This morning’s Wall Street Journal carries an editorial summarizing the findings of a new study from the Media Research Center that documents how the broadcast networks have skewed their coverage of the War on Terror in favor of those most concerned about civil liberties, not protecting the American people from another homeland attack. Here’s how it begins:
The title of a CBS special report Wednesday night posed the question that haunts us all after 9/11: "Five Years Later: Are We Safer?" Given the show's brevity--an hour minus commercials--and the complexity of the subject, CBS's treatment was predictably shallow. After host Katie Couric asked President Bush a few questions of the "your critics say . . . how do you respond?" sort, and we toured the federal antiterrorism command center, there was little time left for an in-depth examination of anything.
It’s not just the doctored photos. Apart from the most recent travesty of journalistic ethics, it's worth recalling how Reuters has also tilted its words in favor of those who promote terror and misery around the world.
For example, Iraqis compelled to vote for Saddam Hussein back in 2002 were “defiant” and in a “festive mood,” while Saddam’s capture by U.S. forces a year later was marked by “resentment...of life under U.S. occupation.”
For Reuters’ editors, the first anniversary of 9/11 was a reminder that “human rights around the world” have been a “casualty” of the war on terror, while the second anniversary was a time to point out how “sympathy [for America] soured” as the U.S. actually fought back against the forces of darkness.
Besides the disgraced ex-CBS Evening News anchor, HDNet has announced just one hire for “Dan Rather Reports,” tapping a longtime CBS veteran producer, Wayne Nelson, who will be the Executive Producer for new “investigative news” program. (Wasn’t “investigative news” what got Rather into trouble in the first place?) Nelson’s career highlights include stints at CBS’s Dallas bureau, the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes.
As news organizations update their obituaries of ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, it’s worth recalling how many liberal journalists have fallen under Castro’s spell over the years, sounding like paid Cuban government propagandists as they touted the “great success stories” of Castro’s decades of communist rule. A new report from the Media Research Center offers some of the most egregious pro-Castro quotes of the last couple of decades.
For example, back in 1988, then-NBC reporter Maria Shriver let Castro himself lead her on a tour of Havana. “The level of public services was remarkable: free education, medicine and heavily-subsidized housing,” Shriver marveled on Today. The following year, ABC’s Peter Jennings trumpeted how “health and education are the revolution’s great success stories.”
As the totalitarian communist dictator of Cuba for 47 years, Fidel Castro repressed those who worked for democracy, human rights and a free press. Yet through the decades, many in the American media have maintained their romanticized mythology of Castro as a progressive revolutionary icon, provider of “free” health care, a Latin American David vs. the Goliath of the United States.
In contrast to their coverage of right-wing dictators, like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, journalists do not often mention those killed, imprisoned or exiled by Castro’s ruthless “revolution,” but treat him as a celebrity head of state. Just a few years ago, ABC’s Barbara Walters trekked to Havana to produce yet another soft feature on the dictator.
“For Castro, freedom starts with education,” Walters oozed on the October 11, 2002 "20/20." “And if literacy alone is any yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth.”
Now that Fidel’s reign may have ended, it was interesting to see that the New York Times Web site included a sidebar "From the Archives," with links to PDF versions of their own coverage of Castro’s rise to power in the late 1950s. I didn’t read them all, but one that I clicked on showed an incredible pro-Castro bias, with the Times justifying Castro’s executions of political opponents, touting his genius and insisting that his new government wasn’t communist but “conservative.”
For nearly all of his presidency, George W. Bush has been on the receiving end of mainly negative — sometimes highly negative — coverage from the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), a nonpartisan research group. The only time the TV networks gave Bush mostly (63%) positive coverage was during the three months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and even then nearly four-in-ten on-air evaluations (37%) of the President were critical.
The findings are included in the latest issue of CMPA’s Media Monitor newsletter, which reached my (snail) mailbox on Friday. So far, it has yet to be posted on CMPA’s Web site, which appears to make this NewsBusters posting a World Wide Web exclusive.
When Fox News Channel Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes spoke to TV critics on Monday night, about two-thirds of the group of 150 walked out in protest, with several “voicing their scorn for what they say is Fox News’ conservative spin,” the Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin reported on Wednesday. (Updated 6:02pm EDT)
Can you imagine 100 TV critics, upset by CBS’s liberal bias, walking out on Les Moonves or Sean McManus? Or even a dozen critics turning their backs on the scandal-scarred Dan Rather? Such open disdain for Fox News Channel’s uniquely non-liberal approach speaks volumes about the media elite’s arrogant belief that it’s journalistic malpractice to give a fair shake to conservatives.
But, Garvin noted, Ailes had his own tweaks for the critics, citing their articles from a decade ago predicting “a quick and painful death for Fox News when it first went on the air in 1996.” Thwarting the critics’ desires, FNC has topped cable news ratings charts for more than four years, with CNN, Headline News and MSNBC trailing far behind.
On Monday’s "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN’s Anderson Cooper related his visit to a Hezbollah-controlled section of Beirut where he was supposed to photograph certain damaged buildings, part of the terrorist group’s strategy of generating news stories about Lebanese civilian casualities caused by Israeli bombs.
But instead of merely transmitting Hezbollah’s unverified and unverifiable claims to the outside world, Cooper — to his credit — exposed the efforts by Hezbollah to manipulate CNN and other Western reporters. It’s quite a contrast from the much more accommodating approach taken by his colleague, Nic Robertson, in a report that aired on a variety of CNN programs (including AC360) back on July 18, a report that Robertson himself has now conceded was put together under Hezbollah's control.
Unlike Robertson, Cooper was explicit about how Hezbollah’s operatives had set all of the rules: “Young men on motor scooters followed our every movement. They only allowed us to videotape certain streets, certain buildings,” he explained. He countered Hezbollah claims that Israel targets civilians by pointing out that the group based itself in civilian areas and that Israel's air force drops leaflets warning of attacks.
Better late than never? On CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, CNN’s senior international correspondent Nic Robertson added all of the caveats and disclaimers that he should have included in his story last week that amounted to his giving an uncritical forum for the terrorist group Hezbollah to spout unverifiable anti-Israeli propaganda.
Back on July 18, Hezbollah took Robertson and his crew on a tour of a heavily damaged south Beirut neighborhood. The Hezbollah “press officer” even instructed the CNN camera: “Just look. Shoot. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?”
Last night (Tuesday) on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson touted his “exclusive” exchange with a Hezbollah propagandist who led Robertson on a tour of a bombed-out block of southern Beirut. Hezbollah claimed to show that Israeli bombs had struck civilian areas of the city, not the terrorist group’s headquarters.
The Hezbollah “press officer,” Hussein Nabulsi, even directed CNN’s camera: “Just look. Shoot. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?” A few moments later, Nabulsi instructed CNN to videotape him as he ran up to a pile of rubble: “Shoot me. Shoot. This is here where they said Sheikh Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, is living. This is wrong!”
Surely, no one in the U.S. media could have a kind word to say about Hezbollah, the radical Palestinian terrorist group that decades ago seized southern Lebanon as a base for anti-Israeli operations — including the rocket attacks now indiscriminately harassing Israeli towns and cities — and which has killed hundreds of Americans in various hijackings, kidnappings and bombings over the years.
Well, in fact there have been those in the American press who’ve tried to downplay Hezbollah’s perpetration of terrorist acts, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks that killed 241 Marines. Even since September 11, 2001, a few journalists have tried to argue that Hezbollah could plausibly be seen as freedom fighters resisting Israeli authority.
So now even the Left’s most bizarre fantasies are regarded as "news" by the producers at MSNBC?
No, I don’t mean Keith Olbermann luxuriating in John Dean’s attempt to portray conservatives as leading America to fascism. This morning (Wednesday), MSNBC chose to give a couple of minutes of news time over to a lighthearted recounting of the far Left’s wacky theories about the fate of former Enron Chairman Ken Lay, including the idea that President Bush had Lay murdered.
MSNBC suggested that it was fair to entertain the kooky suggestions, since liberal bloggers “point out right wingers were quick to accuse President Clinton of having White House aide, Vince Foster, murdered back in 1993.”
So much for the loopy Olbermann-esque spin that it’s just conservatives hoping to “stoke the base” who are distressed by journalists’ leaking of government secrets.
Veteran NBC News reporter Richard Valeriani says the New York Times’s decision to publish a front-page story exposing a classified government program designed to track terrorist financing is “irresponsible,” saying it smacks of “giving Anne Frank’s address to the Nazis.” (Hat-tip to Poynter's Jim Romenesko.)
Earlier this week, the Media Research Center released a new study documenting the fairly heavy coverage ABC, CBS and NBC have provided of yet-unproved claims that U.S. Marines engaged in a “massacre” in Haditha, Iraq last year. The study found those same networks have provided relatively paltry coverage of the select group of American heroes who’ve been given the military’s highest honors: the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Today’s Washington Times (Jennifer Harper) has a nice summary of our study’s key findings, plus some reaction from the multi-national force in Iraq. Excerpts from her article, “‘Bad News’ Rife in military coverage”:
As they do every weekday at noon, CNN’s American viewers were switched over to the CNN International network’s “Your World Today,” a show so far to the left that it makes the rest of CNN look like a Norman Rockwell tribute to the greatness of America. Today, during coverage of the U.S. military’s successful elimination of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the CNNI caption referred to him as a “top Iraqi insurgent.”
Al-Zarqawi, as everyone (including CNN's foreign bureaus?) surely knows by now, was not an Iraqi, but a Jordanian who spent most of the past three years instigating the deaths of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians. Was CNNI trying to falsely paint the self-appointed leader of “Al Qaeda in Iraq” as some sort of nationalist freedom fighter, or are they just sloppy with their choice of words? Either way, it seems like an insult to the people of Iraq to have their worst foreign enemy listed as one of their own.
ABC News has officially picked Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to shore up World News Tonight. Is that good news for conservatives? Well, when he hosted the 2004 town-hall style debate between President Bush and John Kerry, Gibson chose a balanced set of questions that equally represented liberal and conservative concerns. Good for him -- that’s a balancing act that previous town hall moderators, like PBS’s Jim Lehrer and ABC’s Carole Simpson, failed to do.
But as a frequent fill-in on World News Tonight and on Good Morning America, Gibson has rarely tinkered with the media elite’s liberal template:
Leslie Cauley, the USA Today reporter who last week “broke” the news that three major U.S. telecommunications companies were assisting the National Security Agency in building a database to more easily track any communications by potential terrorists, is listed as a donor to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, according to a search of The Center for Responsive Politics Web site, www.opensecrets.org
A search found a listing for "writer and journalist" Leslie Cauley, indicating she gave $2,000 to Gephardt on June 30, 2003, when Gephardt was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And that seems not to be her only tie to Democratic politics (see Update below)
NBC’s medical drama ER included more anti-war speeches last night, as the show’s writers killed off a character who used to work as a doctor at the Chicago hospital but has lately been serving as a National Guard medical officer in Iraq. One doctor railed against how the “whole war smell[s]...of right-wing cronyism,” while another complained the U.S. was spending “$6 billion a month in a war all the way across the world to kill a few more of the other kids who actually get to make it to their teens!” (See video)
Earlier this season, “Dr. Neela Rasgotra” railed against the war in a March 16 episode, as Brent Baker noted in an earlier post on NewsBusters. Her character had married “Dr. Michael Gallant” after Gallant had returned from his first tour of duty in Iraq.
Last night, the truck carrying Gallant and several other soldiers was blown up by a roadside bomb during the first few moments of the show, right after he tried in vain to save a soldier shot in an insurgent ambush. That left the rest of the show for the other characters to complain about the war as they learned of their friend’s death.
Seismic! Shocking! Startling! A bombshell!! That’s how the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows described a front-page story in today’s (Thursday’s) USA Today that breathlessly touted how “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls.” Like the TV coverage, USA Today’s story insinuated that the existence of the database was a major violation of Americans’ privacy rights and evidence that the President was lying last December when he described the NSA’s eavesdropping on suspected terrorist communications as limited and targeted.
Today’s article does not allege that any calls are listened in on. Indeed, as USA Today describes it, the program seems like a thoroughly innocuous database of the same information that appears on your phone bill, but with your name, address and other personal information removed. Given that another government agency — the IRS — maintains information on American citizens’ employment, banking, investments, mortgages, charitable contributions and even any declared medical expenses, this hardly seems like a major assault on personal liberty.
And for all of the hype, there may not even be much “news” here. Last December 24, a few days after they spilled the beans about the NSA terrorist surveillance program, New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen disclosed how U.S. phone companies were helping the NSA by giving them “access to streams of domestic and international communications.”
The Washington Post has yet to editorialize on the nomination of Air Force General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA Director, but they’ve already done a fine job of debunking the notion that a uniformed officer has no business running the civilian CIA. Of course, that was when a liberal president picked a liberal admiral to run the agency.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Post sided with President Jimmy Carter when he named Navy Admiral Stansfield Turner, at the time the commander-in chief of Allied Forces in Southern Europe. The Post called objections to Turner’s military pedigree “misguided” and “insulting.” An excerpt of the Post’s February 9, 1977 editorial, headlined "Why Not a Military Man at CIA?" retrieved via Nexis:
Anyone with a working TV set knows that the broadcast networks have hyped the high gas price story (“Pain at the Pump”) to ridiculous levels. A new MRC study of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows found a whopping 183 stories in just three weeks, an avalanche of TV coverage that (helpfully to Democrats planning their midterm election strategy) has buried far more important good economic news, like robust economic growth, low unemployment and a booming stock market.
One device the networks have used to maintain an outraged tone in all of their coverage has been to plant themselves next to gas pumps and find motorists who aren’t embarrassed about whining on camera. The MRC analysts who went through all of the coverage — Geoff Dickens, Brian Boyd, Mike Rule and Scott Whitlock — counted 151 sound bites from gas buyers during the period we studied, April 12 to May 2.
Monday’s CBS Evening News inaugurated a new series, “Eye on the Road,” the network’s latest gimmick to keep people outraged at the high cost of gasoline. Reporter Sharyn Alfonsi is driving from Florida to Boston to find people to complain about the high prices, and last night she highlighted senior citizens who are ostensibly sacrificing food and medicine because of Big Oil’s greediness.
Alfonsi highlighted a poll taken by the liberal lobbying group AARP to supposedly prove the hardship gas prices are having on the elderly. “They’re used to living on fixed incomes,” Alfonsi reported, “but now skyrocketing gas prices are forcing seniors to make difficult choices. Some are cutting back on medicine, others say they’re eating less.”
As she spoke, the screen showed the words “AARP Survey” plus the words “Cutting Back,” followed by “Medicine 6%,” then “Food 13%.”
But the poll wasn’t taken “now,” during the wave of network stories wailing about high gas prices. It was actually conducted for the AARP newsletter AARP Bulletin nearly eight months ago, in early September 2005, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and fairly extensive supply disruptions in the eastern U.S.
All three network morning shows played the envy card Thursday morning, as they hyped the “record high profits” and “corporate greed” of American oil companies. High on their agenda: ExxonMobil’s announcement of $8.4 billion in profits, which the networks implied was scandalous given the high price of oil.
But unstated in the network coverage was the fact that the U.S. government took in more than $7 billion from ExxonMobil during the first quarter of 2006, a jump of more than $2 billion from the same time period in 2005. And that doesn’t count the more than $7.6 billion in excise taxes — the gas tax — that ExxonMobil collected for the government during the same quarter. Plus another $11 billion in "other taxes" and ExxonMobil sent the government more than $25 billion in the first quarter of 2006 -- three times more than the amount network reporters seem to feel is obscene.
Big Government is making more off of high gas prices than Big Oil.
All three broadcast morning shows this morning noted President Bush’s choice of Tony Snow as new White House press secretary, but only ABC’s Good Morning America saw the need to parrot from the thin list of anti-Bush quotes from Snow’s columns being passed around by the liberal Center for American Progress (although reporter Jessica Yellin presented the quotes as if they were the result of her own research, hiding the fact they came from Democratic partisans).
MRC news analyst Brian Boyd caught Yellin’s piece on Snow, which aired at about 7:05 EDT this morning (Wednesday), with the snarky headline "SNOW JOB" on the screen: “Snow knows both politics and the media. He was the director of speechwriting for George Bush, Sr., and has clocked a decade as a conservative commentator for Fox News,” Yellin began.
Snow has been a conservative commentator for Fox News, of course. But after Joe Lockhart became Bill Clinton’s White House press secretary in 1998, no one at ABC described him as a “former liberal producer for ABC News.”
While most in the media insist on bombarding audiences with constant pessimism when it comes to Iraq and the war on terror (today’s New York Times headline, for example, asserts “Arab Democracy, a U.S. Goal, Falters”), it is worth recalling that three years ago this morning, newspapers such as the New York Times were trumpeting good news from Iraq — the “joyous” and “cheering, often tearful welcome” that the people of Baghdad had for American forces when they were finally liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.
The Times’ John Burns — who was himself, a target of Saddam’s secret police during the final days of the dictatorship — was eyewitness to the celebrations. His story appeared on the front page of the April 10, 2003 Times. While including the fact that some Iraqis were both anti-Saddam and anti-American, and noting the doubts many Iraqis had about the future, Burns makes it pretty clear that, to use Vice President Cheney’s phrase, Americans were mostly “greeted as liberators.” Excerpts:
On Comedy Central's South Park cartoon Wednesday, the world's environment is threatened by the impossible smugness of those driving hybrid cars. (The smug clouds are biggest over San Francisco, naturally.) The danger passes only when the people of South Park mash their hybrid cars into little aluminum cubes. And, just for fun, the animators named their hybrid the "Pious," a knock on Toyota's "Prius."
Funny enough, but the very next morning on NBC's Today, reporter Tom Costello was lauding the wonders of efficient, low emission hybrid cars (as opposed to those awful SUVs) when he showcased a smug driver who sounded like a South Park gag. MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this part of NBC's report:
Tom Costello: "Betsy Rosenberg didn't always drive a hybrid car but after getting fed up with 15 mpg in her SUVs she traded them both in for a Toyota Prius and 50 mpg."
Betsy Rosenberg: "I decided this was something that I would do to protect my kid, my country, my planet and be patriotic. I think that's the patriotic thing to do is to use less gas and not more."
This morning’s Jerusalem Post has a wrap on yesterday’s elections, which saw the once-dominant Likud party drop to fourth place, winning only 11 seats in the new parliament. One of the Likud members ousted in yesterday’s election says that some Israeli media outlets were blatantly biased against Likud and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, which stood against plans to transfer West Bank settlements to the Palestinians.
An excerpt from the Post story, which had multiple bylines:
The problem with advocacy journalism is that once one has switched from “mediator” to “advocate,” the other side becomes the “adversary” — and news stories have all the fairness of campaign commercials.
On the issue of global warming, the media are cursed with a surplus of advocates and a paucity of real journalists. This week’s Timecover story, for example, begins with the kind of fear-mongering that liberals find so offensive when it crops up in debates about the war on terror. Time’s cover screams: “BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED,” with the word “VERY” in bright red letters, in case anyone missed the point.
Imagine if Vice President Cheney asked us to “be worried, be very worried” about al Qaeda or the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Time would be at the front of the liberal media mob, hissing for an end to politically-motivated scare tactics.
Toppling Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and bringing the brutal dictator before a court of law is unquestionably a major achievement of the U.S. and our allies. But TV coverage has minimized the historic significance of this case. Instead, the network’s Iraq news has been a depressingly dour drumbeat of terrorist attacks, U.S. casualties and dark warnings that Iraq is on the verge of ‘civil war.’
Not even Saddam's trial for crimes against humanity has encouraged TV to take more than a cursory look at the ex-dictator's horrifying record. Our analysts here at the MRC have just reviewed every mention of the trial on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news from October 16 (when the networks began previewing the trial) through March 15 (when Saddam himself took the stand).
Dan Rather spoke at a Cherry Hill, New Jersey high school last night (Wednesday), South Jersey's Courier-Post reports this morning, and reporter Jim Walsh noted (without irony) that the disgraced and replaced CBS Evening News anchor proposed “Rather’s Rules” for improving journalism.
Isn’t that a bit like “Dr. Kevorkian’s Rules” for better medicine?
In his speech, Rather repeated his recent chiding of the national media for being too soft, and in “need of a spine transplant.” But when it came to his own journalistic transgression, the 2004 60 Minutes hit piece on President Bush's National Guard service -- a report based on forged memos -- Rather crouched behind his Nixonian stone wall: