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.
Couric told Fleischer: “A lot of people seem to be saying, in response to this book, that 'this doesn't sound like' the Scott McClellan they knew. Let's take a listen.” Viewers then saw clips of Karl Rove (“This doesn't sound like Scott”), Dan Bartlett (“He's like a fundamentally different person than all of us knew”) and Trent Duffy (“The voice that comes out of this book is certainly not Scott McClellan's”). Couric insisted “it sounds as if you all are operating from the same play book,” before asking: “Did you get together and discuss how to respond to this?” Fleischer denied Couric's assumption: “No, I think that it's just that we all worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Scott for so long and we never heard Scott talk about manipulation, talk about propaganda.”
Brian Williams noted NBC had “asked people to e-mail us with their stories about how gas prices were affecting their plans for the Memorial Day holiday weekend this year.” Amongst the replies he highlighted: A woman in Nebraska: “I guess it's a good time to become green and start growing our own produce, baking our own bread, and limiting the meat,” a woman from Sacramento: “We usually do rib eye steaks and racks of ribs with lots of sides -- macaroni salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, etc. This year it will be homemade hamburgers with french fries and soda instead of beer” and a woman from California: “Instead of our usual ribs, we are having burgers. As bleak as it sounds, next year we may have a cup of soup.” Finally, “Miguel from Miami: 'Our three girls are asking their boyfriends to come to the house to pick them up instead of using their cars to go on a date.'”
Zakaria, author earlier this year of the book, The Post-American World, which contends the “era” of “'American exceptionalism' is over,” snidely quipped in a 2005 Newsweek article: “As an Iraqi politician said to me, 'There are currently two Grand Ayatollahs running Iraq: Sistani and Bush. Most of us feel that Sistani is the more rational.'” A regular for several years on ABC's This Week, in 2006 Zakaria castigated an English as the official language bill as “nonsense” and “nativist populism that is distasteful.” Back in 2004, he ridiculed President Bush's promise to usher in a “new responsibility era” as he concluded: “Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.”
First, Bob Balaban, as Bush-Cheney lawyer Ben Ginsberg, reacting to Gore-Lieberman campaign Chairman Bill Daley whose father was Mayor of Chicago in 1960: “His daddy stole it for JFK and now he's going to steal it for Gore.” Second, from Wilkinson as James Baker: “Who knows how many votes we lost when the networks called Florida for Gore before all the polls were closed on election night.”
But the weirdest moment came in a scene of a protest held outside the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee. A man, holding a Bush-Cheney sign, chanted: “Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw have bald spots! Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw have bald spots!”
UPDATE: Weird, but close to reality. In 'Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency,' the 2001 book by Jake Tapper now with ABC News (Tapper's Political Punch blog), Tapper reported on page 139: “A guy with a sign saying 'God Made Bush President' appears. Another, hyping the Web site Newsmax.com, starts shouting out that 'Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw have bald spots.' This guy has a bald spot, too.”
The lead of an April 4, 2001 USA Today story headlined, “Newspapers' recount shows Bush prevailed,” by reporter Dennis Cauchon:
George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would have won by 1,665 votes -- more than triple his official 537-vote margin -- if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes, a USA TODAY/Miami Herald/Knight Ridder study shows. The study is the first comprehensive review of the 61,195 "undervote" ballots that were at the center of Florida's disputed presidential election....That look was followed in November by an analysis by a consortium of media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and AP. It determined that George W. Bush still would have won under either legally possible recount scenario which could have occurred: The Florida Supreme Court ordered recount of undervotes statewide or Gore’s request for a recount in certain counties. The New York Times led its November 12, 2001 front page article, “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote,” by reporters Ford Fessenden and John M. Broder:
Dern's personal view echoing the liberal/Democratic spin on what occurred matches the take expressed Wednesday by actor Kevin Spacey, who plays Gore operative Ron Klain in the movie: “It does seem that on the one hand the Bush people were trying to stop votes from being counted and the Gore people were just trying to get votes counted.”
The night after ABC's World News raised the possibility John McCain's POW ordeal caused “psychological damage,” on Friday's CBS Evening News Dr. Sanjay Gupta thought it noteworthy that the release of McCain's medical records ignored the Senator's “mental health,” any “mention of post-traumatic stress disorder” or of “substance abuse.” Oddly, Dr. Jon LaPook asserted that “people” notice McCain is “not able to raise his arm” and think “'doesn't that look funny?'” Who thinks McCain's limitation, caused by an attack on him after his plane crashed in North Vietnam and he was denied medical care, looks funny? In what circles does CBS's doctor travel? [audio available here]
From Fountain Hills, Arizona, CNN's Gupta, identified by Katie Couric as “a CBS News contributor” and on-screen as “contributing medical correspondent,“ marveled:
What I didn't see I thought was interesting, as well. There was hardly any mention of his mental health. There was no mention of depression. You know, this is man who had two admittedly weak suicide attempts when he was a prisoner of war. There was no mention of post-traumatic stress disorder or anything that may have been asked, or substance abuse, none of that was even mentioned.
Gibson asked: “There's also an enormous amount of medical records involving the time that he was in captivity in North Vietnam to check to see what physical damage he suffered and maybe what psychological damage.” Johnson replied that Navy psychiatrists monitored McCain “for many years after his release. They found no evidence of any serious problem. And he strongly denies any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Gibson pounced with a new line of fear: “But he's 71 years old. What do the actuarial tables say about a man who's 71 years old?” Johnson explained they say he should live to 87, but:
Much more difficult, of course, to predict any change in mental acuity. At age 71, there's about a 30 percent chance of developing serious memory loss or even dementia.
Wednesday night, Spacey told Keith Olbermann that Bush's team was more ruthless than Gore's: “I think there's no question what the movie illustrates is there were two differing philosophies about how to approach this recount fight. The Republicans pretty much, it was a street battle in their eyes. And I think on the Gore side, I think there was a -- perhaps an overestimated view of the patience of the American people.” Bottom line for Spacey in echoing the liberal take at the time: “It does seem that on the one hand the Bush people were trying to stop votes from being counted and the Gore people were just trying to get votes counted.”
After host Howard Kurtz played a clip of Bill Moyers complaining that “white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't,” Douglass agreed: “That is actually a point that we should be discussing,” as she contended “Republican candidates have routinely associated themselves with white pastors who have made similarly incendiary statements.” As to attention to how Obama does not (at that time) wear a flag pin, a flustered Douglass countered:
I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama, but on this question, John McCain does not wear a flag pin. Hillary Clinton does not wear a flag pin. And yet questions about his patriotism come up all the time...
Douglass confirmed her new position when I walked up to the ninth floor, knocked on her door, and asked her about it. She informed National Journal President Suzanne Clark this morning of her impending departure. "I see this as a moment of transformational change in the country and I have spent my lifetime sitting on the sidelines watching people attempt to make change. I just decided that I can't sit on the sidelines anymore."“Over 34 years in journalism,” Douglass told Ambinder, “she grew disillusioned with the partisanship she saw first-hand.” So, now she's joining a partisan campaign?
Relying on a March report published by seven research companies and universities interested in more grants, “Broken Pipeline? Flat Funding of the NIH Puts a Generation of Science at Risk,” Couric asserted that “experts worry this small, elite army” of cancer scientists “is leaving the field in droves because government funding, which once allowed cancer research to flourish, is now drying up.” Seconds later, however, Couric reported that “between 1998 and 2003, Congress doubled the National Institutes of Health budget, allowing research to thrive,” but “since 2004, funding has flat lined.” So it has “flat lined” at a level double where it stood ten years ago.
“Tonight, gas and diesel hit another record,” anchor Charles Gibson teased his lead story, “people tell us they're sacrificing food, health, and their lifestyle just to fill the tank.” Dan Harris reported:
The pain is being felt all over the country. We here at ABC News are getting flooded with messages from people like Rosaria Giamei, who says, "I even stopped filling a much needed monthly prescription that costs $45 so I will have more money for gas." We found Rosaria in Massachusetts today fuming at the oil companies and bemoaning the changes she's had to make in her personal life.
Monday provided a great example of a network correspondent advancing Barack Obama's political cause by treating him as a victim of a nefarious GOP attack, thus allowing him to appear virtuous in his reply, an answer the other networks then highlighted to enhance the victimization theme. ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night showcased Obama's scolding of the Tennessee Republican Party for posting a video on You Tube contrasting Michelle Obama's February admission that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” with people declaring their pride in the U.S.
(As detailed, with video, in the earlier NewsBusters posting by Scott Whitlock, on Monday's Good Morning America ABC's Robin Roberts asked if he is “prepared” for “more and more” such attacks. Obama called the ad “low class” and ominously warned his opponents should “be careful” in making his wife an issue “because that I find unacceptable.”)
Monday night, ABC's David Wright reported that “Obama tried to subtract one potential issue from the general election -- his wife.” But without playing the February Michelle Obama soundbite to remind viewers what she said, Wright asserted “certain Republicans have already questioned her patriotism.” As if the concern is baseless. On CBS, Dean Reynolds played the February clip before relaying how Barack Obama “blasted a Republican Internet ad which uses a controversial statement she made about her husband's campaign to question her love of country.” Lee Cowan, on NBC, related Obama's “Rule Number One: lay off his family. When asked on ABC's Good Morning America about this Republican ad criticizing his wife for saying that 'this was the first time' that she'd been 'proud of her country,' he fired back.”
An early review is in for HBO's upcoming movie, Recount, about the Bush-Gore battle in Florida after 2000 election. Gillian Flynn in Entertainment Weekly, which like HBO is part of the Time-Warner family, has described the film, to premiere next Sunday night, as tilted against the Republican characters.
In her review in the May 23 edition of the magazine, Flynn asserted: “Recount may not be downright blue, but it's not as purply as it wants to appear.” Saying “Recount is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story,” Flynn reported that the “Republican players here are coolly calculating -- Tom Wilkinson's James Baker III, the Bush team quarterback -- or they teeter on the edge of madness, like Laura Dern's Katherine Harris.” In fact, in an interview elsewhere, the writer of the movie slammed Harris as “a fraud.” [Screen shot is of Dern as Harris]
Is Barack Obama merely something special, or is he truly extraordinary? Babington can't take a position on that. He's a professional reporter, after all, and has to maintain his detachment. But he does report that “without question, Obama is an electrifying speaker,” that “Obama has a compelling biography, too,” and that “for a politician with only four years of experience at the federal level, Obama also has spot-on instincts, associates say, and a steely confidence in his convictions, in good times and bad.”
Speaking truth to power Charles Babington isn't.
CBS's Dean Reynolds presumed Obama had caught McCain in a flip-flop: “Obama called McCain a hypocrite for backing Bush, and pointed to an earlier statement McCain had made about Hamas, which runs the Gaza strip.” After the “they're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” McCain soundbite, Reynolds reported that “today McCain clarified,” as if he had to adjust his earlier view. On NBC, Lee Cowan highlighted how “Obama pointed to this interview two years ago when the Arizona Senator seemed to hint that eventually talking with Hamas might well be a political necessity.” Following the clip, Cowan allowed: “McCain says, though, that quote was taken out of context.”
CBS anchor Katie Couric, referring to Bush and John McCain, cited “a two-pronged Republican attack today on Barack Obama on a key foreign policy matter.” Reporter Chip Reid saw a “Republican barrage” which “began in Jerusalem today where President Bush appeared to be taking aim at Barack Obama.” Reid soon passed along how “Obama, who has said he would meet with leaders of Iran, Syria, and Cuba, noted that Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and even Reagan also negotiated directly with America's enemies.” But Mikhail Gorbachev hadn't promised to nuke Israel.
Over on NBC, Brian Williams teased his lead story: “President Bush on the world stage delivers what was widely seen as an attack on Barack Obama.” Williams described it as “today's political shot heard 'round the world. The concussion was instantaneous. Upon hearing the news, one Democratic Senator used a word we can't use on this broadcast.” Reporter John Yang called it “the first salvo of this fall's general election campaign” and, with “THIS IS B******T” on screen, relayed how “Senator Joseph Biden characterized the President's words with a word we can't use.” Yang contended Bush's admonition “would also apply to Mr. Bush's former Secretary of State” who urged engagement with Hamas. But not a personal sit-down with the President of the United States.
ABC was so excited that its 6:30 PM feed of World News went live at about 6:40 PM to Grand Rapids, Michigan for 90 seconds of Obama introducing Edwards, compete with a Bruce Spingsteen song as Edwards bounded on stage. Gibson then acknowledged:
Timed for maximum exposure, timed to coincide with the evening newscasts, timed to give Barack Obama a needed boost after his bad defeat yesterday in West Virginia. George Stephanopoulos, this is the kind of publicity that you can't buy.
Indeed, no need to pay for it when ABC News is eager to give it to you for free.