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:
Talk about Orwellian double-speak: the AP on Monday called the effort by some law professors to ban military recruitment on their campuses a "free-speech challenge" -- even though it was the law professors who wanted to ban the speech. (Hat tip to NR's The Corner.)
"The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays."
"Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and their professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances."
President Bush arrived in Pakistan “like a drug dealer...under cover of night,” according to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. On Friday’s Hardball, Matthews highlighted the security measures taken to protect Bush as he arrived in the same country in which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may have found sanctuary, but he pivoted between suggesting the threat to Bush is quite real and language that suggested the President had skulked into Pakistan like a coward.
Would he have preferred Bush arriving in a bright red suit with a bulls-eye painted on his back?
Beginning the segment at about 5:25pm EST on Friday night, Matthews first asked MSNBC’s Hasan Zaidi to describe “the weird way in which our President had to enter your country, enter that country today.”
As NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein pointed out this morning, Hollywood’s liberal streak is now so obvious even the news media are taking notice. But it isn’t just that celebrities are liberal activists in their spare time — liberal talking points are also finding their way onto TV and movie screens.
Case in point: Last night’s ER, NBC’s long-running medical drama. The March 2 episode saw the much-promoted return of “Dr. John Carter,” played by Noah Wyle, who left the show at the end of last season. Last night’s episode had John volunteering at a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, where hundreds of thousands have died in a real-life humanitarian catastrophe. Even as they portrayed the Janjaweed militia as the chief villains, the ER writers couldn’t resist taking a potshot at inaction by a supposedly racist U.S. Congress. Windows Media or Real Player
Wednesday’s Early Show on CBS carried a segment on Iraq emblazoned with the headline “Iraq Civil War.” The worry that Iraq is about to tip over into an all-out fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites has been thick in the media since terrorists bombed an important Shiite mosque a week ago. As CBS anchor Bob Schieffer announced that night (February 22): “One of the worst days ever in Iraq, and it’s Iraqis against Iraqis. A Middle East expert tells us the country has been plunged into civil war.”
But while there’s been a definite uptick in violence and death in the week since the mosque bombing, the “civil war” scenario has failed to materialize. On FNC’s Your World with Neil Cavuto earlier this afternoon, a panel discussed whether notions of an imminent Iraq “civil war” are a grim reality, or a media myth. Former CBS and NBC reporter Marvin Kalb spoke for the rest of the liberal establishment: "What is going on in Iraq now is deadly, serious stuff. People are dying there....This is not a myth. This is what is happening and the American people deserve to know the truth.”
Well, if Iraq’s future matches the current prognostications from the liberal media, it’s purely a matter of coincidence. Pessimistic media mavens have been fretting about a “civil war” since shortly after the coalition liberated Baghdad in April 2003. A brief review:
According to the article by Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee, even most of this biased sample of Americans is against raising the gas tax, but the Times helpfully tested different ways that money-hungry politicians might be able to talk them into it:
With Republicans and Democrats both up in arms over the port deal with the United Arab Emirates, what are the newspapers in the UAE saying about the controversial deal? Today’s Gulf News, a Dubai-based newspaper that has an English language edition on the Web, has an article today that throws all of its fire at those in Congress who would block the Dubai Ports World from taking over operations at six major U.S. ports -- Hillary Clinton is singled out -- while a second article gives President Bush pretty good reviews for standing firm.
For an insight into how the port fight is being portrayed in the region, here’s an excerpt from the February 22 story by GulfNews.com staff writer Shakir Husain, which heavily quotes a pro-Dubai article from the Financial Times:
Longtime CBS and CNN political reporter Bruce Morton is retiring, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer announced after Morton filed his last piece (on the changing significance of the vice presidency) shortly before 5pm EST on Thursday’s The Situation Room.
“Beyond his years of solid, hard news reporting, Bruce brings something very special to television journalism, a truly unique voice, smart and wry, with a perspective you could only get by covering politics for five decades,” Blitzer enthused. “When we need a certain kind of piece we immediately know is Bruce material, ‘Morton-esque,’ as many of us like to say right here.”
Over at www.mrc.org, we’ve just posted a new study of how ABC, CBS and NBC have covered the NSA surveillance story. It's just as awful as you expected — most network stories were framed around the idea that the program is probably illegal and a shocking violation of Americans’ civil liberties.
Maybe the most interesting statistic is how reporters themselves refer to the targets of NSA’s surveillance. Most of the time, it’s either “domestic spying” or “spying on U.S. citizens,” categories that account for 84% of journalists’ descriptions. Only about one-sixth of the reporters descriptions point out that the targets are either “U.S. citizens suspected of ties to al-Qaeda” or “suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.”
Once assumed to be the likely successor to Dan Rather, White House correspondent John Roberts is leaving CBS to become CNN's "senior national correspondent" starting February 20.
At CBS, Roberts defined himself as part of that network's liberal spin machine -- castigating conservatives, adoring liberals -- highlights of which are documented in this 2004 Media Reality Check (obviously written before CBS became infatuated with Katie Couric). One of the best quotes came when Roberts was filling in for Rather on the CBS Evening News back on May 30, 1994, when he offered this ridiculously sensationalized take on "lethal" golf courses:
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry must be thinking how fortunate he was that there were no real journalists in the room -- just perky Katie Couric -- when he appeared on NBC’s Today to complain about President Bush’s State of the Union address. As NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein noted earlier, Couric did ask a couple of pointed questions, at one point asking Kerry if there “was there anything you appreciated or liked hearing” in Bush’s speech.
But when Kerry started inventing statistics in his rant against the President’s education policies, preposterously claiming at one point that “53 percent of our children are not graduating from high school,” (in fact, 73.9 percent of incoming freshmen graduate from high school, according to the most recent Department of Education tally) Couric never even blinked -- not even when Kerry haughtily accused Bush of not presenting “the real state of the Union.”
Just two and a half years ago -- after the September 11 attacks had supposedly made the U.S. a bit more sensitive to the plight of Israelis under constant pressure from terrorist groups -- ABC's World News Tonight benignly described the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas as “a political and social welfare organization with a military wing that has launched terror attacks against Israel.”
Now that Hamas has apparently won the Palestinian elections, will reporters stress their history of killing innocent civilians? On last night' World News Tonight, anchor Bob Woodruff wouldn't go so far as to brand Hamas as a terrorist group, calling them a "militant" group "which the U.S. calls a terrorist organization."
Apparently, not even the communists are socialistic enough for the New York Times. Cleaning up my office this morning, I noticed the front-page of Saturday’s Times featured a large photo of an ill Chinese man with the headline “Wealth Grows, but Health Care Withers in China.” The subheadline explained, “Rural Areas Lag With Fall of Socialized Medicine.”
Reporter Howard W. French rued the fact that Chinese communist leaders are discarding elements of Mao’s system: “Until the beginning of the reform period in the early 1980's, China's socialized medical system, with ‘barefoot doctors’ at its core, worked public health wonders. From 1952 to 1982 infant mortality fell from 200 per 1,000 live births to 34, and life expectancy increased from about 35 years to 68, according to a recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine.”
As for the purported health benefits of Mao’s version of communism, estimates of the number of deaths vary widely, but most are in the tens of millions.
While Ted Koppel is signing up with NPR and the New York Times, another veteran of his classic "Nightline" has found a new gig. Reporter Dave Marash is signing up with the English-language version of al-Jazeera. As Newsday's Verne Gay reports this morning, Marash insists that despite al-Jazeera's reputation as a mouthpiece for al Qaeda terrorists, "conventional and, dare I say, informed opinion is that the channel is thoroughly respected."
Dave Marash, the veteran "Nightline" correspondent who left the program late last year, has landed at Al-Jazeera International, the new English-language news channel that will be spun off from Al-Jazeera later this spring....
Amid all the media-fueled angst over the Bush administration’s “domestic spying” program — a word formula chosen to make the National Security Agency’s monitoring of terrorist communications seem as if ordinary Americans were the target, not the beneficiary — today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us that real domestic spying took place not that long ago, during liberals’ Golden Age, the 1960s.
As federal judge Laurence Silberman revealed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last July, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover “had allowed — even offered — the bureau to be used by presidents for nakedly political purposes. I have always thought that the most heinous act in which a democratic government can engage is to use its law enforcement machinery for political ends.”
CBS’s Harry Smith on Wednesday’s “The Early Show” saluted New York Times reporter James Risen, who in a December 16 front-page article exposed an ongoing National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence-gathering operation aimed at thwarting al Qaeda attacks in the U.S., and whose new book, “State of War,” amplifies his concerns with the way the U.S. government has pursued the war on terror.
Shortly after 7:30 this morning, Smith touted his upcoming interview with Risen, advertising him as “the author of a new book the Bush administration does not want you to read.” A few minutes later, he introduced Risen by asserting that the NSA’s surveillance program “has shocked many Americans.” Smith used sinister language to describe the NSA program:
As 2005 winds down, it's a good time to recall some of the worst journalistic moments of the year. The Media Research Center polled 52 distinguished media experts -- talk show hosts, columnists, journalism professors and other keen observers -- who generously supplied their picks for The Best Notable Quotables of 2005.
A few of the highlights:
Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham won the "Madness of King George Award for Bush Bashing" for recoiling when the current President toured the former captive nations of Eastern Europe and apologized for the deal FDR made with Stalin back at Yalta in 1945: "It’s like he stuck a broomstick in his wheelchair wheels," Meacham complained on MSNBC.
Forget about how cold it is outside — according to ABC, there’s no longer a debate about global warming: manmade greenhouse emissions have put Earth “under non-stop stress from the heat,” with deaths from global warming “conservatively” estimated at 150,000 per year.
In a stupendously one-sided story that aired on Thursday’s “Good Morning America” — a longer version of which will be shown tonight on “Nightline” — reporter Bill Blakemore announced that unless “serious greenhouse gas emission cuts” are underway within the next ten years “the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years.”
Such cuts in emissions, however, would cause massive damage to the world economy. Financial columnist James Glassman recently highlighted a study from the International Council for Capital Formation which tried to assess the impact on just four European countries – Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy: