National Public Radio media reporter David Folkenflik has done a very unusual thing: brought the king of commercial talk-radio to the 700-plus affiliates of NPR. As part of a series on their evening show All Things Considered on "Crossing the Divide," Folkenflik profiled Limbaugh as an example of someone who declares he has no interest in compromise. Limbaugh was rebutted, in part, by radio/TV talker Glenn Beck, who worried about divisive talk radio: "I truly believe it's going to be the death of us. It's going to be the death of our industry, and the death of our country, if we don't stop dividing ourselves like this. It's not right." Later, he seems to contradict that a bit.
Folkenflik also relied on to former L.A. Times/Newsweek reporter Tom Rosenstiel, the usual Chairman of the Mainstream Media Party (with the Project for Excellence in Journalism), who unfolded the old smear that talk-radio hosts have no interest in accuracy, unlike the more professional guardians of the public interest in the liberal media elite:
Sometimes, you have to read all the way to the end of an article to find that Time is still asking, like their famous 1966 cover, "Is God Dead?" At the end of its January 29 cover story (or cover essay) by Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, the academic drops the typical bomb: religion "devalues life on earth," and the "most famous practioners" of belief in God in our time "hijacked the airliners on 9/11."
In the closing section, titled "Toward A New Morality" (that would be "post-religious morality"), Pinker sought to rebut author Tom Wolfe. He asserted:
...few scientists doubt that they will locate consciousness in the activity of the brain. For many nonscientists, this is a terrifying prospect. Not only does it strangle the hope that we might survive the death of our bodies, but it also seems to undermine the notion that we are free agents responsible for our choices -- not just in this lifetime but also in a life to come. In his millennial essay "Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died," Tom Wolfe worried that when science has killed the soul, "the lurid carnival that will ensue may make the phrase 'the total eclipse of all values' seem tame."
When the Washington Post notices a conservative personality with a front-page Style section profile, they are acknowledged that he may have Arrived. But that doesn't mean the profile will be nice. David Segal's profile of CNN Headline News and syndicated radio host Glenn Beck starts out on the front page as noticing Beck is a tad more moderate in persona than Bill O'Reilly, acknowledging his own faults and finding gray areas, and "he won't offer the righteous condemnations you'd expect from the God-fearing conservative that he constantly reminds viewers he is."
But turn inside, and Segal has profiled Beck for the purpose of a public whipping by leftists over Beck's questioning of Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison: "I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." Segal lines up the liberal critics:
Paul Begala lamented on CNN Tuesday night that President Bush had committed a grave sin by calling his new opposition the "Democrat majority" instead of the "Democratic majority." Liberal reporters in the last few years have called Bush a dictator and compared Vice President Cheney to Darth Vader. But to call someone a "Democrat" is worse? Thursday's Washington Post carried an entire article championing Begala's complaint in the Style section Thursday titled "President's Sin of Omission: Dropped Syllable In Speech Riles Democrats."
It was bad enough for Post columnist Ruth Marcus to devote an entire column of wailing and mourning to this slight in November. Before dutifully recycling Begala's pleas on CNN, reporter Libby Copeland noted that this has long been a part of "Republican warfare" on those people who represent the public interest:
Another classic contrast in media bias is emerging with Saturday’s "anti-war" march on Washington, just six days after the annual March for Life. Already, the Washington Post is showing more love in column inches for the left-wing protest. The Post had no article previewing the pro-life march, but on the front page of Thursday’s Post, in a box promoting its "Faces of the Fallen" pages of the war dead, a promotional blurb:
Actors, Other Activists Plan Mall War Protest
Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are expected for Saturday’s anti-war rally and March Metro
The article was inside the Metro section, on page B-6. Reporter Michael Ruane’s story was headlined "Large Rally Planned Saturday on Mall: Organizes Oppose Increase in Troops and Plan to Seek Withdrawal Deadline." That’s a little bland for the hard left, especially when UFPJ’s attitude toward the troops is advertised with their website headline "‘We Have A Haditha Every Day’ -- TAKE ACTION!"
While Vice President Dick Cheney stared daggers into CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer over his pushing questions about his lesbian daughter’s December announcement of her pregnancy, Blitzer insisted it was a “responsible and fair question.” Cheney disagreed. There's an argument that Blitzer's question citing Focus on the Family, when considered alone, is a fair (if not kind) question. There's no doubt that Blitzer's question was a trouble-making question, which could easily serve to sow division among Republicans and press Cheney into making a big gaffe or controversy.
Here’s where it’s clearly unfair. When has a Democratic national candidate’s sons or daughters ever been the subject of a national controversy? Try this as Exhibit A. In 2000, while the networks tried to make great hay in the election’s last weekend over an antique George W. Bush drunk-driving ticket, CNN and the other liberal networks hyper-sensitively avoided the story of Al Gore's teenage son Albert Gore III, caught driving 97 miles per hour on an interstate highway, an offense on the public record, just two days before the 2000 Democratic convention. As I wrote for National Review Online in 2000:
Leftists always complain that FNC’s "Hannity & Colmes" is a perpetually uneven match, a game of Strong vs. Weak where Sean Hannity always gets to be more aggressive and that other Colmes fellow is timid. On the PBS "NewsHour," I’d say the situation is reversed. Mark Shields is the Hannity that always sounds a strong partisan tone, and David Brooks is the timid guy, willing to tone it down for the face time and, as Bill Clinton once put it, "preserve his viability" within the network he’s on.
After the State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Shields remembered Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech as a "rhetorical home run" and really drove home how great that prickly Jim Webb was: "I think that the old line that freshmen should be seen and not heard was totally repealed and revoked." After lauding the Webb speech’s eloquence and memorability, Brooks helpfully added: "Mark said ‘A star is born.’"
The Washington Post’s coverage of their favorite new Senator, Virginia’s Jim Webb, whom Post writers describe as a "self-styled warrior-poet," was predictably folk-hero favorable after his typically prickly and pompous Democratic attack after the State of the Union address (although the Post account did avoid the word "Macaca.") Post reporter Michael D. Shear, a crucial part of Team Webb in taking down Sen. George Allen, shyly noted Webb became a "a folk hero among liberals and Democratic bloggers" for telling President Bush to shove off at a White House reception for new members of Congress. (Apparently, he had long been a folk hero to Shear, Tim Craig, and the editors of the Post.)
The headline characterized Webb’s speech as a "Blunt Challenge to Bush." Post editors also liked the words "aggressive" and "forceful," and a "blunt" manner that won voters’ hearts. There was no notion anywhere in the story that as Bush honored "Madame Speaker" and offered his olive branch (and the wallets of taxpayers) to the Democrats, that Webb responded to bipartisan overtures by slapping Bush around. Webb and a praising Harry Reid were the only sources in the story. Shear began:
While TV listings suggested all three broadcast networks would stick with SOTU coverage until the late newscasts, CBS was the first network out at 10:27 Eastern time, and NBC followed about three minutes later. CBS had to make time for Charlie Sheen's character having sexual performance problems on "Two And A Half Men," while NBC burned a rerun of "The Office."
ABC was the only network to stick to news, as Charles Gibson interviewed presidential contenders John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Perhaps the campaign moment of the night, causing the glee for arrogant liberals, was when Gibson mildly suggest the Democrats still "distrust" President Bush on policy, and Senator Clinton laughed and said "We are an evidence-based party." As opposed to Republicans, who apparently believe truth has a liberal bias, as Stephen Colbert jokes. The other pukey moment was ABC political analyst George Stephanopoulos praising Jim Webb's typically pompous address as clearly composed by a writer. Stephy called the speech "lyrical." As if you could hear harps playing in the background?
CBS’s live coverage of the State of the Union speech was dominated by gloom for President Bush Tuesday night. Anchor Katie Couric described Bush as "resolute, yet resigned." In the very first seconds after Bush concluded, Couric jumped in with the fact that CBS News polls showed President Bush had an 82 percent approval rating at State of the Union time in 2002, just months after 9/11, and now "reverse it," CBS’s approval rating number for Bush was 28 percent, an "all-time low." CBS has traditionally held the lowest poll number of the media outlets. The other polls in the current time period aren't great either, but found numbers between 31 percent (Newsweek, also traditionally low) and 39 percent (LA Times-Bloomberg).
Couric then turned to Bob Schieffer, and stressed it was odd that Bush went from opposing nation-building in the 2000 campaign to now favoring the spread of democracy. (It could be argued you can support democracy-building without doing the tougher work of nation-building.) With a pessimistic tone, Couric asked "Has he changed any minds tonight?"
In the hours before President Bush is pummeled about terrible approval ratings by the media and how nobody listens to him any more, let's rewind to how the State of the Union speeches in Clinton's second term weren't marred by scandal. Scandal vanished in the wake of his rhetorical brilliance:
2000: "Virtuoso, Peter. The address of a proud President, a tireless policy wonk and a very shrewd political strategist. He essentially handed Vice President Gore his campaign plan tonight. Lots of proposals that he suspects won’t pass – prescription drugs, gun control, Medicare reform – and he sets up Vice President Gore to run against a do-nothing Congress this fall, just like Harry Truman did in 1948." -- ABC political analyst George Stephanopoulos minutes after the State of the Union speech, January 27, 2000.
CNN heavily promoted an "exclusive" last night with stories by John Vause and Howard Kurtz rebutting an Insight magazine article on Barack Obama’s Indonesian schooling, that it occurred in a "madrassa," with the on-screen graphic "DEBUNKING A SMEAR." Conservatives shouldn't defend journalism from conservative media outlets if the story doesn't stand up -- if it carries a lot of shaky anonymous sourcing and can easily and passionately be portrayed by liberal media outlets as a "smear." Insight's story seems underbaked, not ready to face prime-time liberals like last night's fusillade from Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn, who brought on CAIR, not Obama, for outrage over "Islamophobia."
The sad thing here is that Democratic candidates (and the Democrat-dominated media) will follow the usual Clinton formula: they'll push outrage at unsubstantiated charges, and then not really press the candidate about the issues raised. Obama's Illinois church and religious beliefs (and his former lack of religious beliefs) are very interesting topics. Like everything about Obama, they need more investigation from the media and less exaltation. But the media will quickly suggest (and have suggested) that Obama's exotic upbringing makes him more qualified to understand the world. He has certainly pushed that line. Take this AFP wire story where race-transcending Obama touted to the reporter that he was "greatly influenced" by his Asian sojourn:
The Washington Post placed its March for Life story on page A-10 today (making it more of a national than local story), below a story on the Supreme Court striking down a California sentencing law. The account by reporters Michael Alison Chandler and Michelle Boorstein is a respectful recounting of the march and both sides of the abortion debate.
The story was illustrated by color photos, but in a far too common tactic, the Post balanced a picture of four pro-life demonstrators with "Defend Life" signs in daylight against a photo of four or five feminists with "Keep Abortion Legal" signs at an evening Supreme Court vigil. One side turns out tens of thousands, and the other turned out tens. The Post didn't exactly balance its photos when it came to illegal-alien rallies, not to mention the number of column inches was vastly larger.
The Washington Post published no preview story for the March for Life on Monday, despite its massive annual size. But it did have room on the front page of the Metro section to review "Macaca" and how Virginia Republicans "might" (the Post hopes) be ruined in state elections this fall for their insensitivity.
On Page B-4, the Post did have a traffic diagram with the headline "Streets to Close for Antiabortion March." The March is rebutted right underneath the diagram, listing ''ABORTION RIGHTS EVENTS." They reported Planned Parenthood will "toast the Roe vs. Wade anniversary with a benefit tonight featuring actress Kathleen Turner," and NARAL Pro-Choice America "plans a benefit Thursday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel."
On the front page of the Metro section was a story by Macaca specialist Tim Craig headlined "Offensive GOP Words Might Speak Louder Than Va. Transit Deal." It had the typical Post thesis that social conservatives (the "far right") are destroying the Virginia GOP:
With Democrats returning to power in the House and Senate, political reporters touched on how they felt abused and ignored during their time in the minority. But National Public Radio isn’t treating the Republicans now as a minority. They’re treating them as nonexistent in some stories. On Friday’s Morning Edition broadcast, reporter Elizabeth Shogren assembled an entire story on new Democratic proposals to halt global warming, but there were no Republicans, no energy industry representatives, and no warming skeptics. They only heard new socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders saying "one has got to be a moron" not to be concerned.
No one in the Shogren story was a "liberal" (not to mention a socialist – Sanders was merely described as "independent.") The proposed bills weren’t liberal either, just "aggressive." It was the Bernie Sanders-Barbara Boxer bill versus the Dianne Feinstein bill, which seemed conservative by comparison.
Earlier this week, I wrote about NBC’s giddy, pop-music-backed "No Man Required" segment on "choice moms," single women who choose to have babies without fathers. The primary subject of reporter Janet Shamlian’s piece was attractive businesswoman Stacy Madison: "Having spent years focused on her career, when she wasn't in love at 39, Stacy Madison went shopping at a Boston sperm bank and came home with twins." At story’s end, Madison rebutted Dan Quayle’s "Murphy Brown" speech this way: "I would have loved to have started a family the traditional way, met somebody, fallen in love, been younger. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way."
Guess what? "Never in love" Stacy was married for five years and decided to be a mother after the divorce. Which means NBC lied by omission. Wouldn’t anyone see this story as presenting a never-married 39-year-old? Or when a woman says she wishes she had "met somebody" and "fallen in love," does NBC think it’s perfectly clear that you’ve been around the marriage merry-go-round? I regret not Googling the name right away, which quickly revealed NBC’s dishonesty. The first article came from a 2004 article in Jewish Woman magazine. I was stunned to read:
Some times, real surprises arrive in your e-mail, such as: Newsweek's International Edition welcomed the New Year with an article titled "Iraq's Economy Is Booming." Nobody noticed this "mother of all surprises" in America, since the article wasn't placed in front of domestic customers (it is online). Why not? Liberal, Bush-hating politics, perhaps? Despite the often-reported violence and terrorism, Newsweek's Silvia Spring asserted "there's a vibrancy at the grass roots that is invisible in most international coverage of Iraq."
Canadian columnist Neil Reynolds noticed Spring's piece in Toronto's Globe and Mail:
OTTAWA -- More than U.S. troops are surging in Iraq. As the international edition of Newsweek magazine reported at year-end, the Iraqi economy is expanding at a rapid rate: "Civil war or not," writer Silvia Spring says, "Iraq has an economy and - mother of all surprises - it's doing remarkably well." Amid anarchy and savage violence, Iraq's construction industry is booming.
In his latest left-wing tirade at a radical "media reform" conference in Memphis last Friday, long-time PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers announced he would resurface again with another regular show on PBS this spring, titled once again Bill Moyers’ Journal. He also is creating a documentary titled "Buying the War." In his Castro-length speech, rebroadcast for an hour on Tuesday on Pacifica’s nationally distributed "Democracy Now" radio/TV simulcast, Moyers decried an alleged conservative stranglehold on the American news media (apparently, the New York Times are "sitting ducks" for "neoconservative propaganda"), cited left-wing media watchdog theories and studies, and said his private "fantasy" was all about strident leftist "Democracy Now" host Amy Goodman: that the Memphis crowd would lobby every public TV station to run her daily radical hootenanny.
Robert Bluey, the editor of HumanEvents.com and our old colleague from downstairs at Cybercast News, has an op-ed in the Washington Examiner today about the growing significance of bloggers on Capitol Hill. Just last week, Rob and others successfully pressured Sen. Harry Reid to strengthen earmark reform -- thanks to Internet pressure and the help of a couple seasoned bloggers who are now working in Senate offices:
The debate had captivated the blogosphere. As Roth noted at the Club for Growth, more than 1,700 blogs had been written about earmark reform over a 24-hour period.
Three of the most well-trafficked liberal blogs — Daily Kos, MyDD and TPMmuckraker — also turned on the Democrat leader. “Sen. Harry Reid is fast losing whatever credibility he had on earmark reform,” wrote a blogger at Daily Kos. “Who’s the arm-twister now?” asked Paul Kiel at TPMmuckraker.
It's nice to see Drudge picking up on Katie Couric's blog
at CBSNews.com. Her commentaries are worth watching. In this case,
Katie complained on behalf of the "feminist movement" that while she
was thrilled to attend a recent briefing at the White House with other
top network anchors, she wanted more females at the table. Once again,
America is so far behind nations like Rwanda and Sweden. (Yes, that's
in there.) The weirdest sentence: "Everyone was gracious, though the
jocular atmosphere was palpable." What is it about jocularity that
makes it disturbingly masculine?
This from Couric, whose on-air
tone is defined by breezy informality? Whose commentaries and on-air
asides are salted with "gosh" and whose interviews are jarringly
affected with light-hearted quotes from her daughters?
You can't help but wonder if Katie's already looking forward to the
whole White House being Hillaryland, when "great leaps for womankind"
will be Job One, and male "jocularity" will be frowned upon, and
perhaps the networks will be lectured about the need to send female
anchors to the White House table:
Don’t go looking for balance on NPR. On their evening newscast All Things Considered on Tuesday, National Public Radio congressional reporter David Welna publicized an anti-war protest with six soundbites – and all six agreed that the Iraq War needed to end as quickly as possible. The protest was from a campaign called "Appeal for Redress," which claims more than 1,000 military people demanding the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Welna was so easy on the left that he even described Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the story as a "presidential contender" -- which in sports terms, would be like calling the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a "World Series contender."
At least in AP's story on the protest, Kucinich was described as a "long-shot candidate for president." The Washington Post reported the forthcoming protest on the front page of Tuesday's Style section, but at least reporter Linton Weeks allowed some dissent from these self-styled dissidents:
If MSNBC is so determined to fight it out with Fox News, why did they tilt so heavily on Monday toward promoting Fox entertainment – to be specific, ‘American Idol’? Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough both devoted entire interview segments to the less-than-Earth-shaking speculation that ‘Idol’ judge Paula Abdul sounded drunk in interviews with local TV stations. Both had ‘Plastered Paula’ graphics. ‘Tucker’ handled the story, too, but for less time and without going to "experts" for comment. Some wondered if he was drunk when he said ‘Yes’ to trying to win "Dancing With the Stars."
Since we’ve touched on the topic of the media celebrating women’s "independence" from men, there’s also this. On Monday’s Today, in the 8:00 am hour, NBC aired a story and a debate segment on a hot trend of mothers who choose to have fatherless children, "no man required." But this wasn’t merely a news story, but a cheerleading report, complete with supportive music bubbling underneath (including "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves," the 1980s feminist pop song by the Eurythmics with Aretha Franklin.) When they allowed a few seconds of dissent, all the music stopped. In the debate segment, co-host Meredith Vieira’s questions were fairly tough, but the feminist guest walked all over the defender of fatherhood with strange arguments: "I think selfish gets a bad rap. Every parent, to be a good parent, has to be selfish."
Vieira began: "In the old days, women who had children out of wedlock were few and far between. But now a record number of single women are having children on their own, no man required. More now from NBC’s Janet Shamlian."
Two media tidbits today. Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports: "Count Larry King among Katie Couric’s fans. The venerable CNN host watches the new anchor of the CBS Evening News and thinks her ratings struggles have more to do with gender than with journalism. "It might still be hard for a woman to anchor the evening news," King says. "And that’s sad."
King also said it may take a major news event to help the former Today host shed her perky image: "Hurricane Katrina made Anderson Cooper. It could happen to Katie that way." (Larry slammed O'Reilly and Nancy Grace here.)
On Howard Kurtz's chat at washingtonpost.com, Kurtz was asked about the MSNBC v. Fox fight, specifically mentioning that O'Reilly has some liberals on his show (as foils, usually, he claimed), and Olbermann doesn't generally have conservatives on his show. A questioner asked:
What's this, the Saddam News Service? The Washington Post published a story on the front page today thoroughly soaked in the perspective of Saddam Hussein's relatives and supporters that their "heroes" were insulted by hangings yesterday. The headline was "Iraqi Hangings Bring More Denunciations: Head of Hussein's Half-Brother Is Severed." Reporters Joshua Partlow and Muhanned Saif Aldin began with the "mourners" denouncing the botching hanging as a "calculated insult" by the Maliki government, as the front page carried this quote:
"We knew that he would be executed and would join a parade of heroes, but Maliki, why did you behead him?" asked Salam al-Tikriti, 41, a relative of Ibrahim [and probably a relative of Saddam]. "Why did you insult his body? Are you still afraid of him even after he is dead? We will cut your heads the same way that you are cutting the heads of the heroes of Iraq." Nowhere on the front page was any explanation of the crimes of the executed men.
In retracing the early steps of the O'Reilly vs. Scarborough battle, it's funny to see that when O'Reilly attacked NBC and MSNBC on January 4, he probably hadn't left the parking lot at Fox when attack dog Joe Scarborough was already protesting his complaints on MSNBC, and running audio from O'Reilly's radio show earlier in the day. This exchange shows that Scarborough is either (a) making fun of himself, or (b) completely misleading his audience about his attention-grasping "Is Bush An Idiot?" segment last August:
O’Reilly, from his radio show: “Bush can't win. No matter what he does. NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, they're going to say he's an idiot. There's no sense of balance or fairness in their reporting. That's activist journalism.”
Scarborough: “Bush an idiot? I've never said Bush is an idiot. Chris? If I ever said -- do you think Bush is an idiot?
Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin is blogging from the annual Television Critics Association tour, and found some hot talk in recounting the Clintonista war against ABC's movie on 9/11.
Asked during his appearance on the TV critics' tour if he was embarrassed that the network had to "backpedal" on its Clinton-unfriendly movie The Path To 9/11, [ABC programming chief Stephen] McPherson took no prisoners -- particularly when it came to Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger, one of the film's chief critics. "We didn't backpedal," McPherson said. "We aired the movie. We didn't change anything for those guys. We aired it as planned on the dates that were planned. I mean, it's a little odd to have Sandy Berger telling you about what's truthful or not when he was indicted for stuffing documents into his pants on this very subject."
In his Monday "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz promotes the Bill O'Reilly vs. NBC/MSNBC feud as the media-bias equivalent of the Donald Trump vs. Rosie O'Donnell "smackdown." O'Reilly declined to comment, but Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti says he "has exposed media bias for the last 10 years. This is nothing new. We don't know why NBC finds the label 'liberal' so insulting."
The strongest voice in the Kurtz piece is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Joe Scarborough, once again proclaiming how he's more liberal (ahem, "independent") than any other supposedly conservative commentator on the tube:
Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who has been trying to demonstrate his independence from the GOP, says in an interview that O'Reilly "really does toe the party line more than I ever have."
The front of Sunday's Style section in the Washington Post carried an article titled "Dead End," wishing for an end to capital punishment, or at least the odd pursuit of painless execution. Post staff writer Neely Tucker clearly implies America is barbaric for keeping it. No one in the piece really argues for it. Tucker even reports with dismay that 67 percent of Americans support capital punishment, "though their betters -- newspaper editorial writers, the French -- tell them they shouldn't."
Tucker's essay began by joking about killer Gary Gilmore, executed in Utah in 1977 for killing a motel manager the year before:
Gary Gilmore, patron saint of the modern American execution, hear our plea.
Lifesite had the report that early Thursday morning’s edition of NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" displayed a character called "the homophobic country western singer." Conan O’Brien introduced him: "Our last new character's heart is in the right place, even if he's a complete idiot. Please welcome the homophobic country western singer." The singer began to play a guitar and sing a song warning Jesus Christ not to make a gay pass at him:
Oh I love you Jesus But only as a friend. You touched my heart but I hope That's where the touchin' ends.
You're always lookin' over me When I need a higher power. But you better look at somethin' else When I'm in the shower.