Ever since George W. Bush was elected in 2000, the left-wing media have developed a taste to expose episodes of media corruption. No, not their corruption. Conservative media corruption.
The liberal media made loud grunts and noises over columnist Armstrong Williams, who didn’t tell readers of his column that he had a public-relations contract with the Department of Education to sell the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. If a columnist is working for a government program or entity, it’s always best to disclose to readers your involvement, so they can judge your point of view more fully.
The latest example arrived with columnist Doug Bandow’s inexcusable back-door acceptance of cash from Jack Abramoff for columns promoting his clients’ interests. Williams and Bandow both could argue they were only promoting conservative causes they would support anyway. But the exposures of what they wouldn’t disclose had the opposite effect. It emits the odor of corruption. It made them look like they were primarily advancing conservative issues through columns because there was personal profit involved.
The year 2005 is ending as it began, with another successful election in Iraq and a liberal media still flapping around trying to find other controversies to submerge it. It does not matter to them that a Gallup poll found that 74 percent of Americans express confidence in their military, but only 28 percent express confidence in their newspapers or TV news outlets. The “mainstream” media excels in excoriating the performance of nearly everyone else, but acts as if nothing they do should be held up as ineffective, inaccurate, or just plain absurd.
That’s why the Media Research Center and a panel of more than 50 judges have compiled an annual “Best Notable Quotables,” a collection of the media’s greatest stinkers in the past 12 months. The utterances speak volumes about our supposedly ideologically detached press corps.
They call the magazine “Newsweek,” but in today’s 24-hour news cycle, a weekly magazine that is seen as a recycler of old news is courting a death wish. To avoid this, Newsweek gives us haughty pieces of attitude, not only in the cover stories, but on the cover itself. Remember the cover on Iraq with the words “Bush’s $87 Billion Mess”?
This week’s edition is the latest in a series of let-‘er-rip Bush-bashing covers. It pictures President Bush floating encapsulated in a bubble with the headline “Bush’s World. The Isolated President: Can He Change?” The headline on the cover story inside is “Bush In A Bubble.” They worry that Bush is possibly “the most isolated president in modern history.”
Brian Williams has wrapped up his first year anchoring the “NBC Nightly News,” and he is presenting himself as this year’s new face of the TV news kingdom. He’s a knight on a white horse raging against poverty and indifference, especially in the poorer sections of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. He believes the issues of race, class, oil, war, and the environment make Katrina the “monumental story of modern times.”
The NBC anchor shared his thoughts with Howard Kurtz on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Kurtz asked the obvious question: Has Williams become a crusader? “I don’t think so,” said Williams. But, wait, Kurtz pointed out, you signed off the other night in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans saying “This is a neighborhood that’s been left to die.” Kurtz suggested the anchor’s message “is government is not doing enough,” to which Williams responded, “I’ll let others reach those kinds of sweeping conclusions.”
It’s easy to get sentimental when long-standing TV personalities bow out of the shows that made them a household name, whether it’s an entertainer like Johnny Carson or a news man like Ted Koppel, who just pulled the curtain on a 26-year career as host of ABC’s “Nightline.” His timing seemed perfect: after the retirement of Tom Brokaw, the self-immolation of Dan Rather, and the cancer death of Peter Jennings, the loss of Koppel’s nightly presence drew on fond memories of the so-called glory days of TV news. An era is finished.
Koppel is especially beloved in journalism circles as a symbol and a spokesman for substance in TV news. Saying goodbye on “Good Morning America,” Koppel declared, “I think the mission statement would be that our responsibility is to tell people what's important, not to stick our finger up in the air and test the winds to see what the public thinks is, is important.”
There are times when you watch the TV news that you wonder if the 2004 election is over yet. All the arguments that the Kerry campaign tried to use against George W. Bush on the war in Iraq and the war on terror are still being pounded. It’s as if the liberal Democrat-media complex still can’t get over the fact that Kerry lost, and can’t accept that perhaps the election returns meant that the public endorsed Bush’s record of defending the country.
The dominant theme of recent news coverage remains the MoveOn bumpersticker echo that Bush lied his way into war in Iraq. Howard Dean goes on “Meet the Press” to chant “corrupt and incompetent, corrupt and incompetent” to describe the Bush White House, which he says lied about Iraq and “has a fundamental problem telling the truth.” Dean should first try to get through ten minutes on TV without unloading a whopper – like falsely accusing the chairman of the Maryland GOP of smearing him – before he lectures others about truth-telling.
After the debacle nominating his old personal lawyer Harriet Miers to the Court, President Bush has chosen Judge Samuel Alito, a leading light among conservative legal thinkers. The operative question now is: will this be “Armageddon,” as some political analysts claim, the most knock-down, drag-out, knee-to-the-groin, multi-million-dollar alley fight in modern confirmation politics? Or will it be peaceful, more decorous, like the hearings and vote for Chief Justice John Roberts?
Liberals and Democrats have insisted that unless Bush’s choice was soothingly squishy and moderate, there would be war. But that didn’t happen with Roberts, and it might not happen with Alito, perhaps because early polls showed Alito’s nomination was greeted favorably by the people. But that’s quite a contrast with the picture being drawn by the press. Let’s review some of the tactics the media already have employed:
Conservatives are rolling their eyes watching the political left’s outrage over the Valerie Plame identity controversy, wondering when it was exactly that liberals suddenly became the super patriots defending the virtues of the CIA. For a half-century the American political left has done everything in its power to undermine the national security of this country. Now we are to believe, as they wring their hands in agony and outrage – outrage, I say! – over Ms. Plame’s outing, that they…care? This goes beyond rank hypocrisy. It is intellectual dishonesty.
Let’s visit the left’s record on national security matters. History is not kind. Where was the left when the Rosenbergs, communists both, fed our nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union? Both were deep-fried for the treason they’d committed. Liberals tut-tutted then and tut-tut now, and don’t tell me there aren’t hardened leftists who favored giving nuclear weapons to the Soviets to thwart what they considered America’s imperial ambitions. What of Alger Hiss, another Soviet spy who also committed treason against his country? To this day he remains a darling of the political left. Up until the moment he died he was the left’s poster child for American national security oppression.
The news media insist that what conservatives don’t like about their reporting is the unpleasant truths they uncover. If that’s true, how do they explain their fixation on the reporting of unpleasantries which have yet to occur?
Monday morning, October 24, began with great conjuring of clouds and thunder claps about all the bad news about to land on President Bush. The gloom over the breakfast table was impenetrable, perhaps because the soothsayers all had partisan backgrounds. NBC brought on Tim Russert, former Democratic aide (Cuomo and Moynihan). ABC invited George Stephanopoulos, former Democratic aide (the Clintons). CBS offered Amy Walter, former Democratic aide (campaign manager for Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies- Mezvinsky in 1994 – the year she was defeated).
On Saturday, millions of Iraqis walked with determination to the polls to vote for a new constitution. The turnout was high. The violence was down dramatically from the triumphant elections of January. But the network found all this boring. On the night before the historic vote, ABC led with bird-flu panic. CBS imagined Karl Rove in a prison jumpsuit. NBC hyped inflation.
They say that news is a man-bites-dog story. In the Middle East, how common is a constitutional referendum? Have they had one in Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Syria? Jordan? Until the last few years, the phrase "Arab constitutional democracy" sounded like a pipe dream or an oxymoron. But today the reporters can only kvetch. NBC’s Richard Engel growled online that the new constitution was "a deeply flawed document, peppered with religious slogans, and leaves plenty of room for Shiites and Kurds to govern themselves." Engel says Iraqis disagree on the constitution, but "with the daily pressures of the insurgency, power cuts and lawlessness, there might not be enough time to start over before this country and the people lose hope -- along with many of their lives."
One year after the credibility of CBS News collapsed over their use of fake memos against George W. Bush, lame attempts to rehabilitate CBS seem to be everywhere. Dan Rather is now telling anyone who will listen that after defending the report, then apologizing for it, he now thinks it’s true again. Al Gore is suggesting Rather was demoted because the all-powerful White House was angry. At a ceremony for the news and documentary Emmy awards, ABC’s Ted Koppel and MSNBC boss Rick Kaplan scrambled like the King’s men reassembling Humpty Dumpty. But the eggy mess remains.
In his tribute to Rather, Koppel proclaimed: "Those of us who know you, Dan, those of us who have competed against you, know you to be a man of honesty and integrity and decency." It would have been a great line – for a roast. But nobody laughed, because Ted was dead serious at this liberal media gathering. Koppel acknowledged weakly that "it appears" Rather "made a mistake" on that National Guard report. "I would simply urge your most vociferous critics to take a page from the White House's own playbook. When one of their own a makes a mistake, they stress the importance of looking to the future and of not playing the blame game."
[Brent Baker posted this item on behalf of MRC President Brent Bozell to provide for a discussion on his blog page about his TV appearance.] On Tuesday's NewsNight, CNN anchor Aaron Brown set up an interview with Bozell by complaining that “we were called a 'race-baiter' by a conservative media Web site. Needless to say, we don't agree, which made our conversation with the piece's author, Brent Bozell, that much more interesting tonight.” Brown pleaded to Bozell: “Why do you call me, little old innocent me, you know, why do you call me a 'race-baiter' for asking the question [clip from an earlier show]: 'Do you think black America is sitting there thinking, “If these were middle class white people, there'd be cruise ships in New Orleans, not the Superdome”?"
In fact, the “race-baiter” formulation did not appear in Bozell's column, but was in a September 3 NewsBusters headline: “Race-Baiting by Blitzer and Brown; Race Raised by Williams and Koppel.”
Excerpts from the previous NewsBusters item and Bozell's column with which Brown took exception, plus a transcript of the September 13 CNN interview follow.
A major news event follows a very routine pattern. First, we get the hard news phase, where reporters relate the unfolding dramatic facts. In the second phase, those same reporters become analysts, commentators passing moral and political judgment on the story. By its nature, the first phase tends to be devoid of bias. But the second phase often comes loaded with politicized gotchas and predictable liberal editorializing.
Hurricane Katrina and its flooding aftermath in New Orleans is a good example. No one can fault reporters’ emotional statements as they eyewitness the tragedy. Nor is it inappropriate for them to ask the tough questions about the government’s – local, state and federal – wholly inadequate preparation and response. But viewers should be tiring of the Monday morning grandstanding, particularly the rush to judgment when so many facts are still as murky as the standing water in New Orleans.
Remember this the next time ABC toots its own horn as a defender of free speech. Michael Graham, a popular talk-radio host on ABC-owned WMAL in Washington, DC, publicly declared that "Islam is a terror organization." Under pressure from a radical Islamic group, ABC fired him.
Left alone as a sentence, Graham’s charge is a wild overgeneralization. But he didn’t utter a sentence. He delivered an entire series of oral essays over a four-day period exploring the point.
Graham plainly stated in print and on the air that he had "great sympathy for Muslims of good will who want their faith to be a true ‘religion of peace.’ I believe that terrorism and murder do violate the sensibilities and inherent decency of the vast majority of the world's Muslims." But his main point was unquestionably clear and disturbing: millions of Muslims refuse to condemn terrorists in their midst and tell pollsters that suicide bombings and other acts of terror are defensible.