The AP’s Jennifer Loven used President Bush’s trip to the Gulf Coast region to throw in some not so subtle digs at the Commander in Chief.
Loven started the piece by pointing out the President’s “three-month absence from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.” After Katrina, President Bush was criticized for not visiting the disaster area fast enough. Then the President was criticized for visiting the area too much and going to the Gulf Coast region just for photo-ops. The President should coordinate a timetable for disaster area visits with the media so the spacing is more appropriate.
NYT reporter Adam Nossiter has an eager story about a “very conservative congressman” pushing what Nossiter calls “the ultimate big government solution” for post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans. The headline writers and editors were also wooed by Rep. Richard Baker’s apparent apostasy (“A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans”), putting the story on Thursday’s front page.
“Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from suburban Baton Rouge who derides Democrats for not being sufficiently free-market, is the unlikely champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans -- for a while, at least. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.”
Media Mantra: Unhappy Holidays Pessimism about holiday sales went right through Christmas this year.
Were consumers cheerful shoppers or Scrooges this Christmas season? The final sales data aren’t out yet, but the media have scared the dickens out of economy-watchers with the latter theory.
As reported by the Free Market Project in October and December, the media’s annual Christmas shopping gloom-fest started in August this year, well before back-to-school sales had ended. Phrases like “Consumers are pinched” and “Retailers are squeezed” were being uttered on news broadcasts before Labor Day.
There's a reason or two why Tim Russert rules the Sunday morning news show roost. One of them is he asks tough questions based on preparation. By contrast, on Sunday's "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer displayed the opposite. His interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin looked like the questions of someone who did no homework, like CBS pulled a man out of a Denny's and told him to play journalist -- and they were certainly questions that avoided any kind of toughness on Nagin.
There was nothing, first and foremost on the journalist's plate, about Nagin's wild exaggerations about a death toll of 10,000 and the rampant rape and murder he and his top cops gave to the national media. There was no question asking Nagin about his utter failure to order a mandatory evacuation until the last minute. There was no question asking Nagin about his failure to evacuate citizens by city bus or Amtrak train. There was no question asking Nagin about race-baiting and finger-pointing at FEMA and Team Bush. Schieffer has painted Michael Brown as the picture of incompetence, but Democrat Nagin is presented as a firm leader. Nagin faced only these softballs:
Asked by Tim Russert to name the biggest story of 2005, on Sunday’s Meet the Press Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek, lamented how President Bush’s incompetence on Katrina and Iraq has disillusioned the new generation about the great “positive” things government can do. Meacham fretted that the new “generation coming of political consciousness, they're coming to consciousness when there are many, many questions about the competence of the government in Katrina, the competence of the government in terms of intelligence.” But, he rued, “there's not the good part which happened in the '60s. There's not a civil rights movement. There's not a race to the moon, where things are, show what government can do in a positive way.” Meacham zeroes in on Bush as he bemoaned how Bush’s conduct “has raised a lot of questions about fundamental competence of the government, both abroad and at home, whether it's in Baghdad or in New Orleans." A conservative might see that as an unintended positive development.
Meacham was joined on the roundtable by New York Times columnist William Safire, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and NBC’s favorite historian, the left-wing Doris Kearns Goodwin, who chafed over how President George W. Bush has “taken the negative parts of his father about raising no taxes.” (Transcript excerpts follow.)
Imagine you're a guest on the Today show on New Year's Day, and the host asks you to predict the top stories for the year to come.
What are the odds you choose as your two top stories for 2006: job-loss anxiety among white-collar workers, and white-collar crime?
Yet that is precisely what Marcus Mabry, Newsweek's Chief of Correspondents [pictured here], did in his just-completed interview with host Lester Holt.
While acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of strength, Mabry led with unemployment anxiety among white-collar workers as his #1 story for the year to come. He insisted that:
"the confidence of the American worker is at its lowest point in a very long time, particularly white-collar workers. We see anxiety we have not seen since the days of the dot.com bust. What you see is many Americans filled with job insecurity, who are worried about whether they're going to have a job a year from now. We see greater insecurity than in decades."
Once again in 2005, the New York Times provided a bounty of material to choose from, whether it was a pattern of biased coverage -- Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan -- or a single bizarrely biased story, like one from Sarah Boxer on a pro-U.S. blog in Iraq.
Here are some samples fromTimesWatch's top 3 examples of the worst from the liberally slanted year of coverage.
#3 Relaying Reckless Leftist Charges Against Pro-U.S. Bloggers in Iraq
Reporter Sarah Boxer achieved instant notoriety in blogging circles for an irresponsibly speculative piece January 18 on a pro-U.S. blog run by Iraqi brothers. Boxer began in a breathless style that probably helped her story garner the top slot of the Arts front page: "When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet. The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit." But her story was rooted entirely in the speculative postings from a far-left group blog called Martini Republic.
As 2005 winds down, it's a good time to recall some of the worst journalistic moments of the year. The Media Research Center polled 52 distinguished media experts -- talk show hosts, columnists, journalism professors and other keen observers -- who generously supplied their picks for The Best Notable Quotables of 2005.
A few of the highlights:
Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham won the "Madness of King George Award for Bush Bashing" for recoiling when the current President toured the former captive nations of Eastern Europe and apologized for the deal FDR made with Stalin back at Yalta in 1945: "It’s like he stuck a broomstick in his wheelchair wheels," Meacham complained on MSNBC.
Copy-catting the tendencies of certain conservative media watchdogs, Washington Post political writer Mark Leibovich produced an article for the front page of today's Style section on the top quotes of the year for public figures (mostly politicos and their families, except for Tom Cruise pounding Matt Lauer, Rafael Palmeiro's read-my-lips, no-steroids testimony -- oh, and Drew Barrymore raving about her bathroom break in the woods.) Leibovich finds his quote of the year to be President Bush telling his soon-to-be-reassigned FEMA director Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."
Leibovich explained: "Really, it was never even close. The president's vote of confidence had all the markings: Patently false, it came during a widely viewed event, was uttered by a prominent speaker, played to an unflattering caricature (of both people), and packed supreme irony," since Brown was out within days. "I think for concision and cluelessness, Bush wins hands down," Ted Widmer, identified as a Clinton speechwriter, adds. (Leibovich also nominated the president's mother for saying that for hurricane victims, being evacuated to Houston is "working very well for them.")
Happily, NewsBusters wasn't the only conservative outlet to pick up on the Christmas Day "Meet the Press" with Tom Brokaw and Ted Koppel. The spectacle spurred columns by David Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg. Limbaugh summarized:
"Russert was uncharacteristically tame toward these two, offering them repeated softballs concerning the past year's main stories. But the relaxed atmosphere gave us a clearer picture of the worldview these men share, which is doubtless representative of most of the Old Media players. From race and taxes to health care and Iraq, they spoke in a monolithic liberal voice, accented by its familiar air of moral superiority."
Ick, you almost won't want to look at the Meet the Press transcript from yesterday. With Tim Russert hosting Ted Koppel and Tom Brokaw and no one else, it was predictably an hour of liberal sermonizing. It's a scandal that America won't raise taxes. It's a scandal that America won't acknowledge they go to war for oil. It's a scandal that some people still don't have government-funded health insurance. They started with Hurricane Katrina. Brokaw railed against America still having a "permanent underclass." (MRC nerd point: This is the official transcript, not reviewed against tape.)
I thought it stripped away in this country what we've all known but failed to acknowledge: that--this kind of permanent underclass that we have in this country, with so few resources available to them. To the rest of the world, it was shocking. Here's the United States of America, the richest country in the history of the world, you know, portraying itself around the globe now as the patron of democracy and to show the way, and then we have this happening in our midst. And it's a question of, now, how we move forward and begin to deal with it.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
Last week, as reported by NewsBusters, Cybercast News Service published data that refuted the media myth that the government’s supposedly slow response to Hurricane Katrina had anything at all to do with race. This morning, the Los Angeles Times (hat tip to the Drudge Report) debunked the notion that class was an issue as well.
With a subheading of “The well-to-do died along with the poor, an analysis of data shows. The findings counter common beliefs that disadvantaged blacks bore the brunt,” the Times cut to the chase quickly:
“The bodies of New Orleans residents killed by Hurricane Katrina were almost as likely to be recovered from middle-class neighborhoods as from the city's poorer districts, such as the Lower 9th Ward, according to a Times analysis of data released by the state of Louisiana.
"The analysis contradicts what swiftly became conventional wisdom in the days after the storm hit — that it was the city's poorest African American residents who bore the brunt of the hurricane. Slightly more than half of the bodies were found in the city's poorer neighborhoods, with the remainder scattered throughout middle-class and even some richer districts.”
Remember all those media claims that race was a factor in the federal government’s “slow” response to Hurricane Katrina? Well, according to information released by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, whites died as a result of the devastating hurricane at the highest rate of any race living in New Orleans when measured as a function of population percentages.
As reported by Nathan Burchfiel of Cybercast News Service (hat tip to Drudge):
“According to the 2000 census, whites make up 28 percent of the city's population, but the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals indicates that whites constitute 36.6 percent of the storm's fatalities in the city.
Hurricane Katrina is apparently still killing people. OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto reports:
Back in September we
noted that some twisted souls on the Angry Left were hoping for an
enormous death toll from Hurricane Katrina, because they thought that would
hurt President Bush politically and diminish the 9/11 attacks and the threat
of terrorism more generally. The actual death toll turned out to be in the low
four figures--a terrible tragedy to normal people, but a disappointment for
the aforementioned lefto sickos.
A story in the Associated Press, however, suggests that some people want to
inflate the Katrina death toll. "Even as the official toll continues to
rise when more bodies are found in once-flooded homes, the real total may never
be known," the AP says. "The victims are scattered far and wide, and
the connections of their deaths to the storm are not necessarily obvious."
Examples include "13-month-old Destiny McNeese, who rolled onto her stomach
and suffocated on an air mattress after her family fled from Kentwood [La.]
As Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco prepares for testimony on Capitol Hill tomorrow, some credit should go to CBS for reporting on surfacing documents that show Blanco "in an embarrassing light." It’s a little balance after the FEMA-pounding Olympics at the time. MRC's Mike Rule found that Bob Orr reported:
"As New Orleans was drowning, the staff of Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco feverishly tried to avoid a public relations disaster. New e-mails just released by Republican congressional investigators show the governor's staff worked to portray her as hands on, in control, and a working executive.
"Please put Governor Blanco in casual clothes, a baseball cap, etc," reads one of the emails from a political consultant. "She needs to visit a shelter in prime time and talk tough, but hug on some folks and be sensitive."
NBC anchor Brian Williams raised a wide variety of issues with President Bush in interviews conducted through the day Monday, starting in the morning in the Oval Office and ending with a session following the President’s speech in Philadelphia. But in an interview conducted on Air Force One on the way to Philadelphia, and shown on Monday’s NBC Nightly News, Williams raised, in the guise of what he overheard someone wonder, the racist angle in the response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Williams proposed: “After the tragedy, I heard someone ask rhetorically, ‘What if this had been Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Inner Harbor Baltimore or Chicago or Houston?’ Are you convinced the response would have been the same? Was there any social or class or race aspect to the response?” Bush rejected the notion.
A September 9 NewsBusters item related, with video, how on the Daily Show on Comedy Central, Williams seemed to come dangerously close to endorsing the view that racism was behind the slow rescue of residents in New Orleans as he approvingly relayed how, a “refrain” he heard from “everyone watching the coverage all week,” was “had this been Nantucket, had this been Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, how many choppers would have-” At that point, audience applause caused him to cut off his sentence as he gestured toward the audience to cite affirmation of his point. Hard to imagine that if Williams heard the refrain, which is out there, that the hurricane’s destruction of abortion clinics in New Orleans shows it was meant as God’s punishment of sinful behavior in the city, Williams would have so willingly passed along that line of reasoning. (Transcript of the Williams-Bush exchange follows.)
In its usual over-the-top manner, the New York Times has once again treated the destruction of New Orleans due to ravages of Hurricane Katrina as a product of the Bush administration.
The Times's Sunday lead editorial, "Death of an American City," waits until two-thirds of the way down the article to place blame on something other than the federal government: the local and state government officials who run New Orleans and Louisiana. The Times neglects to mention that it is Democrats who primarily run the government in both New Orleans and the State house.
The new December issue of American Journalism Review includes an article by New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Brian Thevenot titled "Myth-Making In New Orleans." Thevenot was one of the Times-Picayune reporters who ended up feeling the need to correct the wildest stories emerging from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He doesn't spare anyone in the piece, quoting Fox News hyperbole (and knocking conservative media-critic sites like ChronWatch). But the story's worth reading. The most interesting part is how Thevenot and his colleagues were treated on TV. CNN's Paula Zahn looks especially interested in steering around blaming the media for their mistakes.
We came away with differing assessments of how the television media had handled the revision. Meeks and Perlstein felt Zahn, in the live interview, had tried to pile the entirety of the blame at the foot of the New Orleans mayor and police chief, fully exonerating the media and street-level sources.
ABC continued the racist-Katrina-response news angle this morning by interviewing two of the witnesses at yesterday's House hearing, requested by Rep. Cynthia McKinney. The taped and edited interview segment (no need for really wild conspiracy theories on air) featured "Good Morning America" co-host Charles Gibson interviewing Doreen Keeler and Leah Hodges. I decided to play the Google game. Are these women's backgrounds available on the Internet? Are they perhaps....left-wingers? Here's what I found:
A woman by the name of Doreen Keeler is listed as a plaintiff for the Center for Reproductive Rights fighting a "Choose Life" license plate in Louisiana since that apparently "infringes on free speech rights" (or at least upsets abortion advocates). That might match, considering Keeler is listed in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune as an AIDS activist "who works for the NO/AIDS Task force in New Orleans and manages the Louisiana HIV/AIDS hotline." Might someone with socially liberal views be especially supportive of suggesting the Bush administration response was inadequate?
Recently I wrote about Law & Order's not-so-subtle agenda on the immigration issue. Now cometh ABC's Boston Legal, a show known for both entertaining and pushing the envelope. Let's start with a portion of the show synopsis on the ABC website:
While [Crane, Poole & Schmidt law firm lawyer] Denise Bauer shops with her housekeeper and the woman's four-year-old son, the unthinkable happens when the boy is kidnapped by a known pedophile. An FBI special agent tells them that technicalities prevent the Bureau from getting involved, but he strongly suggests that, as private citizens, [law firm lawyers] Denise and Brad Chase conduct their own investigation. Their frantic search eventually takes them to Father Ryan, a priest who refuses to help since he can't break his confessional seal.
After this, things get pretty crazy. The firm lawyers present a phony warrant, which they are not authorized to administer even if it was valid. When the priest locks his office door in defiance of the warrant and to protect the confessional seal, Denise "breaks the glass" and convinces Brad to threaten to break down the exceedingly expensive Italian office door with a fire axe. Brad accidentally chops off three of the priest's fingers in the process.
The Tuesday broadcast network evening newscasts jumped on an inconsequential House hearing, which the AP reported was attended by just seven Members of Congress, where five residents of New Orleans hurled charges that racism limited help after Hurricane Katrina. ABC actually led with the hearing as anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "On World News Tonight, the angry voices from inside the storm. The victims of Katrina tell Congress they're still not getting help because they are poor and black." Vargas trumpeted the charges: “They were brought in front of Congress today so that the voiceless could be heard. Five people whose lives were torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. Five black people who say that when the hurricane came, for so many like them, race did matter.” One woman asserted: “When we stepped outside, guns were pointed on us. I felt like we were being told to go outside in order to be killed. No one's going to tell me it wasn't a race issue." ABC reporter Linda Douglass acknowledged believability was in question: "Members listened intently but were skeptical of some of the more extreme charges. Like this one, from [Dyan] French [Cole], who insisted someone deliberately flooded poor neighborhoods." She ludicrously alleged: "I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee." Ridiculously, Vargas characterized the hearing as "extraordinary.”
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer championed Dyan French Cole, affectionately known to CBS News as “Mama D,” as he described her as a “key witness” and reminded viewers that CBS’s “John Roberts first reported on her from New Orleans right after the hurricane. And now Congress isn't likely to forget her, either. She gave them an earful today.” CBS viewers won’t have her wackiest and most insidious charge to forget since in nearly an entire story devoted to her rants, Roberts avoided discrediting her by never mentioning her claim about how the levees were “bombed.” Instead, he personally interviewed her and took her allegations seriously: "She came...to testify on whether race played a role in the Hurricane Katrina response." NBC anchor Brian Williams touted how “a special House committee heard emotional testimony from Katrina survivors who insisted racism was a big factor in the government's slow response to the disaster.” Kerry Sanders, who showcased Dyan French Cole, also skipped over her levee “bombing” charge, began: "In New Orleans, according to a Gallup poll, six in ten blacks said if most of Katrina's victims were white, the rescues would have come faster." (Transcripts follow.)
Brian Williams has wrapped up his first year anchoring the “NBC Nightly News,” and he is presenting himself as this year’s new face of the TV news kingdom. He’s a knight on a white horse raging against poverty and indifference, especially in the poorer sections of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. He believes the issues of race, class, oil, war, and the environment make Katrina the “monumental story of modern times.”
The NBC anchor shared his thoughts with Howard Kurtz on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Kurtz asked the obvious question: Has Williams become a crusader? “I don’t think so,” said Williams. But, wait, Kurtz pointed out, you signed off the other night in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans saying “This is a neighborhood that’s been left to die.” Kurtz suggested the anchor’s message “is government is not doing enough,” to which Williams responded, “I’ll let others reach those kinds of sweeping conclusions.”
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Stephen Pearlstein noticed in his "Sunday Briefing" (page F-2) that "The Economy Grabs the High Ground," as the headline said. He wrote: "Defying hurricanes and inflation, rising interest rates and political gridlock, the U.S. economy demonstrated its remarkable strength and stamina last week." Despite the drama implicit in that sentence, the Post’s editors buried the news inside the paper.
Last Wednesday, as PostWatch noticed, Nell Henderson's story on growth, "Economy Grew Briskly In 3rd Quarter," was placed on D-1, the front page of the Business section. (On October 29, a Henderson report headlined "Hurricanes Didn't Stop Economy From Growing" was also on D-1.) A strong jobs report? "Growth in Jobs Overcame Slump in November" appeared on page D-1 on Saturday. Negative-sounding economic news appeared on page A-1: on Sunday, the front page carried the story that struggling car companies want help with benefits: "Automakers Are Lining Up Aid, But Just Don't Call It a Bailout." A peek at Nexis back to March 1 at the stories on economic indicators reported by Nell Henderson showed a continuing pattern of Henderson making A-1 or the A-section with bad news:
Quick! Someone buy the man a Valium. Make it a double.
I'm sure most here remember the histrionics in which Shep Smith engaged while reporting from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
Smith was back in high emotional pitch today, shouting, screaming and accusing the government for its shortcomings as detailed in the just-released 9/11 Commission 'report card' on implementation of its national security recommendations.
Thankfully, Shep had James Carafano, across the video lines, to hold his hand and soothingly assure him that the sky wasn't falling.
Carafano, a cool customer, is a top scholar on security issues at the Heritage Foundation. A West Point grad and retired Army colonel, he also has a doctorate from Georgetown University and a master's degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.
"The experts have spoken, this hurricane season will go down as the biggest, baddest, deadliest, and costliest of all time," Jim Acosta ominously intoned opening his report on the November 29 edition of the CBS Evening News. Yet while the loss of life and livelihood from Hurricane Katrina was horrific, the loss of life in the 2005 season was not record-breaking.
Over 20,000 died in the Great Hurricane of 1780, Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed over 11,000* in Central America, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900 killed 8,000. [see link]
See my article with more detail at FreeMarketProject.com
* NOAA's Chris Vaccaro gave me a more conservative 9,000-total death toll figure over the phone, which I included in my article. At any rate, the death toll from these hurricanes far surpasses the death toll for Katrina.
In an interview taped for ABC’s Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005, rapper Kanye West, who in September during NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief had declared that “George Bush doesn't care about black people,” told Walters that he stands by the allegation. In the ABC special aired Tuesday night, in which Walters featured West as the second of her ten “most fascinating people,” she played the clip and then asked him: “Do you think what you said then you still feel today?" West responded: "I spoke from, I spoke from my heart, and I stand by my statement." (Brief transcript follows.)
Today’s New York Times featured a Carl Hulse article that depicted the future of the Republican Party as being almost as bright as Alaska for the next several weeks. In Hulse’s view, just about everything that has gone wrong in America in 2005 can be linked to Republicans, while, conversely, in a 27 paragraph piece, there was only one paragraph that suggested any problems for the party on the opposite side of the aisle. Frankly, this article read more like a press release from a political strategist than a column in a leading, national newspaper.
First, Hulse set the stage: “The ugly debate in the House on Friday over the Iraq war served as an emotional send-off for a holiday recess, capturing perfectly the political tensions coursing through the House and Senate in light of President Bush's slumping popularity, serious party policy fights, spreading ethics investigations and the approach of crucial midterm elections in less than a year.”
He then established the goal: “Capitol Hill was always certain to be swept up in brutal political gamesmanship as lawmakers headed into 2006 - the midpoint of this second presidential term and, perhaps, a chance for Democrats to cut into Republican majorities or even seize power in one chamber or the other.”
Then, Hulse enumerated all the Republican shortcomings:
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.