Shortly after the United States, France and the UK launched air strikes against Syria in April in response to a suspected chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government in Douma, a CNN report featuring senior correspondent Arwa Damon reporting from a refugee camp in Aleppo was published.
The report highlighted Damon’s visit with survivors of the reported chemical attack:
We were at the camp, run and funded by Turkey, just hours after US, UK and French strikes hit three suspected regime chemical weapons site in response to the regime’s latest alleged toxic strike on Douma…
The people here believe that the strikes were part of a broader political game, and had little regard for ending or easing their suffering. The intervention did little to eliminate the rest of Assad’s deadly arsenal, they point out.
It is a sentiment that has long existed among those who live in opposition-held areas, which have borne the brunt of regime bombardment over the years: that leaders who condemn the regime are hypocrites, merely feigning outrage to push forward their own agendas, and that Syrian lives have no real value to them.
In a video accompanying the report, Damon is seen sniffing the interior of a child’s backpack, declaring that “there’s definitely something that stings” while motioning toward her nose. While the reasoning for Damon sniffing a backpack was not stated in the CNN report, the video footage lent the appearance that the item in question belonged to a child refugee and had been in close proximity to the suspected chemical attack.
One particularly vocal critic of CNN’s report and Damon’s on-air activity was comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore, who mocked Damon for nonchalantly placing her face inside of a backpack possibly laced with toxic chemicals.
Damon’s behavior “shows that she’s not worried about it at all,” claimed Brigida Santos, a journalist accompanying Dore’s show. “I would not get anywhere near that backpack if I thought something was actually in it— I certainly wouldn’t stick my face in it and inhale it, if you’re talking about chemical weapons,” she added.
Dore compared Damon’s reporting to that of Robert Fisk, who also visited Douma and published ground reporting that questioned mainstream narratives regarding April’s chemical attack. In Fisk’s report, he wrote about his visit to “an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week.” Fisk wrote that he met a doctor in the clinic who confirmed the widespread video depicting afflicted victims was authentic, but claimed that “the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.”