A senior foreign correspondent at CBS News apologized Saturday after he said on air that the war in Ukraine can’t be compared to those in Iraq and Afghanistan — because the Eastern European nation is more “civilized.”
Correspondent Charlie D’Agata was reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine when he said Friday that Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades.
“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,” he continued.
D’Agata issued an apology on the broadcaster’s streaming network Saturday, after his comments went viral — racking up more than 1.5 million views on Twitter — and were swiftly condemned as racist and historically inaccurate.
“I spoke in a way I regret, and for that I’m sorry,” he said, adding that he was trying to convey that Ukraine hasn’t seen “this scale of war” in recent years, unlike other countries.
“You should never compare conflicts anyway, each one is unique…I used a poor choice of words and I apologize for any offense I may have caused.”
People on the internet were quick to point out that Iraq has long been called the “cradle of civilization” because ancient Mesopotamia — now Iraq — is where “civilization” as the West largely understands it emerged. And Ukraine, of course, is no stranger to war and conflict, with the Russian annexation of Crimea happening less than a decade ago.
Cornell professor Dr. Mostafa Minawi asked on Twitter why D’Agata thought it was permissible “to compare the value of peoples’ lives and who qualifies as ‘civilized.’”
“CBS News dropped the dog whistle for straight racism today,” Chicago Sun-Times reporter Nader Issa tweeted. “If that’s the version where he chooses his words carefully, was the alternative just going to be “these are civilized white people and not uncivilized brown people”
Laleh Khalili, a professor at Queen Mary University of London, echoed Issa’s sentiment.
“Oh yes, the deserving civilised victims and those uncivilised non-European savages undeserving of sympathy where war just “rages for decades” (never mind it is US and its allies starting the wars),” she tweeted in response to his comments. “Thanks @cbsnews for explicit laying it out.”
Viewers also were shocked that D’Agata bothered to say “with all due respect” on Friday given his words.
“He hears himself sounding racist, he acknowledges that he should be careful to hide the racism, but ultimately is unable or unwilling to actually stop the racism,” writer Head Amry tweeted.
D’Agata has been a reporter with the network for two decades.