Imagine you're the host of a morning news show, and the head of the country's major opposition party has just invoked the danger of the President of the United States turning the country into a police state akin to Iran. Would you perhaps ask a follow-up question challenging your guest to substantiate his inflammatory remark? No, you wouldn't. At least, not if you're GMA's Charlie Gibson. For when Howard Dean made just such an allegation this morning, Gibson never blinked.
Discussing the NSA terrorist surveillance program, Dean stated:
"All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran, where the President of Iran can do anything they [sic] want at any time."
In part of their coverage of the Coretta Scott King funeral this morning, ABC focused on the attention paid to Hillary Clinton and her 2008 presidential prospects and how "Republicans are scared." ABC's Jake Tapper was able to bring in RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman suggesting on "This Week" that she wouldn't do well because she's an "angry candidate" and then former NPR reporter Mary Ann Akers (now of the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call) fussed that dredges up old Hillary stereotypes. His most colorful language is that everything Hillary does is "dissected like a cadaver on CSI." His evidence was a New York Daily News story focusing on a new ring her husband gave her.
But Tapper did not focus on another New York paper whose coverage of Hillary has been ignored by most. Even I missed the chance to harp on her appearance in San Francisco at the end of January in that "interview with Jane Pauley" fundraiser for the local bar association. The New York Sun reported she had some nasty things to imply about Republicans and black voters (which might have been MORE topical after the King funeral yesterday). Apparently, Team Bush is delaying hurricane aid for political gain, a "deliberate policy of neglect," she claimed:
On this morning's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts read a brief news item about the latest tape from al Qaeda's #2 terrorist, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The tape was produced and released in part as a response to the U.S. effort to kill al-Zawahiri with a Predator air strike on January 14th. Roberts description of that attempt was incomplete, inaccurate and echoed Zawahiri's own propaganda on the air strike.
Near 7:12AM, Robin Roberts: "The FBI is asking its field offices to review all cases in light of a new video from al Qaeda's number two man. On the tape, Ayman al-Zawahiri called President Bush a 'butcher' and a 'failure'. He referred extensively to the failed U.S. air strike which was meant for him but killed civilians instead."
Toggling between the Today show and Good Morning America this morning offered a perfect illustration of the very different treatment the MSM reserves for Republicans and Democrats.
At Today, Andrea Mitchell was painting a grim picture of President Bush's foreign policy record. Take the recent Hamas victory, for example, which Mitchell unequivocally labelled: "a disaster for the US peace plan."
In fact, reactions to the Hamas victory have been very mixed, with some seeing a significant silver lining, as in this column by conservative [and I might add Jewish] columnist Jeff Jacoby:
With all the speculation about Katie Couric moving to the CBS Evening News anchor desk, a guy like me whose shtick is to cover her antics at the Today show could be concerned about his blogging future.
Not to worry. Flipping over to Good Morning America today reassured me: there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of liberal media bias and the talking heads to spout it.
The topic was President Bush's impending State of the Union Address. In assembling its panel, GMA resorted to an old MSM trick - coupling a fire-breathing liberal opponent of the president with someone ostensibly from the Republican side, but who in many ways is an opponent-in-disguise. And so it was that host Charlie Gibson's guests were James Carville and Bay Buchanan, who in her own right and on behalf of brother Pat have been antagonists of the Bushes on many an issue from Iraq, to Israel to trade for many years.
Catching up with a distorted story from early in the week: On Monday's Nightline, ABC ran a silly story by Brian Ross impugning the integrity of the two most conservative Supreme Court justices, for a "judicial junket" in Colorado where at a Federalist Society conference Antonin Scalia played tennis and the acceptance by Clarence Thomas of a NASCAR jacket. Over hidden-camera video of Scalia on a tennis court, Ross stressed how Scalia missed the swearing-in of Chief Justice Roberts and featured law professor Stephen Gillers, "a recognized scholar on legal ethics," as his expert, running seven soundbites from him (compared to just two from a Scalia-defender). But Ross failed to note how Gillers is a left-winger who in The Nation in 1999 fretted about the "nightmare" of more conservative Supreme Court justices. Ross, however, tagged the Federalist Society as "a conservative activist group" as he buried a brief mention of how the group "says this was no junket at all but a legal seminar, in which Justice Scalia taught a ten-hour course." Ross even tried to smear Scalia with a link to scandal: "Scalia also attended the scheduled cocktail receptions, one of which was sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked."
Ross acknowledged, after his taped story aired, that "it isn't just Justice Scalia. Justices at all ends of the political spectrum take plenty of these trips to lots of nice places, all paid for by somebody else." But Ross didn't go beyond Scalia and Thomas and the Tuesday Good Morning America version plastered on screen, over video of Scalia playing tennis, "ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: SCALIA CAUGHT ON TAPE.” (Full transcript, and more on Gillers, follows.)
President Bush went to Kansas yesterday to discuss a number of important issues facing the nation including the war in Iraq, and terrorist surveillance. Yet, what seems to have most captured the attention of America’s media is a question asked of the president by a reporter in attendance yesterday concerning whether or not he has seen the controversial film “Brokeback Mountain.” In fact, the media found this such an important issue that all three broadcast networks addressed it during their morning news programs today.
The “Today Show’s” Matt Lauer ended his segment with guest Bill O’Reilly this morning by playing a video clip of the exchange between President Bush and this reporter at Kansas State University, after which he asked O’Reilly: “So, O'Reilly, have you seen it? Should it be given the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year?”
As Harry Belafonte proclaimed at Duke University that American policies were based on "the demise of the poor," and Sen. Barack Obama declared on ABC that the GOP has "a very narrow agenda that advantages the most powerful," what about their own cozy fortunes?
Laura Ingraham noted today a report from the Wall Street Journal. Belafonte’s suffering from declining millionaire real-estate values:
Belafonte Cuts His Price
ENTERTAINER Harry Belafonte last month cut the price of his Manhattan apartment by $2 million, to $13 million. The Upper West Side co-operative, which he's owned for more than 40 years, went on the market last August. The 17-room home, facing Riverside Park on the western edge of Manhattan, has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a library and four fireplaces.
Last September Mr. Belafonte, 78, sold his Mediterranean-style house in the Caribbean for $2.2 million. He bought that 3.3-acre property, in the French-administered part of St. Martin, in 1982. It has four bedrooms, gardener and caretaker cottages and a pool. Maria Pascal and Richard Mortimer of Prudential Douglas Elliman have the Manhattan listing. The price cut comes as the Manhattan real-estate market is showing signs of cooling...
This year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration was a wild and woolly collection of left-wing blather.
In Washington, showing remarkable feats of amnesia that he was ever vice president in a corrupt administration, Al Gore gave a speech claiming President Bush was a law-breaking president and his illegal actions a threat to the survival of our democracy, an extraordinary accusation for even this man to make, given the same policies were executed by the Clinton-Gore administration.
In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin announced that God wanted New Orleans to be a “chocolate” city again. When challenged that this might make him sound like a little racist, he dug a deeper hole by claiming whites were the milk in his milk-chocolate shake.
Even in this stew of silliness, Hillary Rodham Clinton still managed to draw headlines for herself by marching into a Baptist church with Al Sharpton in Harlem and giving a fiery speech. First, Hillary sounded the same Clinton-amnesia notes as Gore, charging that President Bush’s team was historically filled with corrupt cronies, that his presidency "will go down in history as one of the worst.” But with Sharpton proudly looking on, she threw the race card on the table with a big, noisy thwack. “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about.” Bush is not only incompetent. Dennis Hastert is a slave master. Laura Bush was right. It was “ridiculous.”
On "Good Morning America" today, the 8 AM newscast had a few embarrassing errors. News anchor Kate Snow stumbled as she explained that today's NASA mission to Pluto will be powered by "24 pounds of plutonium" -- "I'll have to check that," she said as she read through it. (Doesn't she read through the news a time or two before taking the newscast on air?) At newscast's end, she said my bad, yes, it's 24 pounds. Obviously, Kate Snow is literally not a rocket (or nuclear) scientist. At least she didn't highlight the liberal angle of anti-nuke protesters.
Then entertainment critic Joel Siegel arrived on the Golden Globe beat, noting that Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, and Joaquin Phoenix all won awards last night for playing real people whose last name starts with C. He then suggested it could mean Oscar magic for the actors, since Jamie Foxx won last year for playing, he claimed -- "Johnny Cash." Oops. That would have been a real actor's challenge. But he didn't correct it to Ray Charles. ABC whistled past it.
As Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas debut tonight as the co-anchors of "World News Tonight," the traditional liberal bias promises to continue. On today's "Good Morning America," Woodruff reported from Iran, and made sure to equate conservatism with oppression: "One more indication of the growing conservatism here: this week the government closed down a daily newspaper and banned a women’s magazine. It has happened many times before but these are the first to be targeted since the new President was elected in August." Earlier in his 7am half-hour report, Woodruff asserted: “There is a new ultra-conservative President here, who is causing worry both inside and outside this country.”
MRC's Megan McCormack reports that on Thursday's "Good Morning America," ABC reporter Jake Tapper gave some air time to the view that Steven Spielberg's new film "Munich" has a "dangerous naivete," arguing that "fighting the terrorists only makes them more likely to commit acts of terror." Granted, when skepticism is coming from liberal magazines like The New Yorker and The New Republic, publicizing it on ABC is not as shocking. Tapper leaves out the role of screenwriter Tony Kushner, the controversial hard-left gay playwright. The transcript follows:
Robin Roberts: "But first, opening tomorrow, a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg that's causing controversy before it even hits the screen. Spielberg took extraordinary steps to keep details of the film secret, with only a few actors even allowed to see the entire script. The film is called 'Munich,' and the controversy over how the movie treats terrorism. Here's ABC’s Jake Tapper."
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
As one might have suspected, ABC's Good Morning America did not grant nearly the same amount of coverage to President Bush's improving poll numbers in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, as they did to his declining ratings over a month ago when the program unfavorably compared Bush's low numbers to LBJ's.
The new ABC poll, which shows Bush's approval rating rising eight points to 47 percent, was hidden in a two-sentence story read by news anchor Robin Roberts shortly before 7:15 this morning. In contrast, an earlier ABC News poll showing Bush's approval rating down to 39 percent merited a full report from national correspondent Claire Shipman on November 4th. In that report, Shipman declared that while the 39 percent rating was "grim," the noteworthy story from the poll was "the White House hemorrhaging on those issues of trust and credibility." In the November 2nd poll, Shipman reported that "just 40 percent call President Bush honest and trustworthy," which she deemed "extremely bad news." Did GMA note this morning that Bush's ratings on the issues of trust and credibility had rebounded to 49 percent? Of course not.
Forget about how cold it is outside — according to ABC, there’s no longer a debate about global warming: manmade greenhouse emissions have put Earth “under non-stop stress from the heat,” with deaths from global warming “conservatively” estimated at 150,000 per year.
In a stupendously one-sided story that aired on Thursday’s “Good Morning America” — a longer version of which will be shown tonight on “Nightline” — reporter Bill Blakemore announced that unless “serious greenhouse gas emission cuts” are underway within the next ten years “the Earth will start to experience temperatures higher than it has known in half a million years.”
Such cuts in emissions, however, would cause massive damage to the world economy. Financial columnist James Glassman recently highlighted a study from the International Council for Capital Formation which tried to assess the impact on just four European countries – Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy:
Pope Benedict XVI recently encouraged Catholics to remember the true meaning of Christmas and to not focus on the shopping aspect. After the speech, the first thing Diane Sawyer thought of was his shoes, his Prada shoes, and how they may represent a credibility problem for the Pope.
At the top of today’s Good Morning America, Sawyer said, "And speaking of shopping, the Pope has now weighed in saying Christmas has simply become too commercial. But we wonder about his own lifestyle. Remember those shoes? We're going to get into that." Robin Roberts, a co-host, responded with, "Yeah, the Prada shoes, the Gucci sunglasses. We'll see."
Free Market Project (FMP) Director Dan Gainor has a piece online at the FMP website detailing how mainstream movie critics and entertainment reporters have uncritically heralded George Clooney's silver screen outing, Syriana, as a true or near-true-to-life account of how American oil companies operate in the Middle East.
Among them, A.O. Scott of the New York Times in his November 23 review: "Someone is sure to complain that the world doesn’t really work the way it does in ‘Syriana’; that oil companies, law firms and Middle Eastern regimes are not really engaged in semiclandestine collusion, to control the global oil supply and thus influence the destinies of millions of people. OK, maybe."
ABC continued the racist-Katrina-response news angle this morning by interviewing two of the witnesses at yesterday's House hearing, requested by Rep. Cynthia McKinney. The taped and edited interview segment (no need for really wild conspiracy theories on air) featured "Good Morning America" co-host Charles Gibson interviewing Doreen Keeler and Leah Hodges. I decided to play the Google game. Are these women's backgrounds available on the Internet? Are they perhaps....left-wingers? Here's what I found:
A woman by the name of Doreen Keeler is listed as a plaintiff for the Center for Reproductive Rights fighting a "Choose Life" license plate in Louisiana since that apparently "infringes on free speech rights" (or at least upsets abortion advocates). That might match, considering Keeler is listed in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune as an AIDS activist "who works for the NO/AIDS Task force in New Orleans and manages the Louisiana HIV/AIDS hotline." Might someone with socially liberal views be especially supportive of suggesting the Bush administration response was inadequate?
“I know, Dan, the President’s giving a speech on the economy coming up, but there are people, including Alan Greenspan of the Fed, and also the GAO, the top auditor in the country, who have said with these deficits, these mounting deficits, it is simply hard to look at this economy as anything but on thin ice, no matter what. No new taxes?”
-- Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer to Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, December 5, 2005.
ABC’s Jessica Yellin, live on Wednesday’s Good Morning America, exploited First Lady Laura Bush’s tour of White House Christmas displays, cards and decorations to hit her with an emotion-laden inquiry about regretting the war in Iraq: “Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?" Mrs. Bush replied with how “every loss is too many” and said that “I want to encourage Americans to reach out to our military families who suffer the most.” Yellin followed up by continuing her agenda: "And do you hope the U.S. will be out of Iraq by this time next year?" Yellin posed her serious questions about three minutes into Mrs. Bush’s descriptions of the cards and ornaments in the East Room. (Transcript follows.)
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday broke a story about Michael Jackson that has received surprisingly little press. In a report about the pop star’s finances, as well as his relationship with financial advisors, an audiotape was played of a telephone message Jackson left for a former business associate:
JACKSON: They suck - they're like leeches. I'm so tired of it. They start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars, and everything, end up with, penniless. It is conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose.
This morning’s Good Morning America found symbolism in President Bush’s encounter with a locked door when attempting to leave a press conference. In the opening tease at 7:00 AM, Charlie Gibson said, "No way out. President Bush tries the wrong door on his trip to Asia and has fun for the cameras. But the big question now: Does he have an exit strategy for Iraq?"
Later, Jessica Yellin, reporting from Mongolia, couldn’t let the door incident go. She said, "This wraps up a trip that saw no major accomplishments for the U.S. on key issues, but that did produce a classic and symbolic video moment.
"It happened as Mr. Bush attempted to make his exit after a press conference in China, only there was no way out for the Commander in Chief."
Media Wrong About Dollar: As the frequency of pessimistic reports increases, their accuracy seems to decline.
Since the stock market’s collapse between March 2000 and October 2002, the Free Market Project media have continually been making gloomy and bearish economic forecasts, from predictions of a housing bubble implosion to gasoline prices heading to $5 per gallon and even an economic downturn due to Hurricane Katrina. As The Free Market Project has reported, none of these have panned out.
Other examples of media gloom and doom that ended up being inaccurate were the press’s opinions of the falling dollar at the end of last year, and what they believed were the likely consequences. Tom Fenton of CBS News went so far as to link the decline to the start of the Bush presidency. “Since the end of the Clinton administration – or to put it another way, since the beginning of the Bush administration – the dollar has been heading south at an alarming rate,” he argued in a Dec. 6, 2004, piece.
Democrats won yesterday’s gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, both offices they held going into Tuesday’s voting, and Democrats lost the Virginia lieutenant governor’s race, a switch in favor of the GOP. That’s hardly an impressive show of electoral strength.
But journalists today spun the results like Howard Dean, claiming voters had handed the Republicans “stinging defeats,” as the New York Times hyped on today’s front page.
Eight years ago, when Republicans held those same two governorships during off-year elections, the media didn’t tout Democratic defeats or unhappiness with Democratic President Bill Clinton. Instead, they saw the election of Republican governors as a voters’ approval of the “status quo” under Clinton.
Mary Mapes, the producer fired from CBS News for her role in the 60 Minutes story about President Bush’s National Guard service, has written a book to explain her side of the story. On today’s Good Morning America she talked to ABC’s Brian Ross about that book and the forged documents used in the Bush story.
A minute or so into the interview Ross and Mapes got into the question of the documents and whether the responsibility was to prove the documents authentic before airing the story, or if any documents could be used until someone else proved them to be false.
Mapes: "I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof that I haven't seen."
Ross: "But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?"
Mapes: "Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false, yet."
Ross: "Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn't that really what journalists do?"
It’s the Poor Innocent Consumer vs. Big Bad Oil, with a side of Politicians to the Rescue.
The media love a good controversy – so much so that they stir things up when the facts don’t warrant it. Since oil companies released their profit numbers last week, the news template has been one of angry consumers claiming they’ve been harmed and politicians vowing to do something about gas prices. Both parties have been aided by the media, who declared that oil profits were "beyond imagination."
On “CNN Sunday Morning” October 30, hosts asked viewers to respond to the question, “Who do you hold accountable for high gas prices?” Ignoring market forces that set prices in favor of playing a political game, Anchor Tony Harris also rephrased the question: “Who are you blaming?”
CNN’s Miles O’Brien framed a report about high third-quarter oil profits as “something to get your blood boiling” and “get you a little outraged” on the October 28 “American Morning.”
The fact is, when the price of a product goes up, the people who sell that product make more money. The only way this happens is if consumers keep buying.
That’s the oversimplified version of what happened to oil companies’ profits in the third quarter of 2005. Interruptions from the hurricanes tightened supply, but consumer demand stayed high, fueled by China and India – so gasoline prices went up. Oil companies profited from the situation, but they didn’t arbitrarily set their prices extra-high. Market forces determined prices.
Unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been getting it. Rather than accepting the way the market works, they have pitted consumers against oil companies, bolstering the case of those who call for a “windfall profits tax” on the companies’ earnings. That includes members of Congress, who have scheduled a hearing on energy pricing and corporate profits for November 9.
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) summed up the news template when she said, “At a time when the American people are struggling to pay their energy bills and the residents of my own state of Maine will be hard-pressed to pay their home heating costs this winter, it is deeply concerning and, frankly, outrageous that oil companies are boasting record-breaking profits,” according to the October 28 Los Angeles Times.
The broadcast network morning shows did segments today concerning yesterday’s surprise “closed session” in the Senate demanded by Democratic minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). All three appeared quite pleased with what occurred while suggesting that it was a big win for the Democrats, and indicating that the Republicans were very angered by “the stunt.” However, even though they have now had almost a day to research the history of such events, much like what was reported by NewsBusters yesterday, not one of the programs discussed just how rare these sessions are, or questioned why this subject matter warranted a closed session. (Video links of the CBS and NBC segments to follow.)
As soon as network reporters heard of his nomination, they began to brand Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a right-wing extremist. During live coverage Monday morning, ABC's Charles Gibson termed Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of an otherwise "liberal appellate court." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello. On Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin labeled Alito as "conservative" five times in 50 seconds.
Monday's evening newscasts carried the same message. On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Alito a "staunch conservative," while Terry Moran found him "deeply conservative." CBS's John Roberts said that "if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction." In contrast, NBC's Brian Williams, agreed Alito was "dependably conservative" but he also saw an "independent streak," as did reporter Pete Williams.