As the broadcast network evening newscasts on Friday reported on Sarah Palin's decision to resign as Alaska's Governor, they gave little attention to the toll taken on the Governor by the onslaught of frivolous lawsuits from her political enemies. But, by contrast, FNC gave much of the credit for Palin's decision to these lawsuits that have tied up the Governor's time and forced her family to spend a fortune in legal expenses.
On Friday's Fox Report, FNC correspondent Carl Cameron informed viewers: "Those ethics complaints have all been dropped or dismissed, and yet they've taken a toll and she acknowledged as much earlier." Then came a soundbite of Palin from her news conference, which was partially played on the CBS Evening News but not on ABC or NBC. Palin:
Todd and I, we’re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn't cost them a dime. ... My staff and I spend most of our days, we're dealing with this stuff instead of progressing our state now.
Sarah Palin's “bombshell” holiday announcement that she will resign as Governor of Alaska managed to trump Michael Jackson as the lead on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Friday night as NBC's Chuck Todd predicted she will now make fundraising appearances for GOP candidates where she'll draw in “car-wreck watchers.” CBS reporter Nancy Cordes reflected the tone of the stories when she described “a rambling, at times confusing announcement,” while on all three newscasts Palin's decision was called “bizarre.”
NBC News White House reporter Chuck Todd, who suggested she decided to quit so she could “make a lot of money” on the speaking circuit free of ethics complaint hassles, also predicted she will bring in big crowds at fundraisers for GOP candidates which will also entice those not so impressed by her:
She may spend the next year campaigning for Republicans all across the country. She's probably going to be the person that can attract the largest crowds, some of it is car-wreck watchers -- you know, they just are coming, kind of curiosity-seekers. It doesn't matter. She can attract a lot of people.
The news cycle has been dominated by celebrity deaths - Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and even TV pitchman Billy Mays - and President Barack Obama's health care initiative. Obama has used the compliant media to keep the focus to health care, and they are neglecting a critical largest news event that could impact the lives of every man, woman and child for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 1,200-page climate change bill known as the "American Clean Energy and Security Act" sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., by a narrow 219-212 vote on June 26.
Prospects for that piece of environmental legislation might have been hurt had reporters pointed out the scientific censorship taking place in the Obama administration. A veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency strongly questioned the theory of manmade global warming in a report that was then silenced by the administration. That's exactly the opposite of how many journalists handled a similar controversy during the Bush administration.
In a passionate Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning ("Silence Has Consequences for Iran"), former Spanish Prime Minister José Aznar who, in case anyone cares, serves on the board of WSJ parent News Corp., says that "It would be a shame .... if our passivity gave carte blanche to a tyrannical regime to finish off the dissidents and persist with its revolutionary plans."
Shaking off passivity requires visibility. America's media establishment almost across the board is providing very little. The Associated Press and the New York Times reports exist, but their distribution is dwarfed by the death of a pop star and a governor's infidelity.
Here are useful comparisons (all searches were done at Google News at about 8:45 a.m. for June 23-27, limited to USA sources):
Noteworthy from Friday night's broadcast network evening newscasts which, a day after his death, spent 95 percent of their air time on Michael Jackson -- all but 1:03 of ABC's approximate 22 minutes was devoted to Jackson, all but 34 seconds of CBS and all but 1:22 of NBC, for 2:59, less than three minutes in total for all news beyond Jackson:
♦ Only ABC's World News reported how Monica Conyers, a Detroit city councilwoman married to powerful U.S. House Democrat John Conyers, pled guilty to accepting bribes. But anchor Charles Gibson, who on Wednesday night made sure to identify Mark Sanford as “a rising star in the Republican Party,” failed to name the party affiliation for either Monica Conyers or John Conyers, and neither did any on-screen graphic. Speaking of Detroit, last year, when Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with felonies, Gibson (as well as the CBS and NBC anchors) didn't consider Kilpatrick's party worth mentioning.
♦ ABC also uniquely found a little time, a mere 20 seconds, to mention House action on President Obama's “cap and trade” bill. As noted by the MRC's Business and Media Institute, for months the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts have barely covered the bill “that would cost each family $1,241 a year.” CBS and NBC kept up the near-blackout again Friday night. Gibson outlined how “the bill would impose limits pollution from power plants and factories and force a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” but also noted: “Critics charge it will drive up energy costs for consumers.”
In the wake of political sex scandals including South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Sen. John Ensign, ABC's Cokie Roberts took the opportunity on June 25 to suggest that the fundamental flaw in each case was the male gender.
"World News with Charles Gibson" anchor asked question of why such affairs ever begin.
"It's an admission that can doom the most promising political career," Gibson said. "So, why do politicians tempt fate and cheat on their wives? Why do so many think they can get away it?"
ABC correspondent John Berman's report tried to rationalize marital infidelity as "politics as usual" and part of the narcissism that comes with being a politician. Berman explained the recent rash of infidelity scandals weren't bound by geography, political party or sexual orientation.
In the wake of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s admission to having an affair, evening and morning newscasts on NBC, CBS, and ABC all immediately identified him as a Republican. In contrast, in March of last year, the networks rarely identified disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat in the wake of his affair with a prostitute.
In a 2008 study of evening and morning network newscasts following the Spitzer scandal, NewsBusters’ Rich Noyes found that within the first week of news coverage Spitzer was only identified as a Democrat 20% of the time. However, within the first 24 hours of Sanford’s confession to having an affair, he was identified as a Republican 100% of the time, during coverage on all the networks.
On Wednesday, the NBC Nightly News, which failed to give Spitzer’s party affiliation for three days following his scandal, immediately focused on Sanford’s national role in the Republican Party as anchor Brian Williams declared: "In a Republican Party hungry for young stars, he was one of them: Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina...Tonight his political career is in tatters. His state, his party are in some turmoil. And Mark Sanford is no longer being mentioned as a possible GOP nominee for the White House."
Former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos appeared on Thursday's Good Morning America to bizarrely assert that Democrats have a harder times surviving sex scandals than Republicans. While discussing South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, he breathlessly claimed, "We've never seen anything like this before"and never mentioned his former boss, Bill Clinton, who escaped impeachment conviction after being caught in a sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky.
GMA co-host Diane Sawyer informed viewers that Stephanopoulos had been "looking back at this roll call of apologies for indiscretions, Republicans and Democrats." The "This Week" host spun, "Democrats have had a harder time holding on to office after scandals, recently, than Republicans." Stephanopoulos also appeared on Wednesday night's "World News" and told anchor Charlie Gibson virtually the same thing. And, once again, he failed to cite Bill Clinton, certainly one of the most famous examples of a Democrat retaining office after a sex scandal.
Call this a teachable moment, but even with ABC's best-laid plans to kickstart the debate about health care reform and not allow the "Prescription for America" special to become an "infomercial," as many have complained - the president spent more than twice as much time as his questioners vaguely answering or not answering the questions asked of him. But the network consistently presented the event as part of the need to fix a "broken system." When asked, every one of the 164 hand-picked audience members said they felt that health care needed to be changed.
President Barack Obama appeared on the ABC network in a town hall format broadcasted from the White House on two separate programs on June 24 - an hour-long primetime special during the 10 p.m. Eastern Time hour and later on the "Nightline" program that aired during the 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time hour.
Hours before ABC's Wednesday prime time special with President Obama from the White House, Questions for the President: Prescription for America, a World News piece conveyed the public's doubts that Obama will achieve his goals, but also endorsed Obama's premise that something must be done as reporter David Wright focused on concern over rising costs and a family without insurance before concluding: “Expectations are low, but the need is obvious.”
From Lynchburg, Virginia, Wright reported how “some folks here clearly have their doubts President Obama is going to be able to fix the health care system” as “some worry about big government programs, others that they'll pay higher taxes in the end.” But, he stressed, “Democrats and Republicans alike here told us they hope he can fix it because something needs to be done. Kimberly Gambiladi (sp?) is a stay at home mom. Her husband got laid off two months ago. Now the whole family has no insurance.”
Wright moved on to “a civil engineering firm with 85 employees” where “business has dropped off during the recession. But health premiums haven't.” After the stay at home mom with no insurance admitted “I don't have the answer. Hopefully, somebody will,” Wright delivered his closing line: “Expectations are low, but the need is obvious.”
Media Bistro broke it Tuesday morning, and gave us all of the details shortly after noon. The news: CBS and ABC's evening newscasts both came in with record low viewerships during the week of June 15.
ABC's fall to less than 6.5 million total viewers is probably more of a surprise than CBS's plunge below 5 million. Is there a health care propaganda backlash?
But the biggest news, as usual, is the combined audience drop, this time to barely 19 million. As usual, Media Bistro didn't note that.
Here's a chart comparing the overall and 25-54 demographic audiences during the week of June 15, 2009 to those of the previous week, January 26, 2009 (a combined high-water mark during the first week after Barack Obama's inauguration) and June 16, 2008:
Friday's World News carried a 15-second promo, the first I've seen, for Wednesday night's controversial prime time special, “Questions for the President: Prescription for America.” Over video of President Barack Obama, ABC exulted in how “Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer take you inside his house” for “a television event” where “President Obama answers all of your tough questions about your health care.”
(Below the jump: Look at how ABC News has incorporated Obama's image into their graphic plugging the June 24 special.)
Script of the narration:
What's more important than having good health care when you need it? Nothing. That's why Wednesday at 10 on ABC Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer take you inside his house: The White House, for a television event as President Obama answers all of your tough questions about your health care.
ABC found itself in hot water this week after it announced on June 15 it would be airing a primetime special, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," on June 24 from the White House. ABC also said "Good Morning America" and "World News" would also be broadcast from the White House that day.
ABC News' senior vice president Kerry Smith defended the network against critics saying in a letter the hour-long special from the White House will be "devoted to exploring and probing the President's position and the giving voice to questions and criticisms of that position."
Smith also claimed the network has "had many critics of the President's health care proposals on the air - and that's before a real plan has even been put before the country. In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions."
MRC's Business & Media Institute fact checked that claim and found that from January 20 to June 16 those quoted in health care stories on ABC's morning and evening news shows favored ObamaCare by a 3-to-1 margin (55 supporters to 18 critics).
President Barack Obama created “a very tender moment,” as he addressed the American Medical Association in Chicago, and “was right on target at reaching out to the heart of most physicians” ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson beamed on Monday's World News in reaction to fill-in anchor George Stephanopoulos paraphrasing how Obama told the doctors “our health care system should let them be healers, again, instead of bean counters.”
Johnson is a long-time advocate for a major expansion of the government's role in health care. On the March 1 World News, Johnson complained: “We spend more than twice as much per person on health care in this country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we’re the only one that doesn’t have universal coverage. That’s a national shame.” A few days later, Johnson participated in Obama’s health care forum, then expressed awe: “I was blown away by President Obama’s grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.” More in the MRC BiasAlert by Rich Noyes, “ABC Picks Universal Health Care Fan for Obama Health Care Special.”
On World News Sunday, ABC News anchor David Muir read a brief story relaying to viewers an attack on former Vice President Cheney by CIA Director Leon Panetta which appeared in the New Yorker magazine. In the interview, Panetta suggested that Cheney may desire to see terrorists hit America again for his own benefit. Muir recounted:
Which way is it? Highlighting three murders this year, ABC's Pierre Thomas on Thursday night delivered an ominous and speculative story on how “radicals of the ultra-fringe, filled with rage about illegal immigration, fear of losing their guns, abortion and race making law enforcement increasingly nervous about a potential wave of domestic terror.” In contrast, on the NBC Nightly News, Pete Williams noted that “Barack Obama's election has stirred the passions of some white separatists,” but he stuck with the facts of what has occurred: “A former FBI official, who tracked hate groups, said overall there's been no spike in activity.”
Thomas began his World News story: “A cold-blooded murder at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist. An abortion doctor gunned down in a church two weeks ago. January 21st, Brockton Massachusetts, a day after inauguration, a man who police say had a plan to kill as many blacks, Hispanics and Jews as he could, rapes a minority woman and kills two.” He proceeded to cite the April Homeland Security bulletin, which “warned, quote: 'The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American President present unique drivers for right wing radicalization and recruitment.'”
If you stand in the way of President Barack Obama's agenda, beware because there may be a litany of consequences that could result from your act - regardless if the obstacle is legitimate or not.
On June 8, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a stay to review an appeal by a trio of Indiana pension and construction funds that own a part of Chrysler's secured debt. They claimed the administration's handling of the deal that would have sold Chrysler's assets to Italian automaker Fiat (BIT:F) arbitrarily threw 150 years of bankruptcy law out without process of law.
ABC gave pro-abortion advocates free advertising last night with its "World News Sunday." During the report, an abortionist unequivocally stated that late-term abortion is "really a miscarriage of a stillborn fetus."
Anchor Dan Harris framed Steve Osunsami's segment as a look at why doctors risk their lives to perform abortions given the "constant threat" of violence they face, as evidenced by last week's murder of abortionist George Tiller and recent comments from Tiller's accused killer that "similar attacks are planned all over the country."
Harris teased the segment "Tonight, we talk to late-term abortion providers who fear they are targets. Why do they do it?" He stated in his introduction, "Why would a doctor take that risk? And why would a woman make that choice?"
Two weeks after ABC's Laura Marquez blamed California's budget deficit on an “unwillingness to raise taxes” tied to 1978's Proposition 13 “mandating an almost unachievable two-thirds vote by the legislature to raise taxes,” on Tuesday night she repeated herself as she lamented “education and social services continue to end up on the chopping block” because “it's a lot easier to make cuts than it is to raise taxes” since Prop 13 requires “the approval of two-thirds of the legislature to raise taxes, a virtual impossibility.”
In fact, though personal income tax collections “dropped 14% last year,” a May 19 Wall Street Journal article noted they “soared 70% from 2002 to 2007.”
World News anchor Charles Gibson emphasized the victims in teasing the upcoming story: “Governor Schwarzenegger's dire warning to California: The poor, the hungry, the very young -- all facing painful cuts.”
The networks, which saw the apparently politically-motivated murder of a Kansas doctor who performed late term abortions as a major story, haven't been so interested in a Muslim convert who specifically targeted and shot two Army privates outside a Little Rock recruiting office, killing one, William Long. None mentioned it on Monday night and on Tuesday evening, as all aired follow-up pieces on Dr. George Tiller, only NBC gave it a few seconds.
A Tuesday Arkansas Democrat-Gazette post reported Abdul Hakim Muhammad was “on a mission to 'kill as many people in the Army as he could,' police said” and targeted the “soldiers 'because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.'” (The Little Rock paper noted both victims “had recently completed basic training and had never seen combat.”)
George Tiller, the Kansas doctor notorious for his commitment to performing late-term abortions, was killed May 31 while attending a Sunday morning church service.
By his count, Tiller performed 60,000 abortions. His clinic, Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, was one of only three clinics in the United States that offered abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy.
Loss of human life is a tragedy and should be reported as such, and premeditated murder is always wrong - something all the mainstream pro-life groups were quick to affirm in the wake of the killing. But in reporting this tragic story, the news media have much to say about a man who helped provide women with the "right" to end their pregnancies, but have little to say about lives he helped to end. In failing to highlight what Tiller's work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted.
NBC and ABC on Thursday night framed stories around concerns of “abortion rights” advocates who want proof Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is on their side, but both cloaked their pieces around the proposition “both sides” of the debate are equally worried.
With “Where Does She Stand?” as the on-screen heading, as if there is genuine belief Obama would have selected the judge without knowing she'd uphold Roe v Wade, NBC anchor Lester Holt set up a story through the prism of pro-abortion activists as he announced that White House “spokesman Robert Gibbs says the President did not specifically ask her about the right to privacy, a key issue in the abortion debate.” Reporter Pete Williams proceeded to declare that Sotomayor's stand on abortion is “a mystery” as “both sides on the abortion issue agree...they're eager to know exactly what Sonia Sotomayor thinks about abortion and the constitution.” Viewers then heard only from one side, an “abortion rights advocate.”
The Big 3 networks' evening newscasts probably turned in their worst ratings week since TVs became a household staple during the week of May 18.
Last week (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), based on the ratings for the week of May 11, I noted that the shows' combined audience had plunged a stunning 25% from their late January post-inauguration peak to a level barely above the 20 million mark.
At the time, I thought that we wouldn't see a sub-20 million week until sometine during the summer.
Well, it's not summer yet, and they're below a combined 20 million already. What's more, the results are even worse in the coveted 25-54 demographic.
Nobody can accuse the broadcast networks of objectivity when it comes to gay "rights."
ABC, CBS and NBC combined devoted nearly 11 minutes of air time during their evening and morning news shows to the May 26 California Supreme Court ruling that upheld Proposition 8, the 2008 state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. The networks gave gay rights activists more than seven minutes of air time, through interviews and footage of their protests, while they gave Prop 8 supporters less than one minute to talk about their victory.
Amazingly, after showing no reluctance in 2005 to describe John Roberts and Sam Alito as “conservative” or worse, the Tuesday network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, applied more “conservative” tags to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's critics than “liberal” labels to her, as the coverage suggested calling her a liberal was a hasty judgment from accusatory partisans. In total, ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News combined for a piddling two uses of the “liberal” term while issuing a “conservative” tag eight times. (CBS viewers heard “liberal” four times and “conservative” just once.)
Setting up a look at Sotomayer's record, ABC anchor Charles Gibson fretted about how conservatives had “already” assessed her: “Even before the President announced his decision, conservatives were reviewing Judge Sotomayor's judicial record and were already saying she would be an activist on the court.” Jan Crawford Greenburg then framed any notion of Sotomayer as liberal as based on accusations from conservatives: “...which conservatives have called code for,” “...conservatives today seized on this comment” and “already, conservatives have jumped on the decision.”
Over on NBC, Pete Williams presumed a conflict between her rise from poverty and being liberal: “Despite her remarkable personal odyssey, Judge Sotomayor is already being called a liberal activist by some conservative groups.” (That sentence included NBC's only liberal label utterance during four segments.)
Network anchors and reporters didn't hesitate to apply strong ideological labels (not just quoting others) to President Bush's two Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Will they be as willing to tag President Obama's nominee, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, as “staunch,” and “hardline” and “ultra” liberal, or at least as “very liberal”?
In July of 2005, on the night Bush announced Roberts, ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Ted Koppel both described him as not just conservative, but as “very conservative.” NBC's Brian Williams called Roberts “a kind of 'bedrock conservative,' not what is called a 'movement conservative.'”
The next night, CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts (now with CNN) wanted to know of his namesake: “Has President Bush attempted to move the court further to the right with this pick?” On NBC, Chip Reid (now at CBS) highlighted how one liberal activist “says he worries that Roberts might be a stealth candidate, moderate on the outside but as conservative as Justices Scalia and Thomas on the inside.”
ABC and CBS, which two weeks ago gave short-shrift to Dick Cheney choosing Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell as the better representative of the Republican Party (brief anchor-read items), both led Sunday night with Powell push back against Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. “Colin Powell hitting back at Dick Cheney and other Republican critics, saying he's still a member of the party, a party he says has to change,” ABC anchor Dan Harris teased Sunday's World News. On CBS, Russ Mitchell announced: “Tonight, Colin Powell versus Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. The former Secretary of State defends his Republican credentials.”
In the lead CBS Evening News story, Kimberly Dozier made Powell's case, reporting how on Sunday's Face the Nation “he said the criticism he faces points to what's wrong with his party” and “he pointed out the party's recent poor track record, losing the presidency by ten million votes and losing a majority in Congress.” Dozier had noted that Powell endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain last year, but failed to suggest any hypocrisy in then fretting about the Republican candidate, the most liberal since Gerald Ford, losing or then complaining the party is too conservative. Instead, Dozier proceeded to highlight how “moderate Republicans worry that the party is perceived as embracing only a few narrow issues -- anti-abortion, anti-tax and pro-gun rights.”
ABC, CBS and NBC all led Wednesday night with the Senate's overwhelming 90 to 6 bi-partisan vote to withhold funding for the closing of Guantanamo and block any detainees from being moved to the U.S., but ABC anchor Charles Gibson was uniquely flummoxed: “What's the problem here?...We have terrorists in U.S. prisons, so why not the guys from Guantanamo?”
Gibson alluded, in setting up his question to George Stephanopoulos, to Jake Tapper's reference to how “several convicted terrorists are currently in U.S. 'super-max' facilities, including shoe bomber Richard Reid,” and how Dianne Feinstein (one of the six Senators on Obama's side) argued “there is ample evidence that the United States can, and in fact does, hold dangerous convicts securely and without incident.”
But in being confused about the reasoning of the vast majority, Gibson overlooked how Tapper had already answered his question: “FBI Director Robert Mueller today said putting these detainees in U.S. prisons could be dangerous.” Viewers then heard from Mueller: “There is a potential for radicalization in a number of ways, whether it be for gang activity, for terrorist groups, for other extremists.”
A Tuesday story on ABC's World News, which ignored soaring state spending, reflected frustration with California voters for the anticipated rejection of ballot initiatives to raise taxes as reporter Laura Marquez blamed the Golden State's budget deficit on an “unwillingness to raise taxes” stretching all the way back to 1978's Proposition 13. In fact, though personal income tax collections “dropped 14% last year,” a Tuesday Wall Street Journal article noted they “soared 70% from 2002 to 2007.”
In the story pegged to Tuesday's vote on a series of initiatives to raise or extend an income-tax surcharge, a big hike in the car tax and one point sales tax jump to 9 percent, Marquez fretted that “polls show five of six initiatives aimed at reducing the budget gap are likely to be voted down,” leading Schwarzenegger, Marquez relayed, to warn “the defeat of these measures will mean billions of dollars in cuts to social services and education, and will force thousands of layoffs from the state rolls.” From San Francisco, Marquez rued:
Coast to coast, state governments are swimming in red ink, overwhelmed by the tanking economy. Here in California, the problem is even worse because of its sheer size and an unwillingness to raise taxes. Thirty years ago, Californians passed Proposition 13, mandating an almost unachievable two-thirds vote by the legislature to raise taxes.