Our analysts discovered quite a contrast on the evening news shows Monday night, displaying two different ways of covering Iraq. ABC's "World News Tonight" honored the Iraqi voter as part of a series on people of the year. "NBC Nightly News" aired another gloomy Richard Engel piece saying democracy in Iraq was like a kidnapped bride. MRC's Megan McCormack filed both transcripts to show the contrast.
NBC, 12/26: Anchor substitute Campbell Brown: “In Iraq, a Kurdish coalition and the main Shiite religious group have taken a third each of the earliest votes cast in the recent election. Those votes by expatriates, soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients are just a small percentage of the overall balloting. Meanwhile, the nation has suffered it’s bloodiest day since the election, with nine attacks that left at least twenty dead. NBC’s Richard Engel in Baghdad has the latest.”
Earlier this week, one columnist for ESPN’s web site went out of his way to recycle a cheap shot at President Bush, and another inadvertently reminded some of us that for a few brief, shining moments, a highly rated, prime-time, broadcast-network TV program aired unambiguously conservative points of view.
--Scoop Jackson (no relation to the late U.S. Senator from Washington state) took the NFL to task for "showing zero compassion for the people of New Orleans or [Saints] players" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Fair enough, but Jackson also sniped, "It almost made you wish Kanye West would have added the NFL to the comment he made about George W. Bush."
MRC's Megan McCormack reports that on Thursday's "Good Morning America," ABC reporter Jake Tapper gave some air time to the view that Steven Spielberg's new film "Munich" has a "dangerous naivete," arguing that "fighting the terrorists only makes them more likely to commit acts of terror." Granted, when skepticism is coming from liberal magazines like The New Yorker and The New Republic, publicizing it on ABC is not as shocking. Tapper leaves out the role of screenwriter Tony Kushner, the controversial hard-left gay playwright. The transcript follows:
Robin Roberts: "But first, opening tomorrow, a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg that's causing controversy before it even hits the screen. Spielberg took extraordinary steps to keep details of the film secret, with only a few actors even allowed to see the entire script. The film is called 'Munich,' and the controversy over how the movie treats terrorism. Here's ABC’s Jake Tapper."
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
After President Bush concluded his press conference, the networks decided he was passionate, even "testy," said Tim Russert. That's virtually always a good description of White House reporters facing a Republican president. To be specific, MRC's Scott Whitlock noticed that Tim Russert proclaimed, "The Bush media blitz continues. This was a President who was passionate, animated, even testy about the eavesdropping situation, Brian. He realizes that this issue has legs, if in fact Republicans in Congress go forward with their investigation." Russert insisted the contoversy over domestic "spying" is "still a big question and clearly the President does not enjoy being challenged about it."
On ABC, MRC's Megan McCormack watched ex-Clinton spin artist George Stephanopoulos holding court with his "nonpartisan" opinions on how the "humble" Bush of Sunday night was the "defiant" Bush of Monday morning. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted his vigor in defending a "secret spying program." (As opposed to a overt, watchable spying program?)
An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.
CBS’ Bob Schieffer, after introducing his guests Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), began the segment (from closed captioning):
“Gentlemen, we have to start this morning with this story. It is against the law, of course, to eavesdrop or wire tap U.S. citizens in this country without a court order from a federal judge. But the "New York Times" says that is exactly what the president is authorized the government to do since 9/11. The secretary of state said this morning that the president has statutory and constitutional authorization to do what he did. So I'll start with Senator Graham. Does he have that authority, senator?”
Forget about how cold it is outside — according to ABC, there’s no longer a debate about global warming: manmade greenhouse emissions have put Earth “under non-stop stress from the heat,” with deaths from global warming “conservatively” estimated at 150,000 per year.
In a stupendously one-sided story that aired on Thursday’s “Good Morning America” — a longer version of which will be shown tonight on “Nightline” — reporter Bill Blakemore announced that unless “serious greenhouse gas emission cuts” are underway within the next ten years “the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years.”
Such cuts in emissions, however, would cause massive damage to the world economy. Financial columnist James Glassman recently highlighted a study from the International Council for Capital Formation which tried to assess the impact on just four European countries – Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy:
Washington Post TV writer Tom Shales, fresh from defending TV news no matter how wrong it is (as in Mary Mapes), is fussing this morning that Terry Moran had the unmitigated gall to question the TV coverage of Iraq as less than three-dimensional:
Moran sounded similarly specious Monday night with a report he taped in Iraq. "It's not the place you see on TV every night," he said. "Much of the media coverage here is one-dimensional." So then, what? We should put on our 3-D glasses? "Nightline" was going to show all the bad boys of broadcasting how to do it? Moran's report wasn't revolutionary and didn't justify his lecturing others in the TV news business.
New York magazine's Meryl Gordon captured the end of Ted Koppel's arrogant reign over "Nightline," and Koppel grew especially cranky (he "drips with contempt") when asked about the Bush administration's public relations on the war in Iraq.
Twice in the past two years, Koppel has raised the ire of the Bush administration with segments called "The Fallen," in which he read aloud the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq. "I didn’t do it to piss them off," he says. "It was to honor the people who have lost their lives, to remind us that a tiny fragment of the population is bearing a disproportionate burden." His voice drips with contempt as he talks about the Bush team’s spin tactics on Iraq. "There’s this sense, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what’s going on over there—just do what we tell you, don’t question it. We know what we’re doing, leave the grown-ups alone.’ It’s not smart, it’s not healthy, and in the final analysis, it doesn’t work."
This morning, it was the New York Times publishing a positive story about tomorrow’s historic elections in Iraq. ABC News has been doing a lot of optimistic segments on this subject since Sunday. Tonight, it was the “NBC Nightly News’” turn (video link to follow). Brian Williams introduced the segment by first suggesting that the “American media often cannot report the good news in Iraq because travel is still so dangerous.” He continued: “But tonight, we do have some extraordinary pictures of life there, and there are signs you'll see of progress.”
Richard Engel then showed young boys playing soccer on a street, a fashion show that occurred a month ago, along with a film festival. Then, on to the bastion of capitalism, the Baghdad stock exchange, where “without computers, traders take orders by phone and execute them by hand, an average of $3 million in shares trades here a day, 10 times the amount under Saddam.”
Just in time for the media’s latest knee-jerk reflex of gloom preceding this week’s elections, MRC’s Rich Noyes has updated his year-long study of 2005 Iraq war coverage on ABC, CBS, and NBC. A new review of media coverage in October and November continues the pessimistic trend, with the traditional broadcast networks airing six stories in negative tones for every Iraq story with a positive angle. Read the whole thing for a summary of John Murtha’s instant TV stardom and Jake Tapper’s readiness to believe wild claims of detainee abuse, carefully excluding wacky claims that American soldiers use lions to scare detainees. The official story count falls this way:
[B]etween October 1 and November 30….we could classify only 34 stories (10%) as positive or optimistic, compared to 200 (62%) that emphasized negativity or pessimism about the Iraq mission, a six-to-one disparity. (The remaining 90 stories were neutral.) During the first nine months of the year, we found 211 stories (15%) emphasizing positive developments, compared with 848 (61%) that relayed mainly bad news. For the year, the number of negative stories on Iraq stands at 1,048 (61%), to just 245 positive stories (14%).
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2011—Karl Rove, the former Bush official
was named ABC's chief Washington correspondent, the network said Tuesday.
In a world where liberal press bias doesn't exist, such a
lede could, theoretically, exist. In the real world, ABC named former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos its chief Washington
correspondent Monday afternoon.
With former Mario Cuomo adviser Tim Russert heading NBC's
coverage, that means two of the three broadcast networks' political coverage
will be overseen by former Democratic officials. From Broadcasting and Cable:
There’s a new poll out, done by Oxford Research International for ABC News and TIME magazine. Unfortunately, unless you were watching “This Week” on ABC this morning, or this evening’s “World News Tonight,” you likely missed it.
George Stephanopoulos referred to this poll on “This Week” this morning as he was speaking with American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad (taken from closed captioning):
“And I want to begin by showing you and our viewers some results from a new poll, conducted by ABC news and 'Time' magazine, and other international partners. It's part of our 'Iraq: Where Things Stand' series. It shows some good news. More than 70% of Iraqis think things are going well for them right now. But it also shows there's a growing gap between the Shiites and Sunnis in the country, as we've seen before. Over 80% of Shiites feel safe. They approve of the constitution. They have confidence in the Iraqi army.”
While conservative talk radio blazed this week over DNC chair Howard Dean's comments on Iraq, that the idea we're going to win is "wrong," an important question arises: did the average American who does NOT listen to talk radio, but relies on network morning or evening news, hear the same uproar? Are the aware of the brouhaha? Don't bet on it. A quick search of the name "Howard Dean" in Nexis from Sunday to Friday showed no Dean mention on ABC. None on CBS. NBC had this snippet on Wednesday morning from Kelly O'Donnell: "The president dismissed comments from Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, who compared Iraq to the Vietnam war." That's the closest the networks came.
What if you live in fly-over country and read the national papers online, or bought copies across the country of USA Today, or the New York Times? If you read USA Today last week, you'd know nothing of Dean's comments. The New York Times mentioned them in an A-5 story by Sheryl Stolberg on Wednesday headlined "Democrats Still Search for Plan on Iraq." Dean surfaced in paragraph 13. The Washington Post was rare for putting the story front and center on Tuesday, in a story by Jim VandeHei and Shailagh Murray headlined "Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks" featuring Dean's comments in paragraph two, on the front page. How about National Public Radio?
ABC continued the racist-Katrina-response news angle this morning by interviewing two of the witnesses at yesterday's House hearing, requested by Rep. Cynthia McKinney. The taped and edited interview segment (no need for really wild conspiracy theories on air) featured "Good Morning America" co-host Charles Gibson interviewing Doreen Keeler and Leah Hodges. I decided to play the Google game. Are these women's backgrounds available on the Internet? Are they perhaps....left-wingers? Here's what I found:
A woman by the name of Doreen Keeler is listed as a plaintiff for the Center for Reproductive Rights fighting a "Choose Life" license plate in Louisiana since that apparently "infringes on free speech rights" (or at least upsets abortion advocates). That might match, considering Keeler is listed in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune as an AIDS activist "who works for the NO/AIDS Task force in New Orleans and manages the Louisiana HIV/AIDS hotline." Might someone with socially liberal views be especially supportive of suggesting the Bush administration response was inadequate?
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
New ABC "World News Tonight" anchor Elizabeth Vargas has long been a team player on the liberal-bias teams at ABC and NBC. One of her most unforgettable stints -- displaying ABC's cultural bias, not political bias -- was a one-hour special highlighting the "legends" behind the novel "The DaVinci Code," and novelist Dan Brown's claims that in our nonfiction world, the Catholic Church has tried to strangle the "truth" that Jesus Christ had sex with Mary Magdalene and she took their son to France after the Crucifixion. Brent Bozell described it here. Here's a few other samples of Vargas bias over the last decade:
Democrat Governor’s Law Now Alito’s Idea: "On World News Tonight, President Bush’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court. Conservatives are thrilled, liberals incensed. He once said a woman should tell her husband before she gets an abortion." — ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas introducing the October 31, 2005 World News Tonight. (Alito found Pennsylvania’s law under Democratic Gov. Bob Casey, which included a spousal-notification requirement, was reasonable.)
The three broadcast networks all did segments this evening on the former 9/11 commission’s report card released today. Though all three focused on the negatives, only the "CBS Evening News” ignored the good grades given by the commission, while also failing to mention that a key problem highlighted in this report is already being addressed by legislation pending in Congress (video link to follow).
Bob Orr quickly gave a rundown of the “F’s” and the “D’s” given by former commission members for the government achieving a set of priorities they deemed necessary to avert another terrorist attack. However, as can be seen in the full report card, Orr chose not to mention any of the 12 “B’s” given by the commission, or the “A-” obtained for “Terrorist Financing.” Orr also reported:
ABC News today named Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff as the anchors of its evening flagship program "World News Tonight."
From the press release:
Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff were named co-anchors of an expanded version of ABC News’ flagship broadcast “World News Tonight,” News President David Westin announced today. Beginning Monday, January 2nd, when Vargas and Woodruff debut together as co-anchors, “World News Tonight” will become the first evening newscast to broadcast a live version to the West Coast each night. World News Tonight will also make various versions of its reports available over the Internet throughout the afternoon and evening.
“Elizabeth and Bob together will be the anchors for this new broadcast and digital age of World News Tonight. Their experience as journalists, their familiarity to our audiences, and their commitment to gathering and delivering the news anywhere, anytime and in every way make them the right team to take us forward for the next generation,” said Westin.
He continued: “World News Tonight has been and will continue to be the source for millions of Americans to get careful, comprehensive and insightful reporting of the news of the day. Now we will be providing that news live throughout the evening on television; now we will be making that news available to Americans throughout the afternoon and evening to those who want it over computers, mobile telephones, and the countless other digital means.”
“I know, Dan, the President’s giving a speech on the economy coming up, but there are people, including Alan Greenspan of the Fed, and also the GAO, the top auditor in the country, who have said with these deficits, these mounting deficits, it is simply hard to look at this economy as anything but on thin ice, no matter what. No new taxes?”
-- Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer to Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, December 5, 2005.
Ken Shepherd alerted me to a story ABC's Dan Harris did on "World News Tonight" on evangelical Christian sensation Rick Warren ("The Purpose-Driven Life") and his new passion for an AIDS ministry. This Harris sentence really stuck out: "He's urging them to start serving people with HIV/AIDS — a disease that many evangelicals have either long ignored or called God's punishment of gays."
Harris doesn't provide any evidence for this broad-brush attack, this alleged apathy and ill will on the part of evangelical Christians -- just the anecdotal evidence that Warren seems quite contrite about not having done enough until now. He underlined the notion that Christians are behind the curve with an affirming quote from Dr. John Green of the liberal Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: "For many years, evangelicals have claimed that they hate sin but love the sinner. Now here's an example where they're starting to live that out." They're just starting to have compassion. No one offering a counterpoint is aired.
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
The websites of many major media organizations (including USA Today, MSNBC, ABC News, and CNN) aren't wasting any time reporting the guilty plea by California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican who admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes. They all are placing his story high on their homepages. That alone isn't bias, as corruption by public officials should always be at the top of the news headlines.
However, I'm guessing that few who hear about Cunningham have ever heard of former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance, a Democrat who as a North Carolina state senator used his official position to channel public funds into a private nonprofit that he operated. He received a four-year sentence in federal prison on Oct. 12 after admitting guilt to redirecting taxpayer dollars for his private use. He had resigned his congressional seat last year.
Like some of the other shows, it seemed a little unanimous on CNN's "Reliable Sources" today. They began with a panel of raving leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, liberal historian Robert Dallek, liberal CNN correspondent Bruce Morton, and UPI Pentagon correspondent Pam Hess, who must qualify as the most conservative one on the panel. Krugman muffed it early when host Howard Kurtz asked if Walter Cronkite could galvanize the anti-war movement today by saying we've lost, we should withdraw: "If Walter Cronkite were alive -- sorry, he is alive. If Walter Cronkite were on the news today, if a Walter Cronkite equivalent were on the news, he would -- immediately after that broadcast we just saw, he would have been called a traitor."
It’s probably not the first time it has happened, but with the exception of ABC’s George Will – who, of course, has been a regular on that network’s “This Week” for many years – the networks’ Sunday political talk shows had no established conservative guests to participate in their weekly panel discussions. Joining George Stephanopoulos and George Will this morning were Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, TIME magazine’s Jay Carney, and ABC’s Claire Shipman. NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” featured Katy Kay of the BBC, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC, and Terry Neal of the Washington Post. CBS’s “Face the Nation” did its annual Thanksgiving “historians” program.
The most left-leaning of the panels was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where Tim Russert invited Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” David Broder of the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson also of the Washington Post, and David Gregory of NBC News. While the “This Week” and “Matthews” panels actually engaged in a comparatively well-rounded discussion, the “Meet the Press” group spent the bulk of its half-hour talking about the “disaster” in Iraq. For instance, Robinson said, “I think that there's general agreement now that there will be a mess in Iraq when U.S. troops finally withdraw and it certainly won't be an Athenian democracy, as the administration said it was out to create.” Gregory agreed, “And unfortunately, perhaps the only outcome is a kind of low-level civil war that's akin to the Arab- Israeli situation with U.S. soldiers in the way.”
Woodruff then joined in by paraphrasing a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly:
Dave Huber explains at Oh, That Liberal Media that the Boston Globe erred in its headline in an AP story with the words "Teacher Under Investigation for Alleged Liberalism":
The school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" an English teacher's use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.
"I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes," said one question on a quiz written by English and social studies teacher Bret Chenkin.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday broke a story about Michael Jackson that has received surprisingly little press. In a report about the pop star’s finances, as well as his relationship with financial advisors, an audiotape was played of a telephone message Jackson left for a former business associate:
JACKSON: They suck - they're like leeches. I'm so tired of it. They start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars, and everything, end up with, penniless. It is conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose.
In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry: