In a deliciously ironic twist of fate, shortly before airing a segment aimed at embarrassing the Bush administration by suggesting that it had staged a video conversation between the president and soldiers in Iraq, the Today show was caught staging . . . a video stunt.
In the Bush/Iraq segment, Today screened footage indicating that prior to engaging in a video conversation with President Bush, soldiers on the ground in Iraq were given tips by a Department of Defense official.
But the only advice that the official was shown as giving was a suggestion to one solider to "take a little breath" before speaking to the president so he would actually be speaking to him. It was also stated that some of the soldiers practiced their comments so as to appear as articulate as possible. But there was no indication, or even allegation, that the soldiers were coached as to the substance of their comments or in any way instructed what to say.
As Brent Baker noted last night, the networks were far more excited about the supposed scandal of the administration having “a staged event” where the President talked by satellite with soldiers serving in Iraq. (Speaking of “staged,” how often do you think Brian Williams or Bob Schieffer sit down in the anchor chair and just wing it?)
Andrea Mitchell pretty much gave it away on Thursday’s Nightly News, allowing that “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events. And often the news media ignore the choreography.” But the networks didn’t want to “ignore the choreography” yesterday, because it didn’t fit their spin. Mitchell preferred to expose what she called “a rare look behind the curtain of a White House trying to sell an increasingly unpopular war.”
If the Iraq war is “increasingly unpopular” — and polls suggest it is — one reason may be because the broadcast networks have heavily skewed their news agenda toward the bad news coming out of Iraq: car bombings, U.S. casualties, terrorist attacks, squabbling among Iraqi politicians, etc., etc.
I just finished a study of every Iraq story aired on the three broadcast network evening newscasts this year, from January 1 through September 30, nearly 1,400 stories. (More)
Thursday's NBC Nightly News led, yes led, with how, as anchor Brian Williams put it, President Bush had that morning conducted “a staged event" via satellite with ten U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi soldier in Iraq. “Today's encounter was billed as spontaneous,” Williams intoned. “Instead, it appeared to follow a script.” Andrea Mitchell warned that “the troops were coached on how to answer the Commander-in-Chief” and, indeed, not until two minutes into her three-minute story -- after showing clips of how a DOD official had told the soldiers the questions Bush would ask -- did Mitchell note how “the White House and at least one of the soldiers says the troops weren't told what to say, just what the President would ask." So, the answers were not staged. The soldiers, naturally nervous about appearing on live TV with the President of the United States, were simply told who should answer which question and to “take a breath” before answering. Scandalous! Over video of Bush on the aircraft carrier, Mitchell went on to remind viewers of how “this isn't the first time this administration used troops to help sell the Iraq war.” But she also admitted a media double-standard: “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events and often the news media ignore the choreography.”
ABC's World News Tonight also devoted a full story, though not the lead, to the media-generated controversy. Terry Moran contended that “the fact that this was so carefully choreographed...shows just how urgently the White House wants not just a success on the ground in Iraq, but a PR success at home for this embattled President." Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer opined that “unfortunately for the President, after satellite cameras caught administration aides rehearsing the soldiers beforehand, Democrats dismissed the whole thing and said the troops deserved a lot better.” Lara Logan managed to cover other material in her story and uniquely showcased a soldier who told CBS: "The truth is that everything that was said was meant to be said, though it may have sounded scripted in some places. Nerves kick in, for one. Two, everyone puts their thoughts together. You put it down, you go over and over it a hundred times."
MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann also led Thursday with the “staged” event and the AP distributed a story breathlessly headlined, “Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged.” But on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume noted complaints the event was "not entirely spontaneous" before Carl Cameron pointed out that Bush posed an unplanned question to the Iraqi soldier. In the panel segment, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon recalled how when “back in December” a soldier asked Rumsfeld about armor, a question that “had been planted by a reporter, I didn't hear any outcry from the press.” (UPDATE with CNN coverage and transcripts follow.)
Search as you may, it will still be difficult for you to find much good news about anything taking place in either Afghanistan or Iraq. It isn’t that positive news is in short supply. It is the “If it bleeds It leads” mentality of the mainstream media that keeps death and bombings in the headlines and relatively uplifting accomplishments banished to the inside pages of publications and almost always omitted from radio and television newscasts.
According to American military personnel communicating with friends and family, there is important progress being made all across Iraq. The problem is few correspondents will leave the security of Baghdad’s Green Zone to cover the events. Those who do write on significant accomplishments claim their stories get little attention by editors in the networks and newsrooms. The selective editing by those who control the content of news reports reflects a strong tendency by the media to tilt in favor of left-leaning ideas on the war.
NBC's Tim Russert proclaimed, "It's a year away but the Democrats are feeling almost giddy this morning," as he ran down the negative news from NBC's own poll. Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with a teaser for the Russert political analysis segment:
Lauer: "Then to Washington where it rains it really pours. President Bush says he doesn't look at the poll numbers. He might not want to. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows his approval rating is at its lowest level ever. And there's some astounding numbers when it comes to African-Americans and their support for the President. Tim Russert's gonna be here and crunch those numbers in a little while."
During the media's coverage of Katrina the race card was played again and again so it's no surprise that Lauer and Russert led with the fruits of their labor.
Josh Rushing served as a Pentagon spokesman in Doha in 2003, during the first months of the invasion of Iraq. Now he is joining an all-English network owned by Al Jazeera. The new network, Al Jazeera International, is set to launch next year.
Joining him will be BBC veteran journalist Sir David Frost.
Rushing will report from the bureau in Washington and Frost will be in London.
Rushing was featured in "Control Room," a documentary about American efforts to create a positive image during the early stages of the war.
The former Marine, who quit the services to join Al Jazeera, did not like the Pentagon's reluctance to grant interviews to the news channel.
"I was struggling to get them interviews and access. This was the best way to address their Arab audience and we were blowing it because we thought they were critical."
The results of the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were released last night, and pressrooms around the nation appeared to be pleased. “NBC Nightly News” reported it this way (video link to follow):
Tim Russert: Brian, not good news for George W. Bush's second term thus far. Only 39% of Americans approve his job. 54% disapproval. That 39% approval is the lowest in the five years of his presidency. And Brian, listen to this: Only 2%, 2% of African Americans in the United States approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency. The lowest we've ever seen in that particular measurement.
Sharyn Alfonsi was at it again on the “CBS Evening News.” In her ongoing tour of the country seeking poignant war stories, tonight she found a great one – twelve people protesting against the Iraq war in Birmingham, Alabama. She spoke with Vietnam war veteran, David Waters:
Alfonsi: Today at 59, Waters wants the U.S. out of Iraq and says he is not the only one.
Waters: Opposition to the war is definitely growing, yes.
Alfonsi: Even in the south?
Waters: Even in the south, yes.
Alfonsi: So we stopped by a weekly anti-war protest in Birmingham today, where we met Susan Mims, another Vietnam vet. But there's only about a dozen people here.
Alfonsi finished her report by saying, “The anti-war movement here is really nothing more than a murmur.”
Actually, with a population of 242,820, I’m not sure that twelve qualifies as a murmur.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
For two days, all parts of the American press have been reporting a "constitutional compromise" which has "gained the support of a main Sunni political party." With this compromise, it is expected that upwards of half the Sunnis (a 20% minority in Iraq) will support its new Constitution, and it will be ratified in the vote on Saturday.
All well and good. But hasn't anyone in the press recalled certain adventures of James Madison? (He was in all the papers.) We in the United States have been through exactly the same process. But NO ONE in the American press has, so far, remembered and mentioned that fact.
There was a bitter fight between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists in Philadelphia in 1787, whether we would have a new Constitution. And if so, what would be the powers of the new federal government. When the Constitution was submitted to Congress for its review, and afterwards to the states for their ratification, that same fight spilled out to the state capitols.
Does the MSM sense blood in the Bush administration water? That seems to be the case, judging from the breathtaking accusation that Katie Couric just leveled at it.
The context was Couric's interview of Chris Matthews on the subject of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into possible leaks in the Valerie Plame affair.
Matthews was hostile enough, musing whether the Bush administration "in defending themselves against the charge we went to war for a corrupt or bogus reason, that there wasn't any weaponry, a deal with nuclear weapons, did they break the law?"
But even that was insufficiently venomous for Katie's taste. She cut Matthews off peremptorily, interjecting:
"Yeah, and Chris isn't it more than just Iraq, doesn't it speak about the way this White House possibly operates?" Couric risibly sought a fig leaf of cover from what was clearly her own opinion by tacking on at the end of her question "in the minds of some."
Sharyn Alfonsi did a story on “The CBS Evening News” tonight that brought me to tears. Now, I don’t know whether the intention was to stoke anti-war sentiment, or just to show how children at Fort Benning, Georgia are coping with their parents being deployed to Iraq.
Frankly, I don’t care, for this was an absolutely heartrending segment that I think all Americans regardless of political leaning should watch.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews led Monday’s Hardball by framing the Valerie Plame case around her husband Joe Wilson’s spin on the case, despite inconsistencies in his claims and how a much more innocent explanation is equally plausible -- that White House officials just wanted to explain why such a publicity-seeking critic, who claimed he was on a mission for the Vice President, would have been sent to Niger to check out whether Iraq sought uranium. “If you don't think this leak case matters,” Matthews intoned, “ask yourself what was the most frightening case you heard for going to war with Iraq? Probably it was that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium yellow cake in Africa to build nuclear weapons.” Matthews insisted that “the Vice President repeated with military precision, almost like a Gatling gun. Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons.” Matthews declared: “But it wasn't true. There's no evidence even now that Saddam tried to buy nuclear materials in Africa.” The British, however, maintain there is such evidence.
Matthews proceeded to provide the most nefarious interpretation of conversations between White House officials and journalists: “Did they try and kill the messenger? Did they use the enormous media power of the White House to discredit the ambassador, his mission and his wife at the CIA who suggested him for the mission? And in doing so, did they abuse the office and the power to which the President was elected? Did they break the law? Did they conspire to punish a critic of the war?”
After Monday's CBS Evening News showed a clip of a Marine recruit at Parris Island explaining that he volunteered because “I want to be fighting the evils that did what they did to us on September 11th," reporter Sharyn Alfonsi related how “all three of the recruits we sat down with say they enlisted because of September 11th.” Alfonsi, however, couldn't let such an apparent link between 9/11 and the war in Iraq go unchallenged and so she quickly admonished the naive recruits as she stressed how “politicians will argue whether the war and 9/11 are related” -- though she added that “clearly here, to these recruits, the two are inseparable."
Alfonsi's clarification about 9/11 connections came in an otherwise very positive story about three Marine recruits and their disappointment that more Americans are not closely following the war. Her piece was the first of a new series, “CBS News Road Tour: The Home Front,” which will take Alfonsi and her mini-van to Ft. Benning in Georgia on Tuesday. Full transcript follows.
Last month, I noticed after a few seconds of Googling that "novice protester" Patrice Cuddy of Kansas, highlighted by Washington Post reporter Petula Dvorak, was not a novice at all, and could be easily found marching against the war before it even began in 2003. Chris Fotos at PostWatch notes that the Post finally put up a "correction" of sorts yesterday, drily acknowledging that "Cuddy had participated in three other large rallies against the war, two in Washington and one in New York."
But then look what Fotos found on the Post website: in the correction appended to the story, it betrayed a clue into the real feeling at the Post: "A Sept. 23 Metro article about people coming to Washington for the Sept. 24 demonstration against the war in Iraq described ^ (don't want to say "incorrectly" in this case) Patrice Cuddy, 56, of Olathe, Kan., as a novice protester. Cuddy had participated in three other large rallies against the war, two in Washington and one in New York." How on Earth would someone in charge of "corrections" say they wouldn't want to say it's "incorrect" in this case? They "don't want to" give off the appearance of caring about accuracy more than political impact?
In one of Newsweek’s online chats, political reporter Howard Fineman is floored by the hard-left harangues the chatters are offering up. (It’s par for the course for this site, but let’s hope Fineman doesn’t think of this gang as representative of public opinion in general. It might be representative of Newsweek subscribers in general.) The headline: Fineman’s circle thinks the GOP is toast in ‘06, and a little puzzled that Newsweek is being mistaken for a Republican shill sheet :
Las Cruces, NM: Why are there not calls for Mr. Bush's resignation or impeachment?...Could there be a public referendum—an open election with no Republican-led Electoral College—by the people, for the country's future? Howard Fineman: I've been hearing impeachment stuff for a few months or more now. I doubt that it will come to that, but the consensus here now is that the Repubs are going to get whacked next year.
Asked this afternoon on FNC's DaySide whether “good things” happening in Iraq are being overlooked by the U.S. media, Kayla Williams, an Arabic interpreter for the U.S. Army who held the rank of Sergeant and appeared on FNC to tout her new book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, replied: “Absolutely.” She explained that “one of the things that sticks out most clearly in my mind would be driving down the road and we would pass schools where children were getting to go to school for the first time in a generation. They would lean out their windows of their classrooms cheering and waving to us in their little school uniforms. And you don't see the images of soldiers passing out school supplies."
National Guardsman Jason Christopher Hartley, author ofJust Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq, offered a more generous assessment of media coverage, pointing out that even if you have good news on water treatment plants, voting and schools, but in “the process of those things, three civilians get killed,” then “there's going to be a lot of focus on that” and, therefore, “there is enough horrible things happening that kind of like overshadows maybe all of the great things that might take place there." Transcripts of the exchanges follow.
Our friends at the American Thinker have found a fabulous piece about falsified Iraq war propaganda at a British website called Sir Humphrey’s. What SH has identified is a series of pictures of “insurgents” in Iraq taken by an Associated Press and Reuters photographer that clearly appear to have been posed or set up. Even better, the same posed vignettes became part of a BBC report about violence in Iraq.
I may be a little late to the linking party, but InstaPundit brought many to this fascinating "Anatomy of a Photograph" from the Zombietime blog about a San Francisco Chronicle photograph from the local "peace" rally on September 24. If you haven't seen it, take a look. Every step back adds what Dan Rather loves to call "context and perspective." The truth about the "peace" organizers and marchers gets clearer. Many are vulgar. Many are not exactly geopolitically in sync with the USA (especially the girl in the Vietnam flag shirt).
The Chronicle got enough complaints, so they felt they had to respond on Sunday:
The Associated Press published an article today about Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s new album, with much focus given to one song that contains an anti-war theme, as well as Streisand’s political leanings:
“Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb hadn't worked together in 25 years. But Gibb still knew the best way to express what Streisand was thinking -- especially when it came to the war in Iraq.”
“‘I loved the first stanza, because to me this war is kind of senseless, and I don't know why we're there,’ Streisand told The Associated Press.”
There are suspicions surrounding the faux-martyrdom of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who decided she'd rather go to jail than reveal a source in the Valerie Plame case. The source turned out to be Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
Even liberal reporter Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post suspected grandstanding. As reported by Newsbusters' Ken Shepherd, Froomkin said on Sept. 30:
"Can it be? That after all that, New York Times reporter Judith Miller sat in jail for 12 weeks to protect the confidentiality of a very senior White House aide -- even though the aide repeatedly made it clear he didn't want protecting?...
The letter from Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger called on Warner to raise widespread media concerns about the conduct of U.S. troops with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee on Thursday.
Schlesinger referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by U.S. forces in Iraq."
He urged Warner to demand that Rumsfeld resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the U.S. forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law"...
On CNN's “American Morning” today, host Miles O’Brien and correspondent Aneesh Raman downplayed the significance of the announcement that the number 2 al Qaeda operative in Iraq was killed on Sunday by a joint Iraq/U.S. maneuver. In fact, their exchange suggested that even if the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was killed or captured, things still wouldn’t improve in that country:
RAMAN: But, Miles, it's always unclear whether the capture of anyone outside of the Zarqawi himself, will really impede this organization.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, you have to ask the question, if they get Zarqawi, will that stop it either?
Yet, maybe more interesting is that the report began with Raman discussing a suicide bombing in Baqubah that killed nine innocent Iraqis rather than the news about the death of the #2 al Qaeda operative.
What follows is a complete transcript of this report, and a video link.
The dramatic aftermath of Hurricane Rita moved the latest “antiwar” rally to page 12 on Sunday's New York Times (although the front page accidentally sent readers to page 14). But the warp and woof of the reporting was the same. Reporter/publicist Michael Janofsky’s report followed all the traditional rules.
1. Highlight the massive turnout. “Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.” Give Janofsky credit for noticing the rally’s central focus: anti-Bush anger.
2. Channel protest-organizer claims that this wasn’t another scattershot rally attacking every problem from a different radical direction. “[B]ut unlike the more varied themes of recent protests against administration policies, antiwar sentiment on Saturday was consistent throughout.” This certainly does not match conservative reporter Byron York at National Review : “For a demonstration that was ostensibly about the war, there was a lot of talk about other things. Especially Katrina.”
On this morning's Today Katie Couric and Tim Russert looked like NFL linebackers diving for a loose ball as they piled on Bush from so many different directions. First up was the gas price angle:
Couric: "I know the President is calling on the American public to conserve gasoline by driving less and he even sent a memo to all federal agency and department heads saying, the federal government, quote, 'must lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time.' How much political pressure is the President under given these rising fuel costs?"
Russert: "Enormous, Katie. It's the one issue that cuts across all class and geographic lines and as we just heard in Alexis' report it's not only gasoline cost for this fall but come this winter particularly in the Midwest and Northeast there's expectations that fuel heating costs can go up as much as 70 percent. Enormous political pressure. Why? Those are the battleground, undecided states that Republicans must continue to control to retain and control both houses of Congress."
Saturday's “anti-war” protest in Washington, DC featured a long list of little-known characters from a litany of far-left and even further out groups with an America-hating agenda. But amongst the speakers on the stage, as shown live by C-SPAN, was actress Jessica Lange. She denounced President Bush's “propensity to lie” and how he's “a man who traffics in deadly lies.” Lange argued that those behind the war want “a continuing military presence in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan.” Citing how “not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet,” she charged that “this disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart.” Lange also maintained that “when I hear his empty words with phrases like 'armies of compassion' or 'culture of responsibility,' I understand how deep their mendacity runs: They are a lie.”
Back in 2002 in Spain, Lange claimed “the election was stolen by George Bush and we have been suffering ever since under this man’s leadership” and that “it is an embarrassing time to be an American. It really is. It’s humiliating.” That won her the “The I’m Not a Geopolitical Genius But I Play One on TV Award” at the MRC's DisHonors Awards. For a RealPlayer video clip.
Full transcript of her Saturday rant at the rally follows.
Roy Hallums, the American hostage rescued September 7, 2005 appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss how life was when he was held captive and when he returned home. Lesley Stahl conducted the interview and tried ever so hard to get Roy to give an anti-Bush remark.
STAHL: Has anyone from our government called you, like our President? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Senator? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Congressman? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Noone? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Nothing? HALLUMS: No, no one has called me. STAHL: How do you feel about that? (with a huge grin) HALLUMS: If nobody calls thats small potatoes compared to what I was in. You know, I'm just happy to be back.
On ABC’s “This Week”, host George Stephanopoulos cherry-picked a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, and referenced yesterday’s anti-war rally, to press Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) on how to pay for New Orleans reconstruction:
“Seems like the American people disagree with you across the board. Let me show you this poll from 'USA Today'/CNN/Gallup poll. How should we pay? 54% say cut Iraq spending, 17% say raise taxes, 15% say increase the deficit. Only 6% say cut the spending you're talking about.”
This last sentence is a misrepresentation of the poll results as well as McCain’s statement. What Stephanopoulos neglected to mention is that this poll question asked, "If you had to choose, which of the following would you say would be the best way for the government to pay for the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina: increase the federal budget deficit, raise taxes, cut spending for the war in Iraq, or cut spending for domestic programs such as education and health care?"
McCain wasn’t talking about cutting education or health care. McCain was talking about cutting pork out of fat pieces of legislation like the Highway Bill:
As part of its massive love letter to the left-over hippies and their anti-war march in D.C. yesterday, the Washington Post left out some pretty laughable details. While one Style section piece called protester Cindy Sheehan “the Rosa Parks of this generation,” the Post ignored the true nature of the event, evident to those who tuned in to the speakers on C-Span.
Viewers of the C-Span broadcast got to see the wide range of wackos that filled the stage protesting virtually everything except the war in Iraq -- from Israel, to Puerto Rico to Haiti, racism and Katrina. Toward the end, the speakers nearly outnumbered the audience, outraging lefties watching from their homes who filled the Internet with complaints about their own protest. Finding mention of the organizing group A.N.S.W.E.R. and its true anti-U.S. and anti-Israel agenda was hard to do if you relied on the Post.
LONDON — A former ABC News correspondent accused the network of dropping his contract because he refused to go to Iraq and other war zones, and he sought $4.2 million in lost earnings at an employment tribunal Friday.
ABC says war zone assignments are voluntary and argues that the decision not to renew Richard Gizbert's freelance contract was motivated by budget pressures.
Mimi Gurbst, ABC's vice president of news coverage, said at the hearing that Gizbert was one of many staffers dropped after she was ordered to cut costs by 10 percent over two years. She said those laid off included many who regularly accepted assignments in conflict zones, and Gizbert's refusal to do so was not the reason for his dismissal.