Incoming NBC Today show co-host Meredith Vieira, on Friday's ABC daytime show The View, showcased her susceptibility to baseless media hype and her own economic ignorance. Interviewing ABC's John Stossel, on to plug his new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong, and a Friday night 20/20 about it, Vieira demanded: "You say there is no gas 'crisis.' How can you say that?" Stossel explained it's plentiful and half the price as in Europe, but Vieira remained unswayed, ridiculously insisting: "But it's still a crisis, I mean in the sense that gas prices are going up. That's a crisis for us." A few minutes later, a befuddled Vieira exposed not only a lack of basic economic knowledge, but also unfamiliarity with a common conservative argument: "Why does raising the minimum wage, this is one I don't get, actually hurt poor people? I don't understand that one at all." (Partial transcript follows)
Matching the agenda of the morning shows, Thursday's network evening newscasts led with USA Today's front page story, “NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls," with none noting how the New York Times reported the same information back on December 24. Unlike CBS, however, both ABC and NBC at least pointed out how many Members of Congress were aware of how Verizon, AT&T and Bell South were providing the NSA with the numbers called by their customers, but didn't complain. Didn't complain, that is, until the news media decided to make it a big issue on which they could rail, thus providing the news media with material for further coverage.
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer demanded: “Does the government need to know who you've been talking to on the phone? Then why is it collecting millions of our phone records?” Schieffer led with how the phone companies “have been turning over the telephone records of tens of millions of their customers to a government spy agency. The overriding question is why and who has access to them. And it set off a storm on Capitol Hill where Republicans and Democrats alike are demanding answers.” Well, one liberal Republican, Senator Arlen Specter, who Schieffer interviewed. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas announced: "We begin with a revelation that may change the way Americans think about phone calls” because “the government has been collecting tens of millions of phone records. This includes phone calls to and from citizens who are not suspects in any crimes.” (Partial transcripts follow)
CBS and NBC on Wednesday night painted the tax cut extensions passed by the House through a liberal prism, relaying liberal spin meant to portray the cuts as unfair by citing the dollar amounts of expected cuts for the rich versus those earning lower incomes, without any regard for how an incredible 41 percent pay no income tax and so can't get a tax cut while the wealthier pay huge dollar amounts and so even a small percentage reduction represents a big dollar number. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson put on screen, without any attribution, how “for incomes of $50,000 or less, you'll average no more than $46 in savings. Up to $100,000, average is no more than 400 bucks saved. $100,000 to a million saves anywhere from about $1,300 to a little more than $5,500. Over a million, your savings will average nearly $42,000 a year.” After Attkisson, anchor Bob Schieffer set up a piece from Anthony Mason, on how the national debt will reach $10 trillion by the end of the Bush presidency and the National Debt clock in Manhattan is running out of space, by declaring that “critics...remind us that any tax cut is just going to drive the national debt higher."
On the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid recounted how Republicans claimed tax cuts have helped the economy before he picked up the left-wing numbers without offering any context about the dollar amounts of the cuts compared to the rate paid at various income levels, but at least he identified the source as “liberal.” Reid highlighted how “Democratic critics say the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy" and passed along how “according to the liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center, those earning more than $1 million a year would save an average of about $42,000 a year. But families earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would save only $110 a year. And the savings are even smaller for those making between $40,000 and $50,000." (Transcripts and tax burden facts follow)
Bob Schieffer led Tuesday's CBS Evening News by heralding “bad news for the Republicans”in a new CBS News/New York Times poll and suggesting the new poll portends “a dramatic shift in the political landscape” with approval of Congress at only 23 percent, its lowest since 20 percent in 1994. But reporting on that low number 12 years ago, just six days before Republicans took control of the House and Senate, Bob Schieffer didn't see disaster ahead for Democrats. Back then he maintained: “It's hard to gauge who'll be helped or hurt by all this gloom come Election Day.”
This year, Schieffer led with the bad news for the GOP poll: "Well, are we about to see a dramatic shift in the political landscape? If the findings of a new CBS News/New York Times poll are accurate, the answer may well be yes. President Bush's ratings have hit another all-time low” at “only 31 percent” approval “and the Republican-controlled Congress gets even lower marks, an approval rating of only 23 percent. That's just a little better than 1994 when dissatisfaction was running so high that Republicans wrested control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years from Democrats.” Gloria Borger chimed in with how “our new poll shows just why Democrats are starting to believe, as opposed to simply hope, that change is in the air. By wide margins, the public says Democrats would do a better job of handling most all issues” and, “overall, Democrats are viewed favorably by 55 percent of Americans. Just 37 percent favor Republicans. That's a complete turnaround from 1994 when Republicans dominated public opinion just before taking control of the Congress."
Reporting the survey back in 1994, however, Schieffer did not inform viewers of how the GOP "dominated" issues, never referred to the Congress as “Democrat-controlled” and didn't bother to mention how 54 percent viewed Republicans favorably, ten points above the 44 percent who viewed Democrats favorably. (Transcripts from Tuesday and 1994 follow.)
On Sunday's This Week, George Stephanopoulos not once but twice, referred to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “Speaker,” a title she would presumably get if Democrats win back the House this fall. So, a Freudian slip by Stephanopoulos, a one-time staff member for the Democratic House leadership himself when they were in the majority? Before signing aboard the Clinton campaign in 1991, Stephanopoulos was a floor assistant to then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt.
Interviewing Congressman Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader who suggested that if Democrats win control of the House they will pursue impeachment, Stephanopoulos countered: “Democrats are also coming forward with another agenda, Speaker, ah perhaps Speaker Pelosi , she's certainly not the Speaker right now, the Democratic leader Pelosi says...” Then with DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Stephanopoulos asserted to Dean's delight: "You talked about an ethics legislation coming forward in the first hundred days, that was not one of the top four pieces of legislation that Speaker Pelo -- uh, excuse me, I don't know why I've got that stuck in my head today-" Dean chortled: "I'm glad. I like the sound of that George, I like the sound of that!"
A Hollywood star from Wisconsin is apparently less embarrassed by Canada than by the United States. On Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, actor Bradley Whitford, who plays “Josh Lyman” on NBC's The West Wing, related how he “just had a friend who went to Europe and I gave her a Canadian flag to put on her bag.” Whitford declared that the U.S. policy in Iraq “has desecrated” the American flag since we are “treating the rest of the world with contempt, dropping bombs on people who don't need bombs dropped on them” and “killing civilians...based on an assumption that an Iraqi life is worth less than ours. It's obscene." Earlier, Whitford contended: "There's no military, conventional military solution to terrorism. If there were, Israel would be the safest country in the world.” (But if Israel didn't use their military, would Israel still exist?) Turning his anger on the Bush administration, the actor who on The West Wing plays the Chief-of-Staff to “Democratic President-elect Matt Santos,” charged: “I think the whole approach by these bungling, violent, violence-addicted people in this administration, it's like the Polish joke: You lose your ring in the dark and so you look for it where there's light, where you know how to do it."
Video clip of Whitford on how Bush's “obscene” war has “desecrated” the U.S. flag (40 seconds): Real (1.2 MB) or Windows Media (1.4 MB), plus MP3 audio (200 KB).
Matching cable news networks interest during the day, two of the three broadcast networks (CBS and NBC, as well as MSNBC's Countdown) led Thursday night with how, at an event in Atlanta, a handful of protesters confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and accused him of “war crimes” and “lying” about Iraq. ABC also aired a story, but put the Moussaoui sentencing first. All three featured former CIA analyst Ray McGovern who demanded: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary?”But all failed to note McGovern's long record of hostility to the Bush administration. As McGovern boasted when he first got to the mike (video not shown by ABC, CBS or NBC), he's a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and if you Google “Ray McGovern of CIA” you get a plethora of returns from far-left sites (DemocracyNow.org, antiwar.com, truthout.org, alternet.org, TomPaine.com and CommonDreams.org).
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer trumpeted: “Not since the Vietnam War has a Secretary of Defense been under the kind of criticism that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been getting lately. A group of retired generals has called on him to resign, and today he caught it from another front when he went to what has been Bush country -- Georgia -- and ran head on into hecklers that included a former CIA analyst.” Of course, Atlanta is hardly “Bush country” and CBS offered no proof the protesters were locals. David Martin concluded by admiring the guts of the protesters: "This is not the first time a former CIA officer has accused the Bush administration of misusing intelligence. But, Bob, it's never been done in such an in-your-face way." NBC's Brian Williams saw a greater meaning: “Today the Secretary of Defense received a blunt and personal reminder of the split in this country over the war in Iraq.” He then showcased a woman shouting in the audience: “You lied to the American people!...You lied! You lied that Iraq's oil would pay for the war! You lied about everything the CIA told you was lies!..You're a liar!" Jim Miklaszewski next touted how “today's protests join a growing chorus of criticism against the Secretary and follow the calls from at least six retired Generals for Rumsfeld's resignation.” (Transcripts follow)
A “liberal” culprit on Wednesday's Law & Order on NBC? On tonight's episode, “the Chief of Staff to a liberal politician” seems “to be responsible for tipping off” a reporter about the identity of an undercover cop who is then murdered. The politician is the fictitious “Congressman John Prescott,” played by “guest star David Forsyth.” So, that's unlike how Law & Order's sister program, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a year ago portrayed then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, by name, as a hero to white supremacist gun nuts suspected of murdering two judges, one of them black, and who had expressed the view that the white woman judge who was murdered was a "race traitor." When the ballistics on the bullet which killed the black judge showed it was fired by the same rifle which was used to kill the white judge, New York City Police Department "Detective Alexandra Eames" suggested to her fellow detectives and an Assistant District Attorney: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt." For a full transcript of the scene, MP3 audio as well as Real and Windows Media video, check the May 26, 2005 MRC CyberAlert.
As picked up by the DrudgeReport, an AFP dispatch from Greece on Tuesday recounted how left-wing actor Tim Robbins, “at a news conference in Athens promoting his stage version of George Orwell's 1984,” blasted President Bush's policies and the news media for ignoring Bush's supposed crimes. “We have right now a media that is willfully ignoring the high crimes and misdemeanors of the President of the United States," Robbins charged. He lamented that “Clinton lied about a blowjob, and got impeached by the media and Congress," while Bush “got us into the [Iraq] war based on lies that he knew were lies....yet no one in the media is calling for impeachment."
The un-bylined May 2 AFP dispatch from Athens added that “Robbins pointed out similarities between current U.S. policies on terrorism and the authoritarian society described by Orwell” in his 1984 novel: “'Unfortunately, the book and the play is more relevant now than it ever has been,' he said. '(It) talks about continuous warfare as a means to control the Western economy, and as a way to control rebel elements within society through the use of fear, constant fear.'" Citing the “renditioning of innocent people without trial,” Robbins asserted: “This is exactly what Orwell was talking about when he spoke of thought crimes." (With link to video of earlier call for Bush's impeachment)
All three broadcast network evening newscasts led Monday night with multiple favorable stories about the day of protests to promote the cause of illegal aliens. Bob Schieffer opened the CBS Evening News by trumpeting: “From coast to coast, from north to south, they wanted us to know what America would be like without them and so millions of immigrants missed work, skipped school and marched in the streets. They want America to find a place for those who came here illegally and it's too soon to know if they changed any minds in Congress. But what we do know is that construction sites shut down, hundreds of restaurants and many small businesses closed across the country...”
ABC's Elizabeth Vargas touted how “altogether, close to a million people took to the streets in more than 30 cities. And that number could still rise. It was the newest wave of protests against legislation that would increase the penalties for being in the U.S. illegally. Tonight, we have reports from around the country,” including a piece on a “man in San Antonio, Texas, who broke decades of tradition” -- for 29 years never missing a day of work -- “to make his own statement." Over on the NBC Nightly News, which put six reporters on the story, Brian Williams heralded how “we've been covering a major story unfolding all day,” showcasing video of “solid people for blocks.” Williams concluded that “the protests worked in many cases. Stores closed as workers headed out the door, and live television covered it all, all day long. We have comprehensive coverage tonight from coast to coast...” (Partial transcripts follow)
CBS and NBC on Monday night couldn't resist reminding their viewers of President Bush's “Mission Accomplished” speech. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer announced: "Today marks the third anniversary of what many thought at the time was one of the cleverest photo-ops ever, even opponents of the Iraq invasion were impressed when the President flew on to an aircraft carrier decked out in a dashing flight suit and then spoke beneath a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished.' But it turned out not to be.” Citing another CBS News poll which surveyed significantly more Democrats than Republicans, Schieffer proposed to Jim Axelrod: "With the President's approval down to another new low, 33 percent, I take it this is one anniversary the White House did not want to talk about today." Axelrod highlighted how “three years ago when the President appeared on the deck of the USS Lincoln, 74 percent of those polled approved of the way the President was handling Iraq. But contrast that to the latest CBS News poll, just 30 percent now approve of the way the President is handling Iraq. That's 44 percent, Bob, in three years."
"Today marks the third anniversary of President Bush's so-called 'Mission Accomplished' speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln," NBC anchor Brian Williams intoned. "On that day he declared, 'the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.' Today the message was less upbeat." Williams gratuitously added: "By the way, the U.S. death toll in the war is nearing 2,400." (More on the poll and partial transcripts, follow)
ABC's World News Tonight on Saturday contended that Rush Limbaugh got off easy because he could afford a high-priced lawyer and painted him as a hypocrite for previously condemning drug users, but ABC didn't offer any evidence Limbaugh has ever denounced those hooked on prescription pain medication. "Rush Limbaugh cuts a deal,” anchor Jim Avila teased at the top of his newscast, propounding: “Was this drug suspect treated like any other Florida first offender?"
After a soundbite from Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, who contended that “with anybody...addicted to pain medication, it is really unfair to prosecute them or to make some sort of a big case out of it. The idea is to help the person overcome the addiction," ABC reporter Jeffrey Kofman countered: "But Limbaugh himself has not been so tolerant of other people's problems with drug addiction." Viewers then heard an audio clip of Limbaugh from more than ten years ago: "The people who are caught doing this stuff ought to be sent away. They ought to be punished." What, however, was the “stuff” to which Limbaugh referred? Kofman did not specify in delivering his broadside, but if Limbaugh was condemning users of illegal hallucinogenic substances, such as cocaine or heroin, that's quite a bit different than obtaining an excessive level of legal drugs to control pain. Kofman also suggested Limbaugh bought his deal: “Limbaugh received the lightest of punishments. Criminal defense specialists tell ABC News that a man without Limbaugh's access to top lawyers would likely have seen a harsher outcome." Yet earlier in the story Kofman had related how Limbaugh "benefitted from a state program that gives first-time offenders a second chance." (Transcript follows)
At about 9:40pm EDT during ABC's live broadcast of the Daytime Emmy Awards from the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, Rosie O'Donnell strode on stage to join Barbara Walters who had come out a bit earlier to present an award. When the applause died down, Walters asked O'Donnell: “What's doing?” O'Donnell joked about Internet rumors and then Walters announced to loud cheering from the audience: “Starting September you are going to join The View as co-host." O'Donnell oozed, "Let me tell you Barbara Walters: From the bottom of my heart, thank you for asking me. I'd be honored to do it." Then, with one hand on O'Donnell's shoulder and her other hand on O'Donnell's arm, Walters trumpeted: "We were amazed when she said yes and we were thrilled. So let me do it now very formally. Ladies and gentlemen, starting in September, the newest co-host of The View, and we're so lucky to have her: Miss Rosie O'Donnell!" (Transcript follows, as well as links to O'Donnell quotes and video.)
News broke on MSNBC at approximately 6:15pm EDT Friday night about the “arrest” of Rush Limbaugh on a “prescription fraud” charge. While the 7pm EDT Situation Room on CNN led with the “Breaking News” of the “arrest” -- which was really more of a booking session that did not put Limbaugh into handcuffs or any jail -- reporter John Zarella reported how it was really part of “a deal” between Limbaugh and the Palm Beach County prosecutor's office and CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin soon told anchor Wold Blitzer by phone that “the winner here is very clear: Rush Limbaugh. They cut themselves a very sweet deal.” But while the reports on the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News conveyed how in exchange for 18 more months of drug treatment by Limbaugh, the one single charge would be dismissed, World News Tonight viewers were left assuming Limbaugh was in dire trouble. [UPDATED below with ABC's more informed West coast feed.]
“Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular and influential radio talk show hosts in America, was arrested in West Palm Beach today. The charges involve allegations of prescription drug fraud,” anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced at the top of the ABC newscast. Brian Ross explained: “He turned himself in today, Elizabeth, about 4:00 this afternoon. He was held for an hour and has since been released on $3,000 bail. What this involves is whether he used phony prescriptions to get oxycontin and other highly addictive prescription painkillers." Without anything about the deal, Vargas repeated the charge against him: "The allegations that he was doctor shopping, going to several doctors at once for big, big numbers of prescriptions." Ross affirmed: "Exactly, and the term 'prescription fraud' would apply to that directly." (Transcripts follow. UPDATED with Olbermann's "we have mug shot!" celebration of how Limbaugh has gone from "one half his brain...tied behind his back" to "both his hands cuffed behind his back.")
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night hyperventilated over “record” profits for ExxonMobil, but failed to point out how government taxes exceed oil company earnings. ABC even fretted about how much ExxonMobil “spent rewarding shareholders,” though it was less than the federal government took in taxes, and NBC excoriated the company for “cashing in” at 9.5 cents per dollar.
“Today, ExxonMobil reported profits of $8.4 billion for the first three months of this year, its best first quarter ever,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted at the top of World News Tonight before Betsy Stark complained: “The company says that's a record level of investment in new supplies. Maybe so, but it's less than it spent rewarding shareholders. 15 percent of profits went directly to shareholders in the form of cash dividends, and the biggest chunk, 40 percent, was used to repurchase Exxon's own stock." But ExxonMobil paid 83 percent as much as the $8.4 billion it earned, $7 billion, $2 billion more than a year earlier, in just federal income tax -- and a lot more in other taxes.
Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams promised, in his tease, “a reality check on sky-high oil company profits,” but all Lisa Myers delivered was demagoguery. Myers began by charging that “for outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this: Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process." Yes, ExxonMobil cashed in by investing and working to get their product to the retail customer while the federal government collected 18.4 cents per gallon in tax for doing nothing. Federal, state and local taxes total an average of 46 cents per gallon -- significantly more than the 28 cents Exxon earned on a $3 gallon of gas. (Transcripts follow.)
Leading with Karl Rove's grand jury session, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer painted CBS's coverage through a set of facts forwarded by Bush enemies as he justified his news judgment, “It is the story that is keeping Washington on edge: Who outed one of the CIA's secret agents whose husband happened to be a critic of the President and his war policy?” Jim Axelrod framed his story around how Rove being “called back in front of the grand jury yet again makes it crystal clear” that he's “still very much under a cloud of suspicion.” Axelrod seemed almost sorry for the Bush team as he concluded: "The President's poll numbers are at an all-time low, gas prices are through the roof, he's got an unpopular war and a divisive immigration debate to handle, and his chief political advisor is under this cloud. It just couldn't come at a worse time for the President.” Then, as if the media's news judgment has nothing to do with it, Schieffer observed: "I would agree that this White House just can't seem to talk about what it wants to talk about. I think today probably what they wanted to talk about was the naming of a new Press Secretary."
On the NBC Nightly News, which also led with Rove, anchor Brian Williams similarly marveled at how “the White House today was hoping for favorable coverage of one story in particular: The naming of the President's new Press Secretary, Tony Snow. And it was the story of the day from the White House right up until Karl Rove became the story.” Williams also highlighted “a new record the President may not be so proud of," an "all-time low" approval number for Bush in “our polling.” But the 36 percent approval in NBC's new poll is three points higher than a Fox News poll last week and four points above what CNN found this week. (Transcripts follow.)
ABC and NBC on Wednesday night delighted in showcasing how incoming White House Press Secretary Tony Snow last year wrote that President Bush had become “an embarrassment.” But in portraying the quote as a declarative accusation, neither ABC's Elizabeth Vargas or NBC's David Gregory put the remark into the context of how Snow was observing that Virginia Republicans not wishing to appear with Bush during the 2005 campaign suggested “Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” And neither bothered to let their viewers in on how they were just funneling quotes from a short list collected by the left-wing Center for American Progress. Vargas teased at the top of World News Tonight, “President Bush chooses a new spokesman: A conservative commentator who once called the President 'an embarrassment.'" Vargas managed to apply an ideological tag to Snow three times in under two minutes. She also ludicrously asserted that “Tony Snow is the first journalist to get this job.” Tell that to Pierre Salinger, Bill Moyers, Ron Nessen or Joe Lockhart -- who was a producer for Vargas' own ABC News.
NBC's David Gregory at least hinted at some context, though he still implied it was an accusation, as he related how Snow “has criticized his new boss, writing last year that, quote, 'George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.'” Gregory twice labeled Snow “conservative” before pointing out what eluded Vargas: “He is the first TV personality to be in the job since Gerald Ford hired away Ron Nessen from NBC News back in the 70s." (Transcripts follow.)
The broadcast network evening shows delivered a variety of spins Tuesday night on the price of gas, with CBS raising a “windfall tax on big oil” and featuring an in-studio segment with left-wing busybody Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York, about price gouging and NBC's Brian Williams worried about the concerns of those want a “greener America.” ABC's Betsy Stark rejected the price-gouging charge and while CBS insisted that eliminating environmental regulations would have little effect, Stark reported such a suspension would have an immediate impact.
CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell asked White House reporter Jim Axelrod about the idea of "slapping a windfall tax on big oil companies for these record profits that they're making?" Mitchell then turned to Spitzer: "As a consumer, it seems like it's the wild West. How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?" NBC's Williams set up a story on President Bush's proposals by citing how “advocates for a greener America” are “seeing red over what they see as a quickly degrading environment." Williams soon asked David Gergen "what are the chances” that the high prices will lead the U.S. to now move from a “carbon based society to one that's more green?" Gergen replied: "Well, one hopes that's the case...” (Transcripts follow.)
Add Cokie and Steve Roberts to the growing list of journalists praising the Washington Post and New York Times stories which exposed ongoing secret anti-terrorism efforts and also won Pulitzer Prizes. The latest joint syndicated column by the married couple, ABC News reporter Cokie Roberts and long-time New York Times reporter Steve Roberts who now teaches at George Washington University, championed how the Pulitzer Prizes prove the necessity of newspapers because "they recognize the sort of journalism -- courageous, costly and comprehensive -- that only papers can provide." Specifically, the duo declared: "The biggest story that newspapers unearthed last year was the abuse of power by the Bush administration." The two admiringly cited how "the Post won an award for revealing a system of secret prisons maintained by the CIA in Eastern Europe to interrogate terrorism suspects. The Times disclosed a program of clandestine government eavesdropping that many lawyers have denounced as illegal."
NBC's Andrea Mitchell complained Monday night, on MSNBC's Countdown, about how the CIA's firing of a staffer ostensibly for leaking top secret information to a reporter, will mean CIA officials will no longer have the “courage or the stupidity” to talk to reporters. After relaying how, through friends the fired staffer, Mary McCarthy, had denied being a source for the Washington Post's secret CIA prison story, though she conceded having unauthorized interaction with journalists, Mitchell contended that intimidation of the rest of the staff was the real motivation for firing McCarthy: “The purpose is don't even have lunch with reporters. The purpose is don't have dinner with reporters. Don't pick up the phone if a reporter is calling. It doesn't matter what you say, you're not supposed to have contact with reporters without telling the higher-ups." Maybe the CIA wouldn't have such concerns if they had any faith in journalists to act more responsibly than did the Washington Post's Dana Priest. (Partial transcript follows)
Far from condemning a CIA officials damaging leak of classified information about ongoing efforts to prevent terrorism, on the Sunday morning interview shows, three panelists -- a former network White House correspondent, a newspaper and radio veteran and a current network anchor -- hailed Mary McCarthy, the CIA staffer fired last week for telling the Washington Post's Dana Priest about secret prisons in Eastern Europe. ABC's Sam Donaldson heralded the revelations as “a victory for the American people" and compared her actions to those sitting at lunch counters in the 1960s, NPR's Juan Williams trumpeted her “right to speak” and her “act of conscience” and CBS's Bob Schieffer characterized the prisons as what “scares” him and claimed the “CIA fired an agent for hanging out” with a reporter. (Transcripts follow.)
[Text and video include a vulgarity] Another fresh episode of The Sopranos, HBO's series about a New Jersey Mob boss and his family, will air tonight (Sunday), and that reminded me of a left-wing shot at President Bush's anti-terrorism policies, which aired on last Sunday's edition. Daughter “Meadow Soprano,” played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, is a volunteer at a legal aid clinic where she meets an Afghan family whose son was arrested. "The government is just completely fucking this family over," she later complains while sitting next to her boyfriend “Finn” at the kitchen counter of her parent's home, adding: "The FBI snatched their son off the street like we're some Third World dictatorship." When her younger brother suggests that maybe the guy is a terrorist, she angrily retorts: "9/11, 9/11. Bush is using it as an excuse to erode our constitutional protections and you're falling for it!" (A little more dialogue follows.)
As they did all week, on Friday night the three broadcast network evening newscasts again hyperventilated over the “record” high price for a barrel of oil, though adjusted for inflation, the only competent way to measure any price over time, current $75 per barrel oil is $12 short of the real record high set in January of 1981. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas falsely cited how “a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today,” erroneously claiming that “records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever.” CBS's Bob Schieffer announced that “we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Lester Holt had as little regard for accuracy as had Brian Williams the rest of the week. "Pain at the pump,” Holt teased, “Yet another record high for oil.”
Friday's World News Tonight also featured a preview of a taped session with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set to air on Sunday's This Week. Vargas passed along how the liberal Republican “warned that price-gouging on oil and gas will not be tolerated. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos he would not rule out taxing oil companies on their enormous profits." In the brief excerpt then shown, Stephanopoulos cued up Schwarzenegger: "So do we need a windfall profits tax?" (Transcripts follow)
At least one leading mainstream journalists isn't too happy about the revelation Friday that on Thursday the CIA fired an official who admitted being the leaker of top secret information about CIA prisons overseas used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. Bob Schieffer didn't withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that “it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission” and he described the firing as “a first -- a dubious first, to be sure.”
Citing the Washington Post story on the then-secret prisons and the New York Times article disclosing terrorist surveillance efforts, both of which won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, NPR's Nina Totenberg declared on Inside Washington that nefarious Bush administration practices justified the decision to reward the two newspapers: "It's a good thing that they won for those intelligence stories because the Bush administration is investigating now and is threatening to subpoena and conceivably jail those reporters. So I think it's important that those stories be rewarded as something important to have done." (Transcripts follow.)
Though the Red Chinese regime was so embarrassed by a woman interrupting the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao to denounce him, that it censored the incident from news coverage back in China, CBS on Thursday night framed coverage around worries about offending China over Taiwan and how some incident made the White House look bad while NBC focused on the “embarrassment” the protester caused to the Bush team. CBS's Bob Schieffer led with how “this was not the best day the White House ever had,” citing how “a government announcer introduced China's national anthem by calling it the national anthem of the Republic of China.” Schieffer adopted Red China's spin, er, I mean that of the People's Republic of China, as he explained how Republic of China is “the formal name of the island of Taiwan,” which “claims to be an independent nation, a claim that China fiercely disputes.” Plus, “a heckler got into the White House grounds and caused a commotion.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas echoed Schieffer's concern about the announced name of the country: "There was another awkward moment during the White House ceremony. An announcer referred to China as the 'Republic of China,' which is the formal name for Taiwan, which China considers to be a rebellious province."
NBC's David Gregory declared that "this was considered to the President a major embarrassment" and fretted about how "the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event." Anchor Brian Williams asked "about the lasting significance" of the incident? Gregory relayed how "one veteran diplomat that was on hand today said there's no way that the Chinese won't think that this was an intentional move by the administration." (Transcripts follow)
Citing reports that the White House might select Tony Snow to replace Scott McClellan as Press Secretary, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night ridiculed the journalistic integrity of Snow and FNC -- even claiming, contrary to what ratings show, that the number of people who “believe” FNC is becoming “increasingly smaller.” Near the top of his Countdown show, Olbermann noted Snow's Fox News affiliation before he snidely added: “As critics would suggest, as such he's already an unofficial White House spokesman.” To guest Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Olbermann proposed: “If you go with Tony Snow of Fox News, are you not saying we're only talking to that increasingly smaller group of people who believe Fox News is the sole source of truth in the world?" In another segment, with the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, Olbermann, the host of a very slanted cable news show, presumed FNC is the only network anyone sees as biased: “Would the entire Fox News bias issue suddenly become connected at the hip with how the administration handles truth versus propaganda?" Milbank quipped: "I'm not sure it would necessarily be bad for the White House, but it does raise some questions. We first have to ask if Tony's going to get back pay?”
Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, the NBC Nightly News delivered the most negative assessment of the situation facing a White House which made some personnel changes, with reporter David Gregory using the moves as a chance to resurrect the Plame case and to maintain, in an amazing coincidence of his personal agenda matching that of “Republicans I've been talking to,” that “the President needs a Press Secretary who will be more open with the media." CBS's Jim Axelrod also got in a snarky shot that certainly put imagery over substance: "The metaphor of the day came from the President's chopper. Technical problems kept it from getting off the ground, just like grounded poll numbers and a stalled agenda are making it harder to fill top jobs.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams led his newscast: “These are tough times these days at the Bush White House. The President's approval rating has hit its lowest point yet. Complaints have been coming in from fellow Republicans. And there is concern the coming midterm elections this year could spell colossal defeat for his own party.” Gregory proceeded to bring up how the portfolio change for Karl Rove “comes at a time when Rove remains under investigation in the CIA leak case.” Moving on to McClellan, Gregory again raised the Plame matter: "But his critics, including Republicans close to the White House, felt McClellan wasn't effective, didn't click with the press corps and lost credibility during the leak investigation when he vouched -- incorrectly it turned out -- for two key figures in the case, Scooter Libby and Rove." (Transcript follows.)
On Monday, for the second straight weekday, Access Hollywood's New York correspondent, Tim Vincent, a veteran of the BBC, sported a hammer and sickle T-shirt as he introduced a story. Just as on Friday's show, as documented in an April 15 NewsBusters item, though he wore a jacket over the red shirt with the symbol of the regime which murdered tens of millions and oppressed hundreds of millions more for decades, a gold hammer and sickle was clearly visible inside a gold-outlined red star which, sans the hammer and sickle, would match the Soviet's Red Army emblem. On Friday's edition of the half-hour entertainment news program produced by NBC and aired on all NBC-owned stations (as well as other stations across the country), viewers saw Vincent in the shirt as he led into a preview of the American Dreamz movie. On Monday, viewers couldn't avoid him in the shirt as co-host Nancy O'Dell set him up and he introduced a piece on his role as an extra in an upcoming Nicole Kidman film.
Given Vincent's identical attire and the same background of Rockefeller Plaza, NBC's headquarters, I'd presume both segments were taped at the same time last week.
The annual Pulitzer Prize awards announced Monday night, by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, rewarded Washington Post and New York Times reporters who exposed -- and thus undermined -- secret anti-terrorism efforts, as well as a Washington Post critic who mocked Vice President Cheney's outdoor apparel and ridiculed the supposed 1950s-era clothing worn by then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' kids. The Pulitzer board gave the “Beat Reporting” award to Dana Priest of the Washington Post “for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret 'black site' prisons and other controversial features of the government’s counterterrorism campaign.” The “National Reporting” award was won by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times “for their carefully sourced stories on secret domestic eavesdropping that stirred a national debate on the boundary line between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberty.” The duo infamously penned the damaging December 16 article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan grabbed the “Criticism” award “for her witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism.” In a January 2005 piece featured by the Post in a new page created to showcase her Pulitzer-winning work, Givhan complained that at a gathering of world leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Dick Cheney “was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.”
Tim Vincent, the Britain-born New York correspondent for Access Hollywood, sported a hammer and sickle T-shirt on Friday's show as he stood in front of NBC's Rockefeller Plaza complex and introduced a piece on American Dreamz, the movie takeoff of American Idol. Though he wore a jacket over the red shirt with the symbol of the regime which murdered tens of millions and oppressed hundreds of millions more for decades, a gold hammer and sickle was clearly visible inside a red star. The gold-outlined red star, sans the hammer and sickle, matches the Soviet's Red Army emblem. I don't get it. Is this some kind of cool statement with thirtysomethings, elite New Yorkers or Brits? Or is it just part of some promotion for an upcoming movie? Imagine the proper outrage that would explode if he had worn a Nazi swastika. I put "hammer and sickle t-shirt" into the Copernic search engine and though I did not find the exact shirt adorned by Vincent, I was shocked to find a couple of dozen sites which sell hammer and sickle T-shirts -- and mugs too.
Vincent, a veteran of the BBC as detailed in his posted bio, is also a contributor of celebrity news for NBC's Today show. Access Hollywood is produced by NBC at its Burbank facility and is carried in the early evening by all the NBC-owned stations -- and by affiliates of NBC and other networks in other cities.