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Confusion surrounds Rivera's expulsion from Iraq

Central Command: 'More important things to do'

A senior military official said Rivera was expelled because he sketched a future military operation.
A senior military official said Rivera was expelled because he sketched a future military operation.

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CNN's Howard Kurtz examines the recent troubles of journalists Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera over news coverage in Iraq (March 31)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military said Monday that Fox News Channel Correspondent Geraldo Rivera was being expelled from Iraq for divulging details of a future military operation, though later in the day a Central Command spokesman said he was not sure whether the newsman would be forced out.

"My initial report was that he had been asked to leave his unit and subsequently the country, but since then I've heard different reports," Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens at Central Command said.

"Frankly, we have bigger and more important things to do." He urged a reporter to call Fox News to learn Rivera's fate.

John Stack, vice president of newsgathering for Fox News Channel, said Rivera "has not been told to leave" and that nobody from the U.S. military had contacted the network to say that Rivera is being removed.

What sparked the controversy was a Monday report by Rivera that U.S. military officials said violated an important Pentagon rule imposed on its so-called embedded correspondents working inside fighting U.S. military units. Rivera had provided crucial details of a future military operation, officials said.

In a live broadcast from the Iraqi desert, Rivera instructed his photographer to tilt the camera down to the sand in front of his feet so that he could draw a map. Rivera then outlined a map of Iraq, and showed the relative location of Baghdad and his location with the Army's 101st Airborne unit. The reporter then continued with his diagram to illustrate where the 101st would be going next.

"He gave away the big picture stuff," one stunned senior military official told CNN. "He went down in the sand and drew where the forces are going."

Rivera then reportedly provided another live report from Iraq on Fox hours after his expulsion was announced. Rivera said he knew nothing about the ordered expulsion at the time of the second report.

"In fact, I'm further in Iraq than I've ever been," he said. "It sounds like some rats from my former network, NBC, are trying to stab me in the back."

Rivera said he had heard nothing about being expelled until he called network headquarters for a scheduled live report.

"MSNBC is so pathetic a cable news network that they have to do anything they can to attract attention," Rivera said. "You can rest assured that whatever they're saying is a pack of lies."

A U.S. Central Command official said, "He is being pulled. He just doesn't know it yet. He has not gotten the word."

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Plante contributed to this report.


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