In case NewsBusters readers needed reminding that liberal media bias exists outside the major TV networks/New York Times-Washington Post/newsmagazines iron triangle, a Knight Ridder News Service story this weekend did just that. As you'll see, the first few paragraphs of this overheated "news analysis" by Ron Hutcheson and Steve Thomma speak for themselves.
I should first note that Knight Ridder publishes 32 daily papers, some of them, such as the Miami Herald and Philadelphia Inquirer, in major markets, so Hutcheson and Thomma's piece probably found a large readership. That became even more likely when at least one non-KR paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, also picked up the article.
For those of you who haven’t seen this morning’s “Meet the Press,” I highly recommend that you do so that you can see William Safire at his best, as well as some great incites from David Brooks. What follows are key statements from the two of them concerning Plamegate, and the events of the week. Though chronological in order, the numbered quotes are separate ideas that did not immediately follow one another:
1. MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: I think that was an excellent rundown and time line of a complicated series of accusations of a cover-up, but the most important single fact that emerged from the indictment is what was not in it. This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law. And the law that was violated was you must not deliberately out an agent who is undercover. And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken.
For those who have read or seen a lot of press reports since the announcement of the indictments against I. Lewis Libby on Friday, you have likely observed a growing number of quotes from White House “aides” and “insiders” concerning a state of panic and disarray within the administration. Yet, most of these reports do not give the names of the sources, and, instead, suggest that the informants wish to retain anonymity due to the current environment within the White House.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe wrote an article for the upcoming issue entitled, “Flying Blind,” wherein they asserted, “Team Bush is in turmoil.” To be sure, the title is quite appropriate, for not one of the eight “quotes” or paraphrases from White House “aides” identified the name of the source. In fact, two of these (the second and third bullets below) were referenced by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" this morning:
In the upcoming issue of Newsweek, senior editor Jonathan Alter suggests that the tactics of the Bush administration have acted to lessen democracy in America.
In a piece entitled, “The Price of Loyalty is Incompetence,” Alter states, “The same president who seeks democracy, transparency and dissent in Iraq is irritated by it at home.” The premise of the article is that Bush and Company require rubberstamps of approval from all who work in the administration without any dissent if one wants to continue to be part of the team:
While introducing an interview with former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean on his Countdown show Friday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann implied that Plamegate is worse than past White House scandals because, in contrast to scandals from the Nixon, Reagan, and Harding administrations, a sitting White House staff member has been indicted. Referring to Bush supporters who were offended by the title of Dean's book, Worse than Watergate, Olbermann quipped that because of Libby's indictment, "the protests about John Dean's title might instead be coming from the fans of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Harding."
Also, referring to the possibility that the indictment could bolster the belief by some that the White House lied about the rationale for the Iraq invasion, Olbermann wondered: "Is the damage here, perhaps, that as the nation has solely gotten around to questioning the justification for the war in Iraq, what we've all been asking has been: Did the government and people in it make false statements? Are they liars? And now there is a charge of false statements and basically lying against a man who was prominent in that government?" A complete transcript of Olbermann's interview with Dean from the Friday October 28 Countdown show follows:
The excitement and anticipation radiating from the mainstream media, as American deaths in Iraq inched toward the 2,000 mark, has been more than evident. It has also been a time of struggle for those of us who deeply mourn the loss of these heroic young men and women. Now, in addition to the pain and suffering we truly understand, the American public must also endure the pre-planned platitudes of a press strongly opposed to this combat action.
Headlines and editorials condemning the war or calling for withdrawal of our troops have been everywhere. News and editorial leads have all sounded the theme of Washington’s wrong doing. For example, Bob Herbert’s column in the October 27 New York Times reads, “Thousands upon thousands are suffering and dying in Iraq while, in Washington, incompetence continues its macabre marathon dance with incoherence.”
Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker released a list today of 2,200 companies that apparently bribed Saddam Hussein for access to contracts related to the United Nations oil-for-food program. Topping the list were such household names as Germany’s Siemens Corporation, Germany’s Daimler Chrysler, and Sweden’s Volvo. Yet, Richard Roth, reporting on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” began his piece on this story by focusing on Oscar Wyatt, Jr., an oil trader from Texas:
“More than 2,000 companies were accused of doing illegal business with Saddam Hussein feasting on the oil-for-food program. One prominent American businessman was Texas oil trader Oscar Wyatt, Jr., who in a case of bad timing for him, was also arraigned last week in federal court charged by the government with paying millions of dollars of kickbacks to win oil contracts with Iraq.”
Unlike ABC and CBS, on Thursday night, NBC informed viewers of a report on the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal, as NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams stated that "2,000 companies paid nearly $2 billion in kickbacks directly to Saddam Hussein" and that "the country with the most companies involved in this was Russia, followed by France." A complete transcript of the story from the October 27 NBC Nightly News follows:
Anna Quindlen hasn't been a New York Times columnist for more than a decade, but she'd still fit in quite well on her old paper's op-ed page. In her opinion piece for the October 31 Newsweek, Quindlen takes up the inclination to psychoanalyze President Bush from one current Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, and the Iraq-is-Vietnam argument from another, Frank Rich.
Early in the column, Quindlen asserts that the Bush administration's Iraq policy
became a moving target. First there were weapons of mass destruction that were not there and direct links to the terrorists who attacked on September 11 that didn't exist. The removal of Saddam Hussein was given as the greatest good; it has been done. Then it became the amorphous goal of bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, as though liberty were flowers and we were FTD. The elections, the constitution, the rubble, the dead.
Are you a Republican or conservative? Want to get invited on a morning MSM show? No problem! Just be prepared to do one thing - criticize the Bush administration.
We've seen the pattern in recent weeks at the Today show. First there was Bill Kristol, fiercely attacking the Miers nomination. Yesterday, GOP congressman-turned-MSNBC-host Joe Scarborough upped the ante, accusing VP Cheney of a "lie."
And this morning brought an appearance by conservative uber-celebrity Ann Coulter.
The first hint that a warm reception was planned for Ann was the fact that Today chose Matt Lauer to interview her, rather than Katie Couric with whom Ann had famously clashed on air after having described Couric as an "affable Eva Braun."
What earned Ann her invite? Matt gave it away when he cited to Ann her recent comment "in which you compared the Bush White House with the Nixon White House."
Bingo! Any conservative willing to invoke the Nixon White House in discussing W is welcome on Today!
Gary Hall passed along yesterday that MoveOn.org is telling their members on their E-mail list that the media are failing to give enough publicity to the 2,000-dead "milestone" in Iraq:
"Dear MoveOn member, Yesterday we reached the sad milestone of 2,000 killed in Iraq. But for the most part, the national media are ignoring this tragic milestone."
MRC's Rich Noyes rebutted this strange idea yesterday (with data from Brent Baker's CyberAlert) in a Media Reality Check. While the networks downplayed the Iraqi government's announcement that 79 percent of Iraqis had voted in favor of a new constitution, they played up the 2,000 "milestone."
The headline in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times is, "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Hits 2,000." It is accompanied by another front-page Iraq piece with the title, "Deadly Surge." These articles continue inside to three full pages which include a large, half-page graph ("A Mounting Toll"), a large half-page map of the U.S., and color photos under the banner "U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq."
In all, there are three stories about U.S. deaths in Iraq covering 4,228 words. They are accompanied by a total of nine color photos.
Meanwhile, the Times takes the major historical event, "Iraq Charter Ratified by Big Margin in Final Tally" ... and puts it on page A6. And for this, they give readers 1,056 words with one black-and-white photo and a map of Iraq.
CBS's David Martin filed a report on today's Early Show on the sacrifice paid in Iraq by small towns across the country as 25 percent of the Iraq war dead are from rural areas compared to 20 percent of the military as a whole hailing from rural America. Martin focused on the July death of Sergeant Victor Anderson in his story. Anderson was a reservist from Ellaville, Georgia, a town with a population of 2,000, which Martin noted in the closing of his report, the same number of US deaths in Iraq.
Martin's piece put a face on the 2,000 benchmark and used the number to illustrate the loss of life in the Iraq war already as equal to that of a small tight-knit, patriotic Southern town. But in August, the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave its readers a fuller look at Anderson as a person, a Reservist who worked hard to lose weight and pass physical muster to be shipped out to Iraq rather than work a desk stateside:
The New York Times again portrays the far-left anti-war outfit IraqBodyCount as an objective source of casualty counts for civilians in Iraq.
Wednesday's story from Baghdad-based Sabrina Tavernise, "Rising Civilian Toll Is the Iraq War's Silent, Sinister Pulse," is clearly intended as a bookend to the paper's front-page story on the 2000th fatality among U.S. troops in Iraq. Iraq Body Count apparently has not issued a new report, so Tavernise is merely referencing the web site's death clock, based on this database of newspaper clippings.
"The war here has claimed about 2,000 American service members, but in the cold calculus of the killing, far more Iraqis have been left dead. The figures vary widely, with Iraqi and American officials reluctant to release even the most incomplete of tallies….In one count, compiled by Iraq Body Count, a United States-based nonprofit group that tracks the civilian deaths using news media reports, the total of Iraqi dead since the American-led invasion is 26,690 to 30,051."
Tavernise never clarifies how many of the dead are being killed by terrorists killing Iraqi civilians, and ignores the far-left nature of the group doing the tally.
The paper also ignored the leftist politics of IBC when it covered the group's July report marking "25,000" civilian deaths. That report referred to the terrorists who kill Iraqi civilians with car bombs as "unknown agents," innocuously defined as "those who do not attack obvious military/strategic or occupation-related targets." The Times didn't mention that.
IBC is also cited in today's front-page James Dao feature on the 2000th U.S. troop fatality in Iraq. As if to underscore that for some journalists everything is Vietnam, over an otherwise moving spread of small photographs and biographies of soldiers killed in Iraq, a subhead reads in part: "The dead come from all branches of the armed services and represent the highest toll since the Vietnam War."
Of course, an average of over 6,000 soldiers died each year during the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War, compared to 2,000 in two-and-a-half-years in Iraq.
In introducing Joe Scarborough this morning, Katie Couric described him a "former Republican congressman." After witnessing his performance, one is prompted to ask: was "former" intended to modify "congressman," or "Republican"?
In any case, Scarborough was living proof of the adage that the kind of Republicans welcome on the Today show are those willing to take swipes at the Bush administration.
Scarborough did so in spades this morning. Speaking of the Plame investigation, Katie asked, in her best butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth ingenue tone:
A New York Times editorial this morning referred to the results of the recent Iraq referendum as being “modestly encouraging”:
“The results of the referendum in Iraq, finally made official yesterday, were at least modestly encouraging, with 79 percent of Iraqis voting in favor of the new constitution.”
To try to put this in perspective, can you imagine 79 percent of Americans agreeing on anything? If a referendum in this nation passed by garnering 79 percent of the votes cast, would any media outlet have the gall to suggest that the result was “modestly encouraging?” Yet, the editorial staff continued:
An overwhelming 79 percent of Iraqis, who risked their lives just over a week ago to cast their ballot, voted in favor of the nation's new constitution, but you'd have missed it if you sneezed during Tuesday's CBS Evening News or ABC's World News Tonight. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer delivered only this single sentence -- “Iraq's government announced today that voters did approve the country's new constitution in this month's referendum” -- before moving on to a full story about the 2,000th death of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, a piece he could not resist introducing without adding this snide aside: "More than 90 percent of the 2,000 who died in the war have died since the President declared major combat was at an end in May 2003.”
On ABC, which had time for a full piece from Terry Moran about the "potentially huge" story of Vice President Cheney's supposed role in the Plame case, anchor Elizabeth Vargas briefly noted how “in Iraq today, there was a milestone on the road to democracy: The official results show that a new constitution was ratified by an overwhelming margin.” That was it for the Iraqi constitution. ABC led with, as Vargas put it, the “terrible milestone” of 2,000 killed in Iraq. Viewers then saw two stories: Martha Raddatz on the anguish of Army medical personnel and Barbara Pinto on parents in an Ohio town who have lost sons in Iraq. (A summary of NBC Nightly News, which did report on the passage, as well as a transcript of Schieffer's presentation, follows.)
Earlier today, CNN.com had a headline on its front page about the 78 percent of Iraqis who voted in support of the constitution. Apparently not wanting to appear pro-Bush, that headline has been removed and replaced with a much more MoveOn-friendly title: U.S. death toll in Iraq hits 2,000.
Currently, nowhere on the front page does it mention the landslide victory in favor of the constitution.
The first half-hour of today's Early Show featured a brief anchor read by Hannah Storm on the 1,998th and 1,999th American deaths in Iraq, followed two segments later with a Bill Plante segment on the Valerie Plame leak investigation (sandwiched between was an obituary for civil rights icon Rosa Parks who died yesterday). At the end of Plante's piece, he suggested the upcoming 2000-fatality benchmark is just the cherry on top of the problems the White House is having with the Miers nomination and the Plame investigation:
Adding to the President's problems, of course, the fact that the U.S. death toll in Iraq will soon pass 2000, and that links directly back to the argument at the heart of the leak investigation, the justification for the war. Hannah?
Yet the particular political tussle which sparked the leak and hence the investigation---the assertions of Valerie Plame's husband Joseph Wilson--- has since been discredited or severely questioned in a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, a fact Plante doesn't mention but was reported prominently at the time, including Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post on July 10, 2004:
The Iraqis have approved their new constitution, but the AP is not real happy about it. Look how quickly they go from good news to bad news in this report:
Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters
Iraq's constitution was adopted by a majority in a fair vote during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, as Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support to defeat it, election officials said Tuesday. A prominent Sunni politician called the balloting "a farce."
The U.S. military also announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in Baghdad, bringing the number of American service members killed in the war to 1,999.
It's almost as though they used the news of the vote as an excuse to rerun the combat death numbers.
I'm on the road this week, but a quick take from this morning's Today.
As it did the day after the Iraqi referendum, Today buried the story today that, with tabulations completed, 78% of Iraqis voted in favor of adopting the proposed new constitution.
At least 10 x more time was accorded to yet more car bombings in Baghdad, Hurricane Wilma and storms in the Northeast. Even the story of some stranded dolphins merited several times more airtime than the Iraqi vote, not to mention some sympathetic tongue-clucking by Katie.
Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post pulled no punches in their front-page article this morning about the challenges currently facing President Bush:
“Rarely has a president confronted as many damaging developments that could all come to a head in this week. A special counsel appears poised to indict one or more administration officials within days. Pressure is building on Bush from within his own party to withdraw the faltering Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. And any day the death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq will pass the symbolically important 2,000 mark.”
Rarely? I guess 9/11 doesn't count, for regardless of what happens this week, it’s got to be a cakewalk by comparison to the days following the first attacks on this country since Pearl Harbor.
My colleague, NBC analyst Geoff Dickens, earlier noted the Today show ruminating on the 2000 casualty-benchmark which may soon be reached in Iraq. CBS's Early Show also featured a story on this theme in their first half-hour. Unlike the Today show, however, the casualty story was not linked with unrelated political stories like the Plame investigation, indeed, the Early Show treatment of that came in the next half hour. Another difference: the Early Show's Syler did ask for positive news (see portion in bold below), from Baghdad-based correspondent Kimberly Dozier on the constitution referendum:
Rene Syler in New York Early Show studio @ 0708 EDT: "In Iraq, the US military approaches a painful milestone. Nearly 2000 American troops have been killed since the war began. Again, today, insurgents are on the attack. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier is live in Baghdad. Good morning, Kim."
After running down all the bad news for the Bush administration on the CIA leak case and front and Harriet Miers fronts Katie Couric and Tim Russert bagged on Bush for Iraq. Couric, completely ignoring the historic election in Iraq just one week ago, instead chose to highlight the expected 2000th death while Russert used Brent Scowcroft to pit father (George Sr.) against son (George W.)
The following is the conversation that took place during the 7:00am hour:
Shortly, the 2,000th death of an American serviceman or woman will occur in Iraq. That will generate an orgy of coverage in the American press on how “deadly” the war is. Sidebars will suggest that citizens are becoming “increasingly doubtful” about the conduct of the war. This Newsbusters article denounces that coverage as dishonest, in advance.
I wrote on 24 April, 2004, that the War on Terror is the LEAST bloody war in the history of the United States, measured by deaths per month. This is true going back to the Revolutionary War, even though the nation’s population then was only 1 percent of what it is today. (In impact on the population, every death in the Revolution was equivalent to about 100 deaths today.)
Many Americans that are truly concerned about bias in the media fear that what is reported by the press will immediately be accepted as fact by the citizenry regardless of accuracy. This morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean cited the opinion of an ABC News correspondent, Martha Raddatz, as evidence that rampant fraud occurred in the recent Iraq referendum (video link of Raddatz's comments to follow):
Dean: Secondly, on "Washington Week" this week Martha Raddatz from ABC said she had recorded on tape I believe that she saw a gentleman come in, fill out seven ballots, yes, yes, yes and stick them all in the box. If that's what we're fighting for in Iraq, we don't belong there.
After the momentous elections in Iraq that approved the constitution and produced a higher voter turnout than in America, you'd think the media would want to give the events more coverage.... Actually, at this point I'm not surprised, nor are many regular readers at NewsBusters.
Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review that with no bad news to report from Iraq, the "race riot" in Toledo was needed to keep bad news in front of the public. And what better bad news than neo-Nazis causing outraged "civil rights activists" to steal TVs?
According to Hanson, the events in Toledo looked "more like Iraq than Iraq" to MSM newsmakers.
"Something must be going on when the cable-news outlets could not whet their appetite for carnival-like violence and pyrotechnics in Iraq, and so diverted their attention to Toledo, where live streams of American looting and arson seemed to be more like Iraq than Iraq."
Fernando Díaz Villanueva in the Spain Herald came up with a mock news story that seems strangly familiar.
Around three hundred French civilians were murdered yesterday and an undetermined number were injured during the first hours of the American invasion of continental Europe. Most of the French victims were due to artillery shots coming from the American fleet that was trying to hit German fortifications on the coast before thousands of soldiers proceeded to land on several of the beaches. According to sources in the improvised hospital in the town of Saint Mere Eglise, the slaughter was worse than French and Germans anticipated. “We are dropping like flies” said an eye witness who preferred to remain anonymous. “The Americans came in killing like mad men, I never thought I would say this, but life was better with Adolf Hitler”......
"Unofficial sources connected to the Roosevelt administration admit the harshness of the intervention, which they say was based on information provided by Albert Einstien, a German scientist who sent a letter to the President in order to warn him of the possibility of the Nazis developing the ultimate weapon known as the “atom bomb.” The effect such weapon would be terrible and cause an unheard of number of victims. Just one explosion would kill thousands and devastate the atmosphere. Hitler has, on many occasions, denied having this “bomb,” something international inspectors confirmed while traveling in the Reich for two weeks.
"Shortly after the invasion started, cases of abuse against German soldiers captured after the landing have been reported. These abuses violate the Geneva Agreement on prisoners of war. In the meantime, rumors persist about supposed mistreatment the Germans are inflicting on the Central European Jews in the so-called “concentration camps,” but nothing has been proved yet."
Over at the letters page of Romenesko, former New York Times U.N. Bureau Chief Barbara Crossette complains about the conservative, anti-Kofi Annan agenda of Judith Miller:
Over the last year or so, Judith Miller also wrote a series of damaging reports on the "oil for food" scandal at the United Nations -- in particular, personally damaging to Secretary General Kofi Annan because the reports were frequently based on half-truths or hearsay peddled on Capitol Hill by people determined to force Annan out of office. At the UN, this was interpreted as payback for the UN's refusal to back the US war in Iraq. As a former NYT UN bureau chief [now retired] I have been asked repeatedly by diplomats, former US government officials, journalists still reporting from the organization and others why Times editors did not step in to question some of this reporting -- a lot of it proved wrong by the recent report by Paul Volcker -- or why the paper seemed to be on a vendetta against the UN. The Times answered that question Sunday in its page one report on the Miller affair. Ms. Run Amok had at least one very highly placed friend at the paper, and many Timespeople were afraid to tangle with her because of that.
The front of Wednesday's Sports section features a profile of Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas by Ira Berkow, "A Center Fakes Right, Goes Left, Speaks Out."
Berkow is proud of Thomas for speaking out against the Iraq war and Bush, stating that Thomas "spoke about his resistance to the war in Iraq and recited his poetry on the subject before hundreds of thousands of people at the Operation Ceasefire rally, held in the shadow of the Washington Monument....Thomas, 27, writes with passion about the necessity of education for young people, argues against the death penalty, laments teenage pregnancy and deplores the insensitivity, as he sees it, of the Bush administration toward blacks. He also skewers the gang mentality of some in the inner city."
Berkow quotes some of Thomas' poems ("The essence of their happiness/Cloaked in a web of lies/As far as their eyes can see/They're doomed.") and his even less coherent political diatribes: "Thomas has been active with causes involving the American Civil Liberties Union and the Congressional Black Caucus, and helped raise money and supplies for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 'Do you really think, had this been a rich, lily-white suburban area, instead of one mostly poor and black, that got hit, the administration would have waited five days to get food or water to those people?' Thomas said. 'When the hurricane hit in Florida, Bush made sure those people got those supplies the next day.'"
Incidentally, the far-left Nation magazine profiled Thomas over a month ago saying almost exactly the same thing.
The Times claims to like it when athletes speak out on politics -- but apparently, only when it's in an anti-Bush direction. When tennis star Jennifer Capriati wanted to support the troops by having Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad" played during the warm-up for one of her matches in Miami in March 2003, the NYT's liberal sportswriter Selena Roberts sniffed: "Politics aside, her logic was questionable. How uplifting is a song illuminated by such abrasive lyrics?"