Filling up at the pump is costing less and less each day – 45 cents per gallon less since its post Rita peak of $2.94 as of October 30. Despite that huge drop, all three broadcast networks have reported on rising or high gas prices four times as often as falling prices. Here are some of the key results:
ABC the Worst: ABC mentioned falling gas prices only once out of 11 reports and that was only after three straight weeks of price declines.
Dropping Prices Have Little Impact: Gas prices dropped every business day from October 6 through October 30, but the three networks still mentioned rising or high prices 79 percent of the time.
In a Thursday CBS Evening News story on how Karl Rove is a “distraction” in the West Wing, Gloria Borger cited how “a new CBS News poll shows that only 39 percent of Americans say that President Bush has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life, down eleven points since early last year.” But that number comes from the same poll, it turns out, that CBS News skewed by weighing it to undercount Republicans and over-count independents. My Wednesday NewsBusters item recounted how on that night's Evening News, over side-by-side head-shot videos on screen of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, with Bush's 35 percent approval, in the CBS News poll, below his image and Gallup's 27 percent finding beneath the shot of Nixon, John Roberts pointed out how “the only recent President lower at this point in their second term was Richard Nixon.”
Subsequently, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard picked up on how “Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics posted an analysis of this poll’s methodology at his blog last evening. What his figures show is that CBS polled 46% more Democrats in its weighted sample than Republicans.” In short, CBS polled 259 Republicans, but weighted the sample to count for only 223, or 24 percent of the total; they surveyed 326 Democrats and held that number so they represented 35 percent of those polled; and independents moved from 351 respondents to a weighted 388 for 41 percent of the sample. Sheppard explained: “To put these numbers in proper perspective, according to the November 2004 exit polls, the nation’s current party affiliation is 37 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans, and 26 percent independents. As such, the polling agency involved in this result fell 36 percent short in sampling Republicans while over-sampling independents by 59 percent.” (More on Brit Hume's "Grapevine" item on the poll, weighting and the Borger story in full, follows.)
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. hasn't generated the rabid opposition many in the media would like to see. So now he's being made fun of for not being sufficiently cool.
In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank takes the judge to task for assorted failings. Alito, we're told, wears a rumpled and ill-fitting suit as he makes the rounds of senatorial offices. We learn that "At Princeton, he skipped the selective eating clubs to join Stevenson Hall, known as a haven for dweebs." While coaching Little League, the judge wore a baseball uniform. He has a picture of former Phillies star Mike Schmidt hung in his appellate chambers. He's gone to a baseball fantasy camp.
Closing meetings of public bodies is and should be anathema to journalists and all others who care about the public's right to know and the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press, but journalists hardly uttered a peep when Democrats closed the Senate this week.
Normally, journalists are out front in battles to force politicians and bureaucrats at the local and state levels to open their meetings to reporters and members of the public.
So why the silence among the nation's journalists about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, forcing the U.S. Senate to kick reporters and spectators out, bolt the doors and dim the lights for a closed session Nov. 1 on prosecuting government officials for leaking information about war and peace to ... journalists?
Actually, silence is not quite accurate. Two professional journalist organizations took strong stands condemning the closed session. The first of those stands came within hours after the Senate's closed session when Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, condemned Senate Democrats, observing that "the best way to combat secrecy and obfuscation is not more secrecy."
After reading the RCFP statement, I asked the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters & Editors and Radio and Television News Directors Association if they planned to say anything about the closed session.
Former President Jimmy Carter has a new book and is making the morning show rounds. He appeared on American Morning with Soledad O'Brien via satellite from Washington, DC, and in an excerpt of a taped interview with Rene Syler aired in the 7:00 a.m. half-hour of CBS's The Early Show. Syler's full interview will air at a later date, but if today's excerpt is any indication, it won't be a tough interview with balanced questions.
Syler lets Carter make unsubstantiated claims without asking him for evidence, particularly Carter's assertion that the President always intended to start a war with Iraq, well before 9/11, and his hinting that there is likely a sinister explanation for faulty intelligence before the Iraq war. Syler didn't ask Carter about his fellow Democrats, including former President Clinton, who had similar intelligence from the CIA and made equally alarming claims about the threat from Hussein with weapons of mass destruction in years past.
Columnist Michelle Malkin hits New York Times reporter James Dao for leaving off a vital part of a quote of a Marine killed in Iraq, a portion that showed how committed the Marine was to the cause of freedom there.
As Malkin describes in a column in the New York Post:
"Last Wednesday, the Times published a 4,624-word opus on American casualties of war in Iraq. '2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark,' read the headline. The macabre, Vietnam-evoking piece appeared prominently on page A2. Among those profiled were Marines from the First Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr."
In the November 7 U.S. News & World Report, editor Brian Duffy announces a beefing-up of his magazine's front section, specifically "eight new pages…to give you more of the news and analysis you've come to depend on." Duffy himself wrote the very first piece in USN&WR’s expanded front of the book -- and it offers more of the gloomy take on the Bush administration that the magazine's readers have come to depend on.
To Duffy, last week wasn't a turning of the corner for President Bush, but rather “one of the worst weeks since he took up residence in the White House.” (Though that assessment is more reasonable than the issue’s cover subhead, which calls the week “the White House’s darkest hour.” Worse than the week of 9/11?)
As NewsBusters reported Wednesday evening, a new CBS News poll pegged President Bush’s job approval rating at 35 percent. Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics posted an analysis of this poll’s methodology at his blog last evening (hat tip from a NewsBusters reader named “Jsemby.”) What his figures show is that CBS polled 46% more Democrats in its weighted sample than Republicans:
In this morning's New York Times, reporter Monica Davey issues a dubious roll call of "dignitaries" that attended Rosa Parks' funeral in Detroit: "Outside the Greater Grace Temple, thousands of people who had taken the day off from work waited to see a horse-drawn carriage carry Mrs. Parks's coffin toward a cemetery. In downtown offices, others brought televisions to watch more than six hours of remembrances and a call to action from a long line of dignitaries: the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, former President Bill Clinton and on and on."
The last moments on CNN for the network's most liberal anchor, Aaron Brown, were spent channeling Joe Wilson's talking points. (As noted by Noel Sheppard, CNN on Wednesday announced the departure of Brown and the end of NewsNight. The two-hour block starting at 10pm EST will now carry the Anderson Cooper 360 title while The Situation Room gets the 7pm EST hour.) Brown was last on CNN on Friday night wrapping up headlines at 11:01pm EDT before an airing of CNN Presents narrated by David Ensor, "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." Just before that, at 10:54pm EDT, Brown conducted his last interview on CNN, a brief live session with Ensor, in which he pushed the spin of the radical anti-war left. He told Ensor that “people who are opposed to the war say that it wasn't just that the intelligence was wrong. It's that the intelligence was cooked." Ensor inconveniently admitted that “I also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” before Brown followed up: “At some level, this is about Joe Wilson saying -- I'm not, I'm not saying he's right about this, I'm just saying what he said -- is that they took the country to war, when they knew the evidence was at least ambiguous and they never framed it in an ambiguous way."
Below are a few examples of Brown's bias from his CNN years -- he left ABC News in 2001 -- which the MRC's Rich Noyes and I quickly collected from NewsBusters and the MRC's archive. These quotes, some with video, include how Brown, after Katrina, pressed a black Congresswoman to agree that race was behind the delayed response in New Orleans; how Brown one night trumpeted a Republican who turned against the war and wondered if the administration has been “honest”; how he ridiculed the contention that John Kerry didn't earn his Purple Heart; how he insisted that while some “will see willful deception on the part of CBS” in the Memogate scandal, “smarter and more reasoned heads know better”; how he declared the “record unambiguous” that “John Kerry was a war hero”; how, without uttering a syllable about questions about Kerry's Vietnam record, on Memorial Day 2004 Brown delivered a panegyrical, event-by-event tribute to Kerry's heroic Vietnam service; how he boasted of “a permanent smirk” spurred by Rush Limbaugh's drug troubles; how he proposed that the White House “twisted or ignored” global warming science; and how Brown swooned over Jimmy Carter: “In many places, dusty and difficult places, James Earl Carter has brought hope and dispelled, as well as anyone alive these days, the vision of the ugly American."
Get the hook! Days after the nation's attention has turned elsewhere, the Today show is still trying to haul the bedraggled carcass of "Fitzmas" across the headlines.
This morning's show opened with the on-screen headline "Libby Arraignment." In the world of judicial proceedings, arraignments are a notorious bore. Defendant arrives, enters two-word plea, leaves. Hate to tell you, Katie, but this ain't OJ. Not even Scott Peterson. If Today insists on subjecting America to extended coverage of every procedural step in the Libby case, its ratings could go the way of Aaron Brown.
Chris Matthews was then brought in to conjecture darkly about Karl Rove, and predict that, ooh!, VP Cheney might have to testify at the Libby trial.
The morning's most revealing moment came when Katie turned the discussion to yesterday's revelations of secret CIA prisons to house top Al-Qaida officials. No sooner had the words "CIA prisons" left her mouth than Chris Matthews was caught shaking his head in disapproval. The camera quickly cut away, but it was too late. MSM-types like Matthews can't bear the thought of our government taking tough measures to deal with those who would murder us.
On his Countdown show Wednesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann managed to cram four lines of liberal bias all into the first 14 minutes of his show: Questioning whether Bush's announcements of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and of an avian flu plan were politically timed to distract from administration problems, passing on Jimmy Carter's anti-Bush accusations without question, belittling Scott McClellan's defense of the administration's pre-war beliefs about WMD in Iraq, and asking softball questions to Ambassador Joseph Wilson without challenging his answers, except while referring to charges by "reactionary parrots" Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
After opening the show theorizing that Bush's recent announcements may have been "designed to redirect today's headlines away from the CIA leak investigation and the sudden firestorm over pre-war intelligence," Olbermann then proceeded to dismiss McClellan, to promote Carter and Wilson, and to mock Limbaugh and Hannity.
Newsweek’s senior editor Jonathan Alter has an article that was just posted at MSNBC.com wherein he stated that Karl Rove could be guilty of violating Executive Order 12958 concerning the release of classified national security information, and, as a result, could lose his security clearance. As Alter sees it:
“According to last week’s indictment of Scooter Libby, a person identified as “Official A” held conversations with reporters about Plame’s identity as an undercover CIA operative, information that was classified. News accounts subsequently confirmed that that official was Rove. Under Executive Order 12958, signed by President Clinton in 1995, such a disclosure is grounds for, at a minimum, losing access to classified information.”
It’s the Poor Innocent Consumer vs. Big Bad Oil, with a side of Politicians to the Rescue.
The media love a good controversy – so much so that they stir things up when the facts don’t warrant it. Since oil companies released their profit numbers last week, the news template has been one of angry consumers claiming they’ve been harmed and politicians vowing to do something about gas prices. Both parties have been aided by the media, who declared that oil profits were "beyond imagination."
On “CNN Sunday Morning” October 30, hosts asked viewers to respond to the question, “Who do you hold accountable for high gas prices?” Ignoring market forces that set prices in favor of playing a political game, Anchor Tony Harris also rephrased the question: “Who are you blaming?”
CNN’s Miles O’Brien framed a report about high third-quarter oil profits as “something to get your blood boiling” and “get you a little outraged” on the October 28 “American Morning.”
The fact is, when the price of a product goes up, the people who sell that product make more money. The only way this happens is if consumers keep buying.
That’s the oversimplified version of what happened to oil companies’ profits in the third quarter of 2005. Interruptions from the hurricanes tightened supply, but consumer demand stayed high, fueled by China and India – so gasoline prices went up. Oil companies profited from the situation, but they didn’t arbitrarily set their prices extra-high. Market forces determined prices.
Unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been getting it. Rather than accepting the way the market works, they have pitted consumers against oil companies, bolstering the case of those who call for a “windfall profits tax” on the companies’ earnings. That includes members of Congress, who have scheduled a hearing on energy pricing and corporate profits for November 9.
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) summed up the news template when she said, “At a time when the American people are struggling to pay their energy bills and the residents of my own state of Maine will be hard-pressed to pay their home heating costs this winter, it is deeply concerning and, frankly, outrageous that oil companies are boasting record-breaking profits,” according to the October 28 Los Angeles Times.
Wednesday's CBS Evening News touted a new poll by the network which found, as anchor Bob Schieffer relayed, that “the President's job approval has reached the lowest level yet” at “only 35 percent” with Congress “rated even lower” at a mere “34 percent,” but Bush and Congress are doing a lot better than Vice President Cheney whose “favorable rating is down nine points this year to just 19 percent.” Over side-by-side head-shot videos on screen of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, with Bush's 35 percent approval below his image and Gallup's 27 percent finding beneath the shot of Nixon, John Roberts pointed out how “the only recent President lower at this point in their second term was Richard Nixon.” Roberts asked and answered: “What's behind the slide: 2,000 war dead in Iraq, an indictment in the CIA leak, the aborted Harriet Miers nomination, the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina."
Roberts warned that “yesterday's shutdown of the Senate shows the political danger of presidential drift. Democrats sat back and watched for an opening, then moved right in." He proceeded to deliver an unobjectionable rundown of advise offered by Reagan chief-of-staff Ken Duberstein: “This week's Alito nomination and the President's bird flu speech were the first steps in a turnaround, says Duberstein, but the White House still needs to lose the bunker mentality, let in new ideas." In conclusion, Roberts cautioned, "So far, there's no indication that President Bush is considering any of the outside advice to shake up the White House, but one thing is clear: If he doesn't find his footing soon, suggestions for change will quickly turn into demands." (Full transcript follows)
The Internet has been abuzz for the past hour or so over rumors that CNN has either announced, or is about to announce a serious shakeup in its broadcasting staff. As reported by the New York Daily News this morning:
“Looks like Anderson Cooper, CNN'S Silver Fox, may get a permanent slot on ‘NewsNight,’ the 24-hour cable channel's signature prime-time show.
“Cooper will move into the high-profile 10 p.m. hour, while regular ‘NewsNight’ anchor Aaron Brown will be shunted to 7 p.m., where ‘Anderson Cooper 360’ now airs, according to The Hollywood Reporter.”
Yet, MediaBistro.com reported on Monday that its sources indicated that Brown is out:
The broadcast network morning shows did segments today concerning yesterday’s surprise “closed session” in the Senate demanded by Democratic minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). All three appeared quite pleased with what occurred while suggesting that it was a big win for the Democrats, and indicating that the Republicans were very angered by “the stunt.” However, even though they have now had almost a day to research the history of such events, much like what was reported by NewsBusters yesterday, not one of the programs discussed just how rare these sessions are, or questioned why this subject matter warranted a closed session. (Video links of the CBS and NBC segments to follow.)
While the mainstream media have focused attention on President Bush’s new Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito being an extreme Conservative (as reported by NewsBusters here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), David G. Savage and Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times actually did some real investigative journalism, and identified that people who have worked with Alito don’t agree with this right-wing depiction:
“Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quickly branded a hard-core conservative after President Bush announced his nomination, but a surprising number of liberal-leaning judges and ex-clerks say they support his elevation to the Supreme Court.
"Those who have worked alongside him say he was neither an ideologue nor a judge with an agenda, conservative or otherwise. They caution against attaching a label to Alito.”
Savage and Weinstein continued by citing and/or quoting a list of colleagues’ opinions on this issue:
The stunt by Senate Democrats who forced the chamber into closed session so they could get publicity for demands for an immediate probe into administration use of pre-war intelligence, earned a favorable tirade Tuesday afternoon from CNN’s Jack Cafferty who charged that “there's a perception in this country that we were lied to about the run-up to the war in Iraq.” Most believe they were “lied” to? More like Cafferty channeled the claims of the radical left. Cafferty proceeded to concede that “maybe we were, and maybe we weren't, but there are a lot of people who think we were.” Cafferty rued, as if WMDs were the only reason for the war: “A half a trillion dollars and 2,000 of our kids later, we're still there. We're mired in a thing that has no visible end” and so “if they lied to us, if there was some kind of intent to deceive, then they ought to find out who did it, and tear their fingernails out, and then get rid of them.” He insisted that “it's about what's right and what's wrong and what people who are entrusted to govern this country do with the power we give them. If it's being abused, we damn well have a right to know, and something should be done about it.”
As soon as network reporters heard of his nomination, they began to brand Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a right-wing extremist. During live coverage Monday morning, ABC's Charles Gibson termed Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of an otherwise "liberal appellate court." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello. On Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin labeled Alito as "conservative" five times in 50 seconds.
Monday's evening newscasts carried the same message. On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Alito a "staunch conservative," while Terry Moran found him "deeply conservative." CBS's John Roberts said that "if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction." In contrast, NBC's Brian Williams, agreed Alito was "dependably conservative" but he also saw an "independent streak," as did reporter Pete Williams.