Associated Press has a funny way of reporting on advocacy ads -- a very imbalanced way. A few weeks ago, AP reported that a liberal group called Americans Against Escalation in Iraq bought TV time to attack Senators in their home states. (Except, of course, they weren’t called "liberal," just "anti-war.") The AP reporter mentioned MoveOn.org was one of the members of this coalition, but there was no explanation of who was providing the commercial cash.
But when AP writer Jim Kuehnenn covered a new blitz from the Bush-supporting group Freedom’s Watch, notice how they got out their investigator’s hats to find the "billionaires" and "conservative philanthopists" and former Bush men providing the dough:
The group is financed by former White House aides and Republican fundraisers and was organized as a nonprofit organization under IRS rules. It is not required to identify its donors or the amounts they give.
Are the reporters on Capitol Hill as scrappy as the White House press corps? Apparently not. In the "Yeas and Nays" gossip column in the Washington Examiner, Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin report CBS's normally Bush-stalking Jim Axelrod threw a hardball at Nancy Pelosi and she was shocked, shocked that anyone could be so rude. (Axelrod, of course, came at the Speaker from the hard left.) It was so shocking a Pelosi spokesman suggested "I don't think she's ever accused a journalist of bias before."
CBS White House reporter Jim Axelrod mentioned to Pelosi that, come November 2008, the number of American troops in Iraq likely will be the same as in November 2006, when Democrats were swept into power. Then, he asked, "How do you view your stewardship of Congress as anything other than a failure to make the president change course?"
Pelosi was instantly taken aback. "What a lovely objective question on the part of the press!" she remarked.
On his Thursday night radio show, Mark Levin laid into MSNBC's Joe Scarborough over a Thursday morning interview with Arianna Huffington. (He calls the host "the Morning Schmo.") Scarborough had no answer for Huffington when she stoutly defended the MoveOn.org ad bashing Gen. David Petraeus. She added: "And again and again, despite the administration's best efforts to present him as this figure beyond reproach, we see that he's playing politics. He's playing politics with soldiers' lives in Iraq."
Levin found it disgusting that Huffington can sit in her luxury home and sip Chardonnay while Gen. Petraeus and his troops have their boots on the ground on the front lines every day sacrificing for the country. Here's the exchange from MSNBC:
Last fall, CBS granted Arianna Huffington two softball interviews promoting her book "Fearless," one on "Sunday Morning" with Rita Braver, and another two days later on "The Early Show" with Hannah Storm. Arianna counseled from her book that people need to "Identify the Obnoxious Roommate" in their own head to grow fearless. Our new MRC report on "Huffington's House of Horrors" demonstrates that Arianna’s blog the Huffington Post can be identified as the Obnoxious Roommate of the Liberal Media Elite. Here’s our summary:
When she founded her blog two years ago, Arianna Huffington made a pledge that was quoted by Newsweek: "If you’re looking for the usual flame-throwing, name-calling, and simplistic attack dog rhetoric....don’t bother coming to The Huffington Post." But an MRC review of the first two years of the HuffPost’s content reveals that flame-throwing, name-calling, and hate speech against conservatives are all on the Web site’s everyday menu.
The radical left is planning more "anti-war" protests in Washington starting Saturday, and like clockwork, The Washington Post is publicizing and sanitizing it. No ideological labels were applied to the Stalinists of International ANSWER or Cindy Sheehan, but counterprotesters belonged to the "conservative group Free Republic." The Post story even quoted leftists saying they were the mainstream:
The antiwar movement "is far from where Bush would like you to think we are, that we are the fringe. They are the fringe. We are the mainstream," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, which encourages Muslim civic participation.
Crusty CNN commentator Jack Cafferty had a "Live Chat" on The Huffington Post on Wednesday, and he sounded like a regular HuffPost blogger, charging that Bush lied us into war to enrich his friends, and never wants America to leave: "I don't think President Bush ever had any intention of leaving Iraq. I think we have been lied to about that the same way we were lied to about WMD. Military bases are under construction all over the country including one on the Iran-Iraq border." Cafferty also agreed with a questioner complaining about how the "good concepts" of "Kucinich, Paul, Richardson, and Gravel" are ignored by the media, and suggested the country needs publicly-funded political campaigns, but it will never happen.
The typical Bush-buried-3,000-troops-for-his-rich-friends line tumbled out this way:
In the 1990s, Laura Ingraham was an exception to the rule, a conservative allowed into the rarefied air of network news. She was a Sunday night commentator on CBS Evening News -- matched on the left by Sen. Bill Bradley -- and then a host of a live morning show on MSNBC. In her brand spanking new book Power to the People, just out yesterday, Laura dishes on what it was like in the lion's den:
From Day One, I was a fish out of water in the television news business. I didn’t come from their world and I didn’t buy into their worldview. They knew it and I knew it. As a conservative lawyer who had worked for the Reagan administration and clerked on the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas, I didn’t fit the CBS mold of the earnest, idealistic, liberal, "citizen-of-the-world" type attracted to the news business. I might as well have dropped in from a blinking spaceship from Saturn. One of the closet conservatives at the network told me that most of the producers and on-air talent thought the top brass’s decision to hire me was a "pathetic sell-out to the Right."
On CNN Sunday night, it was like Ted "Captain Planet" Turner was still running the place. CNN anchor Tony Harris interviewed Robert Redford with a sense of awe about his latest Sundance Summit with local officials to "fight global warming." Redford trashed President Bush as "pretty transparently awful on the environment," and the administration as "retarded in its views," but said "what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things." The anchorman, Harris, replied: "That is so great." He professed disappointment that the president would not meet with Redford, as if he were a world statesman and eminent scientist: "Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the president, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen."
In Monday's New York Times, reporter Patrick Healy described how Democrats pandered to a Latino audience during their debate on the Spanish-language channel Univision (although candidates spoke in English): "They expressed concerns that Republicans were enabling anti-immigrant feelings and even racist attitudes, or at least not taking a tougher stand against them." Hillary Clinton blamed media people for those anti-Latino and even racist attitudes:
Mrs. Clinton said legislative proposals to overhaul the immigration system, which all the Democrats at the debate endorsed, had been used by Republicans and some in the news media to "bash immigrants" and engage in demagoguery. Later, Mrs. Clinton added: "There are many in the political and frankly in the broadcast world today who take a particular aim at our Latino population. I think it’s very destructive." A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton said after the debate that she was referring to the CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and the radio host Rush Limbaugh, among others.
The snapshot coverage of the Bill and Hillary media blitz last week might make one believe they didn’t say anything substantive or serious in their talk-show appearances. But Hillary’s appearance on the September 4 season premiere of the Ellen De Generes talk show featured the Democratic front-runner pledging her eagerness to sign off on nearly the entire gay-left political agenda when she becomes the president. Hillary dodged Ellen’s question if a Democratic candidate could openly support "gay marriage" and win, but touted her support for a list of gay agenda items.
While reporters like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell only showed her joking with coffee-shop customers about how much housework Bill Clinton does, Hillary stressed that the concepts of marriage and family should be redefined with as much elasticity as people can muster: "You know, Ellen, we need to really open the door for people to define their relationships in a way that we can recognize and acknowledge."
What is it about the Clintons that prompts supposedly cynical political reporters to use gauzy metaphors? In Sunday's Washington Post Book World, reporter Peter Baker reviewed Bill Clinton's book Giving by oozing about Bill and Hillary: "The notion of Bill Clinton taking on a secondary role as his wife leads a presidential campaign and, at least potentially, the country, has always been hard to imagine. For a man who has spent his life at the center of his own comet, it must be an enormous challenge to find the right place as another streaks toward the sun."
Maybe this is just another day at the office for a reporter who was so dazzled riding along with Hillary Clinton in Egypt in 1999 that he lamented she was settling for the Senate when people she met on her trip wanted her to be "Queen of the World."
Let's give Katie Couric (and her producer Rick Kaplan) some credit for doing a better job interviewing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad then Diane Sawyer's flippant what's-on-your-iPod interview back in February. On Friday's edition of The Early Show, Couric appeared live to introduce the taped piece. She pressed the Syrian leader on his support for insurgents going across his border into Iraq, and even aggressively pushed him with a quote from Sen. Joseph Lieberman arguing that "The notion that Al Qaeda recruits are slipping into and through the Damascus airport unbeknownst to you and others is totally unbelievable. It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for Al Qaeda in Iraq."
Couric explained "during that interview, he denied that Syria was as big a feeding point for terrorists going into Iraq as the United States contends." MRC's Kyle Drennen captured the transcript:
Bill Clinton must love the smell of historical rehabilitation in the morning. His new book is prompting gushy copy from the nation’s largest book-selling chains. I get the E-mails. This week’s E-mail from Borders has a splashy color picture of Clinton shaking hands with colorful natives of Africa under the headline "Our greatest gift." Giving of ourselves is our greatest gift? Or Bill Clinton is? The copy is also syrupy:
From a personality who’s larger than life comes a portrait of actions that speak louder than words. Bill Clinton’s Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World is an inspired and inspiring look at individuals and organizations making a difference every day through charity work. Clinton may have been a polarizing figure who certainly gave us a lot to talk about, but here he offers portraits of efforts anyone can celebrate while giving us plenty to think about.
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: