Democrats dialing for damsels don't get labeled with the big "D"
Changing His MindRonald Reagan often said "I did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me."
For floundering and foundering New York Governor Eliot Spitzer -- a twist on the Gipper's words. Spitzer didn't leave the Democratic Party: the Media just didn't see the need to mention the fact that Spitzer was - at least until noon Wednesday -- one of the most powerful Democrats in the nation.
On Monday afternoon, the Big Three Networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) and the Associated Press led the charge of the wall-to-wall coverage of the breaking news that Spitzer was involved with an interstate prostitution ring. And with near unanimity they failed to mention that Spitzer is a Democrat.
Spitzer - who since his years as the Big Apple's swashbuckling anti-capitalist Attorney General the Press has glowingly called the Champion of the Everyman -- was caught on one or more wiretaps dialing for damsels to the tune of $5,500 an hour.
Only the press can fail to see the irony of calling someone who inherited $500 million - and who hires ladies of the evening at hourly rates equal to a semester's tuition at a state university - a champion of the everyman.
Just as occurred Monday night, viewers of Tuesday's ABC and NBC evening newscasts never heard the word “Democrat” applied to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, nor did they even put a “(D)” on screen by his name as ABC did briefly Monday. CBS didn't announce his party either on Tuesday night, but Katie Couric had done so Monday night. The ABC and NBC newscasts, however, did put “(R)” on screen over soundbites from Republicans and NBC's Mike Taibbi twice referred to the reaction from “Republican” politicians.
Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas avoided any party tag: “New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring.” On NBC, substitute anchor Ann Curry led: “Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace is broadening...”
Incredibly, in lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. Last August when news of Larry Craig's arrest broke, both ABC and NBC stressed his GOP affiliation.
On ABC, the only hints as to Spitzer's party were a few seconds of video of Spitzer beside Hillary Clinton as they walked down some steps and a (D) on screen by Spitzer's name over part of one soundbite. NBC didn't even do that.
While ABC and NBC failed to cite Spitzer's political affiliation in the four minutes or so each network dedicated to the revelations, both managed to find time to applaud his reputation and effectiveness as the Empire State's Attorney General before becoming Governor. Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas hailed how “he gained a reputation around the country for aggressively cracking down on corporate corruption. He was elected Governor with a reputation for fighting crime.” ABC reporter Dan Harris maintained “Governor Spitzer is known as a straight arrow, an ambitious overachiever...” Substitute NBC anchor Ann Curry pointed to how Spitzer's “reputation for righteously prosecuting wrongdoing gave him the nickname Eliot Ness.”
ABC's "World News Tonight" had a hard time on Friday without normal anchor Charles Gibson, as in its segment about the employment numbers released by the Labor Department, guest host George Stephanopoulos said the figures were from January 2008.
This was stated as a graphic came on the screen reading "JOBS LOST, January 2008, 63,000." Of course, Labor's report was for the month of February.
Sadly, that wasn't the only mistake "World News" made concerning this crucial piece of economic data, for just as the Associated Press had done earlier in the day, ABC's Business Correspondent Betsy Stark claimed (video available here, h/t NBer Gary Hall):
During a story suggesting that Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of the mortgage company Countrywide, is unworthy of his millions of dollars and perhaps enjoys too much time lying in the sun, ABC's Dan Harris, possibly not picking up on the former CEO's Italian ethnicity which could be the source of his skin's dark complexion, remarked that Mozilo's "deeply tanned face" could become the "face of the mortgage mess." The story ran on Friday's World News with Charles Gibson, substitute hosted by George Stephanopoulos, with Harris beginning his report: "This may well become the deeply tanned face of the mortgage mess. The face belongs to Angelo Mozilo, the once-celebrated CEO of Countrywide, now facing allegations of predatory lending and rapacious greed." Harris also ended the report seeming to lament that Mozilo is not facing foreclosure on any of his homes: "If the sale [of Countrywide] goes through, Mozilo will walk away with about $40 million. And with not one of his homes in foreclosure." (Transcript follows)
In the February 23 Saturday Night Live parody of journalists in the tank for Barack Obama a reporter at a debate oozed: “Senator Obama, are you comfortable? Is there anything we can get for you?” Ending a taped interview Thursday with the real Obama, a real journalist, ABC anchor Charles Gibson, seemed to match the concern for Obama's personal comfort expressed in the SNL caricature:
Senator, you're kind to take the time, on a day when you legitimately should be able to simply just take long naps. I thank you. All the best to you.
In the segment aired on ABC's World News, Gibson empathized with Obama's plight as a victim of Hillary Clinton's attacks and seemed to regret how Obama may have to go negative as he prodded him: “To fight back, do you have to do the same? In other words, do you have to, in effect, show some toughness in all of this, greater than you have so far?”
Last Tuesday, when before a John McCain campaign rally, Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham used Barack Obama's full name and derided Obama as “the great prophet from Chicago,” NBC and ABC pounced with full stories on the “controversy.” But after over the weekend, where at an event touted as “One Million for Hillary with Gloria Steinem” the left-wing feminist icon ridiculed John McCain's years as a prisoner of war, ABC did not utter a word about the remarks while NBC on Monday gave them -- sanitized -- a few seconds. A New York Observer posting on Sunday quoted Steinem:
“Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and Joan McCain had got captured, shot down and been a POW for eight years. [The media would ask], 'What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years?'” Steinem said, to laughter from the audience. McCain was, in fact, a prisoner of war for around five and a half years, during which time he was tortured repeatedly. Referring to his time in captivity, Steinem said with bewilderment, “I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be President? I don't think so.”
On the NBC Nightly News, which had run six Cunningham soundbites, David Gregory quoted only a small portion of Steinem:
If you haven't gotten to check out the Business & Media Institute's new weekly video blog, The Biz Flog, this week's topic is the media's shift from reporting on "recession" to all-out "depression."
Complete with old-timey piano music and grainy film, this week BMI gives you our take on the many instances when reporters have compared the current economy to a time when soup lines and the Dust Bowl carried headlines.
One year ago, liberal journalists depicted the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq as a certain failure. “A lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opined just minutes after President Bush announced the policy on January 10, 2007. Other journalists were only slightly more subtle. “Many experts warn, it’s too little, too late,” NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski argued on the January 8, 2007 Nightly News. The next morning on NBC’s Today, the network’s graphic describing Iraq was “Lost Cause?”
At the same time, leading Democrats left themselves no wiggle room as they, too, denounced the surge. Senator Barack Obama called it “wrong-headed” and countered with a proposal to pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Iraq by March 2008. Senator Hillary Clinton came back from a quick trip to Iraq to declare: “I am opposed to this escalation,” while another Democratic candidate, Senator Joe Biden, blasted the troop surge as “a tragic mistake.”
ABC, CBS and NBC on Wednesday night delivered laudatory tributes to the late William F. Buckley, Jr., but while ABC's Charles Gibson, as well as Katie Couric and Richard Schlesinger on CBS, stuck to the positive and his many achievements as an editor, author and TV show host, NBC anchor Brian Williams couldn't resist including a political slap from the left on the day Buckley passed away at age 82:
Buckley paid dearly for some of his words: His defense of Senator Joe McCarthy, his early views on race and remarks he made about AIDS, saying those with AIDS should be tattooed to prevent its spread.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed how “Buckley loved debate. Loved to provoke. And love him or hate him, agree or disagree with him, no one could deny he was one of the country's finest minds....His message was, in essence, an intellectual war on big government. And a passion for the free market. Delivered with dazzling language and a bone-dry wit.”
"Now, to the economy," ABC "World News" anchor Charles Gibson said. "And a word not heard since the 1970s - stagflation. That occurs when prices go up just as the economy slows down - stagnation plus inflation. And the government that wholesale prices shot up 1 percent in January and are now up almost 7.5 percent in the past 12 months."
With cover from John McCain, NBC and ABC on Tuesday night condemned the “caustic” and “mocking” remarks of Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham who, on stage before an Ohio campaign appearance by McCain, dared to utter Barack Obama's middle name and call him “a hack” Chicago politician.
Though Hillary Clinton on Sunday, without upsetting journalists, ridiculed Obama with religious overtones (“Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing!”), NBC's Kelly O'Donnell asserted: “Cunningham's nearly ten-minute provocative performance veered into more controversy when he parodied Obama as a religious figure.” Cunningham's supposedly offensive line: “When the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be singing Kumbaya together.” O’Donnell maintained that Cunningham's words “compelled John McCain to apologize” and she took for granted that he properly acted “to quickly undo any damage.” Damage the media assumed needed undoing.
ABC News sent Terry Moran to Springfield, the capital of Illinois, to explore Barack Obama’s record as a state Senator and, deep in his Monday story on World News, Moran acknowledged a reality rarely mentioned in network campaign coverage:
Obama was...considered a reliable liberal Democratic vote in Illinois, voting for most gun control measures, opposing efforts to ban so-called “partial birth abortions,” and supporting hundreds of tax increases.
Moran then showed a soundbite of Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard, who declared: “Senator Obama certainly is a liberal.” Earlier in the story, without applying any liberal label, Moran trumpeted how “before he left for Washington, Obama did rack up some accomplishments -- a major overhaul of the state's death penalty system, an ethics reform bill, expanded health care for the state's children.”
All three broadcast network evening newscasts led Thursday night with the New York Times story alleging an improper relationship by John McCain with a female lobbyist, but questions about the journalistic standards of the newspaper were given as much consideration as the allegations against McCain. All three ran a soundbite from Rush Limbaugh denouncing the paper while ABC and CBS featured establishment media observers who castigated the Times for basing a story on the feelings of unnamed sources: Ken Auletta on ABC and Tom Rosenstiel on CBS.
“John McCain began his day answering questions about a story in the New York Times alleging an improper relationship eight years ago with a female lobbyist,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson announced before cautioning: “The story had no evidence the relationship was romantic -- only unnamed sources reportedly claiming they were convinced it might be.” With “Fit to Print?” on screen, Gibson set up a second story on how the Times article “raised as many questions about the paper and what standards of proof it would need to publish such a story as it did about the Senator.” Reporter Dan Harris began: “Today, conservative talk radio hosts accused the New York Times of a supremely cynical slam job.”
"Blame it on the price of wheat," said ABC correspondent Sharon Alfonsi. "Demand for alternative energy has farmers planting less wheat and more corn - the key ingredient of ethanol. Add the growing appetite for wheat from developing countries and the supply is strained.
ABC's World News, which on Tuesday skipped Michelle Obama's comment that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” on Wednesday finally got to it, but only minimally as George Stephanopoulos praised her “good damage control” and declared: “I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.” Hard for it to become “a huge deal” when a broadcast network's most-watched news program doesn't bother to report it. On Wednesday, the World News campaign stories again ignored the remark and the newscast only arrived on the story in anchor Charles Gibson's last question to Stephanopoulos.
Gibson played the comment, then explained: “Now she said today what she was talking about, or meant to say, was that she was proud of how many people are now taking part in the political process. Is this a big deal? Is it a tempest in a teapot?” Stephanopoulos was pleased by her explanation: “Ah, well that was good damage control by Michelle Obama.” He acknowledged “her first comment was a mistake,” but “as long as this isn't repeated, as long as they don't dig the hole deeper -- she did start to dig out today -- I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.”
With the symbolic passing of the torch - from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro - comes hope of changes in Cuba, well at least among some in the media.
Even though no one is predicting Cuba to usher in a new wave of Adam Smith-style capitalism, there might be some changes according to ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."
"[H]e's talking about significant reforms - liberalizing trade, economic reforms designed to ease poverty in a country where the average person earned $19 a month in the hope of consolidating his own power," ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said on the Feb.19, 2008, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson."
Fretting over how “Americans give back 438 million vacation days a year” when they could be “sitting on a beach,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson concluded the Presidents’ Day World News by channeling envy of European socialist rules as he complained that “America is the only major country in the world that has no government-mandated time off.” Citing how “psychologists say people are better workers, less stressed, if they take their time,” he helpfully suggested “you might consider moving to France. There, the government requires 31 vacation days plus holidays.” No mention, of course, of how that (plus a 35-hour work week) hurts French productivity and job creation, to say nothing of requiring significant immigration.
The anchor of the newscast on the network owned by Disney showed a picture of smiling vacationers with Mickey Mouse before he ended by noting: “And someone asked me today, ‘Why are you making a big deal of this? You're at work today.’ Good point.”
If the surge in Iraq did not work, you can be sure the networks would all use its one-year anniversary to highlight its failure, but on Thursday night only ABC's World News, of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, marked the anniversary. With “Surge Success” on screen, anchor Charles Gibson noted “it was one year ago today that the surge began in Iraq -- the troop buildup ordered by the President when so many of his critics were calling for a draw down of troops. 30,000 additional troops started arriving a year ago.” From Iraq, Clarissa Ward began over matching video:
If you're looking for one measure of the impact of the surge, look at General David Petraeus, walking through a Baghdad neighborhood with no body armor and no helmet. It's one year since the beginning of what's known here as "Operation Fardh al-Qanoon." According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success, reconciliation.
Unlike the Wednesday CBS and NBC evening newscasts, ABC's World News highlighted a favorable development in Iraqi political progress as anchor Charles Gibson gave 20 seconds to:
Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country's government that has been so often criticized. Iraq's parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces.
A month ago, on January 14, Gibson was also the only broadcast network evening newscast anchor to cite how “Iraqi lawmakers have put their differences aside and agreed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take government jobs. It's a key benchmark sought by the United States.”
On Monday, my colleague Brent Baker reported on the "silly girl talk" that occurred the prior evening when CBS's Katie Couric interviewed Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on "60 Minutes."
24 hours later, former CBS reporter Bernie Goldberg was Steve Malzberg's guest on WOR radio, and he not only concurred with Baker's impression of this "60 Minutes" segment, but also called it "seriously embarrassing."
In fact, this was such bad journalism that Goldberg quipped, "If Mike Wallace were dead, he'd be turning over in his grave" (audio available here):
In light of recent high-profile shootings, Friday's World News with Charles Gibson featured a report that seemed to lament the absence of public calls for additional gun control. While not directly advocating new gun laws, the report cited statistics often used by those who support gun control. Before correspondent Pierre Thomas cited a poll showing 60 percent of Americans "favor stricter gun control laws," Gibson introduced the piece: "Well, there are 230 million guns in America. There are more guns than there are adults. In the past incidents, like the one in Kirkwood, would rekindle debate over gun control. But as ABC's Pierre Thomas reports, gun control advocates are now mostly silent." (Transcript follows)
President Bush's fiscal 2009 budget proposal calls for a 7.5 percent hike in Defense spending and a 5 percent jump in spending for Medicare and Medicaid, but while CBS anchor Katie Couric on Monday night correctly stated that Pentagon spending would “rise” in the Bush plan, she erroneously asserted “spending on Medicare and Medicaid would go down.” Similarly, while ABC's Martha Raddatz cited the call for an “increase” in DOD's budget, she falsely reported: “Medicare and Medicaid would be cut by almost $200 billion.”
On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, reporter James Rosen scolded the sloppy reporting of his journalistic colleagues, specifically how “the New York Times' lead article on the subject referred matter of factly to the 'trimming' of Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, Medicare will continue to see its budget grow, by 5 percent instead of 7.2 percent.”
Imagine someone going on the radio and using Scripture to give you advice on your finances. To ABC's "World News," following this advice involves "radical" action.
The February 3 "World News Sunday" featured the financial advice of Howard Dayton. Dayton incorporates the Bible into his advice and says it's Biblical to get out of debt as soon as possible. But "World News" anchor Dan Harris portrayed the followers of this advice as a fringe element.
"Dayton urges families to pay them [debts, including home mortgages] off as quickly as possible, even if it involves radical belt tightening - advice the Pruitt family is following," Harris said.
ABC anchor David Muir asked Barack Obama about some of his liberal positions in a pre-recorded interview, which was shown on World News Saturday, in which Muir asked about the Democratic Senator's support for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, and about being endorsed by "liberal legend" Ted Kennedy and MoveOn.org. The ABC anchor also brought up the New York Times' evaluation of Obama's economic policies as being "more left than the Clinton administration's." Muir: "Does that offer red meat for the Republicans, that you could possibly be more left than Hillary Clinton?" (Transcript follows)
ABC on Friday night decided to devote an entire story to speculating about what is supposedly “the talk of the town” -- a potential Democratic “Dream Ticket” of Clinton and Obama or Obama and Clinton. With “Dream Ticket?” on screen, anchor Charles Gibson set up the piece by pointing out how, during the debate on CNN the night before, Clinton and Obama “were asked if they might run together -- one for President, the other for Vice President.” Gibson insisted: “It has been on many people's minds.”
In the subsequent story, Jake Tapper asserted that with a black man or white woman “poised to make history,” there is “one way to top it.” He then played a clip of Wolf Blitzer asking during the debate: “Would you consider an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket going down the road?” Maintaining “the possibility is the talk of the town,” Tapper backed his supposition by highlighting the belief of his colleague, ex-Clintonista George Stephanopoulos, who predicted: “Because they're both fighting this out through Super Tuesday, I think the chances are better than ever before.” Challenged by Diane Sawyer to a bet in the clip Tapper played from Good Morning America, Stephanopoulos took her up: “Absolutely. I'll bet if she gets the nomination, she picks him.”
After months of improving security in Iraq, the big network morning shows on Friday cited one horrific suicide bombing as proof that “mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad,” as CBS correspondent Mark Strassmann put it. But over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.
Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease. (See chart.)
An ABC story Wednesday night attributed conservative opposition to John McCain not to McCain's more liberal positions on many issues, but to how McCain “basically is not going to answer to anybody, especially the conservative pundits or the conservagentsia. And they don't like that.” That claim that resistance to embracing McCain is a petty personal matter came from former Bush-Cheney campaign strategist Matthew Dowd, now an ABC News political contributor. ABC reporter Ron Claiborne buttressed Dowd's explanation, asserting: “And that has drawn attacks from the likes of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.” Viewers then heard an audio clip of Limbaugh: “He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment.” (MP3 audio clip, 23 secs.)
In contrast, over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Bill Whitaker accurately attributed the opposition to McCain's policy positions: “McCain is routinely savaged by Rush Limbaugh and other conservative stalwarts for breaking ranks on immigration, taxes and global warming.” Two weeks ago, CBS's Bob Schieffer was as off-base as ABC, insisting opposition to McCain from the right is because “he's always been willing to challenge the authority and a lot of Republicans just have not forgiven him for that.”
The broadcast network anchors and reporters were almost as giddy as Barack Obama over liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy's endorsement of the presidential candidate. ABC, CBS and NBC all led Monday night with it and ABC's David Wright adopted campaign slogans as he enthused about how “today the audacity of hope had its rendezvous with destiny. The Kennedy clan anointed Barack Obama a son of Camelot.” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric teased, “Passing the torch: Barack Obama is tapped as the candidate to continue the Kennedy legacy.” NBC's Lee Cowan, who earlier this month conceded “it's almost hard to remain objective” when covering Obama, showed he also has a soft spot for the Kennedys as he radiated over how “the endorsement brought the Kennedy mystique to this campaign, not in a whisper, but a roar.” Viewers then got a soundbite of Kennedy yelling during the event at American University.
[UPDATED with Nightline, 1:05 AM EST: With “New Son of Camelot” on screen over video of Obama and Ted Kennedy, anchor Terry Moran trumpeted the “new son of Camelot. Ted and Caroline Kennedy pass the torch to Barack Obama to carry the legacy of JFK.” Moran soon hailed how “the political world was transfixed by the spectacle of the most powerful Democratic family of the 20th century christening a new torch bearer for the 21st.” David Wright repeated his “the audacity of hope had its rendezvous with destiny” line before championing the “merging ideals from two different eras” as “Obama is now an adopted son of Camelot.”]
However, the glowing reception the $150-billion taxpayer-funded stimulus plan got from each of the network newscasts gave that impression last night.
"Cash is on the way," ABC's "World News" anchor Charles Gibson said. "The check is in the mail, or it will be to 117 million Americans. The president and congressional leaders reached agreement on a $150-billion economic stimulus package today. When passed by Congress, the package will result in the distribution of $100 billion to individuals and families. And it will mean businesses will get $50 billion in tax breaks."