Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos actually asked some tough questions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during Wednesday's Democrat presidential debate on ABC.
Yet, the Washington Post's television critic Tom Shales wasn't happy about this, and actually felt the event represented "another step downward for network news" wherein the moderators "turned in shoddy, despicable performances."
What follows are some of Shales' key criticisms (emphasis added throughout, picture courtesy NYT):
If you didn't know any better, you might think ABC correspondent Lisa Stark has a personal vendetta against airline mergers.
For the second consecutive night, Stark gave viewers every reason to oppose a merger between Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and Northwest Airlines (NYSE:NWA) on the April 15 "World News with Charles Gibson." This time it came in the form of opposition on Capitol Hill.
"But there was swift opposition," ABC correspondent Lisa Stark said. "A powerful lawmaker from Minnesota, where Northwest is based, called it one of the worst developments in aviation history."
All three broadcast networks on Tuesday led their evening news programs with Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival at Andrews Air Force Base to begin his visit to the U.S., as well as his comments during a press conference on the plane about the priest sex abuse scandal. ABC’s "World News" and CBS’ "Evening News" especially focused on the scandal. In addition to this, "World News" also highlighted what the Pope said about illegal immigration during the press conference and gave a false impression of what the Pope had said on the issue.
ABC correspondent Dan Harris gave the following spin on Benedict XVI’s comments on immigration. "Also on the plane, the Pope addressed another hot issue, immigration. Hispanics are the fastest-growing part of the American church right now, and the Pope said he would discuss this issue with the President, particularly the 'dangerous' impact of families of illegal immigrants being separated."
Operating under the assumption that what's good for business is bad for consumers forces the media to give Americans a narrow view of the world.
All three network newscasts on April 14 reported the Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and Northwest Airlines (NYSE:NWA) as if it were a conspiracy to bilk air travelers out of more money.
"It's an unsettled time in the skies - planes grounded, flights cancelled, spiraling ticket prices," ABC correspondent Lisa Stark said on the April 14 "World News with Charles Gibson." "And now, things could get even more complicated. Delta operates 1,500 flights a day with hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York and Salt Lake City. Northwest - some 1,200 flights a day with hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis. Put the two together, and passengers could take a hit."
On Monday, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson highlighted and seemed to glorify anti-America comments made by a young Egyptian woman, whom the show interviewed as part of a regular series about young people in other countries, who compared the States to a dumb "jock" that in a few years will "die down and burn out, and what's left is a totally useless nation."
The young woman, named Ro'ya, charged: "In the past, if the States was a strong country, it was because it had thinkers, but right now, it's kind of like, it's kind of like a jock, okay -- very powerful, very athletic, in a couple of years, die down and burn out, and what's left is a totally useless nation." Without challenge, Weir added: "Ro'ya says she would only live in America if it would help Americans understand the Arab world. She'd much rather move to Italy..." (An online version of the story can be found at ABCNews.com.) (Transcript follows)
Rather than beating up on home lenders and accuse them of intentionally targeting borrowers who were in over the head, CNN took a more instructive approach.
The April 14 edition of CNN's new business show, "Issue #1," showed that there are ways other than whining and moaning about how you were victimized by an unscrupulous lender. A Brooklyn, N.Y., homeowner on the brink of foreclosure sent a letter to a lender asking for some leeway on her mortgage payments.
"I'm a single, divorced mother living alone with my children," Jillian Simmons said to CNN, reading the letter she sent to Fremont Investment and Loan (NYSE:FMT). "Please lower my rate from 7.95 percent I have at the moment so that somehow my payments will be more affordable and changed to a fixed rate. Thank you, Jillian Simmons."
Kudos to NBC's David Gregory for making a relatively rare declaration of just how fanatically anti-Israel the terrorist group Hamas actually is. On Friday's Race for the White House on MSNBC, Gregory hosted a panel discussion of whether Jimmy Carter's plans to meet with a Hamas leader are a danger to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, during which Gregory described Hamas as "the terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel." After liberal talk radio host Ed Schultz suggested that negotiation with Hamas may some day be necessary, Gregory further clarified his description of Hamas's nature: "But, well, but this is a different matter. I mean, Hamas has made it very clear, Tony Blankley, that it wants Israel destroyed in no uncertain terms." (Transcript follows)
On the Thursday April 10 The Situation Room, CNN's Brian Todd similarly noted that Hamas has "called for Israel's destruction." Todd: "Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. It's called for Israel's destruction."
On World News Sunday, ABC anchor Dan Harris filed a report on Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to America, labeling the Catholic leader as "sometimes controversial," and calling him a "hard-liner" for "strenuously condemning divorce, homosexuality, and abortion." Harris also suggested that he has a "tin ear" because of a 2006 speech in which he used a quotation of a historical figure calling Islam "evil" that sparked riots by Muslim extremists around the world, without mentioning that the Pope later clarified that it was not his personal view that Islam is evil. (Transcript follows)
Before a commercial break, Harris plugged the story: "And coming up here on World News this Sunday, who is Pope Benedict? The sometimes controversial Pope comes to America this week."
“[P]rices are rising across Africa, pushed up by the cost of oil and demand for biofuels,” ABC correspondent Jim Sciutto said.
“Those biofuels are in fact a large part of the equation,” ABC correspondent David Muir added. “Many farmers around the world, who once grew wheat and rice, now grow corn and sugar cane instead, to produce ethanol a more lucrative market.”
It's no longer profitable for networks to have their own news organizations, according to CNBC's David Faber.
In the wake of the news that CBS is in negotiations to outsource its news division to CNN, Faber explained on CNBC's April 8 "Squawk on the Street" CBS's news division is a victim of an evolving business.
"The news that CBS is once again considering a deal under which it would outsource some of its newsgathering operations to CNN - certain to get those critics out there who say, ‘Oh, this is the end of news as we know it on television,'" Faber said.
"Well, if you haven't noticed, news on television ended a long time ago, other than '60 Minutes,' which is by the way a CBS program. I challenge you to come up with actual newsgathering that is taking place on the networks," he said. "That ship has sailed."
ABC, which wasn't so interested in 2004 in reporting overwhelming military support for President Bush over John Kerry, on Monday night aired a story on how soldiers in Iraq are split between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- with only an afterthought about how “some” prefer John McCain. Relating how “only moments before we talked to them, these troops had been listening to Vice President Cheney give a rousing speech,” but Cheney “didn't change their political preference,” Raddatz played clips from two soldiers backing Obama and two supporting Clinton.
Those endorsing one of the Democrats echoed common campaign themes as Obama's supporters asserted Obama “has our better interests in mind” and “he represents change” while the Clinton backers declared “that her husband did a good job as President” and “that we should have a gradual draw down,” but Raddatz chose to air just this one soundbite from the McCain supporter with a rather narrow self-interest: “Well, Republicans paid my paycheck this far. Might as well keep it going.”
Remembering Charlton Heston, who died Saturday night in his Beverly Hills home at age 84, the ABC and CBS anchors on Sunday night tarnished the actor's political activity on behalf of conservative causes, particularly his leadership of the NRA, as “controversial” and “polarizing.” Dan Harris, anchor of ABC's World News, asserted: “As President of the National Rifle Association, he became one of the most-polarizing figures in American politics.” CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell declared: “Once the quintessential big screen hero, in his later years he drew as much attention for his controversial politics.”
Those pro-gun rights views were certainly “controversial” to network journalists who disagreed with him and so hit him repeatedly from the left on the issue in 1998 and 2001 morning show interviews, especially Katie Couric.
Hours later, ABC's "World News" certainly did, actually leading the program with yet another example of how candidate Clinton loves to play fast and loose with the facts when delivering stump speeches.
In a story from Memphis on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King in that city, ABC's Steve Osunsami acknowledged great economic progress for black citizens with “a definable black middle class,” but warned “there are still large disparities.” He then featured a man at the anniversary events who insisted “we're waiting for progress” followed by Jesse Jackson using the solemn occasion to complain about the Iraq war and tax cuts:
We are freer but less equal. To that extent, we spend $3 trillion on the war in Iraq and give tax breaks to the wealthy. You have this body of poverty, growing poverty in our cities. And our response to it is what? First-class jails and second-class schools.
The Reverend Bill Kyle, who was with King when he was murdered, rued that “now that we have the right to go to a school, we need the money to pay the tuition,” before Osunsami concluded by agreeing King's dream of equality remains unfulfilled: “Not quite what Dr. King had dreamed. But some dreams take a mighty long time to realize.”
The April 3 "World News" featured a Staten Island family that managed to purchase a $335,000 home, but with only an annual income of $30,000.
"Karen and David Shearon, working people who made less than $30,000 a year at the time, refused to be intimidated and fought foreclosure - claiming the mortgage broker promised them a fixed-rate, low-interest loan on their $335,000 house, despite their income," ABC correspondent Jim Avila said.
ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, in a news brief on Tuesday’s "World News," spun the Bush administration’s decision to fast-track the construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, focusing almost entirely on the "more than 30 laws and regulations to be bypassed," as the graphic accompanying the brief put it. "The Bush administration today announced plans to speed up construction of the fence along the Mexican border by sidestepping more than 30 laws that now stand in the way. The administration says it will use its authority to bypass those laws in an attempt to finish 670 miles of fence along the southwest border by the end of the year."
As NewsBusters reported, ABC's "World News" aired a disturbing global warming hit piece on Sunday that disrespectfully attacked an esteemed scientist and emeritus professor, referring to his work as "fraudulent nonsense" that is "going to cost lives, and cause us lost species, and cost major economic damage around the world."
The subject of the report, Dr. S. Fred Singer, has been receiving well wishes of support from across the globe since this segment aired, including at ABC News's website where virtually all of the currently 128 comments submitted have been highly critical of this story and the way Singer was treated.
With this in mind, Singer has formally asked ABC for an apology and a retraction (presented with permission):
In interviews with Barack Obama aired Thursday night, CBS anchor Harry Smith and ABC anchor Charles Gibson both shared their concern over how the protracted Democratic race could hurt the party in the fall -- with Smith urging Obama to demand, “with some severity,” that Hillary Clinton exit the race -- while Gibson hailed Obama's “extraordinary speech” on race before he wondered if Obama worries “race could become” the “central...issue.”
Smith told Obama: “If you're the presumptive candidate here, isn't it time that you say, with some severity, that we can't go on like this?” After Obama replied “well, no,” Smith rued: “At the cost of losing the general election?”
Gibson lamented: “No matter who emerges as the nominee for this, is the eventual nominee hurt by the extension of this contest?” Gibson next raised the same poll numbers he highlighted the night before, “But you had to be sobered by that Gallup poll yesterday: 28 percent of her supporters would vote for McCain if you get the nomination, 19 percent of yours would vote for him.”
The broadcast networks rarely highlight poll numbers other than their own, but on Wednesday night ABC's World News pegged a story to a Gallup survey which confirmed the ongoing Democratic presidential battle will harm the party's chances in November. With “HURTING THE PARTY?” on screen beneath pictures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, anchor Charles Gibson warned:
Many Democrats have been worried that the protracted fight, between Senators Clinton and Obama, might start alienating voters and hurt the party's chances against John McCain in the fall. Well, now there is evidence that may, indeed, be the case.
Reporter Jake Tapper outlined the evidence:
The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Republican Senator John McCain is a real concern among top Democrats. A new poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. 19 percent of Obama supporters say they'd go for McCain over Clinton.
In all the brouhaha last week over the incendiary comments made by Barack Obama's pastor the media seemed to forget to partake in their traditional Holy Week Christian-bashing excercise. There were a few entries in the "Easter Hit Parade," like the Comedy Central show "Root of All Evil" which my boss, Brent Bozell, wrote about in a column recently, and an episode of "Law and Order" which featured another Christian-stones-someone storyline.
I suppose it's good news that there was less faith flagellation courtesy of the liberal media, and yet at the same time it's sad that I was expecting to find it at Easter time. But the fact remains that Christmas and Easter are generally times when the media attacks on Christians are more pronounced.
Two weeks since the ABC and NBC evening shows took multiple days before getting around to informing viewers that disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer belonged to the Democratic Party -- after every ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news program last year immediately highlighted the party of Republican Senators David Vitter and Larry Craig -- Monday's broadcast network evening newscasts all failed to note, verbally or on-screen, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's party.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson announced on World News: “Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged today with felonies that could cost him his job and 15 years in prison.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams relayed how “Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick...was indicted on perjury and other charges in the wake of a sex scandal there.” (NBC also refused to tag Kilpatrick in a full story aired Friday night.) Over on Monday's CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Harry Smith introduced a full story: “In Detroit, a sex scandal led to criminal charges today against the Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, a married father of three.”
The Big Three Networks and Their Plan to Protect Obama (PPO)Why did it take until Thursday March 13, 2008, for the nation to begin to learn about Barack Obama's pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? The man whose Trinity United Church of Christ Obama has attended and generously funded for seventeen years? Whom he had publicly and repeatedly cited as his mentor and had named as a campaign advisor? Whom he chose to perform his wedding and baptize his two daughters?
Because, until then, we were in the midst of Phase I -- preventative medicine -- of the media's version of campaign health care for the Senator's Presidential bid. Call it the Plan to Protect Obama (PPO).
The Reverend Wright story had been percolating beneath the surface for several years. It finally broke through to widespread dissemination last week. A picture is worth a thousand words -- moving pictures with audio of Wright's anti-American, paranoid rantings from the pulpit have finally inspired many more than that.
“The McCain campaign suspends a staffer for circulating an inflammatory video about Barack Obama,” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric intoned as “Campaign Controversy” was plastered on screen over a YouTube video which simply intersperses clips of Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. Managing to twist Obama into a victim, a task made easier by the feckless McCain campaign, Couric set up a Thursday story: “A low-level aide to John McCain was suspended today for circulating an incendiary video about Barack Obama that's been viewed by tens of thousands of people on the Internet.”
Reporter Dean Reynolds cited as “troubling” how “a low-level campaign aide to John McCain has been circulating it.” Resurrecting the Bill Cunningham incident, Reynolds described the video as “one of several episodes in which aides, supporters, or surrogates have crossed the line and forced McCain to apologize or take action.”
In contrast, ABC's Jake Tapper took the Hillary Clinton campaign to task for using Wright's “inflammatory comments” to suggest Obama can't win in November, asking: “Is that dirty politics?” Tapper also uniquely raised (amongst the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts) how Obama characterized his grandmother as “a typical white person.”
The "Big Three" networks’ evening newscasts, marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq on Wednesday evening, all chose to air news briefs on the anti-war protests across the United States. The news briefs all aired within the first ten minutes of each program. CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, as part of the first report on her program, used the protests as "evidence" of one of their recent poll results, that "more than half of Americans [59%] believe going to war in Iraq was a bad idea." "There are 155,000 troops in Iraq right now, and today, protesters in Washington and other U.S. cities reflected our poll. Nearly half the respondents [46%] said most U.S. troops should be pulled out within a year."
Five minutes into NBC "Nightly News," anchor Brian Williams chose to focus on the protests in Washington, DC. "There were anti-war protests today in several U.S. cities, including the nation's capital, where police arrested more than 30 people when they tried to block the entrance to the IRS, and they also tied up Connecticut Avenue, a major thoroughfare. There were also protests in New York's Times Square, downtown San Francisco, and in smaller towns as well, in places like Ohio and Vermont."
ABC’s "World News" anchor Charles Gibson, as part of his retrospective on the past five years of the Iraq war, mentioned the anti-war protests as well. "For some Americans, this is the fifth anniversary of a war they do not support. There were marches in California, and in the nation's capital, a dozen people were arrested for blocking the entrances of the Internal Revenue Service. The protesters oppose being taxed to help fund the war."
A day after Barack Obama's speech in reaction to the bigoted and hateful rants of his long-time pastor, the network evening newscasts moved on -- with only ABC briefly mentioning the topic -- while NBC Nightly News, which has run just one clip of Jeremiah Wright and on Friday had instead featured a whole story about Obama's childhood friends cheering him on, centered a Wednesday night story around “a mistake” by John McCain. Anchor Brian Williams provided an ominous plug: “Did John McCain slip, or was his mistake intentional? His choice of words making news tonight.”
Kelly O'Donnell soon proposed: “Defense and national security are central to McCain's campaign. So a mistake he repeated this week has stood out. At least three times McCain incorrectly asserted that Iran is aiding al Qaeda.” After video of Senator Joe Lieberman whispering in McCain's ear, McCain corrected himself as O'Donnell explained: “The mistake, al Qaeda is a Sunni group while Iran is a Shia nation.” O'Donnell highlighted how “Senator Obama seized on the error,” concluding with the suggestion the one comment undermined McCain's image: “Leaving McCain to defend his expertise during a trip in which he intended to showcase it.”
Reciting three quotes highlighted Tuesday night on NewsBusters (and the MRC's Wednesday CyberAlert), plus one from CNN's Campbell Brown which we missed, FNC's Brit Hume led his “Grapevine” segment Wednesday night by illustrating how “Barack Obama's speech on race yesterday played to rave reviews in much of the national media.” Hume recounted:
On NBC, the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart said the address was, quote, "a very important gift the Senator has given the country." NBC's own Chris Matthews said it was, quote, "worthy of Abraham Lincoln" and quote "the best speech ever given on race in this country." ABC's George Stephanopoulos said Obama's refusal to renounce his highly controversial pastor was, quote, "in many ways an act of honor." And on CNN, Campbell Brown called the speech "striking" and "daring," asserting that Obama had, quote, "walked the listener through a remarkable exploration of race from both sides of the color divide, from both sides of himself."
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage of Barack Obama's speech, in reaction to the furor over the racist, paranoid and America-hating remarks of his long-time pastor, not by focusing on what it says about Obama's true views and judgment but by admiring his success in “confronting” the issue of “race in America” in an “extraordinary” speech. Indeed, both ABC and CBS displayed “Race in America” on screen as the theme to their coverage, thus advancing Obama's quest to paint himself as a candidate dedicated to addressing a serious subject, not explain his ties to racially-tinged hate speech. NBC went simply with “The Speech” as Brian Williams described it as “a speech about race.”
In short, the approach of the networks was as toward a friend in trouble and they wanted to help him put the unpleasantness behind him by focusing on his noble cause. “Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man,” CBS's Katie Couric teased before heralding: “And he calls on all Americans to work for a more perfect union.” On ABC, Charles Gibson announced: “Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same.” Reporting “Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide,” Gibson hailed “an extraordinary speech.”
NBC's Lee Cowan admired how “in the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given,” adding it reflected “honesty that struck his rival Hillary Clinton.” On NBC, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart asserted “it was a very important speech for the nation. It was very blunt, very honest” and so “a very important gift the Senator has given the country.” [Updated with Nightline]
Marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, ABC's Wold News on Monday provided a status check on how Iraqis view their lives and, consistent with how the newscast has been the most willing of the broadcast network evening shows to acknowledge positive developments, anchor Charles Gibson explained “we have polled inside Iraq and there is some good news.” Specifically, “today, 55 percent of Iraqi say their lives are going well. Last summer that number was 39 percent.”
From Iraq, Terry McCarthy reported “you cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad.” However, McCarthy outlined:
As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside....
The broadcast network evening show blackout, of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's 2001 charge that the U.S. earned the 9/11 attacks, continued Monday night as neither CBS nor NBC touched the Wright issue and ABC ran a full story which included Wright's “U.S. of K-K-K-A” hate speech and how Obama has been close to Wright for 20 years, but concluded with how “many African-Americans do not understand” the controversy since the “kind of fiery language Wright uses is not uncommon in black churches.”
The race-based, white-bashing rants may not be so uncommon, but is anti-American shouting -- about how “we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye” and so “America's chickens are coming home to roost” -- so common?
Anchor Charles Gibson set up the story from Jake Tapper by asserting Obama “is being dogged by his pastor's provocative comments.” After the “U.S. of K-K-K-A” soundbite, Tapper pointed out how “Wright has played an important role in Obama's life for 20 years.” Viewers then saw a clip of Obama from June of 2007 giving “a special shout out to my pastor” who's “a friend. And a great leader.” Following some quotes illustrating Obama's awareness a year ago of how Wright's views could prove embarrassing, Tapper ended with how such language is not unusual in black churches.