Where do you stand on abortion?
So, do you oppose it even in the cases of rape and incest?
Do you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned?
Why not? Your husband does.
So you do believe it should be overturned or shouldn't be?
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center (MRC), the publisher of NewsBusters. He’s been the central figure in the MRC’s News Analysis Division since the MRC’s 1987 founding and in 2005 spearheaded the launch of NewsBusters.
Baker oversees the selection of the award nominees and “winners” for the MRC’s “DisHonors Awards,” presented at an annual gala, and each week he helps the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard select a “Mainstream Media Scream.” (Full list of all those selected.)
In 2001, Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes dubbed Baker “the scourge of liberal bias.”
For 13 years he compiled and edited the daily CyberAlert e-mail and online report. In late May of 2009 the CyberAlert became an e-mail-only product based on BiasAlert postings on the MRC's Web site. (BiasAlerts since early 2012.)
An avid fan of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team, in January of 2009 the Washington Post's "DC Sports Bog" took note of Baker's attendance at a Caps game with John Kerry: "The Caps, John Kerry and a Scourge."
Baker lived in Massachusetts through high school, whereupon he fled the liberal commonwealth for George Washington University in DC and, since graduation, a life in Northern Virginia. Full bio on MRC.org.
Sarah Palin's presumed lack of qualifications and the assumed failure of the McCain campaign to adequately vet her consumed much of the ABC, CBS and NBC prime time hour Tuesday on the Republican convention. CBS's Katie Couric was the most aggressive. A flustered Couric demanded to know from McCain adviser Steve Schmidt how anyone could possibly “compare” Palin's public service with the more experienced Obama: “How can you compare those two?”
When Tim Pawlenty later made the same assertion, Couric shot back: “Well, that’s according to Republican talking points.” She also contended questions about Palin “call into question the vetting process” as she complained: “Why are these kind of things coming out in kind of a drip, drip, drip fashion?” With Pawlenty, Couric, who last week never wondered if the liberal ticket would dissuade anyone, portrayed Palin as some sort of alien creature:
She is against abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. She wants creationism taught in schools. Do you worry that her selection might be a turnoff to some wavering Democrats and independents who might consider supporting John McCain?ABC devoted an entire segment to its panel of Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Matthew Dowd and Tori Clarke speculating about bad vetting and Palin undermining a McCain theme. Gibson proposed: “There were signs all over Denver, put up by Republicans, saying 'Not Ready '08.' Have they totally throw that argument away? And do they regret losing it, do you think?” Dowd confirmed: “I think they've totally thrown it away...”
Chuck Todd, Political Director for NBC News, fretted over how “this is as stringent of a platform on abortion the Republican Party ever has. And the problem is” that “these delegates are more conservative than even the ones four years ago.” Andrea Mitchell described Palin as “very conservative” and pressed a Republican Congressman: “Now there are a lot of women in that area who are less conservative socially than Sarah Palin. There are a lot of women who believe in choice. So how do you square the circle there?”
Matthews bemoaned to Tom Ridge that “it seems like you got a convention saluting a vice presidential nominee who wants to outlaw abortion, period, across the country. Is this going too far?” To Tim Pawlenty, Matthews demanded:
Do you believe you can win with the cultural statement being made by the selection of Governor Palin? That statement being someone from the very culturally conservative part of your party?
Tonight, new questions about Sarah Palin's past, including whether she once supported a party that wants Alaska to secede from the U.S. How much did John McCain really know about his running mate?Couric led by insisting, as if the media are simple observers and not participants: “The story that's continuing to get all the attention here -- and elsewhere for that matter -- is Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, and John McCain's judgment in choosing her as his running mate.” Couric set up a second Palin story: “The McCain campaign has portrayed Governor Palin as a reformer and opponent of pork barrel spending, but there are some new questions about that. Wyatt Andrews now with a Reality Check.”
In the midst of being pounded by Wolf Blitzer and other CNN panelists about Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin's supposedly inadequate experience, Rudy Giuliani wondered late Tuesday afternoon: “Why did Barack Obama get a pass on his experience? And why is Sarah Palin's experience, which from the executive point of view is considerably more than Barack Obama's, under such scrutiny?” Blitzer retorted:
But who says he's [Obama] been getting a pass? He's been scrutinized for months and months and months.
To which, a laughing Giuliani scoffed: “I haven't seen the scrutiny of his experience or his record.” Blitzer then, seriously, asked: "Do you read your hometown newspaper, the New York Times?” Giuliani, still trying to get his words out while laughing at Blitzer's premise at the end of the first hour of The Situation Room, lightheartedly suggested: “Maybe that's the problem. I read the New York Times and I haven't seen much scrutiny of Barack Obama in the New York Times.”
Audio: MP3 clip (30 seconds, 175 Kb)
The one question that occurs to me is if 17-year-old Chelsea Clinton had become pregnant while living in the White House, would the reaction on the part of the Family Research Council and other very conservative Republicans been the same? Maybe it would have been, but it's a question worth asking.Meanwhile, during the CBS News special at 10 PM EDT, Katie Couric whined to Nicolle Wallace of the McCain campaign: “Why wasn't the campaign, your campaign more pro-active about releasing this information? Why did you wait until sort of rumors and innuendos forced your hand?” Couric implied Bristol Palin's pregnancy should have disqualified her mother and suggested Sarah Palin was not putting her daughter's interests first.
Live from Anchorage at 5:33 PM EDT/4:33 PM CDT/1:33 PM ADT, Kyra Phillips revealed “there were a number of things that we were sent here to investigate,” including “trooper-gate,” but before that, she stressed “here's what's interesting,” that Palin ”has gone on the record and said that she is in full support of abstinence, and that she doesn't believe in contraception on school grounds and sex education.” Phillips then highlighted:
The Alliance for Reproductive Justice...says abstinence doesn't work, we've got to have better sex education in schools and this is just one example, this just underscores -- the pregnancy of the Governor's daughter -- to why we need sex education in schools.Audio: MP3 audio clip (2:10, 600 Kb) which matches the video above rendered for me by the MRC's Michelle Humphrey.
CBS's 60 Minutes led Sunday night with a taped interview with the Democratic ticket and in the piece Steve Kroft, who couldn't resist labeling Sarah Palin as a “conservative” while never tagging Joe Biden, presumed as fact that Palin “has less experience” than Obama and cued up Obama to agree with his own campaign's rhetoric about how Palin undermines McCain's experience argument:
Does the fact that he chose as his Vice President someone who has less experience than you take that weapon out of his arsenal?On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams pursued the same media narrative as he pressed McCain about how as “a 72-year-old cancer survivor” he chose “a not yet one full term Governor of Alaska. Is she the best person to be literally a heartbeat away from the presidency, Senator?” McCain rejected the premise and, without even knowing it, countered Kroft:
She's been in elected office longer than Senator Obama. She's been the chief executive of the state that supplies 20 percent of America's energy, she has balanced budgets. She's had executive experience as Governor, as Mayor, as a city council member and PTA. So she was in elected office when Senator Obama was still a quote “community organizer.”Williams, however, remained unconvinced: “But you know the question, Senator, given the field, given all that we know, is she the best person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?”
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift disclosed on the McLaughlin Group -- seemingly without any compunction for how she was outing her fellow journalists as behaving the same way as Barack Obama's campaign staff, but I suppose we already knew that intuitively -- that John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for VP was greeted by “literally laughter” in “very many newsrooms.”
From the show taped on Friday at Washington, DC's CBS affiliate and airing at various times over the weekend around the nation, mostly on PBS stations:
ELEANOR CLIFT: This is not a serious choice. It makes it look like a made for TV movie. If the media reaction is anything, it's been literally laughter in many places across news-
JOHN McLAUGHLIN, TALKING OVER CLIFT: Where is that? See that?
CLIFT: In very, very many newsrooms.
Audio: MP3 clip which matches the video (13 seconds, 80 Kb)
Stunning Fox News Watch host Bill Hemmer, panelist Jim Pinkerton, picking up on a NewsBusters post with video (“Maher: Matthews and Olbermann 'Were Ready to Have Sex with' Obama”), from just hours before the FNC show aired live at 6:30 PM EDT Saturday from St. Paul, pointed out that MSNBC's Democratic convention coverage was so adulatory that it led to:
Bill Maher, who's no conservative, who hates Bush, to joke that he thinks that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews want to have sex with Obama. That's no slap at Obama, of course. He's innocent.As the other panelists laughed, Hemmer was incredulous, interjecting “whoa, whoa” before pressing for corroboration: “Bill Maher said that?!” Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Juan Williams all chimed in with confirmation and then Hemmer, putting his finger to his earpiece, informed viewers: “I'm hearing that we have a sound clip of that. Do we? Alright, roll it. Here's Bill Maher.” Viewers were treated to the video of Maher from his Friday night HBO show:
I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him too much. I don't think he thinks that he's all that, but the media does. I mean, the coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him.
Audio: MP3 clip from FNC which matches video above (1:15, 450 Kb)
Maher's assessment, ironically enough, came in the midst of his panel (CBS Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and NPR's Michel Martin) all effusively praising, along with Maher, Obama's Thursday night address concluding the Democratic Convention in Denver. Maher's full rebuke on the August 29 Real Time with Bill Maher:
I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him too much. I don't think he thinks that he's all that, but the media does. I mean, the coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him....It's embarrassing.
On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer dubbed Palin “John McCain Jr.” since she's “somebody who is willing to take on her own party.” Anchor Katie Couric interjected: “But with conservative principles,” to which Schieffer affirmed: “Yeah, with conservative principles.” Two other straight-forward labels applied to Palin on the Friday night, August 29 newscasts:
Chip Reid on CBS: “On most issues, she is reliably conservative, agreeing with McCain on the need to cut taxes and slash spending.” He also described her as “a fierce opponent of abortion.”
John Larson, from Anchorage, on the NBC Nightly News: “Governor Palin is a solid conservative, firmly supporting gun rights and strongly opposing abortion.”
Television journalists were nearly uniformly enthralled with Barack Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech, relieved he showed the toughness to take on John McCain directly, unlike, in their world view, all too-soft past Democratic nominees. Only FNC offered a contrarian view or mentioned the word “liberal” while David Gergen on CNN trumpeted the address as a “symphony” and a “masterpiece” with elements of Lincoln, MLK and Reagan.
ABC's Charles Gibson insisted that “four years ago John Kerry” was “held accountable for not being tough enough on George Bush,” and “Obama was obviously not going to make that mistake.”
On CNN, Gloria Borger decided: “If anybody ever thought that Barack Obama was not tough enough to run against John McCain, this speech should really put an end to that.”
Other news, a surprisingly strong reading on the economy. The Gross Domestic Product grew at a rate of 3.3 percent in the second quarter, helped by those government stimulus checks and a jump in exports because the dollar is so weak.NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw, however, was still presuming economic disaster hours after the new GDP number was released in the morning. Just past 2 PM MDT/4PM EDT on MSNBC, Brokaw asserted from Denver:
Beyond this arena, and this city, the American people are facing some of the greatest problems that they have faced, certainly in our lifetimes. Financial crisis, greatest since the Depression; energy crisis; two wars in two different countries; the Russian bear is crashing around in the woods again.
“Professor George Stephanopoulos,” on Wednesday's Nightline, awarded the Democrats “straight A's” for the third day of their convention, with an A for “Filling in the Blanks,” an A for “Heartstrings,” an A for “Red Meat” and an A for “Body Language.” The former Bill Clinton campaign operative and White House aide glowed over “a night of perfect political choreography” from his former boss and other Democrats as he marveled “the only problem Barack Obama has right now, and it's a high-class problem, as Bill Clinton used to say, is can he top what happened tonight?” Anchor Terry Moran echoed: “An extraordinary series of speeches.”
Nightline has used Stephanopoulos all week to assign grades. Not counting his F on Monday night for the "garish stage," of eleven grades over three nights Stephanopoulos has presented eight A's, two grades of B+ and one C.
I don’t need to tell you, people watching tonight were, you can answer this before I do, saying, “Sure, now, he took on 'Swiftboating’ in his speech tonight, but not when he ran for President.”Kerry vociferously rejected the premise, then agreed with it, before he rejected it again as he credited newspapers with writing “the truth” about how he was smeared:
But we did actually. That’s not true. We took it on. The problem we made was a miscalculation about the truth being out there. We thought enough had been done. And the mistake we made was not spending enough money to answer the lies. We should have done that. I accept responsibility for that. But believe me, we answered it. Countless newspapers wrote the truth.
But the ad is a stretch because this is what Obama really said last May in Pendleton, Oregon, on the need for diplomacy.CBS then played a clip of Obama on May 18, part of the statement the McCain campaign cited to support its ad: “Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. I mean, think about it, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.”
CBS's Bob Schieffer rued to keynoter Mark Warner that “normally keynote speeches” deliver “a lot of red meat,” but “I didn't hear a lot of that.” Over on NBC, Brian Williams pushed Warner: “You know there's some in the party who feel that this gathering isn't tough enough against a John McCain who, after all, hasn't let up for a day against this party.” Back to CBS, Jeff Greenfield asserted Barack Obama needs Hillary Clinton “to wake up this hall after a speech that was not only not red meat by former Governor Warner, but more like tofu with sprouts.” Couric even asked Michael Dukakis “if he thought the Democrats were hitting John McCain hard enough?” Clinton's speech left Couric unfulfilled: “We expected a lot of red meat from Senator Clinton tonight...Are you surprised she didn't sort of attack him more vociferously?”
Previewing Ed Rendell early in the evening, CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered: “Let's see if he has some red meat.” On MSNBC, Chris Matthews was “amazed why they don’t have more fun with the man who calls himself Dick Cheney,” as he lamented: “It seems like they’re pulling their punches.” Analyst Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post yearned:
I am waiting for someone to take the podium and say the word “torture.” I'm waiting for someone to take the podium, say the word “Iraq.” I'm waiting for someone to take, to take the podium and talk about domestic surveillance...
Over on the NBC Nightly News, sitting with NBC political director Chuck Todd inside the Pepsi Center to preview the upcoming speech, anchor Brian Williams rued:
And I assume she's going to talk about that glass ceiling, i.e., a woman President of these United States, which begs the question as we listen to her tonight, if not her, who and when?
After Michelle Obama's Monday night speech at the Democratic National Convention, ABC and NBC mentioned her “for the first time in my adult lifetime I'm proud of my country” previous slap at the United States, but in the context of how she resolved any doubts. ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared:
“Tonight, there was no doubt. The money line in this speech was that line when she said, 'that is why I love this country,' and she lingered.” Noting how “we heard the word 'America' or 'American' or 'Americans' 12 times,” NBC's Chuck Todd decided “this is definitely a response in some ways to that whole kerfuffle that she created for herself, six or eight months ago, about being proud to be an American.”
CBS didn't touch on the topic during its prime time hour, though during an interview with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Katie Couric described Mrs. Obama not as controversial, but as “slightly controversial.” In a taped session later with Craig Robinson, Michelle's older brother, Couric wondered: “What one word would you like viewers all across the country to use to describe your sister?” When he suggested “sincere,” Couric agreed: “That's a good word.”
On the ideological labeling front, Ted Kennedy's appearance the hour before, highlights of which led all three broadcast networks at 10 PM EDT, failed to prompt a single liberal label on ABC or CBS, but NBC applied the tag three times, two of those to describe Kennedy as a “liberal lion.” (CNN and MSNBC provided scattered liberal labeling.)