BREATHLESS: There’s so much wrong, Kyra Phillips can’t possibly be doing it on purpose.
Last week, political humor Web site Wonkette.com urged Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to kidnap an American journalist. The proposed target? Kyra Phillips, who recently left her spot co-anchoring CNN Newsroom to report from Iraq. Wonkette’s wrath was aroused by a recent spot in which Phillips seemed to link the war in Iraq to the so-called war on drugs.
PHILLIPS: [T]he lead investigator also said to me that these drugs are being used as a tool of motivation, sort of like what we’ve seen with the children soldiers in Sudan. They’re given these drugs, and then they commit these acts of terror, and as the investigator says, they’re completely unaware of what they’re doing. They’re high.
As the aforementioned exchange suggests, Phillips is prone to breathless gravity — not unusual in her business (Stone Phillips, anybody?), but not necessarily great in a war zone. She also seems eager to endear herself to authority figures, as in this interview with Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Central Command.
FALLON: I was out actually in the streets the other day, and took a little stroll, and saw a lot of folks moving around. And when they saw me — they probably didn’t have any idea who I was, but they saw the entourage, so —
PHILLIPS: (excitedly) You must be important!
What’s more, Phillips also has a Diane Sawyer–esque knack for sadistic questioning. In a segment on the resurgent Iraqi tattoo industry, for example, she interviewed a young man named Hussam, who was getting his girlfriend’s initial tattooed on his chest. This wasn’t just about love, Phillips explained; if Hussam is killed by a suicide bomber, the tattoo could also help his loved ones identify his body. Here’s Phillips’s voice-over: “ ‘My friend was killed in an explosion, his face charred by the fire,’ Hussam tells me. ‘The only way his family could recognize him was by his tattoo.’ ” Point taken, but Phillips wasn’t done yet! “God forbid anything happens to you,” she pressed, “but is this another way for your family to identify you if something goes wrong?” Damn, woman, give Hussam a break!
The question is, is there a political component to Phillips’s bizarre style? Watching Phillips in action, you wonder if she’s supposed to provide a brighter, more optimistic counterbalance to CNN’s Michael Ware, whose reporting from Iraq has been commendably tough-minded. Throw in the fact that Phillips once referred to Barack Obama as “Osama” — and that, in 2005, she accused Democrats of subjecting Karl Rove to a “major smear campaign” in the Valerie Plame affair — and this explanation seems entirely plausible.
Then again, this is the same woman who left her microphone on during a bathroom break last year, thereby broadcasting her water-closet commentary (which touched on her husband’s fine qualities and her sister-in-law’s lesser ones) during a speech by President George W. Bush. Maybe Phillips doesn’t have an agenda, or represent one. Maybe she’s just a cheesy, gaffe-prone talking head who finds herself, for better or worse, in the middle of a war. Stay safe, Kyra; don’t forget to turn off your mic, and come home soon.