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Rumsfeld visits Iraq with Fox News host

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise whirlwind trip to Iraq over the weekend, taking with him only a conservative talk show host.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Rumsfeld "was not looking for broad coverage" when he declined to take even a single pool reporter on the trip, which would provide news reports to all media agencies. Instead, he brought along Sean Hannity, a radio talk show host and a Fox News talk show host notably friendly to the Bush administration.

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"As the outgoing secretary of defense makes one last trip to Iraq on a farewell tour, only one show has total access!" states the Fox News Web site.

Ruff said Hannity approached Rumsfeld about going to Iraq with him months ago and this is the only time their schedules meshed. He denied that the Pentagon was playing media favorites in an attempt to shape coverage of the secretary's final trip to Iraq and disputed the characterization of Hannity as a "journalist" and called him a "radio talent."

Rumsfeld was in Iraq for 26 hours. He conducted two "town hall" meetings with troops in Mosul and Al Asad and met with top U.S. military commanders, including incoming Multinational Corps commander Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

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Rumsfeld leaves office next Monday when his replacement Richard Gates is sworn in.

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