Republican officials have sought to discredit the initial reports and seized on an NBC News account, broadcast Monday night, that said when troops from the 101st Airborne arrived at the vast site on April 10, 2003, they found conventional weapons but none of the extremely powerful high explosives, HMX and RDX, which can be used to set off a nuclear weapon. In an e-mail message sent to reporters on Monday evening, Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said, "The weapons were not there when the military arrived, making John Kerry's latest ripped-from-the-headlines attack baseless and false."
But Tuesday evening, NBC again reported on the issue. This time it reported that it had not said that the explosives were gone before American troops arrived at Al Qaqaa. Instead, it reported that troops from the Third Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne searched bunkers at the site and had not found the powerful explosives. NBC reported that it was not clear whether American troops searched all of the bunkers.
"Last night on this broadcast we reported that the 101st Airborne never found the nearly 380 tons of HMX and RDX explosives,'' Tom Brokaw, the NBC anchor, said. "We did not conclude the explosives were missing or had vanished, nor did we say they missed the explosives. We simply reported that the 101st did not find them.''
"For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived,'' Mr. Brokaw added. "That is possible, but that is not what we reported.''
For the second day Mr. Bush did not speak about the issue, twice ignoring questions from reporters.