MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Thursday fretted over the blame Barack Obama is enduring for making televised NCAA picks during the ongoing crises in Libya and Japan. After gushing over the President's basketball predictions on Wednesday, Todd followed up by lamenting, "Makes people wonder why anyone wants the job."
Talking to former Bush aide Tony Fratto, a defensive Todd argued, "[The White House has] been criticized for using him too much in time of crises. Here's a week where, now, people are criticizing, 'We're not seeing him enough.'"
Justifying Obama's basketball picks, golf outings and speeches to Democratic donors, the Daily Rundown anchor added, "...The schedule is the schedule. And you get- you get, almost, handcuffed to it sometimes, don't you?"
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, news reader Jeff Glor declared: "President Obama is ready for March Madness, it appears. He broke out the brackets at the White House yesterday and made his picks in the NCAA basketball tournament." However, he lamented how the commander in chief "Didn't exactly go out on a limb....For his Final Four he chose all number one seeds."
Only moments earlier, Glor received a report from correspondent Mark Phillips in Libya, who described the losing battle rebels were fighting against dictator Moammar Qadhafi. While Glor noted the United Nations was still debating the creation of a no-fly zone to aid the democratic forces, he said nothing of President Obama's unwillingness to "go out on a limb" and lead on the crisis.
Diane Sawyer allocated all but 1:37 of World News to Japan on Wednesday night, committing 33 seconds of that limited time to touting President Obama’s NCAA basketball picks provided to ABC corporate cousin ESPN.
“Despite all the troubles around the world” Sawyer rationalized – as if there’s much evidence Obama, who’s hardly been engaged in the Libyan or Japanese situations and who went golfing last weekend, is devoting much time to any of it – “the President kept his annual appointment to fill out his bracket for college basketball's March Madness. The basketball Fan-in-Chief got together with our sister network ESPN's Andy Katz.”
Following a clip of Obama revealing a couple of his selections, Sawyer trumpeted: “You heard it here first. The President is going with Kansas!” Then, with “BARACK-ETOLOGY” at the top of the screen above ESPN graphics, Sawyer plugged: “And you can see all of his picks on ESPN’s Sports Center and at ESPN.com.”
MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Wednesday hyped the fact that Barack Obama will be making his NCAA tournament picks on ESPN. The Daily Rundown anchor enthused, "You got about 27 hours to get your brackets in. The President has already done his."
Perhaps referencing the devastating earthquake in Japan or the ongoing crisis in Libya, Todd vaguely allowed, "He's a bit distracted, of course. Maybe he just doesn't just have time to do the research [for college basketball]." But, the MSNBC anchor didn't question the appropriateness of making televised basketball while Japan's nuclear reactors are still a major threat.
I’ve been a sports fan all my life. Of course being raised in the Southeast we took our college football very much to heart and it would be hard to be raised in North Carolina as I was and not be Dixie proud of the legendary brand of basketball that’s played in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
During a Monday morning recap of the Super Bowl, "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough asked, tongue-in-cheek, if "right-wing, talk radio conservatives" would blame President Obama for the ghastly national anthem performance by four-time Grammy winner Christina Aguilera.
Amidst the light-hearted banter, Scarborough turned serious and asked "when we talked about what's driving the week – will conservatives, will conservatives – right-wing, talk radio conservatives – blame Barack Obama for Christina Aguilera defacing the national anthem?"
Time magazine's Mark Halperin, and co-host Willie Geist played along. "Glenn Beck's got the chalkboard going right now," Scarborough continued. "With the dotted line," Halperin added. "He's ready," chimed in Geist.
As some blogs have already reported, ESPN columnist Rick Reilly implored President Obama in his Monday column to take direct action against college football's BCS system. Arguing that the BCS is run by a conglomerate of elites representing the power conferences and the bowl games, Reilly pleaded with Obama to work to install a playoff system in college football.
"What a lie this BCS era is," Reilly ranted, demonizing its supporters as "Bowlsheviks" and arguing that undefeated teams from lesser conferences get no shot to play for a national championship. "That's OK," he continued. "There's one guy who can change all this with the stroke of a pen."
This messianic figure is none other than President Obama. "He's a guy who has broken a mountain of promises in the past two years," Reilly said, sounding like a dismayed progressive. But, the president "can make it all right by making good on a promise he did make, the one to look hard into a playoff." The title of Reilly's piece: "Change We Can Believe In."
Not even NBC Sports could stay out of politics the day after the election, on what must have been a slow NFL news day. The provocative headline "Republican Tidal Wave Could Carry Vikings To L.A." was featured prominently on NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk.com Wednesday.
Steroids are back in the news with the arrest of a Canadian doctor charged with providing performance-enhancing drugs to top athletes. It’s a major issue in the sports world, raising the question whether some of today’s most-well-known sports stars violated rules to boost their performance. At the same time, the ethics of how The New York Times handled the investigation also raises serious questions.
At the Times, steroids scandals are big news. Since December 2009, the Times has run at least 42 stories and briefs linking the latest scandal to at least 12 major athletes including golfer Tiger Woods, and baseball players Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Every one of them was analyzed for his connection to Dr. Anthony Galea, who the Times described as “a sports medicine specialist who has treated hundreds of professional athletes across many sports.”
But it’s not the names that were included in the stories that matter. It’s the names that weren’t. In 40 percent of the stories (17 out of 42), reporters refused to disclose who was leaking them information. The very first story included this nebulous sentence: “He is suspected of providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, according to several people who have been briefed on the investigation.”
"I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here."
- Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
...except when our players are engaged in sexist conversations.
Fresh off the heels of a locker room controversy involving reporter Ines Sainz, in which Goodell referred to New York Jets players as engaging in ‘unprofessional conduct' toward a female reporter, we have a couple of star NFL players discussing their thoughts on seeing Sarah Palin pose in Playboy.
Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals have been debuting their new show in short clips on the Versus network, the self-proclaimed ‘nation's fastest growing sports network.' The program is called The T.Ocho Show. Ochocinco brags of the edgy programming saying.
"Versus is taking a big risk giving us this show. It's gonna be dangerous. Watch with care."
That said, the Versus website is promoting a video clip in which the NFL stars are asked, "Would you rather see Sarah Palin in the White House or in Playboy?"
Perhaps it was just a publicity stunt for his impending MSNBC show, but Lawrence O'Donnell went Crazy Larry on Morning Joe today. The lefty host of The Last Word unleashed on an unlikely target: AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka.
What ignited Larry's tirade was Trumka's professed concern for the contract-negotiations plight of professional football players. O'Donnell was outraged that the union honcho was spending his time on the millionaires of the NFL rather than workers such as miners who merit more concern. Sample lines: "Exactly how many minutes of your day do you spend worrying about $15-million football players? Is this the biggest waste of your attention that could possibly come your way? Is it embarrassing for you to have to talk about these guys?"
New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush has caused a lot of problems for his alma mater, University of Southern California. While playing at USC, Bush accepted cash and gifts from a wannabee sports agent which later caused the NCAA to impose harsh sanctions upon USC including four years of probation and banishment from the 2010 and 2011 bowl games. Because of his actions, Bush apologized to the current USC athletic director, Pat Haden, according to David Leon Moore writing for USA Today. Only one "little" problem, Haden vehemently denies that Bush apologized to him. First the "apology" that never happened as misreported by USA Today:
LOS ANGELES — Reggie Bush apologized to new Southern California athletics director Pat Haden and expressed tremendous regret for his actions that landed the school on NCAA probation.
My hometown of Viroqua, Wisconsin, has become statewide news because a left-wing group called The Alliance for Animals is protesting the annual Wild West Days -- in particular, its popular "Hog Wrasslin" contest. The LaCrosse Tribune had the story:
VIROQUA — A Madison-based animal rights group has taken a public stand against one of the biggest attractions for Viroqua’s Wild West Days — pig wrestling.
The Alliance for Animals wrote organizers of Wild West Days in late May, saying it had conferred with two attorneys who are of the opinion that pig wrestling “is in clear violation of the Wisconsin Statutes.”
The Alliance notes in particular Chapter 951, titled “Crimes Against Animals,” which outlaws cockfighting, dogfighting and any other similar fighting between animals or animals and humans.
For the second day in a row, French President Nicolas Sarkozy shared the blame for France's surprising loss in the opening round of soccer's World Cup -- in a story in the New York Times's news section.
Jere Longman's Wednesday front-page story transmitted rants from Socialist Party opponents of the right-leaning, Bush-supporting Sarkozy, accusing him of being "President Bling Bling" and promoting a national "selfishness" that seeped into the players' psyches.
While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as "scum," "little troublemakers" and "guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain," according to news reports.
Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team's loss had become racially charged.
"There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened," she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing party, according to news reports. "Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation."
She criticized Mr. Sarkozy's handling of a debate on "national identity," warning that "all democrats and all republicans will be lost" in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. "We're building a highway for the National Front," she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Poor Barack Obama. Being president can take a lot out of him. That's why he needs to relax on the links, and relieve some stress into his golf game. No problem, says the Washington Post, the Gulf Spill can wait. This is the same Washington Post that berated President Bush for golfing while an armed conflict was taking place…in Israel.
Not that suicide bombings in Israel are an unserious matter, but doesn't the disaster in the Gulf require at least as much attention (far more, in my mind) from the President? The Post doesn't seem to think so.
So while the paper decried Bush's "golf cart diplomacy" and devoted over 600 words to suggesting that Bush's golf game was distracting from his work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Post found no such grounds to criticize Obama. As a reporter for one of the paper's blogs put it, "who cares?" Obviously not the Post (h/t Jim Hoft).
Thursday's Washington Post Express tabloid carried the headline "Health Activists Eye World Cup." When the world "health" breaks in before "activist," sadly, you can often define that as a sly euphemism you could replace more accurately with "sex." Post reporter Liz Clarke offered an interesting definition of the tournament's most essential accessory, which isn't cleats or Gatorade or even sunscreen:
Slathered in face paint, toting samba drums and waving national flags, the world's most ardent soccer fans are streaming into South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. And they're being met by a host of reminders not to forget the tournament's most essential accessory: a condom.
She forwarded how AIDS activists pressured FIFA, the World Cup organizers, of being "half-hearted" in condom promotion, and noted Cape Town hoteliers are offering condoms with the slogan "Play It Safe in Cape Town." Then Clarke offered an update. FIFA bowed to the sexual entitlement mentality: free condoms have now been offered in eight-packs for women (do they each have a day of the week inscribed?)
Something about the soccer World Cup brings out the missionary in the mainstream media, and every four years they strive to bring the good news of "the beautiful game" to the ignorant American masses.
This year is no different. The 2010 World Cup is set to begin in South Africa on June 11. More than just covering the month-long event, the media are already doing their best to hype it, overstating its popularity in the United States and its potential appeal to U.S. sports fans. From Time magazine dedicating an entire issue to "The Global Game," to CBS's helpful "The World Cup Guide for Americans," the public is being brow-beaten to catch "World Cup Fever."
And while soccer partisans may try (mostly unsuccessfully) to score on point-by-point comparisons to baseball or football, the most compelling argument many media outlets can muster is, "The rest of the world loves it. We should too."
The liberal media have always been uncomfortable with "American exceptionalism" - the belief that the United States is unique among nations, a leader and a force for good. And they are no happier with America's rejection of soccer than with its rejection of socialism.
Hence Americans are "xenophobic," "isolated" and lacking in understanding for other nations and their passion for "the planetary pastime," as Time magazine put it. But, they are confident, as America becomes more Hispanic, the nation will have to give in and adopt the immigrants' game. On the other hand, the media assure the public that soccer is already "America's Game," and Americans are enthusiastically anticipating the World Cup, even though the numbers don't bear that contention out.
So, every four years they return with renewed determination to force soccer's square peg in the round hole of American culture.
CNN's Larry King completely left out the major topic of the White House's continuing obfuscation on the Sestak and Romanoff controversies and barely mentioned the economy during his interview of President Obama on Thursday. While King did ask extensively on the Gulf oil leak and touched on the Middle East and immigration, he also tossed softballs on LeBron James and the President singing with Paul McCartney.
The CNN host aired his interview with the chief executive during the first half of the 9 pm Eastern hour. King spent the entire first two segments asking about the oil leak issue. Other than one question, where he asked whether the President had any responsibility for the disaster, the journalist asked softball questions (remember, CNN claimed just under two months ago in April that it was the only "non-partisan" cable network, and how King hounded Carrie Prejean during an interview in November 2009):
The 2010 World Cup opens in South Africa in a few weeks. As a sports event it is unrivaled in its popularity. It promises to bring a half-million soccer fans to that country.
But it will also draw out the worst of the worst. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the economic promise of an expected half a million largely male incoming consumers is attracting a massive influx of prostitutes from across the border in Zimbabwe. Hotel managers are guessing that as many as 40,000 ladies of the evening are assembling from as far away as Hong Kong, Pakistan, and Venezuela.
This is not the first time this unholy amalgam of sports and the sex trade has materialized. Evidence shows this to be the norm.
The last World Cup competition four years ago in Germany, where prostitution and brothels are legal and tax revenue-generating, attracted thousands of “sex workers” to exploit the crowds. It made a dirty joke out of the tournament motto “A time to make friends.”
An online conservative radio group has started a petition site called Respect the Great Game to get Major League Baseball to drop Keith Olbermann as a contributor to its website.
The administrators of the Respect the Great Game site ask: "Why does Major League Baseball allow an individual who relishes hate speech to be associated with it?" They include a video compilation of some of Olbermann's more colorful rants to illustrate their point.
Olbermann, a former sports broadcaster for ESPN, Fox, and NBC, is "a gifted speaker with a respectable grasp of the great game," according to the site, "but his nightly tirades on MSNBC are often aimed at the very people that fill the stands of baseball parks across our great land."
On April 22 and 27, CNN and The Washington Post both helped forward Islamic advocacy group CAIR's publicity stunt which demeaned an anonymous Virginia motorist as a racist. The Post finally found the driver on Thursday – and apparently, both news outlets jumped the gun, as the owner claimed that the numbers on his license plate were a tribute to his favorite NASCAR drivers, not secret code for “Heil Hitler.”
Anchor Rick Sanchez devoted a brief on his Rick's List program on Tuesday to presenting CAIR's side of the story on the controversy. After showing a picture of the pickup truck and the plate in question, as well as the anti-Islamic message on the truck's tailgate, Sanchez explained that "CAIR...also noticed the vanity license plate. It reads '14CV88.' CAIR says that is a coded hate message. We're told the number eight is for the eighth letter in the alphabet, 'H.' Two eights equals 'H.H.' for 'Heil Hitler.' Fourteen represents imprisoned white supremacist David Lane's motto about securing the future for white children." The anchor didn’t mention the owner’s side of the story.
Did anyone at CNN or the Washington Post consider the possibility that the story was underbaked until they communicated with the driver? Did they consider someone might find the driver and his truck and be spurred to angry talk and/or violence based on the media’s incomplete accounts? The Washington Post, at least, printed an update on Thursday to their initial article from the 22nd (the ball, obviously, is also in Sanchez's court now, as well, especially since he went after NewsBusters for not calling him before we took the "cheap shot" at him). The Post's Brigid Schulte returned to the scene of her incomplete story and provided the driver’s perspective in her Thursday article, "Virginia driver denies license plate had coded racist message."
The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at its May 6 National Day of Prayer event because of complaints about his previous comments about Islam.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation expressed its concern over Graham's involvement with the event in an April 19 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. MRFF's complaint about Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, focused on remarks he made after 9/11 in which he called Islam "wicked" and "evil" and his lack of apology for those words.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, told ABC News on April 22, "This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue."
Catching up with an HBO sports documentary which ran several times in March: ‘Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals,’ painted Boston Celtics basketball star Larry Bird as the victim of a racist national milieu exacerbated by President Ronald Reagan -- a formulation which relied on the expert assessment of a journalist who a few years ago contended that if only Senator Ted Kennedy hadn’t killed her, he “would have brought comfort...in her old age” to Mary Jo Kopechne. Over video zooming in on Reagan at his Oval Office desk, HBO’s narrator intoned:
But as Magic enjoyed his image as a crossover star, it was Bird, the one-time great white hope, who had further emerged as the polarizing racial figure due in part to that era's increasingly conservative political climate.
Then, the Boston Globe’s Charles Pierce argued “the triumph of the movement” that supposedly “rolled back” civil rights “took place in the 1980s” and that caused “sublimated frustration” amongst black Americans “and I think one of the ways it got sublimated was into basketball” with Bird catching those “lingering resentments.” On screen as Pierce spoke, this New York Times headline:
STUDY SAYS BLACKS HAVE LOST GROUND Finds Reagan's Policies Have Hurt the Poor and Imperil Emerging Middle Class
On the eve of The Masters, tournament host and Augusta National chairman Billy Payne delivered a surprise public lecture to golfer Tiger Woods, giving New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey a chance to again make liberal political hay from Augusta's immaculate green fairway in Thursday's "Thanks for the Tasteless Sermon."
They are worse than we knew.
The people who run the Masters are not just stubborn rich guys who don't want female members cluttering up their precious fairways, although that is bad enough.
During a fawning segment on a busy day of presidential traditions for Barack Obama, on Monday's CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Harry Smith used the commander in chief's embarrassing pitch at the Washington Nationals opening game to tout ObamaCare: "If there had been a batter he might have been hit, but we are assured by the White House he would have been covered by the new health care reform law."
After showing a clip of the Obama's flubbed throw, Smith remarked: "Whoops." He then added: "In the broadcast booth, the President got a chance to analyze his performance on the mound." A clip was played of the President admitting: "This is heart breaking right here. You know, I was a little disappointed with the pitch, it was high and outside. I was intentionally walking the guy."
The segment began with Smith describing the annual White House Easter Egg Roll that morning: "Some 30,000 moms, dads, and kids from all 50 states crowded on to the South Lawn for a day of fun and games....The Obamas put their own special imprint on the event today, focusing on healthy, active living."
Smith also mentioned how "the President put on a basketball clinic for the kids." Perhaps the Early Show co-host was reminded of his own "basketball clinic" with the President, following an interview on Thursday in which Smith pitched worse softballs than Obama.
In addition to the softball interview CBS's Harry Smith conducted with President Obama on Thursday, the Early Show co-host also played some one-on-one with the commander in chief on the White House basketball court, declaring on Friday's show: "it's not just talk, there's a little action too, as we bring in Clark Kellogg of CBS Sports to check out the President's basketball skills." [Audio available here]
In honor of Good Friday, at the top of show, Smith used some religious language to describe where the game took place: "This is the sanctum sanctorum....I'm not sure anybody has ever really been down there with cameras before." Meanwhile, co-host Maggie Rodriguez pretended that Smith actually conducted a hard interview: "you ask him all the tough questions...Does he then proceed to take it out on you on the basketball court?"
At one point in the game, Smith jokingly asked the President: "the question is – that everybody wants to know, can you go to your right?" Obama replied: "I can go to my right, but I prefer my left." Smith laughed gleefully in response. Rodriguez remarked that it was Obama's "comfort zone."
Watch the latest business video at &amp;lt;a href=&amp;quot;http://video.foxbusiness.com/&amp;quot;&amp;gt;video.foxbusiness.com&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;Curt Schilling is finding out that starting a small business in the state of Massachusetts is more taxing than 50,000 heckling Yankee fans could ever be.
Schilling and wife Shonda were interviewed on Fox Business Network's "America's Nightly Scoreboard" March 26. After discussing Shonda's health problems and their son's Asperger's Syndrome Schilling shared his thoughts on politics and running a businesses in Massachusetts.
"You see the country moving into the wrong direction, and you're trying to get it moving in the other direction. What beyond Scott Brown are you doing now?" host David Asman asked.
"I own a company called 38 Studios, a gaming company which has now got me involved in politics on the state level in a way I never dreamed possible," Schilling said. "There's film and tax credits for the film industry around the country - around the world. The industry that I'm in was a $60 billion a year business last year."
Schilling explained his search for state help and the offers from other states and countries that entice business owners to leave Massachusetts.
CBS and NBC, which have delivered very friendly interviews with President Barack Obama (link below the jump to examples), on Wednesday night characterized Bret Baier's sit-down with Obama for the Fox News Channel as “contentious,” while ABC decided to devote nearly two minutes of World News (1:50) to Obama's college basketball tournament choices.
Anchor Diane Sawyer teased at the start of the March 17 newscast, “Top picks: Stream of consciousness as the Fan-in-Chief completes his college basketball bracket.”
On the NBC Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell referred to the “contentious interview with Fox News.” Chip Reid, on the CBS Evening News, added a modifier as he saw “a very contentious interview.”
The ABC story on Obama's basketball picks consisted of highlights from corporate cousin ESPN's session with Obama as he filled out a big bracket chart, and World News included Obama's spelling challenge. “Should be an R in there,” ESPN's Andy Katz corrected Obama upon spotting how the President had misspelled “Syracuse” as “Sycacuse.”
Although yours truly emphatically does not approve of the stunt, I have to acknowledge that whoever pranked MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist Friday by pretending to be Team USA hockey goalie Ryan Miller (pictured at right) did the nation two small favors:
First, he embarrassed a network that seems incapable of being embarrassed by much of what its hosts and guests say on a daily basis.
Second, he kept Chris Matthews off the air for a precious few minutes, as Geist interrupted "Hardball" to conduct a brief make-up interview with the real Ryan Miller.
Chris Ariens has a brief story about the incident and Geist's real Miller time at Media Bistro's TV Newser site:
There was an embarrassing turn of events in Vancouver tonight.
According to ABC, CBS and NBC, an athlete involved in a three-month-old sex scandal is more newsworthy than a statement of principles signed by more than 80 conservative leaders.
Not just more newsworthy. The broadcast network morning shows devoted more than 30 minutes of coverage about Tiger Wood's statement to the press on his sexual "indiscretions" scheduled for Feb. 19. By contrast, the Feb. 17 signing of the Mount Vernon statement by 80 prominent conservative leaders received zero coverage. Both CBS and NBC sent camera crews to the event.
ABC provided the lion's share of the Tiger coverage, giving more than 17 minutes of airtime to the Woods story. A crisis management professional, a family therapist and two sports writers were brought on to speculate about the impact his expected apology would have on Woods' image and career, as well as the pros and cons of his wife Elin appearing alongside him.
Woods coverage on CBS clocked in at more than nine minutes while NBC, currently covering the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, gave Woods only four-and-a-half minutes.