It's a tried and true tactic of interest groups seeking to influence public opinion -- and legislative policy -- on a controversial issue. Find the most sympathetic individual case you can, and get the media to focus on that, rather than on the broaders merits of the matter. A prime example of the phenomenon was on display today at Good Morning America. Congressman Marty Meehan [D-MA] has introduced legislation that would repeal the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy, with the result that gays would be able to serve openly in the military. Hearings are scheduled to begin soon.
ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper narrated a segment on Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva [ret], described as the first member of the US military seriously injured in the Iraq invasion, losing a leg and part of a hand. In conjunction with the debate on the bill, Sergeant Alva publicly announced, apparently for the first time today, that he is gay.
Tapper interviewed Sergeant Alva at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Later in the segment, we heard from Dixon Osburn of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, another gay rights group that focuses specifically on gays in the military. It seems likely that one or both of these groups have identified Alva as a spokesman, then took his story to ABC, which ran with it.
As noted in NewsBusters on Monday, NBC’s "Today" show breathlessly reported the claims, articulated by filmmaker James Cameron in a new Discovery Channel documentary, that the tomb of Jesus, with Christ buried inside, has been located. Co-anchor Matt Lauer hyped the network’s exclusive interview with Cameron by credulously repeating the documentary’s assertions and stating the film could "rock Christianity to its core."
In contrast, the other networks provided a more skeptical interpretation. On the February 26 edition of ABC’s "Nightline," anchor Terry Moran repeatedly noted that many archaeologists are skeptical of the claims that the tomb of Jesus and a reported family have been found. On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," reporter Dan Harris prefaced a segment on the subject by observing, "If the claims in this new documentary are true, and many people doubt that they are, they would challenge some of Christianity's central articles of faith..." Over on CBS, "Early Show" anchor Hannah Storm peppered the film’s director, Simcha Jacobovici, with a number of tough questions:
Hannah Storm: "Simcha, are you attacking the basic tenets of Christianity that Jesus indeed rose from the dead?"
Hannah Storm: "What about people who say this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, Simcha?"
ABC Nightline co-host Terry Moran helped expose the anti-Christian prejudice of John Edwards’ official campaign bloggers (who’ve since quit the campaign), asking three weeks ago on his ABCNews.com blog whether Edwards condoned “hate speech” by refusing to fire the pair. But Moran himself failed to mention the controversy in a two-segment profile of Edwards on Monday’s Nightline.
Back on February 6, Moran listed some examples of the hostile anti-Christian views espoused by Edwards’ campaign blogger Amanda Marcotte on her own personal site and suggested the issue reflected poorly on Edwards himself:
Questions: What, if anything, does it tell us about Edwards that he's joined up with this blogger? Is Edwards' association with a person who has written these things a legitimate issue for voters, as they wonder--among other things--whom he might appoint to high office if he's elected?
On the February 23rd edition of The View, co-host Joy Behar continued to call for more politics in the Oscars. This time, Behar cited Michael Moore’s Oscar winning speech in 2003 when he shouted out "shame on you" to President Bush. Behar then implied Moore was vindicated for his speech and the hostile response. "He was right and they booed him," Behar exclaimed.
Token non-liberal Elisabeth Hasselbeck predictably disagreed, but even guest co-host Sherri Shephard felt uncomfortable with political speeches stating, "I don’t want to hear that at the Oscars. I want them to accept the award." Behar felt that would be "boring." The exchange is below.
There’s little secret about the media desire to see Al Gore win an Oscar Sunday. Over at ABC, they’ve given up any pretense of neutrality. Just two days before the awards, reporter Jonathan Karl quizzed Vice President Dick Cheney about the film.
In an “exclusive interview” that will likely be broadcast during regular newscasts, Karl asked Cheney about global warming, by beginning with Gore. “Did you get a chance to see Al Gore's movie?” asked Karl.
That was just part of Karl’s timely interview. According to the ABC.com piece on it, Cheney’s view that there is a debate about whether mankind causes warming or not is “a position that puts the administration at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists.”
Are the "Clinton haters" mellowing? That’s the not-so-benign question NBC reporter David Gregory asked on the subject of whether conservative ire for Hillary Clinton has lessened. (Can you imagine a segment on "Bush haters?")
Fellow NBC alum Chris Matthews, perhaps offering an explanation for the media’s fawning over Barack Obama, explained that the Illinois Senator appeals to the "young at heart."
This week, CNN provided yet another example as to why "fair and balanced" wouldn’t be a good promotional phrase for them. Correspondent Bill Schneider asserted that African Americans don’t vote for the GOP because of a "perception of racism."
It's interesting how some network TV reporter blogs show more interest in examining liberals than the network news product does. In his Media Reality Check yesterday, Rich Noyes reported that the networks have yet to touch the controversy over the anti-religious bloggers John Edwards hired for his presidential campaign website, and yet ABC Nightline anchor Terry Moran really got the ball rolling in the blogosphere on the story when he asked if a Republican would be ignored with smash-mouth bloggers like that.
Moran's blog now features a post on the liberalism of Hollywood. Moran says what Jake Tapper didn't quite say in his report on the political importance of Tinseltown...as a Democratic power center: "Hollywood money is a crucial factor for any Democrat who seriously wants to be president. You simply cannot get the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party--and you cannot win the White House as a Democrat--without the money-raising muscle of Hollywood." Do the top producers snip lines like this, lines of simple common sense?
You know, with all the focus on Barack Obama, you really can’t blame a liberal for making this mistake. However, it doesn’t make it any less funny when it happens.
On Thursday’s “The View,” the ladies were having a discussion about Britney Spears, and where she could go to escape all the paparazzi and attention. Co-host Joy Behar proudly exclaimed: “She needs to go wherever Obama bin Laden is hiding, because we can’t find him!” (video available here courtesy of our friend Ms Underestimated).
"Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion continued his promotion of left-wing environmental causes on Thursday. Champion, who has previously hosted a segment on whether "billions" will die from global warming, reported from Los Angeles to preview the upcoming Oscars.
He also highlighted a party being held by the climate change organization Global Green USA a group founded by the former Russian General Secretary, and noted Communist, Mikhail Gorbachev. And this isn’t the first time Champion has touted Global Green:
Sam Champion: "We are, again, inside the Academy headquarters, right where it all happens in Hollywood. And we wanted to tell you that it’s not just gold and red, the colors of Oscar this week, but there's another big color, and that's green. It’s eco-friendly green, environmental friendly green that's highlighted this week. Some celebrities are driving eco-friendly cars to the Oscars instead of limos, and by the way, there’s also a green carpet at the environmental group Global Green’s party last night. A lot of celebrities were there, and so were we."
Penelope Cruz: "It's something that where everyone can contribute."
Champion: "Oscar nominee Penelope Cruz is just one of the stars trading in the Oscar gold for a little green, to highlight one of Hollywood's hottest issues, global warming."
Celebrity #1 (not identified): "If there's no nature, there's no us."
If you make more money than I do is that anyone’s problem?
The news media made a big deal out of “income inequality” especially “out of control” CEO pay as NBC’s Carl Quintanilla called it on Oct. 20, 2006 during the “Today” show. Robin Roberts took aim at the same topic: “Now to the golden parachute that has a lot of people seeing red,” during “Good Morning America” on January 4.
But the reports on the income gap missed two alternative perspectives from economists: that the widening income gap is an illusion and that in either case the gap really doesn’t matter. Read the full Business & Media Institute report here.
On the Wednesday edition of "Good Morning America," ABC correspondent Jake Tapper reported on the power of Hollywood in presidential politics and the pitfalls of accepting celebrity support. However, while GMA found the time to gush over Barack Obama’s celebrity status, going so far as to include a graphic of an Oscar statue with Obama’s head on it, Tapper didn’t mention that Hollywood’s fund-raising is almost exclusively for liberals and Democrats:
Chris Cuomo: "Now, to the power of Hollywood on presidential politics. Candidate Barack Obama raked in $1.3 million by going Hollywood. It's a deep pocket that more and more are trying to reach into. Here's senior national correspondent Jake Tapper."
Jake Tapper: "Last night, at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the stars came out for another million dollar affair, honoring a thin, statuesque idol of color. No, not Oscar, Obama. Barack Obama."
Actor George Clooney: "He's the most charismatic person I've been in a room with in a long time."
Nothing for the MSM like dumping a little pre-emptive cold water on the Bush administration and the situation in Iraq. Introducing his interview with Vice-President Cheney this morning, ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl claimed:
"It would appear that the British announcement [of a partial withdrawal of forces from Iraq] is bad news for the Bush administration, but in the first official reaction from the United States, Vice-President Cheney told ABC News that he thinks that the announcement is actually good news -- a sign of progress in Iraq."
ABC then ran the clip of VP Cheney making his case: "I look at it, and what I see is an affirmation that in parts of Iraq things are going pretty well. I talked to a friend who just the other day had driven from Baghdad down to Basra [in the Shia-dominated south], seven hours. Found the situation dramatically improved from the way it was a year or so ago. Sort of validated the British view that they have made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore afford to reduce their force levels."
On February 8, in the midst of Diane Sawyer’s Dictator ‘07 Tour, a whirlwind trip that saw her offer softball questions to both the dictators of Iran and Syria, the "Good Morning America" anchor sat down to speak with a group of Syrian women. As already noted on NewsBusters, Sawyer portrayed the brutal Syrian regime as a family friendly paradise. An onscreen ABC graphic identified one female, Bouthaina Shaaban, simply as a "top ranking female in President’s cabinet." Sawyer afforded Shaaban a platform to bash America for its failure to help women balance home and career:
Diane Sawyer: "What do [Syrian females] think of American women? They say we have so many opportunities, yet they'd give us something from Syria, safety on the streets, family to help with children, and the government helping too."
Bouthaina Shaaban (Top ranking female in President’s cabinet): "They could be a lot better, family and professionally-wise in making family life in balance with the profession. I feel the U.S., as a very rich and strong country, could have offered a lot more for working women."
As it turns out, slamming the U.S. is a common action for Shaaban. She’s actually a fierce propagandist, as well as virulently anti-American and anti-Israel. Last year on CNN, she likened the actions of Israel in Lebanon to those of the Nazis in World War II, an outburst that drew no response from Wolf Blitzer. And in February of 2005, Shaaban hinted that the United States and Israel were behind the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
On the Tuesday edition of “Good Morning America,” host Robin Roberts slammed the insurance industry for daring to make a profit in the years since Hurricane Katrina. She also used the segment as a vehicle to call for more government regulations. The piece, combatively titled “GMA Gets It Done: Getting Answers” suggested the subjective, advocacy oriented slant that the program would take. (Additionally, last week, Diane Sawyer previewed the multi-day story, describing it as “a call to arms.”)
Roberts repeatedly took insurance company representative Bob Hartwig to task for the industry’s “record profits.” A sampling of Roberts’ hostile questioning can be found below:
Robin Roberts: “When people who have lost everything, who are in dispute with various insurance companies and they see the amount of money that-- the profit that is being made in such a year, these home owners scratch their heads a little bit. Do you understand?”
Roberts: “Though people find it hard to believe during such a devastating year, you still make a significant increase in your profit. And they’re saying, ‘Good grief, we trusted you.’”
Roberts: “You know that rings hollow, what you just said, to so many people. They don't believe that anymore.”
"Nightline" host Terry Moran recently blogged about the dustup over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her request for a larger plane to fly back to her San Francisco district. In the February 8 entry, the ABC host criticized the Bush administration for leaking the story to "The Washington Times," whom he referred to as "a kind of house organ for conservatives." "The Washington Times" certainly leans right, but has Mr. Moran ever labeled "The New York Times" a mouth piece for liberals?
An excerpt of Mr. Moran’s blog is below:
After the 9/11 attacks, Speaker Hastert was, for security reasons, given ‘shuttle service’ by military transport to and from his congressional district in Illinois. This year, citing the same security concerns, the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives asked the Department of Defense to provide a plane that could get Speaker Pelosi to and from her district in California--which would require a bigger and costlier plane than Hastert used.
What did the Bush administration do? Leak the story--to The Washington Times, a kind of house organ for conservatives in the capital. And sit back and watch the flap.
When's the last time you saw an MSMer dispute a politician on the tenets of his own faith? It happened today on Good Morning America when George Stephanopoulos challenged Mitt Romney's depiction of a tenet of Mormonism.
Weekend GMA host Kate Snow noted to the "This Week" host that at a Mitt Romney event Friday someone called out to the candidate that he didn't "know the Lord." Snow asked George to what extent Romney's Mormonism might be a "big hurdle" for him.
Stephanopoulos: "Polls certainly show that it is. He faces a lot of skepticism from evangelical Christians. When I spoke with him, I asked him how Muslims might perceive the Mormon belief that Jesus will return to the United States and reign personally here for a thousand years."
GMA then rolled a clip of Romney saying the following: "Our belief is just like it says in the Bible, that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives will be a place where there's a great gathering, and so forth. It's the same as the other Christian tradition."
Stephanopoulos: "Actually, we checked in with a Mormon spokesman who said that's not exactly true. They believe the New Jerusalem is here in the United States, in Missouri, and that's where Jesus is going to come."
Interviewing anti-war Senator Russ Feingold this morning, Good Morning America weekend co-host Bill Weir offered his interpretation of the mid-term election results and virtually taunted Democrats for being insufficiently aggressive in confronting President Bush:
"Do you hold your party responsible, not only for the authorization, but for the seeming inability to muster a unified front to fight the president on this, to get what you want, and apparently what the American people wanted with the mid-term elections, and end the war?"
It didn't have much to do with liberal bias, but I found it interesting in Meredith Vieira's CNBC interview when Michael Eisner asked her in the first few minutes about how hard it was to referee the differing opinions on "The View" on ABC. He even asked about how Vieira would have handled Rosie:
Eisner: "How would you have done it if you had been in that same position and Rosie O'Donnell just came in to replace Star Jones. Could you control her?"
Vieira: (Laughs) "I was gonna say I would have gone out into the alley with a gun –" (Laughs more)
Cancer is truly a tragedy in every case, but that was no excuse for ABC "World News Tonight's" shoddy shell game during the February 15 broadcast.
In a segment on reduced federal funding for cancer research, anchor Charles Gibson introduced the story by stating that the National Cancer Institute has seen funding decreases in the past two years and the Bush budget is promoting a third cut.
But by the time reporter Lisa Stark actually did any math she was using the budget cuts from one non-profit organization, but hadn't bothered to explain why. And that wasn't the only thing Stark left out of the segment.
You can find the entire Business & Media Institute story here.
As already reported on NewsBusters, Friday’s "Good Morning America" used the pretext of the 2008 presidential election to wonder just how bigoted America is. In a segment that aired in the 7:30 hour, Diane Sawyer talked to former NBA star John Amaechi about his new book, the revelation that he’s a homosexual, and an anti-gay diatribe delivered by ex-Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway.
This is the second time in five days that the ABC program has promoted Amaechi’s book. And just as with the piece on Senator Obama and his candidacy, Sawyer used isolated incidents to draw conclusions about all of America:
Diane Sawyer: "All right, as we said now, we're going to give you a story that wades right into this country's secret prejudice against gays in America. The former pro basketball player who revealed he is gay is with us. His name is John Amaechi. He has been the target of an anti- gay tirade by a former NBA all-star, Tim Hardaway."
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer, who has previously asked Senator Barack Obama if America is secretly ‘more racist or sexist,’ introduced a story on the issue of the 2008 presidential election and race. The ABC co-host prefaced the issue by mentioning that some African American leaders are not supporting the Illinois politician because they think the U.S. isn’t ready to vote for a black candidate.
According to Sawyer, this is creating a spotlight on questions about race and "what Americans really feel inside." Correspondent Jake Tapper continued this "Is America racist?" theme by citing a vague statistic, which was given no attribution, that 15 percent of white voters say they’d vote for a black person, but, in truth, "never, ever would":
Diane Sawyer: "Well, the 2008 presidential race turns out to be turning a spotlight on questions about race and what Americans really feel inside. Senator Barack Obama is watching black political leaders throw support to Hillary Clinton. And why? They have said publicly, they don't think America is ready to elect a black candidate. ABC's senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has more on this counter-intuitive event. Jake?"
Jake Tapper: "Good morning, Diane. Well, 84 percent of Americans say a candidate being black would not effect their vote one way or the other. But, the dirty little secret, what some experts call the 15 percent lie, the 15 percent of white voters who tell pollsters they'd be willing to vote for a black candidate, but in the privacy of the polling place, never, ever actually would."
What happens when a noted politician announces he’s running for President? Well, in the case of conservative Republican Mitt Romney, CBS’ "Early Show" gives the story a scant ten seconds. But what if that candidate is Democrat Barack Obama? Well, then the same program devotes over nine minutes of coverage! (For those keeping count: A 54: 1 advantage for the Democrat.)
Over on ABC, "Good Morning America’s" Diane Sawyer continued her Dictator ‘07 tour. She portrayed the authoritarian Syria as a pro family, welfare paradise.
Later in the week, Sawyer asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, noted Holocaust denier, how often he cries.
On the Thursday edition of "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer responded to critics of her recent visits to Syria and Iran. After reading some viewer e-mails about the interviews she conducted with leaders of those countries, including a question on why ABC allowed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so much time to spew his propaganda, Sawyer informed her audience, "People all over the world, whatever their governments are doing, people all over the world really do have a yearning to live at peace on this planet, I believe."
Perhaps the GMA host was taking the words of the Iranian President to heart. During one interview, he told her that mass rallies containing "death to America" chants shouldn’t be taken personally by U.S. citizens.
Earlier in the segment, which aired at 7:48am on February 15, Sawyer defended the necessity of such trips by citing the need for greater understanding:
File this one under "MSM condemns ee-vil corporations." As you'll note from the screencap, ABC's Good Morning America today branded State Farm Insurance "not a good neighbor." What is State Farm's sin? Its decision not to write new homeowners and commercial policies in the state of Mississippi.
Did you note that? State Farm has decided not to write any new policies. This in no way affects the insurer's liability for existing policies. State Farm has made a simple business decision: given the legal environment there, Mississippi is not a good place for an insurer like it do to business.
"Mike Fernandez, vice president of public affairs for State Farm, said Mississippi's 'current legal and political environment is simply untenable. We're just not in a position to accept any additional risk in this homeowners' market.'"
That didn't stop Diane Sawyer from introducing a segment on the news by speaking of "outrage" over insurance companies and declaring that "some" call State Farm's decision "heartless and others call it plain greedy."
Diamonds don't cause conflicts in Africa, bands of armed thugs do. But you wouldn't know that if you followed the media's slant on "conflict diamonds," which, much like stories on gun control, often blame the object instead of the evil person misusing it.
It goes without saying that we wouldn't want to provoke such a person -- it could harm his self-esteem. Unfortunately, President Bush doesn't seem to have gotten the message. But thank goodness for David Gregory. As luck would have it he turned up at today's White House press conference to convey the message to the president: stop provoking poor Mahmoud!
Gregory began by observing: "A lot of critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq . . . and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran. Is that the case?"
On the Tuesday edition of "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer, on the last leg of her Dictator ‘07 tour, asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad her silliest questions yet. Sawyer mused about Iranian environmental problems and also wondered how often the Holocaust-denying leader cries. The ABC program featured several segments with the President of Iran. After a piece where she only lightly pressed Ahmadinejad on his calls for the destruction of Israel, the GMA anchor asked if Iran’s President, who is seeking a nuclear bomb, is "sentimental and sympathetic" This question allowed Americans to see a softer side of the unpredictable leader:
Diane Sawyer: "Well, in a minute we're going to talk and I'm going to get the questions you have from e-mails. But a number of people have already said is there anything surprising, personal about President Ahmadinejad that we didn't know? Well, it turns out, someone told me he cries a lot. That he is dramatically sentimental and sympathetic if someone comes up and expresses a personal plight. So I just asked him, are you often in tears?"
As already reported on NewsBusters, ABC’s Diane Sawyer continued her Dictator ‘07 Tour on Tuesday with a stop in Iran to interview President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although the "Good Morning America" host did press the Iranian leader, it’s hard not ask some difficult questions to a man who repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel.
However, the questions were nowhere near as tough as in November 1998 when she interrogated special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. In that case, Sawyer told the Clinton investigator that "There is something about certainty that scares a lot of people" and wondered if he "went too far." In comparison, while the veteran journalist did challenge Ahmadinejad, she frequently let absurd statements go without a follow-up. When Iran’s President insisted that "death to America" chants shouldn’t be taken personally by United States citizens, Sawyer didn’t call him on it:
Diane Sawyer: "So now, the nuclear questions. What about those 3,000 centrifuges and the gaps in reporting to the watchdog IAEA? And the Bush administration contention if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it's a desire for a nuclear weapon. If you could have a nuclear weapon today, tomorrow, would you want one?"
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Well, our position is clear: We are opposed to any proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. We believe that the time is now over for nuclear weapons. It is a time for logic, for rationality and for civilization. Instead of thinking of finding new weapons, we are trying to find new ways to love people. And if talked about ‘Death to America’ slogan, I think you know it yourself, it is not related in any way to American public. Our people have no problem with American public, and we have a very friendly relationship."
Should Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever make it to America, he will feel right at home in the faculty lounges of America's universities and the executive suites of the MSM. For this morning, he gave the Iranian version of a slogan near and dear to the hearts of the aging campus activists of the 60s and 70s who are to be found there: Make Love Not War!
In segments broadcast on today's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer continued her interview of Ahmadinejad. Quizzed by Sawyer about his country's nuclear ambitions, he replied:
"We believe that the time is now over for nuclear weapons. It's a time for logic, for rationality and for civilization. Instead of thinking of finding new weapons, we are trying to find new ways to love people."
Right on, Mahmoud! Let me to introduce you to Ms. Hilton, here -- she may have some ideas.
View video here. Be sure to check out Diane's eyebrow raise when that wild 'n crazy Mahmoud mentions his hunt for new ways to love.