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."
Conservative bloggers and talk radio hosts have noticed the rash of gaffes — some goofy, some more serious — emanating from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama lately, but the mainstream media’s coverage of Obama’s bouts with foot-in-mouth disease has been sparse, to say the least. In the case of one of Obama’s more recent gaffes, however, a CNN reporter did Obama the favor of editing the gaffe right out of his story.
On Monday, Obama weirdly talked about honoring the nation’s “unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience today.” In a report on Tuesday night’s CNN’s Election Center, correspondent Joe Johns used that Obama soundbite in a piece on the candidate’s “polling problem on patriotism” — but snipped out the part where Obama seemed to be seeing ghosts:
Before Scott McClellan was President Bush’s Press Secretary, there was Ari Fleischer, and when Fleischer left the White House he wrote his own book, “Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House.” Unlike McClellan, Fleischer did not take pot shots at his former employer, but did include some telling examples of the liberal bias of press.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, while McClellan’s yet-to-be-officially-published book has already become the liberal media’s favorite story of the day, a Nexis search shows that Fleischer’s memoir generated virtually no broadcast or cable news coverage, and no front-page coverage in the nation’s newspapers.
Indeed, TV coverage the week after Fleischer’s book was released was limited to just eight interviews, none given that much prominence: one on NBC’s Today (7:43am), one on CBS’s Early Show (last half-hour), one on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, two on CNN (Lou Dobbs Tonight and Anderson Cooper 360) and three on FNC (Big Story, Special Report, and Hannity & Colmes).
On Friday’s Fox & Friends, Fox News military analyst Colonel David Hunt rattled off a series of U.S. and Iraqi achievements, then blasted the liberal media for failing to report them. “If you talk about success in Iraq, then you’re somehow giving credit to McCain,” Hunt surmised, “and I think it’s wrong, because it does not give credit to the soldiers who have earned this, and we need to stop it.”
Hunt noted that the Iraqi military and police have become more professional and are acting independently of U.S. forces, putting down a Shiite rebellion in the southern city of Basra; that an Iraqi force is stabilizing the Sadr City portion of Baghdad and the government has achieved a truce with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; al-Qaeda in Iraq is badly damaged and could lose its last stronghold in Mosul; and the successful campaign against al-Qaeda in Iraq has contributed to a 40 percent decline worldwide in deaths due to terrorism.
Yet, Hunt pointed out, “if it’s not Abu Ghraib with 50 stories in the New York Times, no one in the press that I’ve heard -- besides here -- will even talk about success.”
During Saturday’s “Breaking News” coverage of Senator Edward Kennedy’s hospitalization for a seizure, CNN anchors Fredericka Whitfield and T. J. Holmes sycophantically referred to the Kennedy family and the Senator himself as “political royalty” and “American royalty,” as if all Americans — or even all in Massachusetts — bend their knee before the throne of Camelot.
While the Bush family, for example, has produced a Senator, two Presidents and a Governor, it’s impossible to imagine that CNN (or any other network) would allow its on-air personnel to casually refer to the family as “royalty.” And while many Americans certainly have high regard for the Kennedys, conservatives and many others staunchly oppose their liberal policies and avoid the kind of hero-worship exhibited by liberals.
Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News cheered the Bush administration’s recent liberal moves on climate change — “a very big week for those who are fighting to save the environment,” anchor Brian Williams celebrated — but NBC’s “Environmental Affairs” correspondent Anne Thompson nevertheless trotted out an activist with the National Resources Defense Council to complain that the administration still hasn’t gone far enough to the left on global warming.
But Nightly News had no time for any conservative or free market spokesman who might have said that the administration had already gone too far in trying to appease environmental liberals, and that the act of placing polar bears on the threatened species list would make it easier for a more liberal successor to pursue economically-punishing regulations.
In this week’s cover story, Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas juxtapose Democratic talking points about the sliminess of Republicans (“successfully scaring voters since 1968”) and testimonials to the managerial wizardry of Barack Obama (“he has ‘grace under fire’”) and present the entire package as an insightful look inside “The O Team.”
The eight-page spread, decorated with several behind-the-scenes photographs of the candidate and his top aides, paints Republicans and independent conservative groups as the source of all campaign nastiness. The authors even question whether John McCain, who has earned innumerable media accolades as a champion of more government regulations on free speech (“campaign finance reform”) is not perhaps a co-conspirator with those awful conservatives:
Will NBC’s prime time entertainment shows function as the equivalent of DNC-TV this election year, snidely bashing Republicans in the guise of wry cultural commentary? Just last month, an episode of NBC’s “Medium” featured an ex-POW state senator from Arizona as a murdering cannibal. And on last Thursday’s episode of “30 Rock,” the sitcom featured a stridently anti-Republican plot in which a fictitious conservative corporate executive (played by Alec Baldwin) launches a celebrity ad campaign to prevent African-Americans from voting because, as a black character argues, “No matter what, [black Americans] are gonna always vote Democrat.”
The 30-minute program was filled with potshots against the GOP and conservatives, including the idea that the tortured ex-POW John McCain is being backed by something called “The Committee to Re-Invade Vietnam.” The corporate executive portrayed by Baldwin, “Jack Donaghy,” is a ridiculous parody of a conservative businessman, blurting out comments such as “My cologne is distilled from the bilge water of Rupert Murdoch’s yacht,” and “Not thinking is what makes America great.”
One week after Hillary Clinton claimed that she faced sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia — and six days after NewsBusters posted contemporaneous news footage from CBS showing that she did not — the big broadcast networks have finally jumped on the story of Hillary’s big fib. Last night, as NewsBuster’s Noel Sheppard has already noted, the CBS Evening News featured a Clinton-busting report by Sharyl Attkisson, one of the journalists who accompanied Clinton on her trip 12 years ago and who narrated the video we posted last week.
Also last night, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who was also on the 1996 trip, filed her own report on the obvious discrepancies, and this morning all three morning shows led with how the Clinton campaign now admits her claim, “I remember landing under sniper fire...There was no greeting ceremony and we basically were told to run to her cars. Now, that is what happened,” was an accidental misstatement.
On Wednesday, Fox News became the first news network to pick up on the contradiction between claims made by Senator Hillary Clinton about her 1996 trip to Bosnia and the reality reported by journalists at the time. In a speech on Monday, Clinton asserted that “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
But no news outlet mentioned sniper fire at the time, and TV news footage from the day of Clinton’s visit, which was first posted Tuesday on NewsBusters, shows Clinton and her daughter walking around without helmets, greeting various people including the acting President of Bosnia and a Bosnian child who read a little speech for the then-First Lady.
Exactly five years ago, an international coalition of troops led by the U.S. invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam Hussein's tyrannical dictatorship in just three weeks. Since then, Iraqis have voted in free democratic elections to seat a representative parliament; Saddam and several of his henchmen have been tried and convicted in public war crimes trials; and a bloody insurgency fomented by al Qaeda in Iraq is in retreat after a surge of U.S. troops and a shift to more aggressive counter-insurgency tactics.
Analysts at the Media Research Center have studied TV news coverage of the Iraq war from the beginning, even before the first bombs fell on Baghdad in March 2003. The record shows the networks have trumpeted bad news — setbacks for the U.S. coalition and allegations of misdeeds by American troops — while minimizing good news such as the success of the 2007 troop surge and acts of heroism by U.S. soldiers.