ABC’s Barbara Walters showed the 13.2 million viewers who watched her Thursday, Dec. 4 “Ten Most Fascinating People” special that she can swallow pretty much anything but mainstream conservatism.
Walters gave cushy treatment to actors Will Smith, Frank Langella and Scientologist Tom Cruise, Olympian Michael Phelps, comedienne Tina Fey, embarrassingly photographed actress/singer Miley Cyrus, and pregnant "man" Thomas Beatie. She named liberal President-elect Barack Obama 2008’s most fascinating person (see Brent Baker's account), but went head to head against well-known conservative Rush Limbaugh, and ran repeated criticisms of former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
That's the conclusion that readers might make after examining Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Sexiest Movies Ever."
Of the 50 movies on the list, 42 center on unmarried adult relationships. Three of the relationships featured on the list occur between two women ("Kissing Jessica Stein," "Bound," and "Mulholland Drive"), one occurs between two men ("Yossi & Jagger") and one is a bisexual web of past and current relationships ("Basic Instinct").
Even though the votes have all been counted, NBC couldn't resist taking one last shot at GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on this morning's Today broadcast.
Last week, CMI released a study documenting the media's character assassination of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Analysts found that during a two-week period earlier this fall the media pushed three major narratives about Palin: that she was unqualified and unintelligent, that she's tearing apart the conservative movement and that she's little more than McCain's attack dog. All three networks reinforced the "unintelligent" theme by repeatedly playing clips from Saturday Night Live's skits ridiculing Palin, and embarrassing moments from Palin's interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric.
Reporter Savannah Guthrie virtually recapitulated CMI's study in a single news segment, rehashing all three narratives during her brief report on Palin's future in the Republican party.
Is it any wonder that polls revealed a 17 percent increase in Palin's unfavorability ratings in just one month?
After examining the TV news coverage of Palin from September 29 to October 12, CMI found that ABC, NBC and CBS news shows ran 69 stories about Palin. 2 stories were positive, 37 were negative and 30 were neutral. The 2 positive stories were a two-part interview with Palin's parents on the CBS Early Show. Not one of the major network evening news programs - ABC's World News, NBC's Nightly News, and CBS's Evening News - ran a single positive story about Palin.
ABC was hardest on Palin, as 60 percent of its stories on Palin were negative. NBC came in second, as 54 percent of its stories were negative. CBS also ran 54 percent negative stories, but also ran the only two positive stories (8 percent).
CMI found that the networks promoted three major narratives about Palin:
CNN promoted hate crimes legislation last Friday morning when it aired a video of singer Cyndi Lauper speaking about her hero, homosexual activist Cathy Nelson during the 11:00 hour of its Newsroom.
Using the hook of CNN's "Heroes" special scheduled to air Thanksgiving night, anchor Tony Harris introduced the video with "We've also asked some familiar faces to share the spotlight and introduce us to their heroes. Today, Grammy award winner Cyndi Lauper tells us about a human rights activist fighting for all Americans."
Of course, Lauper's hero is most concerned with one specific group of Americans: homosexuals.
The video featured Lauper saying such things as "hate crimes send terror through a community" and "you can die just because of who you are." Nelson added, "Lesbian and gay; bisexual and transgender equality is really the civil rights issue of this generation" and "what drives me is fighting for fairness and equality."
CMI Director Robert Knight appeared on Fox News Live on Friday morning to discuss the key role that character played in the presidential primary debates, a major finding from CMI's latest report, "‘Character,' the Most Important Issue in the Presidential Debate."
"Character was the big factor. A third of the questions were directed at trying to find out whether the candidates had leadership, honesty, integrity, and courage qualities. We were surprised at that. We were not surprised to find that the democrats faced twice the number of softball questions as did the Republicans."
As Culture and Media Institute Director Robert Knight has noted, the media are still presenting Obama campaign spin on the McCain sex ed ad as hard facts.
Last week the McCain campaign released an ad charging Senator Obama with supporting sex education for kindergarten children when he was an Illinois state senator.
According to the Obama campaign and the media the legislation in question "was written to protect young children from sexual predators."
That's a line that Obama himself used during last year's CNN/YouTube debate:
I've got a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old daughter. And I want them to know if somebody is doing something wrong to them, encroaching on their privacy, that they should come talk to me or my wife. And we've had that conversation, but not every parent is going to have that conversation with their child, and I think it's important that every child does, to make sure that they're not subject to the sexual predators (emphasis mine).
The only problem is that the goal of the bill wasn't to stop sexual predators, but to revamp the Illinois sex ed curriculum.
Just before 9:00 last night during CNN's Republican convention coverage, CNN political analyst David Gergen asserted that the liberal establishment "doesn't exist anymore," leading Republican strategist Alex Castellanos to poke back with, "I think if David Gergen thinks the liberal establishment does not exist anymore, I think he has become a part of it."
Gergen responded to Castellanos, "First of all, is there a liberal establishment in charge of Washington? I'm sorry. There has been another party that's basically been running Washington for the last eight years. If there has been a liberal establishment, it shrunk a lot and it's not right in Washington. That's a '70s concept, Alex."
The dust-up between Castellanos and Gergen occurred during an analysis of the 9/11 video shown last night in which Wolf Blitzer noted President George W. Bush's absence from the video and suggested the absence made the video more "political," leaving the door wide open for Gergen, who has served as an advisor to both Democratic and Republican White House administrations, to go after Republicans for their "selective memory" and to fret that the convention has "been so combative."
Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "The Reliable Source" and a media writer for the Washington Post, told Soledad O'Brien, host of CNN's "Newsroom," that McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt "way overstated" the media attacks levied against Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family.
O'Brien began the 2:40 PM EDT segment with clips of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Palin pushing back in the face of media bias at last night's convention proceedings. She noted:
Given that medley of complaints last night you would hardly imagine that Republicans have held the White House in almost 20 of the last 28 years, but they have. Even so, bashing the media has pretty much been the gift that just keeps giving for politicians of all parties, especially Republicans these days. It's been that way since Richard Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew lashed out at what he called the "nattering nabobs of negativism."
John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington Correspondent, admitted this morning "that people who talk about bias in the mainstream press, left of center bias, are not imagining things." He went on to explain, "It has to do with the kind of people who go into journalism, okay? So I'm not arguing with that general notion. I think that those of us in journalism have to do our best to try to present the most objective view we can of what we have, but everybody brings their own filter into it."
Harwood's admission of liberal bias in the media came out during a discussion about the Republican Convention with "Squawk Box" host Joe Kernan at about 6:14am EDT on Wednesday. Kernan pointed out a bit of bias he observed in CNN's coverage of the convention last night when Wolf Blitzer stated "We want you to see, to get a feeling for what it's like to be here whether you agree with what they're saying or not." Kernan pointed out that Blitzer did not say that during the Democratic Convention last week.
CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips used a report on the "hometown reaction" to the news of Sarah Palin's pregnant teenaged daughter during today's "American Morning" to highlight the need for sex-education in schools. Phillips noted, "But to some, the 17-year-old's pregnancy is a political issue. Her mother supports strong family values and teaching abstinence, but not sex education in schools. Abortion rights activists say they won't comment on Bristol's case, but it does underscore the need for teaching teenagers about sex."
After a positive sound bite from Barack Obama and another from a Republican Alaskan state senator, Phillips allowed the anti-abstinence bias to shine through.
When asked by Phillips, "why not support abstinence-only?" Geran Tarr of the Alliance for Reproductive Justice stated, "It doesn't educate teenagers about how to prevent STD transmission." No proponents of abstinence-only education appeared during the segment to counter Tarr's claim and Phillips herself failed to challenge Tarr on his assertion. Instead, Phillips again stressed the need for sex education by stating, "Alaska has one of the highest teenage rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the country although the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped sharply."
It's Day 4 of the Democratic convention and MSNBC just can't get over the lack of "red meat" thrown to the party faithful. Commentator Pat Buchanan raised the issue during the 7:00 hour of this morning's "Morning Joe" while critiquing Bill Clinton's convention speech, noting that John McCain and the Republicans "skated free for this convention" and calling the current crop of Democrats "a yuppified party" when compared to Democrats in the past. Host Joe Scarborough continued the red meat theme into the 8:00 hour when he stated "We've been critical this week of the Democrats, Buchanan and I, because we're mean-spirited Republicans saying that the Democrats needed to go more aggressively against George Bush's eight years of failure, tying McCain to Bush."
Scarborough provided a deli-menu's worth of meat to any Democrats watching that could be used against Republicans in general and John McCain specifically. He bragged, "in ten seconds I could write a speech and say, what do you say about a party that comes to Washington, takes it over, promises to balance the budget and turns Bill Clinton's $150 billion surplus into a $500 billion debt? What do you say about a party that says they are going to fight for our children when in fact they are bankrupting the American dream?"
According to the New York Times, pro-life Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, Jr. spoke last night at the Democratic convention to “reach out to religious voters and anti-abortion Democrats and independents.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews noted prior to Casey’s speech that it was part of the Democratic party strategy to “build a coalition, largely of pro-choice people, but with some, a few, pro-lifers, in order to win 60 seats in the U.S. Senate.” Former Clinton advisor Paul Begala told CNN that Casey speaking at the convention was “an example of Senator Obama’s ability to find common ground.” CNN’s Gloria Borger stated, “Having Senator Casey up there, who disagrees with Barack Obama on the issue of abortion, who will talk about it and talk about how they disagree, but how he respects Obama and the way he handles this issue, it's something that they hope Catholic voters will be listening to.”
The only problem was that Casey didn’t “reach out” to pro-life voters. He simply acknowledged his and Obama’s differing views on abortion in the following statement: “Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I'm speaking here is testament to Barack's ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him.” That’s the only mention of abortion that appeared during the seven minute speech."
Pay close attention to Joe Biden's words tonight. During an appearance on this morning's "Morning Joe" Bill Adair, Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times and editor of politifact.com, implied that Barack Obama's running mate is not always truthful. Adair told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that "from a fact-checker's standpoint, we should be grateful to Joe Biden" because he is "full employment for fact checkers."
Brzezinski asked Adair about "the most outrageous statement" by Biden and Adair pointed to Biden's soundbite in which he says John McCain votes with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time. He discredited it, along with a charge from Hillary Clinton's speech last night about John McCain desire to privatize social security, "I thought, well, in terms of Biden, the 95% is just something where you've got to understand that that's sort of the worse case scenario. He's cherry picking. 95% was last year. Last night one of the things that Senator Clinton said that we'll hear a lot is John McCain wants to privatize social security. We heard it from several of the other speakers last night. You know, that's a real exaggeration. McCain is actually really vague and fuzzy on social security."
Biden's "95 percent of the time" charge may be the "worst-case scenario" but the fact remains that people should pay close attention to what Biden says tonight.
During Monday’s convention coverage, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin fretted that the Democrats weren’t doing enough Bush-bashing. Tuesday afternoon, CNN aired two segments during the 1:00 hour of CNN’s Newsroom in which they promoted Democrat fears that Virginia Senate candidate Mark Warner “won’t go for the jugular” in his speech tonight.
White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux highlighted the split between Hillary Clinton supporters and Barack Obama supporters in the first segment. She stated, “A lot of the Clinton camp want that kind of attack dog, want that red meat to be thrown to the delegates. They're ready -- they're ready for that fight. The Obama folks, a little bit more laid back about it, saying, look, you know, we're reaching across the aisle. We want to reach out to the independents and some of the Republicans. A little less, though, of that red meat style.”
In the second segment congressional correspondent Dana Bash labeled the Democratic former Virginia governor a “moderate” and “more socially conservative” and drew parallels between his keynote address and that of Obama’s in 2004 before she noted “there's a little bit of concern about the fact that he's not going to be -- sort of go for the jugular the way that many Democrats are hoping that they really step up here at this convention here in Denver.”
During MSNBC's convention coverage on Monday night, Bill Maher explained to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann that American politics "seem to be getting worse because, sorry to say it, people get stupider and stupider every election cycle."
Maher's evidence of Americans' stupidity is found in the fact that "they think off-shore drilling is gonna lower the price of gas and they think Obama, the black guy from the single mother, somehow is the elitist."
Matthews and Olbermann didn't blink at Maher's characterization of Americans but simply provided the perfect set-up for Republican mockery by asking him who the Republicans will run as vice-president and who he wanted to win "for just comedic purposes."
Linda Douglass, the former ABC News reporter and current senior advisor to the Obama campaign, lashed out at John McCain and Mitt Romney by labeling them “extremely conservative on social issues” in an interview on Saturday’s “Morning Joe.” Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski failed to point out that liberals like Obama can be extreme in their views on social issues, too.
After Douglass repeatedly played up the foreign policy experience of Obama’s chosen running mate Sen. Joe Biden, Brzezinski asked Douglass about Biden’s experience in dealing with economic issues, especially if Romney, known for being well-versed in economic issues were to become McCain’s running mate. Douglass touted Biden’s experience with economic policy before inexplicably twisting her answer to include abortion.
Washington Post Style TV columnist Tom Shales blames the FCC because tonight's premiere of CBS's "Swingtown" doesn't show enough skin to suit him.
"Swingtown," a drama set in the free-loving, drug-hazed summer of 1976, lacks the "kind of intimacy and even eroticism that is common on HBO," Shales complains.
In his June 5 review he writes:
It's conceivable that ‘Swingtown' will prompt complaints to the FCC about its relatively explicit sexual depictions. But there's no nudity, and that seems to be the thing that gets those FCC commissioners' panties in a bunch. Perhaps soon, the bureaucratic busybodies will steal away into the night and television will be relieved of what has been an ineffective and hypocritical anti-smut crusade.
Apparently it never occurred to Shales that the reason there's no nudity on this show is because the FCC's "anti-smut campaign" has in fact, been effective in keeping at least that largely off the broadcast networks.
Is it possible to discuss teen birth rates without attacking abstinence-only education? Apparently not for NBC's Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
During a May 28 "Today" show discussion of high schools providing birth control to teens without parental notification, Snyderman cast doubt on abstinence-only education, saying, "I don't think there's any healthcare professional who says [abstinence education] is the magic bullet and it's really working."
School-provided birth control is a hot topic again due to the rising number of teenage pregnancies at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts. Pregnancies at Gloucester High soared from 4 to 17 in one year, spurring some school health officials to propose offering free birth control to students without parental notification. Dr. Brian Orr, the school's clinic director, resigned last week after the Addison Gilbert Hospital, which funds the clinic, opposed the idea.
Host Meredith Vieira gave Snyderman a second opportunity to bash abstinence when she asked "Teen pregnancy is up for the first time in 15 years, why is that?" Snyderman responded:
A practical joke on last night's "Boston Legal" had mad cow disease-afflicted lawyer Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) believing the RNC wanted him as the presidential nominee.
And it left "Boston Legal" writers with plenty of opportunities to slam Republicans, like this exchange that suggests former Republican President Ronald Reagan had mad cow disease instead of Alzheimer's:
ALAN SHORE: Do they know you have mad cow?
DENNY CRANE: They're looking for the next Ronald Reagan, and he had it at the very end.
At some points in last night's interview with Barbara Walters, ABC's Charles Gibson forgot he was a hard hitting journalist and decided to simply engage in girl talk.
While discussing the beginning of Walters's career, Gibson revealed that she got her first job because of her legs and she slept with her first boss at NBC, which apparently was okay because she "already had the job." Gibson also showed the prevailing attitudes once taken toward women in newsrooms by highlighting a segment she did on the Playboy Club for "The Today Show."
Gibson could have easily asked Walters about the impact these experiences had on her life, but instead he settled for a gab session that could have been taken from a "Sex and the City" script (albeit the sanitized version airing on TBS). All that was missing were the Manolo Blahnik references and a table full of cosmos.
His follow up question to the "sleeping with the boss" revelation was, "why did you tell us that?" which Walters deflected by asking Gibson, "Why did I tell you half the things I told you in this book? I don't know."
"Sex sells" probably wouldn't have been a proper answer, even it if might contain a grain of truth.
CosmoGirl! magazine is a great resource to find out which lip gloss looks best with your prom dress, but it fails miserably as a religious guide. In the May 2008 article "Religion by Design," author Marina Khidekel does not give any indication that she understands the essence of religion: the acknowledgement of a Being greater than the individual, the community, and any earthly concern, who revealed His will to humanity in holy books.
Instead, Khidekel reduces religion to personal preference, endorsing the phenomenon of teens moving away from the organized religion of their families and creating their own belief systems by picking bits from various religions and philosophies, whatever makes them feel good.
Dubbed "Starbucks spirituality," these mix-and-match beliefs could contain "a shot of Catholicism, a sprinkle of Buddhism, a pinch of Hindu teachings – or whatever else [teens] are in the mood for that day."
Are Americans dumber than we used to be? Susan Jacoby thinks so, and continually uses conservatives as her illustrations.
The "dumbing down" of American culture, as evidenced by America’s obsession with reality television and the barrage of celebrity "news" coverage, is a worthy topic of discussion. But it’s hard to have a reasoned discussion with an author who is contributing to the problem by gratuitously bashing conservatives and religious believers.
NBC’s Matt Lauer sat down with Jacoby to discuss her book, The Age of American Unreason, during the February 19 broadcast of the Today Show, and asked her about the role the media play in "dumbing down" Americans. Jacoby responded:
Dumbness is us. Yes I think the media has a lot to do with it. It’s not an original observation. This is the first time we've been able to have 24/7 entertainment coming into our ears if we want it. But just as politicians will say to voters, you were lied to, rather than -- the more fundamental question is why did we let ourselves be so stupid that we're so easy targets for lies?
Many people assume the Dear Abby column, which runs in 1400 newspapers worldwide and reaches 110 million people each day, is a trustworthy source of traditional advice on all topics.
However, a Culture and Media Institute analysis of Dear Abby's columns from 2007 reveal a different story. Thirty percent of Abby's columns in 2007 addressed sex and in more than half of those, she rejects traditional sexual morality.
As many as 20 million of Abby's readers are under the age of 18. Millions of young men and women are forming their views on sex and relationships under the influence of an advice columnist who is advancing anything but traditional values.
Editors at CosmoGirlwould do well to remember that when they point at somebody else, three fingers are pointing back at them.
The popular teen magazinetackled the question "What is Sexy?" in the March 2008 issue, bemoaning the increased amount of sexual imagery being thrown at young girls but failing to acknowledge its own contribution to the problem.
Writer Marina Khidekel pointed out that girls are exposed to sexual imagery at younger ages than ever before, citing the popular Bratz dolls and the fact that "stores such as Limited Too sell lingerie like push-up bras and skimpy low-rise underwear for pre-teens."
Khidekel also rightly lamented that TV shows "with smart female lead characters (like "Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars")are being cancelled, while shows that survive (like "America's Top Model" and "The Hills") focus mainly on girls' appearance and hookups." When girls are bombarded with the message that appearance is the only thing that matters, Khidekel notes, they start to feel that it's their "sexual power - not [their] talent, brains or ambition - that counts most."
Really, it's not sexual power that counts the most? Because that's the opposite message portrayed by the rest of the issue.
Ordinarily there wouldn't be a link between an awards ceremony and the anniversary of legally sanctioned abortion. But this was before "Juno."
Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which gave women access to legal abortions. This morning the Academy Award nominees were also announced, and "Juno," a movie in which a teenage girl chooses adoption over abortion, scored nominations for Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture.
According to CosmoGirl magazine, it means perpetuating the myths that women cannot think for themselves, that they are simply victims, and that women who stay home to raise their children are "playing Russian roulette with their future."
Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake, believes "feminism is suffering from a major image crisis." Her column in the current issue of CosmoGirl tries to rally young women back to the feminist movement.
CosmoGirl, the little sister of the raunchy Cosmopolitan magazine, reportedly reaches 1.35 million readers. Its target audience is 16- to 20-year-old young women.
Bennetts is appalled that many of today's young women prefer the mommy track to the corporate ladder: "Instead of continuing to fight for equality and their own careers, many want to stay home and raise kids. In fact, a 2005 survey of female students at Yale University found that the majority planned to give up their careers and stay home after they had kids."
Nobody would expect a balanced piece from someone who refers to a woman's choice to stay home and focus on her family as a "mistake," but the article should have been better argued. It's full of tired, easily debunked claims.
For example, Bennetts cites Jacquelyn White, a gender psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who says, "Many girls today don't know there are still barriers for women; for instance, we only make 75 cents to the man's dollar."
What will it take for film critics to be satisfied with movies about young, unmarried pregnant women?
For most, a clever script and outstanding performances will suffice, but not so for Lisa Schwarzbaum, a film critic for Entertainment Weekly. It must also carry a weighty discussion on the "hard-won, precious rights" to choose.
"Juno,"the latest film about an unintended pregnancy carried to term, opens nationwide December 14. The movie reportedly depicts Juno, the pregnant 16-year-old lead character, deciding to place her baby for adoption after a chance encounter with a pro-life protester at an abortion clinic.
Schwarzbaum said in her review of the film, "The old-school feminist in me wishes ‘Juno'spent more time, even a tart sentence or two, acknowledging that the options taken for granted by this one attractive, articulate teen are in fact hard-won, precious rights, and need to be guarded by a new-generation army of Junos and Bleekers, spreading the word by text message as well as by hamburger phone."
Nearing the end of 2007 can only mean one thing: it’s time for lists. The Most Inspirational, The Sexiest, and The Most Fascinating. Lists of Fill-In-The-Blank People of the Year are starting to hit airwaves and newsstands.
Glamour magazine is out of the gate with its “Women of the Year” profiles featured in the December issue. It’s not a surprise that not one strong conservative woman is featured. Thankfully however, neither are Senator Hillary Clinton or Rosie O’Donnell. And though both were left off the list the liberal tilt is clearly evident.
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is lauded as “The Role Model” for her boldness in continuing to live her life in the face of cancer and for her devotion to her family.
But Edwards is not the only wife of a presidential candidate who is facing health issues. Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 and is also extremely devoted to her family in addition to helping better the lives of at-risk youth. Yet Romney wasn’t chosen as a “Role Model.” Is it because her husband is a Republican candidate?