On Sunday’s Reliable Sources on CNN, as host Howard Kurtz led a discussion on media coverage of Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel’s ethical problems, guest Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News – formerly of Time magazine and CNN's Capital Gang – seemed to suggest that Rangel would have lost his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee sooner if the mainstream media were not so biased in favor of the New York Democrat.
Kurtz had just led a discussion with Carlson and the Washington Examiner’s Chris Stirewalt on whether ABC’s Jonathan Karl had slanted his coverage of Republican Senator Jim Bunning’s efforts to delay passage of the extension of unemployment benefits, with the CNN host posing the question: "When the television reports go from Senator Bunning on the floor, clearly ticking off his colleagues, to some poor unemployed person who obviously wants to continue to receive checks, are we loading the dice a little bit?"
After the discussion moved to Rangel, Kurtz recounted that Matthews recently wondered whether the New York Times was going after the Democratic Congressman because of his unethical acts or because he had angered them with some legislative action. The CNN host soon added: "But Matthews went on to say, ‘I've loved the guy,’ Charlie Rangel, ‘for years. I feel like recusing myself.’ But do you think this Rangel story got enough attention? All the networks covered it. NBC Nightly News is the only one that did a full story."
The left-leaning Carlson soon acknowledged the media’s negative feelings toward Bunning as a contrast with press affection for Rangel, with either Kurtz or Stirewalt – or possibly both men – voicing agreement that Rangel would have been gone earlier if not for his popularity:
ABC's World News on Friday night finally caught up with burgeoning Democratic scandals, though hardly showing the same zeal as when the networks incessantly focused on Republican Congressman Mark Foley back in 2006. On Thursday, the MRC's Scott Whitlock documented how this week the ABC evening newscast had “devoted almost six times as much coverage to Senator Jim Bunning and his temporary hold-up of an unemployment bill as the program did for the ongoing revelations that Democratic Charlie Rangel violated House ethics with his trips to the Caribbean [38 seconds].” Anchor Diane Sawyer set up the Friday night story:
And in political Washington tonight, Democrats on Capitol Hill capping a bad week have to be saying thank heaven this is Friday. The latest: Democratic Congressman Eric Massa, from upstate New York, announced he's quitting his seat under a cloud of harassment allegations. What does this mean for the Democratic Party and the future? Here's Jon Karl.
Karl showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's promise of the “most ethical Congress in history” and that she would “drain the swamp” as he highlighted Rangel and the announcement Massa, accused of “sexually harassing two male aides,” will resign. Karl recalled:
Democrats rode into power by targeting Republican corruption, and there was lots of it: The Mark Foley sex scandal involving under-age pages and lobbying scandals that landed two Republican Congressmen in jail.
Over the last three days, ABC's World News devoted almost six times as much coverage to Senator Jim Bunning and his temporary hold-up of an unemployment bill as the program did for the ongoing revelations that Democratic Charlie Rangel violated House ethics with his trips to the Caribbean.
World News investigated and followed the Republican for four minutes and 38 seconds over two days. In comparison, the program could only manage a scant 48 seconds of coverage for Rangel. (Anchor Diane Sawyer on Wednesday finally asked George Stephanopoulos about the news that Rangel was stepping down from his powerful Ways and Means committee.)
The difference here is that Rangel's story was an actual scandal and ABC only treated Bunning's actions, which amounted to not giving unanimous consent to a $10 billion spending bill, as a scandal.
ABC squeezed in a short item Wednesday night on a House resolution to put Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill, a report most notable for the enticing mock-up ABC’s graphics artists created. Anchor Diane Sawyer announced on the March 3 World News:
All right, quick, who is on the $50 bill? If you said Ulysses S. Grant, you’re right. But if some people have their way, that’s going to change soon. There's a move afoot to put Ronald Reagan on the $50, led by 14 Republican Members of Congress who are sponsoring a new bill calling for the change in honor of the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth next year.
Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina (10th Congressional District, west of Charlotte) submitted: “H. R. 4705. To require the Secretary of the Treasury to redesign the face of $50 Federal reserve notes so as to include a likeness of President Ronald Wilson Reagan.”
For the second straight night, ABC's World News scolded Senator Jim Bunning for daring to block a $10 billion spending bill until it is offset by cuts elsewhere, parading out victims as Diane Sawyer and Jonathan Karl painted him as a nuisance “even fellow Republicans” – that would be a liberal one – oppose. (After the EST broadcast, news broke that Bunning has agreed to some sort of deal.)
Sawyer thundered in teasing her top story: “Tonight on World News, the 'Politics of No.' For the second straight day, one Senator stymies Congress, unemployed Americans struggle and we track that Senator down again.” Sawyer led:
Good evening. Even his fellow Republicans have asked him to stop, but Republican Senator Jim Bunning still has Congress under blockade. For another day, he's kept thousands of unemployed workers from getting their benefits and forced some highway construction projects to stop.
Karl treated the Senator as a child (“Jim Bunning was at it again today”) before he showcased an “unemployed microbiologist in Texas” who, Karl ludicrously relayed -- just two weekdays after unemployment benefits were stopped -- “says no unemployment check will mean she will have to move out of her house” while “Bret Ingersoll of Denver is an unemployed forklift operator, who has already lost his apartment.” So, “today even fellow Republicans were asking Senator Bunning to relent.” That would be Maine's Susan Collins.
A retiring Senator not facing re-election stood up last week for principle, insisting new federal spending be covered by a matching reduction elsewhere, but instead of hailing Senator Jim Bunning as a “maverick” making sure the ruling party adheres to its promise new spending will be “paid for,” television network journalists on Monday night painted him as an ogre, focusing on the presumed victims of delayed spending.
Teasing World News, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer stressed how he’s “denying” people unemployment benefits so ABC decided to “confront” him: “One man's stand. A single Senator stops the whole Congress, denying thousands of people unemployment benefits. We confront him to ask why.” Sawyer framed the story around how Bunning is blocking “life support for the unemployed.”
Reporter Jon Karl concentrated on victims as he played video of himself confronting Bunning by an elevator: “We wanted to ask the Senator why he is blocking a vote that would extend unemployment benefits to more than 340,000 Americas, including Brenda Wood, a teacher in Austin, Texas who has been out of work for two years.” That’s not all: “Bunning is also blocking money for highway construction. So across the country today, 41 construction projects ground to a halt, thousands of workers furloughed without pay.”
After the Democrats regained control of the House in 2006, Nancy Pelosi promised NBC's Brian Williams that she would "drain the swamp" and "turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history." So when news broke that a House Ethics committee found that long time New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel accepted corporate money for trips to the Carribean one would think Williams would be all over the story – he wasn't.
On Thursday's NBC Nightly News Williams completely ignored the charges, as did ABC's World News Tonight. Of the three broadcast network evening news shows, only Williams' competitors at CBS Evening News covered the Rangel scandal as Katie Couric reported Rangel "broke House rules," and Nancy Cordes told viewers he could be "censured," but didn't tell them that he was a Democrat.
[UPDATE, 7:30 PM EST Friday, February 26: ABC's World News caught up with Rangel on Friday night as anchor Diane Sawyer identified him as a Democrat and the Friday NBC Nightly News rolled Rangel into a “Democrats' Disarray” story with Desiree Rogers and David Paterson.]
Williams' NBC News colleague Amy Robach did mention the investigation into Rangel's wrongdoing, the next morning on the Today show, but omitted Rangel's party affiliation in the one and only story aired on the morning show:
“The President often seemed exasperated with Republican arguments,” CBS's Chip Reid empathetically conveyed in reporting on Thursday's health care policy summit before he declared that President Obama had achieved what he needed to accomplish:
Well, he really did, Katie. What he really wanted to do was convince the American people, and more importantly wavering Democrats in Congress, that the Republicans are the party of no. They won't compromise and he now has no choice but to move ahead with Democrats alone.
On ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer led with what she described as “a landmark event today, a televised political duel.” Echoing Reid's assessment of Obama's “exasperation,” Jake Tapper saw “from the Republicans, some old arguments and new frustrations for the President.” George Stephanopoulos decided Obama had “reinforced his bipartisan bonafides, showed that he was reaching out.”
Parting with Reid, however, Stephanopoulos considered it an “honorable draw” since “both sides...gained something” as “Republicans were able to show they had real substantive ideas, there are just differences about how to achieve health care reform in this country.”
A night after ABC anchor Diane Sawyer demanded to know who will “keep insurance companies from jacking up premiums while making huge profits?”, on Wednesday night she again put ABC into service for the liberal spin machine the night before President Obama’s health summit, teasing: “Big insurance executives forced to answer why they're raising your premiums while raking in big profits.” World News devoted a full story to a hearing held by House Democrats to demonize WellPoint:
We turn to the growing outrage at insurance companies, the ones that raise premiums on ordinary Americans while racking up big profits. Today, executives of the company that insures the most Americans had to answer for big bonuses and lavish retreats while socking clients with a double-digit increase in fees.
ABC viewers were treated to demagogic Democrats railing against the salaries and profits of WellPoint. Then, as if it were a coincidence, Sawyer acknowledged “this anger erupts on the eve of President Obama's health care reform summit tomorrow.” (NBC also ran a story pegged to the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, but sans the histrionics.)
Over on CBS, Katie Couric insisted Thursday would bring “that much-anticipated summit at the White House” to “try to save health care reform.” She began with “shades of the Paris peace talks,” ruing “Republicans have been arguing about the shape of the table and the seating arrangement.” Getting to the substance, Couric pleaded: “Does the President have any chance of reaching some kind of compromise with Republicans on health care reform?”
Advancing the Obama administration’s efforts to impugn private insurance companies, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer set up a Tuesday night story on who will “keep insurance companies from jacking up premiums while making huge profits?” Reporter Jonathan Karl explained “the idea from the White House is to keep premiums down by simply limiting how much insurance companies can raise them,” before he relayed the White House spin: “The Obama administration is putting the heat on insurance companies, accusing them of placing profits ahead of health care.”
Karl reported “the top five insurance companies took in $12 billion in profit last year,” as if that’s shameful or excessive, and gave short-shrift to how Republicans would control costs “with a limit on malpractice lawsuits, and increasing competition to allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines.”
He concluded by returning to the Obama team’s claims that their reform regime in itself would lower costs: “As for the White House idea to have that panel control how much insurance premiums can go up, the White House acknowledges that that is only part of the solution – in fact, a temporary fix until health care can go – health care reform can go fully into effect.”
On Monday’s World News on ABC, correspondent Steve Osunsami filed a report that gave rare attention to the high abortion rate among the black population, as he focused on billboards in Atlanta put up by black members of the pro-life movement as they try to draw attention to the issue, although he began the report on a negative note by referring to the pro-life billboards as "causing trouble," and called those who created the signs "anti-abortionists," instead of using the term "pro-life." Osunsami: "In the heart of black neighborhoods across Atlanta, these are the billboards causing the trouble. The message is simple – that black children are an endangered species because of too many abortions in the black community. The anti-abortionists behind the billboards are black themselves."
After playing a clip of one of the billboard designers who asserted that "we’re trying to raise awareness" of the dire statistics, Osunsami recounted the high numbers of black women who have abortions: "It is true that, of the 35,000 women in Georgia who received abortions in 2008, nearly 21,000 were black women, more than twice the number of white women. Nationally, while black women are one and a half times more likely than white women to become pregnant, the CDC says black women are three times more likely to get an abortion."
On the Monday, February 22, World News on ABC, host Diane Sawyer seemed to rejoice in the "bipartisanship" of newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown’s willingness to vote with Democrats on a "job creation bill," as she passed on the "fresh sign" of bipartisanship, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s expression of hope that it is the "beginning of a new day" in the Senate. After correspondent Jake Tapper concluded a report on the ongoing debate over health care reform by noting the unlikelihood that President Obama and Republicans will reach an agreement, Sawyer read the short item on Senator Brown's vote. Sawyer:
President Obama’s health plan announced Monday is little more than the Senate bill with a new tax and federal price control regime, but ABC’s Diane Sawyer touted how “Obama today officially put forward his plan” and CBS’s Katie Couric hailed “a plan of his own,” though she pointed out “it includes no public option.” (In contrast, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie observed: “This new plan of the President's looks a lot like the old plan, just repackaged.”)
All three evening newscasts employed terminology congenial to Obama’s wish to interfere in the marketplace by trumpeting how Obama would “block insurance companies from unreasonable rate increases” while CBS and NBC both advanced Obama’s effort to disparage insurance companies by showcasing sympathetic victims of a health insurance rate hike – pregnant women.
Sawyer delivered a very innocuous summary: “It would give the government new power to control big hikes in insurance premiums, it would give a maximum of nearly $8,500 to a family of four to help them buy insurance and it would prevent insurers from denying coverage to anyone who's already sick or at risk of illness.”
On CBS, Couric segued to “a lot of anger about soaring insurance premiums” and reporter Ben Tracy found a woman “seven months pregnant” upset by a 35 percent hike. She scolded: “You have a right to make money but not at the expense of abusing other people.” NBC’s Guthrie noted “the White House has seized on a California company's decision to jack up rates 39 percent. This Redondo Beach mother was stunned.” Viewers then heard from the woman, near tears: “Do I go without insurance? Does my daughter go without insurance? What are we supposed to do?”
On the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration's “stimulus” spending bill, ABC, CBS and NBC all eagerly corroborated the White House's claims about how it “saved or created” many jobs and staved off economic disaster, though they all offered a range of numbers and definitions (ABC: “800,000 to 2.4 million new jobs,” CBS: “about 1.8 million” jobs “saved or created” and NBC: “1.6 to 1.8 million jobs have been created so far.”)
ABC and CBS touted anecdotes about companies and government agencies which asserted the spending had prevented layoffs or allowed them to hire new staff. ABC's Jake Tapper cited buses for Santa Monica, construction jobs in Baltimore, “63,000 green jobs” (with a solar panel-maker's CEO declaring “it is working and we're proof of that”) and a school system superintendent who told Tapper the funding “ helped save 61 jobs and create 73 new ones.”
On CBS, Chip Reid began with how “this highway paving equipment company in California canceled plans to lay off 40 workers because of demand created by stimulus projects,” before trumpeting how “in Washington, D.C. about 20 people are working on this road project” where “manager Matthew Johns calls the stimulus a lifesaver.” [audio available here]
Though “many independent economists put the number of jobs saved or created at about 1.8 million,” Reid relayed that “to the great frustration of the White House, most Americans simply refuse to believe it. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, a mere 6 percent said the stimulus has created jobs.” Reid's culprit: “That skepticism due in part to a relentless campaign by Republicans who say the stimulus is a bloated, big-government failure.” (The online “Political Hotsheet” echoed Reid's theme: “On Stimulus, Perception Doesn't Match Reality.”)
NBC's Nightly News and ABC's World News on Tuesday provided drastically different reports on the Obama administration's announced plans to build the country's first new nuclear power plant in 30 years. Nightly News host Brian Williams showcased liberal concern and fretted, "...[Obama's] critics are openly wondering what it is he's up to."
The segment by correspondent Anne Thompson attacked Obama from the left on the plans for the "controversial" new plant. She highlighted Friend of the Earth CEO Erich Pica complaining, "There are reactors across this country that have tons of waste just sitting there, waiting for something to happen."
Over on World News, however, reporter Jake Tapper actually included a former anti-nuclear activist, Dr. Patrick Moore, to argue for the power plants. Tapper first explained that "plant design and equipment requirements have been upgraded. Plants are now required to be able to shut down automatically."
CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins Feb. 18. Conservative leaders will rally the troops before the mid-term elections in November and discuss the future role of conservatives in politics.
One person who will not be in attendance is Meghan McCain, despite the year-long media attempt to make citizens believe she is somehow representative of conservatives. She tweeted on Feb. 11, "I have no idea where this weird rumor I am speaking at CPAC came from, it isn't true and I will not be attending or speaking."
McCain, the 25-year-old daughter of former Republican presidential nominee John McCain and a writer for The Daily Beast, has taken it upon herself to tell the GOP what needs to be fixed within the party. Because she calls herself a Republican, media outlets have perpetuated the notion that she is also conservative. By doing that, they've pushed a liberal social agenda that directly conflicts with conservative values.
Writer Kathleen Parker, herself no stranger to conservative bashing, praised McCain last spring as "one smart cookie" who "in a matter weeks ... has created a brand, presenting herself as a fresh face of her daddy's party and voice of young conservatives."
Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and a contributor to MSNBC, suggested last summer that "maybe what the Republican Party is going to have to do is skip a generation and wait for the Meghan McCains to come of age so they can run for office and take over the mantle of the party."
Reporting Congressman Patrick Kennedy's decision to not run for re-election this fall for his House seat representing Rhode Island, CBS and ABC on Friday night bemoaned the impending lack of a Kennedy in the House or Senate – presuming no other Kennedy runs and wins this November – as the “end of an era.” CBS even created a chart to display the timeline for Kennedys in office, as fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Maggie Rodriguez announced:
It is the end of an era, the Kennedy era. Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy has decided not to seek re-election in November. So early next year there will be no Kennedy holding elected office in Washington for the first time since 1947, more than 63 years.
Over on ABC, Diane Sawyer plugged the upcoming story: “End of an era. The last Kennedy in Congress calling it quits.” In the subsequent report, Sawyer recalled: “It was 1946 when his uncle John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected to the House. Then, his uncle, Senator Robert Kennedy, and then his father, Ted.” Getting a bit carried away, Sawyer then asserted: “There has always been a Kennedy in Washington.”
President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan was the most expensive bill in history. Still, it received strong media support - blazing the way for the controversial bill to pass. Network journalists didn't just back the bill during that debate. Once it had passed, ABC, NBC and CBS spent nearly a year promoting "President Obama's stimulus cavalry," as NBC's Lisa Myers put it.
That much money was supposed to enter the economy through many different channels. Typically, where stimulus dollars went, journalists followed. They roamed the nation looking for proof the stimulus was succeeding, and sometimes proof it wasn't.
The Business & Media Institute analyzed 172 stories about the stimulus from Feb. 17, 2009, when the bill was signed, to Jan. 31, 2010. In those stories, the three evening news shows turned to proponents nearly three times as often as opponents of the plan (269 to just 111). Reporters called the Obama program or its many offshoots "good news," or turned to others whose positive views on the stimulus went further, with one calling the program a "lifesaver."
"It's the government that`s going to have to pull us out of this recession," Anthony Mason of CBS "Evening News" said on March 6. That was a consistent theme for the journalists involved. With the economy beaten down by the Great Recession, Americans needed Obama and the government to fix things and boost employment.
“Until the economy starts to create jobs, the President's political fortunes are not going to improve,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos conceded Wednesday night in reporting how President Obama’s approval level has fallen to 46 percent amongst independents. But though 53 percent disapprove of his handling of health care and more are opposed to than in favor of the congressional Democrats/Obama plan, Stephanopoulos asserted a health care bill would help Obama rebound since “people still want that” passed:
What the White House can do -- what they're trying to do -- is to achieve a health care bill. People still want that. Probably scaled down.
Stephanopoulos apparently based his contention how the ABC News/Washington Post poll (PDF of portion released Wednesday night) found 63 percent think “lawmakers in Washington should (keep trying to pass) a comprehensive health care reform plan.” But they don’t want what Obama is pushing, so it’s hard to see how continued White House focus would benefit Obama.
From Monday's broadcast network evening newscasts: CBS and NBC found hypocrisy in Sarah Palin scolding President Obama's incessant use of a Teleprompter while she had “crib notes” written on her hand during her Saturday Tea Party convention appearance, CBS followed by giving Obama two-straight minutes to explain why the public will come around to “connect” with him again and, meanwhile, ABC devoted a full story to “whether Republicans want action or are just the 'Party of No'?”
CBS's Nancy Cordes reported, over a helpful graphic showing the words written on Palin's hand, that while Palin “dismissed the President Saturday night as a 'charismatic guy with a Teleprompter,' she may have been relying on some crib notes of her own.” Cordes concluded: “Her supporters called it an endearing sign that Palin's a real person, while detractors argue it's proof she doesn't know her facts.” On NBC, Brian Williams led the Palin story with how “it happened after a speech where she criticized the President for relying too much on a Teleprompter.”
Next on CBS, Katie Couric highlighted how, in her pre-SuperBowl sit-down with Obama, she had raised with him that “people are not sure who he is or what he stands for.” Viewers were then treated to a two-minute long answer from Obama, ending with his insistance that when the economy improves “we'll do just fine and everybody will be saying what a connection President Obama has with the American people. Which is what they were saying a year ago.” (“They” being journalists?)
Amid all of the snow news on Sunday night’s World News, ABC reporter David Kerley tossed in a positive reference to President Obama’s supposed abilities to create jobs. “While President Obama didn’t come up with it, the storm is its own mini-jobs program,” Kerley touted, talking about the extra cash some people made helping to shovel out their neighbors.
Actually, the jobs “created” by the snow storm might resemble those “created” by the government in that the work is only temporary, but the snow-clearing work also sprouted spontaneously based on actual demand and without the need for huge government bureaucracy to manage the process.
And nearly 48 hours after the snow stopped falling, most private businesses and individuals have dug out their own property, while local governments have yet to finish clearing residential areas. Maybe instead of demonizing profit, liberals could finally recognize how effective the profit motive is at inspiring people to engage in productive work.
Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement “both have far less support in the country at large than a gullible Old Media seems to understand or suggest,” Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin asserted on “The Page” while colleague Joe Klein, on Time’s “Swampland” blog, showed fear of the supposedly impotent coalition as he denigrated her Saturday night convention speech as “anti-intellectual drivel,” scolding as “anti-American” those dumb enough to like her:
Those who celebrate Sarah Palin's lack of knowledge as a form of “authenticity” superior to Barack Obama's gloriously American mongrel ethnicity and self-made intellectuality are representatives of a long-standing American theme – the celebration of sameness, and mediocrity, in a country that has succeeded brilliantly because of its diversity and restlessly eccentric genius. Happily, it has almost always been a losing theme. And, indeed, in the truest sense, it can be called anti-American.
Halperin, political director for ABC News until 2007, appeared on the Sunday edition of ABC’s World News where he insisted Palin and tea partiers are “still not big enough or specific enough to do anything but criticize Obama, criticize the government” and while “that creates excitement,” it's “not a national governing movement.”
“The business of this first ever national Tea Party convention is the nuts and bolts of politics, like voter registration,” ABC’s John Berman began his Friday night World News story from Nashville, “but barely scratch the surface, and there's a tone of anger and confrontation.”
Specifically: “The convention's first speaker, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, said that people who voted for Barack Obama could not pass a basic civics literacy test.” Tancredo’s offensive remark: “People who could not even spell the word vote put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House.” Berman pounced on the rhetoric as out of bounds: “The President a socialist, his supporters illiterate? Today, Tancredo stood by those comments.”
Berman showed how attendees shared the bizarre assessment, running soundbites of a man affirming “I believe he is a socialist ideologue” and a woman asserting “You just read his history, he’s a Marxist,” before finding another man to agree that calling the President's supporters illiterate “was probably a little harsh.”
Berman concluded: “One of the goals of this convention is to turn this movement into a political force. The question is, does the harsh rhetoric keep them on the fringe?” Sort of like the media’s condemnation of Americans with which they disagree marginalize their influence?
ABC, CBS and NBC all aired full stories Tuesday night on Admiral Mike Mullen’s testimony against “don’t ask/don’t tell” before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but only ABC led with the comments from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as anchor Diane Sawyer called it “a dramatic day on Capitol Hill” and reporter Martha Raddatz trumpeted: “This will be dramatically-debated for days to come, but what we heard today from the military on Capitol Hill was truly historic.”
Katie Couric set up the CBS Evening News story: “It's been U.S. policy for nearly 17 years now, gays and lesbians may serve in the military but only if they keep quiet about their sexual orientation. Today, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made an impassioned plea to Congress to change the law.”
On NBC, Brian Williams drew historic parallels: “62 years ago today, President Truman ordered the Defense Secretary to take the needed steps to remove discrimination in the military. He was talking about race. Today the topic was sexual orientation, specifically the Clinton-era policy known as 'don't ask/don't tell,' a policy that is now on borrowed time.”
Cautioning the Obama administration's “deficit projections...are just that, projections,” NBC's Chuck Todd on Monday evening bought into the White House's claim that Democratic health care reform bills that would add millions to the system are actually spending reduction measures, as he warned: “If health care doesn't pass, because this budget assumes health care will pass, that's yet another $150 billion that would be tacked on to the deficit.”
ABC's Jake Tapper also passed along the ludicrous contention, but at least stressed Obama's team is assuming passage of “reform” that's very unlikely to be enacted: “The President outlines a number of measures to reduce the deficit, over $1 trillion worth. But Diane, perhaps the most surprising, the budget assumes a savings of $150 billion over the next ten years from health care reform, legislation that is at the very best -- at the most optimistic -- on life support on Capitol Hill right now.”
On Saturday’s Newsroom, CNN’s Don Lemon deferentially took President Obama’s advice and interviewed a stimulus “skeptic” turned “believer,” whom the Democrat cited as an example of the success of the stimulus during his recent State of the Union address. Lemon talked up the stimulus and the Obama administration’s energy efficiency tax credit with his guest Alan Levin, whose company produces windows.
Before playing his taped interview with guest Alan Levin, CEO of Northeast Building Products, the CNN anchor played the relevant clip from the President Obama’s address: “Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia, who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.” After asking Mr. Levin if he was excited by this mention by the President, Lemon inquired about this previous skepticism: “You know what, here’s the interesting thing. You were skeptical about this process- about the stimulus. You weren’t exactly sure that it was going to get you the right people and help at all. And now?”
Both ABC’s Diane Sawyer and CBS’s Katie Couric interviewed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as part of their networks’ run-up to tonight’s State of the Union address, but the contrast was stark. While Sawyer attempted to feel Emanuel’s pain over the setbacks for health care legislation (“Two times you have rolled the health care rock up the hill....and two times you have seen it crash back down”), a much feistier Couric interrogated Emanuel over the White House’s political failings.
“As you know, people were pretty disgusted by deals that were made up on Capitol Hill like the one given to Ben Nelson to win his support. If the White House was so involved, was this done with your blessing?” Couric demanded. Moments later, she hit Emanuel with this zinger: “You are considered a master political operative, you were the guy four years ago, of course, who orchestrated the Democratic takeover of the House. Where were you when Massachusetts was going down in flames for the Democrats?”
The Washington Times’s Jennifer Harper picked up on a new study from the non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs showing President Obama getting much more flattering news coverage from ABC, CBS and NBC (46% positive vs. 54% negative) during his first year in office than did Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush, all of whom received roughly three times more bad press than good from those same broadcast networks.
But one network did offer scrutiny roughly equal to that provided by the old networks in the past, according to CMPA: the Fox News Channel. Reviewing the first thirty minutes of FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier, CMPA found roughly three times more negative coverage of Obama (78%) vs. positive coverage (22%) during 2009. This compares to the broadcast networks doling out 74% bad press for Ronald Reagan in 1981 and 77% bad press for George W. Bush in 2001. In 1993, Bill Clinton fared better than his GOP counterparts (28% positive vs. 72% negative), but much worse than President Obama. (Chart below the jump).
As the MRC’s Tim Graham noted in a just-released special report from MRC, Omitting for Obama, the three broadcast networks were routinely late in picking up on negative storylines about the Obama administration, and gave paltry attention to major scandals such as the radical affiliations of ex-White House aide Van Jones, ACORN, and the pro-communist musings of then-White House communications director Anita Dunn. Instead, those stories were brought to light by alternative news sources, such as Fox News, talk radio and the conservative blogosphere, and then only grudgingly covered by the old media.
Diane Sawyer's interview with President Barack Obama wasn't nearly as sycophantic as the one conducted last Wednesday by George Stephanopoulos, with Sawyer posing mostly informational inquiries about the direction he'll set out in the State of the Union speech as she also raised the huge deficits and whether all future meetings about health care will “be on C-SPAN” as he had pledged?
But she presumed some of the anger at him wasn't his fault -- “People think you must say at the end of the day, this is not who I was in 2008, these deals with Nebraska, with Florida” -- and empathized with the “buzz saw bruising” he gets, so: “Ever in the middle of all that's coming at you, do you think maybe one term is enough?”
In a second segment aired at the end of Monday's World News, she wondered whether he favors the Colts or Saints in the SuperBowl (Saints) and “what's been the most important and useful thing” Michelle Obama has “said to you?” (Help Sasha with basketball shots.) In her “if you were a tree, what kind would you be?” moment, a beaming Sawyer held up photos of Obama at the inauguration and his first congressional speech and wondered: “What would you say to him?” (Obama: “You're going to look older in a year.”)
The unencumbered ability to sway voters is great for the news media, but journalists are outraged others could re-acquire the same First Amendment rights. Instead of painting a victory for free speech in the Supreme Court's ruling that corporations, non-profit groups and unions can spend money to influence elections, the Thursday broadcast network evening newscasts feared a ruinous future:
“Opening floodgates” to “big money” with “corporate interests having even more of a say” by “attacking political candidates,” resulting in “the real danger...that the candidates are just going to get drowned out” as “special interests” may “take over political campaign advertising.”
“On that subject of big money and power,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer intoned, “a blockbuster decision from the Supreme Court today opening floodgates for companies and unions to spend all the money they want attacking political candidates.” On NBC, anchor Brian Williams previewed “the news today that will result in big companies and corporate interests having even more of a say in American politics and campaigns.”