CBS and NBC led Tuesday night with speculation over the VP picks, but moved quickly, without citing any proof of John McCain's supposed scurrilous attack on Barack Obama's patriotism, to Obama condemning McCain for questioning his patriotism.
“Patriot games,” CBS Evening News anchor Harry Smith teased, “Barack Obama fights back.” Viewers then heard a clip of Obama before the VFW: “I will let no one question my love of this country.” Reporter Dean Reynolds described how “Obama is pivoting toward a more combative style, rebuking the Republicans for habitually turning differences over policy into questions about patriotism, a habit he said John McCain has readily embraced.” CBS ran two Obama soundbites, yet on Monday, when McCain addressed the VFW, CBS didn't show a second of him. Reynolds soon asserted that McCain and Republicans “had the stage to themselves last week while Obama vacationed.” Certainly not on the CBS Evening News which spent the week puffing Obama.
On the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell touted how “Obama strongly defended his patriotism today to veterans, the same group that heard John McCain attack him yesterday,” and relayed how Obama's “hearing a lot of messages from all across the country that he has not been tough enough. He has to go after John McCain, he's got to be more aggressive.”
John McCain finally received some positive coverage Friday night from the broadcast networks as Barack Obama's vacation ended -- a couple of sentences on ABC and CBS about how he raised $27 million in July, the most ever. Then those newscasts, and NBC's, ran full stories trumpeting evangelist Rick Warren's Saturday “Civil Forum on the Presidency” featuring McCain and Obama, with CBS and NBC stressing his rejection of past narrow conservative interests as both pegged their stories to conservative push back against the fear McCain will pick a “pro-choice” VP. Taking up McCain's consideration of Tom Ridge, CBS's Bob Schieffer asserted “religious conservatives...just went nuts.” NBC's Andrea Mitchell contrasted McCain's “rocky relationship with the religious right” with how Obama is “reaching out by softening the party's platform on abortion.”
On Warren, CBS reporter Ben Tracy trumpeted “Warren's attempt to redefine evangelicals by breaking with the politics of the past” and how Warren “doesn't want to talk about just abortion and gay marriage, but also poverty and disease.” NBC's Mitchell recalled that in 2004, 80 percent of evangelicals “voted for George Bush over John Kerry,” but “this year they could be less predictably Republican” and “that's because Rick Warren says many younger evangelicals define social issues broadly -- to include global warming, human rights, poverty, not just abortion.” She then featured a soundbite from Warren:
I call myself whole life, which means I don't just believe in that little girl before she's born but I believe that it's important to care about after she's born, whether she's poor, whether she's educated.
Maybe it was a stab by Charles Gibson to provide a national group therapy session for his 8 million viewers, but the ABC "World News" anchor aggressively questioned ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson on the August 14 broadcast for "obscene" profits and asked him to "justify" the company's success.
"As we said earlier, Rex Tillerson - who is the board chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, doesn't talk often to the press," Gibson said. "His company has reported remarkable profits in the first half of this year. The high price of gas brought ExxonMobil close to $22 billion in profit - in profit - for the first half of this year. I asked him how he justifies that amount, that some see as obscene."
But Tillerson explained to Gibson it was the nature of a large business that performs an incredible amount of transactions.
For the third weekday as Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, John McCain on the campaign trail received more hostile coverage from the broadcast network evening newscasts -- to the extent they bothered to cover the presidential campaign. In a full story on CBS, Dean Reynolds recalled how McCain promised “to conduct a respectful campaign,” but citing McCain's celebrity ad, charged “now it frequently seems respect takes a backseat to ridicule.”
NBC, which also didn't touch the campaign on Monday or Tuesday, ignored it again Wednesday, though in a story on TV ads during the Olympics Chris Jansing asserted the Obama ads deliver “optimism and hope” while McCain's have a “more negative tone.” For the first time this week, ABC skipped the campaign, but anchor Charles Gibson raised Obama's “windfall profits” proposal with Exxon Mobil's chief: “When the public sees the kind of profits that the oil companies are making, isn't it fair that they wonder, 'why not?'”
Just as on Monday night, Barack Obama vacationing in Hawaii while John McCain remains on the campaign trail (he held a town meeting in York, Pennsylvania), failed to change the media dynamic of greater and better coverage for Obama. CBS on Tuesday night gave equal time to comments from both candidates on Russia's invasion of Georgia before Jeff Greenfield, echoing ABC the night before, twisted news -- that a top Clinton campaign operative recommended attacking Obama as less than genuinely American -- into reprimanding McCain for supposedly following that strategy. Meanwhile, ABC pegged its campaign story to how “former Congressman Jim Leach, a respected Republican from Iowa, threw his support behind Barack Obama today.”
Over video of Obama in Kailua, Couric relayed how “Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, put out a statement repeating his call for Russia to stop its attacks.” Greenfield recited how chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn “wrote, quote: 'I cannot imagine America electing a President during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values'” As video played of parts of two McCain ads, including the one with Paris Hilton which Couric last month denounced as “infamous,” Greenfield asserted:
To look now at some of John McCain's TV and Web ads, it is almost as if his campaign is following Penn's outsider strategy to the letter. For instance, the constant reference to Obama as a celebrity.
So much for John McCain's hope that remaining on the campaign trail this week while Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii would lead to more or friendlier coverage. At least not on Monday night when Katie Couric highlighted how “Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad” and she helpfully pointed out: “The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush.” Later, CBS allocated more than three minutes to a “CBS News Exclusive” interview and profile by Couric of “Barack Obama's brain,” Valerie Jarrett, who “just may be the most powerful woman in Chicago besides Oprah.”
ABC centered an entire piece around revelations Hillary Clinton campaign operatives planned to “question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy,” yet ABC managed to twist the story into Obama victimization as anchor Charles Gibson fretted: “There are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now.”
Reporter Jake Tapper warned “some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama’s popularity abroad.” The proof? This from McCain at a South Dakota motorcycle rally last week: “Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day!” Tapper moved on to how McCain's ad narrator saying “John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for” is “a line many saw as implying something not American about Obama.” Tapper ominously concluded:
ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama’s youth, someone will.
But those poll numbers gave way to more media spin in an ABC "World News Saturday" report August 9.
"After years of debate over the reality of global warming, 80 percent of those polled now say they accept it as fact," anchor Bill Weir reported. "Seventy-three percent say it is a threat to today's children and 63 percent believe people and industry are to blame.
ABC correspondent Gigi Stone’s report on Friday’s World News lined up two liberal women against a pro-life pharmacist in a segment on the controversy over whether pharmacists have the right to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception. She later reported in a condescending tone about how the family of the pharmacist has nine children [see video at right; audio available here].
Stone introduced the first woman, Megan Kelly, as a "married mother." Several years ago, as Stone described, Kelly "tried to fill her monthly birth control pills [when] a pharmacist refused."
In her sound bite, Kelly explained her reaction to this refusal: "It's very, very shocking and very unsettling and one of those moments where, you know, as like a female, you're not sure if you want to cry, if you want to get really mad."
Trumpeting the “major endorsement” from John Edwards for Barack Obama, the day after Obama was trounced by 40 points in West Virginia all three broadcast network evening newscasts led Wednesday night with the “dramatic” announcement of the “political prize” that gives Obama a “major boost.” Katie Couric returned at the end of the 6:30 PM EST CBS Evening News feed to reiterate “our top story tonight” as she effused over live video of Edwards speaking at the rally: “John Edwards endorses Barack Obama, saying he's one man who knows in his heart that it's time to create one America, not two.”
ABC was so excited that its 6:30 PM feed of World News went live at about 6:40 PM to Grand Rapids, Michigan for 90 seconds of Obama introducing Edwards, compete with a Bruce Spingsteen song as Edwards bounded on stage. Gibson then acknowledged:
Timed for maximum exposure, timed to coincide with the evening newscasts, timed to give Barack Obama a needed boost after his bad defeat yesterday in West Virginia. George Stephanopoulos, this is the kind of publicity that you can't buy.
Indeed, no need to pay for it when ABC News is eager to give it to you for free.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hardly reticent about touting himself as a Democrat. After all, he's the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and in January was re-elected its representative to the Democratic National Committee. But in ABC and NBC news stories Thursday night about how a Michigan judge ordered him to jail immediately for violating his bond, neither identified him as a Democrat (verbally or on screen) -- not even in a full two-minute NBC story. On CBS, fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell didn't mention Kilpatrick's party in three teases/plugs for the upcoming story, nor in the introduction to it, but two-thirds into his report, Dean Reynolds, who in a March story failed to ID Kilpatrick, referenced: “Once a rising star in Democratic Party politics...”
Making that same “rising star” point, from a smoggy (or foggy?) Beijing, NBC anchor Brian Williams managed to avoid mentioning Kilpatrick's party affiliation:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was once viewed as a rising political star in the United States. Tonight he has fallen pretty far from those early lofty and glowing predictions...
Two of the cable news networks were no more accurate. Filling in on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle avoided Kilpatrick's party in a brief item on news of his jailing while on CNN's The Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer did not note Kilpatrick's Democratic affiliation in several updates and plugs and, in a full story in the 5PM EDT hour, the MRC's Matthew Balan noticed, Mary Snow failed to verbally name Kilpatrick's party in her piece.The only hint came in this chyron at the bottom of the screen for barely three seconds: "MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK (D) DETROIT."
On Friday, NewsBusters wondered how much attention media would pay to the Republican revolt that occurred after Speaker Pelosi adjourned the House for a five week vacation without allowing a vote on offshore oil drilling.
It turns out that if you rely on the evening news programs of the three broadcast networks, you didn't hear about this extraordinary event at all (photo courtesy AP).
And, if you're one of the few people that still reads newspapers, the one thrown on your driveway Saturday morning likely also ignored this story, or buried it well off the front page.
Conceivably the worst of the network offenders was the "NBC Nightly News" which actually addressed the fact that Congress adjourned without a vote on drilling, but completely ignored the GOP revolt that ensued afterwards (from closed captioning):
A night after ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News didn't air a word about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubling to 1.9 percent in the second quarter, up from 0.9 percent in the first, the two evening newscasts found newsworthy a rise in the unemployment rate, with NBC using the increase to segue to a story on how “a growing number of Americans are...being downsized from full-time work to part-time.” Fill-in ABC anchor David Muir announced:
We're going to turn this evening now to the unemployment report out today which shows a new flurry of pink slips in July. Employers cut 51,000 jobs last month, as the unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent. This marks the seventh month in a row with job losses.
NBC anchor Brian Williams, with “Hard Times” on screen, reported:
On the jobs front, the employers cut their payrolls for the seventh straight month in July, total of 51,000 jobs were shed just last month, bringing the total for the year so far to almost half a million. Unemployment rate jumped two-tenths of a percent to 5.7, that's now a four-year high. A growing number of Americans are struggling on the job front even though they're not unemployed. Instead, they're being downsized from full-time work to part-time. That report from NBC's Rehema Ellis.
Not surprisingly given the past pattern, of the broadcast networks evening newscasts on Thursday, only ABC's World News devoted a full story to the fewest Americans killed in Iraq in any month since the war began. CBS and NBC gave the great news a few seconds before pivoting to full stories on the rise of female suicide bombers and the sexual assault problem in the military. ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed:
[A] statistic out of Iraq today that is remarkable: Six Americans were killed in combat in the entire month of July. That's the lowest number since the war began. That compares to the 66 combat deaths in July of last year.
From Iraq, reporter Terry McCarthy proceeded to convey how “U.S. troops on the ground don't follow statistics. They follow their gut. And these days, that tells them things are getting better.” McCarthy pointed to how an Army Sergeant, seven months into his second tour, “hasn't fired his weapon once on patrol” and then McCarthy credited the surge: “The turning point was the surge, which began 18 months ago. Three months in, U.S. fatalities peaked at 119. Since then, violence has declined steeply.”
Second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled to 1.9 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department announced Thursday morning as consumer spending rose 1.5 percent in the quarter ending June 30, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, and U.S. exports soared 9.2 percent, way up from 5.1 percent in the first three months of 2008.
Yet the CBS Evening News centered a story around “disappointing” news about the supposedly “struggling economy” (with that on screen) -- while ABC and NBC, which on April 30 led with full stories on the news of a 0.6 percent (since revised to 0.9) first quarter GDP, didn't utter a syllable Thursday night about the big GDP jump. On the last day of April, ABC's Betsy Stark declared the economy had “flat lined” and NBC anchor Brian Williams warned “it's getting rough out there” as the new GDP number “stops just short of the official declaration of a recession.” Thursday night, however, ABC's World News and NBC Nightly News made time for full stories on outrage over ExxonMobil earning “the largest profit ever made by a U.S. company.” The “oil industry says it is not out of line, but some motorists feel otherwise.”
CBS anchor Katie Couric, picking up on the 4th quarter 2007 GDP revision from 0.6 percent to a minus 0.2, stressed how “the government now says the economy was receding, not growing, in the final quarter of last year” though “it picked up a bit in the first quarter of this year.” She then twisted the fresh news of a 1.9 percent jump into a negative:
But look at this: In the second quarter, when all those rebate checks were supposed to stimulate the economy, it grew less than two percent. Jeff Glor has more about the disappointing numbers.
The McCain campaign's new television ad comparing Barack Obama to shallow celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton so upset the network news operations that they all ran full stories, with ABC and NBC leading with the “attack ad.” Though all tried to frame their stories as balanced looks at attacks against each other by both campaigns, it was the McCain ad which prompted the stories, the language used painted McCain as the aggressor and Obama as the victim fighting back (“responded,” “fired back” and “hitting back”) and two of the stories featured condemnations of the McCain ad as “childish” or “juvenile.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Tonight, McCain says Obama is all star power and no substance. Obama says McCain is using scare tactics. It's getting nasty. And it's only July.” Reporter David Wright, who relayed how “Obama told an audience in Missouri the Republicans are just trying to scare voters,” concluded with how “it's getting ugly early, and some Republicans are expressing concern about McCain's tone, in particular one former McCain aide calling the new celebrity ad 'childish.'” (That would be John Weaver.)
On CBS, which put “Attack Ad” on screen, Katie Couric asserted: “John McCain sharpened his attack against Barack Obama, trying to turn his popularity against him. And late today, Obama fired back.” For an expert assessment, Chip Reid went to the Politico's David Markwho declared that the McCain ad “seems a little juvenile.”
So the Big 3 networks sent their evening news anchors on the road to follow Barack Obama around last week on his Excellent Overseas Adventure.
If the nets' managements harbored any hopes that doing so might significantly increase their overall audience, or meaningfully increase the number of viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, those hopes were dashed when last week's ratings were released Tuesday (Source for all ratings info in this post - Media Bistro Newser: July 21, 2008; July 14, 2008; July 23, 2007; July 16, 2007):
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as “the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate” -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.” Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with “(R)” in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his “the longest-serving Republican in the Senate” line.
CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as “a senior Republican” before reporter Jim Axelrod recited “the longest-serving Republican Senator ever” mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: “Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment.”
On Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume, during the show's "From the Political Grapevine" segment, FNC host Hume gave viewers another glimpse at the admiration offered terrorists in the Middle East as he reported that the Al-Jazeera network threw a birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a notorious terrorist recently released by Israel, who had previously been greeted by thousands of adoring fans when he returned to Beirut. Hume: "The Arab news network Al-Jazeera celebrated the birthday of released Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar with a cake and fireworks. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that Kuntar, who shot an Israeli child's father in front of her, and then beat her to death with his rifle back in 1979, was given a hero's welcome on the network. One interviewer said, quote, 'You deserve even more than this. I think that 11,000 prisoners, if they can see this program now, are celebrating your birthday with you. Happy birthday.'" (Transcript follows)
The networks suggest Obama is driving the narrative, but it's the liberal press themselves doing the driving for Obama
(Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared today in Human Events.)
Just Another Clown Delivering the News
The Big Three networks just foisted a week long Obamathon upon the American people, a political, "journalistic" perversion of Jerry Lewis's annual televised good deed.
Mr. Lewis raises money for a very worthy cause. CBS' Katie Couric, NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charlie Gibson attempted to raise the Presidential credibility of an inexperienced candidate by dutifully following Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the Middle East and Europe for six days and five nights of wall-to-wall slavish and adoring reporting.
This was an unprecedented media extravaganza. Never before have all three evening news anchors been drawn out of their chairs and all over the world together and on behalf of a candidate. Their coverage of Sen. Obama was as glitteringly positive as it was all-encompassing: the primary season without the Clinton distraction.
By week's end, the voters back here Stateside could well have forgotten that Senator Obama has an opponent.
When the Israeli government and the terrorist group Hezbollah carried out a prisoner release agreement in which Israel released five Lebanese prisoners while Hezbollah released the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who had been killed, there was a substantial contrast in the way the broadcast network evening newscasts reported the story. While ABC’s Charles Gibson and Simon McGregor-Wood reported on World News that one of the prisoners, Samir Kuntar, had been convicted of the "vicious murder" of an Israeli man and his four-year-old daughter, and that upon release he was "greeted in Beirut as a returning hero," NBC and CBS both skipped over any details of Kuntar’s crime, and CBS’s Katie Couric even listed the prisoner exchange as one of several "glimmers of hope" in the conflict between Israelis and Arabs. Couric: "For the first time in years, there are some glimmers of hope in the Arab-Israeli stalemate -- a virtual cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, and the beginning of low-level talks between Israel and Syria."
CNN and FNC further detailed the brutality of Kuntar’s crime, and FNC noted his popularity among many in Lebanon. FNC’s Morton Kondracke: "What’s most disgusting is that the Lebanese performance, tens of thousands of people turning out to welcome home a terrorist who had killed a policeman, a civilian, and then bashed in the head of the civilian's four-year-old daughter. And he's being welcomed home as though he’s a national hero, with the president there, the prime minister there, the speaker of the parliament. This is supposed to be an ally of the United States, Lebanon. What it indicates is that Lebanon, that Lebanese politics is now owned by Hezbollah ... they have veto power over whatever the Lebanese government does, you know. Lebanon is close to being lost." (Transcripts follow)
A minor item for a Friday night. File under: Which way is it?
ABC anchor Charles Gibson contended that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's “effusively kind words” about Barack Obama, who joined Sarkozy at a press conference in Paris, “bordered on an endorsement.” On CBS, however, anchor Katie Couric reported that Sarkozy said the French people have been following Obama “with passion” but, she noted, he “quickly pointed out that was not an endorsement.”
Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour hit its high point Thursday night as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Obama's speech in Berlin, with NBC's Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell the most giddy, though ABC featured a German man who hailed Obama as “my new messiah.” ABC and NBC saw Obama on a “world stage.” Charles Gibson teased ABC's newscast: “In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams, in Berlin, trumpeted how “the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us.” Viewers next heard a sycophantic Williams ooze to Obama:
When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had “ich bin ein.” We've had “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, “people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?
Talking with Andrea Mitchell, an impressed Williams marveled over how “I heard one American reporter tonight say it's hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it's hard to know what we witnessed here today.” An equally awed Mitchell gushed: “It's hard to figure out what the comparison is, what do you compare this with?” She soon asserted that in his speech Obama “acknowledged America's flaws.”
Matching CBS/Katie Couric on Tuesday night, on Wednesday evening ABC's World News followed its exclusive Barack Obama session of the day with a shorter interview segment with John McCain as anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Barack Obama, here in Israel, holding meetings at breakneck speed on the Middle East conflict.” Obama got a full five minutes with anchor Charles Gibson in Israel, not counting a glowing minute-long introduction -- Obama's “schedule here in Israel looked like a Middle East shuttle mission” -- while ABC allocated two-and-a-half minutes to David Wright with McCain. Gibson did press Obama on his foreign policy “inexperience” and Obama's declaration that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel,” wondering if that was “a rookie mistake?”
Wright began by scolding McCain for his “extraordinary statement” that “Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” Wright demanded: “Do you really think he's that craven?” Wright also lectured: “But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country.” Bizarrely, as if the media's decisions are not primarily responsible, Wright told McCain the fact that “the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does” shows a McCain campaign failure:
You've been touring here in the states, had the domestic stage all to yourself. And yet, we're talking an awful lot about foreign policy. It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and that you're left to kind of react to that.
The things people will do for love. Take David Shuster. So eager is the Obama inamorato to cover for his man, he's willing to sacrifice all semblance of reason. Faced with the implacable fact that Obama was wrong in opposing the surge, Shuster has been reduced to claiming that Americans don't care about the surge's success. Shuster made his descent into abject sycophancy on today's Morning Joe. The jumping off point was a clip from an interview of Obama by ABC's Terry Moran [Brent Baker has the full report on the interview here].
TERRY MORAN: If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?
OBAMA: No, because, keep in mind that-
MORAN: You wouldn't?
OBAMA: Well, no, keep in mind, these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. You know, hindsight is 20/20. But I think that, what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.
After a clip was aired of McCain hammering Obama on his opposition to the surge, Shuster slipped on the flippers and goggles.
ABC's Terry Moran, who back in 2006 was already enthralled with Barack Obama (“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon”), on Monday night from Iraq refrained from such infatuation as ABC's World News, nonetheless, gave Obama a lengthy platform to espouse his Iraq policy. Moran began his lead story by trumpeting how “Barack Obama came to Baghdad, and he brought his star power with him. Hundreds of U.S. troops and State Department personnel mobbed Obama at the embassy here.”
The rest of Moran's story, however, focused on “what has become an open disagreement between military commanders here and Obama, over his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable.” But while Moran raised the subject twice, Obama got plenty of time to recite his views with the two answers consuming a lengthy 50 or so seconds each and a third, about whether given the success of the surge he'd support it now, he got 25 seconds of air time -- meaning Obama three answers took up more than half of Moran's story.
For the second night in a row, on Sunday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Barack Obama's overseas trip as CBS Evening News anchor Forrest Sawyer trumpeted: “Tonight, Barack Obama on the U.S. challenge in Afghanistan, laying out the stakes in an exclusive CBS News interview.” Reporter Lara Logan set up a condensed version of her interview which had consumed the first ten minutes of Face the Nation: “Speaking out for the first time since arriving in Kabul this weekend, Senator Barack Obama offered a bleak assessment of the worsening conditions inside Afghanistan.”
On ABC's World News, anchor David Muir led with how “Barack Obama is calling it one of the biggest mistakes made in the war on terror: The Bush administration's decision to focus on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt admired Obama's need to walk on a “diplomatic and political tight rope, trying to balance his role as a U.S. Senator versus that of a presidential candidate” before heralding:
His words tonight are reverberating from the war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Pentagon.
A great first day on national television news for Barack Obama as he began his much-hyped overseas trip with a stop in Kuwait before moving on to Afghanistan. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, seemingly channeling the media's own excitement, on Saturday night hailed it as “a trip that seems to be captivating the rest of the world as much, if not more so, than many in the United States.”
ABC, CBS and CNN showcased video of Obama making a basketball shot at a gym with troops in Kuwait. Over video troops cheering Obama as he walked into the gym, on ABC's World News Jim Sciutto touted: “Though the destinations were new, the greeting was familiar. Senator Barack Obama signing autographs with soldiers on his first stop in Kuwait, even taking time to play some basketball...” Forrest Sawyer, anchoring the CBS Evening News on Saturday night, apparently with a new job after many years with ABC and MSNBC, highlighted how Obama “sank a shot from way outside the paint.” Sawyer announced over matching video:
Now, before Afghanistan Senator Obama stopped off in Kuwait to talk to the troops there. You remember all that grief Obama got for being a terrible bowler? Well, at a local gym someone handed him a basketball and he promptly sank a shot from way outside the paint. He made it look easy. You just have to pick the game.
While Thursday’s New York Times reported that the anchors from all three network newscasts will be joining Barack Obama on his trip to Iraq, they showed no such interest in following John McCain during his visit to Iraq in March. During the week of March 16, McCain’s trip received only four full-length stories during the combined ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news program coverage. Three of those stories were on NBC’s "Nightly News," one of which focused on McCain’s mistaken comment about Iran funding Al Qaeda in Iraq. ABC’s "World News" did only one full-length story on McCain’s Iraq trip, which mentioned the gaffe. The CBS "Evening News" was by far the worst, devoting only 31 words, a grand total of 10 seconds, to the Republican nominee’s Iraq visit during the entire week of evening news coverage. Read Media Research Center press release here.
Even the Times article acknowledged that McCain’s Iraq trip received little coverage: "Senator John McCain’s trip to Iraq last March was a low-key affair: With a small retinue of reporters chasing him abroad...But the coverage also feeds into concerns in Mr. McCain’s campaign, and among Republicans in general, that the news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates." See the previous NewsBusters post by John Stephenson for more on the Times article.