Less than an hour before Barack Obama took the oath of office, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson spotted former Vice President Al Gore arriving at the inauguration, and Gibson fantasized about how this could have been Gore's last day in office, not George W. Bush's.
"Had he gotten a second term," Gibson began before correcting himself, "had he been elected president in the first place in the year 2000, and then gotten a second term -- he would be there as the outgoing President of the United States."
Over on NBC, Tom Brokaw merely pointed out how Gore would be an advisor on climate change to the new president, while CBS's Katie Couric enthused about how such high-profile individuals from different parties seem to get along so well at inaugurations.
For years -- especially, it seems, the past eight years -- the "news" media have made a habit of asking liberal celebrities about their political views -- in essence, handing the microphone over to a small, unrepresentative group of left-wing Bush-bashers, blame-America-firsters and enviro-wackos. Thus, actors and singers and comics are elevated in our national discourse above the military, businessmen and scientists.
The news media are giddy with excitement as Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day approaches — CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday’s American Morning touted how "Obama has some big shoes to fill, roughly the size of the ones up on the Lincoln Memorial....Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages."
But it would be a mistake to think reporters are always so worshipful of new presidents. While most presidents do start with a media honeymoon, a review of the past 20 years finds reporters are more celebratory when Democrats are taking over the White House, while coverage of GOP inaugurals has included a fair number of anti-conservative stinkbombs:
Four years ago, the Associated Press and others in the press suggested it was in poor taste for Republicans to spend $40 million on President Bush’s inauguration. AP writer Will Lester calculated the impact that kind of money would have on armoring Humvees in Iraq, helping victims of the tsunami, or paying down the deficit. Lester thought the party should be cancelled: “The questions have come from Bush supporters and opponents: Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?”
Fast forward to 2009. The nation is still at war (two wars, in fact), and now also faces the prospect of a severe recession and federal budget deficits topping $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. With Barack Obama’s inauguration estimated to cost $45 million (not counting the millions more that government will have to pay for security), is the Associated Press once again tsk-tsking the high dollar cost?
Nope. “For inaugural balls, go for glitz, forget economy,” a Tuesday AP headline advised. The article by reporter Laurie Kellman argued for extravagance, starting with the lede:
Starting this week, MRC’s Notable Quotables newsletter is evolving from a printed hard-copy product to an all-electronic Web and e-mail publication, complete with audio and video clips of the worst quotes from each issue.
Every two weeks, Notable Quotables offers a concise summary of the liberal media’s most outrageous and/or humorous eruptions, and the very best quotes are harvested once a year so the journalists can receive “awards” at our annual DisHonors dinner in Washington, D.C.
To give you a flavor of what’s in each issue, here are the most obnoxious quotes from this week’s (January 12) edition. If you've been a subscriber to the print edition, or if you’d like to sign up for our new HTML or plain-text e-mail, please go to www.MRC.org/subscriptions.
While he was anchoring live coverage of the Roland Burris Senate drama on MSNBC this morning, anchor Chris Matthews interrupted his discussion with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to narrate pictures of Barack Obama being driven to the White House for a luncheon with all of the living U.S. presidents.
Matthews celebrated the moment by proudly announcing poll numbers that showed Obama and the ex-Democratic presidents having higher approval ratings than the Republicans, particularly the "kid" George W. Bush.
Matthews was such a perfect poster boy of the DNC media, he merited his own category this year: the "MSNBC = Maudlin Sycophantic Nutty Blathering Chris Award." The winning quote came from Matthews gushing over Obama's convention speech back on August 28. Perhaps referring to the grief he took for admitting to the "thrill" running up his leg earlier in the year, Matthews defiantly declared: "I’ve been criticized for saying he inspires me, and to hell with my critics!"
Nearly two years after reporters such as NBC's Tom Brokaw derided President Bush's troop surge as "a folly" and suggested the war itself was a "lost cause," American troop deaths are at their lowest level since the Iraq war began in March 2003, and the death toll among Iraqi civilians is also down sharply in 2008.
So right on cue, Monday's New York Times reports that ABC, CBS and NBC have all pulled their full time reporters from Iraq. According to correspondent Brian Stelter, the lack of violence means the networks are less interested in the Iraq story: "Representatives for the networks emphasized that they would continue to cover the war and said the staff adjustments reflected the evolution of the conflict in Iraq from a story primarily about violence to one about reconstruction and politics."
Less than a week after a new report from the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee showcased hundreds of scientists who disagree with the United Nations' alarmist take on global climate change, ABC’s World News Sunday featured a report devoted solely to cheering Barack Obama’s new “green team” — the promotional term was embraced by ABC News — and laying the groundwork for radical action on global warming after what ABC termed “censorship” and “stonewalling” by the Bush administration.
The story by ABC’s Bill Blakemore offered a manipulative presentation, asserting that “wildfires, droughts and downpours [are] increasing exactly as predicted for global warming” — but not mentioning that global temperatures are actually lower now than in 1998 — and scolding how the Bush White House allowed “political assistants in their 20s to rewrite the conclusions of leading climate scientists” — as if the liberal political opinions of scientists could not be second-guessed.
Much as when then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught with a prostitute last March, the arrest Tuesday of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on allegations he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat raises the issue of whether or not the Big Three networks will forthrightly tag him as a “Democrat.”
Among wire services, the Associated Press has included the “Democrat” label in its round-up, but not in the lead paragraph, while Reuters linked Blagojevich to "fellow Democrat President-elect Barack Obama."
So what would happen if the corruption charges were flung at a Republican Governor of Illinois?
Sometimes you have to laugh at the overwrought emotion that Hollywood celebrities bring to their causes. In a story on Thursday’s Today (in the supposedly hard news 7am half hour), KNBC reporter Robert Kovasic reported on a debate in Los Angeles about whether to spend $40 million to renovate and enlarge the elephant compound at the Los Angeles Zoo, or instead create a 100-acre elephant preserve just outside the city.
MRC’s Geoff Dickens caught this soundbite of actress Lily Tomlin wailing about the plight of the elephant in the zoo: “The word, ‘zoo’ is sort of elephant-speak for Guantanamo. They’re really, they are suffering and being tortured.”
The elephant in question, named "Billy," was shown alternately munching on a leaf, walking near a pond, and sticking his truck over the fence at tourists with cameras — which is, I believe, an existence very similar to terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
When it comes to building a quota Cabinet that fulfills liberal demands for “diversity,” Barack Obama is far smoother than the “artless” and “calculating” Clintons were back in 1992, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell argued Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC. In contrast to the Clintons, Obama’s approach is “effortless. They’re creating a mosaic, but they’re not doing it by self-consciously creating that mosaic,” Mitchell enthused.
Talking about the naming of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as the new Secretary of Commerce and whether Hispanics would demand other slots in Obama’s Cabinet, Mitchell panned the approach taken by Bill and Hillary sixteen years ago:
They were trying to pick one from column “A” and one from column “B,” and diversity was such an important goal, that there were a number of very, you know, top level Democrats who happened to be white men stashed in hotels in Little Rock waiting and calling reporters like me and saying, ‘Have you heard? Am I getting Transportation? Am I getting Interior? What am I getting,’ you know. But first they had to check off all the other boxes.
Less than nine months ago, the Obama campaign was slamming Hillary Clinton as utterly unqualified on foreign policy, having had no substantive experience during her husband’s administration and being dreadfully wrong in her judgment as a Senator when it came to “the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation,” the war in Iraq.
A March 11, 2008 memo by Obama ally (and now incoming White House Counsel) Gregory Craig suggested Clinton (unlike Obama) was using “false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.” The memo was passed around as Clinton was slamming Obama as not ready to take a “3am phone call” on a national emergency.
Yet today, as President-elect Barack Obama named Hillary Clinton to the top foreign policy post in his administration, none of the three broadcast network anchors chose to disrupt the moment by reminding anyone of Obama’s argument of a few months ago that, when it came to foreign policy, Clinton is an inexperienced phony. [UPDATE at end]
File this one under “Deluded Expectations.” During MSNBC’s coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, daytime anchor Alex Witt seemed frustrated that the election of Barack Obama 23 days earlier — and the accompanying “global outpouring of affection, respect, hope” — had not caused an end to terrorist violence.
Talking with correspondent John Yang, who was covering the Obama side of the story, Witt conceded that while “you certainly can’t expect things to change on a dime overnight....There had been such a global outpouring of affection, respect, hope, with the new administration coming in, that precisely these kinds of attacks, it was thought — at least hoped — would be dampered down. But in this case it looks like Barack Obama is getting a preview of things to come.”
Talk about an awkward moment. On CNN’s Larry King Live on Monday, the septuagenarian host asked the “pregnant man” Thomas Beatie and his wife, Nancy, about the mechanics of their relationship. Beatie, who was born a woman and retains female reproductive organs, became a celebrity last year when the media dubbed him the world’s first “pregnant man.”
Thomas and Nancy Beatie appeared on Monday’s Larry King Live to talk about how they are expecting their second child next year. At one point, King decided to ask the pair about their sex life:
LARRY KING: Where did you learn how to do this? From the Internet, you said, right? You can't have the normal kind of intercourse, right?
Barack Obama’s transition team has tapped former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera, a longtime proponent of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," to head the team looking for the man or woman who will soon give Democrats a 3-to-2 advantage on the Federal Communications Commission. [CORRECTION ADDED, 11/14]
It’s another troubling sign that Democrats are serious about trying to reinstate the long-defunct FCC regulation, which can more aptly be described as the "Censorship Doctrine" because of its chilling effect on free speech. In effect from 1949 to 1987, the Fairness Doctrine was an obstacle to open discussion of public policy issues on the radio; its removal in the Reagan years spawned the robust talk radio marketplace of ideas now enjoyed by millions.
While talk radio hosts often warned during the campaign that free speech could be trampled by an all-Democratic majority, the broadcast networks have failed to react to this dangerous threat to the First Amendment. A review shows the broadcast networks — whose affiliates could also be regulated — have failed to run even a single story mentioning the push for a new Fairness Doctrine.
Once again — perhaps this time hoping that they are right — Time magazine has ostentatiously declared: “The End of the Reagan Era.” In the November 17 “commemorative edition,” the magazine features a piece by historian Richard Norton Smith explaining how “the Age of the Gipper ends with Obama’s election.”
But we’ve seen this movie before. Back in 2006, Time’s Joe Klein enthusiastically suggested the Democrats’ midterm election victory marked “the end of the conservative pendulum swing that began with Ronald Reagan’s revolution.”
Before that, in 1993, a Time cover story proclaimed that Bill Clinton was “Overturning the Reagan Era,” complete with an upside-down picture of Reagan. Reporter Nancy Gibbs insisted that passage of Clinton’s package of tax increases “brings to an end a bankrupt period in American politics. The narrow votes on Thursday and Friday represent the first real rejection of Reaganomics, a doctrine that survived for more than a decade in which taxes were lowered, spending raised, and Congress was blamed while everyone watched the deficit soar.”
Okay, it’s probably a small thing to quibble about, but does everybody remember the impressive county-by-county election map that the New York Times published after the 2004 election, showing the United States as a sea of Republican red, with a few Democratic blue counties clustered on the coasts and a few urban pockets?
Well, today’s New York Times has a large map of the U.S. showing county-by-county election results as a sea of Democratic blue, with red areas limited to a few southern states, Arizona and Alaska. It looks like a Democratic landslide.
Before the networks had even declared Barack Obama the winner Tuesday night, CBS historian Douglas Brinkley announced that the “Age of Ronald Reagan” was “coming to an end tonight.” Shortly before 11pm EST, Brinkley told anchor Katie Couric: “We're looking at a historic victory for the Democrats and Barack Obama. I think you have to go back to 1964 when Lyndon Johnson had such a landslide over Barry Goldwater to see how momentous this is.”
In a Tuesday night piece wrapping up yesterday’s election, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh sought out liberal historian Robert Dallek, who similarly declared that Obama’s win “is probably going to mark the end of the Reagan era — this whole conservative impulse that has dominated the country's politics for the last generation....I think you're going to see a whole new era of federal progressive activism.”
On his syndicated Chris Matthews Show on Sunday, the conspicuously pro-Obama MSNBC host announced how he expected that “election night is going to be emotional for all of us....Particularly if it goes in that historic direction, it’s going to be very emotional for everybody. I mean, everybody.”
A few minutes later, in his closing commentary about the election, Matthews (a potential Democratic Senate candidate in 2010) offered a not-very veiled endorsement of Barack Obama, suggesting his election would mean a “leap towards something better and uniting our country as never before in our history.”
So we’ll be more united than we were after 9/11? More united than during World War II? Maybe the bartender who serves the Obama Kool-Aid at MSNBC had better cut Matthews off — he’s had a few too many.
Going into Tuesday’s election, polls show Democrat Barack Obama with a modest lead over Republican John McCain, but one group whose support of Obama should not be in doubt is the national media. Surveys of journalists conducted over the past three decades show the media elite are extremely consistent in choosing Democratic candidates on Election Day.
If only journalists were permitted to vote, we would never have had a President Reagan or a President Bush, but would have instead faced Presidents McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry. It wouldn’t have been close.
In their 1986 book, The Media Elite, political scientists S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda S. Lichter reported the results of their survey of 240 journalists at the nation’s top media outlets: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. When asked about their voting patterns, journalists admitted their preference for Democrats:
Yes, the media are rooting for Barack Obama. Two studies out in the past couple of days show that it’s not just conservatives who see a strong tilt by journalists in favor of the Democrats: A nonpartisan media monitoring group and a liberal-leaning research organization both confirm the pro-Obama, anti-McCain bias of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC.
In reports this week, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) and the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) found the most balanced campaign coverage was on the Fox News Channel, although PEJ claimed FNC’s balance was actually a right-leaning bias, since it deviated from the “norm” of other big media:
As longtime NewsBusters readers are painfully aware, the supposedly objective news media have showered Barack Obama with fawning press coverage throughout his campaign for the White House. (That, plus a $600 million war chest, will apparently get you pretty far in politics.) The Media Research Center has assembled a special Campaign 2008 edition of our bi-weekly Notable Quotables, chock full of journalists’ most adoring pro-Obama quotes. The full collection can be found here, but here are a few of the choicer quotes and along with a memorable video:
Love at First Sight
“I think the real breakout tonight is [Illinois Senate candidate Barack] Obama. I mean, Teresa [Heinz-Kerry] is a fascinating story, but Obama is a rock star!” — NBC’s Andrea Mitchell during MSNBC’s live coverage of the Democratic convention, July 27, 2004.
Barack Obama was so pleased with the findings of a CBS News/New York Times poll that he gave it a plug at the October 15 presidential debate: "Two-thirds of the American people think that Senator McCain is running a negative campaign, versus one-third of mine."
That's what the poll showed, but do people believe this because McCain's ads really are more negative, or because the media have spent more time complaining about them? MRC intern Lyndsi Thomas went over all 213 broadcast morning and evening news stories that discussed the candidates' ads from the end of the primaries (June 4) through October 21. The results show the networks aired nearly three times as many stories criticizing McCain's ads (84) as hitting Obama's (32).
Over the past few days, the Obama campaign has been claiming — both in ads and in statements by Barack Obama himself — that John McCain would “cut” Medicare benefits by “$882 billion,” a charge that the Associated Press called “shaky” and that FactCheck.org bluntly dismissed as “bogus” and “false.”
Yet of the three broadcast networks, only ABC News has thus far joined the condemnation of Obama’s deceptive ad. NBC on Monday would only go so far as to say “McCain’s advisors say that’s not true...” — implying that it’s merely a partisan difference of opinion — while CBS has thus far refrained from questioning Obama’s truthfulness on this issue.
For weeks now, the networks have complained about the McCain campaign’s supposed nasty and unfair campaign attacks against Obama, so when will NBC and CBS join ABC in punishing this nasty and unfair charge from the Democrats?
On Monday’s Good Morning America, in a fact check of John McCain’s statement that Barack Obama “gives away your tax dollars to those who don’t pay taxes,” reporter Jake Tapper cited the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the McCain and Obama tax cuts to stamp McCain’s charge “false.”
“Obama's tax cuts only go to people who work, so by definition, it's not welfare. Some working people eligible for Obama's tax cut make so little, they do not pay income taxes. But they do pay payroll taxes and other taxes,” Tapper summarized.
In other words, McCain would have been accurate if he’d said “gives an income tax cut to those who don’t pay income taxes — and pays for it by raising income taxes on those who are already shouldering more than half of the nation’s income tax burden.”
But Monday’s piece illustrated the liberal media’s penchant for analyzing tax proposals according to a liberal yardstick — who gets how big a check from the government — rather than by analyzing how the rival tax policies will contribute to greater prosperity (by helping or hurting economic growth, rewarding or punishing job creation, etc.).
Writing at JustFacts.com, James Agresti has a fascinating article documenting how the media spin the economy during Democratic and Republican administrations and during election years. “With another presidential election upon us and a Republican in the White House, negatively skewed economic reporting is climaxing,” Agresti writes.
After detailing how the media castigated George W. Bush for allegedly “talking down the economy” after his election in 2000, Agresti points out how the press is drenching Americans with a steady deluge of bad economic news: “This is not to deny the nation is in troubled economic times, but given what the press and politicians affirmed about ‘talking down the economy’ less than eight years ago, there can be little doubt that they have played and are playing a major role in damaging it now.”
Among the exhibits Agresti provides is a screen capture of the New York Times web site on August 28 of this year. The main headline: “Obama Speech to Cite Failures of Bush on the Economy.” Far down the page, in much smaller type, this headline: “Economic Growth Revised Higher.”
Barack Obama’s supporters are whining about any attempt to link their candidate with former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers as “guilt by association” — even though, as National Review contributor Stanley Kurtz points out, the working relationship between Obama and Ayers can more correctly be described as “guilt by participation.”
But today’s Wall Street Journal treats us to a classic case of guilt by association: a front-page profile of the descendants of slaves owned by John McCain’s great-great grandfather before the Civil War. After documenting the poor treatment that the black families (who share the last name “McCain”) received over the past century, reporter Douglas Blackmon tags Senator McCain — whom he places at the family’s former plantation as a young man in the 1940s and 1950s — as out of touch:
The latest Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP daily tracking poll finds Barack Obama leading John McCain by 3 percentage points, 45% to 42%. But there’s an interesting nugget inside the data: among those who display the American flag, McCain leads by 48% to 39%. Among those who do not display the flag, Obama has a more than two-to-one lead: 61% to 27%.
Why do I doubt that the ordinarily poll-hungry media will bother to mention this insight into who is supporting which candidate?
It was a year ago, you’ll recall, that Obama himself announced that he would not wear the American flag on his lapel, calling it “a substitute for true patriotism.” As NewsBusters recounted at the time, ABC reporter David Wright tried to bolster Obama by declaring of flag pins: “Ike didn't wear one. JFK either. Nixon did wear the flag....as he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate.”
Within an hour of the conclusion of Wednesday night’s presidential debate, CNN’s political panel began sketching out John McCain’s political obituary, with senior analyst David Gergen drawing a round of laughter when he replied “beats the hell out of me” when asked by anchor Anderson Cooper what McCain could do next. Gergen bleakly suggested McCain had no chance and should end the race with his “honor intact” (which means no more attacks on Barack Obama):
I think you have to do everything you can to help save as much of the Senate and the House as you can for your party. I think you have to need -- you need to see if you can leave this with your honor intact. I think you need to go positive about what you do on the economy and get rid of this stuff about Bill Ayers and all this garbage that we've been going through now.