At a Tuesday meeting with CBS News staff, new CBS News President Sean McManus asserted that the people of CBS News “do a darned good job at” shutting out their political opinions and so “I don't see” any liberal bias in CBS News coverage. Vaughn Ververs recounted in a Tuesday evening posting for the “Public Eye” blog on CBSNews,com: “Asked if he feels the need to address perceptions that CBS has a left-wing bias, McManus said no, adding, 'it’s very difficult for any reporter or producer to completely and totally shut out his political opinions, but what I’ve seen at CBS News, people do a darned good job at doing that. I guess if I saw that creeping into our coverage I would have to address it, but I don’t see that in our coverage, I think we have been falsely accused of that at times.'”
McManus, who is maintaining his job as President of CBS Sports, has succeeded Andrew Heyward who considered liberal bias a fantasy of “extremists of the right.” (Heyward's 2000 remarks follow, as well as a fawning question McManus' father once posed to Fidel Castro.)
ABC, CBS and NBC all ran stories Tuesday night explaining the “anger” behind the rioting in France by Muslim “youths,” but on the NBC Nightly News reporter Jim Maceda went so far as to specifically complain about how “immigrants are left to fend for themselves, with no government affirmative action programs.” Maceda did add how “even worse, the French economy is stagnant, with few new jobs being created," but he moved on to other comments about the rioting without anything more about the role of high taxes and regulation in causing that “stagnant” economy. (A lengthier transcript follows.)
Interviewed by his son, Chris, in a pre-taped session for Fox News Sunday, Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes rejected as “damn foolishness” the notion of any liberal media bias. Mike Wallace contended, as if it were in doubt, that reporters are “patriots just as much as any conservative. Even a liberal reporter is a patriot, wants the best for this country.” Mike Wallace then condescendingly charged: “Your fair and balanced friends at Fox don't fully understand that.” He also confirmed that he had told Dan Rather that Rather should have resigned when his producers were fired over the Bush National Guard memos story, but when Chris Wallace suggested that story agenda reflected a bias -- “I think that they were quicker to believe it and, therefore, sloppier about checking it out than they would have been about John Kerry" -- Mike Wallace scorned the idea: "I don't believe that for a moment."
Chris Wallace moved on to his father’s new book, Between You and Me. Full transcript, of discussion about liberal bias and Memogate, follows.
Hollywood's fantasy that Republicans could sweep the nation if they only put up a "pro-choice" candidate animated last Sunday's episode -- and Janeane Garofalo got in a blast at conservatives. NBC is promising an "unprecedented West Wing event" in tonight’s sweeps stunt of a live debate between liberal presidential candidate "Matt Santos," played by Jimmy Smits, and the anti-religious right Republican "Arnie Vinick," played by Alan Alda. Last Sunday, Vinick was angered by an independent ad which attacked Santos for opposing parental notification and a ban on partial-birth abortions, policies the otherwise pro-choice Vinick backs: "Who told them to drag abortion into my campaign?" Demanding the ad be pulled, Vinick asserted: "Do you realize how many states my pro-choice position puts on the table?" Later, Santos remarked: "Vinick's appeal is that he's a different kind of Republican, moderate, reasonable, pro-choice."
In one scene on the October 30 episode, Santos' media chief, "Louise Thornton," played by Janeane Garofalo, sounded just like the real-life Garofalo when she argued that the campaign must go negative against Vinick, and she cited the good being done by a Senator she got elected by going negative against his opponent: "I'm proud that he votes against every reckless Republican tax cut. We're the blue team and there's a real war going on. Josh, do you want the right wing to get their judges?"
Friday night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, West Wing star Bradley Whitford trashed Bush as “a radical right-wing President who now seems to be incompetent.” A Zogby International poll of West Wing viewers found they tilt to the left, with 59 percent saying they’d vote for Democrat Smits/Santos compared to just 29 percent for Alda/Vinick, Lisa de Moraes reported in Saturday’s Washington Post. But the viewers recognize the show’s bias: “A full 77 percent of respondents said The West Wing has a liberal bias.”
On this weekend’s McLaughlin Group, veteran Newsweek Washington bureau reporter Eleanor Clift hailed the secret session of the Senate stunt as “a welcome show of spine that Democrats needed.” She proceeded to predict that “the Democrats are going to push” the contention that President Bush “abused his authority” in going to war and so “frankly, if the country, according to the polls, believes by a margin of 55 percent that President Bush misled us into war, the next logical step is impeachment and I think you're going to hear that word come up and if the Democrats ever capture either house of Congress there are going to be serious proceedings against this administration." Sounds like a motivation for journalists covering next year’s campaigns. (Clift had concluded her weekly Friday column on MSNBC.com: “On the day the Scooter Libby indictments were handed down, Conyers invoked the language of Watergate: 'What did the President and the Vice President know, and when did they know it?’ If the political tables turn, impeachment may not be so far-fetched after all.”)
Picking up on how fellow McLaughlin Group panelist Pat Buchanan described the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence, Clift charged: “'Hyped,’ 'cherry-picked,’ 'misled,’ whatever the words you use to me are criminal offenses when you see the suffering that has gone into this war and the cost of this war. It was a war of choice that was sold to American people on fear." Asked to predict if Karl Rove will resign, Clift said no before she condescendingly asserted that President Bush “can't tie his shoelaces without Karl Rove."
Video of Clift raising impeachment, in Real or Windows Media. (Fuller quotations of Clift follow as well as an excerpt from her posted column.)
Picking up on a Wednesday Washington Post story about how “the CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe,” on Inside Washington this weekend NPR’s Nina Totenberg declared her shame of her country: “We have now violated everything that we stand for. It is the first time in my life I have been ashamed of my country." Totenberg’s first thought about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito: "We know he's very conservative." She also managed to squeeze in her near-weekly blast at tax cuts as she chided the Senate for how it “cut $35 billion from the poorest people in the country and food stamps and things like that and at the same time they're going to try to cut, boost tax, tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this country by $70 billion." In fact, the Senate proposal is only an effort to slow the rate of spending growth.
Appearing on the same show, Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas asserted that Bush’s decision to dump Harriet Miers “takes him from stand-up guy to tool of the right.” Thomas urged Bush to move left and drop Rove who “is the problem because Rove's entire engine is to polarize the country.” Thomas recommended: “If he's ever going to moderate, and if he's ever going to create any kind of national unity, Rove is going to have to go."
Video of Totenberg’s “ashamed” comment, in Real or Windows Media. [UPDATE, 9:25pm EST Saturday: Version of show with ads ends seconds before Totenberg's "ashamed" remark. Details below.]
Hoisted on their own petard? Washington journalists have formulated outrage over how “Scooter” Libby fed information to New York Times reporter Judy Miller which ended up on the paper's front page one Sunday, and then Vice President Cheney appeared on a Sunday talk TV interview show where he insidiously cited the story as proof of the potential nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein. On Friday night, the broadcast networks pulled the same maneuver as they 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.
"The President also found himself shadowed by the controversy that has helped drive his popularity to record lows, the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer," ABC anchor Bob Woodruff announced on World News Tonight, which led, as did CBS and NBC, with stories which covered the violent protests as well Rove. ABC's Jake Tapper noted how “Bush came to this summit to talk about his free trade policy that he says would help ease poverty and create jobs in the region,” but pointed out how “questions about the CIA leak scandal, and the role of top aide Karl Rove, continue to dog him." CBS's Bob Schieffer echoed Tapper's terminology: "President Bush is in Argentina tonight, dogged by questions from back home.” John Roberts began his story, as if the media were observers and not participants: "President Bush was thankful for the chance to get out of Washington. But it didn't take long for Washington to catch up with him." 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.”
Fred Barnes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, scolded the reporters for posing questions “Senator Durbin or maybe Senator Schumer drafted them for them” since “they were Democratic 'talking points.'” He suggested: “Somebody should explain to members of the mainstream media, that they are not a part of the political opposition. They're supposed to be reporters. They don't have to echo Democrats." (Barnes in full, a bit more from ABC, CBS and NBC, plus the questions posed to Bush, follow.)
In a Thursday CBS Evening News story on how Karl Rove is a “distraction” in the West Wing, Gloria Borger cited how “a new CBS News poll shows that only 39 percent of Americans say that President Bush has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life, down eleven points since early last year.” But that number comes from the same poll, it turns out, that CBS News skewed by weighing it to undercount Republicans and over-count independents. My Wednesday NewsBusters item recounted how on that night's Evening News, over side-by-side head-shot videos on screen of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, with Bush's 35 percent approval, in the CBS News poll, below his image and Gallup's 27 percent finding beneath the shot of Nixon, John Roberts pointed out how “the only recent President lower at this point in their second term was Richard Nixon.”
Subsequently, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard picked up on how “Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics posted an analysis of this poll’s methodology at his blog last evening. What his figures show is that CBS polled 46% more Democrats in its weighted sample than Republicans.” In short, CBS polled 259 Republicans, but weighted the sample to count for only 223, or 24 percent of the total; they surveyed 326 Democrats and held that number so they represented 35 percent of those polled; and independents moved from 351 respondents to a weighted 388 for 41 percent of the sample. Sheppard explained: “To put these numbers in proper perspective, according to the November 2004 exit polls, the nation’s current party affiliation is 37 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans, and 26 percent independents. As such, the polling agency involved in this result fell 36 percent short in sampling Republicans while over-sampling independents by 59 percent.” (More on Brit Hume's "Grapevine" item on the poll, weighting and the Borger story in full, follows.)
The last moments on CNN for the network's most liberal anchor, Aaron Brown, were spent channeling Joe Wilson's talking points. (As noted by Noel Sheppard, CNN on Wednesday announced the departure of Brown and the end of NewsNight. The two-hour block starting at 10pm EST will now carry the Anderson Cooper 360 title while The Situation Room gets the 7pm EST hour.) Brown was last on CNN on Friday night wrapping up headlines at 11:01pm EDT before an airing of CNN Presents narrated by David Ensor, "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." Just before that, at 10:54pm EDT, Brown conducted his last interview on CNN, a brief live session with Ensor, in which he pushed the spin of the radical anti-war left. He told Ensor that “people who are opposed to the war say that it wasn't just that the intelligence was wrong. It's that the intelligence was cooked." Ensor inconveniently admitted that “I also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” before Brown followed up: “At some level, this is about Joe Wilson saying -- I'm not, I'm not saying he's right about this, I'm just saying what he said -- is that they took the country to war, when they knew the evidence was at least ambiguous and they never framed it in an ambiguous way."
Below are a few examples of Brown's bias from his CNN years -- he left ABC News in 2001 -- which the MRC's Rich Noyes and I quickly collected from NewsBusters and the MRC's archive. These quotes, some with video, include how Brown, after Katrina, pressed a black Congresswoman to agree that race was behind the delayed response in New Orleans; how Brown one night trumpeted a Republican who turned against the war and wondered if the administration has been “honest”; how he ridiculed the contention that John Kerry didn't earn his Purple Heart; how he insisted that while some “will see willful deception on the part of CBS” in the Memogate scandal, “smarter and more reasoned heads know better”; how he declared the “record unambiguous” that “John Kerry was a war hero”; how, without uttering a syllable about questions about Kerry's Vietnam record, on Memorial Day 2004 Brown delivered a panegyrical, event-by-event tribute to Kerry's heroic Vietnam service; how he boasted of “a permanent smirk” spurred by Rush Limbaugh's drug troubles; how he proposed that the White House “twisted or ignored” global warming science; and how Brown swooned over Jimmy Carter: “In many places, dusty and difficult places, James Earl Carter has brought hope and dispelled, as well as anyone alive these days, the vision of the ugly American."
Wednesday's CBS Evening News touted a new poll by the network which found, as anchor Bob Schieffer relayed, that “the President's job approval has reached the lowest level yet” at “only 35 percent” with Congress “rated even lower” at a mere “34 percent,” but Bush and Congress are doing a lot better than Vice President Cheney whose “favorable rating is down nine points this year to just 19 percent.” Over side-by-side head-shot videos on screen of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, with Bush's 35 percent approval below his image and Gallup's 27 percent finding beneath the shot of Nixon, John Roberts pointed out how “the only recent President lower at this point in their second term was Richard Nixon.” Roberts asked and answered: “What's behind the slide: 2,000 war dead in Iraq, an indictment in the CIA leak, the aborted Harriet Miers nomination, the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina."
Roberts warned that “yesterday's shutdown of the Senate shows the political danger of presidential drift. Democrats sat back and watched for an opening, then moved right in." He proceeded to deliver an unobjectionable rundown of advise offered by Reagan chief-of-staff Ken Duberstein: “This week's Alito nomination and the President's bird flu speech were the first steps in a turnaround, says Duberstein, but the White House still needs to lose the bunker mentality, let in new ideas." In conclusion, Roberts cautioned, "So far, there's no indication that President Bush is considering any of the outside advice to shake up the White House, but one thing is clear: If he doesn't find his footing soon, suggestions for change will quickly turn into demands." (Full transcript follows)
The stunt by Senate Democrats who forced the chamber into closed session so they could get publicity for demands for an immediate probe into administration use of pre-war intelligence, earned a favorable tirade Tuesday afternoon from CNN’s Jack Cafferty who charged that “there's a perception in this country that we were lied to about the run-up to the war in Iraq.” Most believe they were “lied” to? More like Cafferty channeled the claims of the radical left. Cafferty proceeded to concede that “maybe we were, and maybe we weren't, but there are a lot of people who think we were.” Cafferty rued, as if WMDs were the only reason for the war: “A half a trillion dollars and 2,000 of our kids later, we're still there. We're mired in a thing that has no visible end” and so “if they lied to us, if there was some kind of intent to deceive, then they ought to find out who did it, and tear their fingernails out, and then get rid of them.” He insisted that “it's about what's right and what's wrong and what people who are entrusted to govern this country do with the power we give them. If it's being abused, we damn well have a right to know, and something should be done about it.”
In denouncing President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, an editorial in the Tuesday Milwaukee Journal, “A nomination that will divide,” charged that Justice Clarence Thomas really isn't black. After fretting about how a “minus” of the Alito pick “is that the nomination lessens the court's diversity,” the editorial writers argued: “In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America.”
A hat tip to Mark Belling, a talk show host from 3 to 6pm daily in Milwaukee on WISN Radio.
In covering on Monday night the nomination of appellate court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, ABC and CBS distorted his role and position on the husband-notification abortion case and pegged him as a “staunch” or “hardline” conservative, but NBC managed to correctly describe his role in the abortion case and depicted him as “dependably conservative, though with an independent streak." The NBC Nightly News, however, jumped from Alito to a nearly full story about how the Bush White House’s attempt at “diverting attention from the Scooter Libby indictment won't be easy because of the unanswered questions” which David Gregory helpfully went on to list before declaring that what today’s administration is saying is “a far cry from the candor that candidate Bush once promised."
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased World News Tonight by asserting, as if it were his preference and not a ruling on the constitutionality of a law signed by a Democratic Governor, that Alito “once said a woman should tell her husband before she gets an abortion." On the CBS Evening News, Gloria Borger maintained that Alito “has favored limits on abortion; most notably arguing that women seeking abortions should be required to inform their husbands first." NBC’s Brian Williams correctly related how “he voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion.” (ABC’s Jake Tapper undermined the media assumption that Alito was out of touch as he noted that “recent polling indicates more than seven in ten Americans support Alito's position.)
On ideological labeling, ABC’s Vargas asserted: “Conservatives are thrilled, liberals incensed.” She went on to relay that “he is said to be brilliant and a staunch conservative.” CBS anchor Schieffer saw Democrats not liberals when he touted how Bush has “made the conservatives happy, but the Democrats are upset." John Roberts proceeded to assert: “Alito's judicial philosophy so mirrors that of the Supreme Court's hardliner, Antonin Scalia, that he's been nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Roberts ominously warned: "If confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for years to come." (Lengthier transcripts follow.)
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is conservative and all the television coverage Monday morning made that clear, but several reporters went further by either repeatedly applying the tag or by adding adjectives to suggest he's out of the mainstream. On ABC's Good Morning America, Jessica Yellin issued five labels in under 50 seconds, describing Alito as someone who will please Bush's "conservative base," has "established conservative credentials," is "a law and order conservative," who is "in the mold of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia" and whose "writing is so similar to the conservative justice's, he's sometimes nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Just before Bush's announcement, Charles Gibson called Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of the otherwise "liberal appellate court." Gibson soon repeated himself: "The President has picked somebody very conservative." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied a few minutes earlier on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello before Jeffrey Toobin applied the "very conservative" tag. NBC's Katie Couric asserted that Alito "could be a controversial choice" because he's "a favorite on the right and he would replace moderate justice Sandra Day O'Connor."
Still shot is of Yellin. Transcripts of above and more quotes follow.
In a ten-second promo at the end of Friday's NBC Nightly News, an announcer excitedly promised, “Sunday: Joe Wilson, the man at the center of the CIA leak scandal and NBC's got him!” Viewers then saw a short clip of Wilson as he sat across from Campbell Brown: “The White House trained their guns on me.” Back to the announcer with matching text on screen: “The Dateline interview: Sunday 7, 6 Central.” CBS ran its plug for 60 Minutes inside a CBS Evening News story in which John Roberts asserted: "The case started with the outing of a CIA operative, but [prosecutor Peter] Fitzgerald found no crime in that. It didn't sit well with Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. In an exclusive interview for Sunday's 60 Minutes, he told Ed Bradley:" CBS played a soundbite of Wilson accusing Karl Rove despite Rove's vindication so far: "After Mr. Rove said about my wife, 'She's fair game,' I would like to see him frog-marched out of the White House. Whether it's in handcuffs or not is immaterial. If it was not illegal, it was certainly, it seems to me, a dubious ethical comportment. And I think we deserve better from our senior public servants."
“The real lingering question for me is,” former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw asserted on the 5pm EDT Friday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, “was this a one-man band, or were there others in the administration who were linked to his efforts?” Brokaw added, as if it were the natural thing to wonder about: “And, of course, the question that will be raised by a lot of people not in any way fans of this administration, 'what did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it?'”
Brokaw, however, also criticized the news media for “all the speculation leading up to this” when “we ended up with one indictment today.” Looking forward, Brokaw predicted that “I don't think that he [Fitzgerald] has an indictment in mind for Karl Rove,” which, Brokaw noted, “is going to be an acute disappointment to a lot of people who are not fans of this administration.” (Brief transcripts of these comments follow.)
Much to Senator Chris Dodd's consternation on Thursday's Larry King Live on CNN, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, pointed out a fact rarely mentioned by the mainstream media -- that “most of the analysts at the CIA said that [Joseph] Wilson's findings, when he went to Niger, supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq” for uranium. When Dodd started to counter Woodward, Woodward asserted that “Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact.” Woodward revealed that he had the report “in his pocket”and when King asked why, Woodward answered: "Yes I do because I knew I might be challenged." When King went to an ad break two minutes later, the camera pulled back to show everyone at the table. Woodward then slid forward across the table to Dodd what looked like a few 8-and-half-by-11 sheets of paper with a post-it on top. Dodd ignored it, but in the second before CNN went to black, Senator Lindsey Graham, sitting beside Dodd, picked them up.
The still shot is from a fraction of a second after the papers are released from Woodward's hand. Video excerpt of this event: Real or Windows Media. Dodd says something as he looks toward Woodward. If you can read lips... (Transcript of the earlier exchange follows.)
People who know Harriet Miers in Dallas, Lee Cowan reported on Thursday's CBS Evening News, think she “deserved better than this" and he quickly moved to highlight those mad at conservatives, or as one cab driver charged, the “far right.” Cowan relayed that “at a Dallas diner this morning, her withdrawal served up a lot of disappointment” where patrons were upset “that conservatives, even here in her home state, weren't willing to give her a chance." Cowan went outside and leaned into a taxi to ask the driver: "What happened?” The cabbie replied: "I think the far right, they had been itching for a big battle for years." Cowan did pass along a defense of conservatives: "Dallas talk show host Mark Davis though says local conservatives are actually just trying to watch out for the President's legacy."
Over on ABC's World News Tonight, following a lead story from Terry Moran, Linda Douglass opened a piece: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her." After a clip of Senator Harry Reid scolding the “the radical right wing of the Republican Party,” Douglass picked up on how Senator Arlen Specter "said the groups drowned her and the President out." Following bites from Senator Sam Brownback and Rush Limbaugh, she returned to the anti-conservative prism from which she began, setting up a slam from Senator Ted Kennedy by relating how Democrats say "if he chooses an ideological conservative, he will appear to be the tool of outside groups," and she concluded with how “Senator [Lindsey] Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up'” -- meaning a non-conservative. Pivoting from Douglass, anchor Bob Woodruff turned to George Stephanopoulos and inquired: “Does he [Bush] have to nominate a conservative to satisfy the base of his party or a moderate who would be acceptable enough to Democrats to avoid a long and prolonged fight?” Stephanopoulos listed some potential nominees before warning: “Both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up." (Transcripts follow.)
MSNBC's Chris Matthews assumed pernicious wrong-doing on the part of Bush officials and cited facts not in evidence as he opened Wednesday's Hardball by presuming Valerie Plame was a victim, though her publicity-seeking husband was incompatible with keeping her employer secret. Matthews declared that the “FBI closes in on the bad guys,” described Plame as “undercover CIA agent” and touted how she “was a courageous spy for her country,” even though she was working at CIA headquarters and her specific status is in dispute. Bob Novak, for instance, reported that her overseas career was over. Matthews proceeded to assert that her neighbors had “no idea” of what job she held “until quote, 'high administration officials,' closed quote, exposed her to America's enemies.” Full transcript of the show opening delivered by Matthews follows.
Earlier today Matthew Sheffield posted how “the last casualty of the CBS Memogate scandal happened earlier today” with the announcement that CBS News President Andrew Heyward will be replaced. In 2000, appearing on C-SPAN the day before the start of the Republican convention in Philadelphia, Heyward denied a caller's contention that CBS reflected a liberal bias and denigrated MRC President Brent Bozell and the late Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media as “activists and extremists of the Right.” Heyward argued that viewers confused “tough questions” to “the establishment” posed by CBS reporters with liberal bias and went so far as to seriously maintain that of "the people I work with, many of them are surprisingly conservative." Plus, he said with a straight face: "Our job is to communicate the truth to people." (A 2000 MRC article about Heyward's comments follows.)
Video excerpt tracked down, by Karen Hanna, from the MRC archive: Real or Windows Media
An overwhelming 79 percent of Iraqis, who risked their lives just over a week ago to cast their ballot, voted in favor of the nation's new constitution, but you'd have missed it if you sneezed during Tuesday's CBS Evening News or ABC's World News Tonight. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer delivered only this single sentence -- “Iraq's government announced today that voters did approve the country's new constitution in this month's referendum” -- before moving on to a full story about the 2,000th death of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, a piece he could not resist introducing without adding this snide aside: "More than 90 percent of the 2,000 who died in the war have died since the President declared major combat was at an end in May 2003.”
On ABC, which had time for a full piece from Terry Moran about the "potentially huge" story of Vice President Cheney's supposed role in the Plame case, anchor Elizabeth Vargas briefly noted how “in Iraq today, there was a milestone on the road to democracy: The official results show that a new constitution was ratified by an overwhelming margin.” That was it for the Iraqi constitution. ABC led with, as Vargas put it, the “terrible milestone” of 2,000 killed in Iraq. Viewers then saw two stories: Martha Raddatz on the anguish of Army medical personnel and Barbara Pinto on parents in an Ohio town who have lost sons in Iraq. (A summary of NBC Nightly News, which did report on the passage, as well as a transcript of Schieffer's presentation, follows.)
Cued up by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday's Countdown, Al Franken repeated the same “joke” he told on Letterman and the Today show about how he's “worried” that “Rove and Libby and others...may be executed." Olbermann then quipped: “But it would be a hell of a story for cable news." To which Franken chipped in to laughter from Olbermann: "It would. Especially if it got to the President and the Vice President because, and I think there should be a constitutional amendment passed as soon as possible that we can't execute either a sitting or recently-impeached President and Vice President." Olbermann picked up on a Monday NewsBusters item by Dave Pierre which highlighted how “in a 'comedy' skit for a promotional video at Amazon.com, Al Franken knees a self-described 'right-wing jerk' in the groin.” After playing an excerpt from the video, Olbermann didn't mention the name “NewsBusters,” but made his target clear as he denigrated the MRC's President: “One of the blogs affiliated with noted media watcher Brent Bozell, or as he's sometimes known, 'Red Beard the Pirate,' asks, 'Is there a theme of violence in Al Franken's work?'"
Four days after Keith Olbermann first suggested a parallel between the Clinton White House “in crisis” during the Lewinsky afffair and the Bush one now, on Monday night's Countdown he resurrected Clinton-era MSNBC video of the introduction of a “White House in Crisis” special. He set it up, with his voice getting lower and more dramatic after his “or” option, as well as a smirk: “Is this just another in the endless historical parade of political controversies through which every President since Washington has had to steer, or is it in fact, the White House in crisis?"
A Thursday night NewsBusters item recounted how Olbermann “forwarded the notion that the Bush White House is in a 'crisis' similar to that which enveloped the Clinton White House after the Monica Lewinsky revelation. Interviewing former Clinton Chief-of-Staff Leon Panetta, Olbermann pointed out how “the rundown for tonight's show was given a title by our producer that shook me. The title simply was, 'White House in Crisis.' I already hosted a news show on this network that had that title some years ago. Is it applicable now? Is in fact in your opinion this White House in crisis?" (Brief transcript and vintage picture of Olbermann follows.)
A presumptuous Bob Schieffer? A Freudian slip? Or merely a stumble? With pictures of Karl Rove, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and President Bush over a shot of the White House, the CBS Evening News anchor on Monday plugged an upcoming piece on the 6:30pm EDT feed: “Coming up, playing the waiting game. Indictments are soon to come in the CIA leak investigation.” Schieffer then backtracked, “or there's word they may. White House insiders most at risk in tonight's 'Inside Story.'” The closed-captioning provided what Schieffer was probably supposed to say: “Coming up, playing the waiting game. Indictments are expected soon in the CIA leak investigation. White House insiders most at risk in tonight's 'Inside Story.'”
Declaring “it's not far-fetched,” movie director Spike Lee affirmed on Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, that he believes Louis Farakhan’s allegation that a levee was destroyed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to flood the nearly all-black ninth ward. Lee contended that “a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save another neighborhood and flood another 'hood, flood another neighborhood.” ABC News reporter Michel Martin chimed in with how “anybody with any knowledge of history can understand why a lot of people can feel this way, that that's a reasonable theory.” But she went on to dismiss the theory, prompting Lee to demand: "Presidents have been assassinated. So why is that so far-fetched?" To hearty applause from the Los Angeles audience, Lee asked: "Do you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don't think that was rigged?" Lee argued: “If they can rig an election, they can do anything!" Lee soon got into a heated exchange with MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson as he raised the “Tuskegee experiment” as proof the U.S. government is capable of any abuse of blacks. Lee made similar allegations on CNN back on October 11, as recounted in the Washington Times. What he said on HBO and CNN follows.
When, on this weekend’s Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents -- “you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition” -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: "And you've got the tax cuts!" She soon offered her recommendation on how Democrats should campaign: “One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States,’ the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that." (Still shot of Totenberg and John Harwood.)
Totenberg’s been on a crusade. On the same show last month, as detailed in a September 24 NewsBusters posting, she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks, to pay for Katrina recovery, as small change and suggested that “if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." A week earlier, she asserted that President Bush’s New Orleans speech “would have been a great opportunity to say, 'look, I'm for tax cuts, but we need a Katrina tax, we need to really pay, to do this and to pay for it.’" And two weeks before that, as recounted with a video clip on NewsBusters, Totenberg blamed tax cuts for the levee breakage: “For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us.”
"And so basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed” because “outing a CIA agent is treason,” left-wing author and radio talk show host Al Franken asserted Friday night, to audience laughter, on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman. 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."
Friday's Washington Post provided quite a juxtaposition of biased headlines, stressing how many dislike the Republican gubernatorial candidate while the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor is emphasizing positive issues, over two stories about November's Virginia elections which the paper placed on the front page of the “Metro” section. “Kilgore's Record May Polarize Voters in Va.” declared the headline about Republican Jerry Kilgore which ran across the top of the “Metro” section in the Virginia edition of the newspaper. At the bottom of the same page, readers saw this headline over a look at liberal Democrat Leslie Byrne: “'Kitchen Table' Issues at Heart of Byrne's Lt. Gov. Campaign.” The Post's online posting, which located the article on page B-5, instead of B-1 where it appeared in the hard copy of the Virginia edition, carried this slightly different headline, “'Kitchen Table' Issues Are Byrne's Focus,” followed by this unctuous sub-head: “Lt. Governor Candidate's Pitch: Help for Head Start, Small-Business Health Insurance.” The lead to that article follows.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann led Countdown again Thursday with what he's whittled down to the simple heading as “The Leak,” and soon forwarded the notion that the Bush White House is in a “crisis” similar to that which enveloped the Clinton White House after the Monica Lewinsky revelation. Interviewing former Clinton Chief-of-Staff Leon Panetta, Olbermann pointed out how “the rundown for tonight's show was given a title by our producer that shook me. The title simply was, 'White House in Crisis.' I already hosted a news show on this network that had that title some years ago. Is it applicable now? Is in fact in your opinion this White House in crisis?" Panetta agreed.
Maybe Olbermann's old 1998-99 show carried that title for a while or was a sub-title, but I believe his 8pm EDT show back then was titled The Big Show. And on that program in the summer of 1998, Olbermann infamously ruminated about how “it finally dawned on me that the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler, including the glasses.” Olbermann also wondered, “would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?" (Fuller quotations follow, as well as a link to video of Olbermann's 1998 smear.)
The first words out of Chris Matthews' mouth, at the top of Wednesday's Hardball on MSNBC, raised the specter of Watergate: "What did the President know and when did he know it?” Matthews proceeded to trumpet “the New York Daily News now out in front on this story, reported this morning that President Bush rebuked ramrod Karl Rove over the leak story.” Repeating his tease, Matthews previewed his first segment: “So tonight on Hardball, we try to figure it out again if people in the Bush administration crossed the line separating political hardball -- tough, clean, Machiavellian politics -- and criminality. We're led tonight by the news coverage to that unsavory tandem of questions: What did the President know and when did he know it?”
On Tuesday night, Matthews opened with a dire scenario for a Vice President with a bad temper: “Did the fierce battle of leaks between elements of the Central Intelligence Agency who opposed going to war in Iraq and the hawks in the Vice President's office escalate to actual law breaking? Did the Vice President in an effort to defend himself from an onslaught of charges by Joseph Wilson urge his staff to silence the former ambassador? Did Cheney, through anger or loss of temper, create a climate for political hardball and worse? Did he stoke his staff in the late spring and early summer of 2003 to such a level of ferocity that some of its members crossed the line into illegality? And will Patrick Fitzgerald determine that in doing so, he crossed that dire line himself?"