inside Bergdahl's mind and further erode any confidence that he may have that he will ever come out alive."
"I suspect my fellow Americans might really bail out of the FOX viewership over this one," opined former war reporter and photographer Tim King, who edits Oregon-based Web site Salem-News.
"If this insolent wicked little man named Peters at FOX manages to turn people against this American who volunteered to serve in the military, fully aware that almost anyone in the Army can be deployed overseas, he should be arrested and tossed in prison," King continued. "When does FOX News cross the line? This is a new age, a new time, and there is no way in Hell that Peters or FOX can cry ‘free speech' now."