CBS News reporter forced to apologize after saying Ukraine more ‘civilized’ than Iraq, Afghanistan

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Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday, CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata had to apologize on Saturday after he was accused of racism on social media over an earlier comparison of Ukraine to Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a live report and seemingly acknowledging that he might be on thin ice, D’Agata made the following remark about the capital city under attack by Russian military forces and which nonetheless got him into trouble:

“But this isn’t a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen,” D’Agata claimed.

The clip subsequently went viral with nearly four million views as of this writing.

The following day during an update from Ukraine, D’Agata, who presumably got an earful from CBS execs after the backlash, conceded he made a mistake:

“I just want to clarify something I said yesterday in describing the conflict here. I spoke in a way that I regret, and for that I’m sorry. What I hoped to convey is what’s unique about the fighting underway here is that this country has not really seen this scale of war before in recent years, unlike some conflicts in countries I’ve covered that have tragically suffered through many years of fighting.

“You should never compare conflicts anyway; each one is unique. I’ve dedicated much of my career to telling the story of suffering through any of these words, wherever they may be. I used a poor choice of words, and I apologize for any offense I may have caused.”


As alluded to above, D’Agata was widely condemned on Twitter by those in the blue-check brigade and others for racism, with some calling on CBS to fire him.

Very liberal former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, for example, wrote that “’Relatively civilized, relatively European’: when the white dude reporter knows he’s being kinda racist but carries on anyway. Whew. Can we please diversify news coverage and get rid of this crap. Please.”

Journalist Negar Mortazavi  implied that the correspondent was wrong on both counts: “Simultaneously insulting Ukrainians by calling them ‘relatively civilized’ and insulting Iraqis & Syrians & Afghans by suggesting they are ‘uncivilized.'”

Smithsonian Magazine editor Ted Scheinman wondered “what words he actually restrained himself from saying.”

Here’s a small sample of what others thought along these lines:


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