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.
In a speech on Iraq policy delivered Monday at George Washington University, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recalled facing “sniper fire” on her 1996 trip to Bosnia to visit U.S. troops on a peacekeeping mission. But reporters traveling with the then-First Lady made no reference to any “sniper fire” at the time, and pictures of Clinton arriving at the main air base in Tuzla (see attached video) don’t show anyone ducking or covering.
Good morning. I want to thank Secretary West for his years of service, not only as Secretary of the Army, but also to the Veteran's Administration, to our men and women in uniform, to our country. I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That's where we went.
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 it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children.
My colleague Brent Baker has painstakingly documented how the big three broadcast networks have gone out of their way to avoid labeling scandal-scarred New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a “Democrat.” An examination of the fifteen ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows through Wednesday night finds Spitzer was called a Democrat just 20% of the time — twice on CBS, once on ABC, and never on NBC.
So how do the networks treat Republicans involved in sex scandals? Always, always as Republicans, and as problems for their party.
Last July, Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s name surfaced in the phone records of the “DC Madam,” Deborah Jean Palfrey. Over the next week, ABC talked about Vitter twice on World News and twice on Good Morning America, labeling him as a “Republican” or “conservative Republican” all four times.
One year ago, liberal journalists depicted the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq as a certain failure. “A lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opined just minutes after President Bush announced the policy on January 10, 2007. Other journalists were only slightly more subtle. “Many experts warn, it’s too little, too late,” NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski argued on the January 8, 2007 Nightly News. The next morning on NBC’s Today, the network’s graphic describing Iraq was “Lost Cause?”
At the same time, leading Democrats left themselves no wiggle room as they, too, denounced the surge. Senator Barack Obama called it “wrong-headed” and countered with a proposal to pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Iraq by March 2008. Senator Hillary Clinton came back from a quick trip to Iraq to declare: “I am opposed to this escalation,” while another Democratic candidate, Senator Joe Biden, blasted the troop surge as “a tragic mistake.”
During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, NBC’s Tim Russert tried to test the Democratic candidates’ basic knowledge of foreign policy, asking what they knew about the man who will almost certainly be elected president of Russia in Sunday’s elections. After Hillary Clinton gave a general answer that kept referring to “Putin’s handpicked successor,” Russert pounced: “Do you know his name?”
But if the fact that Dmitry Medvedev will assume the Russian presidency is actually important, Russert and his co-moderator, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, have utterly ignored it as journalists. A Nexis search shows just one reference to Medvedev on NBC, an April 14, 2007 story about Russia’s giant energy company, Gazprom, of which Medvedev was chairman of the board. (The story aired on a weekend, when Lester Holt, not Brian Williams, was in the anchor chair.)
Well, that didn’t take long. On CNN Monday night, John McCain was treated like any other conservative Republican, as correspondents and a tilted panel of ex-Clinton officials painted him as irresponsible for opposing a supposedly necessary increase in taxes. In a “Keeping Them Honest” segment on Anderson Cooper 360, reporter Tom Foreman wondered if McCain “can keep that promise” of “no new taxes,” before asserting: “Some economists say not.”
But Foreman’s sole economist was Robert Greenstein of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a longstanding proponent of higher taxes. Foreman provided no “liberal” tag nor gave any hint of Greenstein’s agenda, as the latter argued that “the problems in the future are so large that it’s pretty unthinkable we could close those deficits either by just cutting programs or just raising taxes.”
Former Washington Post reporter John Harris, now editor-in-chief of the political newspaper The Politico, engaged in an interesting blog debate yesterday with his Politico colleagues Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei about whether or not journalists lose their impartiality by voting. Harris insisted that having opinions or voting “does not compromise me as a journalist,” and that the key requirement is “self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone’s commitment to fairness.”
“As to whether I and other reporters and editors really are fair, the only test of that is the work itself,” Harris insisted.
Over the years, MRC has caught numerous instances in which Harris has seemingly tilted in ways pleasing to either Bill or Hillary Clinton. Back in February 1999, Harris suggested the Wall Street Journal was behaving as a partisan in reporting the on-the-record charges of a woman who said Bill Clinton raped her two decades earlier. “I think we need to be highly skeptical of the story,” Harris announced on PBS’s Washington Week in Review. The next day, Harris’s Washington Post joined the Journal in reporting Broaddrick’s story.
Doesn’t look like an olive branch to me. Writing in today’s (Tuesday's) Wall Street Journal, novelist and sometime Republican activist Mark Helprin (not to be confused with Time magazine’s Mark Halperin) takes a series of insulting personal shots at the radio talk show hosts who’ve criticized John McCain for his numerous anti-conservative positions.
Helprin, whose last big political job was working as an advisor to Bob Dole in 1996, calls hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity “hairdressers [who] can talk all day long to one client as they snip...the depth of their thought is truly Oprah-like,” even as Ann Coulter is “relentlessly crocodilian.” For what it's worth, Helprin’s Wikipedia entry calls him a “conservative commentator.”
After months of improving security in Iraq, the big network morning shows on Friday cited one horrific suicide bombing as proof that “mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad,” as CBS correspondent Mark Strassmann put it. But over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.
Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease. (See chart.)
In her “Katie Couric’s Notebook” video posted on CBSNews.com on Wednesday, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric mourned the loss of John Edwards from the Democratic race, citing an array of liberal issues as proof the ex-candidate “deserves credit for pushing tough issues,” and applauding Edwards for “speaking honestly about why he wanted to raise taxes.”
Exactly 20 years ago tonight, January 25, 1988, millions of Americans saw one newsman’s liberal agenda laid bare, as CBS anchor Dan Rather attempted to ambush then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, in a live TV interview on his CBS Evening News. But Bush held his own during the on-air confrontation, and the lasting effect was to reveal how Rather was driven by his personal biases, at one point lecturing the Vice President: “You’ve made us hypocrites in the face of the world.”
CNN senior political analyst (and U.S. News & World Report editor-at-large) David Gergen scolded GOP candidate Mitt Romney on Monday’s Anderson Cooper 360 for daring to suggest that the health of the American economy is as important as fighting climate change. Gergen likened that to the "divisive" debate on race among Democratic candidates and called it a “very dangerous” argument for Republicans to make: “If Romney wins, and that becomes the message of the Republican Party, we are going to have two huge clashes in this country between needs on the economy vs. needs to deal with climate change. And it’s a very dangerous place for the Republican Party to go.”
Romney’s chief rival in today’s Michigan primary, Arizona Senator John McCain, has consistently pushed the liberal side of the climate change debate. In a speech in Kalamazoo yesterday, McCain sounded a lot like Al Gore: “I believe there's scientific evidence that drastic things are happening to our planet. If I'm wrong and we move ahead with green technology, the only downside is leaving a cleaner world for our children.”
Instead of scolding McCain for embracing a liberal position in a Republican primary, Gergen faulted Romney for not following suit. Because of his past service in the Reagan and Ford administrations, Gergen is often cast as the conservative counter-balance in roundtables; last night, for example, he appeared with reporter Candy Crowley and liberal CNN contributor Roland Martin. But with Gergen (who also worked for Bill Clinton) making liberal points, too, there’s no conservative to offer an alternative opinion.
Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, longtime CNN correspondent Charles Bierbauer, who’s now the senior contributing editor to SCHotline.com, a South Carolina political news site, equated a proposed fence to deter illegal immigration from Mexico with the Berlin Wall that prevented Germans from fleeing East Germany’s communist dictatorship during the Cold War.
Oddly, Bierbauer claimed that the Berlin Wall “didn’t work,” even though tens of thousands raced past the checkpoints to West Berlin the moment the East German dictatorship opened the gates. Referring to proposals to build a U.S.-Mexico fence, Bierbauer argued: “I’ve seen walls around other countries, most notably East Germany and East Berlin, and they didn’t work. In fact, they became symbols of oppression rather than anything positive.”
Writing on Newsweek's Web site, Jonathan Alter offers up three "pop psych theories" as to why Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire when the media establishment (Alter included) unanimously predicted an Obama victory. To Alter, the mystery is why women voters flocked to Hillary in such large numbers, and his theories range from the patronizing (discounting her First Lady "experience" as irrelevent supposedly "reminded many women of how their own contributions at home have been under-appreciated") to the absurd ("as in any high-school election, the studious girls who show up to vote might harbor a few resentments about the boys").
And Alter makes no effort to square his theories about superficial women voters being moved by esoteric personality issues with the never-ending media mantra about New Hampshire voters being the most sophisticated and probing in the nation (which is why we must take their judgements so seriously). Yet their choice for President supposedly came down to thousands of beleaguered Democratic women who projected their problems in life onto a crying Hillary?
It’s not just the national media that’s got the ear of New Hampshire voters in the days before their first-in-the-nation primary tomorrow. Local newspapers are filled with stories about the various candidates, and The Concord Monitor (which reaches about 20,000 weekday readers in and around the state’s capital city) has had a spate of stories favorable to Barack Obama since Thursday’s Iowa caucuses.
What makes that all the more interesting is that the generally liberal newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton back on December 30, saying the former First Lady “has the right experience, the right agenda and the know-how to lead the country back to respect on the world stage and meaningful progress on long-neglected problems.”
Are we seeing some fractures in the liberal media? Talking about Senator Obama’s surge to the lead in New Hampshire polls on Monday’s ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC, Hardball host Chris Matthews asserted that the “establishment press” would be part of Hillary Clinton’s resurgence. “There’s an establishment press — which is just as establishment as the establishment of the Democratic party — who can’t wait to write that fawning piece, ‘Here come the Clintons again.’”
Upon hearing that, ex-CBS anchor Dan Rather suggested that the media is really anti-Hillary right now: “I think they’re waiting to write the obituary....They’re just waiting to write ‘finis’ to the Clintons.”
In science, it’s called the “observer effect” — the very act of observing a phenomenon changes the phenomenon. And if journalists are simply supposed to “observe” and report on our presidential elections, they are in fact exerting a tremendous effect over the entire process.
For example, imagine two small states, both holding caucuses to pick their delegates to the presidential nominating convention this summer. Because they are so small, neither state delegation will be especially meaningful to the actual outcome, but the caucuses in State A are given saturation attention by the world’s media, while the caucuses in State B are ignored by the media.
Well, no need to imagine. Yesterday, the Iowa caucuses chose a relatively inconsequential 40 delegates to the GOP convention, but the tremendous media attention given to those results has already scrambled the Republican presidential race. Tomorrow, Wyoming Republicans will pick 12 delegates — but the media won’t be there. So it’s essentially a non-event.
Indeed, today’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle notes how state Republicans “want the event to end by 3 p.m. so the state can get a mention in the Sunday New York Times.”
On this morning’s Today show, NBC’s David Gregory challenged Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards about his vote for the Iraq war, his relative lack of experience, and his divisive us-vs-them rhetoric. But Gregory had absolutely no reaction when Edwards grandly claimed that his phone call to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the hours after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto “was a calming influence” that helped stabilize an “international crisis” and was proof he is “ready for the Presidency.”
“We just had this, this international crisis in Pakistan that is still ongoing. And my response to that was to speak directly to President Musharraf, to urge him to do a series of things that would move the country toward democracy, that would allow international inspectors into the country and to proceed with the elections in an open, fair, verifiable and secure way. And I believe was a calming influence in a very volatile situation.”
Does Edwards really think that in the turmoil following Bhutto’s killing his phone call was of any consequence whatsoever? Or is this just another display of Edwards’ knack for grotesque overstatement, as when in 2004 he claimed that “when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
As you’ve already been told a thousand times, with only a day to go before the Iowa caucuses, the polls are showing a statistical three-way tie between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards atop the Democratic field, and a similarly close two-way race between Republicans Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.
But the polls are probably wrong. Or maybe they’re right -- we won’t really know until Thursday night when the actual results are announced. And that’s the problem -- the media have given the polls so much emphasis that the actual results will only matter to the extent that they differ from the media’s pre-election expectations, i.e., only to the extent that this week’s polls are inaccurate.
In just the last month, RealClearPolitics has posted the results of 55 pre-Iowa caucus polls (27 for the Republicans, 28 for the Democrats). These are mostly media-generated polls, with a few conducted by universities. It’s because of these polls that reporters think they know who is and is not a frontrunner, who is and is not rising and/or falling, and who is and is not hopelessly behind.
On Sunday’s The Chris Matthews Show, the host used one of Mike Huckabee’s Iowa photo-ops as an excuse to launch into an elitist attack on Republicans and hunters. “Who made killing small animals the test of Republican manhood?” Matthews challenged at the top of his show. Over a clip of a vintage Looney Tunes cartoon, Matthews further upped the ante: “Who declared war on Bugs Bunny?!”
Later with his panel, an appalled Matthews noted how Huckabee “told a reporter that he loved to bag squirrels because he fried ’em up and ate ’em with biscuits and a Coca-Cola. What have we come to!”
Noticing how NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell was squirming, Matthews asked her, “Are you upset by this Andrea? You must be!”
“Absolutely,” Mitchell confirmed, adding a unique sexist angle: “You don’t see any women out there with a gun.”