ABC headlines its big interview with Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary General designate, with this:

Ban-Ki Moon: Rice Should Talk with North Korea

Given the context and the usual tone world leaders take when addressing what the US should and shouldn’t do, the headline seems at least to me like a stern directive. But it’s not. What we have here is headline bias–a reader who just skims the headline and first paragraph or two will conclude that the new UN head is telling the US what to do, and/or that he joins our own Democrats in blaming the North Korea nuke crisis on the Bush administration.

If you watch the interview, Moon doesn’t even bring up Rice’s upcoming trip to Asia to meet with leaders other than those who answer to Kim Jong-Il. ABC’s Bill Weir brings it up to ask Moon whether he thinks Rice should go meet with Kim Jong-Il, and Moon says that if it’s possible, sure, Rice’s trip would be a good opportunity to talk with North Korea. But then Moon goes on to note that the US has been trying to get North Korea back to the six-way talks for a long time, and it’s NoKo that’s refusing. Moon correctly put the responsibility for the breakdown in talks squarely on North Korea.

And unlike Ted Turner, Moon sees Kim as being in control of all of North Korean society–a dictator, in other words.

Moon did make some real news with this quote, which ABC buried:

“America with other members [of the United Nations] … have been making a great contribution to restore peace and stability … to the Iraqi people,” he said. “We have a high admiration for all that the United States has been doing. … We hope that the Iraqi people will be able to enjoy genuine stability.”

Moon is, in other words, not Kofi Annan.

He’s probably going to need a little media training, though. He gave ABC’s scribes just enough of a quote to twist like a pretzel with that question about Rice’s trip to Asia. A savvier answer would have been to punt–it’s her trip to meet with other leaders to coordinate responses to Pyongyang, and the North Koreans should return to the talks immediately.

Tags: Democrats