National Security

Bang! Bang! Reporter finds shooting at Islamic radicals not a great career move

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters clean their weapons at a military base at Batnaya outside of Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters clean their weapons at a military base at Batnaya outside of Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. AP

A foreign correspondent for The Blaze visiting Iraq posted a photo of himself firing a sniper rifle, apparently at Islamic State extremists. He tweeted that he fired six shots at the enemy.

Now he’s facing incoming.

But they aren’t bullets. Fellow journalists are slamming the correspondent, Jason Buttrill, for picking up a gun. They say journalists are not supposed to be combatants.

The criticism has started a Twitter flame war, with supporters saying Buttrill did nothing wrong. But apparently the controversy was a bit much for the parent company of The Blaze, which has reportedly pulled Buttrill back home.

Buttrill describes himself on his Twitter account as a former intelligence analyst for the Pentagon who is now a geopolitical analyst and chief researcher for The Blaze, the news network started by conservative talk radio personality Glenn Beck.

A story on the news portal lauds Buttrill for “documenting the fight to take back Iraq street by street.”

“If they can break Mosul, I mean, ISIS is pretty much done…in Iraq. They’re going to be pushed all the way back up into Syria. They’re not really going to have a foothold in Iraq at all,” Buttrill told a show carried on The Blaze.

Buttrill caught attention of fellow war correspondents with a tweet Thursday that contained a photo showing him cradling a sniper rifle. He wrote: “Major bucket list completed. Shoot at #ISIS? Check!”

In another tweet, Buttrill, who once was an active duty Marine, said he got six shots off. “ISIS looked like ants on that scope, but...my USMC PMI (primary marksmanship instructor) was exceptional,” Buttrill tweeted.

According to a story in militarytimes.com, some veteran war correspondents took exception to Buttrill’s actions. A fellow Marine veteran and journalist, C.J. Chivers of The New York Times, tweeted his disdain: “dude, when you get shot we can't really go "oh boo-hoo for journalism," can we? how about knocking off the bullshit.”

A Committee to Protect Journalists’ researcher in the Middle East, Jason Stern, also laid on some criticism: “Jason, journalists are detained and killed all over the world over false accusations of being combatants. This doesn't help.”

Mercury Radio Arts said in a statement, carried by Politico, that Buttrill is a “valued researcher” and was offered “an important research assignment in Iraq.”

“Due to his conduct, Mercury Radio Arts has recalled him back to the US. He has been suspended from further field research assignments,” the statement said.

An email to an executive producer for Beck, identified only as Stu on his website, bounced back to McClatchy. Apparently his mailbox is full.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4

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