Despite growing into a massive network, National Public Radio still demonstrates signs of being the same countercultural liberal listening post that came of age in the Vietnam era. On Thursday’s Morning Edition, NPR covered war and post-traumatic stress disorder in a trendy liberal way: as an opportunity to sell combat veterans on the mystical healing power of yoga.
Government-subsidized yoga for veterans? NPR reporter Allan Coukell (sounded like "Cockle") suggested it’s the government-funded wave of the future: "So far, most of the veterans have been paying for the sessions themselves, but [Tom] Boyle hopes the Veterans Affairs system will start to offer yoga nationwide. He already sees PTSD and other symptoms of battle stress in troops back from Iraq — and he knows thousands more are still to come."
Over at National Review Online Jay Nordlinger is praising a national media outlets for its reporting from the United Nations. The UN is not exactly a hot or hostile beat for liberal media outlets, who seem to like the intentions of the UN, and never seem to worry much about the follow-through. Oil-For-Food fraud? Yawn. Sexual harassment by UN brass? Yawn. This story is more pedestrian, about how "multilateralism" can often break down into a moral void.
I wanted to be super-sure that you saw this highly revealing article about the United Nations. It’s by Edith M. Lederer, the excellent U.N. correspondent of the Associated Press.
The United States criticized the United Nations for refusing to list a panel it organized Tuesday entitled “State-Sanctioned Mass Rape in Burma and Sudan” on a U.N. Web site.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations arranged to hold the panel on the sidelines of the annual two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which this year is focusing on discrimination and violence against women. It will include presentations about rape and sexual violence in both countries.
But the U.N.’s Meeting Services branch objected to the title, which was published in the U.N.’s daily journal last Thursday, because it “would be perceived as offensive to named member states,” according to a letter to the U.S. Mission obtained by the Associated Press.
Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton reported Thursday that House Republicans will move for an unusual vote protesting the new committee assignment of Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, the congressman still under investigation for the $90,000 in bribe money found in his home freezer. After removing Jefferson from the powerful Ways and Means Committee last year as the Democrats ran against a "culture of corruption," Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi now wants to place him on the Homeland Security Committee.
Layton's story highlights Jefferson's role as a "vocal critic of FEMA's performance" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as a rationale for his Homeland Security appointment. But the Post left out Jake Tapper's September 2005 scoop on Jefferson using the government to check on his personal property in the hurricane aftermath: "Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings — even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned."
Most people who tune in to morning TV "news" programs know the unbearable lightness of the product, full of celebrity cotton candy and tragic tales of tabloid woe, of climbers lost on mountains and teenagers lost in the tropics. So it was a little shocking to be diverted from that maudlin box of info-bon bons known as the Anna Nicole Smith deathmatch to questions on the grand and glorious subject of Biblical anthropology, and a "discovery" of the alleged bones of Jesus.
Why this whiplash-inducing change of subject? It's sad but true that the "Today" crew went into promotional hyperdrive for the Discovery Channel special on the alleged bones of Jesus because someone spread Hollywood glitter on it -- James Cameron, the director of "Titanic." (Christians are joking among themselves that Cameron doesn't seem to know who the real King of the World is.) The Cameron connection has been a constant attraction for The Discovery Channel.
On "Couric & Co.," her CBSNews.com blog, Katie Couric warned Monday that while Gore was greeted "as a secular saint" for his Oscar win, she worried about a backlash from the Bush team or conservatives or those rare scientists -- "many on the payrolls of big companies" -- who disagree with Gore's global warming alarmism. Couric said the social consensus is here, and "my fervent hope is that Hollywood’s embrace of Al Gore doesn’t give people an excuse to condemn and mock the effort — and oppose taking steps that we as a society need to take to deal with the issue of climate change. Some people find anything trendy repugnant, but this is a trend that’s really important."
Right after pronouncing her opinion that movie star Penelope Cruz was best-dressed at the Oscars, Couric proclaimed:
Al and Tipper Gore just consented to an interview with Ryan Seacrest on the E! pre-Oscar festivities. (First question: Tipper's wearing Bill Blass, Al Gore reluctantly noted he's wearing Ralph Lauren.) The goofiest answer was when Seacrest asked Gore, "if you were to cast an actor to play the lead in 'The Al Gore Story,' who would you pick?" Gore quipped, "I don't know, maybe William Hung," the infamous "American Idol" reject who mangled Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Seacrest laughed and said "I love it, I mean, the 'Idol' reference!" When Seacrest asked if that performance was one of his favorites, he said it was "right up there," and then said "no, no, no" and insisted that his favorite song is the lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge's song "I Need to Wake Up." Guess why? It's up for an Oscar for its inclusion in Gore's film. Lyrics, please:
And as a child I danced like it was 1999 My dreams were wild The promise of this new world Would be mine Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth To listen to an inconvenient truth
It's interesting how some network TV reporter blogs show more interest in examining liberals than the network news product does. In his Media Reality Check yesterday, Rich Noyes reported that the networks have yet to touch the controversy over the anti-religious bloggers John Edwards hired for his presidential campaign website, and yet ABC Nightline anchor Terry Moran really got the ball rolling in the blogosphere on the story when he asked if a Republican would be ignored with smash-mouth bloggers like that.
Moran's blog now features a post on the liberalism of Hollywood. Moran says what Jake Tapper didn't quite say in his report on the political importance of Tinseltown...as a Democratic power center: "Hollywood money is a crucial factor for any Democrat who seriously wants to be president. You simply cannot get the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party--and you cannot win the White House as a Democrat--without the money-raising muscle of Hollywood." Do the top producers snip lines like this, lines of simple common sense?
It might seem a little jarring in the wake of the religion-bashing bloggers ruining the John Edwards campaign, but the February 18 New York Times Magazine actually contained an article claiming "In the piety primary, the Democrats win hands down." Writer Gary Rosen claimed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not hard to envision in church among the faithful, but John McCain and Rudy Giuliani would probably be "fidgeting during the hymns and checking their watches." This is not surprising New York Times content. But here's the surprising part: Rosen is the managing editor of the neoconservative journal Commentary. Here's how Rosen began:
Try a quick political thought experiment. First, form a mental picture of the Democratic front-runners for president — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now do the same for the leading Republican contenders — John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Next (and this is the key step), imagine each of them in church, sitting in a pew, head bowed, or better still, at the pulpit, delivering a homily or leading the congregation in worship.
Thursday night's edition of "30 Rock" will feature the character of Jenna (played by Jane Krakowski) appearing on an episode of "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. Matthews is no stranger to entertainment. Last year, he appeared in the Robin Williams movie "Man of the Year" and also showed up in another citizen/politician movie, "Dave" with Kevin Kline, in 1993. He's also been around the NBC-TV carousel before, with "The West Wing" and with the short-lived young-senator drama "Mister Sterling." Tucker Carlson will also appear on the sitcom's promotion of MSNBC.
Over at Fox News, "The Half-Hour News Hour" bagged 1.48 million viewers in its Sunday night debut, landing it on the ratings "Winners" list at the Washington Post, which noted "That's about 80 percent more viewers than FNC has averaged in that slot in the first quarter." The Post also noted its competition, "The Daily Show," averaged 1.57 million viewers from last Monday to Thursday.
On his blog Changing Channels, Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin warned that Oprah Winfrey will appear on the Ellen DeGeneres daytime chatfest on Thursday, and it's not exactly an intellectual Clash Of The Titans. He cited this exchange on the presidential race:
Ellen: Hillary and Barack ... That’s very interesting, right? Oprah: Very interesting. Ellen: Very interesting. Anyone that you’re feeling right now? Oprah: (nodding yes) Um hum. Ellen: Yeah, you want to say or no? Oprah: I’m feeling Barack. Ellen: You’re feeling Barack Oprah: I’m feeling Barack. Oprah: I know it’s tough -- the thing about it is, it doesn’t make the other candidate any less. I’m just feeling Barack. Ellen: ....I’m really torn because I love him. I really love him. Oprah: I don’t just love him. I respect him.
Chris Wallace asked about the 2008 presidential race: "We asked people who under no circumstances would they vote for, and you came in second on that dubious list at 64 percent, behind Ralph Nader, but far ahead of everyone else. And I should add 44 percent of Republicans said they would not vote for you. Why do you think that so many voters say Newt Gingrich, forget it?"
Gingrich answered: "Well, there was a column written by Brent Bozell recently about Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker and me becoming speaker. And he contrasted the initial media coverage of the two of us. And if you go back and look, you know, I had a — Time magazine savaged me as Scrooge who stole Tiny Tim's broken crutch — didn't just steal the crutch. I broke it, on the cover of Time. Newsweek had me as the Grinch that stole Christmas. I was a Dr. Seuss figure."
One common media-created misconception in the Bush years is that the Clinton administration fully supported the international Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but the Bush administration arrived and refused to take any action on it. In reality, while Vice President Al Gore signed the Kyoto agreement for the United States, the Clinton administration never submitted it to the Senate for ratification (just like Bush), and the Senate voted 95 to zippy in a nonbinding sense-of-the-Senate resolution against Kyoto in 1997, because the agreement would curb American and European emissions, but place no restrictions whatsoever on China or other polluting "developing" nations.
Agence France Presse was the latest to use bias by omission to relay the Bush-killed-Kyoto theory. It was a story on that global savior Al Gore, declaring he would not run for president in 2008:
Retired anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather (and a pile of other liberal media bigwigs) recently made time for a book party Bill Clinton threw in New York for his old defense secretary Bill Cohen and his wife Janet Langhart. Mark Shanahan reported the shindig for The Boston Globe:
Held on the third floor of the historic Russian Tea Room, the exclusive affair was hosted by former president Bill Clinton to celebrate the couple's new book, "Love in Black and White." Guests included former news anchors Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, CBS president Leslie Moonves , "Primary Colors" author Joe Klein, First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson, Newsweek's [International Editor/ABC pundit] Fareed Zakaria, "Inside Edition" anchor Deborah Norville , and MTV creator Robert Pittman. (Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones,couldn't make it but sent a bouquet of flowers.)...
Last Tuesday, in a blog suggesting the PBS Frontline documentary on 'News War' would be biased, I added: "Suffice it to say PBS has not contacted the news watchers at the MRC." Frontline executive editor Louis Wiley protested that they had. I asked our publicists, and they located an e-mail from April, requesting a 90-minute interview with MRC president Brent Bozell, which was refused. I was not aware of the request, and I was incorrect. Here is the e-mail I received from Wiley of PBS:
As our producer Arun Rath said, we had wanted to interview O'Reilly and Limbaugh in person to ask them questions about this topic, but they turned us down. It didn't, however, stop us from doing our best to represent their views as our commitment to professionalism requires.
Clearly, network anchors have much more sensitive skins than President Bush. Reporters insult him to his face, suggest he's concocting wars with fake intelligence, and insist he's incapable of admitting any mistakes. But to gain access to Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer, apparently you have to arrive with pom-poms and a pleated skirt.
Howard Kurtz interviewed ABC's Diane Sawyer about her disgustingly sympathetic 2007 Axis of Evil tour of interviewing the dictators of Iran and Syria for Monday's "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post. The piece read more like a press release for ABC than a news article. Take this line: "Just as industry insiders are wondering whether she is ready to abandon the predawn grind, Sawyer embarks on a one-woman diplomatic mission that has the business buzzing."
Brent Bozell's culture column this week centers on those Hollywood sore thumbs called Walden Media, who have made family-friendly and faith-friendly films. Brent told me it was a "V-8 idea," a slap-your-forehead business proposition to serve an underserved market of religious families with children. The new Walden project is the movie "Amazing Grace," as Brent explained:
It is a sad reality: Very few adults, and virtually no child can recognize the name William Wilberforce, the man Abraham Lincoln claimed was known to “every school boy” in America in 1858. Then there’s this: “Amazing Grace” is the most recognizable hymn in the land – but how many people can tell you its origin? To the rescue comes Walden again, with the movie “Amazing Grace,” which tells the true, and beautiful story of William Wilberforce, the brilliant British orator and parliamentarian who fought relentlessly to ban the slave trade in Great Britain and who ultimately succeeded, against all odds, decades before the United States fought a bloody civil war to do the same.
Ken Shepherd mentioned the Michelle Malkin profile on the front of Friday's Style section in The Washington Post. You have to give credit to Howard Kurtz for being fair-minded enough to give a conservative blogger that much attention. It was tough but fair. Your complaint, then, would be that liberals don't get tough but fair. They get goo.
What stood out to me on Friday were the headlines in Style. Michelle's was "A Hard Right Punch: Michelle Malkin's Conservative Fight Has Others Coming Out Swinging."
But what's right above that on the page, the top story? A story on Al Gore's Chicken Little concerts, with the headline: "'Live Earth' Concerts To Tackle Hot Topic: Al Gore's Musical Call To Action." Notice the lack of labels, no hot "liberal" topic, no musical call to "liberal" action?
When the Air Pelosi brouhaha arose in the last few weeks, the first story that came to my bias-obsessed brain was the Air Sununu scandal in 1991, a crusade led by The Washington Post. The White House chief of staff John Sununu (father of the current senator) drew great controversy for his use of government jets and then, a government limo trip to a stamp auction. Comparison to other scandals, including congressional travel, came in our newsletter MediaWatch. Consider the comparison of the Post's investigative vigor:
Air Pelosi, 2007: One story on A-15, headlined "Pelosi Catches Nonstop Flights Home," a header designed for yawns, 272 words.
Air Sununu, 1991: 25 stories in 68 days (April 21-June 27), eleven on Page 1.
It didn't have much to do with liberal bias, but I found it interesting in Meredith Vieira's CNBC interview when Michael Eisner asked her in the first few minutes about how hard it was to referee the differing opinions on "The View" on ABC. He even asked about how Vieira would have handled Rosie:
Eisner: "How would you have done it if you had been in that same position and Rosie O'Donnell just came in to replace Star Jones. Could you control her?"
Vieira: (Laughs) "I was gonna say I would have gone out into the alley with a gun –" (Laughs more)
I'm just getting to the February 19 editions of the news magazines today. The objective? Did they report on the vulgar anti-Christian and anti-Catholic blogs of the now-retired feminist John Edwards bloggers? Not with any specifics. Each papered over the controversy.
Time's Massimo Calabresi devoted his story to the trouble with campaign bloggers and how their "bravado can backfire." In reporting on bloggers for McCain and Hillary as well for Edwards, Calabresi quoted Amanda Marcotte's snarky comments about how guilty the Duke lacrosse players were, but not her giggling over the idea of aborting Jesus after she was filled with the "hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit" so Christians would have to find another "ancient mythology" to excuse their hatred for women:
The coming out of gay former NBA player John Amaechi was boosted on Monday by an interview on CNN's afternoon show Newsroom, where anchor Don Lemon framed the interview as a question of social progress and tolerance: "do you think that the NBA now is ready for a player who may be out, while they're playing? Do you think the league is mature enough to handle that?"
Amaechi responded that the NBA may soon be "clean" on this issue, regardless of how the "clean" word's been politically dangerous in the last few weeks: "I think that [NBA Commissioner] David Stern is mature enough to handle that. I think he wants an organization that is pristine, and part of that, if you want, cleanliness will be to have a league that accepts all types, as long as they do have the ability."
Here's a double standard on hate. While none of the Big Three networks have mentioned the hate speech of the bloggers (now retired) of the John Edwards presidential campaign, former pro basketball star Tim Hardaway's shocking and repulsive line on a Miami radio show that "I hate gay people" made all three network morning shows on Thursday in the wake of the first former NBA player announcing he's homosexual.
NBC anchor Ann Curry tried to stifle laughs and then said "I'm sorry, America, but it was just so far across the line." ABC reporter Taina Hernandez closed her story with the scolding line "No active NBA player has ever come out of the closet and Hardaway's comments offer a troubling reminder of attitudes that apparently still linger." CBS didn't even mention former Orlando Magic center John Amaechi, whose new book revealed his long-held secret.
Hardaway's comments, first seen by many at the top of the Drudge Report, are newsworthy, although the cultural opinions of basketball stars are rarely in the headlines. But when networks announce a line has been crossed and find "troubling" reminders of lingering attitudes, is that meant just for Hardaway's now-retracted statement of hate, or for anyone who opposes homosexuality as morally wrong?
The Christian attitude of "hate the sin, love the sinner" was absent from Hardaway's comments, and stories on coming out and "homophobia" often completely exclude anyone who would attempt to rebut the politically correct point of view.
Keith Olbermann's arrival as the lone commentator at NBC Nightly News is the first overt commentator NBC's hired since PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers in 1995. A quick Nexis search shows Olbermann has been very rarely on NBC News airwaves. He actually anchored NBC Nightly News as a weekend substitute on April 12, 1998 (Easter Sunday, see accompanying photo) and May 9, 1998. In recent years, he's surfaced a few times on the Today show. He was interviewed to plug his "Worst Person In the World" book last September 15. He reported on major-league shortstop Alex Rodriguez on February 16, 2004, and co-hosted the Saturday edition of Today with Campbell Brown on August 23, 2003.
In the commentary and prime-time special clauses of Olbermann's new deal, there are obvious parallels with Moyers. They are two fiercely left-wing commentators who oddly deny a liberal bias when asked by the press.
The NBC announcement that they've kept Keith Olbermann as the erratic quarterback of their anti-Bush offense came larded in praise. First, the NBC News press release:
"Keith Olbermann is a tremendous talent and a superb broadcaster," said NBC News President Steve Capus. "He is an asset to NBC News and the timing of this announcement couldn't be better given the momentum Keith's program is enjoying right now."
A compelling hour of nightly news, delivered with Olbermann's particular wit and style, "Countdown" takes a fast paced look at the top five news stories of the day – from politics to pop culture and from the mainstream to the oddball. The program has enjoyed particular success in the past year, finishing the month of January with an average of 283,000 viewers in the adult demographic (25-54) and 715,000 total viewers, up +89% and +85% respectively, over a year ago.
"I've been overwhelmed by the support for this newscast, both inside NBC, and among our remarkable viewers," said Olbermann. "I'm delighted we can continue 'Countdown,' and continue to try to hold politicians and other newsmakers accountable for what they are doing, or not doing."
Anne Schroeder at The Politico started a new rumor that when the newly renovated White House Briefing Room is ready, perhaps the new seating chart will move caterwauling Hearst columnist Helen Thomas (no longer a reporter, more like a Sheehan-style anti-war protester) out of her traditional seat on the front row. For those who do not recall, Helen left United Press International way back in 2000 rather than work for new owners when it was sold to conservatives at The Washington Times.
The new room will have an added seat in each row, but both CNN and Fox News want to move up, so moving Helen would be the logical move to acknowledge that cable-news networks perhaps have more importance 24-7 than once-a-week columnists for Hearst. (Back when I was in the room in '01 and '02, FNC was often sitting in row 3 or 4, not even the second row.)
Yesterday I dismissed the idea that PBS couldn't find anyone conservative to comment on the Bush team's alleged war on the press. Talk-radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, a long-time host for PBS in Los Angeles, explained on his blog that the Frontline folks at PBS tried to cajole him into an interview for their "News War" four-hour marathon, but he ultimately declined. Here's his story:
Producer Raney Anderson journeyed to California to make the case for why I ought to participate, and I declined. I spent a decade inside the PBS system, and while I think Ms. Anderson is a talented and sincere documentarian, the form is inherently biased as the moment a cut gets made, an editorial choice has been rendered, and I didn't trust a PBS team, however talented, to make those choices about what I have to say about media, new and old.
Several MRC employees have encountered a new pamphlet on the subway system in the Washington D.C. area called the "CBS Evening News Report" with a big picture of Katie Couric on the cover. (It also promotes the local CBS news on Channel 9.) Inside the 14-page pamphlet are articles by Dr. Jonathan LaPook, Armen Keteyian, Byron Pitts, Steve Hartman, and Jim Axelrod.
But it's mostly promoting Katie. In the front, "A Word From Katie" carries the usual messages with exclamation points selling the magazine. "Hi everyone!...We hope it'll serve as an appetizer, and maybe entice you to try out the main course!...We'll do our best to keep you on track. Meantime, thanks for taking us along for the ride!" Showing the pamphlet's age, though, is a two-page article with Katie recounting her "remarkable conversation with a remarkable man," embryo-destruction spokesman Michael J. Fox -- in October.
Several national newspapers praised the four-hour PBS Frontline series beginning Tuesday night titled "News War," on how Team Bush (and Team Nixon before that) undemocratically waged war on the press. There's not much on whether the press was undemocratically waging war on the elected president in those cases. (Who, pray tell, voted for the New York Times to run the country?) The man setting the table for the first two hours is Arun Rath, who the South Asian Journalists Association website jokingly notes "acquired a semi-classical education at Reed College in Oregon ('Atheism, Communism and Free Love')." What a surprise for an NPR/PBS producer.
In a new interview on the SAJA website, Rath explained how he was somehow completely incapable of tracking down conservatives to comment on the show's arrogant liberal thesis, namely that the press is crucial to save democracy from freedom-crushing Republicans:
In her latest "Couric & Co." blog entry to support quotas (oops, "affirmative action") and whisper "Hillary for President" between the lines, Couric cheered Drew Gilpin Faust, the new female president of Harvard and jeered outgoing Lawrence Summers. She also mourned the loss of feminist Harriett Woods, best known to political junkies as the Democrat who almost beat Sen. John Danforth in 1982:
Harvard, the nation's first university, is NOT the first to put a woman at the head of the class. Princeton, Brown, and Penn all beat Harvard to the punch. But nationwide, less than a quarter of colleges and universities are run by women.
Harriett Woods, head of the National Women's Political Caucus, died last week. She pushed to elect women and to name them to powerful positions. Bill Clinton once called her a "bean counter." But sometimes, bean counting really counts.
Washington Post arts reporter Jacqueline Trescott reports on the front page of the Style section today that the Smithsonian Institution (with its fresh new contract with the Showtime cable network) is shutting Oliver North's Fox News Channel cameras out:
The Smithsonian Institution rejected a request from Oliver North to film a stand-up in front of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb. This is the latest flap in the Smithsonian's development of programming for a cable television network.
North, who hosts a Fox News Channel series called "War Stories," returned fire, condemning the Smithsonian's decision. He said in an opinion column that the museum's action raises questions about the propriety of the contract between Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian, which limits access of film crews.
Trescott's story is a reasonable recounting of the battle -- first revealed in North's column in Sunday's Washington Times. (Be sure that the Post hates following in the wake of the conservative Times.) But she omits a crucial fact: the Smithsonian institution is private, but receives most of its funding from the federal government.