Nearly a year ago, when the inexperienced presidential candidate Barack Obama sat for his first interview with Charles Gibson, the ABC anchor did not try and expose any gaps in Obama’s foreign policy knowledge or press him about his readiness for the job he was seeking. Instead Gibson emphasized Obama’s personal story, about how his parents met, how Obama met his wife, etc.
But just as he did with his Thursday night interview with GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Gibson did ask Obama about the “hubris” he displayed in seeking the presidency. Here’s the exchange from the November 1, 2007 World News interview:
CHARLES GIBSON: So did you think to yourself, 'Barack, what kind of hubris is this that I am thinking about being President?"
While, like the rest of the media establishment, CBS’s Early Show seemed to conclude that Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” crack from the day before was nothing but a harmless comment, reporter Bill Plante put the swipe in the context of Democrats’ desperation to find some way to undermine the Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Unlike his competitors at ABC and NBC, Plante on Wednesday highlighted how Newsweek’s Howard Fineman quoted an unnamed “top Democratic strategist” as arguing about Palin: “We’ve got to go after her, and fast.” And Plante quoted from the blog WomenCount.org, which vowed to “work to stamp out sexism where we see it on the campaign trail.”
While all of the morning shows led with the “lipstick on a pig” complaint and steered the discussion to the view that the McCain campaign is thin-skinned and/or cynically calculating for raising such a spurious issue, none bothered to mention the far more absurd complaints from top Democrats that Republican references to Barack Obama as a “community organizer” were some sort of racist plot -- instead of quite obvious shots at Obama’s lack of experience.
Five days after Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was picked as the Republican vice presidential nominee, NBC's David Gregory falsely disputed the idea that the media had crossed a line by suggesting Palin's family life conflicted with her candidacy. Referring to an earlier interview, Gregory argued on Today: "Rudy Giuliani said questions have been asked about whether she can balance this with her kids. That question has not been brought up by the media."
Gregory was wrong — that precise question was posed repeatedly on ABC, CBS and NBC as the networks invaded every nook and cranny of Palin's family life. From August 29 through September 4, the Big Three network morning and evening shows ran a total of 59 stories mentioning Palin's family, or about eight per day. Nearly two-thirds of those (37) brought up the pregnancy of Palin's teenaged daughter; another ten questioned whether she could balance her family obligations with a campaign — the exact suggestion Gregory claimed was never "brought up by the media."
One week ago, former Clinton campaign spinner George Stephanopoulos found nothing to criticize when he reviewed Barack Obama’s speech and the overall Democratic convention for Good Morning America. But on Friday, the ABC host relayed the Obama campaign’s negative take on McCain and stressed how voters don’t think Sarah Palin has as much experience as Joe Biden, and that she doesn’t help her ticket as much as Biden helps the Democrats.
“Go beneath those numbers a little more,” Stephanopoulos instructed. “Joe Biden helps Barack Obama a little bit more than Sarah Palin helps John McCain.”
But ABC’s poll, conducted Thursday after a week of battering coverage of the GOP vice presidential candidate, showed Palin had only a slightly lower overall favorability than Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a difference nearly entirely accounted for by her low approval among Democratic voters. Republican voters are more enthusiastic about Palin (85% support) than Democrats are for Biden (77%).
Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden made the morning show rounds on Thursday to respond to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s convention speech, and journalists at NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CNN all encouraged Biden to strongly confront his Republican counterpart, as if Palin has been enjoying some sort of honeymoon from criticism over the past few days.
CNN’s John Roberts pressed Biden: “Before her speech last night you said that you were not going to attack Governor Palin. Are you feeling a little differently this morning?”
NBC’s Matt Lauer similarly pleaded: “Sarah Palin made a speech last night...It was tough. It was direct, hard words for Senator Obama. I’m curious, has this taken away any concern you may have had about tone or words you choose in the coming weeks?”
Unlike the celebratory response to the opening nights of the Democratic convention a week ago, the three network morning shows offered restrained recaps of Tuesday night’s speeches at the Republican convention, and continued to portray Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a liability for the GOP ticket.
On Wednesday’s Today, NBC’s David Gregory had the GOP taking “swipes at Senator Obama’s limited experience” and described Fred Thompson’s speech as a “hard-edged attack on Senator Obama.”
But a week earlier, Gregory described Hillary Clinton’s speech as “rousing” and “playful,” and offered no negative adjectives as he replayed soundbites of Clinton attacking John McCain:
In the last 48 hours, the establishment media’s bias against Republican Sarah Palin has become a full-fledged feeding frenzy. This morning on FNC’s Fox & Friends, the anchors noted how the pop culture mag Us Weekly is now bashing Palin with a harsh cover story, “Babies, Lies, and Scandal,” when just a couple of months ago the same magazine ran a sappy cover piece featuring Barack and Michelle Obama: “Why Barack Loves Her.”
Co-host Steve Doocy cited NewsBusters’ recent “Quick Study” study of cable news as providing proof of the incredible double standard against Palin: “The Media Research Center did a study of the two hours of prime time after Joe Biden was announced as a Vice President and after Sarah Palin was announced, and overwhelmingly it was so against the Republican.”
ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday aggressively pushed the story about how Sarah Palin’s teenaged daughter is pregnant, leading their broadcast with that topic rather than the hurricane that slammed into Louisiana yesterday morning. ABC’s David Wright suggested the McCain camp was trying to bury the “skeleton in the closet” by putting the news out as the hurricane hit: “This was a political bombshell, timed to go off on a day when the McCain campaign knew that America would be focused on other news.”
The confrontational approach further revealed itself in co-host Diane Sawyer’s interview with a McCain campaign spokeswoman. Sawyer twice asked when McCain himself learned about the pregnancy, and tried to use the case of Palin’s daughter to lobby against abstinence-only education in public schools and suggested that it “was a mistake” not to include the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy in Friday’s introduction of Sarah Palin to the nation.
Just as my colleague Brent Baker found on Friday night, the big broadcast networks on Saturday morning showed no shyness about labeling Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a “conservative,” with NBC Today co-host Amy Robach calling her “a staunch conservative,” CBS’s Chip Reid tagging her “reliably conservative,” and ABC’s Kate Snow finding Palin to be “quite conservative.”
But seven days earlier, as those same programs reacted to the Obama campaign’s text message heralding Joe Biden as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, none of those broadcast found a moment to call him “liberal,” in spite of Biden’s lengthy record of liberal votes as determined by the nonpartisan National Journal.
Here’s a quick rundown of how the three broadcast networks emphasized Palin’s ideology on their August 30 programs:
On ABC’s Good Morning America on Saturday, co-anchor Bill Weir bristled with hostility during an interview with a McCain campaign spokesman about the choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate, suggesting she was unqualified and too conservative. At one point, Weir even suggested that by running for Vice President, the Governor would be jeopardizing her four-month old daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome.
Weir confronted McCain political director Mike DuHaime: “Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?” When DuHaime offered a general answer about Palin’s “incredible life story,” an obviously irritated Weir jumped in, exclaiming “She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?”
Just a few moments later, that line of questioning was quickly criticized by ABC’s Cokie Roberts as sexist. Without mentioning Weir, Roberts said questions “about who’s taking care of the children...traditionally has very much angered women voters when women candidates are asked those questions and male candidates never are.”
After each of the firstthreenights of the Democratic convention, network news reporters have offered enthusiastically positive reviews, and Friday morning’s coverage of Barack Obama’s acceptance address made it a clean sweep. CBS Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, the only morning show host still in Denver, said he felt the earth moving. “This place rumbled....The stadium was just so alive, and the ground was almost quaking,” he told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez voiced pity for John McCain: “Harry, I found myself at one point last night thinking how difficult it must be for John McCain to watch such a huge celebration in honor of his opponent, especially on the eve of his 72nd birthday.”
It’s hard to imagine that Barack Obama has ever had to deal with a moment’s bad press from his pals at MSNBC, but you may remember how back on February 19, while anchoring coverage of the Wisconsin primary, Chris Matthews dared to ask a Texas state senator -- who was appearing on MSNBC to plead Obama's case -- to list “any” of his legislative accomplishments. He could not.
As Obama accepts the Democratic nomination tonight and the networks move to Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention, it seems a fair bet that TV’s talking heads will scold the GOP for daring to suggest Obama lacks the necessary experience to be president, so it's worth recalling how Matthews himself raised that point to devastating effect just six months ago.
Here’s the key part of that exchange, which originally aired shortly before 10pm EST on February 19:
ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s Early Show led the praise for the third night of the Democratic convention, with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos enthralled by how well it was going for Democrats. “I think every night in this convention has built on the one that came before,” he exclaimed Thursday morning, adding: “The speeches have gotten better every night.”
[Check here and here for a re-cap of how the morning shows drooled over the first two nights of the Democratic convention.]
CBS co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez, who isn’t even in Denver but rather back in The Early Show’s New York studios, touted how Obama’s speech at Denver’s football stadium suggested “they're going to play the Super Bowl of politics there tonight.” She enthusiastically remarked: “If the crowd went as wild as it did yesterday at the Pepsi Center when he [Barack Obama] showed up, just imagine what 75,000 screaming fans will sound like. It's going to be something.”
Appearing on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon to promote his new movie, ‘America Betrayed,’ a left-wing screed produced by a former CNBC anchor that purports to be a “documentary” about the evils of the American government during the past seven years, actor Richard Dreyfuss slammed the Republican party as “corrupt through and through,” “adept at thievery,” and that “the rest of the country” abandoned New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Dreyfuss drew loud cheers from the liberal audience gathered around MSNBC's outdoor spot as he nonsensically declared: "I am tired of being called a traitor because I like my flag and I like -- and I support the troops."
His claim that New Orleans was "abandoned" is absolutely vapid: The Coast Guard responded rapidly, saving thousands from the rapidly rising flood waters. Millions of Americans donated money to help the victims. The federal government has pumped billions of dollars into reconstruction.
All three broadcast morning shows hailed Hillary Clinton’s convention speech on Wednesday, as ABC’s Diane Sawyer saw Clinton “bringing down the house,” while George Stephanopoulos declared that “she aced it. I think she's gone farther than any losing candidate has ever gone in a convention like this.”
Sawyer gushed: “If her candidacy put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, her speech probably punched a hole in it.”
Over on NBC, Andrea Mitchell fawned that Clinton’s “words were perfect. I don’t see how she could have found a better way of expressing herself and coming out strongly for Barack Obama.” On CBS, Early Show co-host Harry Smith was also enthusiastic: “Hillary Clinton stands and delivers....What a speech last night....If you appreciate stagecraft at any level you had to say she did a good job with that.”
CNN American Morning co-host John Roberts took a gratuitous shot Tuesday at former Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who a lot of liberals haven’t forgiven for delivering the keynote address at the last Republican convention in 2004. After a guest observed that Republican Jim Leach on Monday “did not give a compelling speech compared to say Zell Miller,” Roberts snarkily observed: “Well, Zell set his hair on fire and ran around the room.”
Back in 2004, when Roberts was reporting for the CBS Evening News, he also scoffed at Miller’s decision to speak at the GOP convention: “Call him disillusioned conservative Democrat or turncoat, it’s the sort of remarkable about-face Miller is famous for.”
Catching up on a tidbit from Monday night’s coverage, CNN co-anchor Anderson Cooper actually wondered aloud whether the evening’s line-up of Democratic speakers -- Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Jr. -- was “too liberal” to attract independent voters. Usually, the networks never even label Democratic speakers, while constantly berating Republican speakers as extreme or right-wing, so this is either a refreshing change of pace, or a sign that Democrats have gone way over the edge if even CNN is worrying about a “too liberal” convention.
Responding to that suggestion, CNN analyst David Gergen admired how “Jimmy Carter has won a Nobel Peace Prize here recently. He's one of the two Democrats speaking at this convention -- Al Gore being the other -- who won Nobel Peace Prizes. That must be a first in history.” But, previewing Democratic consultant James Carville’s complaint two hours later, Gergen decried how the Democrats “have offered almost no substance” in their convention program: “We’ve had very little that's been compelling thus far.”
All week (and apparently next week during the Republican convention), ABC’s Good Morning America will use its liberal prism to evaluate how the candidates’ policy proposals might help families with the last name of Jones, with a segment entitled “Meet the Joneses.” On Monday, as MRC’s Justin McCarthy pointed out, reporter Chris Cuomo hit Barack Obama’s tax proposals from the left, suggesting that even his tax hikes on “the rich” might not leave enough money for the government.
Tuesday, Cuomo found a family that was willing to go on camera and whine about having to spend $160 per month -- yes, just one-hundred sixty dollars and no cents -- on their daughter’s health care without being reimbursed by their evil HMO. After not being reassured that Obama’s “reforms” could guarantee that this specific family would save the average $2,500 per year, Cuomo pressed Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee from the left: “Why not take the big step and say universal health care? Or is that just too ugly a word?”
All three broadcast morning shows were thrilled with the opening night of the Democratic convention in Denver. CBS co-anchors Maggie Rodriguez and Julie Chen were the most effusive, with Rodriguez gushing that it “couldn’t have been a more compelling first night” and Chen describing Michelle Obama as “so impressive, so, just inspiring to watch her speak.”
Over on ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer was also swept away, calling it first “an incredible night” and then “a night to remember for all ages.” NBC’s David Gregory called Michelle Obama’s speech “moving” and “heartfelt,” but that “the emotional highlight of the night belonged to Ted Kennedy” for speaking on Obama’s behalf despite his battle against a cancerous brain tumor.
File this one under "too much information." On Sunday’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer got very personal as he reminisced about attending the 1968 Democratic convention, the first convention he ever attended: “I have to say the first one for me was the most memorable -- not for political but for personal reasons. My first daughter was born nine months to the day after that one. As she later remarked, Chicago in '68 wasn't all fighting in the streets.”
In his 2003 memoir, This Just In, the longtime CBS News correspondent painted a grim picture of the 1968 Democratic convention. Schieffer wasn’t with CBS at the time, but he was able to attend the convention because his wife “had always been active in local Democratic politics and as a member of the state Democratic executive committee, she was invited as a guest.”
CBS’s Early Show and NBC’s Today on Monday morning touted, without offering specifics, what CBS reporter Dean Reynolds called Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden’s “wealth of experience” and “long record of accomplishment” on foreign policy; NBC’s David Gregory asserted that Biden had “deep foreign policy experience.” On Sunday’s Good Morning America, reporter John Berman also declared “Biden’s foreign policy expertise fills some holes in Obama’s resume.”
But CNN’s American Morning asked their Iraq reporter, Michael Ware, to rate Biden’s major contribution to recent foreign policy debates, his plan to partition Iraq into three separate regions. “Madness,” Ware declared, adding: “No one is for partition unless of course you're an Iranian-backed political party because they'd love to have a self-governing zone in the south that effectively would become an extension of Iran.”
Appearing later in the same show, Ware again scoffed at Biden’s proposal: “No one supports it. It ain't going anywhere.”
The most important news event in the universe, according to Friday’s Good Morning America, was John McCain’s gaffe about not knowing how many houses he and his wife own, as ABC led off its morning newscast with the story. ABC’s Jake Tapper devoted nearly two minutes to recounting John McCain’s property holdings after snarkily pointing out that he and his wife own just one house — “well, actually the banks owns it, we pay a mortgage.”
The Media Research Center has just released a comprehensive study of the broadcast networks coverage of Barack Obama since he arrived on the national stage just four years ago. The bottom line: TV reporters adored Obama, and the celebratory coverage of the “rock star” candidate provided him with a huge advantage and almost certainly the margin of victory in the extremely close Democratic race. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has an item about our study posted here.
We looked at 1,365 network news stories from the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts through Clinton’s exit from the Democratic race in early June. Here are the key findings:
Just hours after ABC's Nightline broadcast an interview in which former North Carolina Senator John Edwards confessed an extramarital affair, CNN Saturday Morning co-anchor Melissa Long spoke of the ex-Democratic candidate in glowing terms, calling Edwards someone who was "much loved, worked for the poor, a man who was self-made, and all about integrity and honesty."
[UPDATED 4/11, video added]
After elevating Edwards to such heights, she asked CNN deputy political editor Paul Steinhauser to consider "all of that and this stunning admission" and speculate as to "what type of political career could this man have going forward."
Steinhauser: "I think short term, not so much...."
It’s not just the thrills racing up and down Chris Matthews’ leg. Writing in Thursday’s Investor’s Business Daily, author William Tate documents that campaign donations from employees of big media companies are tilting 100-to-1 in favor of the Democrats so far this election cycle.
That’s right, 100-to-1.
[UPDATE: FNC's Bret Baier, in the "Grapevine" segment on the Friday, July 25 Special Report with Brit Hume, read an item on the IBD numbers.]
It’s perhaps not a surprise that those working for NBC Universal are the most eager givers to the Democrats, racking up $104,184 in contributions this cycle, compared to just $3,150 to Republican candidates. Maybe more surprising is that those at Fox broadcasting and the Fox News Channel combined to give $41,853 to the Democrats, with no listed donations going to the Republicans. (Only $1,280 was listed as coming from Fox News employees.)
One of the favors the media routinely perform for liberal politicians is citing left-of-center think tanks as "non-partisan" entities, who just happen to have evidence proving the awfulness of conservative policies. A classic example occurred on the July 7 CBS Evening News, as reporter Chip Reid cited "the non-partisan Tax Policy Center" as showing how Barack Obama's "tax cuts" are superior to John McCain's.
In fact, the Tax Policy Center is the product of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. The Tax Policy Center data cited by CBS followed the liberal approach of portraying tax cuts as a government giveaway, and calculating the raw dollar value of each person's "benefit." Reid reported: "A recent study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Obama's plan would give a cut of more than a thousand dollars to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year. Under McCain's plan, they'd get just $319."
NBC News may actually be more pro-Obama than Barack Obama himself. Back in March, a celebratory NBC Nightly News story about Obama’s childhood in Indonesia described the future candidate as “mastering the Indonesian language.” But Obama — who this week has voiced displeasure that many Americans do not speak a foreign language — admitted on Friday: “I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing!” he said.
On Tuesday, Obama voiced regret over Americans’ lack of language skills. He revisited the topic on Friday, this time admitting that he speaks no foreign languages himself. Via Jake Tapper’s “Political Radar” blog:
As anyone aware of the concept of supply and demand could have foreseen, Americans are driving less now that gasoline prices have passed $4.00 per gallon. So on this morning’s Today show, NBC’s Tom Costello dutifully noted that Americans have driven 20 billion fewer miles so far this year, but then declared a “bad news” side effect of drivers buying less gasoline:
“We use federal tax money that comes from gasoline sales to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges. We’re looking at a billion-plus-dollar short fall right now, and the National Governors Association wants Congress to come in and fill the gap.”
I guess “filling the gap” could either mean hiking the tax on gasoline, or supplementing the highway fund with other tax dollars. Maybe the real “bad news” for consumers is that some politicians seem determined to collect all of the gasoline taxes they desire, whether drivers actually buy the gas or not.
Exactly who “threatens” whom? One of Friday’s headlines on the BBC’s Web site proposes “Israeli minister threatens Iran,” relating how Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz says an attack will be inevitable unless Iran ends its nuclear experiments: “If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective."
Earlier this week, however, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iranians that "the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene." That sounds pretty menacing, too, but plugging “Ahmadinejad” into the BBC’s search engine finds no reports on this threatening speech.
A “high level source inside MSNBC” tells the TVNewser blog that network stars like Tim Russert and Chris Matthews are “upset” and “pissed” that the far-left Keith Olbermann is tainting the network’s credibility with his “activism,” such as blogging for the hard-left Daily Kos site.
“What’s it going to be like in the general election now that everyone knows we’re the in-house network of Barack Obama,” TVNewser’s Steve Krakauer quoted the MSNBC insider as fretting. The source suggested Olbermann was allowed to get away with his activism because the network fears the Countdown host would quit:
“They are convinced that he will walk. He behaves like a man who has nothing left to lose. He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We hang the entire schedule on him."