On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted a new poll claiming people support unions over Republican plans to cut state deficits: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that a majority of Americans, 56%, are opposed to cutting the pay and benefits of state workers to balance budgets while just 37% are in favor of it."
While Wragge called them "state workers," the actual poll consistently used the phrase "public employees," never state workers or government workers. On NBC's Today on Tuesday, pollster Frank Luntz explained how one phrase invokes a positive response while the other does not. Speaking to co-host Matt Lauer about the newly released CBS poll, he noted: "If you call them 'public workers' a majority of Americans respect them. If you call them 'government workers' a majority of Americans don't." Clearly, CBS and the New York Times selected wording that would elicit a response favorable to the liberal position on the issue.
At the top of Saturday's CBS Early Show, co-host Russ Mitchell cheered unions protests across the country: "Workers uniting. 50 rallies are planned in 50 states today, as organizers show solidarity with Wisconsin state workers, fighting to preserve their right to collectively bargain for benefits and work conditions."
Introducing the segment later, fellow co-host Rebecca Jarvis noted how the protests were organized by MoveOn.org. Rather than accurately label the organization as left-wing, she simply referred to it as "an advocacy group." In the report that followed, correspondent Cynthia Bowers announced that "workers who are coming to these rallies around the country to support Wisconsin workers are being told to wear those red t-shirts we've become so familiar with." The headline on screen throughout the segment referenced Karl Marx: "Workers of the Nation Unite; 50 State Rallies to Support Union Rights."
While even the liberal National Public Radio blog highlighted how the "U.S. Struggles to Evacuate; Others Don't" in Libya, on Saturday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Harry Smith gave the effort high marks: "If they were handing out a report card, as far as the embassy is concerned, it would be an A+." [Audio available here]
Co-host Rebecca Jarvis implied some displeasure with the evacuation in her question to Smith: "How do the Americans that you're talking to feel about the job that the U.S. embassy did throughout the ordeal in getting them to safety?" Smith dismissed any criticism of the government response: "There's so much anti-government sentiment in America about how different parts of the bureaucracy respond to things....the way that everything was handled was just absolutely impeccable."
While all three networks have touted Democratic claims that a government shutdown would stop Social Security Checks from going out, only CBS explained that the claim is completely false. ABC and NBC both used a sound bite of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin warning of the end of such payments, but reporters of neither network corrected the record.
In a report on Friday's Early Show on CBS, a clip was played of President Obama declaring during his February 15 press conference that a government shutdown would mean that "People don't get their Social Security checks. They don't get their veterans payments." Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante followed by pointing out: "That's actually not true. Social Security checks and veterans payments would still go out, just as they did when the government shut down 15 years ago."
While NBC was quick to cover a prank phone call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by a left-wing website on Wednesday, it did not give one word of reporting to a video sting earlier this month that showed Planned Parenthood employees agreeing to abortions for hypothetical underage girls involved in sex trafficking.
Wednesday's NBC Nightly News featured a report by correspondent Michael Isikoff, who argued that the prank call on Walker "provided his critics with evidence that his real motivation is what they've been saying all along, to crush public unions." On Thursday's Today, news reader Natalie Morales similarly declared: "Wisconsin Democrats say a recording of a prank call to Governor Scott Walker is proof that he plans to crush public worker unions."
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted President Obama's statement on the violence in Libya: "...making his first public statements on the situation there with some very strong words." However, moments after Obama's Wednesday comments, liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews admitted: "...that was pretty tame language given the horror that's going on in Tripoli."
On Thursday, Early Show co-host Erica Hill spoke with correspondent Mandy Clark, who was reporting from Libya, and asked about the impact of Obama's words on the crisis: "...he was saying the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and unacceptable. How much of President Obama's words have made it to people on the streets of Libya?" Clark claimed: "Everyone we spoke to felt encouraged that the President had come out with such strong words. They now feel that the eyes of the international community is upon Qadhafi, and that will force him to hold back on any bombing campaigns or any war crimes that he might commit."
On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Michael Isikoff claimed a prank phone call on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "provided his critics with evidence that his real motivation is what they've been saying all along, to crush public unions." On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill declared the "embarrassing" call revealed Walker's "plan for putting pressure on the big unions."
Isikoff suggested that Walker's private phone conversation with Ian Murphy of the left-wing Buffalo Beast website (who was pretending to be billionaire donor David Koch) ran counter to the Wisconsin Governor's public statements on his budget-cutting proposal: "Publicly, Governor Scott Walker has insisted the standoff over union rights in Wisconsin is all about saving money." On the Early Show, correspondent Dean Reynolds proclaimed: "Walker is heard discussing strategy to force Democratic senators to return to Wisconsin and vote. In another exchange, he tells of plans to punish state workers with layoffs."
On CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer interviewed Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and compared union protests in that state to the democracy movements spreading across the Middle East: "There are also reports that this could spread to at least nine other states....Is Madison, Wisconsin, Congressman, the Tunisia of American politics now?"
At the top of the broadcast, Schieffer declared "protests at home and abroad" and moments later, he touted the size and duration of the demonstrations in Wisconsin: "For the fourth day in a row and in the largest turnout yet, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again in Madison, Wisconsin as they marched to protest major cuts in state spending. The question is, will the protests spread to other states where similar proposals to cut spending are also being contemplated?"
In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge worried about the fallout from budget cutting in Wisconsin: "It seems to look like this governor [Scott Walker] is trying to basically break unions and that other states may then follow suit. Is this – should unions be on alert all around the country?"
Huckabee pointed out: "I think unions have to get realistic. They can't expect to pay $1 in and get $57 from the state as a pension match. Nobody else gets that." Earlier, Wragge expressed skepticism of Governor's Walker's handling of the issue: "...what you've seen...with the workers and the unions versus Governor Scott Walker and the teacher sick outs, do you think this was handled the best way it possibly could have been?" Huckabee defended Walker: "I think he's got to call attention to the fact that this is a serious issue....You can't borrow money that you can't afford to pay back."
In an interview with the Democratic minority leader of the Wisconsin state senate on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proposed a solution to the political stalemate over curbing benefits for public union workers in the state, suggesting Democrats "work together" with "more moderate Republicans" to "come to some sort of agreement that could then put pressure on the Governor."
Minority Leader Mark Miller eagerly agreed: "Absolutely. I think cooler heads need to prevail....There is such a thing as compromise. The Governor needs to be part of that." Earlier, Hill had explained that: "There's been a proposal put forth by moderate Republicans in the state which would effectively take those collective bargaining rights away [from teachers unions], but only for two years, it would bring them back in 2013." To which Miller remarked: "Well, the problem is, is that the Governor has to agree. And the Governor has not done anything except insist...it has to be his way. All or nothing. And the Governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, you negotiate."
Discussing the union protests in Wisconsin with political analyst John Dickerson on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge noted: "You talk about this being a potential Tea Party movement for the Left." In response, Dickerson proclaimed: "...this is the energizing moment on the Left, progressives and unions have always been together....It's about the threat to their benefits."
It's interesting that Dickerson made a positive comparison to the Tea Party, given that last year he appeared on the Early Show and described how Democrats hoped the conservative movement would "overreach" and become "a stain on the Republican Party." On Monday, he further explained to Wragge how liberals "were a little dispirited, Barack Obama didn't turn out to be the president they had hoped. Well now they're quite energized and it's not about President Obama anymore."
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge attempted to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curb costly benefits for public sector unions in his state as purely political: "Your teachers union, which votes Democratic...hit very hard. Yet your police, state trooper, firemen unions, who all supported and endorsed you, did not get touched in any of this. Why is that?" [Audio available here]
In the live interview, Walker quickly dismantled the entire premise of Wragge's attack: "Chris that actually is not true. There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent." Wragge was undeterred in his follow up question: "But you understand their position with some of the state workers, saying you're essentially taking away their voice by trying to break these unions. You understand that, correct?"
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante seized on a rare instance in which the Obama administration and conservative members of Congress happened to agree on a single budget cut: "It's not very often that the Obama administration finds itself on the same side as Tea Party Republicans when it comes to spending."
The spending in question was funding for the production of jet engines for F-35 fighter aircraft. As Plante described it: "Defense Secretary Gates and the President say it's not necessary. And so do fiscal conservatives." He also noted that cancelling the project was "a defeat for House Speaker John Boehner....Part of it would have been made in his district." The on-screen headline read: "Budget Battle; GOP Fiscal Hawks Torpedo Boehner Pet Project."
Brewer argued that the President's supposed "slash" in spending, "forces Republicans to take an even stricter stand if they want to appear to be spending hawks." As a result, she warned: "...if the Republicans embrace the role of meanie money enforcer it gives Democrats an opening to show a big heart." Brewer cheered that "while both parties try to avoid getting too specific about spending cuts, the President gets to take a higher road, promising to veto any bill that undermines critical priorities."
In Tuesday's Kansas City Star, reporter Aaron Barnhart revealed that Current TV, the cable channel launched in 2005 by Al Gore, would be the least missed, only managing to be viewed by 18,000 households in the fourth quarter of 2010. Also on the list of "Cable's Least Wanted" were the DIY network, ESPN Classic, Fox Soccer Channel, Logo, and Sleuth.
Despite such abysmal ratings for Current, Barnhart argued that the addition of former MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann to the channel would turn things around: "The good news for Current is that it won’t be counting its audience in the high five figures, at least not when Olbermann is on the air." He later remarked: "Unlike Current, the rest of Cable’s Least Wanted don’t have a ratings savior waiting in the wings."
On Friday's O'Reilly Factor, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly held ABC and NBC News to account for failing to cover the recent Planned Parenthood video stings conducted by the pro-life organization Live Action: "Fox News and CNN covered the...tapes extensively and CBS News did as well...However NBC and ABC News both ignored the situation....it was a pretty big omission." [Audio available here]
O'Reilly challenged two liberal political science professors on the lack of coverage and the reasoning behind it. Speaking to Dr. Caroline Heldman of Occidental College and Dr. Mark Sawyer of UCLA, O'Reilly cited the Media Research Center's reporting of ABC and NBC's silence on the issue: "Brent Bozell's organization basically says this is a pattern, because those news organizations are liberal and they like abortion – not like abortion – but they support abortion rights. They don't want to bring any attention to this kind of stuff." Both networks have continued to ignore the story.
Discussing the state of the Republican Party with political analyst John Dickerson on Saturday's CBS Evening News, anchor Russ Mitchell concluded: "...it has been a tough week for House Republicans." On Friday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira made an identical observation, declaring : "It has been a rough, rough week for the Republicans, to say the very least."
Mitchell explained his assertion: "Of the four bills planned for votes this week, only one passed. You also had a Republican congressman resign in a scandal." Speaking to Meet the Press host David Gregory on Friday, Vieira made the same points and wondered: "How big of a setback is this for the party?" On Saturday, Mitchell saw the possibility for more GOP difficulties: "As Republicans gear up for this budget battle with the President, do all these problems this week lead to trouble down the road?"
While NBC, ABC, and CBS all pushed the scandal involving New York Republican Congressman Christopher Lee into a second day of coverage, the networks made little or no mention of Florida Democratic Congressman Tim Mahoney admitting to numerous affairs in 2008.
The scant coverage of Mahoney was particularly stunning given that he replaced Republican Mark Foley, who was caught sending inappropriate emails to congressional pages in 2006. At that time, the media used the Foley scandal to portray the Republican Party as corrupt and scandal-ridden throughout the 2006 midterm election, in which Democrats gained control of Congress.
During a report on Friday's CBS Early Show, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes emphasized division in the new Republican Congress: "The prospect of a mutiny had sent Republican leaders scrambling to craft an even leaner budget, and make good on their promises to the Tea Party....Just this week, small groups of conservatives defeated two of their own party's measures on the House floor."
Cordes went on to highlight tensions at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were booed by one faction of attendees. While Donald Trump, who's toying with a presidential run in 2012, took a swipe at his fellow Republican, Congressman Ron Paul." The headline on screen throughout Cordes's report read: "GOP Power Struggle; Agree to Budget Deal After Early In-Fighting." Later in a 7:32AM ET news brief, news reader Jeff Glor similarly declared: "Republicans are closing out a week of infighting."
In an interview with AlterNet's Don Hazen on Tuesday, MSNBC host Cenk Uygur slammed Fox News and bragged how he would take them on in the ratings: "For so long, they have controlled the national conversation....I want to drain them of that power. I want to put them back in the cave they came from....I also plan to beat them in the ratings and make them fear me."
Uygur, who also hosts the left-wing webcast The Young Yurks, has been filling in as anchor for the 6PM ET hour on MSNBC following the departure of Countdown host Keith Olbermann and the reshuffling of the cable news channel's prime time lineup. He is currently in negotiations with MSNBC for a permanent show. Despite Uygur's boasting, as of February 7, FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier was bringing in over 2.1 million viewers, MSNBC Live at 6PM ET had an audience just under 600,000.
On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford reported on the video sting operation conducted by the pro-life group Live Action: "The videos are troubling....showing Planned Parenthood staffers all too eager to help reported teenage sex workers get abortions and contraception." ABC and NBC have been silent on the controversy since the video was released on February 1.
Crawford explained: "Planned Parenthood has fired one worker in the videos and said it will retrain its staff. It reported the incidents to Attorney General Eric Holder and CBS News has learned the FBI is now investigating." A sound bite was featured from Planned Parenthood spokesman Stuart Schear, who ranted: "Live Action is a political operation. Its goal is to make abortion illegal in the United States. It's an extreme group."
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Michelle Miller reported on planned closures of 2,000 U.S. Post Office locations: "...in this age of digital communications, online bill paying, and Federal Express, are physical post offices still relevant?" She seemed to answer her own question: "Folks are not going to let this go down without a fight...It's what makes their community whole."
During her report, Miller explained how the government subsidized organization had "a record deficit this year of $8.5 billion, the Postal Service loses a staggering $23 million a day and is facing a growing number of problems." Even so, she played on the emotions of viewers, interviewing an elderly New Jersey man named Harold Schutzman, who explained: "[I] got a friend there at the desk, Gary. I can't get into the paying by e-mail."
At the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill cheered President Obama's supposedly pro-business move of speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday: "Obama's olive branch. The President reaches out into hostile territory and meets with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urging the private sector to start hiring."
Introducing the later report on the speech, co-host Chris Wragge touted the event as Obama's continued "effort to make peace with big business," despite the Chamber being "a group that he has battled ever since he took office." Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante noted how "Mr. Obama pledged to work on lowering federal spending, revising the corporate tax code, and eliminating some federal regulations." What the coverage failed to point out was that 43 major new regulations were imposed by the Obama administration in 2010.
While both CBS's Early Show and ABC's Good Morning America identified The Huffington Post as a liberal blog when discussing AOL purchasing the web site for $315 million, on NBC's Today, news reader Ann Curry simply described it as an "online news site" co-founded by "pundit" Arianna Huffington.
On Good Morning America, news reader JuJu Chang referred to The Huffington Post as a "top-ten news site" but accurately described it as being "co-founded by liberal commentator Arianna Huffington." The Early Show's Jeff Glor did not label the blog a news site at all and was the most direct in pointing out its ideological slant: "Huffington Post, a left-leaning site, was founded in 2005."
In an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl for CBS's Sunday Morning, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made his latest attack against Sarah Palin, ranting: "I have a big problem with people who glamorize dumbness. And demonize education and intellect. And I'm giving a pretty good description of Sarah Palin right now." [Audio available here]
Stahl made no effort to challenge Sorkin's vicious personal attacks, simply remarking: "He seems to be having a second career these days, going after Sarah Palin. In an essay for The Huffington Post, he called her a 'witless bully.'" Given the media's concern with civility and harsh political rhetoric in the wake of the Tucson shooting, one wonders why Stahl did not condemn such language.
On Thursday, Louisiana Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman found that the Obama Interior Department was in contempt of his ruling that the offshore oil drilling moratorium, imposed by the administration in 2010, was unconstitutional. After Feldman struck down the initial drilling ban, the Interior Department simply established a second ban that was virtually identical.
While the story was reported on Thursday by wire services like the Associated Press and picked up by frequently cited internet news sites like Politico, the television media, including ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN, all ignored the story.
On his Wednesday 4PM ET show on MSNBC, host Dylan Ratigan denounced the fact that the recent Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), convened to detail the causes of the 2008 economic collapse, only had a budget of $8 million, while back in 1998, the "Clinton-Lewinsky blowjob investigation" had a $40 million budget. He was apparently referring to special prosecutor Ken Starr investigating perjury charges against the former president.
The report from the FCIC was highly partisan, with the six Democrats on the commission claiming that primary reason for the financial crisis was the lack of government regulation in the private sector. As a result, the four Republican commissioner refused to sign on to the findings and released their own dissenting report.
In a pre-taped interview with gun control advocate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, aired during Wednesday's 1PM ET hour on MSNBC, host Andrea Mitchell browbeat President Obama for having "absolutely nothing, not one word....not even a sentence" about gun control in his State of the Union address.
Prior to the interview, Mitchell touted Bloomberg's anti-gun crusade: "Michael Bloomberg is on a mission, a mission to curb guns, especially the semiautomatic pistols and the magazine used in Tucson. He sent New York undercover investigators to buy guns and ammo at a Phoenix gun show last month." While she noted how the Arizona attorney general "says Bloomberg overstepped his bounds" she seemed to cheer the Mayor's defiance: "I talked to the mayor last night and he's only just beginning to fight."
Speaking to physicist Michio Kaku on Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge fretted over the recent series of severe winter storms and wondered: "...nine storms in seven weeks, why is this happening?...a lot of people want to talk about global warming and thinking that that may actually come into play here. Is that accurate? Is that having an effect on what's going on?"
Dr. Kaku agreed with the suggestion: "Yes. It seems to violate common sense, but as the Earth begins to heat up, that means more moist air in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico on average. Which creates more precipitation, and eventually more snow." Wragge followed up: "Is this going to continue?" Kaku argued: "...on average, temperatures are going to rise. Remember, last year was the hottest year ever recorded in the history of science, next to 2005, since 1880. So the Earth is heating up. We can debate exactly what's driving it. But, hey, get used to it. We're going to have more energy sloshing around the Earth, more extremes, and swings."