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.
A few weeks ago, the Washington Post newsroom forced the Post to back out of sponsoring a "Freedom Walk" on September 11 sponsored by the Pentagon, since that would compromise their appearance of neutrality. (On the bright side, the controversy actually caused the Post to give that event front-page coverage, rare for a perceived "pro-war" rally.) But the Post newsroom has no protest when they publish stories on "anti-war" rallies that are nothing but press releases -- especially when they trot out the two common protest publicity angles: that (1) the war's so unpopular that there will be protest rookies/newbies/virgins; and (2) the protesters come from all political ideologies. These are both attempts to rebut the skeptical reader's question about the newsworthiness of these protests: Isn't it just the same motley crew of America-bashers, and are they really representative of America as a whole? But the Post carries major protester water today with the top of the Metro section carrying a story/press release with the headline "Antiwar Rally Will Be First for Many: Focused Message Draws Protesters of All Stripes."
On the Thursday, September 22, 2005, 4 pm PDT broadcast of the National Public Radio (NPR) news, newscaster Corey Flintoff appeared to give Cindy Sheehan's forthcoming anti-war demonstration a free plug. After playing an audio clip of President Bush from a press briefing at the Pentagon, Flintoff tagged the clip with the following (audiotape on file):
"The President spoke ahead of an anti-war protest planned in Washington on Saturday by activists, including Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan helped to coalesce opposition to the war by leading a month-long protest outside President Bush's ranch in Texas."
It has often been noted, throughout history, that one of the problems of unsuccessful leaders is that they spend time fighting the last war, instead of the next one. The US media has been as guilty of that as any group ever in their coverage of Iraq, being determined since day 1 to fit it into the Vietnam template of unnecessary and unpopular war, led by incompetent dishonest leaders, resulting in a quagmire. Every piece of news gets run through that Vietnam filter (which is why we see quotes from the people doing the work over there saying that "if I got my news from the newspapers also I'd be pretty depressed as well!")
Well, the Associated Press is at it again (Bush's Words on Iraq Echo LBJ in 1967). And they've dropped any pretense to subtlety. Apparently concerned that all of the Vietnam talk, all of the quagmire speak for the last three years hasn't made it clear for the people to understand, the AP has decided that it's time to run a news story explaining to everyone why Iraq is Vietnam, and why Bush is LBJ, a President who became so unpopular that he failed to even run for re-election. Almost two months ago, the President made a fairly generic comment, of a sort that he's made repeatedly over the past 3 years, that "we will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq." Last night, someone at the AP finally discovered that, hey! Lyndon Johnson said something like that in 1967!
Phil Donahue (more like Dona-who?) appeared on The O’Reilly Factor
tonight and battled it out with Bill. While discussing the War in Iraq,
Donahue told Bill he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he
doesn’t have a family member serving. Actually, Donahue is the one who
doesn’t know what he’s talking about because Bill’s nephew just
enlisted. O’Reilly gave Donahue the yelling of a life time for
disgracing the service of his nephew.
The hurricane may have knocked anti-war Bush-hater Cindy Sheehan off the news pages of the New York Times, but she still has enough liberal cred to make a local splash, as shown in a Monday Metro Section report in the Times by Marc Santora on Sheehan's visit to a church in Brooklyn, "Mother Who Lost Son in Iraq Continues Fight Against War."
"Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, last night brought her campaign to end the war to New York, where she accused Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of not doing enough to challenge the Bush administration's Iraq policies. Speaking in front of more than 500 supporters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Ms. Sheehan, speaking of Senator Clinton, said, 'She knows that the war is a lie but she is waiting for the right time to say it.'"
Santora ignores the far-left nature of Sheehan's posse: "Since leaving Texas, Ms. Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., has been traveling around the country, rallying people against the war. Her entourage includes other parents who lost their children in the war, families of soldiers overseas, and veterans who have returned from Iraq."
Santora also ignores Sheehan's latest bizarre statement, but the New York Sun did not, noting: "Ms. Sheehan wrote a letter posted on filmmaker Michael Moore's Web site in which she accused the federal government of evacuating people unnecessarily in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. 'George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power,' she wrote."
Just 40 minutes into the Emmy Awards presentations Sunday night on CBS, Blythe Danner, in accepting the award (picture of acceptance) for the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Showtime’s Huff, relayed views she attributed to her late husband Bruce Paltrow, best known as the producer of St. Elsewhere, though it was unclear if her political statement about Iraq, coming after a tribute to New Orleans, was her own or just what she believed her husband would have thought: "I know Bruce would want me to pay tribute to New Orleans, his favorite city, and all the Gulf Coast and our kids in Iraq. Let's get the heck out of there!” Just under two hours later, however, in accepting (picture of acceptance) the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her starring role on NBC’s Medium, Patricia Arquette delivered a classier appreciation of the troops in Iraq. She announced: “My prayer for you is that when you get home you can come home safe and sound."
Afterwards, on the E cable channel’s post-Emmy coverage, Arquette elaborated: “I think even though the troops aren’t on television all the time, they’re part of our country and it’s important to remember they’re there and to reach out and remind them that we haven’t forgotten them.”
On to promote her book Talking Back, NBC's Andrea Mitchell offered a mea culpa on pre-war reporting and asked to recall her favorite interviews called Fidel Castro, "engaging" and Bill Clinton, "fun."
At 8:44 am Katie Couric began the interview asking Mitchell about her start in the business and how it has changed.
Couric: "Well you know obviously a lot has changed in the business since you started and you've been at NBC since 1978, right? Andrea how has, how has newsgathering changed? I guess the technology..."
Mitchell: "Oh it's, it's completely different and that's one of the reasons I wrote the book because we are now in this environment where everyone is being inundated by information. There's the internet and cable and broadcasting. When I started there were three broadcast networks. There was a 6:30 news or a 7:00 o'clock news. That was it. And now you have so many different choices and I think people are really, not only confused, but we've seen the polling. Our own credibility is, you know, has really gone down. So as journalists I think we have to be concerned about our profession and particularly after the war and the misjudgments that we and political, you know, leaders made. We have to ask ourselves so I wrote about that. I took a really hard look at myself, my colleagues and political people."
On Friday’s Good Morning America, ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Barbara Walters, while doing a promo for her upcoming interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell to be aired on 20/20 later that evening, appear to have distorted the meaning of some of Powell’s statements:
Gibson: There's a number of things in this. Number one you ask about whether he, he laid out in that speech some connection between terrorism and Saddam Hussein and you asked him about that.
Walters to Powell: When you learned that you had been misled how did you feel?
This is creative editing to make a point different than what Powell was stating. Gibson asked Walters about a connection between terrorism and Saddam Hussein. However, Walters’ question to Powell about having been misled was concerning weapons of mass destruction. This is how the ABC News website related the exchange:
Over at That Liberal Media, Jim Miller notes that the September issue of the American Enterprise magazine has three numbers from a Nexis search that tell a tale about the news media's priorities in covering the war in Iraq. Paul Smith, a 33-year-old married man with two children, won the Medal of Honor for giving his life for his country. Lynndie England won infamy for grinning through pictures of prisoner humiliation at Abu Ghraib. "Koran abuse" was all the rage as a news story soon after. The magazine's count of Nexis mentions:
ABC's Terry Moran this afternoon put politics at the forefront in hurricane disaster coverage when, on a storm-ravaged Biloxi street, he confronted President Bush about how “one of the things you hear here is people saying 'there's a lot of resources being devoted to Iraq. Now this country needs them.' And they're frustrated about that. What do you say to the people who say there's too much money being spent on Iraq and it's time to bring it home?” ABC News led its 1:22pm EDT special with anchor Dan Harris insisting that spending on Iraq is “a common complaint -- what we're hearing from many people about the resources being spent in Iraq.”
In the middle of a Thursday CBS Evening News story on the destruction in Slidell, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, reporter Mark Strassmann showcased a distraught man “with a message for the President” who blasted Bush for how he responded in Iraq while not doing so for Louisiana. Anthony Nata charged: "You can go into Iraq and come in with big helicopters and set stuff up for people, but you can't do this for us? Come on, Bush. You can do better than that."
Over video of flattened houses, Strassmann set up that soundbite from Nata: “This community is a landscape of loss -- subdivision after subdivision flattened or flooded. Police whisper to you they suspect hundreds of bodies in those homes. Anthony and Edith Nata now live in a lean-to by the side of the road with a message for the President.”
Of course, going into Iraq took months of logistical and transport efforts.
As the pressure mounts on the media to figure out more and more creative ways to blame the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Bush administration, a front-page New York Times article by David Sanger appears to lay the post-hurricane looting right at the White House doorstep:
Even before Hurricane Katrina, governors were beginning to question whether National Guard units stretched to the breaking point by service in Iraq would be available for domestic emergencies. Those concerns have now been amplified by scenes of looting and disorder.
Live from the White House in the 7am EDT half hour of Thursday’s Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer pressed President George W. Bush to respond to a series of liberal talking points, starting with how “people have worried that the National Guard is stretched too thin” with “so many overseas” in Iraq. Later, she demanded: “Do we have to make a choice, at some point, between what we're doing in Iraq and what is needed, right now, to funnel massive amounts of money” to the hurricane victims? She also wanted Bush to “guard against price gouging” and wondered: “Is this a time to call on Americans to simply pull back, not use the gas? Pull back and stay at home and save the gas for those who are in dire need." Sawyer forwarded how “some people have said that the oil companies, themselves, should simply forfeit some of their profits in this time of national crisis.” She suggested the federal government owes everyone a job as she asked “how far the federal government is going to go to get their lives back? Do you promise jobs? Do you promise that they will be moved back into housing, and how soon?"
At about 4:40pm EDT this afternoon on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell marveled at how Venezuela, “perhaps with a bit of a sense of irony,” has offered assistance despite the call by Pat Robertson, whom she identified as a “colleague” of the Bush administration, for the assassination of Venezuela's President. Chris Matthews soon piped up about how “we often argue about states' rights and the need to reduce the size of the federal government, yet in a crisis, it's the federal government which has the resources, the money, the manpower, the personpower I should say, to do the job.”
Mitchell contended FEMA was ineffective until Bill Clinton became President and was going well until a second Bush took over the White House. She contended that “since the Clinton days,” FEMA has shown “that it can move very effectively,” but “we've seen also, post-9/11, that federal disaster assistance and coordination was sorely lacking.” She also wanted to know “how much the National Guard deployments from around the region to Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world has depleted the resources that were available?”
As I reported here yesterday, a Washington Post/ABC News poll suggesting that all of the attention on antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan has had absolutely no effect on America’s views on Iraq appeared to be buried by the Post’s editors. Well, this observation not only panned out, but became even more curious when the story hit this morning’s print edition with a completely different headline, and a thoroughly different focus. And, it appears that the Post has eliminated the story originally posted at its website yesterday at 7 AM eastern time.
Harlingen, Texas, August 30, 2005: The Miami Herald had another Abu Ghraib story this past Saturday. In an Associated Press article by Charles J. Hanley, the headline announced, “Abu Ghraib general describes her Iraq tour”
The article’s opening paragraph reads, “Iraqi prisoners could lift their doors right off their hinges. One senior sergeant whiled away his evenings blasting grazing sheep with a guard tower machine gun. U. S. commanders didn’t bother telling their troops they’d be stuck in Iraq for months more than advertised.”
It next goes on to explain that the only woman commanding general in the war zone, prison chief Janis Karpinski, has written a candid portrait of an often dysfunctional Army.
This was printed in one of those major daily newspapers that so proudly proclaim they support the men and women in uniform. If they are so supportive, why are stories on the degradation of prisoners in Abu Ghraib featured in print over and over again, and the heroic exploits of those in uniform seldom reported?
As Brit Hume pointed out in his FOX News broadcast today, the NY Times reported that the President said protesters like Cindy Sheehan were weakening the United States and emboldening terrorists. Here's NY Times writer, Elisabeth Bumiller's, direct quote:
"Mr. Bush has been careful not to go on a direct attack against a publicly grieving mother like Ms. Sheehan, and has pointed out that he met with her once already, in 2004, and that he has sympathy for her and her right to protest. Still, he said last week that protesters like her were weakening the United States and emboldening terrorists, and vowed that he would not immediately withdraw all American troops from Iraq, as she has demanded."
A just-released Washington Post/ABC News poll strongly suggests that American attitudes toward the war in Iraq have not been changed by the recent activities and exorbitant press coverage surrounding new anti-war idol Cindy Sheehan:
The survey also suggests, however, that Sheehan's anti-war vigil has failed to mobilize large numbers of Americans against the war. If anything, her opposition has done as much to drive up support for the war as ignite opponents, the survey found.
Eight in 10 Americans--including overwhelming majorities of Democrats, Republicans and political independents--say Sheehan's protest has had no impact on their attitudes toward Iraq. While one in 10 say she has made them less likely to support the war, the same proportion say she has made them more likely to back the conflict.
Yet, what is peculiar about this release is its absence from today’s Washington Post print edition. The results were posted at the WaPo website at 7:00AM eastern time, and, conceivably were given to the editors too late to make this morning’s paper. However, one wonders if these numbers had shown huge movements in public opinion as a result of Cindy and Company’s protests if this would have been headline news today. Moreover, it shall be interesting to watch how prominently these numbers are displayed in tomorrow’s paper if at all.
Matching NBC and MSNBC stories from last Thursday, on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend, Matthews touted Cindy Sheehan as representing a “tipping point” on Iraq analogous to Walter Cronkite’s 1968 on-air lecture about Vietnam. Matthews set up his lead topic: “Next stop, Saigon? This month a watershed moment of defeatism over Iraq. Senators are getting quiet and polls are sinking. Then a tipping point [footage of Cindy Sheehan]. An anti-war mother of a fallen soldier becomes an emblem of anger and national frustration. It reminds many of another clear tipping point from another war." Matthews then played a clip from Cronkite. On last Thursday’s NBC Nightly News, Carl Quintanilla trumpeted how Sheehan has “dominated headlines, mobilized protesters” and made “it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the Evening News in 1968.”
Today the Washington Post's Peter Carlson "celebrates" the 10th anniversary of The Weekly Standard magazine, puckishly noting that it "is a truly excellent right-wing warmongering magazine, no matter what your political persuasion might be."
Carlson unearths a bit of prescient "warmongering" to demonstrate the WS's reach: "Without a doubt, the most important idea yet advanced by the Standard came in the essay 'Saddam Must Go,' written by Kristol and Robert Kagan and published in November 1997. The idea was: Hey, let's invade Iraq, conquer Baghdad and overthrow Saddam Hussein for expelling American weapons inspectors. At the time, nobody paid much attention to the suggestion. But five years later, President Bush dusted off the idea and ordered the Pentagon to execute it. And, as we all know now, it worked perfectly. Or maybe not. You make the call."
On page A3 of the Washington Post, staff writer Sam Coates seems to give anti-war/anti-Bush protester Cindy Sheehan wide latitude as to her reasons for protesting in Crawford. Mr. Coates writes: "This weekend is the culmination of the standoff between Bush and war protester Cindy Sheehan, who arrived 21 days ago. She came asking Bush to meet with her, even though he had done so before, to discuss the war. Her protest snowballed, with the arrival of Sheehan sympathizers and then pro-war demonstrators. Both sides planned major rallies over the weekend because it is the last one before Bush ends his vacation and Sheehan leaves."
Harlingen, Texas, August 24, 2005: It really doesn’t matter what news service or publication you pick up. The drone of defeatism moans on and on. In this case it was CNN.com on August 18, 2005. - At Least 43 Killed, 88 Wounded in ‘Coordinated Attacks’ reads the headline. The article reports on a string of car bombings in central Baghdad. “The blasts came as transitional government officials worked to complete the new constitution.”
A paragraph later the story continues, “A car bomb exploded outside the al-Nahda bus terminal. A second car bomb exploded 10 minutes later.” But, we can almost recite the news article without seeing it in print. Like the majority of filings from Iraq, this was more bombs and bodies, created from information picked up at the daily news briefing.
The Washington Post's lead editorial, "The War's Momentum," essentially focuses on the continuing delays in Iraq's forming of a draft Constitution. The Post first states: "There is no cause for despair, or for abandoning the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq, which is to support the election of a permanent national government and train security forces capable of defending it with continuing help from American troops."
Josh White’s article in today’s Washington Post concerning the Army meeting its August recruitment goal, but being off track to reach its yearly target, seems to miss or understate some of the positives expressed by the Army’s chief of staff yesterday:
Should the Army meet its goal of recruiting about 10,000 new active-duty troops this month, it will be the third consecutive month in which the service succeeded after several months of significantly missing its mark. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker told reporters yesterday that he expects the Army to miss its annual goal of 80,000 new active-duty recruits by "a couple thousand," adding that he expects recruiting in September and during the next fiscal year to be "difficult."
To begin with, it appears that some of Mr. White’s numbers don’t match those of the Department of Defense. For instance, as the article moves forward, Mr. White suggests that the Army’s recruitment goal in 2004 was 72,000. In fact, according to this DoD report, the goal was actually 77,000, and was bested by 587 recruits.
As such, if the General is correct, and the Army misses its 80,000 goal by a couple of thousand recruits, it would still roughly duplicate its 2004 performance. Given the casualties, the strength of the economy, and the constant negative press about this incursion, this appears to be quite an achievement.
The headline of a Cindy Sheehan piece in today's Washington Post by staff writer Sam Coates grabbed my attention. "Standoff Continues in Crawford: As Bush, Sheehan Return, Both Sides Plan Rallies," read the headline. The lede picked up the "standoff" terminology:
WACO, Tex., Aug. 25---The standoff between President Bush and antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan escalated Thursday with emotional appeals from both sides, each invoking sacrifices made by Americans after Sept. 11, 2001, to bolster their case.
Standoff certainly is a politically loaded term, even for the Post, so I did a search on Nexis of Washington Post articles from August 1-26 for "Cindy Sheehan" and the terms "vigil," "protest," and "standoff." After tossing out editorial and op-ed hits, I found there were 13 pieces describing Sheehan's actions as a vigil, 15 as a protest, and only one, today's story by Coates, labeling it a standoff.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the MSM water, up pops Cindy Sheehan.
The Today show’s pretext for bringing back Cindy was her return to Crawford.
It seems that Sheehan’s media consultants have been hard at work, grooming a more media-savvy, less over-the-top image for Sheehan.She managed to avoid charging W, as she has in the past, with being the world’s biggest terrorist, or engaging in thinly-veiled anti-Semitism as when she previously spoke of neo-con Paul Wolfowitz making her “skin crawl.”
Yet one sensed that not far beneath the buttoned-down exterior, the demons lurked.
Jack Kelly has a great story at Jewish World Review about how good news in the real world becomes bad news in the New York Times. The basics of the story go something like this:
The Army has greatly improved the body armor soldiers are wearing over the past 15 years. It's lighter and tougher.
There are some types of ammunition that can penetrate it, but no evidence that the "insurgents" are using that ammunition.
"...though the specifications weren't set until early in January, new plates were being manufactured — and delivery begun to U.S. troops — in March. Those familiar with the Pentagon's procurement process recognize this as lightning speed. "
By now, Americans with even the most modest of attention spans know of the United Kingdom's liberal version of CNN, the BBC. An article written by the BBC's Washington reporter Matthew Davis stunningly highlights this.
Davis'sarticle fairly drips with smug and self-righteous twaddle; and offers up his opinions in regard to what the American zeitgeist is regarding the war in Iraq. In his opening paragraph, Davis states unequivocally that "The protest of one mother, Cindy Sheehan, at the gates of President Bush's ranch has galvanised the anti-war movement."