It’s long been known that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams dropped out of the George Washington University in 1979 to intern in the Carter White House’s correspondence office sorting letters. But in the 7:30 half hour of Thursday’s Today we learned that 13 years earlier, in a 1966 letter to President Lyndon Johnson, he had proclaimed his commitment to the “Democret” party. Williams came aboard the Today show to plug a National Geographic book for which he wrote an introduction, Dear Mr. President: Letters to the Oval Office from the Files of the National Archives. As viewers saw Williams’ 1966 handwritten letter to Johnson, Lauer noted how the seven-year-old Williams “signed off the letter ‘one of your young Democrets,' not Democrats." Williams quipped: “You know, I was a young sycophant is what I was. And yeah, we've done Democrets. I think that's a chewing gum product. We've looked it up. It is no political party and for a registered independent it's now very embarrassing." Lauer razzed him: "Independart, you mean." Williams replied: "Oh, very funny." (Full text of the letter follows.)
The Thursday NBC Nightly News framed the House vote, to extend dividend and capital gain tax rate reductions another two years beyond their December 31, 2008 scheduled end, through a liberal prism which assumes all the money earned belongs to the government and that measures the fairness by the dollar amount of cuts for the rich versus the poor -- a silly notion since the wealthy pay most of the taxes. If the extension is not passed by the Senate and signed by the President, tax rates would rise at the beginning of 2009.
Anchor Brian Williams set up the story: “The House passed its version of a bill that would keep tax cuts for capital gains and dividends in place through the year 2010. It is a top priority for the Bush administration, but some in Congress today said those priorities are misplaced.” Chip Reid interwove soundbites from two liberal Democrats around his observation that “it was at times a furious debate, Democrats accusing Republicans of using tax cuts to reward the rich.” With a matching graphic on screen, Reid relayed how “Democrats say” that “nearly half” of the cut, 48 percent, “will go to people making more than $500,000 a year.” Reid segued to a third Democratic soundbite: “Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, whose district was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, says the cuts show Republican priorities are, quote, 'screwed up.'" Reid ran two Republican soundbites as he noted how “Republicans defend the cuts as an essential part of President Bush's domestic agenda. Tax cuts for investors, they say, fuel a growing economy," but he countered that with how “a non-partisan deficit watchdog says tax cuts can hurt the economy when Congress fails to pay for them." Yes, tax cuts must be “paid for.” (Transcript follows.)
While CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer on Wednesday night highlighted how, in a fresh CBS News/New York Times poll, President Bush’s approval rating has risen five points since October, he pointed out just one other survey finding -- one which matched a Democratic agenda item -- that “58 percent of those questioned said the U.S. should set a timetable for troop withdrawal; 39 percent said no.” But Schieffer skipped how the survey also discovered that the public agrees with Bush and rejects the policy urged by Congressman John Murtha and left-wingers, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chairman Howard Dean. As reported in the CBSNews.com summary of the poll: “Six in 10 say they would agree with President Bush’s statement that removing U.S. troops from Iraq now would be ‘a recipe for disaster.’" Specifically, 61 percent responded “yes” compared to 34 percent who replied with a “no” -- a nearly two-to-one ratio. (Transcript follows.)
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer reminded viewers how “we reported last night that a group of House Republicans was ready to start proceedings to permanently remove Tom DeLay from the House leadership because of his indictment on campaign money laundering charges. Well, the Republicans held a closed-door meeting today, but there was no effort to remove DeLay, who has stepped down temporarily until the case is resolved.” Indeed, on Tuesday’s newscast Gloria Borger claimed that “tomorrow morning, House Republicans are going to meet behind closed doors and they are going to tell their leaders in no uncertain terms, ‘We never want Tom DeLay back as our Majority Leader.' They're saying to their leaders, ‘We want new elections in the early new year. And if you don't allow us to do it, we are going to force these elections on you.'” Borger promised: “I guarantee you, Bob, there are going to be people coming out of the woodwork to run for leader in the Republican Party. There's no shortage of ambition up here." (Full transcript follows.)
The Tuesday broadcast network evening newscasts jumped on an inconsequential House hearing, which the AP reported was attended by just seven Members of Congress, where five residents of New Orleans hurled charges that racism limited help after Hurricane Katrina. ABC actually led with the hearing as anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "On World News Tonight, the angry voices from inside the storm. The victims of Katrina tell Congress they're still not getting help because they are poor and black." Vargas trumpeted the charges: “They were brought in front of Congress today so that the voiceless could be heard. Five people whose lives were torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. Five black people who say that when the hurricane came, for so many like them, race did matter.” One woman asserted: “When we stepped outside, guns were pointed on us. I felt like we were being told to go outside in order to be killed. No one's going to tell me it wasn't a race issue." ABC reporter Linda Douglass acknowledged believability was in question: "Members listened intently but were skeptical of some of the more extreme charges. Like this one, from [Dyan] French [Cole], who insisted someone deliberately flooded poor neighborhoods." She ludicrously alleged: "I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee." Ridiculously, Vargas characterized the hearing as "extraordinary.”
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer championed Dyan French Cole, affectionately known to CBS News as “Mama D,” as he described her as a “key witness” and reminded viewers that CBS’s “John Roberts first reported on her from New Orleans right after the hurricane. And now Congress isn't likely to forget her, either. She gave them an earful today.” CBS viewers won’t have her wackiest and most insidious charge to forget since in nearly an entire story devoted to her rants, Roberts avoided discrediting her by never mentioning her claim about how the levees were “bombed.” Instead, he personally interviewed her and took her allegations seriously: "She came...to testify on whether race played a role in the Hurricane Katrina response." NBC anchor Brian Williams touted how “a special House committee heard emotional testimony from Katrina survivors who insisted racism was a big factor in the government's slow response to the disaster.” Kerry Sanders, who showcased Dyan French Cole, also skipped over her levee “bombing” charge, began: "In New Orleans, according to a Gallup poll, six in ten blacks said if most of Katrina's victims were white, the rescues would have come faster." (Transcripts follow.)
Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle’s contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time -- but not the lead story (CBS led with the Hussein trial).
ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the “less serious” one, but CBS called the remaining charge the “more difficult to prove.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas related how “a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy.” NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “a judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering.” CBS’s Gloria Borger, however, reported that DeLay’s “office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove.” (Transcripts follow.)
On Monday, ABC announced the new anchor pairing, starting in January, of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff (see this NewsBusters item). Alerting viewers to it at the end of Monday’s newscast, Vargas asserted that “we are committed to every way maintaining the standard of excellence established by Peter Jennings” and Woodruff promised that “we will try to make Peter proud.” One Woodruff resume listing ABC is proud enough to tout is his trip to North Korea. The ABCNews.com announcement boasted of how “in June 2005 he got unprecedented access to the secretive country of North Korea.”
But, as documented at the time by the MRC, Woodruff’s reports during his week inside the totalitarian regime showcased North Korean officials denouncing the U.S. and happy kids doing art and playing music. The June 10, 2005 CyberAlert, “ABC: North Koreans Hate Americans, Offer Great Music/Art for Kids,” recounted: “North Koreans are isolated from outside information and fed a steady diet of anti-American propaganda, but that apparently doesn't make the anti-American comments from regime operatives, or citizens with minders standing nearby, unnewsworthy to ABC. ‘There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people,’ World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted before asserting that ‘many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans.’ From Pyongyang, Bob Woodruff went aboard the captured USS Pueblo and relayed how the ‘officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans.’ The uniformed woman declared: ‘They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry.’ Woodruff traveled to a collective farm where found an 11-year-old girl who said of Americans: ‘They killed Korean people.’ Finally, Woodruff went to the ‘Children's Palace’ where ‘5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports.’ The video showed healthy kids in colorful uniforms playing instruments, painting and dancing." (Full transcript and pictures follow.)
Friday’s American Morning on CNN featured an interview session with two members of a Cleveland-area Marine reserve unit just back from Iraq who outlined how their one-on-one experience with Iraqi people showed the situation isn’t nearly as hopeless as the media portray it. Miles O'Brien set up the segment: "The story we get out of Iraq on a daily basis, whether it's through politicians or through the media, is generally a story which doesn't paint a rosy picture of the situation there. A couple of Marines who are just back from some very difficult duty in Iraq would like to tell you a little different story.” Corporal Stan Mayer relayed how “we saw a lot of transformation in the towns we went into. They really kind of, they got a lot safer, we got a lot more smiles after we spent enough time in a certain area." O'Brien pressed: "The big picture analysis here is that, that, militarily, this is a -- it may not be a war that the U.S. can win. Do you disagree with that?" Corporal Jeff Schuller shot back: "Definitely."
Doing a search on Yahoo News, I discovered how CNN found them: They were the focus of a Monday Christian Science Monitor story which reported that “soldiers clearly feel that important elements are being left out of the media's overall verdict” on Iraq. Focusing on the 3/25 Marine unit, reporter Mark Sappenfield traveled to Brook Park, Ohio and found that “amid the terrible scenes of reckless hate and lives lost, many members of one of the hardest-hit units insist that they saw at least the spark of progress” and that “their conversation could be a road map of the kind of stories that military folks say the mainstream media are missing.” Sappenfield relayed how “the Iraq of Corporal Mayer's memory is not solely a place of death and loss. It is also a place of hope. It is the hope of the town of Hit, which he saw transform from an insurgent stronghold to a place where kids played on Marine trucks. It is the hope of villagers who whispered where roadside bombs were hidden. But most of all, it is the hope he saw in a young Iraqi girl who loved pens and Oreo cookies.” (Full transcript of CNN's segment follows as well as an excerpt from the CSM article.)
After leading their evening newscasts with Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for a withdrawal from Iraq, the ABC and CBS shows on Tuesday skipped Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman’s disclosure that, after a recent trip to Iraq, he saw "real progress" and argued against withdrawing troops. The NBC Nightly News merely gave Lieberman a brief soundbite. But on Wednesday’s Tonight Show on NBC, Jay Leno raised the perspective of the 2000 Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate with Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Leno characterized Lieberman’s position as one which “more or less agrees with the President” as he pressed Dean: “How about Joe Lieberman now? Obviously a prominent Democrat....He came back, and he's been there a few times to Iraq. And he more or less agrees with the President, correct?" Dean, who dismissed Bush’s speech as “repetitive dribble,” began his answer: “Everybody gets to march to their own drummer in this party...” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night speculated about whether America has reached a Walter Cronkite Vietnam war assessment "tipping point" as Cooper set up a laudatory profile of anti-war Republican Congressman Walter Jones. After an ad break, Cooper went to Christiane Amanpour who asked French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin if he feels his anti-war efforts have now been "vindicated?" Cooper recalled: "On hearing Walter Cronkite say the war in Vietnam had reached a stalemate after the Tet offensive, President Lyndon Johnson famously said, 'If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost middle America.' Fast forward thirty-seven years, there's no Walter Cronkite to speak for middle America, but reporting from middle America, from a congressional district where support for the military and the President traditionally runs high, we do have CNN's John King." King described Jones' "dramatic transformation" against the war and highlighted a pro-war veteran as well as a retired Marine Colonel who declared: "I'm more convinced than ever that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will be the Republicans' Robert S. McNamara." King then contended: "Such talk in a patriotic place like this is telling."
In the next segment of Anderson Cooper 360, Amanpour sat down with the anti-war de Villepin, who as "France's Foreign Minister, was way out in front voicing French dissent." Amanpour cued him up: "You obviously did not support it, and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?" Amanpour soon relayed de Villepin's shot at violence in the U.S.: "And on France's fiery unrest, two weeks of rioting by French youths of African and Arab origin, de Villepin admits these people do face discrimination, but he downplays the violence compared to what's happened in the U.S." (Transcripts of both stories follow.)
ABC’s Jessica Yellin, live on Wednesday’s Good Morning America, exploited First Lady Laura Bush’s tour of White House Christmas displays, cards and decorations to hit her with an emotion-laden inquiry about regretting the war in Iraq: “Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?" Mrs. Bush replied with how “every loss is too many” and said that “I want to encourage Americans to reach out to our military families who suffer the most.” Yellin followed up by continuing her agenda: "And do you hope the U.S. will be out of Iraq by this time next year?" Yellin posed her serious questions about three minutes into Mrs. Bush’s descriptions of the cards and ornaments in the East Room. (Transcript follows.)
It will be liberal night tonight (Wednesday) on the late night shows, according to the guests listed on their Web sites: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is scheduled to appear on CBS'sLate Show with David Letterman, DNC Chairman Howard Dean is set to appear on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is listed as the guest for Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report will feature Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. The slightly less liberal, but still liberal Detroit columnist/talk radio host Mitch Albom is scheduled to come aboard CBS’sLate Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
In an interview taped for ABC’s Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005, rapper Kanye West, who in September during NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief had declared that “George Bush doesn't care about black people,” told Walters that he stands by the allegation. In the ABC special aired Tuesday night, in which Walters featured West as the second of her ten “most fascinating people,” she played the clip and then asked him: “Do you think what you said then you still feel today?" West responded: "I spoke from, I spoke from my heart, and I stand by my statement." (Brief transcript follows.)
Twelve days ago when Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who had long been critical of the Bush administration’s running of the war, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all emphasized his importance and influence as they led with his press conference. CBS showcased Murtha’s attack on Vice President Dick Cheney’s lack of military service and ABC ran a 90-second excerpt of Murtha. But on Tuesday night, after the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (“Our Troops Must Stay”) from the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, in which he cited “real progress” in Iraq and argued against withdrawing troops, ABC and CBS didn’t utter a syllable about his assessment. The NBC Nightly News, at least, squeezed in a soundbite from Lieberman, though David Gregory also highlighted a puny protest as he relayed how “opposition to the war followed the President today to a Denver fundraiser, as more than a hundred angry critics met Mr. Bush's motorcade.” In his op-ed, Lieberman had bemoaned: “What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.”
ABC’s World News Tonight, which led with multiple stories from New Orleans on the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, held its coverage of Iraq to a brief item on “peace activists” taken hostage and anchor Elizabeth Vargas provided a 20-second preview of Bush’s Wednesday speech on his Iraq policy.
Snowstorms topped the CBS Evening News before David Martin provided a story on how Secretary of Defense “Rumsfeld rattled off signs of progress,” which Martin ran through. “For all the progress cited by administration officials,” Martin then ominously concluded, “one key factor shows no sign of improving: For the past two months, an average of three Americans has been killed each day in Iraq, and that's the highest since January." Anchor Bob Schieffer then turned to Lara Logan in Baghdad who said one of Rumsfeld’s assertions “simply isn't true” and undermined a couple of others. (Full transcripts of the CBS and NBC stories follow, as well as more on Murtha coverage.)
In a taped interview aired Monday night on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes, agreed that the Bush National Guard story should not have aired if the memos could not be authenticated “beyond a reasonable doubt,” revealed that the weekend Mapes and her colleagues were putting the story together “was chaos” inside the 60 Minutes offices and that Dan Rather has “acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air.” Contradicting earlier reports that he and Rather got into an argument at a urinal, Wallace maintained that “I had a pleasant, sensible discussion with Dan. I said everybody who was involved with you in this thing, everybody got fired. Why didn't you go with them?” Wallace soon resisted Bill O’Reilly’s characterization of the Memogate story as a “fiasco.”
Moving on to Iraq, Wallace contended that “Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam” and asserted that “we should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods.” Wallace, however, suggested Bush may not really have been in charge and thus may not be to blame: “Now, whether the President was sold a bill of goods or whether Dick Cheney was sitting in the chair at that time, I don't know.” (Transcript follows, as well as a look back at Wallace’s May of 2004 attack on Bush and the war.)
media elite are to the left of the public in several policy areas
related to the war on terrorism, a poll "of opinion leaders and the
general public conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People
& the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign
Relations," found. While 56 percent of the public believes "efforts to
establish a stable democracy" in Iraq will succeed, 63 percent of the
news media elite think it will fail; a plurality of 48 percent of the
public think going to war in Iraq was correct, but 71 percent of the
news media elite consider it a bad decision; the public is split evenly
at 44 percent on whether the Iraq war has helped or hurt the war on
terrorism, but an overwhelming 68 percent of the news media elite say
it has hurt; and 46 percent of the public believe torture of terrorist
suspects is often or sometimes "justified," 78 percent of the news
media elite contend it is "rarely" or "never" justified. Plus, news
media elite approval of Bush's job performance -- at a lowly 21 percent
-- is half that of the public's.
Another example of network journalists creating their own self-fulfilling story. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams set up a full story on how President Bush has returned to his Texas ranch “after an overseas trip that was not supposed to be about Iraq, but that topic ended up following him all the way around the world.” As if reporters, who were the ones posing the questions to him about Iraq and making it a topic on their newscasts, had nothing to do with it! Then, over video of Bush trying to open the closed doors in China, David Gregory opened his piece by finding deep meaning in the minor incident: “The President's botched exit from an impromptu press conference spoke volumes about this latest trip abroad." Gregory proceeded to act as if reporters were mere observers when they were directly responsible for imposing their news agenda: "All this month, from Latin America to Asia, foreign travel has provided Mr. Bush no escape from his political troubles. In Argentina, trade talks collapsed overshadowed by anti-America protests and persistent questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak investigation." (Full transcript follows.)
On November 4, the night of Bush's press conference in Argentina, a NewsBusters item recounted how “the broadcast networks...treated as of great import how President Bush was 'dogged' at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.” NBC's “Brian Williams stressed how Bush's 'political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.' Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's 'domestic woes came along, too' with 'four of five' press conference 'questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.'”
Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features another weekly submission from Randy Cohen, writer of "The Ethicist" column, about a non-political topic -- who should pay for damage done to an office building by a doctor’s patient -- but on Friday’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS Cohen made clear his disgust with President Bush. When Ferguson raised Bill Clinton’s name, Cohen reacted with outrage that Ferguson was still concerned about such old news: "Oh, Clinton, he's been out of office for, you know, how long? Seven years. Some little lie about his personal life. We've got a guy now who lied the country into a war. You're talking about Clinton from seven years ago?" Actually, Clinton left office fewer than five years ago. Cohen advised that on Monica Lewinsky “he should have said, 'None of your business' and then after that, it's between him and his wife.”
Cohen’s hostility to President Bush isn’t based on recent events. A MRC CyberAlert item in June of 2003 recounted: “Since President Bush is either a 'liar’ or 'corrupt’ or just plain 'incompetent’ now that his reasons for war with Iraq have all been found to be untrue, the 'ethicist’ columnist for the New York Times wondered on CNN whether Bush can 'honorably’ continue to serve in office.” (Full rundown of those comments, in which he made Aaron Brown seem reasonable, as well as what he said Friday night on CBS, follows.)
On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN’s Bill Schneider awarded Congressman John Murtha his “Play of the Week,” and after Schneider’s piece host Wolf Blitzer suggested the call by Murtha, “a very moderate conservative” (whatever that is), to withdraw troops is reminiscent of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s 1968 assertion the U.S. was losing in Vietnam, and so Republicans “probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider explained his pick: “In 1968, Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the Vietnam War had become a stalemate. That was a turning point. Now, it's too early to tell whether what happened this week was a turning point in Iraq, but it certainly was the political 'Play of the Week.'” Schneider played up Murtha’s influence: "He rarely speaks to the press. When he does, Washington listens. This week, Murtha spoke.”
When Schneider finished his recap of Murtha’s remarks and the reaction to them, Blitzer reminded him and viewers: "Bill, you’ll remember what President Johnson said when he heard what Walter Cronkite had said at that point, after coming back from Vietnam. He said if he’s lost Walter Cronkite, he’s probably lost the country. And I suppose that some Republicans are saying now if they’ve lost John Murtha, a very moderate conservative Democrat, a strong supporter of the military, they, they probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider agreed: "I think they do." (Complete transcript follows.)
A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his “patriotism,” though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a “leading supporter” of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned” (that would be John Kerry), who “fired back" at the “personal attacks” on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: “When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics.” Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha “had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as my Thursday night NewsBusters item detailing CBS's coverage noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today.'' (NewsBuster's Noel Sheppard here, and Tim Graham here, dug out other instances of Murtha's hostility to the war going back to 2003.)
Orr proceeded to assert that “the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker,” Michael Moore. “Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on,” Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: “But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the “smear” of Murtha and how “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country...” Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that “the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough,” before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how “name-calling exploded in the House." (Complete transcript follows.)
As recounted in my Thursday NewsBusters item, on that evening's World News Tonight, in setting up the lead story about Congressman John Murtha's call for troop withdrawal from Iraq, anchor Bob Woodruff “distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush 'took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.'” On Friday's World News Tonight, Woodruff backtracked: “A clarification about a report that we aired last night in our coverage of the ongoing debate about the original case for war and the Democratic allegations that the White House misled the American public. We reported that the President was calling such charges 'irresponsible' and 'unpatriotic.' He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'”
Between the lead story on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday night from Joe Johns on Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for withdrawing troops from Iraq and a piece by Candy Crowley on Bush and Cheney striking back at their war critics, Cooper read a statement from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan comparing Murtha with Michael Moore. Cooper followed that with a retort from Moore himself released “exclusively to CNN.” Cooper read how McClellan asserted that given Murtha’s past support for a “strong America,” it “is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” After finishing his recitation of McClellan’s statement, Cooper hyped how “just moments ago Michael Moore released this statement exclusively to CNN.” With the text on screen, Cooper relayed the comment from the far-left filmmaker: “'Unfortunately, the President doesn't understand that it is mainstream middle America who has turned against him and his immoral war, and that it is I and the Democrats who represent the mainstream. It is Mr. Bush who is the extremist.'" (Screen text of rest of Moore's claim follows.)
Though more than a year ago Democratic Congressman John Murtha denounced the Iraq war, asserting that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today,'' on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all led by championing Murtha's call for the immediate withdrawal of troops and showcased his ridicule of Vice President Cheney's lack of military service. “On military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer asserted in bucking up Murtha's credentials at the top of his newscast, insisting therefore “all of Washington listened” to him. The media certainly did. With the text on screen, Schieffer soon highlighted how Murtha “noted the Vice President had never served in the military and said, and I quote, 'I like guys who got five deferments and had never been there, then send people to war and don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'” Schieffer asked John Roberts: “So, in this kind of situation, the White House has got to be worried about, because this is clearly a sign that support for the war is beginning to fade on Capitol Hill."
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams teased: “The war of words over Iraq. Tonight a key Democratic supporter in Congress says it's time to get out, while the White House steps up its attacks on critics.” Williams led by touting: “When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn't be news, but it was today, because of who he is. Congressman John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran....Today, John Murtha said the U.S. must get out of Iraq. It's a debate that has followed President Bush halfway around the world.”
“An influential Democrat who supported the war says American troops should come home now," anchor Bob Woodruff trumpeted at the top of ABC's World News Tonight. Woodruff distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush “took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.” ABC's new White House reporter, Martha Raddatz, then claimed that “a visibly perturbed President called Democrats 'irresponsible' for continuing to criticize his administration's use of pre-war intelligence." And Raddatz highlighted how “Murtha ripped into the Vice President, taking aim at his lack of military service." In fact, Bush and Cheney are upset about being charged with “lying” to get the nation into a war, not at general criticism. ABC gave Cheney barely 30 seconds, but devoted more than 90 seconds to a “1st Person” excerpt from Murtha. (Full transcripts follow.)
[UPDATE, 8:50pm EST Friday: On Friday night Woodruff offered “a clarification about” his claim Bush called his critics “unpatriotic.” Woodruff reported: “He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'” See this Friday NewsBusters item for the entirety of Woodruff's correction.]
Bob Woodward's revelations, in a Wednesday Washington Post front page story, “Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago,” seemingly undermined two premises of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald's case against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney's former Chief-of-Staff -- that he was the first to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame and that everyone involved remembers when they were told about Plame. But while the developments animated cable television all day, all the broadcast networks ignored it in the morning and in the evening both CBS and NBC, which led October 28 with multiple stories of Fitzgerald's indictments, spiked the story while ABC's World News Tonight devoted a piddling 31 seconds to Woodward's disclosures. The CBS Evening News found time for supposed dangers to kids of cold medicines and a look at "why the obesity crisis is far worse for African-Americans." The NBC Nightly News provided stories on claims the U.S. used “chemical weapons” in Iraq and on the effectiveness of diet pills. (Story rundown follows.)
At his October 28 press conference, Fitzgerald asserted, as shown tonight on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume: "He [Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter." In fact, the Post reported that “a senior administration official,” not Libby, told Woodward “about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed” and thus before Libby talked about it with a reporter, a disclosure which provides some support for Libby's contention that he heard about Plame from a journalist. The Post also noted how “the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling” in 2003 about Plame's job, Walter Pincus, “does not recall the conversation taking place,” thus boosting Libby's contention that different people can have different recollections of old conversations.
What ABC squeezed in and how MSNBC's Chris Matthews saw nefarious motives (“a confidential source could be using rolling disclosure here for a political purpose” to help Libby) behind Woodward's source allowing him to talk, follows.
[UPDATE, 2:45pm EST Thursday: On Thursday morning, CBS held the development to a very brief news update item, NBC squeezed it into the very end of a session with Tim Russert while ABC actually touted it at the top of Good Morning America and provided a full story. See full rundown below.]
[UPDATE #2, Thursday 10:30pm EST: CBS and NBC caught up Thursday night with full stories -- by Gloria Borger on the CBS Evening News, by Andrea Mitchell on the NBC Nightly News.]
A September 28 NewsBusters posting presciently forecast how “ABC's new Commander in Chief drama...clearly intends to make the conservative Republican 'House Speaker Nathan Templeton,' played by Donald Sutherland, the foil on the show revolving around Geena Davis as 'President Mackenzie Allen.'” On Tuesday's episode, the villainous Templeton has been told that “Special Assistant to the President Vince Taylor” is HIV-positive and he plans to reveal his health situation and to out him as gay, a move that so outrages Templeton's chief aide that she alerts the White House. Friends of the parents of “Kelly Ludlow,” Press Secretary to the independent President, then come to DC with a tape of a 16 millimeter film of a 1965 fund-raiser, featuring the future House Speaker, made by their father who recently died.
On the grainy black and white videotape of a smoke-filled room, Templeton contended that “segregation is the word of God” and railed about how “if the Lord Almighty wanted colored people to mix with whites...he wouldn't have placed them on separate continents.” Referring to the Supreme Court, the early Templeton argued that “nine men in Washington can't change natural law” and, bringing up the KKK, that “black robes are worse than white robes." Templeton then laughed. President Mackenzie calls Templeton to the Oval Office where he explains: “I was a young, Southern Democrat saying whatever I had to say to get elected." Showing him the video works, though, and he backs off his nefarious scheme to out Taylor.
Video of what ABC portrayed as the background of the conservative Republican politician, in Real or Windows Media. (Transcript follows as well as link to actor Donald Sutherland's recent rant against President Bush and the U.S.)
Before the first ad break on Monday's World News Tonight, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas plugged an upcoming story: "When we return, the home school student charged with murdering his girlfriend's parents. A small town, and a community of home-schoolers, are shattered." ABC reporter Nancy Weiner, in the subsequent story about how 18-year-old David Ludwig allegedly murdered the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Kara Borden, and then fled with her from Pennsylvania to Indiana where he was arrested, outlined the home-schooling connection: “The Bordens, devout Christians, home-schooled all five of their children. Kara and David met through a group of home-schoolers.” Weiner portrayed the murders as ironic: “Many parents choose to home school their children to have more control over their upbringing and avoid exactly what happened here." (Vargas reminds me of journalists who report how an “SUV” hit someone, instead of referring to a “car” or “vehicle.”) Can you imagine Vargas ever citing “the English as a Second Language student charged with murder”?
Weiner, however, allowed a Lititz, Pennsylvania resident to point out how “this could happen to any family whether you're home-schooled or not.” Weiner also noted that “many home-schoolers resent the criticism that they are removed from society."
All the networks jumped on the revelation Monday, that in applying for a job with Ed Meese in 1985, Samuel Alito boasted of his belief “the constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” Of the broadcast network stories, CBS's Gloria Borger and Bob Schieffer, however, displayed the most interest in the concerns of “moderate” Republicans and whether the disclosure could block his confirmation. After a soundbite from an former clerk to Alito that Alito's “personal beliefs are irrelevant when he's working on a case," Borger ran a clip from marginally Republican Senator Susan Collins and then fretted: “The document raises new questions for Collins and other Republicans about whether Alito still holds the view that the right to an abortion is not guaranteed in the constitution." Schieffer soon asked Borger if this means Alito is toast: "Gloria, give us a bottom line here quickly. Does this mean that Judge Alito may not get confirmed after all? A lot of people thought he was headed toward confirmation." Borger tried to rewind Schieffer's proposition, but again emphasized the worries of “lots” of moderate Republicans: "I think this makes the path a little bit more rocky, Bob. There're going to be lots of moderate Republicans asking lots of tough questions. We just don't know where it's going to end up yet." (Full transcript follows.)
As Ted Koppel approaches his last Nightline, scheduled for next Tuesday, he's making a series of interview appearances in which he's been generally reticent about revealing too much about his political feelings. But he let a glimpse slip through Friday night on the Late Show with David Letterman, when asked about Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Koppel suggested that “if Karl Rove is involved in this, you know, do you naturally conclude at some point or another that the Vice President and possibly even the President may have known that this happened?" Letterman displayed the common public view of those uninformed about Joe Wilson's shenanigans as he offered this description of Libby's actions: "It suggests a level of pettiness heretofore unconsidered, doesn't it though?" Koppel then delivered a quip with serious undertones: "It suggests that a lot of people in the administration suffer from Irish Alzheimers -- you forget everything but the grudges."
Asked by Bill O'Reilly Thursday night on FNC whether she's a liberal, Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer fired in January for her role in the forged National Guard memos and representations she made to her colleagues, first put up the usual avoidance device of a liberal -- “I'm not sure what a liberal is” -- before insisting that “like a lot of Americans, I'm all over the map.” In the taped interview, O'Reilly then pressed her: "Are you registered Democrat?" Mapes seriously responded: “I don't know." O'Reilly scoffed: "You don't know?" Mapes claimed: "I don't know if I'm independent or Democrat. I know I'm not -- in Texas, I'm not sure how I'm registered." (But apparently she's quite sure she's no Republican.) O'Reilly returned to his original interest: "So you would describe yourself politically as?" She maintained: "Oh, my goodness. I'm liberal on some things, I'm conservative on some things."
Asked by Larry King Wednesday night live on CNN whether she had a personal agenda against President George W. Bush, Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer fired in January for her role in the forged National Guard memos and representations she made to her colleagues, shot back: "Oh my God no, no of course not.” She insisted that “Dan Rather and I did stories on Hillary Clinton, we did stories on the Clinton administration and terrorism...you question whoever is in your cross-hairs." Hillary Clinton, however, was hardly in her “cross-hairs” when she produced for Rather a 24-minute tribute to her that aired on the May 24, 1999 60 Minutes II and included such tough statements from Rather as, "once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning" and: “The agenda she lays out seems downright old-fashioned. She sees her work as focusing on children and families..." (See more below.)
Back to CNN Wednesday night, King fretted: “Who got you? The bloggers?” Mapes said she knew of the Drudge Report, but “I really wasn't aware of these really political blogs” and so when “the next day at about 11 o'clock this stuff, this drumbeat started saying the documents were false and I was just incredulous because the White House hadn't raised it, they hadn't indicated this in any way, we didn't have any evidence of that and they went nuts." As she did on Wednesday's Good Morning America, as recounted in this NewsBusters item by Brian Boyd, Mapes maintained her stance that no one has disproved the authenticity of the memos: “Their criticisms last year really didn't reach the bar of proof at all."
Video excerpt: Real or Windows Media. (Complete transcript, of above-quoted exchange, follows.)