Last Monday, Brian Stelter at the TV Newser blog said CBS’s “freeSpeech” commentary segments (an innovation Katie Couric began when she took over the anchor throne on September 5) had “failed” at their stated goal of opening up the airwaves to more than the media elite’s “usual suspects.” Looking at the first 34 “freeSpeech” segments, Stelter calculated that “the vast majority of the guests have national media platforms, like books, columns, magazines, and Senate podiums.”
Three days later, CBS News’s own blog, “Public Eye,” itself wondered if the segment was too insidery. “I think the answer is that it has been a mix,” Evening News Executive Producer Rome Hartman told CBS’s bloggers. “If you look at all 30 or so [segments] that have run — and I haven't counted — maybe a third have been from what you might call ‘pundits.’ The point of the segment is interesting voices from everywhere.”
This is too good, folks: “Hardball” anchor Chris Matthews is getting lambasted for doing an abysmal job moderating a recent debate between gubernatorial candidates in Florida (hat tip to TVNewser). The St. Petersburg Times published an editorial on Tuesday that was highly critical of the MSNBC host (emphasis mine throughout):
The last debate between Florida's candidates for governor Monday night was supposed to give voters one final opportunity to size up Charlie Crist and Jim Davis on the key issues facing this state. Instead it was hijacked by a cable television windbag and a third-party candidate who had no business being on the same stage.
In an effort to resolve the recent brouhaha surrounding statements John Kerry made at a campaign stop in Pasadena, California, Monday, the junior senator from Massachusetts released a statement on Wednesday declaring, “I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted.” This is not the first time in Kerry’s career that he has used this excuse. Will the media report it?
As reported by the Boston Globe on June 19, 2003, during Kerry’s first run for the Senate in 1984, he revised answers to a questionnaire that he had filled out for a nuclear disarmament group called Freeze Voter ’84. Kerry had been outscored in this questionnaire by his opponent, Rep. James M. Shannon, seriously threatening his primary run. As a result, Kerry’s campaign manager at the time sent him a memo asking him to “explain how [his] position was misinterpreted.” As the Globe reported, this alteration and explanation likely saved his campaign (emphasis mine throughout):
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow appeared on Thursday’s "American Morning" in a feisty mood, ready to battle CNN’s liberal agenda. Co-anchor Miles O’Brien offered Snow a loaded question about Republican opposition to Donald Rumsfeld. The press secretary fired back by mentioning the cable network’s infamous "sniper video:"
Miles O’Brien: "The President with a show of support for Defense secretary saying he's doing a fantastic job. Let's go through this a little bit. Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, say they have no confidence in the Defense secretary. A couple of Republicans running right now, Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey, Chris Shays in Connecticut, saying Rummy should go. And the public, in general, has a fairly low opinion of him, about 35 percent right now. How does that all add up to a fantastic job?"
Tony Snow: "Well, I'll tell you, when was the last time, Miles, you guys reported on real support for Don Rumsfeld, or talking about the successes of the American forces in the battlefield? I know CNN has shown people getting shot. The question is --"
O’Brien: "Well, actually, no, no, no. We didn't actually show them. We did a report, which showed snipers, a propaganda film from insurgents showing sniper activity. We didn't show them being shot."
Snow "All right. I'm sorry, you blurred them out while the picture was showing them getting shot.
Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke" was just a "classic freak-show story" unworthy of front-page play -- but Sen. George Allen's "macaca" was worthy of wall-to-wall coverage. That is apparently the opinion of the Washington Post's John harris.
For daring to criticize Keith Olbermann's Wednesday night “Special Comment” rant against President Bush for inspiring “domestic terrorism,” the MSNBC host on Thursday night named Media Research Center President Brent Bozell his “bronze” nominee in his daily “Worst Person in the World” segment. Olbermann, who misidentified the MRC as the “Media Research Council,” proceeded to claim that Bozell was on the phone ordering men's underwear to don “on his head.” Olbermann ridiculed Bozell: “The bronze to funny man Brent Bozell, self-appointed President of the self-created Media Research Council, responding to my Special Comment last night with a press release headlined, 'MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Preaches Hate Speech.'...[T]his is the guy who wrote the Willie Horton ad and in the press release he calls me a 'brown shirt.' And he thinks other people are preaching hate speech. Buy this man a mirror!”
Moving to his next nominee, the designer of men's underwear in which “the fabric cup protrudes everything out in front instead of down toward the ground. The design of the underwear separates and lifts,” Olbermann sarcastically quipped: “I'm told Brent Bozell is on the phone looking to order a dozen -- to wear on his head."
In a story apparently designed to attack the Bush administration less than a week away from the midterm elections, the New York Times has instead delivered a stunning November Surprise to the Democrats: Saddam Hussein's regime was perhaps only a year away from developing nuclear weapons at the time of the US invasion.
On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams gave air time to dismissing a flimsy charge of liberal media bias based not on any content, but simply on the planned location of the newscast. From Memphis, Williams noted that “emotions are running so high,” in the Tennessee Senate contest between Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford, “that we must tell you, even our choice of cities for this broadcast tonight has become controversial because Memphis is the hometown base of the Democrat in this race.” Williams then read from an e-mail sent by “Butch,” who complained: “There is one reason and one reason only that Briansama is coming to Memphis...for his obvious attempt to promote Ford...This is the liberal media at its very lowest." Williams easily discounted the theory: “The truth is, nothing so sinister. We chose Memphis because it is the largest city in the state and happens to be home to a great NBC television station.”
It would be nice if Williams some night would give air time to a serious charge of liberal media bias based on content analysis, not silly idle speculation about atmospherics.
CNN's Jack Cafferty listed a litany of supposed Bush misdeeds and how Bill Clinton “was impeached for telling a lie” before posing his “Cafferty File” question in the 7pm EST hour of Thursday's The Situation Room: “If the Republicans lose the election Tuesday, what should happen to President Bush?” Naturally, Cafferty's strong suggestion that President George W. Bush deserves the same generated matching e-mails, yet Cafferty expressed astonishment: “It's amazing. 98 percent of the ones that I read -- and I looked at several hundred of them -- said impeach him....There's a lot of anger out there over what this man's done."
Cafferty had charged: “This President has pulled off a power grab in the name of the war on terror the likes of which this country hasn't seen in a very long time. And in the process, people who are a lot smarter than I am suggest that he has broken this nation's laws over and over and over again. From invading a sovereign nation without provocation to torturing prisoners to the NSA spy program, to holding people without a right to a court hearing or a lawyer, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Amongst the e-mails Cafferty read, one declared: “Of course George Bush deserves to be impeached, and he should also be thrown in jail.” Another writer recommended: “He should be 'legally' water-boarded until he can recite the Bill of Rights and define habeas corpus.”
In another grand example of "journalistic" integrity, USA Today has declared the Iraq war a total failure even as we are still in the middle of it all. With that "truth" reported, I'd like to have their crystal ball to get the next lottery numbers, too.
Now, it is absolutely true to say that the peace in Iraq has been hard to win. It is a fair assessment to say that the Bush administration has made many mistakes in re-building and nation building in Iraq. But, it is not fair to say the efforts in Iraq have been a failure. This project the Bush administration has undertaken will not only take many, many years to develop but it will be many decades to see the full range of effects that the effort at democracy building in Iraq (as Bush duly warned us when he began it all).
As reported here, in a story airing on 'Today' of October 28th, NBC reporter Richard Engel delved into the most private concerns of US soldiers serving in Iraq. Engel queried one solider about his fears of dying in combat, or as he put it:
"You ever worry one day your number's gonna come up?"
Engel also drew soldiers out on their concerns as to the faithfulness of their loved ones back home, inviting them to discuss "the Jody," described by one soldier as "the guy who is back home with your wife or your girlfriend." Added Engel: "They worry and tell stories about soldiers going home to empty houses."
James Carville and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish were invited on this morning's Today show to discuss the impact of John Kerry's gaffe but when Smerconish insisted Kerry wasn't attacking the troops Vieira took that opening to ask: "Do you think it could backfire because it does, again, draw attention to Iraq?" Vieira then tossed the following softball to Carville: "So do you think this, this will have no legs whatsoever then, that's what you're saying James?"
The following is the entire segment as it occurred on the November 2nd Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "So will Senator Kerry's gaffe help the Republicans in the midterm elections? James Carville is a Democratic strategist and author of Take It Back and Michael Smerconish is a Republican radio talk show host and author of Muzzled. Good morning to both of you."
A real barnburner occurred on Fox News Wednesday. Yet, strangely, the competitors were on the same side of the aisle. As “Hannity and Colmes” welcomed Tennessee Senatorial-hopeful Congressman Harold Ford (D-Tennessee), one would have expected the fireworks to be lit when Sean was doing the questioning. However, the liberal-minded Alan Colmes showed America the lack of tolerance the media and the left have for moderate members of their club. As a result, Colmes gave Ford the full Lieberman treatment, beginning by listing positions Ford holds which are verboten for the current Democrat party:
But, you say, in addition to the issues Sean brought up, the Ten Commandments should be posted in courtrooms around the state. You favor school prayer. You say you’re pro-life. You want an anti-flag burning constitutional amendment. Are you going to vote with the Democratic caucus if you get into the Senate?
Effectively toeing the “principles and issues are irrelevant” line of his party, Colmes tried banging into the head of his opponent the fact that voting with the caucus is all that matters. Ford tried placating his hostile host with issues that should have appealed to him:
On Wednesday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his latest "Special Comment" not only to demand that President Bush apologize to American troops over the Iraq War, but he also blamed Bush for inspiring acts of "domestic terrorism" against critics, a la King Henry and Archbishop Thomas Becket, and bizarrely chose to inject racism by making a comparison between Bush supporters attacking the President's opponents and the 1856 caning of anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner by pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks, and at one point even mentioning charges of racist "fear of miscegenation" in the current Tennesee Senate race. As Olbermann concluded his rant, he addressed Bush: "You instructed no one to mail the fake Anthrax [received by Olbermann], nor undermine the FBI's case, nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times, nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller, nor beat up a man yelling at Senator George Allen, nor have the First Lady knife Michael J. Fox, nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry. No, you did not, sir. And the genius of the thing is the same as in King Henry's rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: 'Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?' All you have to do, sir, is hand out enough new canes." (Transcript follows)
On the heels of reporter Suzanne Malveaux saying "we hope" John Kerry’s gaffe goes away, another CNN employee is letting the personal political opinions fly. New CNN afternoon anchorman Don Lemon interviewed Rev. Jesse Jackson Wednesday on the occasion of his 65th birthday, and after noting Jackson’s adultery and asking pointed questions about whether he’s still relevant, Lemon lauded him as a major historical figure: "But for the most part he is an appreciated person in society, in America, and someone who most African-Americans, at least speaking for myself, think that he has made huge contributions, especially when it comes to civil rights." A few hours later, while informally gathering interviewing Jackson’s daughter Santita and Sen. Barack Obama’s wife Michelle for a chat, Lemon cooed: "Let me get you guys right here. Daughter of the great one who's turning 65. Wife of the great one now."
“The John Kerry flap may have been the major political story yesterday, and even today,” Brit Hume accurately noted in his Wednesday “Grapevine” segment since, indeed, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts led with it both Tuesday and Wednesday night. But he observed, “you might not have known that from the newspaper coverage. Not a single front-page headline in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or USA Today. The Times cast it as a chance for the President to attack Kerry. Not until the 15th paragraph, on page 18, does a reader learn what Kerry actually said.” Hume also picked up on how ABC framed the story: “On ABC News, the Kerry flap was described as quote, 'an object lesson in how in this day and age an idle political remark gets seized upon.'" A late Tuesday night NewsBusters posting, "ABC's Gibson: Kerry's Dumb 'Get Stuck In Iraq' Merely an 'Idle Political Remark,'" distributed in Wednesday's MRC CyberAlert, highlighted the characterization by World News anchor Charles Gibson.
And Hume relayed how ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin, on the Hugh Hewitt's radio show, “says well over 70 percent of the people working on his network's political coverage are liberal, and would vote Democratic.”
Apparently, the Times' headline wants readers to believe that these "fireworks" just happened on their own. Even the sub-headlines make no mention of Kerry's actual words from Monday. In fact, the Times baselessly drags the GOP into the mix. "New flap in Virginia race; Bush and Kerry battle like it's 2004." "Missouri could be the key." (bold added)