ABC's Jake Tapper interviewed Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the sleazy cartoon "South Park" for Friday's "Nightline." It's been "vilified as crude, disgusting, and nihilistic." Actually, it may be calmly, dispassionately, almost scientifically decribed as crude, disgusting, and nihilistic. But Tapper elicited some interesting commentary on how which religions can be mocked:
"That's where we kind of agree with some of the people who've criticized our show," Stone says. "Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We've had him say bad words. We've had him shoot a gun. We've had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn't just show a simple image."
While former President Bill Clinton is angry with ABC over the content of it’s miniseries, "The Path to 9/11," he shouldn’t find much to complain about regarding the network’s news coverage of his wife. The entire Wednesday edition of ABC’s "Nightline" was devoted to anchor Cynthia McFadden’s day of campaigning with Senator Hillary Clinton in upstate New York. The half hour was full of softball questions and Bush bashing. While no Clinton critics were highlighted in her report, McFadden did find a New York Republican supporter of Clinton who gushed:
Unidentified female: "I think she’s fabulous. I think she’s more beautiful in person. But more than her beauty, she’s genuine and very intelligent and well-spoken."
We're all familiar with this definition of a conservative: "a liberal who's just been mugged." This morning, Ted Koppel devised a variation on the theme that could be taken as an insult to his fellow lefties: "a liberal is a conservative who just got arrested."
Koppel's line came in the course of a Today show interview with Matt Lauer to discuss a special that Koppel is about to air in his role as Managing Editor of the Discovery Channel [so that's where he went after leaving ABC!]. As Lauer described it, the documentary, entitled 'The Price of Security,' addresses "the balance between securing the nation and protecting our individual liberties."
Reporters for rival networks of Fox News had unkind things to say about Dick Cheney's preference for Fox when staying at hotels.
MSNBC's "The Abrams Report":
"And he wants brewed decaf coffee and all the televisions must be tuned to the home team, Fox News. Horrors to think he might encounter other networks while flipping the channel himself on his way over... It's got me thinking I should make some demands of my own. From now on whenever I travel, I want a bottle of wine waiting, not just any wine, but fine wine. I want the TV tuned to MSNBC."
CNN reporter Carol Costello said on "American Morning":
"And, yes, all the TVs set to C -- no, to Fox News."
To which anchor Soledad O'Brien quipped, "Not really a shocker on that front."
Jack Cafferty on CNN's "The Situation Room" used his trademark "F-word network" putdown.
If you thought Teddy Kennedy’s pratfall over Samuel Alito’s membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group was embarrassing (quoting magazine satire articles as if they were real), you should see what ABC’s “Nightline” tried to pull last week.
The subject was the ethics of judicial travel. As investigative reporter Brian Ross explained in the middle of the piece, “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 this was no expose on justices “at all ends of the political spectrum.” It was a shameless hit piece on conservatives, complete with hidden-camera cheap shots.
In a recent Nightline episode that aired January 27, 2006, Vicki Mabrey presented what some call a controversial program happening within the prison walls of Lawtey Correctional Institution. The issue at hand – faith in prisons, and not just Christianity.
Mabrey contends that even though officials cite success with their program it isn’t really sufficient because there aren’t any scientific studies that prove that these types of faith based programs help lower disciplinary actions or lower recidivism rates.
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.)
Brent Baker's dispatch on ABC's "Nightline" showed a dramatic liberal bias, with ABC providing left-wing comedians Kathy Griffin and Al Franken a platform to mock more conservative performers like Mel Gibson and Rush Limbaugh for not doing their part to entertain troops on the USO circuit.
Author and blogger Alan Skorski is America's most determined Al Franken watchdog, author of the new book "Pants On Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives." In December, Skorski noted on his blog one angle that ABC has yet to explore: whether the allegedly troops-loving Franken should be allowed to entertain the troops when behind their backs, he laughs at them as prisoner abusers. He reported in December there is a brief clip from a song called "Sorry," an Abu Ghraib-ish parody of our marauding troops from his "Very Best of The O'Franken Factor" CD.
In a December 23 USA Today front page story, “USO cheers troops, but Iraq gigs tough to book; Safety concerns, disagreement with war keeping many celebrities from volunteering,” reporters Martin Kasindorf and Steven Komarow related how actor/comedian Robin Williams, “who like [Al] Franken has been an outspoken critic of Bush's management of the war -- and [Wayne] Newton, a Republican who backs Bush, say some stars have turned down the USO because they thought such performances would amount to endorsing the war.” But in a Friday evening Nightline story, Terry Moran, through his use of soundbites from two left-wingers, portrayed cowardly conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh who isn't a stage performer, as the problem facing the USO in trying to get stars to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moran asserted: “While the USO has been able to attract some big names for tours in recent years -- Jessica Simpson, Robin Williams, the rapper 50 Cent -- some of the top stars are AWOL. Like, say-" Comedian Kathy Griffin charged: "Mel Gibson, big conservative. Go on over, Mel, anytime. They'd be glad to see you. They all love Braveheart." Moran elaborated on how Griffin, a “opponent of the war” who has done several USO tours, “loves performing for the troops and she wonders why some vocal war supporters have stayed home." Moran then featured this blast from Griffin: “I think Rush Limbaugh should, you know, pop a few of those Oxycontin that he probably still has laying around and go over. I mean, I'm not saying go straight, he's got to take the edge off, but, you know, put your money where your mouth is, O'Reilly, go do a book tour or something over there." (In fact, Limbaugh hasn't gone on a USO tour, but in late February 2005 he did go on a U.S. Agency for International Development trip to visit troops in Afghanistan.)
Moran let Al Franken tell an anecdote about how Sylvester Stallone was too afraid to go to Iraq before excusing liberals from any responsibility: "USO President Ned Powell insists the divisive politics of the Iraq war and the liberal tilt of Hollywood have had no impact on the organization's ability to recruit stars.”
Video excerpt: (1:55) Real (3.3 MB) or Windows Media (3.8 MB), plus MP3 audio (900 KB). (Update, with Limbaugh's take, and full transcript follows.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah McBride wrote an article in today’s edition addressing the increasing number of network news “stars” leaving television to become a part of National Public Radio. In an environment where ratings for most news programs are declining, and newspapers across the country are reducing staffs amid shrinking circulations, NPR’s audience is continuing to grow. As a result, as reported previously by NewsBusters, the largely government sponsored radio station has been attracting folks like former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite and former ABC “Nightline” host, Ted Koppel. Potentially the most fascinating aspect of this article is what it said about the current state of television media:
“Network news is increasingly generating prospects for NPR in part because some broadcast journalists think the networks are veering away from serious, in-depth reports. Many television journalists say they are fed up with the move toward consumer-friendly news-you-can-use and away from weightier subjects like foreign affairs and government. And many also see news of any sort as an increasingly low priority for their employers. For example, ‘Nightline’ came close to losing its perch in a humiliating 2002 episode when ABC brass unsuccessfully tried to lure in David Letterman's nightly comedy show to replace it.”
While Ted Koppel is signing up with NPR and the New York Times, another veteran of his classic "Nightline" has found a new gig. Reporter Dave Marash is signing up with the English-language version of al-Jazeera. As Newsday's Verne Gay reports this morning, Marash insists that despite al-Jazeera's reputation as a mouthpiece for al Qaeda terrorists, "conventional and, dare I say, informed opinion is that the channel is thoroughly respected."
Dave Marash, the veteran "Nightline" correspondent who left the program late last year, has landed at Al-Jazeera International, the new English-language news channel that will be spun off from Al-Jazeera later this spring....
ABC and NPR are acting like kissing cousins. Ted Koppel, now retired from "Nightline," will provide commentaries for NPR, about once a week, the report suggests. He professes his love for NPR and how he's stolen many ideas from them. (This might explain some of the liberal bias on ABC.) His producer Leroy Sievers has been working at NPR in recent months, too. In recent years, commentaries on NPR have been less political than you might expect, but I don't think Koppel will record chats about making icea tea in the sun. I'd bet on John Chancellor-style pompous-windbag political commentaries. (You can see the genre is you scroll down here.) Koppel will also write (liberal) editorials for the New York Times. Oh goody.
ABC News’ Martin Bashir last evening on “Nightline” brought on an Arkansas “abortionist” to sell America the virtues of this oftentimes ghastly procedure, while making a political statement against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Bashir even suggested that those who have abortions are “born again.” The piece began with Bashir sharing some abortion statistics – with graphics – to demonstrate how commonplace it is in our society (ABC News video link to follow):
MARTIN BASHIR: (Off-camera) For anyone who thinks that abortion is not a daily ritual of American life, then consider these statistics.
GRAPHICS: 1 IN 4 PREGNANCIES END IN ABORTION
MARTIN BASHIR: (Voiceover) One in four pregnancies ends in abortion. And at current rates, a third of all American women will have an abortion by the age of 45.
GRAPHICS: ONE THIRD OF AMERICAN WOMEN WILL HAVE AN ABORTION BY AGE 45
Howard Kurtz, in his Thursday Washington Post story on Ted Koppel’s decision to join the Discovery Channel, revealed a tantalizing tidbit in his tenth paragraph about who first reached out to Tom Bettag, the Executive Producer of Nightline until Koppel’s departure from ABC in November: “The first contact came on Dec. 1, the week after Koppel's last Nightline broadcast, when Don Baer, a Discovery executive vice president who previously worked in the Clinton White House, e-mailed and then called Bettag.” (Bettag and several others from Koppel's ABC crew will follow Koppel to Discovery.)
Indeed, after nine years at U.S. News & World Report, where he rose to Assistant Managing Editor, in 1994 Baer jumped to the Clinton White House to become the chief speechwriter for President Clinton, and was later elevated to Communications Director for the Clinton White House. Baer reportedly so admired Bill Clinton that he effused about how Clinton was “the moral leader of the Universe.” (Details follow.)
ABC's Terry Moran, a new Nightline co-host who was until recently a dogged attack-questioner of the Bush White House -- and of course, an even more recent attack-questioner of Dick Cheney -- sent a very sensible note to the new World News Tonight blog about the Jack Abramoff scandal and how lobbying has grown because the size of government has grown. Now let's see if he sounds like this on Nightline:
The real reason there's so much power for sale in Washington is that there's so much power in Washington. The British newspaper The Independent said today that President Woodrow Wilson could not have imagined today's $4 billion lobbying industry. They are quite right -- but Mr. Wilson could hardly have imagined today's $1 trillion-plus federal government, whose powers reach into every nook and cranny of American life. When the federal government can influence what happens in your business or your backyard or your bedroom -- you are quite properly going to want to influence it right back. That's not corruption; that's self-government. And while it would be swell if that dialogue happened in a pristine, college-seminar-style setting -- or maybe a private club -- free of the grubbiness of real-world interests, it doesn't. This, after all, is America. And we grub.
Exactly two weeks after ABC’s Terry Moran, on the December 19 Nightline, pounded away at Vice President Dick Cheney on the treatment of detainees and the eavesdropping story, an interview in which Moran condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, left Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters, the Monday night broadcast delivered an obsequious session with Democratic Congressman John Murtha. Moran plugged the two-part segment : "Just ahead on Nightline, we'll have a Marine's lonely stand. Lawmaker John Murtha like you've never heard him before. Why this Vietnam combat vet says he'd never sign up for Iraq."
Jon Donvan, who conducted the taped interview in Murtha’s office, never challenged him as he touted Murtha’s “remarkable” comments and how his criticism of the Iraq war came “like a thunder clap” -- as if the media didn’t create the storm. But Donvan didn’t hesitate to try to discredit Murtha’s critics. Donvan contended that “the White House and its supporters set out immediately to smear Murtha's standing as an American” and insisted he’s “protected by his reputation from any smear campaign that wants to suggest he is anti-American or chicken because everyone knows that he is neither.” Donvan maintained that “Murtha's resume on defense is unassailable.” After Murtha agreed with Donvan’s proposition that it was “a wrong war to go into from the beginning," Donvan gushed: "It's very rare, very rare to hear anybody in politics come out and say 'I made a mistake.'”
Donvan also set up Murtha with a “chicken hawk” line of attack: "Do you think in the end that the enthusiasm for going to Iraq that the President had would have been different if, like you, he had actually ever seen combat? Or if Dick Cheney, like you, had ever actually seen combat or Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz or Feith, men who wanted to go to war and had never seen combat?” (Complete transcript, and a link back to Nightline’s hostility to Cheney, follows.)
In an interview conducted Sunday in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney, and shown on Monday’s Nightline, Terry Moran decided “to put this personally” and condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, leaves Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters. Moran asked: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, “it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney’s defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran’s contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?” Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether “the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?" (Transcript follows.)
Washington Post TV writer Tom Shales, fresh from defending TV news no matter how wrong it is (as in Mary Mapes), is fussing this morning that Terry Moran had the unmitigated gall to question the TV coverage of Iraq as less than three-dimensional:
Moran sounded similarly specious Monday night with a report he taped in Iraq. "It's not the place you see on TV every night," he said. "Much of the media coverage here is one-dimensional." So then, what? We should put on our 3-D glasses? "Nightline" was going to show all the bad boys of broadcasting how to do it? Moran's report wasn't revolutionary and didn't justify his lecturing others in the TV news business.
New York magazine's Meryl Gordon captured the end of Ted Koppel's arrogant reign over "Nightline," and Koppel grew especially cranky (he "drips with contempt") when asked about the Bush administration's public relations on the war in Iraq.
Twice in the past two years, Koppel has raised the ire of the Bush administration with segments called "The Fallen," in which he read aloud the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq. "I didn’t do it to piss them off," he says. "It was to honor the people who have lost their lives, to remind us that a tiny fragment of the population is bearing a disproportionate burden." His voice drips with contempt as he talks about the Bush team’s spin tactics on Iraq. "There’s this sense, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what’s going on over there—just do what we tell you, don’t question it. We know what we’re doing, leave the grown-ups alone.’ It’s not smart, it’s not healthy, and in the final analysis, it doesn’t work."
It’s easy to get sentimental when long-standing TV personalities bow out of the shows that made them a household name, whether it’s an entertainer like Johnny Carson or a news man like Ted Koppel, who just pulled the curtain on a 26-year career as host of ABC’s “Nightline.” His timing seemed perfect: after the retirement of Tom Brokaw, the self-immolation of Dan Rather, and the cancer death of Peter Jennings, the loss of Koppel’s nightly presence drew on fond memories of the so-called glory days of TV news. An era is finished.
Koppel is especially beloved in journalism circles as a symbol and a spokesman for substance in TV news. Saying goodbye on “Good Morning America,” Koppel declared, “I think the mission statement would be that our responsibility is to tell people what's important, not to stick our finger up in the air and test the winds to see what the public thinks is, is important.”
Like some of the other shows, it seemed a little unanimous on CNN's "Reliable Sources" today. They began with a panel of raving leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, liberal historian Robert Dallek, liberal CNN correspondent Bruce Morton, and UPI Pentagon correspondent Pam Hess, who must qualify as the most conservative one on the panel. Krugman muffed it early when host Howard Kurtz asked if Walter Cronkite could galvanize the anti-war movement today by saying we've lost, we should withdraw: "If Walter Cronkite were alive -- sorry, he is alive. If Walter Cronkite were on the news today, if a Walter Cronkite equivalent were on the news, he would -- immediately after that broadcast we just saw, he would have been called a traitor."
In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry:
Ted Koppel did a long interview with Charlie Rose on PBS Monday night, a day before he retired as host of "Nightline." One segment of the interview that stuck out was their discussion of racism and racial inequality and how passionate they are about it. Koppel said it "just infuriates" him. Rose agreed:
Rose: Regrets about this "Nightline" thing in terms of – where you think, God, I missed it that day, I didn't go, or we talked about if we could have been tougher, raised better questions about war and peace with respect to Iraq, should they have waited, all of that, and questions -- You and I share another passion which is the passion about race and civil rights in america.
Ted Koppel closes up shop on "Nightline" tonight. He will be widely revered and remembered as a voice for hard news and serious long-form reporting. Several decades ago, Koppel’s format was even welcomed by conservatives at the time as a place to be heard for more than six seconds. ("The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" was another. Both were biased at times, but offered some space to be heard.) But Koppel also has a record with some serious (sometimes atrocious) liberal bias. One of the most recent: going to Vietnam to interview communists to prove John Kerry was right about his war record.
The first that comes to mind: "Nightline" devoted a one-hour special resurrecting the October Surprise myth that Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign operatives nefariously delayed the release of American hostages in Iran for political gain. When media and congressional investigations again proved the theory a farce, we asked for a retraction and an apology, and a "Nightline" spokeswoman told us: "That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That's a headline. That's not a half-hour show." There’s a list of bias examples in this Brent Bozell column from 1997. For something more up to date, you can consider the hard-left sources Koppel dug up to explain those thuggish neoconservatives wanting to wage war on Saddam here.
Rep. John Murtha is getting a second round of liberal media gravitas for opposing the Iraq War after he voted for it. Brent Baker just noted the May 7, 2004 CyberAlert, where Koppel used Murtha and former Reagan official William Odom (whom he later acknowledged opposed the war before it occurred), as grist for his question of the day (or every day): "Tonight, Hanging in the Balance: Is Iraq an unwinnable war?"
In fact, Koppel liked Murtha's pessimistic stance so much, he devoted the entire May 10, 2004 Nightline to an exclusive interview with the pessimist. One choice exchange came in the discussion of whether Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, or if he's responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:
ABC "Nightline" reporter Dave Marash gets a little overwrought in saluting the end of his (and Ted Koppel's) era on the late-night ABC beat:
"I am deeply endebted [sic] to ABC News for giving me 16 years in 'professional Heaven,' Ted Koppel's Nightline. My debt to Ted himself, and to executive producers Tom Bettag and Leroy Sievers is even greater, for the opportunity to travel the world, learn from it and report on it, with some nuance and detail. If news were a religion, Reality would be its diety [sic], and Ted, Tom and Leroy were resolute in building a broadcast which consistently served its audience by serving Reality. Nightline subordinated, or at the very least, harmonized, personality and style to an aggressively transparent presentation of the complexities and complications that define the Real World Out There. Truly, Nightline has been a 'first draft of history,' not of Page 6." (For non-vets of the New York Post, that's their gossip page.)
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. Blitzer asked Cummings on The Situation Room: “Do you believe, if it was, in fact, a slow response, as many now believe it was, was it in part the result of racism?” When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn’t give up: “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"
Later, on CNN’s NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”
Opening the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams predicted that the "catastrophic hurricane strike, and the U.S. government response to it, will in the years or decades to come, perhaps necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment and more.” ABC’s Ted Koppel charged on Nightline that “the slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty and a seemingly indifferent government.”
While introducing the lead story on Thursday’s Nightline, Ted Koppel confessed near confusion as to how the media missed attacking the NRA in July, when the Senate passed the latest gun bill. He described the media as "clearly on the side of stricter gun laws," then complained that the "press even missed it or overlooked" the bill which he described as "Christmas in July" for the NRA. To justify coming to the story late, Koppel concluded, "And while we are late in reporting it, this, we felt, is truly a case of better late than never." (read the full transcript...)