Does CBS anchor Bob Schieffer think that if he issues ominous warnings about "civil war" in Iraq often enough it will eventually come true and vindicate his, as of yet, unfulfilled predictions? Neither ABC or NBC raised "civil war" in their Wednesday evening newscasts, but Bob Schieffer, who has been the most prolific anchor in pushing the dire warning, did so again as he pegged off how Saddam Hussein has turned his trial into a "farce" to insist that "Iraq teeters on the edge of civil war." Schieffer opened his broadcast with a downbeat litany: "Iraq's new parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time tomorrow, but again today political leaders could not agree on a cabinet to take charge of the government, top cleric's appeals for calm went unheeded and the country may be closer than ever to civil war..."
Without their own poll with which to batter President Bush, last Friday the NBC Nightly News led with how “the latest Associated Press poll has the President's job approval at 37 percent” as anchor Brian Williams pointed how “that matches President Clinton at the lowest point in his presidency.” (NewsBusters item with details.) But NBC caught up Wednesday night with the other networks, and though its new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found the exact same 37 percent presidential approval rating -- so no fresh news -- Williams nonetheless led with the poll number. Bringing aboard Tim Russert, Williams prompted him: “Tim, let's start with that all-important benchmark for Presidents, the approval rating." Russert outlined: "It is not good news for President Bush, Brian. Approve: 37 percent. Disapprove of his job: 58 percent. And look at this Brian, 'direction of the country.' Only one in four [26 percent] Americans say the country is in the right direction; wrong track, 62 percent.”
Russert proceeded to highlight how “Democrats will take great joy in” the finding that 50 percent want Democrats to control Congress, “a 13 point bulge” over the 37 percent who prefer Republicans. “Analysts, of both political parties,” Russert stressed, “say with that kind of number if the election was held today they [Democrats] could re-capture the House and Senate.” But, Russert noted, “inside the poll, voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security.” (Transcript follows.)
In his first appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman since “joking” on the October 21 show (NewsBusters item with video) about how Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove “are going to be executed” because “outing a CIA agent is treason,” and President Bush is at risk too, Al Franken on Tuesday's program scolded Vice President Dick Cheney for not visiting the hospital room of his accidental shooting victim, Harry Whittington. In his usual mocking tone meant to come across as humorous, but which reflects a serious commentary, Franken, who briefly impersonated Cheney as a drunk, contended that Cheney was “drunk and couldn't show up at the hospital” or “he's an amazing jerk.” Third option: “Or, of course, both." Franken soon reiterated that “the idea that it's very common to shoot someone in the face, it's not unless you're, you know, you're drunk....Or he's just a big jerk." (Trancript follows.)
Al Franken will return Tuesday night (March 14) to the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS for the first time since his October 21 appearance where, in the wake of the Valerie Plame case, he “joked” about how “what it looks like is going to happen is that [Lewis "Scooter"] Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed” because “outing a CIA agent is treason.” Franken qualified his hard-edged satire: "Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed it looks like." Franken later suggested that President Bush is at risk of receiving the same punishment, since Karl Rove likely told him what he did, but he added a caveat: “I think, by the way, that we should never ever, ever, ever execute a sitting President." For full quotations and video of those outbursts, check this NewsBusters item.
In his Monday “Grapevine” segment, FNC's Brit Hume relayed how “in an interview with TV host Bill Maher over the weekend,” New York Times Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns “remained pessimistic, but also said that now, quote, 'U.S. military and diplomatic leadership in Iraq is about as good as you could possibly get,' end quote, and he said the U.S. team there has, quote, 'got the formula more or less right.'” But, Hume lamented, “by the time the trade publication Editor & Publisher had edited and published the Burns interview, you wouldn't have known any of that. The magazine ignored it all, instead leading with the fact that Burns, it claimed, was for the first time predicting U.S. 'failure.'" Indeed, the headline over the story by E&P Editor Greg Mitchell proclaimed, “John Burns, Back from Baghdad: U.S. Effort In Iraq Will Likely Fail.” (Transcripts of Hume and Burns, as well as an excerpt from the E&P article, follow.)
CBS News chose the day President Bush launched a series of speeches, intended to boost support for the Iraq war, to highlight a poll which found most Americans are much more pessimistic than is the President. In laying out on Monday's CBS Evening News a series of poll findings, including how 66 percent feel Bush has been describing the “things in Iraq” as “better than they are,” both Bob Schieffer and Jim Axelrod skipped the finding that, while the media fare better than Bush, nearly a third (31 percent) say the media “make things sound worse in Iraq than they really are,” compared to 24 percent who perceive the media are describing things “better than they are” and 35 percent who think journalism on Iraq “accurately” reflects the situation.
Schieffer rattled off how the percent who believe the "war is going badly” is up while the percent who see future success is down since January, before Jim Axelrod followed Bush's warning, that the terrorists want to start a civil war, with a survey finding which matched the media's mantra: "Seven of ten Americans say Iraq is already in a civil war. Another 13 percent say it will be." Pouring on the dour numbers, Axelrod asserted: "The President wants to rally Americans, but public opinion is fading fast. Only 43 percent now believe Iraq will become a stable democracy. A 15 point drop in just two months." Axelrod concluded: “With suicide bombs now going off nearly every day in Iraq, it will take some real progress on the ground and not just speeches to revive American's optimism.” You certainly can't count on the media for any optimism. Lara Logan soon checked in from Baghdad with how “there is grave concern amongst leaders here that civil war is exactly where this country is heading.”(Transcript follows.)
Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas condescendingly charged, on this weekend's edition of Inside Washington, that opposition to the UAE ports deals resonated with the public “because it's something that simple idiots can understand.” After a bit of snickering from the other panelists, especially NPR's Nina Totenberg, Thomas zeroed in on talk radio, even though the most popular talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, supported the deal. Thomas called the subject matter “a classic for talk radio” because “you can get it on a bumper sticker.” Expressing his support for the UAE's purchase of the company operating several U.S. ports -- “We need Dubai as an ally. On balance, it would be better that the deal went through” -- Thomas proceeded to lament how “it was an easy one to demagogue on talk radio." As if much of the mainstream media didn't pile on too. (Uninterrupted transcript follows.)
Though they pointed out how there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, the ABC and NBC anchors on Friday night, in noting her decision to resign from the cabinet, nonetheless raised links between her and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas cited only one accomplishment of her tenure, but hardly in praise if it: “She made it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on federal land in the West, drawing criticism from environmentalists.” Vargas then added how “her agency has been entangled in the scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but she has not been implicated."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced how President Bush “accepted today the resignation of the Secretary of the Interior, who insists tonight she is not leaving because of her department's associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Williams soon asked reporter David Gregory: “How is it that her resignation late today raised the specter or the name of Jack Abramoff?" With the photo on screen, Gregory reported how “there was a picture that surfaced recently” which showed “Jack Abramoff and Secretary Norton after a meeting with some Indian tribes.” Gregory, however, related that “a Senate committee did establish ties between the lobbyist Abramoff and top deputies to Gale Norton,” but “that same panel has found no connection, or no proof, that she knew of those connections.” So why bring up the subject? (Transcripts follow.)
In the last couple of weeks, a CBS News poll found approval for President Bush at “an all-time low of 34 percent” and an ABC News/Washington Post survey pegged Bush's approval at “a new career low” of 41 percent. Without a presidential approval poll of its own with which to batter Bush, anchor Brian Williams led Friday's NBC Nightly News with how “the latest Associated Press poll has the President's job approval at 37 percent. For some context here, that matches President Clinton at the lowest point in his presidency.”
A week and a half ago, on the February 27 CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer trumpeted how “a CBS News poll out tonight shows the President's job approval rating has fallen seven points since the hurricane to an all-time low of 34 percent.” A week and a day later, on Tuesday of this week (March 7), on ABC's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asserted: "President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new career low. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the President's overall performance rating now stands at 41 percent.” (Transcript follows of how Williams opened Friday's NBC Nightly News.)
The CBS Evening News on Thursday night used President Bush's signing of the Patriot Act renewal as a chance to run a full story on, as anchor Bob Schieffer worded it, “a Texas couple that blames the Patriot Act for ruining their marriage.” Really. Schieffer had first noted how “the new law does include some additional protections for civil liberties,” but “some critics still don't like it.” Reporter Kelly Cobiella looked at the plight of the wife of Mahmoud Alafyouny, who “has been in prison for two years but never charged with a crime. He's a Palestinian fighting deportation back to Jordan because the Department of Homeland Security says he's a terrorist and a danger to national security." Rae Alafyouny, a TSA agent, must drive four hours to visit the prison holding her husband who “raised money for the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Cobiella relayed how his ACLU attorneys “argue it's a double standard” since “the U.S. government has given the PLO's successor, the Palestine Authority, $1.3 billion since 1993.” But there's a big difference between government policy toward a foreign entity -- in this case money to try to maintain a stable society and reduce terrorist attacks on Israelis -- and what individuals are allowed to do. (Transcript follows.)
Just three weeks until the MRC's annual "DisHonors Awards." This year they will be held Thursday, March 30 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. Seats are $250.00 each. Since the MRC is paying for this blog, I've decided that I'm allowed to post this plug -- but I'm also alerting everyone to the opportunity to attend a very popular event made possible by the MRC.
It's always a fun evening where we turn the tables on the press corps and play video clips on big screens to mock and laugh at their biased reporting. Last year we ended up oversold, and though we've moved to a bigger venue this year to accommodate a larger crowd, it would be wise to buy very soon. (Purchasing details, and look at past galas, follow.)
An ABC News/Washington Post poll, released late Monday afternoon, found majority support for a media bete noire, FBI and NSA wiretapping of people inside the United States in the war on terror, but those findings were ignored in the story posted on the Washington Post Web site and aired on ABC's World News Tonight. Instead, both stressed how 80 percent believe “civil war” is likely in Iraq. “Majority of Americans Believe Iraq Civil War is Likely,” read the WashingtonPost.com headline over the 5:30pm EST story by Richard Morin, which is likely to appear in near-identical form in Tuesday's hard copy. The subhead: “Washington Post-ABC News Poll Finds Sharp Decline in Optimism About Iraq War.” [10pm EST: Indeed, link now goes to March 7 print story on page A3, with a new headline: "Majority in U.S. Fear Iraq Civil War; Poll Also Finds Growing Doubt About Bush"]. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas relayed how “65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war,” before George Stephanopoulos outlined how the public is “all over the map” on what to do in Iraq. The Post story, and ABC, however, did note that the public is also sour on Democrats. Sounding exasperated, Vargas cued up Stephanopoulos: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?" The ABC duo also ignored Bush's approval level pegged at 41 percent, seven points higher than the “all-time low” for Bush last week in a CBS News poll (NewsBusters item) which was much-touted by the networks (MRC Media Reality Check).
It's not often that a guest on a TV news program has the boldness to put the interviewer's political activism record in play, but Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, who appeared on Sunday's This Week from San Diego to criticize the ports deal, made sure viewers were reminded of host George Stephanopoulos' past work on behalf of President Bill Clinton's agenda. On three occasions, Hunter answered questions from Stephanopoulos by including a reference to “your former boss,” as in how “your former boss, President Clinton,” gave the Emir of the United Arab Emirates “advice on who he should hire to get this deal through.” Hunter, who appeared with a Republican Senator from the other side of the nation, Susan Collins of Maine, also proposed: “I don't think President Clinton, your old boss, knows the facts of the transshipments that take place through Dubai, sending nuclear components to all parts of the world and especially to people who don't like America.” That slam prompted a defensive Stephanopoulos to jump in: “He actually supports the legislation proposed by you and Senator Clinton which would ban foreign entities from managing our ports." A bit later, when Stephanopoulos wondered if the ports deal would hurt Republicans in the fall election, Hunter came back with how “a few years ago when the Chinese military tried to buy the old naval base in Long Beach, California, we stopped that and that was stopped by Republicans in Congress, even though your boss, President Clinton, supported that.” (Transcripts follow.)
[Be advised that this item includes accurate quotations of vulgarities.] Actor/comedian D.L. Hughley, the star of the 1998-2002 ABC sit-com, The Hughleys, and the host of Comedy Central's Weekends at the DL, which is now on hiatus, launched some derisive tirades against President George W. Bush while a guest panelist Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. After Hughley charged that Bush “has spent, and the Republican Party have spent, the last five years making us ignorant and afraid,” he mockingly suggested that the “J.J." character, from the 1970s sit-com Good Times, “could run the country better than this guy!” When host Bill Maher remarked that “what scares me about a guy like George Bush” is the “certitude” he has because of his faith which means that “no matter how low his approval rating goes, he doesn't care because he sees himself as a messianic figure,” Hughley launched this rant: “If I hear one more person tell me how this man is a man of faith, I think I'll lose my mother-fucking mind [audience applause]. Let me tell you why. I'll tell you why. He left his ranch in Crawford to see about one woman, Terry Schiavo, he left his ranch early. But when thousands and thousands of people were being, dying in New Orleans, this son of a bitch didn't do shit, and that's very un-Christlike to me.” (Transcript follows.)
MSNBC versus NBC News. MSNBC's David Shuster, at the top of Thursday's Hardball, and NBC's Lisa Myers at the start of the NBC Nightly News, played the identical soundbites from Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center warning, on Sunday August 28, about his “grave concern” the levees in New Orleans could be “topped,” and a clip of President Bush four days later maintaining that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." But they used the soundbites to prove opposite assessments. Shuster contended that Mayfield's video “seems to contradict what President Bush said about Katrina” since Mayfield's warning “clearly” means that “the President's team did anticipate the breach.”
Lisa Myers, however, recognized the meaning of words and how water flowing over a levee, topping it, is not the same thing as a breaching, the collapse of a levee, which is what occurred. Myers explained: "Today Mayfield told NBC News that he warned only that the levees might be topped, not breached, and that on the many conference calls he monitored, 'nobody talked about the possibility of a levee breach or failure until after it happened.'” (Transcripts follow.)
The media at all levels on Wednesday pounced on video released by the AP of government conference calls held as Hurricane Katrina hit last August, with most stories portraying them as containing a smoking gun about how President Bush was warned about potential levee failure. But as FNC's Brit Hume noted on his show Thursday night, the video, which MSNBC's Hardballhyped Wednesday as “breaking news,” was hardly any such thing, or “confidential video” as the AP hyped, since the video was made public at the time and the sessions were open to the press.
During Hume's panel segment, Bill Sammon, fresh to the Washington Examiner from the Washington Times, excoriated his press corps colleagues for “journalistic fraud” as well as “disingenuous” and "bogus" reporting. Referring to the video of a meeting President Bush participated in from his Texas ranch, Sammon charged: “It's held out today and yesterday as almost a smoking gun. I would say not only is it not a smoking bun gun, it's actually a journalistic fraud for some of the reasons you've outlined where they suggested it was ‘confidential' videotape where it wasn't. It was open press. Also, they make Max Mayfield out to sound like he was sounding the alarm bells when clearly he was ambivalent in the extreme....So, to suggest that was the warning that Bush should have heeded and didn't, is disingenuous in the extreme.” Sammon also took on the press for denigrating Michael Brown as an incompetent, but now they want to “rehabilitate him because he's now willing to trash the Department of Homeland Security....This is disingenuous of the mainstream media to suddenly rehabilitate Michael Brown for their own political purposes." (Transcript follows.)
CBS reporter Jim Axelrod on Wednesday night described how “this is what awaited Mr. Bush upon his highly-publicized arrival in India: Tens of thousands turned out to protest America's presence in the Islamic world.” Also from New Delhi, NBC's David Gregory relayed how, over video of crowds and a few men around a burning effigy of Bush, “Mr. Bush has already been met by large anti-U.S., anti-war protests.” But while ABC's Martha Raddatz noted how Bush's “warm reception in Afghanistan stood in stark contrast to the scene when the President arrived later in India,” where “tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly Muslim, lined the streets,” she pointed out what Axelrod and Gregory skipped: “Despite the demonstrations, the President has a strong approval rating here in India, roughly 70 percent."
Actually, the “2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey,” posted again Tuesday, “found that about seven-in-ten Indians (71%) have a favorable view of the United States,” not Bush, and that “while U.S. favorability ratings have plunged in many countries, Indians are significantly more positive about the United States now than they were in the summer of 2002.” As for Bush personally, the Pew poll discovered that he's “widely admired” in India where “just over half (54%)...say they have a lot or some confidence that Bush will generally do the right thing in world affairs, a significantly higher percentage than in any other country except his own.” (Transcripts, and more on the Pew poll, follow.)
Wednesday's CBS Evening News devoted about 20 seconds to anchor Russ Mitchell highlighting how “it was revealed today” -- as if it were some kind of cover-up being exposed -- “that the [Supreme] Court's newest member, Justice Samuel Alito, sent a personal thank you note to a conservative Christian leader who supported his nomination.” Mitchell then identified that recipient as James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and stressed how he “is a leading opponent of abortion.” What did Alito write that CBS considered so newsworthy? Mitchell relayed: “Dobson read the note in his radio program today, quoting Alito as saying he appreciated those who prayed for him and he'll remember the 'trust' that's been placed in him." But a reading of the actual letter (reprinted below) suggests Dobson just got a form letter Alito sent to all of those who congratulated him on his confirmation, not a coded commitment to Dobson's agenda on abortion.
Neither ABC or NBC mentioned the matter on their Wednesday night newscasts, but that could just be due to the AP not distributing a dispatch on it until late in the day. The AP's Colleen Slevin allowed a Supreme Court spokesman to explain how the same language appeared, in Slevin's words, “in many replies he wrote to congratulatory letters." Slevin, however, felt compelled to consider potential improprieties, turning to a professor who “said Alito's letter did not appear to violate ethical standards,” before she related how “Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the letter 'grossly inappropriate.'” (More from the AP story, the text of the letter and CBS's item in full, all follow.)
Catching up with a story from Sunday night, ABC devoted a piece to lamenting the apathy at Kent State, a hotbed of anti-Vietnam war protests, toward the war in Iraq. Reporter Geoff Morrell passed along an all too common smear of war supporters as he contended that "many are reluctant to speak out against it for fear of being called unpatriotic." In his World News Tonight piece, Morrell fretted that the "indifference" toward the war "is surprising at this school, a hotbed of anti-war protests during Vietnam, and still popular with liberals." Comments from left-wing students dominated Morrell's piece, such as one who charged: "It's an act of modern day imperialism, where America is going to other countries and moving, trying to expand its borders to take over other countries and use them for economic resources." Morrell even found a vet, who "fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," who became "totally disillusioned." The vet-turned-student declared: "I think it's an unjust war." Morrell touted how "the 25 year-old enrolled at Kent State, hoping he could reinvigorate its anti-war movement," but he disappointingly found only apathy. (Transcript follows.)
Though President Bush's approval rating, in a new CBS News poll released Monday night at 6:30pm EST, was just one point lower than where it stood in October -- and thus well within the poll's three-point margin of error, Bob Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News by declaring: “There is little to celebrate at the White House where public dissatisfaction, that began with the handling of Hurricane Katrina, has driven President Bush's approval ratings to an all-time low" of 34 percent. It stood at 35 percent in CBS's October 2005 survey. In the subsequent story, Jim Axelrod cited public disapproval of the port deal, declining approval for Bush's conduct of the war on terror and how only 37 percent say things in Iraq are going “well,” -- “down nine points” from the fall, but only down one point from 2004. After Axelrod, Schieffer, in New Orleans to mark the six-month anniversary of Katrina, proceeded to recite some Katrina poll numbers. (Transcript follows.)
Left unmentioned: How the poll-takers questioned many more Democrats than Republicans. A PDF posting of poll results lists 409 Democratic respondents versus 272 Republican respondents. CBS “weighted” the results to effectively count 289 Republicans versus 381 Democrats. And while in a couple of minutes of network air time you can hardly be expected to recite every poll finding, CBS managed to skip over several numbers which demonstrated the disconnect between the public and the national press corps. On “media coverage of Cheney hunting accident,” for instance, the public overwhelmingly rejected -- by three-to-one -- the media's obsession: 66 percent said the media devoted “too much time” compared to a piddling 22 percent who thought the press allocated the “right amount of time.” Another nine percent, most likely a lot of journalists and the “angry left,” believed it got “too little time.” Also, by 51 to 47 percent, most “approve of Bush authorizing wiretaps to fight terrorism.”
All the broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday led with fears of “civil war” in Iraq, a topic of much cable focus too during the day, but unlike ABC and NBC, the CBS Evening News decided to highlight a slam at the Bush administration from a liberal hero, crusading anti-war Democratic Congressman John Murtha. After presenting the administration's view that Iraq is not falling into civil war, CBS White House correspondent Jim Axelrod showcased how, over still shots of Murtha, in uniform, getting a medal and in Iraq: “Democratic Congressman John Murtha, a former Marine colonel who's among the most outspoken critics of the war, says the administration is misjudging." Viewers then saw a soundbite from Murtha: “It's not going to get better. They've been overly optimistic. This is a civil war where two participants are fighting with each other trying to win supremacy, and our troops are caught in between." (Partial transcript follows.)
Nine months ago, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer painted Iraq as spiraling into civil war. It didn't happen then, yet on Wednesday night Schieffer renewed his ominous forecast. But unlike in May, this time his ABC and NBC anchor colleagues expressed the same prospect. Back on May 19 of last year, Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News with this unique warning: "Good evening. I'm Bob Schieffer. It just keeps getting worse in Iraq. The death toll is rising. Tension is growing between Shiites and Sunnis. Is the country sliding toward civil war?" He soon added: “Now there's been a surge of attacks on Shiite and Sunni Muslim clerics, and some fear that Iraq is sliding toward civil war.” From Baghdad, Mark Strassmann backed up Schieffer's thesis: "Tit-for-tat terror seems to be pushing Iraq towards civil war. This man says, 'We are heading toward a catastrophe.'"
On Wednesday night, Schieffer teased: “One of the worst days ever in Iraq, and it's Iraqis against Iraqis. A Middle East expert tells us the country has been plunged into civil war.” Schieffer also relayed how “some are saying Iraq has been plunged into civil war.” On World News Tonight, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted: “One of the great fears of the American mission in Iraq has always been the prospect of civil war. Tonight, those fears are particularly real.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams, just back to Manhattan from two weeks in Torino, warned of how "tonight there are new fears that Iraq is on the brink of civil war." (Transcripts follow)
Politicians across the political spectrum are raising their voices against the arrangement which would allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage six U.S. seaports, and on Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty acted as a rabble-rousing activist as he encouraged his viewers to rise up against any politician who doesn't act to block the deal and he highlighted two viewer e-mails which advocated the impeachment of President Bush over the matter. Cafferty excoriated: "If our elected representatives don't do everything in their power to stop this thing, each of us should vow to work tirelessly to see that they are removed from public office....Here's the question. What should be done to stop a deal that would allow an Arab company with ties to terrorism to run U.S. ports?" Cafferty soon read from one e-mailer who argued that "this deal is nothing short of collusion with a foreign power of unknown intent during wartime. The President should be impeached." And another: "Putting George Bush in charge of our country was a huge mistake, and my fellow citizens finally realize that it was a disaster. Time to impeach this President." (Transcript follows)
All three broadcast network evening newscast anchors separated themselves from the “partial-birth” abortion term, some more awkwardly than others, as all ran full stories Tuesday on the decision by the Supreme Court to take up, in the fall, the constitutionality of a federal ban on the abortion procedure -- of whatever name -- which lacks a “health of the mother” exception. After CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews touted how former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had “protected” the women's health exception, anchor Bob Schieffer saw not the potential now of new “protections” for the unborn, but instead worried about new “restrictions” that may be “imposed” on abortion. Schieffer channeled left-wing fears as he asked Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune: "So does that mean this is going to be the beginning of the end of legal abortion in this country?" Greenburg, who at another point described Justice Alito “as much more conservative” than the pre-Alito/Roberts court, set him straight: "No, there's still five justices on the court who would vote to uphold Roe versus Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion.”
Schieffer introduced the CBS Evening News coverage, with a “Late-Term Abortion” graphic over his shoulder: “The court agreed today to consider the constitutionality of the ban that Congress imposed on a kind of late-term abortion that critics call partial-birth abortion.” In his top of the broadcast tease from Torino, NBC anchor Brian Williams asked: “Can the federal government outlaw late-term abortions?" He soon awkwardly offered this description: “A late term abortion procedure that opponents of it call 'partial-birth abortion.'” Yes, he said “of it call.” Reporter Pete Williams cited "what opponents call partial-birth abortion." Over on ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas wasn't so awkward as she stuck to the simpler “so-called partial-birth abortion” verbiage. ABC reporter Jake Tapper at least folded in a description as he delineated what occurs: “The law in question is President Bush's ban on certain procedures where the fetus is at least partially removed from the womb before its aborted.” (Transcript of CBS follows)
On Monday night's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted a segment to Bryant Gumbel's race-baiting admonition on HBO, about the Winter Olympics, to “try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention." Olbermann aired a video clip of Gumbel playing "an unusual race card," and given its blurry nature and tinny sound, as well as how it exactly matched what was posted last week on NewsBusters, I'd bet the MSNBC producers lifted it from that Web-quality posting.
When the video ended, Olbermann reported that “as the transcript of that inched its way around the Internet, Gumbel was attacked by far-right bloggers.” Though the NewsBusters posting was quite critical of Gumbel, Olbermann cited how “a writer at the right-wing Web site NewsBusters noted Gumbel's remarks 'perfectly sums up my feelings regarding the Olympics.'” Olbermann also suggested Gumbel was either vindicated or somewhat undermined over the weekend when Shani Davis won “the gold in the men's thousand meter speed skating, the first African-American ever to win a gold in an individual Winter Olympic event.” (Transcript follows.)
A year after Bill Moyers won a “career” award, the 2005 winners of the “George Polk Awards,” which “memorialize the CBS correspondent who was murdered while covering the civil war in Greece in 1948,” were announced late Monday. The winners, as selected by an advisory panel assembled by Long Island University, are a who's who of liberal activists, including left-wing New York Times columnist Frank Rich and Victor Navasky, the long-time Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. Virtually all the winners in reporting categories went to journalists who revealed secret anti-terror operations, undermined the Bush administration's anti-terror efforts or embarrassed people and/or contractors linked to the Bush administration.
As posted tonight (Monday) by Romenesko, the “Television Reporting” award went to ABC's Brian Ross “for revealing the treatment, which many experts consider to be torture, that the CIA used in secret detention facilities. In naming the countries where the facilities were located as well as exposing the White House-approved 'enhanced interrogation techniques' used by the CIA...the reports triggered an avalanche of critical reaction from governments and the public around the world.” The “National Reporting” nod was earned by “Dana Priest of the Washington Post for unveiling the existence of secret CIA-run prisons and wrongdoing that included the death of an Afghan detainee and the attempted cover up of the mistaken imprisonment of a German citizen. Priest detailed the elaborate covert operations in a series of 10 articles that unleashed an international furor and raised troubling questions at home about the government's counter-terrorism campaign.” (More award winners follow.)
After NPR's Mara Liasson relayed on Fox News Sunday how a Time magazine poll "showed 65 percent thought he [Dick Cheney] should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting," fellow panelist Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard pointed that while Time's press release highlighted that finding, they didn't stress numbers which demonstrated the public doesn't see the hunting accident revelation time line as such a big deal. Kristol cited how by 52 to 42 percent most approve "of how the Vice President handled this and when asked, "Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?," by 41 to 37 percent the plurality chose "an asset." Kristol postulated: "Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think." A Sunday NewsBusters posting by Noel Sheppard, “Time's New Cheney Poll Shows Huge Divide Between Public and Media Opinion,” also looked at the magazine's poll. (Partial transcript from Fox News Sunday follows)
ABC and CBS, which both led Friday night with Harry Whittington’s first public appearance since his hunting accident with Vice President Dick Cheney, held their coverage to Whittington’s comments as well as remarks from Cheney at the Wyoming Capitol. But while NBC, for the first time since the incident didn’t lead with the topic, David Gregory highlighted Whittington’s praise for the media and explored whether Cheney “has become a political liability.” Gregory, the leading antagonist on the issue in the White House press corps, ignored a poll by NBC’s own WNBC-TV which determined the overwhelming majority want no further investigation of the incident, and began his story by suggesting some vindication: “Harry Whittington left the hospital in Texas today, and ironically began his remarks by thanking the news media for its coverage of this incident."
After a clip of Cheney and then of President Bush dismissing the controversy as “noise,” Gregory saw wisdom in one conservative columnist as he brought up a piece from the day before on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page: "Republicans are now faced with the question of whether...the Vice President has become a political liability, the hunting accident being just the latest example. Conservative pundit Peggy Noonan suggested in the Wall Street Journal the President might consider pushing the Vice President to step down. 'Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now,' Noonan wrote. But many Republicans say Mr. Cheney serves an important function...." Gregory, who through his vocal hectoring of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, made sure the story became a distraction, concluded that “this week” Cheney “was a distraction." (Transcript, and more on the WNBC-TV poll, follows.)
ABC and CBS largely moved on from the Dick Cheney hunting mishap story Thursday night as, for the first time this week, they led with other subjects. Both held their Cheney coverage to short items on President Bush expressing satisfaction with Cheney’s Wednesday explanation to FNC’s Brit Hume. But for the fifth straight day, the NBC Nightly News led with the topic with reporter Kelly O’Donnell stressing Cheney’s alcohol consumption. Anchor Brian Williams set up her piece by asserting “the questions that continue tonight have to do mostly with the damage this bizarre accident has caused.” O’Donnell zeroed in on how the local sheriff’s department report relayed how victim Harry Whittington “called it an accident and told investigators, 'foremost there was no alcohol during the hunt.'” O’Donnell, however, raised doubts about such a conclusion: “The report makes no other reference to any drinking or that any blood alcohol tests were ever done. The Vice President did say in his Fox TV interview that he had a beer at lunch, noting that was hours before the shooting.”
She then moved on to how “observers say the whole ordeal has weakened Mr. Cheney's influence." Her “observers”? One soundbite from David Gergen. O’Donnell concluded with how “senior advisors make the claim that because the White House has now answered some questions, the American people should be satisfied, too.” (Transcript follows.)
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.)