Pat Robertson has no one to blame but himself for the criticism he's attracted in reaction to his latest looniness, in which he suggested that Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was divine retribution for dividing the land of Israel. For that matter, on the all-publicity-is-good-publicity theory, Robertson might be reveling in the notoriety.
So while the Today show can hardly be faulted for reporting Robertson's outrageous comment, was it necessary in doing so to take a gratuitous swipe at the beliefs of millions of Americans?
In its segment, Today catalogued a number of Robertson's controversial statements, from his suggestion that the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to calling Islam a "scam," to predicting that Orlando could be hit with earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor for flying gay pride flags.
Once in a while, it happens. TV serves up human drama in real time. So it was on this morning's Today show, when the bereaved son of one of the Sago miners confronted the governor of West Virginia over allegedly lax safety enforcement in the mine.
Matt Lauer began with a stand-up interview at the disaster site of WV Governor Joe Manchin. Lauer then brought in John Bennett, the adult son of Jim Bennett, one of the miners who died. Bennett stood at Lauer's other side.
Bennett described the history of violations in the mine. Lauer turned to Manchin to inquire about the violations. Manchin had launched into his response when Bennett took matters into his own hands.
Bennett, wearing the red cap in the photo here, spoke across Lauer directly to Manchin:
Katie Couric's just-completed interview with NY Times Reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA surveillance story and is now publishing his book on the matter, 'State of War,' offered a window on the MSM view of the matter. For her questioning of Risen, give a gentlelady's 'C' to Couric, who earned the bulk of her grade by asking:
"Did [the leakers] have any sympathy or understanding about this new climate this country finds itself in and the criticism the Bush administration took prior to 9/11 for not putting the pieces together and figuring out that a terrorist attack was imminent? In other words, did they acknowledge that tough times may call for tough measures?"
Much as the folks at Today revel in reporting soaring gas prices and plunging Bush poll numbers, pesky facts - in the form of a recent Bush poll rise - can get in the way.
But that was not about to stop Katie Couric this morning. The Perky One, tan and blonder-than-ever in her return from vacation, explained away Bush's recent poll bump as resulting soley and exclusively from his mea culpas.
Katie's guest was reliable all-purpose talking head Howard Fineman.
"His poll numbers started to tick upward before the holidays, Howard, because it was sort of a more candid, contrite approach on the part of the President. Will he continue the strategy, do you think?"
Imagine you're a guest on the Today show on New Year's Day, and the host asks you to predict the top stories for the year to come.
What are the odds you choose as your two top stories for 2006: job-loss anxiety among white-collar workers, and white-collar crime?
Yet that is precisely what Marcus Mabry, Newsweek's Chief of Correspondents [pictured here], did in his just-completed interview with host Lester Holt.
While acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of strength, Mabry led with unemployment anxiety among white-collar workers as his #1 story for the year to come. He insisted that:
"the confidence of the American worker is at its lowest point in a very long time, particularly white-collar workers. We see anxiety we have not seen since the days of the dot.com bust. What you see is many Americans filled with job insecurity, who are worried about whether they're going to have a job a year from now. We see greater insecurity than in decades."
When in 2003 Rush Limbaugh suggested that the media, hoping for a black-quarterback success story, had over-rated Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, he was subjected to a firestorm of criticism and ultimately resigned his post on an ESPN pre-game football show.
Can you imagine what the media would have done to Rush had he dared to employ the classically racial "feets don't fail me now" line, immortalized by black actor Mantan Moreland in the '30s-'50s?
Yet that is exactly what major ESPN personality Chris Berman did a few minutes ago in introducing coverage of this afternoon's Denver Broncos game.
He apparently said it vis a vis white Denver Broncos QB Jake Plummer.
I can now confirm what I've long suspected: Neal Gabler and I inhabit different planets.
I inhabit the one in which the MSM coverage of the Iraqi war is a virtually-uninterrupted drumbeat of the negative. From headline coverage of every IED that goes off, to the beatification of Cindy Sheehan, the liberal media's treatment of the war has been decidedly downbeat.
Neal Gabler, on this evening's Fox Media Watch, looked at the same coverage and complained that the MSM . . . has not been negative enough. He began his plaint with a bizarre and distasteful analogy, suggesting that if the media had covered JFK's assassination in the same manner they cover Iraq, they would have reported "President Kennedy dead; everyone else OK."
In their heart of hearts, do the liberal media believe we are at war? The answer is a resounding 'no', judging by liberal Newsday columnist Ellis Henican's performance on this morning's Fox & Friends Weekend. Thankfully, fellow Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton was there to remind his colleague of some cold, hard facts.
The topic was the Justice Department's investigation into the leaks behind the New York Times' publication of the highly-classified program of NSA surveillance of possible Al-Qaeda-related phone calls. Henican appeared utterly unfazed by the way the Times' revelations undermined national security and the fight against terrorism. His overwhelming focus was on the possible infringement of civil liberties. He brushed off the security leak in these terms:
As anti-terror techniques go, the one announced this week by the TSA - that of chatting with airline passengers to see if they exhibit tell-tale signs of nervousness - seems relatively unlikely to result in racial or ethnic profiling, since it focuses on behavior rather than superficial characteristics.
But that wasn't sufficient to prevent Matt Lauer, with a little help from his guest, from playing the racial profiling card on this morning's Today show.
From the get-go, NBC terrorism expert and former FBI agent Christopher Whitcomb expressed scorn for the new program: "the color coding system was kind of ridiculous, and I kind of think this is. I think the public looks at this and says 'what are they doing?'"
According to the note at the bottom of his column, "John Merrow . . . reports on education for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS." [Emphasis added]
"Reports"? Then what was Merrow [pictured right] doing writing an op-ed opinion column distributed nationally by the Christian Science Monitor?
And what was the gist of Merrow's opinion piece, entitled "We need the voices of America's college presidents?" That America's college presidents aren't spending enough time being advocates for liberal causes.
Oh, to be sure, Merrow didn't quite put it in those terms. But it didn't take much reading between the lines to understand what kind of advocacy Merrow had in mind.
Conservatives rightly complain that MSM shows such as Today have a paucity of guests from the right, and that those who do appear are treated with skepticism if not outright disdain.
But I'd say there's an exception to the rule. It's my sense that conservatives want to see Ann Coulter appearing only rarely on MSM shows, and that when she does, that the occasion be treated as something of a Texas Steel Cage Match, or better yet, as the introduction of a Kong-like creature brought onto the set, to be released from her shackles for the briefest of moments as she confronts her antagonists while displaying her panoply of rhetorical weapons.
That rule was honored when, a couple years ago, Katie Couric interviewed Coulter. The appearance came not too long after Coulter had described Couric as the "affable Eva Braun" of morning television. There was electricity in the air, ill-disguised animosity, the sense that an actual cat-fight might break out at any moment.
Anyone who thought Hardball with Chris Matthews couldn't get any more antagonistic to the Bush administration should have watched the show with Norah O'Donnell substituting tonight. Not that Matthews is exactly Mr. Fair & Balanced, but Norah didn't even attempt to disguise her disdain for all things Republican.
For her first panel, the two lawyers she chose to discuss the Plame matter fell over each other in agreeing that it was absolutely inescapable that Karl Rove would be indicted. Even that wasn't quite enough to satisfy Norah, as she avidly inquired as to the prospects that VP Cheney would face prosecution.
Norah took a parting shot suggesting that revelations by DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff could lead to congressional indictments, mentioning only Republicans DeLay and Ney as possible targets despite Abramoff's ecumenism in doling out donations across party lines.
You know the old challenge: try to describe a spiral staircase without using your hands.
This evening's Abrams Report on MSNBC managed to pull off an equally impressive feat: describing a gay porn and sexual exploitation ring without mentioning that it was just that, or indeed even that males were involved.
It goes without saying that there are all sorts of predators on the internet, including many adult heterosexual men seeking to exploit underage girls. The purpose of this report is not to single out gays, but to draw attention to the PC-manner in which MSNBC approached an issue.
Abrams Report guest host Lisa Daniels had as her guest NY Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald. In this Times article, Eichenwald had broken the story of Justin, a young teenager who had hooked up a web cam, and in looking for friends on the internet, was gradually lured into becoming an internet porn star. In the segment, and in seeing him elsewhere on air, Eichenwald comes across as a good guy and a solid professional. Particularly in light of his employment at the NY Times, he deserves credit for taking up the story in the first place.
In discussing the perpetrators, Daniels and Eichenwald referred to them variously as "they" and "the predators," with Eichenwald going so far as to call them "evil." But neither ever managed to mention that the consumers of the porn were men. For all we knew, these were Desperate Housewives on line. But in fact, as Eichenwald did reveal in his Times article, this was a gay porn ring, and indeed the abuse went beyond the internet - Justin ultimately was physically molested by a number of men.
In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
When it comes to the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC, the Today show just can't bring itself to pronounce the 'I' word, for illegal.
In contrast with his reticent Today show appearance yesterday, this morning NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took off the verbal gloves, repeatedly condemning the union for its illegal strike, which violates the Taylor Law prohibiting public employees in New York from striking. Among other things, Bloomberg stated that striking union members would be fined two days pay for every day the strike lasts.
But whereas Today expressed concern for the plight of commuters and the city's economy, and Katie made sympathetic noises in her interview of Bloomberg, the show remained terribly bashful when it came to reporting the undeniable fact that the strike is illegal.
Chris Matthews might be off tonight, but with Andrea Mitchell sitting in, the hysterical anti-Bush beat goes on at Hardball.
Mitchell interviewed a panel in which far-left Jonathan Alter was 'balanced' by the politically-androgynous David Gergen.
When Alter surmised that the impeachment of President Bush is a real possibility in light of the NSA surveillance matter, Mitchell, rather than bursting into laughter, asked Gergen with a straight face:
"Are we headed toward a constitutional crisis?"
Gergen didn't seem to think so, but, ever the suck-up, later bent over backwards to congratulate Alter on his "excellent" column in Newsweek.
Let's get one thing straight: the the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC is illegal. Even the New York Times, in this article, had to acknowledge that stubborn fact:
"The state's Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees and carries penalties of two days' pay for each day on strike, but the transit union decided it was worth risking the substantial fines to continue the fight for what it regards as an acceptable contract."
In addition to the tremendous inconvenience the strike inflicts on the seven-million largely working-class people who use the transit system daily, the economic loss has been estimated at as much as $400 million per day.
Behavioral scientists long-ago determined that, when it comes to changing behavior, positive reinforcement works better than punishment.
With that in mind, this column has made it a point to record those [rare] occasions on which the Today show gives 'fair & balanced' treatment to the news.
Let the record therefore show that on December 19th, 2005, Today gave reasonably even-handed treatment to the revelations that President Bush has authorized, without court order, the surveillance of phone calls suspected of being Al-Qaeda-related.
There were two outside guests. Katie first interviewed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She asked the obvious question: "What legal authority does the president have to avoid the normal process of obtaining court-approved search warrants before eavesdropping is conducted?"
Hubert Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior for his cheerful approach to the political wars. In contrast, Fox & Friends Weekend's Julian Phillips, judging by his crabbiness this morning, might be dubbed the Whining Warrior.
Beyond his rain-on-the-parade words, Phillips' body language and facial expressions oozed negativity. The shot to the right is a file photo, but typifies Julian's less-than-sunny demeanor.
The show lead with news of the latest AP poll, which revealed a significant uptick in support for the Iraqi war effort among Americans, with 57% opposing immediate pull-out.
Page Hopkins is clearly the most pro-administration among the hosting triumvirate composed of herself, Kiran Chetry and Phillips. She kicked off the discussion by observing "it so interesting that a solid majority is behind staying the course in Iraq."
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
While sugarplum fairies dance in other heads, Matt Lauer dreams of US withdrawal from Iraq and envisions democracy in Iraq as having negative consequences for the United States.
As reported here, Lauer set the stage earlier this week, couching Today's coverage of the then-impending Iraqi elections largely in terms of their potential for troop withdrawal.
Matt was back at it again this morning. At the top of the show, Lauer teased election coverage this way: "If the various factions there can work together it could make it easier for our administration to get US troops out."
Lauer interviewed Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden, both in Iraq as election observers.
"We recognize the right of all women to choose whether, when, and under what circumstances to bear children. Reproductive freedom and responsibility are essential to other rights and opportunities, including pursuit of education, employment, financial security and a stable and fulfilling family life. Restrictions of reproductive choice are especially burdensome for young women and poor women. Girls Incorporated supports a woman’s freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade."
Would you say the foregoing statement, from Girls Inc. [see it here on the Girls Inc. web site]:
Judging from this article by SF Chronicle staff writer Leslie Fulbright, which Drudge posted, perhaps Tookie Williams should have been canonized and supporters of the death penalty punished in his stead.
The headline set the tone: "Tears, anger, silence at protesters' candlelight vigil; Speakers read from Williams' anti-gang children's books."
The article depicted candle-holding Tookie supporters bravely fighting the cold and singing hymns along with Joan Baez.
The article also offered a quote from the director of a program for 'troubled youths', who reportedly uses Williams' anti-gang book in his program.
Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?
Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.
Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.
The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"
Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."
In a TV-journalism age in which a good haircut and a sharp suit often seem to count for more than substance, there's something admirably old-school about Barry Schweid. Old, and unapologetically schlumpy, Schweid is the antithesis of TV's Sharp-Dressed Man.
Even so, on Fox & Friends Weekend this morning, Schweid let his liberal leanings show.
Schweid has been covering diplomacy for the Associated Press for over 30 years, and is currently its senior diplomatic correspondent. He joined FOX News Channel as a contributor for foreign affairs in 1997.
Schweid came on to discuss the issue of torture, and specifically Condi Rice's recent European tour, intended to pallliate delicate continental sensibilities on the issue.
No DNA evidence, no execution of Tookie Williams. That's the standard Fox & Friends Weekend host Julian Phillips established this morning. As he put it:
"The issue for me is, is he guilty or is he not? He still maintains his innocence. If they can prove through DNA and other stuff, fine."
To bolster his case, Phillips asserted:
"There have been a number of cases where people on death row have been executed and it's later found out through DNA evidence that they are innocent."
Oh, really? It's not surprising that Phillips didn't cite any examples to support his contention. Even avid death-penalty opponents have been unable to point to a single unequivocal case of a man being executed who was later proved innocent by DNA.
Was Matt Lauer wearing a Palestinian support scarf this morning?
Alright, I can already hear some folks out there chuckling at the notion.
But before you dismiss this as the product of the over-active mind of an MSM-bias hunter, consider:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political ralliesto talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]