Journalists Jealous Cheney Went to FNC, Take Shots at Integrity of FNC & Brit Hume

Admitting he hadn’t seen the interview, at about 4:15pm EST Wednesday on CNN’s The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty charged that “it didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the Vice President to wander over there to the F-word network for a sit-down with Brit Hume. I mean, that's a little like Bonnie interviewing Clyde, ain't it?” Cafferty soon called FNC a “safe haven” for Dick Cheney and predicted “he's not going to get any high hard ones from anybody at the F-word network." CNN colleague Lou Dobbs opened his show by complaining: “Vice President Cheney finally talking about his shooting accident, but to only one news organization. Is that full disclosure or is it blatant news management?" Guest Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News called it “ridiculous” for Cheney to give “one interview to his favorite network.”And later, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann castigated Cheney for choosing the “more malleable cameras of Fox News" in place of a press conference.

Over on the broadcast network evening newscasts, NBC’s David Gregory, the most aggressive reporter in the White House press briefings, fired back at Hume, suggesting either Hume had an anti-White House press corps axe to grind or at least that Cheney chose him because of that opinion: "Speaking out for the first time, the Vice President chose to speak with Fox anchor Brit Hume, a former White House correspondent, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the White House press corps' coverage of this story." On the CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Axelrod characterized FNC as a “friendly” venue: "The Vice President chose to make his first public comments on Fox News Channel's Special Report, a broadcast Mr. Cheney sees as friendly, and has turned to before.” One doubts reporters presumed Vice President Al Gore was going to friendly media when he sat down with ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN. (Fuller transcripts follow.)

Axelrod also described Karl Rove as “President Bush's political enforcer” and asserted that “one Republican insider” claimed that in the hunting accident case “secrecy” had come to look “like conspiracy.”

On ABC’s World News Tonight, co-anchor Diane Sawyer revealed what animated the ABC News staff during the day: "You know, Elizabeth, listening to George [Stephanopoulos], I'm thinking of our conversation in the newsroom today about President Bush and his own hunting mishap."

Hiding FNC: Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, only the NBC Nightly News showed their Cheney/Hume clips in full frame -- with the bottom left corner FNC logo displayed as well as the text and labeling across the bottom of the screen. Those who watched ABC’s World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News saw a zoomed-in blurry version of Cheney so ABC and CBS could eliminate the FNC logo, though both put “Fox News Channel” in small text in the top right of their screens. NBC version to right, ABC and CBS displays below in transcripts of those newscasts.

Some partial and full transcripts for the Wednesday afternoon, February 15 coverage of Cheney’s decision to sit for an interview, in his office, with FNC’s Brit Hume, a session taped at 2pm EST and which aired on the 6pm EST Special Report with Brit Hume. FoxNews.com has posted video and a transcript which show Hume covered every question you could expect a journalist to pose.

# CNN’s The Situation Room at about 4:15pm EST, as caught by the MRC’s Megan McCormack:
Wolf Blitzer, in DC: “What did you make of Dick Cheney’s interview today?”

Jack Cafferty, from New York City: "Well, I obviously didn't see it cause it hasn't been released in its entirety yet. But I, I would guess it didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the Vice President to wander over there to the F-word network for a sit-down with Brit Hume. I mean, that's a little like Bonnie interviewing Clyde, ain't it? I mean, where was the news conference? Where was the, where was the access to all of the members of the media? I, I don't know, you know. Whatever."

Wolf Blitzer: "You still think he needs to do a full-scale news conference in front of all the cameras, all the reporters and ask whatever they want?"

Cafferty: "That's never going to happen. I, but I mean running over there to the Fox network to, I mean, that's, talk about seeking a safe haven. He's not going to get any high hard ones from anybody at the F-word network. I think we know that."

# CNN’s 6pm EST Lou Dobbs Tonight

Lou Dobbs opened: “Tonight, Vice President Cheney finally talking about his shooting accident, but to only one news organization. Is that full disclosure or is it blatant news management?”

Dobbs refused to say “Fox News Channel” as he quipped: “Vice President Cheney chose to break his silence, not with the press conference or before the White House press corps, but in a one-on-one interview with a news organization whose location and identity we can't disclose tonight.”

In a mid-show guest segment, Michael Goodwin, the former Executive Editor of the New York Daily News, who is now a columnist, scolded: “I do think that the Vice President has acted foolishly here. I think that putting it out the way he did. And then acting today even, just giving one interview to his favorite network, I think is ridiculous.”
# MSNBC’s Countdown. Keith Olbermann opened, over a "Friendly Fire" graphic, by taking a shot at FNC:

“Good evening. The Vice President of the United States has accepted responsibility for the accidental shooting of a Texas attorney during a quail hunt. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Just 95 hours and 10 minutes after it happened. Not in a news conference nor in a written statement nor to a panel of interviewers from a variety of news organizations, but rather before the more malleable cameras of Fox News. Conducted this afternoon in Washington, D.C. and already in the immediate aftermath presenting several discrepancies about when the condition of the victim, Harry Whittington, could be safely established, about who decided to keep it quiet until morning and why, about whether Mr. Whittington was Mr. Cheney’s ‘friend,,’ his ‘good friend’ or just an ‘acquaintance’ of thirty years. The Vice President answered each of those three ways. I have those discrepancies, whether the Vice President's account holds water with gun and hunting experts and the analysis of John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal."


# ABC’s World News Tonight. Co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas led:

"Good evening. It was a different side of Dick Cheney we saw today when he spoke about the shooting accident that wounded his friend and brought unwelcome attention on his office. Cheney has received a lot of criticism for not telling the public about the incident earlier. Even many of his supporters have been perplexed by his silence. They say it's made this story bigger than it otherwise would have been. Tonight, the Vice President has taken back some of the control by speaking out. And we begin with our chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz. Martha?"

Following the Raddatz piece on the FNC interview and some q&a with George Stephanopoulos about whether Cheney succeeded in capping the story (probably), co-anchor Diane Sawyer revealed what animated the ABC News staff during the day:
"You know, Elizabeth, listening to George, I'm thinking of our conversation in the newsroom today about President Bush and his own hunting mishap."

Vargas: "That's right. He wrote about it in his autobiography in 1994. He shot a rare bird by accident on a hunting trip of his own. He says he didn't know what to do, but then decided to tell every single reporter who was accompanying him on that hunting trip. So, at least in that respect, you saw a very different way, a different version of how to handle this kind of crisis."

Sawyer: "Right, different incident but sharp contrast in the way it was handled."


# CBS Evening News. Anchor Bob Schieffer opened his newscast, as tracked by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
"Well, he called it one of the worst days of his life. That is how the Vice President described the day he fired his shotgun and then watched in horror as his friend fell to the ground. After four days of silence, the Vice President finally spoke publicly about the hunting accident that left his friend, Harry Whittington, wounded and still in the hospital. Cheney's comments came in an interview with Brit Hume of Fox News. Jim Axelrod is at the White House tonight with our report, and he has some follow-up. Jim?"

Jim Axelrod began: "Well, Bob, CBS News has learned that it was President Bush's political enforcer, Karl Rove, who finally got the Vice President to speak publicly about his hunting accident. And Rove pushed Mr. Cheney hard, worried that the story was moving from distraction to political problem."

Cheney, on FNC: "It was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

Axelrod: "The Vice President chose to make his first public comments on Fox News Channel's Special Report, a broadcast Mr. Cheney sees as friendly, and has turned to before. For a tough guy, not known for emotion, Dick Cheney looked somber and shaken."

Cheney: "The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life."

Axelrod: "Four days later, most of the questions lingering concern why and when a private citizen, ranch owner Ann Armstrong, made the news public the Vice President of the United States had shot someone. Mr. Cheney was adamant today it was handled appropriately."

Cheney: "I thought that was the right call."

Brit Hume, Fox News Channel, to Cheney: "What do you think now?"

Cheney: "Well, I still do. I still think that the accuracy was enormously important. I had no press person with me. I didn't have any press people with me. I was there on a private weekend with friends on a private ranch."

Axelrod: "The hope among Republicans is the interview will finally tamp down the story. GOP pressure was mounting on Mr. Cheney to say something. When secrecy looks like conspiracy, one Republican insider told CBS News, that's a political problem."

Unidentified man: "He's doing extremely well."

Axelrod: "In Texas, doctors had good news today about Harry Whittington, the man Cheney accidentally shot. His heart is now beating normally again. He's making good progress four days after the accident."

Hume: "So did you run over to him or-?"

Cheney: "Ran over to him, and-"

Hume: "And what did you see? He was lying there?"

Cheney: "He was laying there on his back, obviously, bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him."

Axelrod: "Among the details provided in the interview, alcohol. The Vice President says he had one beer, it was at lunch, and that was several hours before the hunting accident. Not an issue, says the Vice President. Bob?"

Schieffer: "Well, Jim, I know you said that Karl Rove was the one that convinced the Vice President to do this. I sort of go back to the days of Lyndon Johnson, and kind of imagine what he might have done had poor Vice President Humphrey gotten involved in something like this. Is there any evidence that the President himself got into this or talked to the Vice President about it?"

Axelrod: "Well, Bob, the history of these two men, of course, is that the President has allowed the Vice President to operate with a great deal of autonomy. Nothing to suggest that that changed, but, clearly, the President's most senior aides did get to the Vice President, delivered this news that the political damage was being done, and, clearly, that changed the calculus."

Bob Schieffer: "I want to turn now to Gloria Borger, who broke the story last night of how the way all this was handled has created a real divide between the President's people and the Vice President's staff. Gloria, we heard the Vice President describe this as one of the worst moments in his life. How is he holding up? He, after all, is not in the greatest of health."

Gloria Borger: "Well, Bob, one source who's very close to the Vice President told CBS News today that Dick Cheney has been in what he calls a 'state of meltdown' over this hunting accident. And another top White House aide also told CBS, quote, 'You can't imagine how upset the Vice President is.' In fact, he said, the Vice President is so upset that the Whittington family is worrying about Dick Cheney."...


# NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams, in Torino, started:

“Good evening. Tonight, after four days of blanket news coverage and mounting questions about a shooting that left a man hospitalized, today the Bush White House made an attempt at stopping the political damage by breaking four days of silence on the part of the Vice President. Today Dick Cheney sat down for a television interview. He is now taking full responsibility for the shooting, while others are still questioning the circumstances and the chain of events. Once again tonight we begin our reporting with NBC News Chief White House correspondent David Gregory.”

Gregory pretty much stuck to relaying what Cheney said in the FNC interview, but he couldn’t resist this dig at Hume:

“Speaking out for the first time, the Vice President chose to speak with Fox anchor Brit Hume, a former White House correspondent, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the White House press corps’ coverage of this story.”

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center