Bill Clinton promoted his new book "Giving" in the second half-hour of NBC’s Today on Wednesday morning. Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira repeatedly promoted how the idealistic former president would arrive to tell viewers "how you can change the world." (That's a play on the book's subtitle.) To set up the interview, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell compiled a story in a typical story on the Clintons, with no conservative or Republican critics in it, and the toughest, most skeptical expert in the piece was Dee Dee Myers, the former Clinton press secretary. Myers declared that Hillary has the problem that her husband is "a global rock star and one of the most popular people on the face of the planet." Mitchell concluded that the former president is "one of her biggest assets."
Bill Clinton has a new book out titled Giving (no, it's not free), and the book launch already has loads of media help. Today's Washington Post carries a gooey article from reporter David Segal about a Harlem book launch event and panel discussion in Harlem for Clinton hosted by Tavis Smiley, the nightly PBS chat-show host. The headline on the front of the style section was "Bill Clinton's Got What It Takes for 'Giving.'" Segal can't get over how Clinton consistently sounds like a genius, and how it makes him long for the glory days:
He still has this way of presenting his ideas for reforms as simple, elegant solutions that would all but enact themselves if enough people get behind them or merely get out of their way.
He spoke, at one point, of "whittling down materials to retrofit buildings to combat global warming in Bangladesh, and whatever it means, it sure sounds like a good idea. He said the market for charitable giving was "under-organized" and "under-capitalized," and again -- it makes sense even if you're not sure about what it means.
At the end of the first half-hour of NBC's Today show, the anchors were on camera when they clearly thought they were off-camera. At least here in the Washington area, while Meredith Vieira was looking down and waiting on screen, viewers heard Matt Lauer matter-of-factly critiquing an interview segment: "I wouldn't have echoed that first question...I already saw it in the intro...I already killed it." Meredith then looked up with a practiced smile and said, "Nice to see ya, Debra," and moved into promoting the next half-hour. Then they went back to assuming they were off-camera. Lauer again fussed about his interview prep. Meredith said she couldn't sleep last night and took a NyQuil, and her mouth is so dry this morning.
In a nice touch, Meredith turned around and waved and whispered Happy Birthday to a well-wisher behind her in the window. Did they get an inkling someone had messed up?
Mother Teresa died ten years ago this week, just days after Princess Diana perished in a car crash, displaying a very interesting comparison in media reactions. Princess Diana, molded by so much positive publicity over the years into a "secular saint" when she died, drew superior coverage, both in amount and in tone. Mother Teresa's publicity was also very positive over the years, of course, but the media seemed more willing to solicit harsh criticism of her life, even at the time of her death. Brent Bozell chronicled that story in his column ten years ago:
Just last fall, as the networks exploded with coverage of Mark Foley's creepy instant messaging, we noted the networks (like ABC) had a very different way of covering Republican sex scandals -- especially the gay-themed ones -- than they did for Democrats. The best example is Barney Frank.
Notice how the networks define hypocrisy, and how liberals never seem to qualify. Frank was a lawmaker with a male-prostitution ring in his house, not to mention a lawmaker who kept getting the pimp's parking tickets waved off. Notice how they all mention "the voters" will decide, instead of going searching for legislators and party activists to underline his need to resign.
The people who manufacture the news in America are very persistent at writing the narrative exactly as it helps liberalism emerge victorious. On ethical scandals, they're very good at making sure Republicans force theirs to resign, and they're also very good at keeping Democrats shamelessly in power.
Perhaps the first famous name that comes to mind when it comes to policeman arrests in a restroom is George Michael, the former Wham! singer, who was busted in April of 1998 for lewd conduct in a restroom at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills. (The act was reportedly masturbation and some public nudity.) This story, with Michael's fame on the wane, drew almost no attention from the same national media outlets who are now pounding on the office door of Sen. Larry Craig and insisting he resign.
A quick Nexis search shows no George Michael arrest stories on ABC, or NBC. CBS offered this anchor brief from Russ Mitchell on the morning of April 11: "In other entertainment news, pop singer George Michael apologized to his fans in a CNN interview in LA last night. Michael was arrested Tuesday and charged with what police called a lewd act in a restroom in a public park in Beverly Hills. He is due in court next month."
As the networks dwell on the tenth anniversary of the death of a troubled British princess this week, it might be worth remembering that at the time, we noticed the tabloid tendencies toward celebrity deaths at the time were a much bigger media trend than investigations into the scandalous fundraising tactics the Clinton-Gore team used in 1996. Our MediaWatch study at the time noted:
MediaWatch analysts examined fundraising scandal stories in August and September on the Big Three morning shows and evening shows, plus CNN's The World Today. The networks broadcast 686 stories on Diana between August 31 and the end of September compared to just 113 stories about the fundraising scandal. That's a ratio of more than 6 to 1. Isolating the morning shows, collectively they aired 407 stories on Princess Diana's death, while devoting just 36 to the scandal. That's an astonishing ratio of 10 to 1.
Associated Press reporter David Bauder wrote a story on the new MRC study on the wide and deep disparity of morning TV news coverage of the presidential candidates in 2007. It's fair and balanced. But for us, obviously, the most entertaining part was hearing the network producers respond to the charges. They said it's all the Republicans' fault for being so shy with interview requests, and declared the Democratic race was so stuffed with historic firsts, it just demands blockbuster coverage:
You've got a former first lady and a black senator fighting for the nomination," said Jim Bell, executive producer of NBC's "Today" show. "That's historic. We're not going to make apologies for covering that."
Stories about the cancer relapse of Democrat John Edwards' wife Elizabeth were also counted in the total. It's unfair to count a personal story like that in a tally that suggests bias, said Jim Murphy, executive producer of ABC's "Good Morning America."
The Washington Post on Tuesday published a book review of Ed Klein’s critical Katie Couric biography by reviewer Louis Bayard, who found the entire exercise of writing a Katie book distasteful, unnecessary, and sexist: “You may also wonder if the same book would have been written about a male broadcaster,” Bayard argued early on. He suggested Klein was a female-bashing brute:
In their September 3 editions, both Time and Newsweek magazines offered a Fall Preview to the new season in books, TV, music, and movies, but only Newsweek turned its art criticism into a crudely partisan exercise. In a "First to Worst" preview, the Newsweek gave its "Last & Least" stink-bomb to the new memoir by Lynne Cheney, "conservative icon (and VP spouse)," for being "Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Dr. Laura," while the magazine lauded Bill Clinton’s new book: "This book-length sermon is all heart." To add insult to injury, Newsweek even gave one of its best-of-autumn honors to a new CD organized by Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno. This is not a 'Saturday Night Live' joke.
On the books page, graced by a photo of Bill Clinton reflecting deeply on a sunny African vista with his hands in his pockets, Mrs. Cheney took a beating:
On Friday, National Review writer Myrna Blyth unwrapped some of the nuggets in the forthcoming Ed Klein biography of Katie Couric, the one the Katie camp is trying to squash, in very Hillaryesque fashion, as "old news." [Klein appeared Monday night on FNC's Hannity & Colmes.] Before she kindly noted that the MRC has piles and piles of examples of Katie's liberal bias, Blyth dished Klein's claims:
In fact, there is not much unexpected here including the portrait of the young Katie as wildly ambitious and manipulative when she was desperately trying to make her dream “of becoming the next Barbara Walters” come true. Though a bit surprising, Couric, who in her prime was always seen as a feminist icon, often relied on relationships with important men to help her in her climb. According to Klein, she had affairs with both a married CNN executive who saved her from being fired a couple of times, and a media spokesman for Metro Dade Police Department who tipped her off on big stories when she was a TV reporter in Miami.
Back in July, Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff wrote a front-page report on conservative Virginia blogger Greg Letiecq, suggesting he was a "mouse-pushing crackpot" and a "fringe extremist" for claiming, among other things, that his opponents in a local fight over illegal immigration were "unassimilated marxist radicals." In Monday’s Post, on the front of the Metro section (at least in Virginia), Miroff has finally explored the left-wing side, specifically "Mexicans Without Borders" leader Ricardo Juarez, and acknowledges that the Marxist Zapatista Army of National Liberation "have shaped Juarez’s worldview and inspired his organizational strategies – minus the ski masks and the AK-47s." So Letiecq was right, raising the question: why didn’t Miroff do the elementary work of testing Letiecq’s claims before he wrote up the "crackpot" story in July?
One of the ways reporters avoid putting someone on the radical left is by merely calling them "anti-war" or "pacifist" – or even "combative pacifist." From my vacation perch in Wisconsin Dells, I found on the front of the "Daybreak" section in Friday’s Wisconsin State Journal (out of Madison) an Associated Press obit of leftist poet Grace Paley. "Poet, pacifist Paley dies," was their headline. The appreciation by AP writer Hillel Italie began: "Poet and short story writer Grace Paley, a literary eminence and old-fashioned rebel who described herself as a ‘combative pacifist,’ has died. She was 84."
A few paragraphs in, it’s more clear that Paley’s parents were communists, and nearly everyone in her early milieu was, ahem, "anti-war." Italie added:
The tide may be turning now with glimmers of good news emerging out of Iraq. On Thursday’s Today, Matt Lauer’s questions to John McCain signaled that success in Iraq won’t be an impediment to Democrats sticking with the doom line and demanding rapid "redeployment." Suddenly, the once-crucial Petraeus report in September is now developing into a so-what moment:
LAUER: "You, you've been in Congress a long time, in the Senate for an awfully long time. You now which way the wind is blowing. There are some people who say, Senator, that the momentum, right now, in Congress is so strong to pull the troops out of Iraq that it doesn't matter what's in that report, in the middle of September from General Petraeus, or even in reports that follow that. Even if we start to change momentum in Iraq and start to see more success, the momentum in Congress is already so strong that it's unstoppable. How do you feel about that?"
The "gay debate" for the Democratic presidential candidates airs tonight on the Logo channel in selected markets. David Crary of the Associated Press marks it as a "milestone" for the "gay-rights movement," but never in the entire article was there any mention of liberalism. Near the end, after quoting Rep. Barney Frank and other gay-left activists without labeling, Crary noted "Some conservative activists denounced the forum."
Meanwhile, several gay activists have denounced the debate organizers at Logo and the Human Rights Campaign for letting lesbian rock star Melissa Etheridge ask questions of the candidates. Said one: "this would be equivalent to the black debate being moderated by Aretha Franklin and the head of the NAACP, rather than by objective reporters."
When Nancy Pelosi rose to be the House Democrats’ leader in 2002, Katie Couric said to NBC colleague Ann Curry: "Is it okay to say, ‘You go girl!’?" That cheerleading spirit continued in her Monday "Katie Couric’s Notebook" commentary (featured at her blog Couric & Co.) lauding the new Democratic Congress: "this new crop worked much harder than the last. A big accomplishment was in challenging executive power with oversight hearings on Iraq, Medicare, the Department of Justice, and global warming." She concluded: "Promises, promises. Sometimes they are kept – even in Washington."
That was certainly not the tone of CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather took toward Speaker Gingrich and the new Republican Congress in 1995: "The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor." Their attempts at oversight were part of a "political carpet-bombing attack."
While Hillary Clinton was assuring the union crowd last night that she knows how to battle the "right-wing machine," Huffington Post blogger Blake Fleetwood reports that Bill Clinton is still taking on the Clinton-challenging media machine. At a fundraiser closed to reporters (but not to bloggers?), the former president asserted "the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is even more right wing and irrational than most of the commentators on Fox News."
He also asserted that a major American corporation was attacked by the Journal editorial board because it supported Clinton, and didn't care about whether its attacks were factual. Once the company's CEO "sent a check to Bob Dole, and announced it in the newspapers, and the WSJ never said one bad word about his company again." Here's the rundown of Clinton's media claims as the paper is being acquired by Rupert Murdoch:
There’s some funny items sitting around on the transcript shelf here. On Monday’s Today, Matt Lauer and Chris Matthews briefly discussed the hard-left Yearly Kos convention, and Matthews insisted that the junior Senator who adopted New York didn’t really belong to the bloggers: "Hillary’s not one of them. Hillary’s not a lefty in this campaign and she’s pro-corporation."
Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show began with Matthews wondering "Is there anything that’ll stop the Democrats?" He said no: "We put it to the Matthews Meter, 12 of our regular panelists. ‘Is the ‘08 election the Democrats’ to lose?’ It’s a wipe out. Rarely do we see this perfection. Twelve to zip. Everyone says yes, it’s the Democrats’ to lose. In other words they’re probably gonna win easily."
The nation’s top newspaper men think only an unsophisticated rube sees liberal bias as a persistent, intentional application of media muscle. In his book Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, Stephen Hayes of Weekly Standard fame reprints an E-mail that New York Times executive editor Bill Keller sent to Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems in 2004 in which he denied that his paper has an agenda, and there are “even a few people who think the news coverage and editorial page operate in lockstep as part of a liberal cabal. The vice president is much too experienced and sophisticated, I suspect, to really believe that.”
Keller admitted stories occasionally show “liberal assumptions,” but “I think those instances are relatively rare, and I fight to filter them our [sic] and deplore them when they get into the paper.” He also claimed in his own paper’s defense that Team Clinton “also had a lot of Times-haters at the top.”
The Washington Post website is not usually a place someone would go to find conservatives. But the Post has created a new Discussion Groups area, and one of those areas is "Right Matters" -- with National Review writer and deep-thinker Ramesh Ponnuru. Ramesh is also the author of the recent book Party of Death, which has some neat data on abortion and media bias.
Liberals still have plenty of options at the new area, including discussions moderated by Post columnists E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson. The Washingtonpost.com people have also added "Rights Watchers" from the left-leaning Human Rights Watch, and "The Secularist's Corner" with "Freethinkers" author Susan Jacoby, for the many Post subscribers who think God is an angry comic-book character manufactured by the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Newsweek political reporter Jonathan Darman provided a preview of sorts to the August 9 Democratic debate on the gay Logo cable channel with an article on Democrats seeking votes on the gay left playfully titled "Show ‘Em Whatcha Got: Conscious of their community's financial clout, gay activists want action on equality issues, not just talk." Nowhere in Darman’s story is there a single ideological label that would place gay supporters of the Democrats on the left. But a June story on the state of the Republican presidential race after Jerry Falwell’s funeral was studded with 12 uses of "conservative" or shifting "rightward" or "religious right."
Darman’s story in the August 13 edition began by touting how progressive Hillary’s been on the gay issues and has been "eager to bask in the gay love," but how gay activists are demanding more of a revolution:
Over at TimesWatch, I've posted a short list of the parts of the recent New York Times front-page story on Chelsea Clinton that aren't completely and transparently flattering -- such as how she's entered her personal "Decade of Greed."
The author of that puffy baked Cheeto of an article, Jodi Kantor, was for a time the Arts and Leisure section editor of the Times, and before that, she was one of several people the Times enticed away from the liberal website Slate.com, the online "magazine" started by Microsoft in 1996 and bought by the Washington Post in 2004.
Can a radio station owner submit an obscene set of call letters for his station and have it approved by the Federal Communications Commission? Brent Bozell's culture column passes along that two prospective stations in Hawaii were granted the call letters KUNT (and KWTF), which the station owner quickly apologized for submitting. But the FCC, for its many millions in expenditures, has no living, breathing human checking to make sure that embarrassing call letters aren't included in their usual online submission process. Brent elaborates:
On Friday night’s "Inside Washington," panelists trashed Ross Buettner’s story in the New York Times playing up a close relationship between Fox News boss Roger Ailes and GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said "I think this was the New York Times thinking that Ailes is Darth Vader, because they made him out to be this monster who’s given all this time to Giuliani, but the story itself and the graphics supporting it didn’t support the story." Others agreed. "There’s nothing in this story," said columnist Charles Krauthammer. Colby King of the Washington Post scornfully added, "This is exactly why newspapers in trouble," and said they acted like a tabloid. Thomas concluded, "It says more about the paranoia of the New York Times than anything else."
If liberals can blame a hurricane on President Bush, it's impossible they won't blame the Minneapolis bridge collapse on conservatives. At Radio Equalizer, Brian Maloney reports that Air America's Randi Rhodes was swinging wildly:
"The bridge collapse is the result of wasting a trillion dollars in Iraq. Basically what you saw there in Minneapolis and what you’ve been watching all day, last night, the whole thing.
"What you’re watching, should have the chyron underneath, instead of it saying Governor Tim Pawlenty, or news conference on bridge collapse, or recovery or whatever, you know what it should say underneath there? 'Your tax cuts at work!' That’s what it should say.
"Please make a note of it and call CNN and MSNBC, Faux News, yeah call them all and tell them, 'hey, you’ve got the wrong chyron!'"
In Friday's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz reports that the new John Edwards campaign against any Democrat accepting Rupert Murdoch contributions has a slight flaw:
"John Edwards will never ask Rupert Murdoch for money -- he won't accept his money," said a statement e-mailed to supporters. Not so fast, Murdoch's people say. His publishing unit, HarperCollins, paid Edwards a $500,000 advance -- and $300,000 in expenses -- for his 2006 book "Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives."
"We assume the senator is going to give back the money from his advance," News Corp. spokesman Brian Lewis said.
Jebediah Reed at Radar Online interviewed Cindy Sheehan about, among other topics, her treatment on CNN. The woman CNN hailed and promoted as the "Peace Mom" was outraged that anchor Anderson Cooper had the audacity to bring on two men who disagreed with her after an interview: "I just thought that was really uncalled for." Apparently, what’s called for is Cindy Sheehan being awarded an unopposed platform to spew against the Iraq War and President Bush. Here’s an excerpt:
You're also not a fan of Anderson Cooper. What did he do? He came down to Camp Casey to do a hit piece on me. It was just handled very badly. He had me on, and then he brought on some people right afterwards—a father whose son died in Iraq and a Dallas talk-show host—who just said some despicable things about me. I just thought that was really uncalled for.
If anyone in the media blames the Minnesota bridge collapse on "cheap Republicans" who like tax cuts, it would not be the first time. In 1989, after a memorable San Francisco earthquake, an interstate highway bridge collapsed and killed hundreds. Media figures demanded new taxes, and some even suggested the Proposition 13 ballot initiative may have caused unnecessary deaths. We reported in the November 1989 MediaWatch:
As aftershocks rumbled through the San Francisco Bay area, media figures began calling for more taxes. On the October 18 Nightline, Ted Koppel asked an agreeable Democratic politician from California: "We all remember a few years ago Proposition 13 which rolled back taxes. And at the same time the point was made you roll back the taxes, that's fine, but that means there are going to be fewer funds available for necessary projects. Any instances where the money that was not spent because of the rollback of Proposition 13 where money would have made a difference?"
If you have trouble imagining the establishment media speaking at CPAC -- although I do remember a slick Tim Russert and a prickly Ted Koppel attending one at the invitation of Accuracy in Media ten years ago -- it's not as hard to imagine "objective" reporters at the second annual lefty-blogger Yearly Kos convention, this year in Chicago. Mike Allen of the Politico (formerly of Time), Matt Bai of the New York Times Magazine (formerly of Newsweek) and Time deputy Washington bureau chief Jay Carney will all be speaking at the Chicago event. At the Huffington Post, blogger Ari Melber explains he will be moderating a let's-kiss-and-make-up panel on Friday between the media and bloggers featuring Allen and Carney:
I'm moderating a panel that will pair bloggers Glenn Greenwald and Jill Filipovic with The Politico's Mike Allen and Time magazine's Jay Carney, to discuss whether media-blog relations can evolve towards more constructive interactions. We're calling it "Blogs and the MSM: From Clash to Civilization."
In one of her one-minute "Katie Couric’s Notebook" speeches on her Katie & Co. blog, CBS anchor Katie Couric came lecturing to Hillary Clinton’s defense on August 1 over Robin Givhan’s Washington Post fashion review of her cleavage on C-SPAN2, but she never mentioned the Post, just how the story "dominated cable news for days, and it’s disgraceful." She sounded the feminist alarm: "By focusing on this display of decolletage, it seems we’ve plunged to a new low. What’s next? Studying a candidate’s too-tight jeans?" She said this election was too important for trivia: "If we focus on the issues, we could judge the candidates not on the color of their clothes, but on the content of their character." She acknowledged some fashion issues were "fair game," when the targets were men: the John Edwards $400 haircuts and how "Dick Cheney was slammed for wearing a parka when he visited a concentration camp."