CBS reporter sparks outrage with comments on Ukraine being more 'civilised' than Iraq, Afghanistan

CBS reporter sparks outrage with comments on Ukraine being more 'civilised' than Iraq, Afghanistan
Senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata was accused of racism, white supremacy and ignorance as his comments about Iraq and Afghanistan went viral on Saturday
3 min read
27 February, 2022
Iraq and Afghanistan both suffered invasions by US forces [Getty]

CBS journalist has prompted backlash after calling Ukraine "relatively civilised" in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senior foreign correspondent for CBS's London bureau Charlie D'Agata was speaking live from Kyiv on Friday when he made the controversial comments.

"This isn't a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades," he told viewers.

"This is a relatively civilised, 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."

A clip of D'Agata's comments went viral, sparking outrage, as many accused him of racism, white supremacy and historical ignorance. 

The journalist's description of Ukraine as "civilised" was seen as an implication that the two other Muslim-majority countries named were "uncivilised".

"This is not ok," Miqdaad Versi, the media spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said, according to The National.

Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, branded the comments "disgraceful" and asked if there is a league table to help identify which countries can be classed as civilised.

Human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid said: "This isn’t even OANN or Fox. This overt white supremacy is on CBS. Absolutely disgusting dehumanization of people of color."

Some users felt the comments revealed an inability to empathise with the victims of conflict in the MENA region.

"The nerve! @CBSNews have your correspondent take some etiquette, history & geography classes: Iraq is the cradle of civilization, #Ukraine is European!" tweeted Ramy Abdu, founder and chairman Euro-Med human rights monitor.

"Still shocked over the “civilized” comment by CBS News reporter. What contempt they have for the people of the Middle East, as if their mothers don’t cry when their sons are bombed, as if their children don’t starve when they’re sanctioned. Shame on your entire industry," tweeted journalist Arash Karami.

D'Agata – who has been a reporter for CBS for two decades – has since issued an apology on the network’s streaming platform, according to the New York Post.

"This country’s not really seen this scale of war in recent years, unlike some conflicts in countries I’ve covered that have tragically suffered through many years of fighting," he said. "You should never compare conflicts anyway, each one is unique."

Iraq and Afghanistan both suffered invasions by US forces, which saw both states suffer devastation, violence and unrest for years.

Both countries are recognised by historians as some of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth, and are among the earliest birthplaces of civilisation.