ABC’s Ron Claiborne on Saturday managed to file a report on vast Democratic corruption in the state of New Jersey and, at the same time, not once use the word Democrat. While reporting on an unfolding scandal that saw the arrest of a number of the state’s mayors and assemblymen, all but one a member of the Democratic Party, the Good Morning America weekend news anchor completely ignored party identification.
Claiborne vaguely explained, "44 people indicted, including three mayors, two state legislators and five rabbis and allegations of money laundering, kickbacks and bribe taking." The journalist used the same tactic as he went on to highlight the history of corruption by New Jersey politicians: "Robert Torricelli left office in 2003, under the shadow of an illegal campaign contribution scandal. And Harrison Williams resigned his seat in 1982 while under indictment for bribery."
Claiborne added, "Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James is currently serving time after being convicted on federal corruption charges." What fact is absent from this description of New Jersey’s woes? All of the above are Democrats. He continued this list by highlighting another unidentified Democrat: "Hoboken Mayor Pete Cammarano took office three weeks ago. In a matter of days, he allegedly took a $25,000 bribe."
ABC’s Nightline on Monday didn’t allow Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska to pass without airing yet another dismissive segment, reminiscing about the "madcap" politician. Co-anchor Martin Bashir derided her exit as a "real-life Northern Exposure." Reporter Neal Karlinsky proceeded to drag out every cliched Tina Fey clip and supposed gaffe from the 2008 election.
Speaking of Palin's selection as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, he allowed that the politician was a "rock star" at GOP events. Karlinsky then chided, "But once she veered off script and was forced to answer questions, her image began to shift."
The Nightline correspondent attempted to frame unwanted coverage of Palin as publicity stunts. "From the Levi Johnston scandal...to a seemingly endless series of ethics complaints, to a feud with David Letterman, controversy was Palin's constant companion." A feud with David Letterman? It’s not as though the governor preemptively picked a fight with the late night comedian. (The CBS host made crude jokes about Palin’s teenage daughter on his program, prompting a response.)
Eleven days after mourning the tenth anniversary of the death of "the prince of Camelot," John F. Kennedy Jr., Monday’s Good Morning America took yet another look back at the "grace" and "equilibrium" of the late presidential offspring. ABC’s Chris Cuomo touted JFK Jr.'s "gift for leadership" and recounted how "America watched him grow from young son, to idealistic lawyer, to loving husband."
The GMA news anchor interviewed Rose Marie Terenzio, friend and personal assistant to Kennedy, about a charity that JFK Jr. started to assist health care workers who help the disabled. Cuomo, however, gossiped over whether or not the President's son had planned on following his father into politics. Speaking of the health care charity, he fawned, "John's idea was ahead of its time. A foresight that may have indicated a gift for leadership."
MSNBC host David Shuster on Thursday relied on the liberal group Media Matters to help him as he tried to "sift through the spin and get at the truth" of a Republican-created chart purporting to show government-run health care as a confusing maze of bureaucracy. Shuster began by complaining, "Is the conservative media deliberately trying to avoid any fact-checking when it comes to Republican talking points?"
The cable anchor appeared incensed that the graph, released by congressional Republicans, has been featured on Fox News and the Drudge Report. Introducing Karl Frisch, Senior Media Fellow at Media Matters, Shuster attacked its reliability and fumed, "Is this another example of, at least with some of the conservative media, it’s to their strategic benefit not to bother checking things out?"
ABC’s Chris Cuomo and Claire Shipman on Thursday marked the tenth anniversary of the death of "the prince of Camelot," John F. Kennedy Jr., lamenting the loss of such strong presidential talent. Reporter Claire Shipman mournfully proclaimed that JFK Jr.’s "very existence had somehow come to represent a critical link to our fairy tale past. And always, always the possibility of another chapter." [audio available here]
And yet, this seems to be a case of selective anniversary journalism. July 18, 2009 will be the 40th anniversary of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick, who drowned after Ted Kennedy drove the car she was in off a bridge. Kennedy swam to safety and then failed to call the police until the following day. Will ABC and other networks reminisce about the things the 29-year-old might have accomplished?
ABC's Brian Ross on Wednesday investigated a subject that has been skipped by CBS and NBC's morning shows, the more than $1 million spent by the Social Security Administration for its employees to attend lavish retreats, complete with a motivational dance company performing for the government bureaucrats. Host Chris Cuomo asserted that Social Security may be "on the brink of financial ruin. But, you would never know it from a recent luxurious retreat paid for by your tax dollars."
Good Morning America's Ross, who has spend much of 2009 delving into whether or not Wall Street executives should fly on private jets or go on lavish retreats, provided some consistency by looking into a story that has, so far, been ignored by CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today. He explained that Social Security is "expected to be insolvent in less than 30 years, unless taxes are raised substantially. But, there was no sense of financial crisis when almost 700 Social Security executives gathered here last week at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix."
Former Democratic strategist-turned-journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to coo that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor "didn't make any mistakes" and "did exactly what she had to do" in her confirmation hearings on Tuesday. In contrast, during Sam Alito's confirmation hearings in 2006, Stephanopoulos related Democratic complaints about membership in a supposedly discriminatory group.
The ex-Clinton aide enthused that Sotomayor brushed aside evidence that she was difficult to deal with: "On the question of bullying, she answered that with her manner all day long. No matter how many tough questions she got, she stayed even. She stayed calm. She stayed cool." He added, "She didn't meltdown. She didn't make any mistakes."
MSNBC hosts Tamron Hall and David Shuster on Tuesday repeatedly grumbled at the tough questions Senator Lindsey Graham posed to Sonia Sotomayor over the judge's ability to keep her feelings in check. At one point during live coverage, Shuster derided the lawmaker's remarks as "patronizing" and fretted that "the blogs are already going crazy over this." Hall saw the statements as insinuating the nominee is too "hot blooded."
The comments that drew the ire of the anchors were Graham's quizzing of Sotomayor as to reports that lawyers have found her difficult to deal with in the courtroom. Graham probed, "I never liked appearing before a judge who was a bully. Do you think you have a temperament problem?"
Co-host Hall vociferously objected to Graham's queries. Responding to news articles about the subject, she complained, "These are anonymous sources....One might read into this that he's [Graham] talking about her being a hot-blooded person or a woman who can't control her emotions."
MSNBC's David Shuster, who was suspended in 2008 for proclaiming that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by her then-candidate mother, on Monday challenged a representative of Free Republic as to what he would do to try and "discourage people" from using "hateful, vile language" on the website. Video available here.
Guest Kristinn Taylor, a spokesman for the Washington D.C. chapter of Free Republic, appeared on the show to battle with the MSNBC Live host over offensive comments that were posted on the site about 11-year old Malia Obama. Taylor combatively contradicted an assertion by Shuster that some racist remarks featured under a picture of the Obama daughter were reposted on the web page after initially being removed: "Well, David, unfortunately, it seems you've gotten your story from the Daily Kos, which is not a reliable source of information."
During live coverage of Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing on Monday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews gushed about the judge's opening statement, saying "Well, I'm getting one of those thrills I get about America. I'm sorry, I'm shouldn't say this. And I'm getting it again." Matthews, who famously proclaimed that Barack Obama gave him a "thrill" up his leg, also offered a fawning aside about what a "genius" the President is.
Responding to a comment the Supreme Court nominee made about working hard to advance herself in school, the "Hardball" host followed-up his "thrill" remark by rhapsodizing, "When she talked about sitting at that table and not being a genius like Barack Obama, not being one of these people that can walk into a college scholarship, who had to sweat for it." [audio available here]
Good Morning America's Jonathan Karl on Friday provided a questioning, skeptical analysis of how stimulus money is being spent on road signs promoting the legislation. At one point, the correspondent quipped, "But for now, the signs seem easier to create than jobs." However, former Clinton aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos provided White House spin on the total amount of stimulus money spent.
In a follow-up segment, GMA co-host Diane Sawyer pointed out that of the $787 billion allocated in February for the legislation, only ten percent has been spent. Providing White House talking points, Stephanopoulos offered a tortured explanation for how this wasn't so: "They [the Obama administration] argue, though, that more than ten percent has actually been put to work. They would argue that about 20 to 25 percent has been put to work, because money has been obligated that allows these projects to go forward." Continuing this charitable analysis, he added, "Even though the check isn't written until the roads are actually built."
Good Morning America's David Wright on Saturday continued his habit of dropping insulting comments into stories about Sarah Palin, snidely asserting that the Alaska governor "lacked seasoning and, some would say, a firm grasp of the issues." Wright, who was reporting on Palin's announcement that she would be resigning her office, also speculated that far more serious motives could be behind the move.
He darkly intoned, "It is difficult to ignore the timing of this announcement, late on a Friday afternoon, on a holiday weekend. Many Americans bound to be tuned out. That suggests that the reasons are not good ones." And although the ABC journalist also commented that many in the Republican Party saw Palin as a "fresh face" in the GOP, Wright has a long history of adding demeaning comments to his stories on the 2008 vice presidential nominee.
Despite devoting almost the entire Good Morning America program on Tuesday to Michael Jackson, ABC could only find three minutes for a hard-hitting Jake Tapper interview with Barack Obama. And even though co-host Diane Sawyer promised at the close of the piece, "And we'll have more of the President's interview with Jake Tapper later in the broadcast," the segment never returned.
Tapper, who was in Moscow to cover Obama's summit with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, quizzed, "Whether it's this summit with President Medvedev, or anything else, can you point to any reason why you're encouraged that your approach to Iran and North Korea is the right approach?"
Tapper also highlighted Vice President Biden's admission that the administration "misread how bad the economy" was when the stimulus was being crafted. He then skeptically asked, "If the diagnosis was, was wrong, how can you be sure that the prescription, the stimulus package, was right?"
On Thursday's Today, Meredith Vieira tossed mostly softballs to Senator-elect Al Franken, offering no hard questions about the disputed 2008 election, instead fawning, "...Are you more worried about becoming a target for the GOP or a target for Saturday Night Live, your old stomping ground?" In regards to the post-election wrangling for the Minnesota Senate seat, the best Vieira could do is to wonder, "It did get a little contentious, didn't it?"
To be fair, she did reference the closeness of the election. Noting Franken's 312 vote margin of victory, Vieira observed, "Are you conscious of that as you head to Washington D.C. next week?" However, there was no mention of the reports of irregularities in the state. If the co-host wished to challenge the incoming senator, she could have read from a July 1 Wall Street Journal editorial which asserted, "Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election."
John Stossel on Monday blogged about the fact that ABC bumped a planned segment of his that is skeptical towards universal health care, saying, "Yes, I am sick of the coverage of Michael Jackson. I hate it that ABC didn’t run my piece." According to TV Newser, the report, which would have aired on the June 26 edition of 20/20, has now been rescheduled for the July 17 edition of the show.
The five minute segment will look at the problems that countries such as Canada and Britain have faced with government-run health care. In an online version of the story, Stossel (see file photo above), Andrew Sullivan and Andrew Kirell wrote, "In England, shortages of dentists have caused hundreds of people to wait in line just for an appointment. The queues can be so long that some people have resorted to pulling out their own rotting teeth, using vodka and pliers as tools."
NBC's Meredith Vieira on Thursday conducted a defensive interview with Fox News contributor Dick Morris, at one point skeptically wondering if "the Republican tactic from this point on" would be "to sit and watch Obama fail." Later, when Morris pointed out the problems with the Canadian health care system, the Today host retorted, "But, the President clearly has said that's not the road he's headed down."
On one level, NBC should be commended for actually featuring Morris to talk about "Catastrophe," his new anti-Obama book. But, the interview didn't air until 8:51am, long after many Americans had left for work. Co-host Matt Lauer dominated most of the program's first two hours, reporting live from the late Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch.
This led Morris to make a dig at the show's excessive coverage. Speaking of Canada's government-run health care, he quipped, "So in Canada, there's a 16 percent higher death rate from cancer than in the United States. And that's not Neverland, that's U.S."
ABC medical expert Dr. Tim Johnson, a fervent fan of universal health care, actually talked to the other side on Wednesday, featuring Newt Gingrich for what an onscreen graphic labeled a "debate" on the merits of a government-run program. It might seem odd for the network to tag a segment of a conservative talking to one of its journalists as a debate, but Johnson is certainly a partisan on this issue.
On June 24, he participated in ABC's White House-based, primetime town hall forum on the subject. Responding to criticism of the event from the Republican National Committee, ABC News President David Westin defended Johnson. Writing in a June 23 press release, he complained, "...I entirely reject your attack on my colleague, Dr. Timothy Johnson...His knowledge about health care reform is surpassed only by his commitment to the truth and to fairness."
However, although Johnson was civil and allowed Gingrich to make his points, a "debate" would be a good description for Wednesday's segment. Parroting White House talking points, he challenged, "Now, the President says, what he wants is a system or a field where there's level playing opportunities. The same rules and regulations would apply to the public option, as to the private insurance companies."
MSNBC's Carlos Watson on Monday provided a friendly forum for New York Times opinion writer Charles Blow to link red states and social conservatism with the hypocrisy of sex scandal-ridden politicians like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In his June 26 column, Blow attacked right-leaning voters, "And this kind of hypocrisy isn’t confined to the politicians. It permeates the electorate."
Talking with Blow on MSNBC Live, Watson cited a questionable study finding the highest rates of online pornography correlate with Republican states. The cable host highlighted this connection and Census data finding that eight of the ten states with the highest divorce voted GOP in 2008. He asked the columnist to explain how one could be pro-family values in light of "seeing these other statistics." Blow attacked, "Well, I mean, I think you have to put Republicans to the side for a minute. It is social conservatism. And that is highly correlated to religiosity. The more religious people are, the more socially conservative they are, particularly on these sexual issues."
The three network morning shows on Thursday devoted a staggering 18 segments to the revelation that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was having an affair with a woman from Argentina, adding up to over 54 minutes of coverage. NBC's Today show spent the most time on the subject, highlighting the infidelity with six segments and 25 minutes of air time.
Co-host Matt Lauer even talked to disgraced former Governor Jim McGreevey to get his thoughts on the matter. (However, while NBC made sure to label Sanford a Republican, the Today anchors failed to do so for the Democratic ex-New Jersey governor who resigned under a cloud of scandal.)
ABC's Good Morning America touted the sex scandal for 17 minutes and 26 seconds, featuring seven stories on Sanford. (It should also be pointed out that GMA came within seven minutes of Today's total, despite the fact that the NBC program is four hours, double the time of ABC's show.) During one such segment, Sam Donaldson insisted that it's hard to forgive Republicans who get involved in sex scandals: "They thump the Bible. They condemn everyone else, and when they- human- they don’t have much credit in the bank for forgiveness."
ABC's Sam Donaldson appeared on Thursday's Good Morning America to talk about the developing Mark Sanford scandal and loudly assert that it's hard to forgive Bible-thumping Republicans for their sexual transgressions. He began by deriding, "The problem Republicans have, so many of them are sanctimonious." [audio available here]
The longtime contributor continued his attack on members of the GOP who get caught up in sex scandals: "They thump the Bible. They condemn everyone else, and when they- human- they don’t have much credit in the bank for forgiveness."
Former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos appeared on Thursday's Good Morning America to bizarrely assert that Democrats have a harder times surviving sex scandals than Republicans. While discussing South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, he breathlessly claimed, "We've never seen anything like this before"and never mentioned his former boss, Bill Clinton, who escaped impeachment conviction after being caught in a sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky.
GMA co-host Diane Sawyer informed viewers that Stephanopoulos had been "looking back at this roll call of apologies for indiscretions, Republicans and Democrats." The "This Week" host spun, "Democrats have had a harder time holding on to office after scandals, recently, than Republicans." Stephanopoulos also appeared on Wednesday night's "World News" and told anchor Charlie Gibson virtually the same thing. And, once again, he failed to cite Bill Clinton, certainly one of the most famous examples of a Democrat retaining office after a sex scandal.
Chris Matthews got into a heated exchange with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Wednesday, accusing them of "pussyfooting" the issue of health care and its cost. He also attacked conservatives in general, deriding, "You know, it seems to me that the right-wing will fight any war and say, 'Don't look at the cost,' because they want to fight the war."
The Hardball host fretted, "And this pussyfooting around and looking at the costs....We could have avoided World War II if we went through the cost factors ahead of time. We wouldn't have won World War II if we looked only at the costs." Firmly declaring for universal health care, Matthews asserted people "should have health care" and smeared Morning Joe host Scarborough: "That's a value judgment that I've made and the American people have made. And you have not made. You have not made that value judgment." [audio available here]
Scarborough struck back, decrying wasteful spending and saying that he did support a health care plan, so long as it was affordable and did not bankrupt the country. He sarcastically questioned Matthews, "Chris, would you like us to play 'Just As I Am' and have me walk down to the front of the church and recommit my life to nationalized health care?" Co-host Brzezinski defended her colleague and clearly resented a jibe that Matthews threw her way.
ABC's Diane Sawyer on Wednesday hit Barack Obama with some refreshingly tough questions about his plans for health care reform, quizzing the President on potential rationing, reduction of services and whether Americans would really be able to keep their current plan. However, the program also devoted 13 minutes and two segments to Obama, neither of which featured any Republican opposition.
Sawyer, who reported live from the White House and will be co-hosting ABC's June 24 primetime special on health care, focused on a possible reduction of benefits as a result of government-run health care. After an ABC graphic appeared onscreen asserting that eight in ten Americans worry about such a result, Sawyer queried, "They're very concerned that there's going to be a reduction in treatment at some place in all of this. Will [your plan] have the weight of law? Will it have the weight of regulation?"
The GMA host brought up Obama's often-repeated pledge that Americans who like their current health plan will not have to change. However, she observed, "...I thought today [June 23] in the press conference, I heard you amend it to say, if your employer decides to change it, we don't have control over that." Obama justified, "Well, but, of course- that's the case whether we pass health care or not. I can't pass a law that says, 'I'm sorry, employers, you can never make changes to the health care plans you provide your employees.'"
During the June 23 White House press conference, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper sparred with Barack Obama over the details of the President's universal health care plan, bluntly observing, "...If the government is offering a cheaper health care plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for-profit, unlike private plans."
Although there was laughter in the press conference, the exchanges became pointed. At one point, Tapper sarcastically observed that he appreciated Obama's "Spock-like language about the logic of the health care plan." Tapper's question, about whether the so-called "public choice" option would actually allow employees to keep the current insurance plans they have now, was a follow-up to a similar one offered by USA Today's David Jackson. After the President failed to answer that query, Tapper began by challenging, "I wonder if you could actually answer David's? Is the public plan non- negotiable?" A testy Obama retorted, "All right, if that's your question."
ABC's Robin Roberts conducted two fawning interviews with Michelle Obama on Tuesday and repeatedly reminded viewers that the First Lady would be tending to the White House garden as soon as the segment was completed. Roberts breathlessly explained, "I caught up with Michelle Obama for an exclusive interview as she was heading outside to work in the White House garden..."
In a second Good Morning America piece, Roberts reiterated, "Again, I talked to her right before she was about to tend to the White House Garden." After discussing healthy living and childhood obesity, the GMA co-host cheered, "And she was casually dressed because she was literally heading out to the garden there at the White House that she planted with kids from a local elementary school..."
Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer popped up on Sunday's Reliable Sources and swore that ABC's much-scrutinized health care special with President Obama "won't be an infomercial." She also seriously touted the objectivity of the network, cheering, "I know that our network has worked very, very hard to be completely- completely responsible and fair and serious about big issues." [Audio available here]
After host Howard Kurtz played a clip of FNC's Sean Hannity attacking the June 24 special as an infomercial, Sawyer, who will be co-hosting the program with Charlie Gibson from inside the White House, promised, "We will be there, and these people in this room are going to be able to ask questions from every single vantage point. And they are going to challenge the President, many of them."
When asked whether ABC should include guests from the health care industry, Sawyer, who appeared via phone, said such voices would be featured and again swore, "And I think a lot of people haven't understand fully that this is going to be a room full of widely diverse ideas in which people who actually experience the reality of front-line health care are going to get a chance to pose their challenging questions to the President." However, Kurtz didn't quiz the host as to why the ABC network has refused to air ads from the health care industry during the special. And when Sawyer noted that ABC "has done town hall forums before," he didn't point out that many of them have been severely slanted.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews appeared on Montel Williams' Air America radio show on Wednesday to slam John McCain: "I think McCain put his finger on the idiot button." The Hardball host fumed about McCain's criticism of how Barack Obama has handled the response to Iran's disputed election. He also unflatteringly compared the Senator to Sarah Palin.
After getting a laugh from the Montel Across America host, Matthews reiterated, "I'm telling you, the idiot button." He complained, "That's my new term for when you start putting your finger on the button that's got Sarah Palin's fingerprints on it." Matthews broke off his attack and then explained that McCain is a "very smart, patriotic American."
Good Morning America on Thursday unearthed archival footage that featured Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on the show in 1986 complaining about discrimination against women. The clips highlighted her fretting, "There are different styles. And because of those styles, I think that's what affects the ability of women to get ahead in the workplace."
In the video, Sotomayor can be seen talking to then-GMA host Joan Lunden and asserting that men inadvertently discriminate against women: "Well, I found in my experiences that it's not that men are consciously discriminating against promoting women. But, I do believe that as people, we have self-images of what's good. And if you're a male that grew up professionally in a male-dominated profession, then your image of what a good lawyer is a male image."
ABC and CBS's morning shows on Wednesday both provided surprisingly tough questioning to Christina Romer, one of Barack Obama's economic advisors. On the issue of health care, Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer compared the costs of Medicare to the new health care plan and pointed out past government inaccuracies when it came to accessing cost.
She grilled, "You know, in 1965, everyone was told that over 25 years, the cost of Medicare would be $12 billion. The actual cost, $107 billion." Sawyer added, "Ten-times what the estimate was. Can you know this cost? And can you guarantee it's not going to be more than the administration believes?" Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez quizzed Romer, the Chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, on Obama's repeated insistence that he has no interest in meddling in the private sector. She wondered, "He sounds like he's being forced to do these things. If he believes that big government is actually a bad thing, why doesn't he at least try less intrusive options, which are certainly be offered up?"
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer complained about America's maternity leave policies for women, and for the fourth time in slightly more than two years, the show connected them to such struggling countries as Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. The host solemnly observed that only three countries "have policies equal to the United States. Swaziland, Liberia and Papua New Guinea."
Sawyer, who was introducing a segment on how women are afraid to take much maternity leave during the recession, derided, "Even in Iraq, women get one year of leave, six months at full pay, and six months of half pay." Linking the U.S. to such poor countries was, perhaps, intended to horrify viewers. However, the ABC anchor left out some key stats, such as the fact that nations mandating paid maternity leave, such as Germany, often also have high unemployment rates.
As for the countries Sawyer mentioned, Swaziland also has an unemployment rate of 40 percent, an infant mortality rate of 70 percent and a life expectancy of 32. Papua New Guinea's unemployment rate is up to 80 percent in some urban areas. So, there seems to be some differences between America and these countries.