Is there something in the water at NBC/MSNBC? Laughing gas in the ventilation system, perhaps? Earlier today, I posted the photo below, showing Matt Lauer dissolving in laughter on this morning's Today show. It happened when Katie made her momentous announcement that she was leaving for CBS. Matt pretended to take it totally in stride, making to move right on, intoning "also coming up in this half-hour" in his best canned host-voice before bursting out.
This evening, it was Chris Matthews' turn to double over in laughter. Now granted, Matthews had a better excuse - his guest was the daffy Howard Dean. Matthews managed to keep a straight face when Dean first claimed that the Democrats "want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected," and then proceeded to lash out at every Republican within arm's reach.
Could NewsBusters be Matt Lauer's guilty pleasure?
Have a look at the two screen captures. The first depicts Pat Buchanan's Today show appearance of March 24th. You'll note that NBC sought to pass Buchanan off as a "Republican strategist." That bit of false packaging elicited this NewsBusters entry, taking NBC to task for its attempt to lull viewers into believing the show was presenting a balanced panel [Buchanan was paired for the day with former Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers].
Now look at the second screen shot, from Pat's Today show appearance of this morning, his first since March 24th. Today ditched the "Republican" tag, neutrally and accurately labeling Buchanan an 'MSNBC political analyst'.
Be the death literal or figurative, in recent days Democrats and their MSM claque have demonstrated a ghoulish penchant for dancing on the graves of their political opponents. As documented here, on the very day of his death last week, MSNBC's Alison Stewart, subbing for Keith Olbermann on Countdown, took nasty parting shots at Caspar Weinberger. Stewart disparaged as both a budget "slasher" and a big spender the man who, as Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary, contributed mightily to winning the Cold War.
Today, it was Tom DeLay's retirement announcement that brought out the worst in the left. Bob Shrum was Chris Matthews' guest on Hardball, and so avidly did Shrum exult in DeLay's predicament that former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari was plainly repulsed. But far from taking Shrum to task for his unseemly asperity, Matthews commended him.
After Woodward and Bernstein's work on Watergate, too many reporters were "Woodstein wannabes," desperate for instant success by uncovering the next big scandal
Re: "Newspapers then, and now," Tanya Barrientos' March 18 column:
Watergate may have been journalism's finest hour, but what it spawned is not. Journalism of the '80s and '90s was peppered with "Woodstein wannabes." The young, hard-charging reporter could become rich and famous by either working in the trenches for 40 years or toppling a politician or businessman via gotcha journalism. As a Republican press secretary in the 1980s, I fended off more questions about sleazy girlfriends, supposed kickbacks, and alleged drug use than anything about tax reform, foreign policy or national infrastructure.
One tried-and-true way to measure a media bias is to compare and contrast events. The comparisons are rarely perfect, but they can illuminate that the "news" is very much a product of human opinion, and rarely do the major media’s assignment editors seem to consider how they covered something in 2006 to something they covered in 1996 (or sometimes, how they covered something in March compared to December). Today’s experiment: Russ Feingold’s censure ploy versus Rep. Bob Barr making rumbles about a Clinton impeachment in 1997. The WashPost put Feingold on A-1 and A-2 yesterday. What about Bob?
It broke out at exactly this time of year in 1997, when Barr, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested to chairman Henry Hyde that they consider impeachment for Clinton for illegal fundraising from China and other scandals. Hyde was asked about it on "Fox News Sunday," and said they were studying it, but found it a "bit of a stretch." Both the Post and the Washington Times put a few paragraphs in on Monday, March 17. Then the paths diverge.
Here's a little more from Brian Lamb's interview with Keith Olbermann on C-SPAN, in particular, more of his denying a liberal bias, lamely vowing he "goes after power," Republican or Democrat, and his explanations for why he has a regular "museum" of VHS tapes of his shows to preserve himself for posterity.
About halfway through the C-SPAN hour, Lamb played a typical "Countdown" clip, with Olbermann mocking Harry Whittington for suggesting the Cheney shooting accident happened on a "Friday" instead of a "Saturday." Lamb was a little blunt:
Lamb: "As you know, anybody watching this will see bias right there."
As has been well-documented by Media Research Center [parent organization of NewsBusters], while MSMers are loath to label anyone or anything 'liberal,' they don't hesitate to brand various entities or individuals 'conservative' or 'right-wing.' Well, folks, I believe we have a new world record in the category.
On tonight's Fox News Watch, in the course of discussing the case of Colorado teacher Jay Bennish - who compared President Bush to Hitler - liberal [there, I said it] Neal Gabler managed to utter the term 'right-wing' four times . . . in 14 seconds. Yes, I checked it by my VCR timer.
Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas condescendingly charged, on this weekend's edition of Inside Washington, that opposition to the UAE ports deals resonated with the public “because it's something that simple idiots can understand.” After a bit of snickering from the other panelists, especially NPR's Nina Totenberg, Thomas zeroed in on talk radio, even though the most popular talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, supported the deal. Thomas called the subject matter “a classic for talk radio” because “you can get it on a bumper sticker.” Expressing his support for the UAE's purchase of the company operating several U.S. ports -- “We need Dubai as an ally. On balance, it would be better that the deal went through” -- Thomas proceeded to lament how “it was an easy one to demagogue on talk radio." As if much of the mainstream media didn't pile on too. (Uninterrupted transcript follows.)
Though they pointed out how there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, the ABC and NBC anchors on Friday night, in noting her decision to resign from the cabinet, nonetheless raised links between her and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas cited only one accomplishment of her tenure, but hardly in praise if it: “She made it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on federal land in the West, drawing criticism from environmentalists.” Vargas then added how “her agency has been entangled in the scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but she has not been implicated."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced how President Bush “accepted today the resignation of the Secretary of the Interior, who insists tonight she is not leaving because of her department's associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Williams soon asked reporter David Gregory: “How is it that her resignation late today raised the specter or the name of Jack Abramoff?" With the photo on screen, Gregory reported how “there was a picture that surfaced recently” which showed “Jack Abramoff and Secretary Norton after a meeting with some Indian tribes.” Gregory, however, related that “a Senate committee did establish ties between the lobbyist Abramoff and top deputies to Gale Norton,” but “that same panel has found no connection, or no proof, that she knew of those connections.” So why bring up the subject? (Transcripts follow.)
Turns out the real culprit in the Colorado kerfuffle over the teacher who compared Pres. Bush to Hitler is . . . the student who complained about it. Just ask Matt Lauer.
Interviewing teacher Jay Bennish this morning, Lauer laid out this sympathetic scenario:
Lauer: "The family here, the student's family, didn't go to the school board with this tape."
Bennish: "They never contacted me."
Lauer: "They shopped it around to conservative media outlets and finally released it to one and created an uproar. On the tape you can hear Sean Allen [the student in question] asking you questions that seem to be egging you on a little bit. Do you feel you were set up?" (More of the transcript here with thanks to Geoffrey Dickens.)
Wednesday's CBS Evening News devoted about 20 seconds to anchor Russ Mitchell highlighting how “it was revealed today” -- as if it were some kind of cover-up being exposed -- “that the [Supreme] Court's newest member, Justice Samuel Alito, sent a personal thank you note to a conservative Christian leader who supported his nomination.” Mitchell then identified that recipient as James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and stressed how he “is a leading opponent of abortion.” What did Alito write that CBS considered so newsworthy? Mitchell relayed: “Dobson read the note in his radio program today, quoting Alito as saying he appreciated those who prayed for him and he'll remember the 'trust' that's been placed in him." But a reading of the actual letter (reprinted below) suggests Dobson just got a form letter Alito sent to all of those who congratulated him on his confirmation, not a coded commitment to Dobson's agenda on abortion.
Neither ABC or NBC mentioned the matter on their Wednesday night newscasts, but that could just be due to the AP not distributing a dispatch on it until late in the day. The AP's Colleen Slevin allowed a Supreme Court spokesman to explain how the same language appeared, in Slevin's words, “in many replies he wrote to congratulatory letters." Slevin, however, felt compelled to consider potential improprieties, turning to a professor who “said Alito's letter did not appear to violate ethical standards,” before she related how “Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the letter 'grossly inappropriate.'” (More from the AP story, the text of the letter and CBS's item in full, all follow.)
Now it's getting nasty. Katie Couric has pointedly suggested that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's past chairmanship of the Republican National Committee permitted him to snare a disproportionately large share of Katrina rebuilding funds.
The accusation came in the course of Couric's interview of Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. An aside: whereas Katie seemed frustrated in an earlier interview this morning of Mayor Ray Nagin when he was unwilling to point the finger at the Bush administration for allegedly slow progress, Amoss was much more compliant. He laid most of the fault at FEMA's feet, and also blamed the federal government for doing nothing to improve levees it allegedly knew were insufficient.
Reporting on a fresh development in the Fannie Mae accounting scandals, the media again dropped another opportunity to raise the Clinton administration connections. But when it was Enron which defrauded investors, the media wouldn't let the public forget the connections Enron executives had to President Bush.
After Enron’s collapse, the media frequently reminded the public of political ties top executives in the failed energy company had to the Bush administration. The same standard, however, wasn’t applied to mortgage broker Fannie Mae (FNM), whose former CEO served in the Clinton White House and was speculated to be on presidential hopeful John Kerry’s short list for Treasury secretary. The print media continued that double standard in covering a comprehensive new report on the scandal released February 23 by former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.).
CBS is in trouble for a "48 Hours" story that changed the front page photo of a Missouri newspaper. The original front page photo from the Columbia Daily Tribune showed convicted murder Ryan Ferguson wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. CBS altered the newspaper's front page by putting in a different picture but representing it as from the newspaper. The new picture showed Ferguson wearing a suit and tie.
The story, entitled "Dream Killer," questions whether Ryan Ferguson was convicted unjustly.
"48 Hours" executive producer Susan Zirinsky says it "was an egregious oversight for us not to know it," although "we don’t feel it changed the editorial value of the story, per se."
The Columbia Daily Tribune interviewed Bob Steele on the ethics of CBS' actions. Steele teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in Florida.
The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.
Later in the story we read:
Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If officials had predicted the firestorm of criticism over the deal, Lewis said, "they might have made them sound harder."
Politicians across the political spectrum are raising their voices against the arrangement which would allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage six U.S. seaports, and on Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty acted as a rabble-rousing activist as he encouraged his viewers to rise up against any politician who doesn't act to block the deal and he highlighted two viewer e-mails which advocated the impeachment of President Bush over the matter. Cafferty excoriated: "If our elected representatives don't do everything in their power to stop this thing, each of us should vow to work tirelessly to see that they are removed from public office....Here's the question. What should be done to stop a deal that would allow an Arab company with ties to terrorism to run U.S. ports?" Cafferty soon read from one e-mailer who argued that "this deal is nothing short of collusion with a foreign power of unknown intent during wartime. The President should be impeached." And another: "Putting George Bush in charge of our country was a huge mistake, and my fellow citizens finally realize that it was a disaster. Time to impeach this President." (Transcript follows)
How do members of the media really feel about Dick Cheney? Mark Shields, a syndicated columnist appeared on the roundtable discussion show Inside Washington, which airs on Friday nights on local PBS powerhouse WETA.He blasted Cheney, linking the accident to his Vietnam deferments, saying:
"I’m just grateful that he had his five deferments, because, my God, if he’d had gotten a platoon, he would have wiped out half his own men."
Shields, who has previously connected Tom DeLay to the West Virginia coal mine tragedy, also accused the Vice President of not caring about the troops and possibly being drunk when he shot Harry Whittington. Shields, in one sentence, brought up the old canard that Cheney is running the country and also suggested that the Vice President doesn’t care as much about American soldiers as he does Harry Whittington:
In recent days, Rush Limbaugh has called attention to the sharp-elbowed way in which the Democratic leadership forced former Marine major and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett out of the race for U.S. senator from Ohio, installing Cong. Sherrod Brown in his place. On tonight's Hardball, Chris Matthews offered an interesting theory: that Hackett's controversial statements, particularly his unsubstantiated allegations of past cocaine use by President Bush, became too hard for the Dem leadership to defend.
In a set-up piece, MSNBC's David Shuster reported that "Hackett's style began creating waves. On [a past edition of] Hardball, he stood by his allegation that President Bush was once a cocaine user." Shuster rolled tape of Hackett on an earlier Hardball stating that he took such allegations "at face value" and assumed they were "quite factual." In that same earlier Hardball, Matthews was shown grilling Hackett hard: "you know for a fact that Pres. Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, because you're running for the US Senate, was a cocaine user? You know that for a fact?"
The front page of the Times Sunday Business section is dominated by reporter Landon Thomas Jr.’s profile of conspiracy-mongering author John Perkins (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man).”
In “Confessing to the Converted -- How a Book Tries to Tap Into Fears of ‘Corporatocracy,” Thomas begins:
“It is standing room only in Transitions, a New Age bookstore in Chicago, and John M. Perkins, the author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ is describing to his audience the quandary that faces Evo Morales, the recently elected president of Bolivia. Leaning low into the microphone, Mr. Perkins affects a deep conspiratorial whisper as he sets the scene for the imagined encounter between the new president and the representative of the multinational corporate interests Mr. Morales had vilified during his campaign.”
Some people may have been wondering if the nine-day old Dick Cheney hunting story would be going away. Don’t count on it. On the February 20 edition ofthe Early Show, Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor at Newsweek, told Harry Smith that "People who don’t like [Cheney] think this is the dark, Darth Vader type." His analysis coincided with the new issue of Newsweek that features a cover story, written by Thomas, on "Cheney’s Secret World." The online edition features this sub-headline:
"He peppered a man in the face, but didn’t tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney’s dark, secretive mind-set-and the forces that made it that way." (Italics added)
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Neal Gabler's gotta take outlandish swipes at the Bush administration on Fox Media Watch. And, perhaps in a form of childish defiance, Gabler also has a penchant for biting the Fox hand that feeds him.
On tonight's episode, Gabler:
Claimed that Vice-President Cheney "doesn't believe in a free press."
Described the shooting accident as "idiocy" on the VP's part.
Accused Brit Hume of not asking the 'major question' in his interview of Cheney [having to do with the timing of notification].
Seconded the notion that the shooting might have been a 'conspiracy' and 'good PR' for purposes distracting attention from the latest Abu Ghraib photo release and other administration problems. Cal Thomas had floated the notion as a joke, but Gabler seemed to pick up on it seriously.
Mocked Fox's objectivity, saying "when the Vice-President shoots somebody in the face, it's big news. I don't care where you live, even on Fox News, it's a big story."
Alright Neal, you've met your quota for the night. See you next week.
It wasn't enough for Chris Matthews to analogize the Bush administration to a family of Mafia killers. He had to call President Bush "Fredo," the weak brother. Matthews' theory was that Bush was unable to control Cheney's handling of the shooting incident in a manner similar to which Fredo was unable to control his wife.
As he amply demonstrated at his press conference today, Harry Whittington is not on life support, but Matthews was working as feverishly as an EMS on a heart attack victim to keep the Cheney story alive. And in doing so, Matthews managed to be ungracious to perhaps the most gracious man in America, the very same Harry Whittington himself. Said a sneering Matthews:
"They dressed up Mr. Whittington rather well, with a lot of make-up, he looked great, I'm glad he's back, but he walked right back into the hospital again. What was that? "
"They say that all good things must end, someday, "Autumn leaves must fall, "But don't you know, that it hurts me so, "To say goodbye to you "Wish you didn't have to go "No no no no." - A Summer Song, Chad & Jeremy
Yes, it was so beautiful for the MSM while it lasted. Seemingly endless days beneath sunny South Texas skies, filled with breathless stories of possible White House cover-ups, press secretaries under the gun, earnest doctors displaying models of damaged hearts, why, even talk of the Vice-President having to step down under fire.
But the first hint that the beautiful affair could be ending came two days ago when Mr. Cheney had an earnest meeting with another man, that suave Brit Hume. Then the president announced he was satisfied with the account of the matter. And finally those party poopers at the sheriff's office had to announce yesterday that the case was closed with no charges filed.
Over at NRO's Media Blog, Stephen Spruiell hits a point I meant to hit. As much as I disliked the Post's flood-the-zone Cheney-hunt coverage today (Top of page one, then two more stories on A-10, Kurtz on the Hume interview on front page of Style), there were two stories that showed the Post thinking outside the typical liberal-media box.
The first is "The Legal Woes of Rep. Jefferson" — a front-page look at a Democrat mired in scandal that punctures the notion, promoted by Democrats, that Republicans are the only ones with ethics problems:
The investigation of Jefferson and the recent guilty plea by a former aide give Republicans the chance to argue that corruption in Washington has a bipartisan tinge.
Republican groups frequently invoke the Jefferson case in defending their party from broad-brush charges of corruption. Even Public Citizen, a liberal consumer watchdog group, featured Jefferson on an "Ethics Hall of Shame" list recently.
Is it possible? Could there be a new angle to the controversy surrounding Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident? Desperate to try and keep this story alive, CBS’s "The Early Show" certainly tried to create one today as they attempted to highlight the Vice President’s "unprecedented power" and explore the rift this incident exposed between the Presidential and Vice Presidential staffs.
Take the following quote from CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante referring to how the Vice President chose to put the word out for example:
Bill Plante: "In any other White House, no Vice President would be able to make that call. But Dick Cheney is in a class by himself. It is clear, and this exposed it, that there are tensions between his office and the West Wing.
I suppose that quoting Al Franken for evidence of liberal media bias is, if you'll excuse the expression, like shooting fish in a barrel.
Nevertheless, perhaps it's useful for the archives to record one of Franken's remarks this evening in the course of his appearance on MSNBC's 'Scarborough Country.'
Commenting on Vice President Cheney's decision not to follow Harry Whittington to the hospital, Franken mused:
"It's inconceivable that you don't go to the hospital unless there's a reason you don't go to the hospital. If you had been drinking, you wouldn't go to the hospital. Or, you're an amazing jerk, that's the other. Or both."
Since Sunday, Vice President Cheney has been accused of trying to cover up his hunting accident, since the media establishment wasn’t notified right away about the mishap; he has been fodder for late night comedians, and today on the Early Show on CBS, he had his manhood questioned by super liberal Katrina vanden Heuvel: "...I’m not sure real men hunt..."
Vanden Heuvel was on the program with Bay Buchanan. For viewers, this would be a balanced perspective on Mr. Cheney’s hunting incident, right? Wrong. Hostess Hannah Storm asked pointed questions of Ms. Buchanan, even following up on a few, but tossed slow pitch softballs at Ms. vanden Heuvel, allowing her to take political shots at the Bush administration and spout talking points one would expect to find at Moveon.org with impunity, as Storm allowed the comments to go unchallenged. For instance, take the following exchange between Hannah Storm and Bay Buchanan:
Thirty-six minutes into tonight's Hardball, host Chris Matthews finally permitted a Cheney defender, former Cheney aide Ron Christie, to grace his program. Even then, Christie was denied an unobstructed opportunity to make his case, having to share the segment with hyper-partisan Dem consultant Bob Shrum - he of the record-breaking number of losing presidential campaigns - who tried to drag in everything from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina.
Until Christie's belated appearance, Hardball was an absolutely ceaseless cavalcade of criticism heaped on the Veep and his handling of the shooting incident that included:
clips of NBC reporter David Gregory haranguing Scott McClellan;
file footage of Gloria Borger supposedly tripping up Cheney over the Saddam/Al-Qaeda connection;
MSNBC reporter David Shuster's decidedly downbeat portrayal of events;
a grim assessment from Washington Post reporter Jim Vandehei;
a pessimistic view of Whittington's medical situation by former NIH director Bernadine Healy; and finally
a panel discussion with former Clinton Press Secretary Dede Myers and DC factotum David Gergen
The negative portrayal of the Vice-President and of the administration's handling of the matter was absolutely unrelenting.
Television producer and “McLaughlin Group” regular Lawrence O’Donnell is offering an explanation of the now infamous weekend quail hunting accident at the Huffington Post: Vice President Dick Cheney was drunk. O’Donnell’s proof? All the lawyers that he’s talked to since the news of this event was first released on Sunday say so, and wealthy Republicans are all drunks. I’m not kidding.
O’Donnell began his piece:
“The L.A. Times is edging closer to the most likely reason for the 18 hour delay in reporting that the Vice President of the United States shot someone:
“‘This was a hunting accident,’ said Gilbert San Miguel, chief deputy of the Kenedy County Sheriff's Office. ‘There was no alcohol or misconduct.’"
Much like the Richard Dreyfuss character in the movie "Jaws," O’Donnell doesn’t believe this was a hunting accident:
Let me begin by stating the obvious, the media has overblown the coverage of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, and nowhere was that more clear than on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. There were a total of 6 stories dealing with the subject this morning, as well as one story tease. Four of these stories plus the story tease occurred in the first fifteen minutes of the broadcast.
Julie Chen opened the program:
Julie Chen: "Good morning, I'm Julie Chen. Hunting for answers, there's a growing firestorm over the delay in reporting Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident as White House spokesperson Scott McClellan was pounded with questions at a press briefing Monday, we'll have all the latest"