There are occasions in the news coverage of campaigns where fevered imagination kicks in and calm, comparative reason takes a holiday. Here we go again, and this time it’s Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic contender for the Senate in Tennessee who is getting the red carpet media treatment. Ford is an attractive black “rising Democratic star,” whose only obstacle is Tennessee’s inability to get beyond its sordid racist past.
The East Coast media recently parachuted into Tennessee to explore if the state was still so backward as to elect yet another Republican. On its front page, The Washington Post began a story with John Layne, aging white Republican, who came to a Ford rally because he has emphysema and worries about health care. "Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," Layne said. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But apparently, he’ll vote for one if the government benefit checks are good.
This evening's edition of ABC's World News highlighted the role NewsBusters played in getting out the story of John Kerry's controversial comments on education and "getting stuck in Iraq."
NewsBuster Warner Todd Huston was among the first in the blogosphere to break the story. As ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper described how "the Republican PR machine mov[ed] into high gear . . . and conservative blogs and talk radio had a field day," two images of NewsBusters appeared on-screen, including one showing Huston's story.
Honestly, how much more can ABC tolerate of this? On yesterday’s “The View,” comedienne Rosie O’Donnell said something truly disgraceful about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney.
As the gang was discussing the possibility of a woman becoming president, co-host Joy suggested that Condi could win. This set up O’Donnell to state: “I don’t think she could win, because I think she’s like that person on Scooby Doo who unzips themself and then it’s Dick Cheney’s evil twin brother is inside of her. That’s what I think.”
Why was ABC’s George Stephanopoulos smiling during his segment on Tuesday's Good Morning America? About ten minutes into the 7am half hour, following a report on Karl Rove’s optimistic outlook for the Republicans in the upcoming midterm election, and an interview with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel, Stephanopoulos grinned during this exchange with Diane Sawyer:
Diane Sawyer: "We just heard Rahm Emanuel say that the American public is going to turn over the tabletop for the Democrats. We also heard that Karl Rove is smiling. I think it's time to bring in ABC's chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos for a reality check this morning. Which way is it trending--"
George Stephanopoulos: "I'm smiling too, Diane."
It seems safe to assume Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton White House aide, was not smiling in agreement with Rove’s positive assessment of the GOP’s chances for maintaining their majorities in Congress. Perhaps Stephanopoulos' cheery disposition came from the good news he had to report for his Democratic friends and former colleagues:
Rahm Emanuel missed his calling in life. Rather than heading the Dem congressional campaign committee, he should have become a professional in the sport of freediving - holding your breath and diving without any breathing apparatus. Judging by his performance on today's Good Morning America, there's no doubt Rahm would have been a world champion.
In the closely-controlled world of the first half-hour [really 22 minutes] of the morning news shows, hosts keep a tight rein on their guests. Even notorious gabbers like Joe Biden are lucky to get in 15 seconds in before being cut short. Katie Couric, for all her liberal leanings, was a master of the technique.
Monday’s 'Good Morning America' highlighted anti-GOP sentiments from the American heartland during a report in the 7am half hour. Reporting from a diner in Columbus, Ohio, ABC’s Jake Tapper had assembled a group of five "real-life actual voters" to discuss the upcoming midterm elections. Amongst the group of voters in Tapper’s panel: a Republican voter voting Democratic this year; a Democratic Navy veteran who had been against the war; a conservative Christian eager to express "I'm not pro-war"; a new U.S. citizen who believes that illegal immigrants are being treated unfairly; and a cynic who believes that the whole political system is corrupt. Not one of the voters expressed support for the President or Republicans. Furthermore, none of the panel members, except for the cynic, expressed any reservations about a potential Democratic takeover of Congress.
Some highlights from the panel discussion:
Tapper: "You're a Republican voter, but the war in Iraq, among other issues, has you thinking that you might vote Democratic this year. Why?"
Larry [no last name given; Republican voter]: "...I think we're in the wrong place, and I just think it's time for a change, someone who can help us and get out of the quagmire we have."
Tapper: "Now, Kenny, you disapproved of the war from the beginning and you're, you're a Navy veteran...But, you have an issue with the fact that you think that those who have questioned the war, their patriotism has been challenged, right...You're an independent voter. But what struck me was that you said that you don't think, even though you think that there's a lot of corruption amongst the Republicans controlling Congress, you don't think that it's necessarily going to be any different if the Democrats take control. Why is that?"
"I'll see your disgruntled Republican and raise you an anti-war veteran, a pro-illegal-immigrant naturalized American and a Christian conservative who knows others planning to stay home."
That's how you might describe the bidding in the ABC/NBC game of Texas Talk 'Em Down. You might recall that last week I reported here on how NBC's David Gregory unearthed an Ohio bookstore owner, described as a "life-long Republican," who was thinking of voting Democrat.
That all you got, Today? Bookstore-owner high? Good Morning America beat that handily this morning with a full house!
Jake Tapper conducted the folks-in-the-Middle-American-diner segment, an obligatory bit of MSM pre-election shtick. ABC's chief DC political correspondent found himself out at Tommy's Diner in Columbus, Ohio, the same town in which Gregory disinterred his disillusioned Republican. Place must be a hotbed of disgruntled GOPers!
A welcome ray of reason amidst all the MSM gloom. Good Morning America ran a segment about the proposal by NYC busybodies to ban trans-fats. The city's Health Department is holding hearings today on a proposed citywide trans-fat ban at restaurants.
At the end of the piece, which reported on various restaurant chains that have switched to other fats or are considering the move, the story was tossed back to the hosts. That's when Robin Roberts struck a blow for reason and individual freedom:
"Many people feel 'give us the information but allow us to make the decision.'"
Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" offered more evidence that Katie Couric's CBS interview with Michael J. Fox was too cozy and unchallenging. She didn't push the celebrity into admitting a common celebrity error: he's speaking without reading. On Missouri's Amendment 2, the center of his ad pushing Democrat Claire McCaskill for Senate, he said, "I have to qualify it by saying I'm not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative. Although, I am quite sure that I'll agree with it in spirit, I don't know, I— On full disclosure, I haven't read it, and that's why I didn't put myself up for it distinctly." (AP didn't find that part newsworthy.)
When I first tuned to ABC this morning, I thought there might have been some schedule snafu owing to the switch to Standard Time. But no; I eventually realized I was indeed watching Good Morning America and not a late-night DNC infomercial.
You could forgive me for being confused, because the first half-hour amounted to little more than a love-letter to the party of Pelosi.
First up, GMA staged an "Election Pre-Game" panel, complete with that catchy NFL theme music. Nifty game plan, perhaps, but then ABC fielded an unbalanced team. Liberal lion Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts - voice of the center-left DC media establishment - and political reporter Jake Tapper. No George Will or other conservative to dilute Donaldson. To strain the pigskin metaphor, GMA host Kate Snow, whose anti-tax cut antics I noted here back in May, served as coach/referee.
Friday's morning shows offered more of the same election coverage. On ABC, Kate Snow highlighted how everyone Republican is running from Bush (with Rick Santorum touting his work with Hillary, God forbid) and gave Michael J. Fox another huge soundbite. On NBC, David Gregory explored how Democrats would rule. The first rule: hike the minimum wage.
ABC's Megan McCormack took down the Snow report, which is true enough, but has to play to a regular news viewer like the same old news in heavy rotation:
Chris Cuomo: "It's less than two weeks now until the congressional elections and we're seeing a new trend among GOP candidates: putting some distance between themselves and the White House. Here's ABC's Kate Snow."
With less then two weeks to go before the midterm elections, two separate programs, on two different networks, speculated that the Republicans are colluding with big oil to lower gas prices. The "Today" show wondered if this indicated "a vast right-wing conspiracy."
Fox’s Geraldo Rivera speculated that America was seeing a case of "gas pump pimping."
Meanwhile, ABC’s "Nightline" weighed in on political commercials and lamented GOP "mudslinging." They also characterized Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Michael J. Fox as a "vicious attack." (They apparently didn’t find any mudslinging or vicious attacks done by the Democrats)
CNN had their own take on Limbaugh’s comments. They wondered: "Could it be a new low?"
Speaking of the cable network, CNN also previewed a new Bush special by noting that "many say" the President has "stretched" and "trampled" the Constitution.
For these people with short memories who think the Jim Webb novel passages with lusty or just strange sexual episodes have no place in political news, clearly they do not remember the Newt Gingrich Bodice-Ripper as it broke to liberal media jokes in December of 1994. Webb’s strange passages drew no attention on the network morning shows Friday, unlike the liberal Gingrich fun in 1994:
-- CNN ended its afternoon show Inside Politics on December 1, 1994 with this exchange between anchors Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff on the enterprising New York Times:
Shaw: "Well, Gingrich is taking a sense of history into a new surprising realm. He's co-authoring a novel about World War II at its aftermath. Gingrich describes it as 'historical science fiction,' but others might categorize it as a sexy potboiler, at least based on an excerpt obtained by the New York Times. Now one passage reads - and let me emphasize I'm quoting now - 'Suddenly the pouting sex kitten gave way to Diana the Huntress. She rolled onto to him and somehow was sitting athwart his chest, her knees pinning his shoulders. 'Tell me, or I will make you do terrible things,' she hissed.' What are political watchers to make of this offering from the speaker-in-waiting and a proponent of family values? Well, incoming Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was asked for his comments today."
ABC’s Terry Moran featured three Republican campaign ads as examples of "mudslinging" in the run-up to November’s mid-term elections. On Thursday’s edition of "Nightline", Moran slammed Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of "beloved" actor Michael J. Fox and his Democratic pro-stem cell research campaign spots as a "vicious attack." On a GOP ad attacking Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. for attending a party hosted by Playboy magazine, Moran stated the ad used a white actress to "smear him." Moran’s point of view on these ads was easily discernable from this introduction:
Moran: "Tonight, on Nightline, mudslinging. Michael J. Fox's dramatic campaign commercials, Rush Limbaugh's vicious attack. With less than two weeks to go before the election, how low can they go? Hardball politics, where the stakes are high."
The national press corps is justifiably looked upon with suspicion by conservatives and in dire need of reform if it wishes to regain their confidence, especially since that's a sound business strategy.
Those are the words of ABC News political director Mark Halperin who on last night's "O'Reilly Factor" provided a resounding endorsement of the idea that the elite American media needs to stop being liberally biased. (Video available in WMV or Real. MP3 audio also available, transcript is after the jump.)
In a followup to an Oct. 19 internet posting in which he sarcastically implied that reporters take their cues from Democrats and liberal activists, Halperin stated that the press should use the 2006 elections as an opportunity to regain the public trust:
"In this country, we've got these old news organizations, the major networks, ABC, where you [O'Reilly] used to work, the New York Times, the Washington Post. These organizations have been around a long time, and for 40 years conservatives have looked with suspicion at them. I think we've got a chance in these last two weeks to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances, we're going to try to do better, but these organizations still have incredible sway, and conservatives are certain that we're going to be out to get them. We've got to fix that."
In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Wednesday’s 'Good Morning America,' Sean Hannity defended fellow talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has taken a lot of heat in the press for his criticism of Michael J. Fox’s campaign ads in favor of embryonic stem cell research and Democratic Senate candidates. Hannity fought the notion that Fox, who has injected himself through these ads into the political arena, is "immune" from critics, a view Sawyer seemed to express:
Sawyer: "Rush Limbaugh. What, what is going on here? Attacking Michael J. Fox?...Rush Limbaugh, even in his apology, said that Mike Fox was allowing his illness to be exploited, shilling for a Democratic candidate. If you have Parkinson’s disease, and you believe embryonic stem cell research is the, is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don't you have a right to speak up?"
Rosie O’Donnell took another vicious swipe at the Bush administration and its efforts to combat terrorism during Tuesday’s ‘The View.’ Liberal actor Tim Robbins appeared on the program to promote his latest film ‘Catch a Fire,’ set in apartheid-era South Africa. In the film, Robbins portrays a white police officer who tortures a black South African man, wrongfully accused of sabotage of an oil refinery. While discussing the film and his character, co-host Rosie O’Donnell equated the brutal tactics used against the people of South Africa by its own government with the Bush administration’s Patriot Act.:
Rosie O’Donnell: "They were seeking out terrorists, which is what they called the people in South Africa who actually lived there, who were the majority. The blacks in South Africa, who were trying to fight for their own civil rights, were called terrorists and the government was allowed to arrest them at will and interrogate them, no matter what they did, just on the suspicion. Very similar today to what we have in the United States, thanks to the Patriot Act."
Did you hear that loud crashing sound on Sunday? That was either media members across the country jumping off the Hillary for President bandwagon, or the Clintonistas slapping their knees over the gullibility of the press and the people they cater to.
Without question, the charming junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was the toast of the Sunday morning programs this weekend. From Meet the Press to The Chris Matthews Show, discussions centered on the presidential aspirations of a man that precious few had heard of prior to his well-publicized speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
On the heels of last week’s glowing reports on NBC’s ‘Today’ and CNN’s ‘American Morning,’ ABC couldn’t resist jumping on the Obama-for-president bandwagon. During the 7am half hour of Monday’s ‘Good Morning America,’ correspondent Claire Shipman reported on comments from Democratic Senator Barack Obama in which he expressed interest in pursing his party’s nomination for president in 2008. In her introduction to Shipman’s piece, GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts referred to the "red hot buzz" (generated by the mainstream media) surrounding Obama as proof that the senator is "already a major political player." Shipman promoted Obama as the new "it" candidate among Democrats. She also highlighted flattering statements from talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who described Obama as her "favorite senator," and political analyst Larry Sabato, who predicted that Obama has the "charisma to skyrocket" to become the preferred Democratic candidate for president:
Claire Shipman: "Barack Obama has become, in a matter of weeks, the new 'it' candidate for the Democrats...A recent ‘Time’ magazine poll shows [Hillary] Clinton well ahead of Obama in a potential presidential race, 43 percent to 30. But the comparatively unknown Obama has shown this week, if he decides to run, he can generate a lot of buzz in a hurry."
Larry Sabato: "Obama has the charisma to skyrocket right to the head of the pack."
The full transcript of Shipman’s report is behind the cut:
This is too extraordinary for words – not the possibility of it happening, but that anybody in the drive-by media would even suggest it. After all, if there ever was proof that the press are colluding with Democrats, here it is.
ABC News's "The Note" reported on October 19 that members of “The Old Media” are “giddy with excitement over the prospect of the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Mehlman machine losing," and are having “secret morning conference calls with Howard Dean and George Soros” to discuss how they “can keep the meta-narrative (‘The Democrats are going to beat Bush and run Congress!!’) going for another 19 days, without interruption.”
This is akin to Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift actually saying something bad about Bill Clinton. Yet, there it was, in black and white. Please be advised that the writers by-lined included Mark Halperin, David Chalian, Teddy Davis, Tahman Bradley, Sarah Baker, Catrin Jones, Erica Anderson, and Daniel Steinberger. As such, this wasn't one writer's opinion:
When Doro Bush Koch came on ABC's "The View" on Friday to discuss her book on her father, President George H.W. Bush, "My Father, My President," about 40 minutes into the hour, she was interviewed only by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters -- no Rosie O'Donnell, no Joy Behar. Some of the questions were still less than soft. Walters asked about how her brother's drinking problem affected their mother. (She said that she didn't want to downplay the drinking problem, but that the media overplayed it...and mmm, still is, Barbara?) Hasselbeck asked about how Jeb Bush has suggested Bill Clinton's taking advantage of her father and his friendship, which she answered by talking of how kindly Clinton treated her dad on their tsunami tour in Indonesia.
Tapper now patrols the political beat for ABC. But his lopsided report on congressional scandals on this morning's GMA reveals that he has lost none of his partisan edge. While Washington University prof Steven Smith was shown stating that 20 members of Congress are currently caught up in sex or money scandals, Tapper focused on seven: six Republicans and only one Democrat.
In Tapper's Republican Hall of Shame were:
George Allen, for 'macaca' and other allegations of racial insensitivity.
Don Sherwood, whose apolgetic TV ad Tapper described as standing for the proposition: "yes I had a mistress but I did not try to strangle her."
Viewers of Thursday’s edition of ‘The View’ were granted another glimpse into the liberal world view of co-host Rosie O’Donnell. Today, O’Donnell recounted her teary phone conversation with former President Bill Clinton, in which he apologized for the Monica Lewinsky affair. Later in the program, during an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards, O’Donnell slammed John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for President, for conceding the 2004 election before all the votes were counted and accused the Republicans of "cheating" by tinkering with the voting machines.
During the "Hot Topics" segment of the show, the ‘View’ women were discussing congressional sex scandals, which led Rosie to recount her phone call with the former president:
O’Donnell: "And I said to him, you know, to tell you the truth, sir, you broke my heart. I said, you know, I loved you like my mom loved Kennedy and, you know, I had faith in you, one of the few men I had real faith and hope in."
Rosie’s full tale of her presidential phone call behind the cut:
On his show yesterday, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson congratulated Diane Sawyer of ABC for leaving the comforts of home to report from North Korea. Judging by her report this morning, you'd have to say the rigors have been worth it. Sawyer has been on a week-long stay in Dear-Leader Land, and this morning she scored an important story. A top N. Korean general flatly told her that his country has the means to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Sawyer: "We asked him what the words of North Korea meant when they said there would be a 'merciless blow' in response to any sanctions? He said he couldn't say specifically but pointed out they have short- and long-range missiles. He said 'President Bush wants us to kneel down. We cannot agree on that. If it continues, I think it will be natural to have war.'"
As reported earlier here on Newsbusters, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly appeared on Wednesday’s edition of 'The View' to promote his new book Culture Warrior. As one would expect, O’Reilly and liberal 'View' co-host Rosie O’Donnell clashed at several points during the segment, particularly in their discussion of the war in Iraq. O’Donnell would go on in the interview to praise the ACLU as a "fantastic organization" and express her appreciation for liberal Phil Donahue:
Barbara Walters: "Name some well-known secular progressives."
Bill O’Reilly: "All right. George Soros is the money man...The ACLU is the vanguard–"
Rosie O’Donnell: "The American Civil Liberties Union, a fantastic organization."
If you're looking for some fair-and-balanced commentary on the situation in Iraq, there's nothing like relying exclusively on a scholar with two degrees from Berkeley - particularly if that same person is a frequent NPR guest.
That was Good Morning America's approach this morning. The only expert invited to comment on the situation in Iraq was Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution. Predictably, he painted matters in the bleakest possible light:
"I believe that the United States has lost the ability to control events in Iraq. And it lost them long ago."
A quick Googling reveals that Telhami has both a doctorate and masters from Berkeley. He was an undergrad at Queens College in NYC, another liberal hotbed. According to his Wikipedia entry, Telhami was born into an Arab family in Israel and is a regular guest on NPR.
Never play poker against Claire Shipman. Anyone who can keep a straight face while claiming that 'Women's Voices. Women Vote' is "non-partisan" could surely bluff you out of a pot while sitting on a busted flush.
On this morning's Good Morning America, Shipman [or shall we call her 'DC Slim'?] narrated a segment spotlighting WVWV's efforts to get single women voters to the polls. Since it is obvious that single women lean heavily Dem, voting for Democrats by a more than 2/3 margin as Dem pollster Celinda Lake acknowledged, my BS-detector started screeching when I saw a straight-faced Shipman slip in her claim that WVWB is "non-partisan."
There was more bad news for the White House on ABC Monday morning. Three weeks before the mid-term congressional elections, 'Good Morning America' chose to highlight the claims of a former White House staffer that Bush administration officials had "mocked" evangelical Christian leaders. Former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, David Kuo, wrote a book, released today, in which he asserts that administration officials have referred to evangelical leaders as "nuts" and that his office was used to curry favor with "Republican base voters," evangelical Christians, rather than to help the poor.
Co-anchor Robin Roberts and substitute host Chris Cuomo teased the 7:40AM segment, which included a report from Jake Tapper and an interview with Kuo:
Chris Cuomo: "Also this half hour, we have new questions about the White House and the religious right. The faithful helped put Bush in the White House, but did the administration mock evangelicals behind their backs?"
Robin Roberts: "Coming up next, a White House insider blows the whistle, accusing the Bush administration of taking advantage of Christian conservatives."
This past week, the media made a very clear distinction between how they view a Republican scandal and one involving a powerful Democrat. MRC analysts found that, over a period of 12 days, the big three networks aired 150 stories on the Mark Foley scandal.
How did those same networks cover an investigation into Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and a very questionable land deal? They generally ignored the story. In the case of CNN, the October 12 "American Morning" aired almost 20 minutes of Foley coverage and devoted 35 seconds to Reid
Not to be outdone, print media also glossed over the emerging Reid scandal. "The New York Times" prefaced a story about Reid earning $1.1 million on a property that he hasn’t owned in three years with this headline: "Senator Offers to Amend Financial Forms." The "Times" is certainly generous in offering the benefit of the doubt...as long as you’re a Democrat.