Brian Williams, who was enamored with Barack Obama in two interviews this year in which he celebrated the liberal Democrat's achievements, in a Wednesday interview with the Republican ticket challenged the premises of their campaign. Recalling the woman in an audience who claimed Obama is Arab, Williams channeled left-wing efforts to discredit McCain: “Did this campaign get out of your control?”
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.” Those picks are added, on a one week delay, to NewsBusters. (Archive for 2012-2014 on MRC.org)
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. (In February 2015, the MRC discontinued posting BiasAlerts on MRC.org and began feeding the newsletter via CyberAlert posts on NewsBusters).
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.
Consistency on the CBS Evening News: Wednesday night Dean Reynolds concluded his piece on Barack Obama's campaign day by asserting “McCain's campaign tactics...have drawn criticism even from some Republicans” and next Chip Reid ended his story on John McCain's day on the trail by highlighting how “Gordon Smith of Oregon,” otherwise unidentified, “today became the fourth Republican to urge John McCain to stop those robo-calls to people's homes linking Barack Obama with William Ayers” -- all before a full report on how Sarah “Palin's carefully cultivated Joe Six Pack image is now bumping up against a six-figure wardrobe.”
Reynolds helpfully previewed some additional CBS News bias in advance as he reported “this afternoon, the Early Show's Harry Smith asked Obama about McCain's campaign tactics that have drawn criticism even from some Republicans,” and after a clip of Obama declaring he would never make unfair attacks on his opponents, Reynolds concluded: “Obama says he understands that politics is a rough business, but he insisted there is no equivalence between his campaign tactics and John McCain's.”
Anchor Katie Couric soon announced: “Sarah Palin may think the world of Joe the Plumber, too, but that doesn't mean she intends to dress like him. In fact, the Republican Party has spent $150,000 on Governor Palin's wardrobe, something that may not square with her image as a down-to-earth every woman.” The story from reporter Nancy Cordes ended with another media-generated controversy:
After seven weeks of the news media deriding Sarah Palin, Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday night seemed to delight in emphasizing how, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which led the NBC Nightly News, Palin is hurting McCain as Obama surges ahead. And Williams touted Colin Powell's Sunday endorsement of Barack Obama as “the shot heard 'round the world.” After reciting how the survey of registered voters put Obama up by ten points, 52 to 42 percent, Williams asserted: “Perhaps more dangerous for the GOP ticket, most of those polled do not believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be President, by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent.”
However, take a look at the PDF of the full poll, which did not pose the same question about Obama, and you learn that despite the media's pounding the public perception of her qualifications has been remarkably consistent across three NBC/WSJ surveys (see question 29d) with more considering her unqualified than qualified not anything new: 40 percent called her “qualified” in the September 19-22 poll, 41 percent replied qualified in the poll conducted October 4-5 and she returned to 40 percent in this new survey. Meanwhile, “not qualified” grew only slightly, from 49 to 50 to the current 55 percent which Williams treated as big news.
Not that it's any big surprise given his well-established liberal views and contempt for conservative policies, but in what is an unusually blatant abandonment of basic journalistic pretenses, CNN on Sunday -- and Newsweek in this week's issue -- provided time and space for Fareed Zakaria to outline why he will be voting for the “steady and reasoned” Barack Obama. Along the way, he denigrated Sarah Palin as “a rabble-rousing ultraconservative.” At the end of his Sunday (October 19) CNN program, Fareed Zakaria: GPS, Zakaria told his viewers of his choice, concluding:
John McCain represents the best of America's past, and Barack Obama the hope of the future -- the hope of a country that can make big changes and live out one of its greatest promises, of equal opportunities for all Americans, of every caste, creed and color. And America has always been a country that looks forward. So, I will be voting for Barack Obama on election day this year. (CNN.com video)
The Editor of Newsweek International was more explicitly hostile to McCain and Palin in the October 27 domestic edition of Newsweek where, in a piece titled “The Case for Barack Obama,” he made clear his disagreement with conservative policies and his left-wing view of past campaigns.
Twisting in the knife. While Barack Obama gets gushing coverage (ABC's Jake Tapper marveled on Monday's World News over Obama's “rather unbelievable weekend where he had his largest campaign crowd ever -- 100,00 in St Louis -- he announced record-breaking fundraising, $150 million in September and, of course, he secured the endorsement of that Republican Secretary of State, retired General Colin Powell”), ABC and CBS took gratuitous shots at John McCain and Sarah Palin, twisting upbeat events and a Joe Biden gaffe into negatives for the Republican ticket while NBC skipped over Biden's warning Obama's election will invite “an international crisis.”
ABC reporter Ron Claiborne cited McCain's “concentrated attack on Obama as not just a tax raiser, but someone whose policies are socialist. McCain never utters the S-word himself. That's left to his running mate.” But, he warned, “Palin may be a damaged carrier of the McCain message.” Claiborne then paired her Saturday night success with a negative poll finding as he noted “her appearance this weekend on Saturday Night Live was a boost for the show's ratings, but an ABC News poll finds that 52 percent of voters said McCain's choice of Palin made them less confident of his judgment.”
Journalists on TV Sunday heralded the importance and impact of Colin Powell's long-expected endorsement of Barack Obama which he made on Meet the Press. Later in that show, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell touted Powell's endorsement and critique of the McCain campaign as “a very powerful political statement.” On the same panel with Mitchell, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham declared that “having Colin Powell endorse the Democratic nominee for President is like having the seal of approval from the most important military figure of the age.”
MSNBC was so excited by the news the channel produced a special Sunday Hardball devoted entirely to Powell's news. Chris Matthews teased: “Colin Powell, right in the kisser. Barack Obama gets the endorsement of the year. Let's play Hardball.” Cuing up a Meet the Press re-play at the end of the 5 pm EDT hour, Matthews celebrated: “This is history in the making, on Meet the Press, right now.”
NFL football bumped the EDT/CDT CBS Evening News, but both ABC and NBC made Powell their lead. With “Major Endorsement” as it's on-screen heading, ABC anchor Dan Harris teased, “Tonight on World News: On a roll. Obama wins a major endorsement from a major Republican.” CNN's 10 PM EDT Newsroom, which dedicated its first 30 minutes to Powell, plastered “Big-Time Endorsement” on screen before anchor Don Lemon wondered: “I know it is important, but just how important is this?”
Bryant Gumbel, back to network television news? Catching up this Sunday morning with an item from my pending file originally bumped by Barack Obama's Joe Biden announcement, back in August former NBC News President Michael Gartner, who in 1991 made Tim Russert the moderator of Meet the Press, recommended that NBC now resurrect veteran left-winger Gumbel, whom he hailed as “smart” and “quick,” and give him the Sunday morning interview program.
In his weekly Friday column at the end of the Olympics (“NBC's Costas golden; Meet the Press next?”), USA Today founder Al Neuharth urged NBC to pick Bob Costas, who hosted the games from Beijing, to replace interim host Tom Brokaw. Below the August 22 column, the paper ran a reaction from Gartner, now principal owner of the Iowa Cubs minor league baseball team:
Bob Costas -- or Bryant Gumbel. Both are smart, quick, and do their homework. Either would excel. But it's not my call -- or Al's.
Friday's NBC Nightly News devoted a story to how around the world “people want to turn a page on the Bush years” and, as if it's relevant, “if the world had a vote, Barack Obama would win in a landslide.” A suggestion to viewers on what they must do to restore America's honor? Reporter Dawna Friesen warned that the next President “faces a grim reality: Much of the world deeply distrusts, even dislikes, the United States” and she rued “much of the sympathy and solidarity that existed after 9/11 evaporated during the Bush years.”
Pointing to Iraq as the primary culprit (“so many believed it was invaded on false pretenses”), Friesen also highlighted “other reasons,” such as how “after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. is perceived by many as a violator rather than an upholder of human rights” and “America is seen contributing, but not doing much to solve, global warming.” From Istanbul, she concluded:
Here in Turkey, as in much of the world, people want to turn a page on the Bush years. In fact, polls show the image of the U.S. has improved slightly this year simply because President Bush is leaving. And, that if the world had a vote, Barack Obama would win in a landslide. Regardless of who wins, the world is clamoring for a new America in 2009.
“The Chicago Tribune did something today it had never done before -- it had not endorsed a Democrat for President, not even Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson in his two runs,” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric touted Friday night before heralding the endorsement of the candidate from the paper's circulation area: “But today, the Trib endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama. It said he's better suited than John McCain to restore a quote, 'common sense of national purpose.'”
The endorsement editorial posted Friday afternoon, but presumably to appear in Sunday's newspaper, acknowledged the paper's admiration for the hometown Senator is nothing new: “On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.”
Network polls put McCain-Palin ten-plus points behind Obama-Biden and Brian Williams introduced Thursday's NBC Nightly News by asserting “some senior Republicans are getting edgy at the prospect of a long up hill climb in a short amount of time,” but Williams and other journalists may not be so confident of an Obama victory -- how else to explain NBC's decision to air hit piece Thursday evening about Sarah Palin's husband Todd? Or maybe it just reflects continued animosity.
With “Palin abused her power” on screen with a picture of Todd and Sarah Palin, from Alaska reporter John Larson related that in the “troopergate” probe “state investigators noted in their report the pressure Todd Palin used to try to get his brother-in-law fired, and that Governor Palin’s firing” of public safety commissioner Walter Monegan, “who resisted that pressure, was an abuse of power, though she did not break any laws.” Nice caveat there.
Larson framed his story around how, horror of horrors, “state employees testified 'he had significant influence' on government affairs, that he occupied the Governor's office at least half the time.” Larson intoned, as if it were some kind of new and damaging revelation: “In fact, in this, his first nationally televised interview” Monegan “told NBC News Todd attended the Governor's closed cabinet meetings.”
Though he decided “this was John McCain's best debate,” Democratic operative-turned ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos made it a “clean sweep for Barack Obama” as he declared on Nightline after Wednesday's third and final presidential debate: “He has won every debate.” Add in the VP debate, which Stephanopoulos gave to Joe Biden over Sarah Palin, and Stephanopoulos has awarded all four debates this year to the more liberal candidate. He justified his latest assessment:
He won tonight by staying cool under pressure. He won tonight by parrying the attacks of John McCain. The only thing that John McCain could have really done tonight to change the tenor of this campaign was to get under Obama's skin, to force him into an error. That did not happen tonight. Another win for Barack Obama.
Anchor Terry Moran predicted “you're going to get some heat for this, George, you called all three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate for Obama-Biden.” But instead of suggesting that just might show some bias on the part of Stephanopoulos, Moran presumed it meant Stephanopoulos' evaluations presage the electorate: “Does that mean this thing is over?” Stephanopoulos replied: “I don't know if it's over. Right now, Barack Obama would win, I think, more than 300 electoral votes, if the election were held today. He's well ahead right now.”
Recapping Wednesday's presidential debate TV journalists were struck with how Barack Obama conveyed an “appeal to the center” while a “sarcastic” John McCain showed “disdain and contempt” and was hurt by being too much of a right-wing “ideologue” whose “worst moment” came when he raised the name of William Ayers.
Also noteworthy: On NBC, Ann Curry pressed six undecided voters to “raise your hand if you know of people, and be honest here, who may not vote for Barack Obama because of his race.” And NBC anchor Brian Williams asked Hillary Clinton to assess Sarah Palin: “Is Governor Palin qualified to be Vice President or President?”
On “Nightline,” George Stephanopoulos went three for three for the Democrat -- four for four if you add in Biden over Palin -- in declaring Obama the “winner.” Read on for our recap.
Picking up on a monologue joke earlier in the program by David Letterman about how Sarah Palin's blinking is conveying “coded messages,” immediately upon sitting down Brolin pointed to his face as he urged Letterman and viewers: “Watch this.”
CBS political correspondent Jeff Greenfield, who after last week's second presidential debate lashed out at John McCain for referring to Barack Obama as “that one” (“Was it demeaning? Was it an insult?”), just over two hours before the third and final debate suggested McCain should not bring up Williams Ayers or Jeremiah Wright -- and he used far-left/conservative-hating New York Times columnist Frank Rich, who he at least tagged a “liberal,” as one of his experts. Citing Ayers and Sarah Palin's attack on Obama for “palling around” with him, Greenfield asked: “Is all this fair game? Yes, says a conservative writer.” That would be National Review's Byron York, but Greenfield countered him with two others, asserting: “It's dangerous, argues a liberal columnist.” Frank Rich presumed Greenfield (who could be seen talking to Rich) shares his views (“You or I may not agree with it”) as he scolded McCain:
If he wants to say your association with Jeremiah Wright or with William Ayers because they're too left wing or anti-American, whatever. That's all fine. You or I may not agree with it, but it's different from calling someone an -- being involved with active terrorists, palling around with terrorists. That's the line.
Greenfield followed with how “a one-time Ronald Reagan speechwriter says the tone strikes a discordant note.” That would be Peggy Noonan.
A night after Sunday's CBS Evening News ended with a feature piece on a 106-year-old nun in Rome who plans to vote for Barack Obama, Monday's newscast concluded with a puff piece on “The Great Schlep,” a Columbus Day weekend effort headlined by left-wing comedian Sarah Silverman to get Jewish grandchildren to travel to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama. In a video clip from the group's Web site which CBS played, Silverman, star of the Sarah Silverman Show on Comedy Central, pleaded: “If you knew that visiting your grandparents could change the world, would you do it? Of course you would,” so “schlep over to Florida and convince your grandparents to vote Obama.”
Anchor Katie Couric's introduction offered no hint to how the effort was on behalf of one specific candidate:
Senior citizens are a key voting block. In Florida, for instance, more than 7.5 million people voted in the last presidential election, and nearly one in five was 65 or older. Many of them, of course, are grandparents, a lot of them Jewish. So how do you win their votes this time around? Call in the grandkids, it's time for the Great Schlep.
In a gushing look at a day on the campaign trail with Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden for Monday's "Nightline," ABC's Terry Moran charged Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's rhetoric about Barack Obama has “stoked the anger at Republican rallies, where there have been reports of attendees yelling things like 'terrorist' and 'kill him.'" After that setup, an earnest Moran asked Biden if he now fears for Obama's “safety,” and he pressed Biden to denigrate Palin: “Is she up to the job in your judgment?”
Moran clearly suggested to Biden that Palin's criticism of Obama (“someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country”) endangers the Democratic nominee as he followed that clip: “Are you at all concerned in this home stretch for Senator Obama's safety?”
Audio: MP3 clip (35 secs, 250 Kb)
Sunday's CBS Evening News ended with a feature piece on a 106-year-old nun in Rome who plans to vote for Barack Obama, her first time to cast a presidential ballot since the New Hampshire native voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, because Obama is “a good” and “honest” man. From Rome, reporter Allen Pizzey related how her “simple, old-fashioned standard for politicians,” which apparently does not include the Catholic church's opposition to abortion, inspired her to decide to vote for the first time in 56 years. Sister Cecilia Gaudette explained: “As I say, a good straight man; good private life, honest and politically able to govern, of course.” As she put her hand over an Obama button on her clothing, Pizzey cautioned that though she's decided “the Democrat fit the bill,” she's “not about to campaign for him.” (She'll leave that to the news media?)
Earlier, the newscast aired a report on young voters in New Hampshire, leading anchor Russ Mitchell to set up the look at the nun: “Finally this evening, we just heard how the presidential election in New Hampshire could be decided by the youngest voters. Then again, it could also hinge on the vote of one Roman Catholic nun whose 100th birthday is well behind her.”
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and NPR's Nina Totenberg, likely reflecting the attitude of many of their Washington press corps colleagues, declared Barack Obama's connection to unrepentant terrorist William Ayers as an out of bounds subject for the campaign.
For ABC's World News on Wednesday and Thursday, Charles Gibson conducted interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain aboard the ABC News bus, but on McCain's “line of attack” against Obama he shared Obama's annoyance (“Are you going to have to address that again?”) while he pushed McCain to justify the criticism: “You're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?”
With Obama in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Gibson noted how “John McCain has unloaded on you in the last 72, 96 hours, as has Sarah Palin” about how “we don't know who Barack Obama is,” but “were you surprised that he didn't bring it up last night at the debate and use that line of attack?” Gibson next cued up Obama, as if it's an unfair burden for Obama to “again” have to address Ayers: “Sarah Palin has come at you because of the Bill Ayers connection. Are you going to have to address that again?”
Talking to McCain on Thursday in Milwaukee, Gibson raised the obvious (“Does this almost monolithic focus on the economy, in the news, and in people's minds in recent weeks, hurt your campaign?”) before then treating McCain's efforts to change the subject as odd: “Why...have you focused so in what you've had to say on Senator Obama's character?” When McCain brought up Obama's level of “knowledge and judgment,” a befuddled Gibson pressed: “You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries he did, all the campaigning, running for President as long as you have -- two years?” As for Ayers, Gibson pushed McCain to show his own better judgment, posing the question cited above about being “comfortable” with making Obama's character an issue.
NBC anchor Brian Williams reported Wednesday night “there were no devastating or towering moments in the Obama/McCain debate in Nashville last night,” but he insisted, though neither ABC nor CBS mentioned them in their next day stories, “two moments from last night loomed large today.” Both, no surprise, were supposed insults from John McCain, but before getting to those, reporter Andrea Mitchell focused on the “rowdy” McCain and Palin crowds and elevated the importance of a local Lehigh County, Pennsylvania GOP official who dared use Obama's full name:
At one point, someone shouted “off with his head” about Obama. And the Republican County Chairman, William Platt, asked, “Imagine if you woke up on November 5th and Barack Obama -- Barack Hussein Obama -- was our new President?” The campaign later said: “We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric.” But that kind of rhetoric is becoming commonplace, especially at Sarah Palin's rallies. Today Joe Biden challenged her.
After a clip of Biden castigating Palin, Mitchell relayed how “Democrats are also buzzing about McCain's debate performance last night, saying he seemed dismissive and disrespectful when he referred to Obama as 'that one,'” a reference she asserted has “spawned howls and a cottage industry of headlines on liberal blogs and even T-shirts on Web sites.” Again, for expert condemnation of McCain she went to the Democratic VP candidate: “Biden with Ann Curry on Today explained...” Mitchell then moved to the second McCain foul: “Critics also jumped on McCain for seeming to patronize one questioner in the debate, Oliver Clark, who asked what it will take to help people having a difficult time in the economic crisis.”