On Thursday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann highlighted a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll which shows President Bush's approval rating "plummeting even further" and, as the Countdown host observed, "for the first time in the Bush presidency," the President's approval rating among Republicans has fallen below 70 percent. This straight citing of Fox News contrasts with Olbermann's regular attacks on FNC with nearly every mention of the network on his show. As reported by NewsBusters, Olbermann had just one day earlier mocked the journalistic integrity of FNC's Tony Snow and the network's overall truthfulness after word that Snow was being considered to replace White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Though the Red Chinese regime was so embarrassed by a woman interrupting the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao to denounce him, that it censored the incident from news coverage back in China, CBS on Thursday night framed coverage around worries about offending China over Taiwan and how some incident made the White House look bad while NBC focused on the “embarrassment” the protester caused to the Bush team. CBS's Bob Schieffer led with how “this was not the best day the White House ever had,” citing how “a government announcer introduced China's national anthem by calling it the national anthem of the Republic of China.” Schieffer adopted Red China's spin, er, I mean that of the People's Republic of China, as he explained how Republic of China is “the formal name of the island of Taiwan,” which “claims to be an independent nation, a claim that China fiercely disputes.” Plus, “a heckler got into the White House grounds and caused a commotion.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas echoed Schieffer's concern about the announced name of the country: "There was another awkward moment during the White House ceremony. An announcer referred to China as the 'Republic of China,' which is the formal name for Taiwan, which China considers to be a rebellious province."
NBC's David Gregory declared that "this was considered to the President a major embarrassment" and fretted about how "the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event." Anchor Brian Williams asked "about the lasting significance" of the incident? Gregory relayed how "one veteran diplomat that was on hand today said there's no way that the Chinese won't think that this was an intentional move by the administration." (Transcripts follow)
There are a few other more personal notes in the Barbara Walters interview with Jane Fonda on PBS. Ted Turner's first words on his first date with Fonda are a little bizarre: "We got in the car. His first words to me was, ‘some of my best friends are communists. I’m thinking, ‘did he say that because he thinks I’m a communist, and it won’t get in the way’?" He named Gorbachev and Castro as his close friends.
Walters told Fonda "We all though that was a marriage that was pretty special." She asked "What broke it up? The rumor was that you became spiritual. You found religion. He didn’t like that." She also mentioned that Turner had adulterous relationships.
Fonda agreed that religion became a problem: "I did it while I was married to him and I didn’t tell him, which is not playing fair actually. But by then, we weren’t on the same team, basically. I felt myself being drawn to faith, very strongly, very viscerally, and Ted was the champion of the debate team at Brown. And I knew that if I talked to him about it, he who was an atheist, he would talk me out of it. And I was so raw and so new with this faith that I didn’t want to expose myself to that. So he found out and got upset, as well he should have. It was not a good thing for me to have done."
Harry Smith was at it again on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. He had two segments of note today. In the first notable segment, during the 7:00 half hour, he interviewed former Bush Administration aide Mary Matalin about the staff shakeups at the White House. And in the 8:30 half hour, he interviewed Jane Fonda about her memoirs, My Life So Far, which are being released in paperback.
In his interview with Mary Matalin, Smith wasted no time in getting to the bias. His first question to her was:
"What does it mean to the Republican faithful, these changes? What does it mean to these people who want to see the President succeed?"
On this morning's Today Katie Couric endorsed Ted Kennedy's goal of guaranteeing health care for every America as "noble." After a discussion about the White House shakeups Couric moved to promoting Ted Kennedy's new book: "Let me ask you about the seven challenges. You talk about the things that need to be done, Senator, from 'reclaiming our constitutional democracy, to protecting our national security, to guaranteeing health care for every American.'Noble, noble goals for sure. Are they doable and is there a national will to achieve these things in your view?"
Earlier Couric teased the segment by asking Today viewers: "Also ahead has America veered off course? Actually a serious book coming from Senator Ted Kennedy who's written one about public policy. He was recently voted one of the ten most effective senators in Time magazine. He'll be here to tell us about his book and also give us his take on the recent shakeup at the White House. And whether Donald Rumsfeld should in fact resign."
On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews invited on Rolling Stone Editor Eric Bates to promote their Bush-bashing issue imploring him: "Eric, let me ask you about the cover, because it is gonna come out and you’re on to push it, and I want you to push it. " Bates responded in kind stating Bush has: "...domestic policies that have, have trashed the economy and resulted in a dramatic shift of wealth," and declaring "so far [Bush] ranks right down there with James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Andrew Johnson."
The following are the exchanges between Matthews and Bates:
Matthews: "And Rolling Stone’s cover this month, I must warn you, if you’re a Republican or a middle-of-the-roader. Look at this. This is a tough one. What does it say? ‘The Worst President in History.’ Can we have that thought explained a bit, Eric. You, you wrote this piece."
Rolling Stone magazine – that bastion of American political thought – has a cover story in its most recent edition entitled “The Worst President in History? One of America’s Leading Historians Assesses George W. Bush.” As the picture on the cover was a caricature of the president looking like a dunce, you didn’t have to be a genius to figure out what the answer was. In fact, the author, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, cut to the chase in the opening paragraph:
“George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.”
Yet, as far as I can tell from the posting of this article and its contents, nowhere was it revealed that Wilentz has been a strong opponent of the president’s for quite some time, or that he organized a group of historians and Hollywoodans to protest the November 2000 presidential election results. As the National Review’s Peter Berkowitz wrote in July 2002:
The authoritarian government of China is well-known for suppressing free speech and sometimes getting American media companies eager to cash in on a huge emerging market to help it do so. Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Time Warner, Fox, and others have soiled their reputations assisting the communist regime's crack downs on dissent.
American media companies don't always back down. Sometimes, however, they're censored directly by the Chinese government itself. Such was the case today when a protestor apparently affiliated with the meditation group Falun Gong managed to get herself close to Chinese president Hu Jintao as he was visiting the White House.
As the woman's voice began shouting out before being arrested by Secret Service agents, Chinese television blacked the screen and muted the audio, according to Matt Drudge. After the event was over, when CNN International (the version of CNN seen outside the United States) began discussing the protestor, its signal was abuptly cut off to Chinese viewers, making some wonder what was going on.
TV Newser says Rob Reynolds, a former reporter for CNBC, CNN and NBC, has been hired by Al Jazeera International, the new English-language channel that is having trouble finding a U.S. carrier. Perhaps cable companies are worried about a mass exodus of conservative viewers if they sign on with Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera International has hired former CNBCer Rob Reynolds to be senior Washington correspondent. Here's his bio. Reynolds has worked in Moscow for NBC and London for CNN. He was shown the door at CNBC in February.
There's still no firm word on when the channel will launch, Gail Shister reports. AJI rep Rana Jazayerli said "we expect to be fully ready for a global launch sometime soon," but didn't say what "sometime soon" means.
At the late-night PBS talk show "Charlie Rose," the revolving door of hosts keeps turning. On Monday night, ABC's Barbara Walters interviewed Jane Fonda about the paperback edition of her memoir, and just past the midway point of the interview, Walters asked indignantly about conservative opposition to her. "It amazes me that I still get letters about you...what has it been since Vietnam? Forty years?...The anger. 'Traitor to her country. Honoring her would be traitorous, stupid,' and so on. It goes on and on and on." Fonda was harsh:
"Well, partly it’s organized. It’s not spontaneous. Some of it is probably spontaneous. But it’s sad, and in a way, it’s pathetic, that lo, these many years later, these people have not (pause) made sense of the war. They’re off base in terms of where the anger needs to be placed. And I’m made a lightning rod, and the right wing has been very assiduous in fanning the flame of the myth of Hanoi Jane. You know, they’ve spread lies on the Internet about things I supposedly did that aren’t true. And they’ve kept it alive because it suits their interests."
Phil Hall writes in the Media Industry Newsletter that today's journalists are mediocre and the writing is poor. He counts off several reasons why that's the case, including number three: blogs. Blogs, he says, are nothing more than "hit-and-run" journalism.
As any editor and/or publisher will attest, finding qualified writers is too often the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack search. This is particularly acute in attracting entry-level journalists who are straight out of college and are eager to make their mark in the business. But while editors and publishers grit their teeth and dig through the piles of curriculum vitas, perhaps it is time to ask a question that many people would prefer not to acknowledge: Why are there so many mediocre writers coming into journalism today? The answer can be divided into four parts....
The woman who has given hope to a thousand journalists was invited to the annual White House Correspondents dinner. News organizations with reporters covering the White House may invite anyone they wish.
Will Valerie Plame be the talk of this year's White House Correspondents Dinner? E&P has confirmed that she is slated to attend this year's gala, along with her husband Joseph Wilson and several other notable non-journalist guests, such as Alex Trebek and Ben Rothlisberger, according to organizers.
As in the past, attendees at the annual black-tie affair, to be held on April 29 this year, often look for a controversial visitor who might spark extended gossip around the open bar. When outsiders such as Donna Rice, Michael Moore, Fawn Hall or Ozzie Osborne were escorted to the gathering, they sometimes drew nearly as much attention as the president during his remarks.
Many of you are likely aware of a book by Peter Schweizer entitled “Do As I Say (Not As I Do).” In it, Schweizer demonstrated the hypocrisy of many popular liberals who espouse one position in public that they clearly don’t follow in their private lives.
Well, it seems that The New York Times is guilty of such hypocrisy. In an article Wednesday concerning a looming shareholder revolt at the Times Company over declining share values, it was revealed that one of the complaints coming from Times’ largest investors is how much upper-managers have been paid during a tough period for the company. In fact, a representative from Morgan Stanley – one of the largest Times shareholders – stated: “‘Despite significant underperformance, management's total compensation is substantial and has increased considerably over this period.’"
Yet, just three days earlier, the Times published a 1024-word, front-page business section article entitled “Fund Managers May Have Pay Secrets, Too”: “Amid all the talk about executive compensation and pay for performance, one group of managers has been pretty much untouched: those who run mutual funds.”
On April 13, The Times published an editorial -- yes, an editorial -- entitled “A Cozy Arrangement” concerning -- you guessed it -- executive pay:
Tucker Carlson is trying something new to possibly boost ratings for his MSNBC show "The Situation." He's losing his trademark bowtie. The New York Post reported last week:
THIS is the last you'll see of Tucker Carlson with his trademark bow tie.
"I'm not wearing a bow tie" anymore, the MSNBC host wrote in his blog yesterday. "This is odd for me. I've worn a bow tie on television every night for the past six years, and for 15 years off-air before that . . . Since I was in the 10th grade.
"I've certainly spent a lot of time defending them. But from now on, I'm going without."
On the heels of MSM outrage at the retirement package granted to Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond [see Brent Baker's report here], Good Morning America was back at the class-warfare ramparts this morning with a new target in its sights, Dr. William McGuire, head of UnitedHealth Group. As the result of share prices that have increased over 7,000 percent, stock options granted McGuire are currently worth in excess of $1 billion.
ABC reporter Dan Harris narrated the segment, and GMA set the tone with its title - "You Must be Kidding!" But there was no joking about the class-warfare on display in the opening lines: "The head of one of the nation's largest healthcare companies is sitting on more than a billion dollars in stock openings while Americans go uninsured."
Howard Kurtz's profile of departing White House press secretary Scott McClellan reflects the conventional wisdom: that he could be painful to watch. He often had that "60 Minutes" victim look of badly hidden panic in his eyes. (When he took the job, I worried "matching Ari's lullaby of dullness is not going to be easy.") But Kurtz's piece suggested one problem with media assessments of McClellan's job: whatever the opinion of his performance, it ought to be acknowledged that the White House press corps is liberal, Democratic, and tougher for Republican press secretaries than for Democratic ones. Kurtz's story gets odd when old Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart gets going:
Citing reports that the White House might select Tony Snow to replace Scott McClellan as Press Secretary, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night ridiculed the journalistic integrity of Snow and FNC -- even claiming, contrary to what ratings show, that the number of people who “believe” FNC is becoming “increasingly smaller.” Near the top of his Countdown show, Olbermann noted Snow's Fox News affiliation before he snidely added: “As critics would suggest, as such he's already an unofficial White House spokesman.” To guest Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Olbermann proposed: “If you go with Tony Snow of Fox News, are you not saying we're only talking to that increasingly smaller group of people who believe Fox News is the sole source of truth in the world?" In another segment, with the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, Olbermann, the host of a very slanted cable news show, presumed FNC is the only network anyone sees as biased: “Would the entire Fox News bias issue suddenly become connected at the hip with how the administration handles truth versus propaganda?" Milbank quipped: "I'm not sure it would necessarily be bad for the White House, but it does raise some questions. We first have to ask if Tony's going to get back pay?”
Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, the NBC Nightly News delivered the most negative assessment of the situation facing a White House which made some personnel changes, with reporter David Gregory using the moves as a chance to resurrect the Plame case and to maintain, in an amazing coincidence of his personal agenda matching that of “Republicans I've been talking to,” that “the President needs a Press Secretary who will be more open with the media." CBS's Jim Axelrod also got in a snarky shot that certainly put imagery over substance: "The metaphor of the day came from the President's chopper. Technical problems kept it from getting off the ground, just like grounded poll numbers and a stalled agenda are making it harder to fill top jobs.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams led his newscast: “These are tough times these days at the Bush White House. The President's approval rating has hit its lowest point yet. Complaints have been coming in from fellow Republicans. And there is concern the coming midterm elections this year could spell colossal defeat for his own party.” Gregory proceeded to bring up how the portfolio change for Karl Rove “comes at a time when Rove remains under investigation in the CIA leak case.” Moving on to McClellan, Gregory again raised the Plame matter: "But his critics, including Republicans close to the White House, felt McClellan wasn't effective, didn't click with the press corps and lost credibility during the leak investigation when he vouched -- incorrectly it turned out -- for two key figures in the case, Scooter Libby and Rove." (Transcript follows.)
After hearing that Sami Al-Arian confessed to a dirty laundry list of terrorism related activities, I was eager to see how the liberal St. Petersburg Times would handle the story. Today they posted an editorial about "The Real Al-Arian," writing about all the horrible things he has done and lies he told. But is that an accurate account of the role the Times played in defending him? Maybe when you consider it is a newspaper that employs a former ACLU director as a columnist and has a Huffinton Post contributor for a reporter and an F.B.I. wiretap exposing a Times reporter acting as Al-Arian's media coach.
With the benefit of this hindsight, hindsight that the rest of us had little problem seeing in foresight, let's take a look at some past quotes. One has to wonder why a huge newspaper with vast resources couldn't see what the rest of us saw so easily.
Robyn Blumner: "...[USF President] Genshaft's stated intention to fire tenured computer science professor Sami Al-Arian due to the swirl of controversy over his activist Islamist views. Here Genshaft cannot deflect blame for besmirching the university's reputation. She made the call, and it's once again the wrong one for academic freedom and free speech...
Actor Dennis Quaid was on this morning's Today show promoting his new movie American Dreamz whose movie poster proclaims: "Imagine A Country Where The President Never Reads The Newspaper, Where The Government Goes To War For All The Wrong Reasons And Where More People Vote For A Pop Idol Than Their Next President." But according to Quaid the movie is, "not a political statement," and that he’s "not a Bush-basher." Katie Couric outed Quaid as a Gore voter in 2000 but tried to give him cover by noting he voted for Bush in 2004, however she had praise for Quaid’s co-star Mandy Moore’s performance in Saved, a movie that mocks Christians.