David Shuster has hurled a hand grenade in the direction of one of Washington's most venerable political reporters. The MSNBC "correspondent" has alleged that many people don't believe Robert Novak has "any credibility as a journalist."
Shuster sat in as a "Morning Joe" panelist today. His comment came in the context of a discussion regarding the Novak column from over the weekend stating that "agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it."
Veteran Maryland political commentator, radio show host and White House correspondent Les Kinsolving often calls Maryland "The Land of Political Enchantment," and indeed the Old Line State never fails to enchant natives and outsiders alike with its bizarre --William Donald Schaefer comes to mind-- and often corrupt politicos.
Yet although the state is famously blue-hued with an overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly, you can count on the media to ignore the party affiliation of Democratic state legislators who run afoul of the law.
Such was the case with the Associated Press today ignoring former state senator Thomas Bromwell's Democratic Party affiliation. AP follows the Washington Post's lead (see my July 24 article) in ignoring Bromwell's party connections.
Just two days ago, Gail Collins christened her column about the Pat Robertson endorsement "Pat Loves Rudy."
As I observed then, "a conservative columnist writing the equivalent might well be condemned for making an unsubtle appeal to homophobia. But Collins will surely get a pass in PC quarters, since it's a well-established fact that liberals are incapable of prejudice."
Then comes today's column -- and I'll be darned if Collins hasn't done it again.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Russ Mitchell introduced a news brief in which reporter Byron Pitts speculated on a potential indictment of former NYPD Commissioner and Giuliani friend, Bernard Kerik. Mitchell began the segment by exclaiming:
Republican presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani, has stood by his good friend and associate, Bernard Kerik, through good times and bad. But that could change now that Kerik maybe in some big trouble.
Despite the fact that no indictment had actually been handed down yet, that did not keep Pitts from furthering the speculation: "CBS News has learned former New York City Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, could face indictment as early as today on criminal charges, including tax fraud and other counts."
While the "Early Show" had no hesitation in reporting a possible Giuliani scandal, the morning news program failed to mention the Hillary Clinton fund raising scandal involving fugitive Norman Hsu even once. That was true even when "Early Show" co-host, Harry Smith, had reported the story on the August 31 and September 6 CBS "Evening News" broadcasts, while filling in for anchor Katie Couric.
It seems that no bad Hillary Clinton deed goes unresponded to.
As we are in the midst of a presidential campaign, this by itself is not an issue. That it is the national media that is leading this charge is. One need focus on but the latest corners of the Clinton pantheon to come to light to see the full court press the press puts on when their girl needs them.
In an October 10 Boston Globe interview, Senator Clinton let her socialism slip a bit, saying "I have a million ideas. I can't do all of them. I happen to think in running a disciplined campaign - especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility, which is what I'm trying to do - everything I propose I have to pay for. You know, you go to my website, you'll see what I would use to pay for what I've proposed. So I've got a lot of ideas, I just obviously can't propose them all. I can't afford them all. The country can't afford them all." (Emphasis ours.)
When the Wall Street Journal in late August broke the fugitive Norman Hsu illegal fundraising scandal, it took ABC's World News three days to get around to reporting it -- and despite developments as the fugitive has moved through the court system, ABC hasn't mentioned him since. But after the Washington Post on Sunday disclosed the criminal past of an adviser to Fred Thompson's campaign, ABC pounced immediately with a full story Monday night. CBS also got into the action with a brief item. NBC, which waited two days to touch Hsu, got to Thompson with even less delay, citing the matter in a larger Nightly News story Sunday about Thompson's appearance on Meet the Press where Tim Russert asked him about the Post story. (In the EST and CST zones, only NBC had a newscast on Sunday night.)
On Monday, Thompson adviser Philip Martin gave the media a hook with his resignation from the campaign, but when the Clinton campaign announced on September 11 that it was returning $850,000 in suspect donations and when the Justice Dept. on September 20 filed a criminal complaint, ABC's World News was silent. Anchor Charles Gibson announced Monday night: “In the presidential race, another candidate has been embarrassed by the conduct of a major fund-raiser. This time it's Republican Fred Thompson.” ABC's Brian Ross explained how “the resignation comes just one day after ABC News,” apparently a reference to a Sunday posting on “The Blotter” blog, “and the Washington Post reported that not only was Martin a convicted drug trafficker, but that he had left a long trail of unpaid taxes in his business dealings.” Ross highlighted how “Thompson has been traveling in style during this campaign on a Cessna Citation Five private jet” owned by Martin.
A segment on Monday’s CBS "Early Show" by co-host Julie Chen about accusations by the late President Ford of Bill Clinton being a "sex addict," was in sharp contrast to an interview last week with author Sally Bedell Smith, when co-host Harry Smith referred to the Clintons as a "still-young couple" and "political rock stars."
Smith teased the Monday segment on Clinton’s sex addiction by saying, "Plus, a presidential scandal comes back in the spotlight. Find out who's calling Bill Clinton a sex addict." Contrast that statement with Smith’s glowing assessment of the Clinton marriage from last Tuesday’s segment on Bedell-Smith’s new book on the Clinton marriage:
A simple Google search reveals there are more than 40 books about this still-young couple. They met in law school, two bookish, wonkish, idealistic kids who somehow transformed themselves into political rock stars.
Strangely, in last week’s segment Smith never thought to ask a single question about the affect of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals on the marriage.
With a little help from Joe Scarborough, Valerie Plame Wilson tried this morning to paint herself as someone who, far from seeking "Vanity Fair" fame, had celebrity thrust upon her in a moment of distraction. Right.
And try this quick quiz:
Q. Is it possible to get through an extended interview of Valerie Plame Wilson without mentioning Richard Armitage?
For years now, Valerie Plame has been the toast of the liberal glitterati, a celebrated combat specialist against the Vast Bush Conspiracy. Every move the former CIA employee has made has oozed political and commercial calculation. She struck a book deal with Simon & Schuster worth more than $2 million. She struck a movie deal based on the book deal with Warner Brothers for millions more, so she can be played as a patriotic heroine on the silver screen by Nicole Kidman or Naomi Watts. How many millions more? Two million? Five million? Don’t wait for the media to ask. They're too busy playing her as victimized.
In the Clinton years, any opponent in a Clinton scandal was assumed to be overwhelmed with greed, desperate to get an agent and make millions with lies about the president, to sell "trash for cash." Since she's been encouraged to wage political war by Hillary Clinton, none of these assumptions have been applied to Valerie Plame, or her husband, Joe Wilson. Here’s a rundown of the Plame interviews and the number of questions about the Wilsons making millions:
As Valerie Plame does the interview rounds – CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR – someone might miss the far-left, Bush-hating blog interviews. On Firedoglake, the most notable pro-Plame blog, Plame did a typewritten chat with her leftist admirers on Monday. She loved the leftist bloggers at FDL – even had them to her home for dinner -- and declared her interviews on CBS and NBC were fair. Her husband, Joe Wilson, popped in to suggest that two people convinced the Wilsons to fight the pernicious far right: Sidney Blumenthal – and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Watergate figure John Dean also popped in – to suggest Plame could be Hillary’s CIA Director.
Both CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric and "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith portrayed Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson, as innocent victims, even though Plame admitted to being "partisan" in a "60 Minutes" interview with Couric on Sunday.
On Friday’s "Early Show," Smith opened a segment previewing the upcoming interview by explaining that, "Valerie Plame spent nearly 20 years in the shadows of the CIA. Then suddenly, she became a public figure." He later played a clip of the interview in which Couric exclaimed how "18 years of meticulously crafted cover were gone in an instant." Strangely there was no mention of the "Vanity Fair" photo op that Plame and her husband posed for, which Couric asked about in the "60 Minutes" interview:
Perhaps one of the most distorted stories in recent mainstream media history, the Valerie Plame CIA leak controversy, has become even more so with Plame’s upcoming "60 Minutes" interview with CBS Anchor, Katie Couric. On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked with Couric about the interview and began by describing Plame as "...beautiful, smart, a covert agent."
Smith then went on to summarize the media-manufactured scandal that ensued after Plame’s name was mentioned in Bob Novak's syndicated column:
Speculation was rampant that the leaking of her name, which is a crime, came from inside the Bush Administration, in retaliation for her husband's column. The leak grew into a scandal that embroiled the political elite in Washington....When it was all over, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was charged and convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice. President Bush later commuted sentence, no one was ever charged with knowingly leaking Valerie Plame's name.
The problem with this little summary is that it completely leaves out the fact that person responsible for giving Plame’s name to Novak was former Undersecretary of State, Richard Armitage, who mentioned her name in an interview with Novak and was never charged with any crime. Also missing was any indication of her husband, Joe Wilson, being a Kerry Campaign advisor in 2004.
"Washington Examiner" White House correspondent Bill Sammon reported to the October 8 edition of "Fox and Friends" that the Clinton campaign hired convicted document thief Sandy Berger. In questioning Sammon, guest co-host Greg Kelly asked if the story "has legs." Sammon responded noting the mainstream media’s double standard reputation.
"Greg, I think it's entirely up to the mainstream media. Let me give you an analogy. If one of the Republican campaigns had hired 'Scooter' Libby can you imagine the hue and cry? The guy would be run out of town on a rail. We will see how the mainstream media reports this. I have a feeling they won't work up quite as big a head of righteous indignation. "
Joe Scarborough: MSNBC's kind of Republican. The sort who not only tells a Democrat he's "very badly" needed in Washington. Who not merely expresses the desire to write him a campaign check. But who even volunteers [tongue-in-cheek, one would hope] to do illegal check-bundling for him a la Norman Hsu.
After recently putting in an embarrassingly sycophantish performance when interviewing Hillary Clinton, Scarborough was back ingratiating himself with another Dem today. Interviewing former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey on "Morning Joe," talk inevitably turned to the possibility of Kerrey seeking a Senate seat again. Scarborough waxed wildly enthusiastic.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Telemundo reporter and mayoral mistress Mirthala Salinas is heading back at work after a two-month suspension, albeit demoted to a less prominent job within the network:
Television newscaster Mirthala Salinas, who was suspended without pay for two months in August after her affair with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa became public, is scheduled to return to work Monday. But she won't be taking up her old job as a fill-in anchor on evening newscasts for KVEA-TV Channel 52.
Instead, executives with the Spanish-language Telemundo network confirmed Monday that Salinas would be sent to the station's Inland Empire bureau in Riverside as a general assignment reporter, a notable fall for a one-time rising star who has become one of the most recognizable faces in local Spanish-language television.
Matt Lauer may have approached Hillary Clinton from the left (as if she were a centrist) on health care on Tuesday’s Today, but Lauer was the only morning show host to ask the former First Lady about her campaign-finance scandal surrounding the crook Norman Hsu. ABC, CBS, and CNN all whistled past her campaign’s decision to refund $850,000 in contributions that Hsu “bundled” to her campaign. Granted, Lauer simply asked “How to you respond?” But in a follow-up Lauer also tweaked her campaign’s claim that they used an “abundance of caution” in returning the money, asking if there was perhaps not so much caution in the original fundraising.
Lauer did not remind the audience that the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 was riddled with illegal foreign contributions that were returned -- but only after the news media started reporting on it. Geoff Dickens did the transcript:
It was not exactly a plum assignment for a Republican to go on network television to discuss the alleged foot-tapping ways of the soon-to-be former GOP senator from Idaho. But Republicans also could easily see the delight in the eyes of the liberal media when word of Sen. Larry Craig’s Minneapolis airport arrest broke. The press went right back to last year’s smash-mouth Foleygate talking points about how this wasn’t just about the moral turpitude of one member of Congress, but it was about the impending end of the Republican Party, and potential doom for American conservatism.
On Tuesday, NBC’s "Today" show had opened with Matt Lauer asking: "Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?" (Try imagining Matt Lauer, or any other network journalist out there, asking if "the left wing" could withstand yet another scandal after the breaking news of any one of the endless scandals revolving around Bill and Hillary Clinton.) Ann Curry chimed in, wondering "how does this specter of hypocrisy affect the Party?"
Perhaps the first famous name that comes to mind when it comes to policeman arrests in a restroom is George Michael, the former Wham! singer, who was busted in April of 1998 for lewd conduct in a restroom at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills. (The act was reportedly masturbation and some public nudity.) This story, with Michael's fame on the wane, drew almost no attention from the same national media outlets who are now pounding on the office door of Sen. Larry Craig and insisting he resign.
A quick Nexis search shows no George Michael arrest stories on ABC, or NBC. CBS offered this anchor brief from Russ Mitchell on the morning of April 11: "In other entertainment news, pop singer George Michael apologized to his fans in a CNN interview in LA last night. Michael was arrested Tuesday and charged with what police called a lewd act in a restroom in a public park in Beverly Hills. He is due in court next month."
As the networks dwell on the tenth anniversary of the death of a troubled British princess this week, it might be worth remembering that at the time, we noticed the tabloid tendencies toward celebrity deaths at the time were a much bigger media trend than investigations into the scandalous fundraising tactics the Clinton-Gore team used in 1996. Our MediaWatch study at the time noted:
MediaWatch analysts examined fundraising scandal stories in August and September on the Big Three morning shows and evening shows, plus CNN's The World Today. The networks broadcast 686 stories on Diana between August 31 and the end of September compared to just 113 stories about the fundraising scandal. That's a ratio of more than 6 to 1. Isolating the morning shows, collectively they aired 407 stories on Princess Diana's death, while devoting just 36 to the scandal. That's an astonishing ratio of 10 to 1.
Yesterday I wrote a piece about reporter Mika Brzezinski's handling of a story that reflected a political double standard on her part. While hosting MSNBC's "Morning Joe" for the vacationing Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski aired a video of a female reporter chasing after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Before she could catch up with the mayor however, the reporter was intercepted by a very large security guard and sent barreling into the side of what appeared to be a nearby dumpster. At the time Brzezinski brushed off the incident as "not that pressing," in stark contrast to the seemingly endless attention the David Vitter scandal received on "Morning Joe" throughout July. This morning however, Brzezinski seems to have changed her mind and now believes "That story's important."
For a little context, Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has been under scrutiny since he confessed to an affair with Spanish language reporter, Mirthala Salinas. Not surprisingly, Salinas received special access to the mayor during their affair.
Yesterday, after airing the video, Brzezinski gave her opinion as to the newsworthiness of the story. Here is her quote from the August 7 show:
Let's say you are a scandal-ridden governor looking for some love. Where would you find it? Well, if you are New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, aka Steamroller Spitzer, immersed in a scandal that threatens to destroy your political career, you go looking for love in the Daily Kos with a divorced from reality "Happy Talk" blog post that makes no mention any pending unpleasantries. Spitzer's "Happy Talk" love fest on the Daily Kos will have no effect in stopping the scandal investigations but perhaps it is temporarily therapeutic to brag about himself to his fellow leftists in his blog post titled, Congratulations on a Great Weekend :
While we are seeing a mounting reform movement at the national level, I would also urge you to be aware of some of the important developments that are occurring in statehouses across the country. There are some exciting things happening, demonstrating that your activism is also paying dividends at the state level.
Liberals can rest easier knowing that despite her outspoken views on newsworthiness and ethics, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski can still be counted on to go to bat for the Democrats. The reporter and "Morning Joe" regular showed off her famous sense of journalistic integrity while filling in for host Joe Scarborough on Monday morning. In the first half hour, Brzezinski played a video of a journalist trying desperately to get an interview with Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa has been surrounded by controversy since revelations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with Spanish language reporter Mirthala Salinas.
The video clip showed one female reporter and at least two cameramen chasing the embattled mayor hoping for an interview. Before she could reach the mayor however, one of Villaraigosa’s hired thugs intercepted the reporter, sending the much smaller woman barreling into what appears to be a dumpster.
Senator Charles Schumer is a legendary pursuer of television cameras. But look at the way the national media are covering Schumer’s heavy-breathing pursuit to make Attorney General Alberto Gonzales cry uncle and resign. It makes you wonder just how hard Schumer has to work to get press attention. The media look Schumer-owned and operated.
One interview really captures how the press looks more like a Democratic goon squad than a nonpartisan observers of the national scene. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” news anchor Christopher Cuomo, son of Mario Cuomo, asked this pushy question on July 27: “Is Alberto Gonzales out of a job at end of business today?” Cuomo wanted the Attorney General whacked, and he wanted it now.
Filling in on July 17 for Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's Alison Stewart devoted a "Countdown" segment to criticizing the dress Wendy Vitter wore during a July 16 news conference in which her husband, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), admitted to an affair with a prostitute.
With "Fashion Ho-Pas?" emblazoned on-screen (pictured at right), Stewart interviewed Radar Online's Jeff Bercovici, who snarked that Vitter's sartorial choice could mark "a complete reversal of the laws of skankery." [Video (1:37):Real (2.54 MB) and Windows (2.90MB), plus MP3 audio (753 kB)]
Olbermann returned to his program's hosting duties the next day and also hosted the July 19 program before turning over the helm yet again to Stewart for his July 20 show*, despite having had three days to become aware of the "ho-pas" segment, take disciplinary action against Stewart, and make her issue an apology. Olbermann either saw the light or felt the heat over the weekend, apparently, as he issued an apology about one-third of the way through his July 23 program (h/t Ian Schwartz):
A federal judge has just dismissed Valerie Plame Wilson's lawsuit against members of the Bush administration.
Will this be the lead story of this evening's newscasts? Regardless of the answer, the Washington Post reported moments ago (emphasis added throughout):
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said that Cheney and White House aides cannot be held liable for the disclosure of information about Plame in the summer of 2003 while they were trying to rebut criticism of the administration's war efforts levied by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
Please hold your applause, as the following will likely be greeted by the press with similar disdain as an unwelcome guest on Christmas Eve: