Ripped from the headlines: The plot for Wednesday's Law & Order on NBC is inspired by the Schiavo case -- and it looks like one of those fighting to keep the Schiavo-like character alive may also be a murderer since the NBC Web site's description of the episode says that “a car bomb kills the husband of an incapacitated woman shortly before the victim planned to disconnect her feeding tube.” I would caution, however, that L&O plots often first pursue logical suspects before discovering an alternate motivation for the crime.
In a promo aired Tuesday night on NBC, the announcer plugged, "On Law and Order: A comatose woman." Then the video jumped to a man addressing protesters with signs: "The feeding tube will remain in place." Finally, over video of a car exploding, the announcer asserted: "In a case that rocked a nation." The show plot, as listed on NBC's Web page for the show, follows.
The Internet Movie Database's plot summary for the film: "A fictionalized account of the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States -- Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, where a woman who endured a range of abuse while working as a miner filed and won the landmark 1984 lawsuit." That would place the lawsuit filing seven years before anyone heard of Anita Hill. (More of what Harrelson told Letterman follows.)
The opposition from the religious right faced by the fictional Republican presidential candidate on NBC's The West Wing, symbolizes for Jim Warren, the former Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune who is now a Deputy Managing Editor for the paper, how real-life conservatives, upset over the Harriet Miers pick, will never be satisfied. On Tuesday's Hardball on MSNBC, Warren admired how the fictional drama's Alan Alda character “confronts a top Christian Right official who insists on a public pledge that Alan Alda, if elected President, will only pick anti-abortion judges to the federal court. And Alan Alda, seeing the world as much more complicated, declines to do that.” Warren asked and answered his own question: “Why is that relevant? I think it's relevant because just like Bill Clinton could never satisfy his left, it seems that Bush can never satisfy a group for whom he has cut taxes, delivered Saddam Hussein on a platter, done what they want on late term abortion and stem cell research, come out against gay marriage and picked a whole lot of conservative judges.”
Full transcript of his proposition, and the West Wing scene, follows.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews led Monday’s Hardball by framing the Valerie Plame case around her husband Joe Wilson’s spin on the case, despite inconsistencies in his claims and how a much more innocent explanation is equally plausible -- that White House officials just wanted to explain why such a publicity-seeking critic, who claimed he was on a mission for the Vice President, would have been sent to Niger to check out whether Iraq sought uranium. “If you don't think this leak case matters,” Matthews intoned, “ask yourself what was the most frightening case you heard for going to war with Iraq? Probably it was that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium yellow cake in Africa to build nuclear weapons.” Matthews insisted that “the Vice President repeated with military precision, almost like a Gatling gun. Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons.” Matthews declared: “But it wasn't true. There's no evidence even now that Saddam tried to buy nuclear materials in Africa.” The British, however, maintain there is such evidence.
Matthews proceeded to provide the most nefarious interpretation of conversations between White House officials and journalists: “Did they try and kill the messenger? Did they use the enormous media power of the White House to discredit the ambassador, his mission and his wife at the CIA who suggested him for the mission? And in doing so, did they abuse the office and the power to which the President was elected? Did they break the law? Did they conspire to punish a critic of the war?”
After Monday's CBS Evening News showed a clip of a Marine recruit at Parris Island explaining that he volunteered because “I want to be fighting the evils that did what they did to us on September 11th," reporter Sharyn Alfonsi related how “all three of the recruits we sat down with say they enlisted because of September 11th.” Alfonsi, however, couldn't let such an apparent link between 9/11 and the war in Iraq go unchallenged and so she quickly admonished the naive recruits as she stressed how “politicians will argue whether the war and 9/11 are related” -- though she added that “clearly here, to these recruits, the two are inseparable."
Alfonsi's clarification about 9/11 connections came in an otherwise very positive story about three Marine recruits and their disappointment that more Americans are not closely following the war. Her piece was the first of a new series, “CBS News Road Tour: The Home Front,” which will take Alfonsi and her mini-van to Ft. Benning in Georgia on Tuesday. Full transcript follows.
Only on fantasy television would anyone predict the New York Times would endorse a Republican presidential candidate, but that's what occurred on Sunday's episode of NBC's drama, The West Wing. On the October 9 show, the GOP nominee, California Senator “Arnie Vinick” (played by Alan Alda), lays out a series of proposals on immigration (such as doubling the border patrol), aimed to put his Hispanic Democratic opponent, Congressman “Matt Santos” (played by Jimmy Smits), in a box. In one scene, “Vinick” campaign advisor “Bruno Gianelli” (played by Ron Silver), a former campaign adviser to Democrats including the show's “President Bartlet,” walks into a meeting and declares: “The New York Times loves your guest worker program. Think we might have a shot at an endorsement." At least another campaign staffer points out the naivete of the Democratic operative who has switched sides: "Kiss of death for a conservative." But another adds: "New York has 31 electoral votes."
Liberal commentator Lawrence O'Donnell serves as Executive Producer of the series and Sunday's episode also featured "Vinick," who is Hollywood's dream of a Republican who is “pro-choice,” pro-minimum wage, environmentalist and anti-religious right, going on a rant against the head of the "American Christian Assembly." Vinick asserts: "Tell that lying little creep the United States Senate gets to advise and consent on judges, not the clergy." More on that scene, and links to past NewsBusters and MRC CyberAlert items on the liberal advocacy in the series, follows.
During the roundtable segment on Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, ABC reporter Cokie Roberts charged that “I do think there's sexism here” and went on to approvingly cite a left-wing Democratic Senator: “I do think that there is a degree of sexism, as Barbara Mikulski has also said, and I do think that there is a certain Ivy League prejudice going on here.” Roberts contended that Miers’ “experience on the Dallas city council showed her to be a great pragmatist and that's what people are really worried about." Roberts soon gushed: “Praise the Lord she doesn't have a judicial philosophy." She cited Justice O’Connor’s approach as desirable: “You're presented with a case on the Supreme Court instead of an argument, and you decide the case and that's exactly what Sandra Day O'Connor did and that's exactly what makes conservatives angry."
When former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich suggested that “a lot of conservatives are worried that she is going to be another David Souter,” Roberts interjected: "A pragmatist." (So, Roberts sees the liberal Souter as merely a "pragmatist"? Or, maybe she was trying to correct Reich and just meant that conservatives are upset not by how Miers will be another Souter but by how Miers might be another "pragmatist.") She also lamented how “the people who are complaining about this didn't complain about Clarence Thomas, who was hardly a distinguished jurist when he was picked for the bench." To that, George Will shot back: “He was, however, a jurist on America's most distinguished appellate court.” (Transcribed excerpts from the October 9 This Week follow.)
MSNBC viewers are used to seeing Hardball host Chris Matthews take on Republicans from the left, but in a new twist, he'll being doing the same this weekend on NBC's Sunday drama, The West Wing. As shown on Friday's Hardball, Matthews plays himself in a scene in which the “Josh Lyman” character, the campaign manager for imaginary left-wing Democratic presidential candidate “Matt Santos” (played by Jimmy Smits), cheers on Matthews for his questions to “Arnie Vinick,” the very un-conservative Republican presidential candidate played by Alan Alda. “Lyman” exclaims, "Yeah, welcome to Hardball, Arnie!" and "Chris, baby, keep slugging!"
Following the preview, MSNBC aired a taped interview by Matthews with Alda from the West Wing set. Matthews conceded “the script was written for me,” but he that he “thought it was really smart.” Matthews applauded Hollywood's ideal GOP candidate: “You come off as kind of a Giuliani guy. You're for abortion rights, but you don't like the idea of partial birth. You're kind of a maverick Republican, you're from California. You shine your own shoes. What an interesting guy you are.” Matthews admired how “your character this last season [said] he'd studied the Bible...and you just couldn't go along with having people die because they didn't go to church or didn't honor the Sabbath, but yet slavery was okay in the Bible back in those days.” Matthews fretted: “It's a very thoughtful sort of inquiry, but do you think a guy like that could ever be elected President in this church-going country of ours?"
Indeed, as recounted in an April MRC CyberAlert item: “Hollywood's ideal Republican President, as brought to life two weeks ago by NBC's The West Wing, is 'pro-choice,' 'pro-environment,' will save the party from the 'right wing,' engineers a deal to raise the minimum wage and lectures about keeping religion out of politics.” (See full rundown below)
Asked this afternoon on FNC's DaySide whether “good things” happening in Iraq are being overlooked by the U.S. media, Kayla Williams, an Arabic interpreter for the U.S. Army who held the rank of Sergeant and appeared on FNC to tout her new book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, replied: “Absolutely.” She explained that “one of the things that sticks out most clearly in my mind would be driving down the road and we would pass schools where children were getting to go to school for the first time in a generation. They would lean out their windows of their classrooms cheering and waving to us in their little school uniforms. And you don't see the images of soldiers passing out school supplies."
National Guardsman Jason Christopher Hartley, author ofJust Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq, offered a more generous assessment of media coverage, pointing out that even if you have good news on water treatment plants, voting and schools, but in “the process of those things, three civilians get killed,” then “there's going to be a lot of focus on that” and, therefore, “there is enough horrible things happening that kind of like overshadows maybe all of the great things that might take place there." Transcripts of the exchanges follow.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, on Tuesday night, quoted and played some video from a September BBC interview with actor Donald Sutherland, including a tearful rant against President Bush and American conservatives: "We have children. How dare we take their legacy from them? How dare we? It's shameful what we are doing to our world.” Scarborough read how Sutherland, who plays the villainous Republican Speaker of the House on ABC's Commander in Chief, charged that Bush and GOP leaders “only care about profit. They will destroy our lives. And so it's something you have to care about if you're passionate about the lives of our children because we've stolen their future.” I tracked down the BBC's September 27 posting of a 25-minute RealPlayer video of the interview aired on the September 16 HARDtalk Extra and when asked about “mean-spiritedness" in U.S. politics, Sutherland bemoaned the censoring of Kanye West from NBC's re-play of the fundraising concert, as well as how, after the Dixie Chicks were critical of President Bush, a radio chain supposedly “organizes a purchase of all of their CDs and then has tractors running over them in Detroit. I mean, we're back in burning books in, wherever, in Germany."
On Wednesday's World News Tonight, ABC's Dan Harris highlighted conservative criticism of the selection of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, but delivered something unusual in network TV news -- story-concluding spin from a conservative perspective. Harris wrapped up his October 5 piece: "The faith angle is tricky for the President. He's argued Miers won't change twenty years down the line. But twenty years ago, before she was born again, she was a Democrat. Which raises the question: If she's changed once, can't she change again?" Earlier, he had relayed criticism from the right, such as former Bush 43 speechwriter David Frum's observation which encapsulated why so many conservatives are disappointed: “If you put someone like Harriet Miers in that room with someone as brilliant and charming as Stephen Breyer, she's never going to win any arguments with him."
Concluding her Tuesday NBC Nightly News story on conservative resistance to the nomination of Harriet Miers, Andrea Mitchell asserted that while “critics on the right say” that it “leaves them depressed and disappointed," their “opposition may not matter for Miers' confirmation. So far, no Republican Senator has joined the chorus of critics." But those who watched ABC or CBS heard something very different. On World News Tonight, ABC’s Terry Moran reported that “in a sign of potential trouble ahead, Republican Senator San Brownback, a leading conservative on the Judiciary Committee, released a statement today saying: 'I am not yet confident that Ms. Miers has a proven track record and I look forward to having these questions answered.'" Over on the CBS Evening News, John Roberts related how “many members of the President's own party remain perplexed by his choice for this critical swing seat." Viewers then heard this soundbite from the Kansas Republican Senator: "You had a number of outstanding potential nominees who had been or were, or are, sitting judges. And so you look at this one and you say, well, why did you go here when you had so many other opportunities?"
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter launched a vicious attack, on Congressman Tom DeLay's ideology, in this week's magazine. Promoting it, on Monday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC, he charged that "it's the first time in 200 years that the House of Representatives has been run for a whole decade, or almost a decade, by a corrupt zealot." That matched the language in his one-page piece, "Tom DeLay's House of Shame," in which he contended: "I have no idea if DeLay has technically broken the law. What interests me is how this moderate, evenly divided nation came to be ruled on at least one side of Capitol Hill by a zealot." The pull-out quote in the hard copy edition, and the subhead online, read: "Congress has always had its share of extremists. But the DeLay era is the first time the fringe has ever been in charge." Alter maintained that "the only reason the House hasn't done even more damage is that the Senate often sands down the most noxious ideas, making the bills merely bad, not disastrous."
All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Monday focused attention on the disappointment expressed by conservatives at President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, but the CBS Evening News went the furthest in reporting the selection through a liberal prism. Anchor Bob Schieffer employed “rights” language which put the liberal position in a positive light: “Social conservatives wanted someone who is on the record against gay rights and abortion rights. Many liberals wanted someone who is for abortion rights.”
John Roberts put the most negative hue on Miers' connection to Bush as he asserted that “Miers' ties to President Bush are too close for some people on the left and right. What looks like, they say, to be the very embodiment of cronyism." To back that up, Roberts ran a clip from CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. Unlike ABC's Terry Moran and NBC's Pete Williams, Roberts failed to point out (as did Gloria Borger in a subsequent piece) how Miers gave a $1,000 to the Al Gore campaign in 1988, but Roberts, using phraseology favorable to abortion backers, stressed her position on abortion: “We do know as head of the Texas bar, she fought against support for abortion rights and she was a patron of a Texas anti-abortion group. Friends say she is very religious.” Roberts concluded with an extreme label: “White House officials, including the Vice President, insist she has the sort of bedrock conservative judicial philosophy that even the far right will like." (I doubt Cheney used the term “far right.”)
Dan Rather's national media colleagues rallied around him, and denigrated his critics, at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards presented by the National Television Academy at a September 19 ceremony, where Rather was honored with a lifetime achievement award, which C-SPAN aired Saturday night. ABC's Ted Koppel praised Rather as “a man of honesty and integrity and decency.” Referring to Rather's “memogate,” Koppel sarcastically suggested: “I would simply urge your most vociferous critics to take a page from the White House's own playbook. When one of their own a makes a mistake, they stress the importance of looking to the future and of not playing the blame game.” MSNBC President Rick Kaplan, a former executive at ABC and CNN, asserted that “Dan was meticulously careful to be fair and balanced and accurate” during his career. Kaplan then lashed out: “When did we allow those with questionable agendas to take the lead and convince people of something quite the opposite? It's shameful.” Kaplan went so far to declare that Rather's “legacy” is “the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to.”
Rather earned a standing ovation for a full minute when Koppel brought him on stage to accept his award. Koppel then read the glowing citation: “For a distinguished career of outstanding television reporting. Known as the hardest working man in journalism, Dan Rather is a fearless reporter who has kept Americans informed about the world's most-defining moments for over half a century." Full quotes from Koppel and Kaplan, as well as fawning words from another speaker, follow.
“Bill Bennett is the poster child for racism” and “you cannot say that statement that was made by Bill Bennett is not a racist statement,” Colby King, the Washington Post’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor and columnist, declared on this weekend’s Inside Washington. King contended that “there's no way you can parse his words and get away from what he said. What he said was morally reprehensible. He has said, in effect, that blacks have a predisposition for being criminals.” No, Bennett simply based his proposition on how a higher percentage of blacks than other races commit crimes and, like King, Bennett rejected the idea of systematic abortion as “morally reprehensible.” Nonetheless, King proposed, “Now the question is: How will his party handle him? Will they come to his defense? Or will they take the right position?"
The CBS Evening News, which in June never uttered a syllable about Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's incendiary comments, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, equating U.S. servicemens' treatment of detainees at Guantanamo with the Nazi regime and the Soviet gulags, on Friday led with remarks made by Bill Bennett, just two days earlier, on his morning radio show. With “Bennett Blunder” on screen, Wyatt Andrews teased his lead story: "He really did say it, that fewer black babies would reduce crime.” Anchor Bob Schieffer appeared stupefied: "We start tonight with a story that everyone seems to be talking about, and you have to ask, 'Just what was the man thinking?'” Andrews played an audio clip of Bennett saying that “you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down” as well as how “that would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.” Andrews then seemed befuddled: "Abort black babies and the crime rate goes down?”
It may have been an impolitic formulation (aborting all male babies for a while would lead to much less crime 15-25 years later), but as the saying goes, a gaffe in Washington is when someone says a truth people don't want to hear -- though Bennett immediately denounced the notion as "morally reprehensible." Andrews quoted from Bennett's defense, but concluded by complaining that Bennett did not cave in to political correctness: “Bennett's written statement renounces all bigotry and asserts that over his career he's worked hard for minorities. But there's nothing in the statement even close to regret or to an apology.”
Friday's NBC Nightly News also pounced on Bennett with a full story before the first ad break. Back in June, the program ran just an anchor-read brief on Durbin. Friday night, unlike Andrews, Mike Taibbi pointed out how "Bennett said he based his comments on the book Freakonomics, which, among other things, theorizes a link between abortion generally and the crime rate, but that his comments in their entirety made his position unmistakable." ABC's World News Tonight aired nothing Friday, but had a short item Thursday night. Good Morning America, which waited more than week until Durbin's apology to touch his comments, aired a full story Friday morning on Bennett. NBC's Today, which also didn't get to Durbin until he apologized -- and then not until the 8am news update, put Bennett at the top of Friday's Today. “Under fire,” Katie Couric announced, “former Education Secretary William Bennett feeling the heat for saying this on the radio." Viewers then heard a clip which excluded Bennett's “morally reprehensible” clarification.
Full transcripts of the CBS, NBC and ABC stories follow, along with links to MRC CyberAlert coverage of the reticent approach to Durbin.
The CBS Evening News, which described Ken Starr as the “Republican” independent counsel, on Wednesday night went out of its way to avoid alerting viewers to how Ronnie Earle, the Texas county prosecutor behind the indictment of Tom DeLay, is a Democrat. Anchor Bob Schieffer twice described DeLay not by his title as House Majority Leader, but as the “House Republican Leader.” While Schieffer relayed how DeLay “says he's the innocent victim of a rogue district attorney,” viewers did not learn of Earle's party affiliation until three-fourths the way through Jim Stewart's story when Stewart related how DeLay believes “the personal vendetta of Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle” is “the real cause of his problems."
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased at the top of World News Tonight how “one of the most powerful men in Washington is facing the prospect of jail time” and she proceeded to identify Earle as simply “a prosecutor.” Reporter Linda Douglass cited “District Attorney Ronnie Earle” before, late in her piece, attributing Earle's partisan status to an assertion by DeLay, as if it's a matter of dispute: “DeLay says the prosecutor is a Democrat on a witch-hunt." (Douglass did note that “the indictment provided no evidence that DeLay knew anything.")
In contrast, by citing a claim by DeLay, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams strongly hinted at Earle's affiliation. He teased: "Tonight, indicted. Tom DeLay, facing criminal conspiracy charges. The House Majority Leader calls the prosecutor 'a partisan fanatic.'" Chip Reid noted how "DeLay today unleashed a bitter attack on Earle, who is a Democrat." But Reid countered with how “in an interview with NBC News earlier this year, Earle vigorously denied his investigation of DeLay was motivated by politics."
Complete transcripts follow, along with quotes of Dan Rather tagging Starr as a “Republican.”
ABC's new Commander in Chief drama, which debuted Tuesday night, 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 the debut, Republican “President Teddy Roosevelt Bridges” dies of an aneurysm, but before he does so he asks VP Allen, an independent with more liberal views, to resign so the Speaker can become President since he "shares my vision." Allen plans to do so, enraging her chief aide who declares of Templeton: “This guy makes Genghis Khan look like Mahatma Gandhi.” And he warns that a Templeton presidency would mean “the return of book-burning, creationism in the classroom, invading every third world country."
During a meeting with Allen, who is on a quest to save a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for having a baby outside of marriage, Templeton enrages Allen by deriding the woman as “the adulteress” and “a lady who couldn't keep her legs together." (As if that's how conservatives view the plight of women in the world.) Templeton's buffoonery prompts Allen to fold up the draft of her resignation letter -- and thus make the theme of the TV series, a woman President, occur. Sutherland is a leading character on the show and the preview of next week's episode suggests that he will “sabotage” Allen's VP pick.
Nearly three times as many of those polled in a new Gallup survey said they believe the media are “too liberal” than “too conservative.” Gallup's Tuesday press release for the poll, which is earning publicity for how it found that “trust and confidence in the news media is up” from last year, reported: “When asked about the news media's political slant, Americans are much more likely to say they are too liberal (46%) than they are to say they are about right (37%) or too conservative (16%). Those views are consistent with what Gallup has measured since 2001. The percentage of Americans saying the news media are too liberal has ranged between 45% and 48%, and has always been the plurality response. There has been a slight increase in the public's sentiment that the media are too conservative, from 11% in 2001 to 16% today.”
Last year, 48 percent saw the media as “too liberal” compared to 15 percent who thought the media were “too conservative.” Given the plus/minus three percent margin of error, the numbers are essentially unchanged from last September. More results follow.
Saturday's “anti-war” protest in Washington, DC featured a long list of little-known characters from a litany of far-left and even further out groups with an America-hating agenda. But amongst the speakers on the stage, as shown live by C-SPAN, was actress Jessica Lange. She denounced President Bush's “propensity to lie” and how he's “a man who traffics in deadly lies.” Lange argued that those behind the war want “a continuing military presence in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan.” Citing how “not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet,” she charged that “this disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart.” Lange also maintained that “when I hear his empty words with phrases like 'armies of compassion' or 'culture of responsibility,' I understand how deep their mendacity runs: They are a lie.”
Back in 2002 in Spain, Lange claimed “the election was stolen by George Bush and we have been suffering ever since under this man’s leadership” and that “it is an embarrassing time to be an American. It really is. It’s humiliating.” That won her the “The I’m Not a Geopolitical Genius But I Play One on TV Award” at the MRC's DisHonors Awards. For a RealPlayer video clip.
Full transcript of her Saturday rant at the rally follows.
Actor Alec Baldwin, on Thursday night's Too Late with Adam Corolla on Comedy Central, denigrated President Bush as "the little guy that snuck into the theater and he popped the window open so that all these other hooligans could come in and just rape and rip off and plunder the government." Baldwin's attack on Bush followed his explanation that the only reason he can't be President himself is that "to do that would mean to give up what I'm doing now. And I've said this a few times over the last couple of years is that I don't know whether I'm ready to give up what I'm doing now." (Baldwin appeared on the midnight EDT/PDT show to promote his role on the season debut this week of NBC's Will & Grace sit-com.)
A week after NPR’s Nina Totenberg, on Inside Washington, urged imposition of a “Katrina tax,” on the same show this weekend she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks as small change and suggested that “if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." She rejected the contention that would hurt the economy and forwarded the standard liberal class warfare argument that “if people who are richer in this country don't pay more, we can't take it out of the hides of poor people, which is what the conservative group that is actually in Congress that's put out earmarks of what they think we ought to cut -- Medicaid, Medicare.”
Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, soon chimed in to point out how “there's no law in the Bible that says a Republican can never raise taxes." He recalled how “Ronald Reagan raised taxes, you know, he cut taxes, but then he raised taxes. George Bush, the father, raised taxes.”
Complete transcript of the remarks by Totenberg and Thomas follow. UPDATE: On another weekend TV talk show, the McLaughlin Group, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift also looked to undoing tax reductions to pay for Katrina.
At the premiere party Wednesday night in Beverly Hills for ABC's new drama debuting on Tuesday, Commander in Chief, in which Geena Davis plays the President of the United States, actress Sara Rue told USA Today reporter William Keck for a Friday article: "In my mind I'm pretending that Geena Davis is actually running the country because it makes me feel a lot more secure." Keck asserted that Rue, who stars on ABC'sLess Than Perfect, summed “up the opinions of the mostly Democratic Hollywood crowd” when she declared: “We all thought of Hillary Clinton when we heard they were making this show. I hope it takes off!"
Davis herself, however, who Keck reported will be “a Democrat playing an independent,” had “clarified: 'We're making this as entertainment. But God willing, if this show stays on and people see a woman in that office for a while, I think it will help people become more used to it. It's certainly about time that we had a few female presidents.'"
A day after NBC's Matt Lauer asked on Today, "why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame?" and Robert Bazell ominously concluded an NBC Nightly News story by asserting that "many experts say" hurricane-fueling global warming "results partly from humans releasing greenhouse gases possibly creating even more violent storms in the future," ABC and CBS aired stories which largely dismissed global warming as a culprit. On Thursday's World News Tonight, ABC's Ned Potter featured a soundbite from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield, who in little-reported congressional testimony Tuesday, discounted global warming as a factor. CBS's Russ Mitchell, on The Early Show, featured a scientist who "says hurricane activity comes in cycles that can last several decades. It seems Mother Nature has mood swings." Mitchell explained that "hurricane cycles are primarily driven by rainfall patterns in Africa and the Amazon basin." As for hype about hurricanes on the rise, Mitchell admonished: "The experts will tell us back in the '50s and '60s we saw some monster hurricanes, but we just have very short memories."
(Viewers of ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, however, heard more hyperbolic lunacy on global warming as Barbra Streisand exclaimed to Diane Sawyer: "We are in a global warming emergency state and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense, there could be more droughts, dust bowls, you know it's amazing to hear these facts, I mean, the Andes have no ice caps on the mountains in winter. The glaciers are melting. I mean, for the United States not to be part of the Kyoto treaty is unforgivable.")
Full transcripts and CBS's 1950-'60s hurricane graphic follow.
Declaring that the Media Research Center “is a much more biased organization than any institution in the MSM," CBS Evening News Executive Producer Jim Murphy, on the CBS News “Public Eye” blog on Thursday, criticized two MRC CyberAlertarticles I wrote which were first posted this week on NewsBusters. Public Eye Editor Vaughn Ververs asked Murphy to comment on a September 20 NewsBusters item, “CBS: Bush Should 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.'” Murphy seemed befuddled by the article: “Please explain to me what's WRONG with pointing out the President spoke from an air-conditioned tent, which to most people on the gulf would be a more than welcome relief from their existence. It was not gratuitous, it was an interesting note” and the CBS reporter's “use of the well-known phrase, 'wake up and smell the coffee,' was attributed to the restaurant owners as THEIR feeling, NOT hers. It's just good, colorful, pointed writing.” (The MRC's Michelle Humphrey tracked down a still shot of Murphy from a May of 2004 appearance on CNN.)
But Murphy's reasoning is a tautology. I was criticizing the judgment of CBS News on what is news. Other outlets did not choose to highlight Bush's air-conditioned surroundings, how one woman at a French Quarter restaurant assailed him for not experiencing their suffering or what Jimmy Carter said. Carter makes comments nearly every day. CBS chose to report this particular comment on this day. CBS decided that the restaurant owner's comment was more newsworthy than any number of other soundbites they could have run. The story reflected an agenda. By Murphy's reasoning, my articles should be beyond criticism since they accurately quoted what CBS reported.
Public Eye Editor Ververs conceded the NewsBusters/MRC piece on Bush had a point about CBS's "attitude." That and a bit more from Murphy follows.
In a Wednesday CBS Evening News story on shortcomings in FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina, reporter Randall Pinkston cited “frustrations that reached as far away as the state of Maine, where officials received ice that was supposed to go to the Gulf Coast." Pinkston touted how “former President Jimmy Carter, who created FEMA, criticized the Bush administration's decision to strip the agency's independence." Viewers then saw a clip of Jimmy Carter from a Tuesday night forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta: "This obviously lowered FEMA's status so that they would have to go through four or five levels of bureaucracy even to reach the President, whereas FEMA used to deal directly with the President." Of course, that decision -- good or bad -- had bi-partisan support in Congress. (Neither ABC or NBC found Carter's remarks newsworthy.)
Was Bette Midler serious or joking, when she said at a Tuesday night “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy” fundraising concert in New York City, as recounted in a Rolling Stone posting: "I got a letter from the Republican Party the other day. I wrote back, 'Go fuck yourself.' She then added, 'George Bush is a fan of mine -- he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.'" Rolling Stone characterized that as an example of how some celebrities “angrily denounced government officials” and how Midler employed “even stronger words” than used by another singer. In contrast, however, the AP's Nekesa Mumbi Moody treated Midler's comments as comedy: “Except for a joke about President Bush by Bette Midler -- which promptly got her booed -- the evening's focus was not on the divisive politics of the tragedy, but on the music that has brought communities together in its wake.”
CBS on Tuesday night delivered a sarcastic look at President Bush's visit to the Gulf coast. After reciting a list of problems people are having in New Orleans, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi jumped to a soundbite of Bush in Mississippi, declaring: “Every time I come back here, I see progress." Alfonsi gratuitously pointed out that Bush was “speaking inside an air-conditioned tent” and noted how “he toured a Folgers plant in Louisiana” but, she stressed, “small business owners say this kind of progress is the exception.” Then, over video of a row of damaged and abandoned store fronts in New Orleans, she countered: “This is the reality.” Alfonsi made it personal, holding Bush responsible for the frustrations of a French Quarter restaurant owner: “After five visits in three weeks, they want the President to wake up and smell the coffee.” (That cute line ran over video of Bush, in a sweat-soaked shirt, shaking hands at the coffee plant.) Restaurant owner Arly Questa demanded: "Hang out, no air-conditioning, eat some MRE's every day, and then you might really understand what it's been like down here in New Orleans."
As Noel Sheppard posted on NewsBusters on Sunday, George Stephanopoulos' “entire twenty minutes” with Bill Clinton on This Week “appeared to be an opportunity for President Clinton to defame the current administration while pumping up his own legacy. Assisting this goal was Stephanopoulos who, regardless of what his former employer said, didn’t once challenge the accuracy of any of Clinton’s numerous misstatements of fact.” NBC's Tim Russert also got a sit-down with Clinton, at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, and did little more than toss up talking point cues to him in the taped interview aired on Sunday's Meet the Press.
Russert was even easier on Clinton than Stephanopoulos, pitching up such softballs as, "Do you think the war in Iraq has hurt the U.S. image in the world?," "Do you think global warming influences, effects, creates hurricanes or the severity of them?" and on paying for the Iraq war and Katrina, "How can we afford that? What is it going to do to the deficit? And what should we do about tax cuts and spending cuts?" Russert plugged the interview: "In his first Meet the Press interview since 1997, former President Bill Clinton reflects on poverty, religion, and politics 2008, right here on Meet the Press."