On Wednesday two correspondents reporting from Iraq had dramatically different takes on the protest by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, who were said to be upset by President Bush’s recent trip to Baghdad. NBC reporter Richard Engel described it as "a relatively small" protest while Lee Cowan of CBS said protesters’ anger had "boiled over".
Ironically, early Wednesday CBS anchor Bob Schieffer offered high praise for NBC's Engel.
On the Wednesday CBS Evening News Lee Cowan offered this description of the protests, "Anger over the U.S. presence here and the President’s surprise visit yesterday boiled over. Thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made it clear again today that the 130,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq should withdraw immediately and leave Iraq to its own devices."
On Friday, Good Morning America devoted its first three stories to the collection of phone numbers by the National Security Agency. GMA reporters portrayed the news as creating a "firestorm of controversy" and as hitting Capitol Hill "like a ton of bricks." Yet the white-hot criticism was all coming from liberal Democrats during an election year. And as an ABC poll found, by two to one Americans think the program is justified.
Diane Sawyer introduced the first story, "But let's begin now with those 200 million Americans who may have had their phone calls tracked by the NSA. It has touched off a firestorm of controversy in Washington, pitting privacy against the war on terror. But ABC's Kate Snow and George Stephanopoulos have been covering this story from all angles for us. And we begin with Kate, who's in our Time Square studios here."
ABC seems to love the story of Rush Limbaugh's "drug deal." The same story that led the Friday edition of ABC’s World News Tonight was also mentioned at the top of this morning’s Good Morning America, even though there's nothing new to say.
So instead of news, ABC just suggested Limbaugh belongs in jail. Co-host Charlie Gibson teased "Rush to judgment? Rush Limbaugh is set to sign a deal with prosecutors today after three years of prescription drug fraud investigations. But, did he get off easy? The controversy ahead."
Then at the end of the 7am EDT half-hour, Gibson again suggested Rush deserved harsher punishment: "Coming up on Good Morning America, a rush to judgment? He’s made a deal with prosecutors. Did Rush Limbaugh get off easy?”
The media has recently put on quite a show about high oil prices. On Good Morning America reporter Ron Claiborne is spending the week on the road and hunting down motorists who want to "talk back to the oil companies". Today he was live from a gas station in Cleveland, Ohio.
In his report, Claiborne stated that "the mood on the road that we found is one of outrage. People are very, very angry over those high gas prices like you see right here. And also over those corporate profits, those oil company profits. And it's also a mood of suspicion and in some cases fear."
One "boiling mad" motorist ranted, "They're making billions and I'm making nothing. I'm poor. You know, I've got to pay $3 a gallon. It's cutting into my food bill and travel bills and my shoes and everything."
Good Morning America will use even the smallest excuse to give Jane Fonda a microphone. This morning Fonda was invited on the program to talk about the newly released paperback version of her autobiography, "My Life So Far". The only change to this edition is a new preface and a DVD.
Last year when the hardcover edition of "My Life so Far" was released, Good Morning America invited Fonda on for an interview aired in two parts: April 5 and April 6, 2005. Below are transcriptions of the Vietnam War segments of the interviews from today and April 6, 2005.
April 17, 2006:
Charlie Gibson: "You have written, also extensively in the book, about Vietnam and that era. And you have called it, that picture on the anti-aircraft battery, you've called it an horrific lapse of judgment. You've said you'll go to your grave regretting it.
In a flashback to last summer and a preview of this summer, Charlie Gibson accused oil companies of dictating the price of oil.
Gibson began an interview with a financial contributor for "Good Morning America" by asking if $3 a gallon was inevitable this summer. Mellody Hobson answered yes, then pointed out that oil prices managed to rally despite the warm winter.
Then Gibson complained, "Which leads everybody to be very cynical about what the oil companies are doing: it's a warm winter, so they have extra supply of oil; and they made record profits last year. So they can't get ready to give us decent supply this summer?"
Hobson: "Well the supply may be there but the issue is the market sets the price for gas around the world. And so if they can sell gas at $60 a barrel in the rest of the world, they're going to sell it at $60 a barrel in the U.S. They're not going to sell it cheaper."
In an appearance today on "Imus in the Morning," Andy Rooney quickly turned down the temperature in the CBS newsroom.
Don Imus: "So what do you think of these changes at CBS News?"
Andy Rooney: "I’m not enthusiastic about it. I think everybody likes Katie Couric, I mean how can you not like Katie Couric. But, I don’t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she’s coming here."
In a conversation about gas mileage, Charles Gibson showed he does have some understanding of how when a pie gets bigger, predictions done with static scoring, instead of dynamic scoring, are wildly inaccurate. Unfortunately, he doesn’t apply the same common sense to the affect of tax cuts on the federal deficit.
On this morning’s "Good Morning America" Gibson quizzed GMA financial contributor Mellody Hobson about the new fuel efficiency standards, "Mellody, when you do the math, first of all, we've had increases in mileage requirements in the past and I don't know that it's done anything to break our addiction to foreign oil. And secondly, if you run the math, they're increasing the requirements by 2.4 miles per gallon for SUVs and light pickup trucks over five years. That's an 11 percent improvement over five years. That's not much, is it?"
On Wednesday, Good Morning America asked viewers to go online and vote on which Iraqi story they thought should lead the news. The results were revealed on Thursday’s GMA and as Diane Sawyer said after a segment by Dan Harris, "And we’ll be back to Dan a little bit later in this half hour. He has the news on what you voted about what you wanted to hear from Iraq and it’s a surprise."
What surprised Ms. Sawyer? GMA viewers agreed with President Bush that more positive stories should make the broadcast. At 7:08, Charlie Gibson introduced Dan Harris for his second story of the day, "This morning we want to return to the question that the President has been emphasizing and that we discussed yesterday morning on this broadcast. And the question is: whether the media is only showing negative news from Iraq?
Jessica Simpson’s presence can make any story at least a little bit exciting and it seemed to get the best of ABC’s Bill Weir as he filled in for Charlie Gibson on this morning’s Good Morning America. Simpson, due in Washington today to lobby Congress on behalf of her favorite charity, turned down an invitation to a Republican fundraiser. GMA painted it as yet more bad news for President Bush.
After an introduction from Weir, reporter Andrea Canning described it as a strong rebuff of Bush, "Jessica Simpson has no trouble serving up pizza in her latest TV commercial, but when it comes to appearing with fellow Texan President Bush, the red, white and blonde actress is drawing the line." Then adding that Simpson said of the chance to attend the dinner, "It just feels wrong." Eventually, Canning noted that Simpson wanted to avoid politicizing the charity she was in town to promote.
Friday’s Good Morning America devoted a segment to something called "bubble-sitting" in which homeowners sell their home, rent an apartment and hope for real estate prices to decline so they can buy back into the market at a lower price. Charlie Gibson was about to explain why he prefers owning to renting when GMA’s real estate contributor, Barbara Corcoran, zinged the modest Gibson.
Charlie Gibson: "I must say I'm an advocate of ownership, because I think there's a certain--"
Barbara Corcoran: "That's because you're rich, you can buy a good home. (laughter) It's true."
The same media that joins the Democrats in accusing the Bush administration of using terrorism to scare the American people, seems to think scare tactics are okay when used to support a liberal agenda. On Thursday's Good Morning America, ABC's Bill Blakemore, for the second time in the past two months, used a one-sided story in an attempt to create paranoia about global warming.
When Blakemore fear-mongered about global warming on the January 11th GMA, he linked warming to a potential massive extinction of species around the world: "One study calculates within 45 years between 18 and 35 percent of Earth's plant and animal species will be extinct or committed to extinction because of global warming."
On Wednesday’s Good Morning America, news reader Bill Weir offered two widely different ways of describing the legal case involving the delayed execution of convicted killer Michael Morales in California. Weir’s second blurb on the story came at 8:32 AM and was attention catching:
Bill Weir: "New debate this morning over the death penalty after a last minute decision in the case of convicted killer Michael Morales. California prison officials postponed his execution indefinitely when doctors refused to administer a new court ordered method of lethal injection. Morales is on death row for torturing, raping and killing a 17 year-old girl. He claims lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment."
In an earlier take on the story in the 7:00 half hour, Weir offered scant context as to who Michael Morales is and what he did that caused a jury to sentence him to death:
Good Morning America's third day covering Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident was its biggest to date. On Monday's show, the 7:00 half hour started with three straight Cheney stories, followed by two more on Tuesday. This morning, GMA devoted its first four items to the hunting accident. At one point, viewers were shown live video of the four reporters as Diane Sawyer informed, "Our reporters, our team standing by to cover all the angles this morning from the medical condition to political and even potential legal fallout."
In the third story, Claire Shipman's hot pursuit of Cheney led to bizarre lecturing from Senator Hillary Clinton and Joe Lockhart, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton. Despite their affiliation with a presidency known for its own cover-ups and practice of releasing information on late Friday afternoons, Shipman treated both Clinton and Lockhart as paragons of forthrightness.
On this morning's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts read a brief news item about the latest tape from al Qaeda's #2 terrorist, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The tape was produced and released in part as a response to the U.S. effort to kill al-Zawahiri with a Predator air strike on January 14th. Roberts description of that attempt was incomplete, inaccurate and echoed Zawahiri's own propaganda on the air strike.
Near 7:12AM, Robin Roberts: "The FBI is asking its field offices to review all cases in light of a new video from al Qaeda's number two man. On the tape, Ayman al-Zawahiri called President Bush a 'butcher' and a 'failure'. He referred extensively to the failed U.S. air strike which was meant for him but killed civilians instead."
You can watch Imus in the Morning for a couple of years before this will happen, Don Imus thinks a guest goes too far with a joke. Normally, the I-Man enjoys finding humor in the agony of public figures. On today’s program Craig Crawford tried to play along and tested his new Samuel Alito material at 6:44.
Craig Crawford: "I actually think, you know, the wife leaving the room crying, that made all the evening news and, you know, it was the better video and made him look like a sympathetic figure. Although, you know, she started crying when Senator, when Lindsey Graham said Alito is not a bigot, that seemed to make her cry. I guess she thought she had married a bigot. It was surprising to her to hear that he wasn’t a bigot."
Pope Benedict XVI recently encouraged Catholics to remember the true meaning of Christmas and to not focus on the shopping aspect. After the speech, the first thing Diane Sawyer thought of was his shoes, his Prada shoes, and how they may represent a credibility problem for the Pope.
At the top of today’s Good Morning America, Sawyer said, "And speaking of shopping, the Pope has now weighed in saying Christmas has simply become too commercial. But we wonder about his own lifestyle. Remember those shoes? We're going to get into that." Robin Roberts, a co-host, responded with, "Yeah, the Prada shoes, the Gucci sunglasses. We'll see."
This morning’s Good Morning America found symbolism in President Bush’s encounter with a locked door when attempting to leave a press conference. In the opening tease at 7:00 AM, Charlie Gibson said, "No way out. President Bush tries the wrong door on his trip to Asia and has fun for the cameras. But the big question now: Does he have an exit strategy for Iraq?"
Later, Jessica Yellin, reporting from Mongolia, couldn’t let the door incident go. She said, "This wraps up a trip that saw no major accomplishments for the U.S. on key issues, but that did produce a classic and symbolic video moment.
"It happened as Mr. Bush attempted to make his exit after a press conference in China, only there was no way out for the Commander in Chief."
The media have repeatedly given air time to charges that the oil companies are taking advantage of consumers and earning unfair profits. Throughout the year reporters have alleged "oil companies...are making massive profits," "oil companies have watched their profits soar" and "record profits for the oil producers." But how do these oil profits compare to those of the media companies, themselves?
On November 9th, Congress held hearings and demanded that oil company executives, as ABC’s Jake Tapper said, "explain themselves as to why they’re experiencing record profits." Using Yahoo! Finance, I looked up the profit margin numbers for five of those oil companies and for five of the major media companies.
Mary Mapes, the producer fired from CBS News for her role in the 60 Minutes story about President Bush’s National Guard service, has written a book to explain her side of the story. On today’s Good Morning America she talked to ABC’s Brian Ross about that book and the forged documents used in the Bush story.
A minute or so into the interview Ross and Mapes got into the question of the documents and whether the responsibility was to prove the documents authentic before airing the story, or if any documents could be used until someone else proved them to be false.
Mapes: "I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof that I haven't seen."
Ross: "But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?"
Mapes: "Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false, yet."
Ross: "Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn't that really what journalists do?"
On Friday morning’s Imus in the Morning program on MSNBC, Andy Rooney, from CBS, interrupted the I-Man’s positive description of Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., to state that he doesn’t like the term "African-American" and considered "Negro" to be "a perfectly good word."
Imus described Ford as an "African-American" prompting Rooney to interject, "I object every time I hear the word, words ‘African-American.’ You know? I don’t know why we have gotten caught with that." After saying he doesn’t want to be called an ‘Irish-American,’ Rooney went on to state his preference for another term, "The word ‘Negro’ is a perfectly good word, it’s a strong word and a good word. I don’t see anything wrong with that." Video Available: Windows Media or Real Player
During the Clinton scandals, the media repeated attack after attack put forth by the Clinton administration against the various independent counsels charged with investigating it. Remember the Ken Starr treatment? Well, the media has finally found a special prosecutor that they like. On today's Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin painted Patrick Fitzgerald as 'the perfect man' to investigate the possible role of White House aides in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity.
Yellin reported that Fitzgerald "doesn't mind keeping Washington waiting and worrying as long as he gets his facts right." She described him as "determined, meticulous, intense, a man with a perfect memory." And if viewers weren't yet convinced, Yellin had more: "The son of a doorman, Fitzgerald worked his way through college as a custodian. He's single and commutes between Washington and Chicago where he's the city's top federal prosecutor. And yes, he's a workaholic with stories to tell. According to one friend, he's so rarely at home that he once cooked lasagna and left it in the oven for three months without realizing it."
While introducing the lead story on Thursday’s Nightline, Ted Koppel confessed near confusion as to how the media missed attacking the NRA in July, when the Senate passed the latest gun bill. He described the media as "clearly on the side of stricter gun laws," then complained that the "press even missed it or overlooked" the bill which he described as "Christmas in July" for the NRA. To justify coming to the story late, Koppel concluded, "And while we are late in reporting it, this, we felt, is truly a case of better late than never." (read the full transcript...)
Clay Waters of MRC's TimesWatch caught a CNN employee calling Rove's version of the Valerie Plame story "bullshit" as Dobbs introduced a report from Dana Bash. The last reporter seen sitting next to Dobbs at the anchor desk was Kitty Pilgrim, and the unidentified voice is similar to Pilgrim's. The following occurred on Friday night's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
Lou Dobbs: "Tonight, a surprising new development in the CIA leak investigation. Karl Rove's testimony to a federal grand jury is being reported. The testimony suggests that President Bush's political adviser may not have been the original source for the Valerie Plame leak. Rove testifying that he first learned about Plame from columnist Robert Novak, a CNN contributor. Dana Bash reports."
Unidentified Voice: "That's bullshit."
The Early Show once again ignored the release of a positive economic report. The NFP (Nonfarm Payroll) numbers showed decent gains for June and healthy revisions up for both April and May. After the numbers came out, TES still had time for six stories, including one about a family with a new set of identical triplets to add to their identical twins. At least TES didn't accuse the Bush administration of drafting a couple of the newborns to join the labor force.