Over the winter, the three networks eagerly compared Barack Obama's push for more gun control to "defeating the Nazis," hyping his "dramatic," "emotional" effort. Yet, when the President suffered a serious setback, Tuesday, ABC, CBS and NBC failed to portray it as a defeat for the Commander in Chief. Harry Reid announced on March 19 that Senate Democrats were dropping an effort to ban so-called assault weapons.
Tuesday's World News and Nightline and Wednesday's Good Morning America totally skipped the development. Yet, in the minutes following the State of the Union, George Stephanopoulos praised the President's "dramatic and emotional" plea for an assault weapons ban. On January 16, CBS's Bob Schieffer compared, "Surely, finding Osama bin Laden; surely, passing civil rights legislation...defeating the Nazis, was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby." However, on Tuesday's Evening News, in the wake of the defeat in the Senate, the long-time journalist offered no similar hyperbolic lament.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday linked the accidental deaths of seven U.S. Marines to sequester spending cuts. All three networks have, thus far, skipped the story. After highlighting the details of the botched training event in Hawthorne, Nevada, the Democrat manipulated the tragedy: "But one of the things in sequester is we cut back in training and maintenance."
He added, "This sequester should go away...These men and women, our Marines were training there in Hawthorne. And with this sequester, it's going to cut back this stuff." These comments came on the floor of the U.S. Senate, yet ABC's World News and Good Morning America, NBC's Nightly News and Today, the CBS Evening News and the CBS This Morning all ignored Reid's remarks (though they discussed the accident itself). ABCNews.com covered the story, but acquitted Reid of bad motives: "Harry Reid Commemorates Dead Marines, Calls for End to Sequester."
Just how superficial is ABC? On Monday and Tuesday, the network allowed a mere 20 seconds to "outrage" over a plan by the European Union that would have seized ten percent of the money Cyprus residents had in their bank accounts. ABC's World News skipped the story entirely, as did Monday's Nightline. Good Morning America on Tuesday offered 20 seconds. In contrast, the program devoted over five minutes to important topics, such as the newest season of Dancing With the Stars.
NBC and CBS both showcased more coverage. On Monday, Nightly News's Brian Williams featured the story in a full report. Describing the potential default of Cyprus as a "banking crisis," he explained, "European leaders decided to take a chunk of that bailout money directly out of the bank accounts of everyone in the country." Displaying interest not seen on ABC, Williams added, "It was a shocking move heard around the globe today and the fear on the Mediterranean island rippled through world financial markets today."
The media backlash against Pope Francis may be beginning. After relatively positive coverage last week, ABC and NBC on Monday both highlighted the Argentinean President denouncing his "medieval" views on social issues. World News's Ron Claiborne offered no ideological label for the country's left-wing leader, praising, "Cristina Kirchner stands for a new view of a changing world-- embracing gay marriage, sex education in schools, free contraceptives in hospitals." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
He added, "But when [the now-pope] was a cardinal in Argentina, Kirchner described his social views as medieval." Yet, while Claiborne didn't call Kirchner a liberal, he made sure to point out that although Francis is "enormously popular," "what the world is just beginning to learn is how conservative he is on social issues."
Chris Matthews on Monday offensively connected Senator Ted Cruz with the actions of disturbed conspiracy theorists who believe the Sandy Hook massacre was a government plot. Talking to Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy, the Hardball host lectured, "While the world has viewed last December's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school as an unspeakable tragedy, some gun rights dead-enders have seen it more as an inconvenient truth."
Matthews began by asking Malloy, "What is it that springs it out of our country's culture that people won't even accept reality in fights like this?" Later in the segment, he played a clip of the "far-right" Cruz battling with Dianne Feinstein last week over gun rights. Matthews snarled, "Well, there you have it. This is the face of the new Republican right." What does the Republican senator from Texas have to do with "Sandy Hook Truthers?" Absolutely nothing. But Matthews wanted to smear Cruz with the association. Ironically, it was the cable anchor who, on February 14, mocked Cruz as the new "Joe McCarthy."
Good Morning America's Reena Ninan on Saturday let Barack Obama off easy. The ABC reporter allowed the President to escape blame for the sad story of a group of Iowa sixth graders who had their White House tour cancelled. Ninan blandly explained, "The tour canceled the result of automatic spending cuts brought on by the sequester."
Parroting Obama, she reminded, " In an interview with ABC News, the President said, don't blame him." Ninan then played a clip of the President swearing, "This was not a decision that went up to the White House." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] That comment is inaccurate and Obama was contradicted by his own White House Press Secretary on Wednesday. Good Morning America has yet to cover the discrepancy.
MSNBC "pushed out" Ed Schultz in order to "make way for new talent," according to Politico on Thursday. This would contradict Schultz, who insisted the decision was voluntary and a great step forward for his "brand." What is that brand, exactly? Sneering at "bastard," "slut," "dirthole" conservatives who want to see Barack Obama murdered. [See below for a video montage. Audio here.]
Schultz's show is being moved to weekends, home of MSNBC's prison specials and To Catch a Predator marathons. Schultz insisted this change will allow him to "produce and focus stories I care about and I know are terribly important to American families." Presumably, examples of this include when he asked his radio audience about Hadassah Lieberman: "Does the word 'whore' apply?" On May 24, 2011, he sneered at Laura Ingraham: "Like this right-wing slut, what’s her name, Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut."
In an "exclusive" interview with ABC, Barack Obama on Tuesday dodged responsibility for the ending of White House tours, stating, "I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House." The President placed the responsibility on the Secret Service. Later in the day, press secretary Jay Carney contradicted Obama and admitted that the White House cancelled the tours. ABC's World News on Wednesday and Good Morning America on Thursday didn't bother to cover updates on Obama's denial.
Appearing on the Washington D.C. radio show Mornings on the Mall, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino called this flat wrong: "Not only did [the decision] make it to the White House, it started in the White House. The conversation was initiated in the White House." He added, "The calculus to shut down the tours was never initiated at all by the Secret Service."
During live coverage, Wednesday, of the announcement that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had been chosen the new pope, two of ABC's journalists insisted that the Argentinian would help "revive" the Catholic Church's interest in helping the poor. Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran didn't explain when such a desire went away.
Moran lectured, "...If he's a pope who makes a commitment to be close to the poor of Latin America and the poor of Africa, that can turn a corner for the church in someways, revive that mission, the original mission of Christ and the early Christians." (Could it be that Moran simply isn't aware of the work Catholics already do for the poor?) Later, Josh Elliott offered the same assessment of Pope Francis: "I know Terry and I have discussed the importance of whomever it is elected, reconnecting and taking the church back, to not just the grassroots, but connecting with the poor." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Despite billing his interview with Barack Obama as "no holds barred," Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday skipped several tough questions and only gently quizzed the President on others. On the issue of the closing of White House tours due to sequester cuts, the former Democratic operative delicately wondered, "Was canceling them really necessary?...So, no reconsideration?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Other than this brief query, Stephanopoulos showed no interest in whether the administration hyped the sequester cuts to an over-the-top level. (Perhaps, this could be because ABC did the same thing. GMA's Josh Elliott on March 1 pronounced that "armageddon" had arrived, leading to the "vaporizing" of jobs and criminals walking free.) Instead, Stephanopoulos ridiculously requested Obama to weigh in on the dangers of an American pope: "...There seems to be some concern among Catholics there shouldn't be an American pope because that pope would be too tied to the U.S. government. What do think of that?"
George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative turned journalist, has scored an "exclusive" interview with Barack Obama. According to TV Newser, the taped conversation will appear on Tuesday's World News, Wednesday's Good Morning America and Nightline. If it's anything like Stephanopoulos's past interviews, it will contain a number of softball questions. [See a video montage below. MP3 audio here.]
On September 09, 2010, Stephanopoulos worried about how the job was impacting the President's family life: "You know, when you're going through these hard times, how much of it bleeds through to them? And how do you protect them from it?" He also highlighted a pastor in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Koran. The anchor sympathized, "You're President of the United States. You have to deal with the fallout. And here's a pastor who's got 30 followers in his church. Does it make you feel helpless or angry?" In total, Stephanopoulos devoted 16 minutes to Obama.
On Sunday's Reliable Sources, the CNN panelists laughed at how "easily the press corps is manipulated" by White House spin over "reaching out" to congressional Republicans. On Tuesday's Good Morning America, the show's journalists fit this description perfectly. GMA co-host George Stephanopoulos enthused, "But we're going to turn to Washington where President Obama takes his charm offensive to Capitol Hill. Today, his latest personal diplomacy to get Republicans and Democrats to strike a deal on the budget." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
An ABC graphic promoted, "Obama's 'Charm' Showdown." Later in the show, fill-in news reader John Muller parroted, "We begin with President Obama's so-called charm offensive, the first of three trips this week to Capitol Hill."
Liberal news outlets will sometimes complain about conservative fear-mongering, but ABC sure understands the practice. On Friday night, the announcer for 20/20 teased, "Is there a sinkhole underneath your house?" Referring to a few incidents (and one tragic case in Florida), the program teased, "It's sinkhole season."
In a hyperbolic tone that sounded like parody, the 20/20 announcer hyperventilated, "Everything you need to know to make sure you don't get sunk. When houses that sell turn into houses from hell." It's probably worth remembering that this is the same network that hyped tiny sequester cuts as leading to the "vaporizing" of jobs and a "meat shortage." The subjects are different, but it's the same scary language.
For weeks, ABC hyped sequestration spending cuts as a threat that could "vaporize" America and "cripple" travel in the country. On Sunday's Good Morning America, however, George Stephanopoulos admitted that the President's plan isn't "working." Perhaps helping Obama shift strategies, the GMA segment focused on the Democrat "reaching out" to the Republican Party.
Talking with Dan Harris and Bianna Golodryga about the President's dinner meeting with members of the GOP, Stephanopoulos conceded, "...The outside game at least in the short term wasn't working for the President. It was trying to raise all these alarms about the sequester but it didn't seem to be taking hold because people haven't felt it yet." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] This is quite a contrast to the March 1 GMA. As sequester was about to hit, news reader Josh Elliott warned of the coming doom: "Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free." A graphic warned of "armageddon."
ABC's Good Morning America on Friday ignored new details of Barack Obama's pay-for-access scheme, the only morning show to skip the story. The President's campaign group, now renamed Organizing for Action (OFA), has promised quarterly meetings with the President for donations of $500,000. NBC's Today and CBS This Morning both covered the growing controversy. GMA, which did find time to focus on the latest Justin Bieber gossip, avoided it.
Today's Chuck Todd offered surprisingly hard-hitting criticism of Obama, lecturing, "When it comes to Barack Obama's views on money and politics, his actions have rarely matched his words...When it comes to big money in politics, President Obama has often talked the talk...But critics say he's rarely walked the walk." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Thursday worried that a future "right-wing" politician "like Dick Cheney" might one day use drone strikes against his political enemies. The Hardball host was discussing Senator Rand Paul's filibuster on Wednesday and the subject that prompted it: Whether the U.S. has the right to use drones on Americans in a non-war situation.
Matthews wondered if "there is a possibility somewhere out there on the edge that a tough-- not going to say he did it-- but somebody pretty far on the far right like Dick Cheney...will push this thing too far?" The host fumed, "Do you think it's possible that a Jane Fonda could be targeted even by the most right-wing American politician we can imagine?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
World News's Jonathan Karl on Wednesday turned a uniquely skeptical eye on Barack Obama's decision to end White House tours in the wake of sequester. Highlighting the President's claim that the decision was a financial necessity, he chided, "The President is having dinner tonight with Republicans at a restaurant just six blocks from here. He took a 20-car motorcade and, of course, lots of Secret Service agents." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Talking to anchor Diane Sawyer, Karl joked, "Maybe next time, Diane, [Obama] can save a little money by just ordering in." Karl questioned the White House's claim that $84 million in cuts, out of a $1.6 billion budget for the Secret Service, caused the end of the tours. The journalist did the math: "Tours are open 20 hours a week and use 30 uniformed Secret Service officers at about $30 an hour. Total saved? Approximately $18,000 a week."
ABC's World News on Wednesday and Good Morning America on Thursday offered confusing, incomplete and brief explanations for why Rand Paul filibustered John Brennan, Barack Obama's Central Intelligence Agency nominee. According to GMA news reader Josh Elliott, "Paul was protesting the Obama administration's use of drone strikes against Americans." [Video of the terse explanations can be found below.]
World News anchor Diane Sawyer insisted the "Tea party firebrand" was opposing "the use of drones against U.S. citizens." This is hardly a full explanation for ABC's viewers. On the Today show, Chuck Todd produced a more accurate description: "[Paul] decided to filibuster the confirmation of CIA director John Brennan in an attempt to get the White House to once and for all promise to never target Americans with drones on U.S. soil." The "on U.S. soil" part is key. ABC allowed only news briefs on the filibuster. CBS and NBC offered full reports.
[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Good Morning America as airing the Brandi Hitt story. Her piece was posted on GMA's website, but did not air on the program.] ABCNews.com on Wednesday greeted the death of Hugo Chavez by avoiding the word “socialist.” Instead, journalist Brandi Hitt touted the repressive leader as someone who “appeared to never back down from a challenge.” The reporter never mentioned Chavez’s crackdown on free speech or democracy. Instead, she featured a woman in the streets of Venezuela gushing, “He’s a man that cared about us…He did not give anything to me, but he gave it to my people.”
Over on Today, NBC’s Mark Potter offered this friendly description of the individual who made friends with Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Many here were still surprised when he died, in part because of his larger-than-life personality.” Potter announced that crowds in Caracas were chanting “Chavez lives” and “the struggle continues.” Both Today and Good Morning America made sure to play footage of Chavez’s 2006 appearance at the United Nations. There, the authoritarian leaded mocked George W. Bush as “the devil.”
Surprise! It turns out there is some wasteful spending going on in government. In the weeks leading up to the showdown in Washington, ABC offered story after story lamenting the “massive” government cuts resulting from sequester and warning of criminals running free and a “meat shortage.” Yet on the March 5 World News, David Kerley found that the government has spent $400,000 in the last two years alone on expensive portraits for top officials.
A shocked Kerley explained, “The 29th agriculture secretary? Well, you paid for his painting. The latest for Lisa Jackson, the outgoing EPA administrator, a $38,000 portrait. ..How about $41,000 for the Air Force secretary?” Pointing the figure at Barack Obama, the journalist continued, “We wanted to show you some of those portraits that you paid for. But the White House wouldn't allow our camera to go into any federal buildings to see those paintings.” [See video below.]
Within minutes of the death of death of repressive socialist Hugo Chavez on Tuesday, MSNBC featured ex-Washington Post managing editor Eugene Robinson to fawn over the "quick," "popular" leader. Though Robinson allowed that "freedom of speech suffered greatly" under Chavez, he praised, "He provided medical attention that the poor of Venezuela hadn't received before, and, and, frankly, it was the first time in many decades that a leader had paid that kind of attention to the poor majority in Venezuela." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
With a nostalgic grin on his face, Robinson told guest Hardball host Michael Smerconish about the time he met the "quick-witted" anti-American. "He came to the Washington Post and there were several of us waiting to greet him," the liberal journalist giddily recounted. Robinson continued, "I didn't know if he spoke English at the time, so I introduced myself to him in Spanish when he got to me in the line, and he shook my hand and looked up at me and kind of grinned and said, 'hello, my name is Hu.'"
After hyping a "fiscal emergency" that could "vaporize" America, the journalists at Good Morning America seemed slightly puzzled that daily life has continued. GMA anchor George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday talked to reporter Bianna Golodryga and marveled, "...Investors seem to be shrugging off any economic impact from the stalemate in Washington, those across the board spending cuts."
Golodryga lamented the lack of panic, complaining, "Yeah, isn't that kind of sad? It was basically anticipated that we were going to have these spending cuts." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Isn't that kind of sad? Golodryga admitted, "You're not seeing a huge effect on the economy. Economists are saying that we could have some sort of impact. It could slow growth but not really bring us into another recession." Just last week, on the same program, news reader Josh Elliott opened the show by panicking: "Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free."
For weeks, ABC has been hyping sequestration as a "fiscal emergency" that could "cripple" much of America and "vaporize" jobs. Yet, Monday's Good Morning America featured no stories on what the network had been calling "massive cuts." On Friday's GMA, as sequester was about to occur, Josh Elliott hyperventilated, "Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free."
Day after day, the morning show conducted a "grim countdown" to sequester. On February 27, Jon Karl parroted, "...The White House's list of terrible things caused by the cuts grows longer, including flight delays, kids losing vaccines, and meat shortages." On another program, the February 24World News, David Kerley warned, "Child care canceled for tens of thousands of kids. Long airport security lines." According to a new study by the Media Research Center, 89 percent of ABC's stories on sequester pushed "budget panic."
According to the journalists of Good Morning America, the end of the world is nigh. The hosts and reporters on Friday hyped the "massive" sequester cuts as leading to near panic. Josh Elliott opened the show by hyperventilating, "Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Reporter Jon Karl intoned, "The day is upon us. Those dreaded across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect sometime before 11:59 p.m tonight." He then touted White House talking points: "The administration warns that in the coming weeks, we'll see flight delays, kids thrown out off Head Start and criminals get free due to a lack of federal prosecutors."
The implied threat from the White House to Bob Woodward has thrown the liberal media for a loop. On Wednesday night, Politico published a fawning interview with Woodward. Writers Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei gushed over the "calm, instantly recognizable voice" of the journalist. On Wednesday, the Washington Post, which Woodward famously works for, mocked the Politico piece as nothing different than "fan fiction."
The Politico authors thrilled over being in the same room as Woodward. Allen and VandeHei's first paragraph raved, "Woodward [talked to] us in an hourlong interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets." A simple act of reading an e-mail became: "Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide."
The Today show on Thursday allowed a scant 16 seconds, out of a possible four hours, to the claim by veteran journalist Bob Woodward that the Obama White House is trying to intimidate him and attack his coverage of the sequester cuts. The NBC program also avoided using the word "threat."
ABC's Good Morning America gave the most coverage to the battle, offering a full report and a news brief. [See video below. MP3 audio here.] CBS This Morning covered the story as part of a bigger report on the looming cuts. On Today, reporter Kristen Welker blandly explained, "As a backdrop to all of this, veteran reporter Bob Woodward is telling reporters that the White House is lashing out at him for writing an article which claimed that the sequester was all President Obama's idea." She then helpfully presented the President's case: "The White House has made the point that Republicans overwhelmingly supported the plan as well." This was the extent of Today's coverage.
In a closing commentary on Wednesday, Hardball's Chris Matthews ranted that opposing gun control could lead to the assassination of a future American president or politician. Matthews fumed that he supports new restrictions because "the next mass shooter could well emerge out of this pack" of the "politically nutty."
He lobbied, "Check the shooters of John F. Kennedy and Jerry Ford, who got shot at twice. Look at the men that shot Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and George Wallace. They all had political motives and they all had guns." In the very next sentence, Matthews sneered, "And if you're not against this movement, you're with it." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Good Morning America on Tuesday edited out an inaccurate assertion by First Lady Michelle Obama that the gunman in a Chicago killing used an "automatic weapon." Regarding the death of teenager Hadiya Pendelton, Mrs. Obama claimed, "And she was caught in the line of fire because some kids had some automatic weapons they didn't need." This quote appeared online, but not on the February 26 interview with Robin Roberts.
The Chicago Tribuneexplained, "...A day after her homicide on Jan. 29, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the gunman possibly used a revolver because no bullet casings were found at the shooting scene — as there would be if a semi-automatic or automatic weapon had been used." No ABC show on Tuesday or Wednesday offered an explanation as to why the network helpfully covered up for the First Lady's error. [Updated with video.]
The reporters of Good Morning America, who on Monday briefly questioned Barack Obama's hyperbolic talk about the sequester cuts, have returned to promoting dire warnings of meat shortages and children losing vaccines. Guest co-host Elizabeth Vargas on Wednesday hyped "the grim countdown to the massive spending cuts that will kick in on Friday."
To underline the point, an ABC graphic proclaimed, "Countdown to Massive Cuts: Will Illegal Immigrants Be Released From Jail?" Correspondent Jon Karl parroted Obama: "Each day, the White House's list of terrible things caused by the cuts grows longer, including flight delays, kids losing vaccines, and meat shortages." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Two days ago, in a moment of clarity, Karl acknowledged, "But those cuts, five to seven percent for most government departments, will be phased in over the next seven months."
Last week, ABC scored an exclusive "get." Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on Good Morning America to welcome back co-host Robin Roberts from a serious illness. On Tuesday, Roberts paid the White House back, fawning over the "trend-setting" First Lady and her "hot" bangs. The anchor asked not a single tough question during the two part, eight and a half minute segment.
Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos compared Mrs. Obama's appearance at the Oscars, Sunday, to the real mission in the movie Argo: Rescuing American hostages from Iran. He thrilled over the secretive appearance: "Producers go undercover to the White House in a move straight out of Argo." Elizabeth Vargas echoed, "It was like something out of Argo." The hostages in Iran faced death, not the revelation of a TV appearance. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]