As already noted on NewsBusters, "20/20" anchor Barbara Walters interviewed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for a segment airing on the March 16 edition of the program. And although she did occasionally challenge authoritarian leader, Walters spent much of the interview discussing important topics such as whether Chavez likes coffee, marriage, and generally regurgitating the Venezuelan President’s propaganda.
Walters, appearing on the Friday edition of "Good Morning America" to plug the interview, even touted a Chavez run for political office in the U.S.:
Robin Roberts: "Did he think he would do very well if he ran for office here in this country?"
Barbara Walters: "He said, ‘You know, if I came to this country, I would run, I could run an election if I changed my name to Nicky Chavez because I am for humanity. I am for disseminating the wealth. I am for helping people.’ He says, ‘I would win.’ So put his name down on the list."
While viewers were told that the interview with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez “pulled no punches,” you sure could have fooled anyone watching. ABC’s March 16 “Good Morning America” treated Chavez as a man who “does like this country.”
She actually meant the United States.
Flashback to the same network in 2005. Reporter Dan Harris of ABC’s “World News Tonight” was more up front about Chavez in a Nov. 6, 2005, report: “Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez, who led an anti-American rally while talks for free trade were taking place.”
On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Chris Cuomo and reporter Brian Ross discussed the recent report that terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad admitted to planning 9/11 and other major attacks.
However, Cuomo and Ross spent much of the segment fretting over the interrogation techniques used by the U.S. And Mr. Ross chose to recount an oddly sympathetic quote by the terrorist, noting that Mr. Mohammad said, "he was sorry that 3000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, but, quote, ‘I don’t like to kill children and the kids.’"
One would think that such an absurd comment would at least warrant an eye roll, but the GMA hosts simply continued with the report. Cuomo wondered if the techniques used to extract information from the 9/11 planner could lead "to torture":
CHRIS CUOMO: "Everybody’s going to want to parse what happened here and why. You mentioned in the piece water boarding. Remind us what that is and if it leads to torture."
As NB senior editor Tim Graham and Clay Waters of Times Watch have documented here and here, nothing gets under the skin of Democrats like using "Democrat" rather than "Democratic" as an adjective in referring to them. Thus, for example, the use of "Democrat party" apparently sends the blood pressure of the Pelosi crew skyrocketing.
But on today's Good Morning America, discussing proposals to move up the date of presidential primaries in a number of states, This Week host George Stephanopoulos [file photo] said:
“Just about every campaign strategist I spoke with, on both the Democrat as well as Republican side, said . . . “
What? George Stephanopolous referred to the "Democrat side"? Could the former Clinton aide have fallen prey to a devious GOP mind-control plot? Might he be a deep Roveian mole?
If ABC was going to provide a platform for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to express her moral outrage over the firings of the eight US Attorneys and call for AG Gonzales' resignation, didn't the network have an obligation to let viewers know that her husband's administration had itself peremptorily fired more than ten times that many US attorneys -- and that a close personal associate of Hillary's was intimately involved?
Senior national correspondent Jake Tapper scored the exclusive with Hillary. In the excerpts aired, Hillary in high dudgeon declared that "the Attorney General, who still seems to confuse his prior role as the president's personal attorney with his duty to the system of justice and to the entire country, should resign."
The March 13 Washington Post erupted on the front page with the revelation that the White House played a role in the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. "Firings Had Genesis In White House," screamed the headline. Documents showed that back in 2005, White House counsel Harriet Miers recommended the idea to the Justice Department that all 93 U.S. Attorneys be replaced. Instead, the Bush team dismissed only eight.
But something quite amazing was omitted by those hard-charging Post reporters Dan Eggen and John Solomon digging through White House E-mails for their scandalized front-page bombshell. Didn’t Bill Clinton’s brand new Attorney General Janet Reno demand resignations from all 93 U.S. attorneys on March 24, 1993? Wouldn’t that fact be relevant to the story? Wouldn’t it have the effect of lessening the oh-my-God hyperbole on the front page if the reader was shown that what Bush did was one-tenth as dramatic as what Team Clinton did? Yes, and yes.
On Monday’s "Nightline," the ABC program continued the media’s fascination with the Mayan "spiritual leaders" who protested a recent visit to Guatemala by President Bush. According to anchor Cynthia McFadden, "some say he's angered the gods."
While footage onscreen showed Uruguayan demonstrators (from a previous portion of the trip) burning an American flag, Reporter Jessica Yellin noted that "many in the region don’t care for Mr. Bush" and seriously reported on the President’s "bad vibes":
JESSICA YELLIN: "The spiritual leaders of the Guatemala's indigenous Mayan population are also worried about the President's bad vibes. They will perform a special cleansing ceremony to clear away the bad energy they say he left during his visit."
[Scroll below for 5:24pm EDT] On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," ABC anchor Robin Roberts speculated and fretted over the allegations that some U.S. attorneys were fired because they wouldn’t aggressively investigate Democrats. Roberts dramatically stated that the firings highlight "a trail that points straight to the top" and wondered "how big could this be?"
Yet when President Clinton fired 93 attorneys at the beginning of his first term, ABC never mentioned the story.
The entire GMA report, filed by correspondent Pierre Thomas, was framed from the perspective of how the Democrats perceive this growing scandal and whom they suspect:
NewsBusters previously reported that the AP, NBC's "Today," and ABC's "Good Morning America" reported as a curiosity some Mayan priests who complain that President Bush brought evil spirits with him to Guatemala.
Well, CBS's Peter Maer didn't want to be left out apparently. He wrote up a little something at "Couric & Co.," Katie Couric's e-sandbox on CBS's Web site.
Maer's account, like the others mentioned, seems to leave out two key facts for their readers.
[Updated 5:20pm EDT] For the second time in a week, a media organization has seriously reported on the "evil spirits" that President Bush’s trip to Latin America will bring. During a 7am news brief on the Monday edition of "Good Morning America," reporter Chris Cuomo noted that Bush’s visit to a sacred Mayan ruin has resulted in protests. According to Cuomo:
Chris Cuomo: " President Bush's tour of Latin America stops in Guatemala today where he'll meet with that country's president. President Bush will also visit a sacred Mayan ruin today, making some protesters angry. They say President Bush will only bring, quote, 'evil spirits' to the site. On Sunday, during the President's nearly seven hours in Colombia, demonstrators clashed with police. The situation was so dangerous, a decoy motorcade was used on the way back to the airport."
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," veteran journalist Ted Koppel talked with co-host Diane Sawyer about his new Discovery Channel special on the war against terror, "Our Children’s Children’s War." Koppel used the appearance to suggest that America stop calling the conflict a war, rely more on negotiations and he also blamed the U.S. for actually making things worse, asserting that " we turned al Qaeda into the biggest franchise since McDonalds."
Throughout the interview, Koppel discussed the need to take the long view. A plan that apparently means pulling out of Iraq:
Back in the '70s, an exchange of ping pong players between the United States and China began a thawing of relations between the two countries that paved the way for Richard Nixon's famous trip to Beijing. Could we be entering a similar stage with Iran that could come to be known as "orange juice diplomacy"? Diane Sawyer certainly seems to hope so, judging by the way she pressed US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad on Good Morning America today. Along the way, Sawyer seemed to willfully downplay the degree of Iran's responsibility for the Shia insurgency in Iraq.
Sawyer spoke from New York with Ambassador Khalilzad in Baghdad on the eve of a regional conference on security issues organized by the Iraqi government that will bring representatives of the United States into the same room with those from Iran and Syria. Sawyer quoted to the ambassador the recent remarks of David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator: "If we are approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians we're not going to turn and walk away."
Sawyer seized on Satterfield's statement: "Are we talking to the Syrians and the Iranians, or are we dependent on orange juice?"
Khalilzad: "As you know, for some time Diane, we have said that we are willing to talk to the Iranians if we think it will be useful to the situation in Iraq."
Like the Tuesday evening shows, Wednesday’s network morning shows leaned heavily on the Democratic narrative toward the Scooter Libby convictions, highlighting the high dudgeon against the Bush administration by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Joe Wilson, and former reporter/juror Denis Collins, while ignoring any angle that would balance the story with any critique of Fitzgerald, the Wilsons, or State Department official Richard Armitage, who withheld the fact that he leaked to Robert Novak, which started the whole scandal train.
Reporters made no reference to how Fitzgerald, knowing Armitage was the leaker, could have cut his investigation short; or how the Wilsons, far from victims, have made two book deals and a movie deal, and how Joe Wilson shamelessly campaigned for a job with President-to-be John Kerry; or how the trial made the media look bad, since the memories of reporters were as bad or worse than Libby’s memory. Here’s how the three networks summed it all up:
On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Diane Sawyer framed of the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby through the perspective of anti-Bush liberals, continuing a tradition that began with the previous day’s evening news programs. An ABC graphic described Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, as the "fall guy" and Sawyer wondered if he was "a scapegoat."
And nowhere in the segment did the GMA co-host find time to mention some very pertinent points, such as the fact that CIA Agent Valerie Plame, wife of ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, had her identity revealed to reporter Bob Novak by an administration critic, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Sawyer interviewed Denis Collins, a juror from the trial, and a sampling of her questions seems to reveal who she thinks is responsible:
Diane Sawyer: "Do you think that Scooter Libby got in trouble because he was trimming the truth to protect his boss?"
Sawyer: "You said the Vice President had clearly tasked [Libby] to talk to reporters about CIA agent Valerie Plame. How do you think the Vice President should feel this morning?"
Sawyer: "At the end of the day, what's the big message sent by this jury and this verdict?"
The ABC anchor also failed to mentioned the apparent conflict of interests shared by juror Collins, including his friendships with reporter Bob Woodward and the fact that he was a former neighbor of Tim Russert.
Has Ann Coulter gone too far? “Good Morning America” reporter Jake Tapper posed that question on Tuesday’s program. Commenting on Coulter’s use of a slur at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, he used the words “vicious” and “mean spirited” to describe the author. An ABC graphic described the speech as “nasty.”
And yet, the ABC program has not aired a single story on prominent liberal HBO personality Bill Maher (he calls himself libertarian) and his March 2 comment regarding the attempted assassination of Vice President Cheney. On his “Real Time” program, Maher remarked, “I’m just saying, if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.” In comparison, NBC’s “Today” did manage at least a small mention of the HBO host’s statement. Mr. Tapper began the piece by insinuating that conservatives are drawn to Coulter because of her “vicious” disposition, and not because of an attraction to the conservative views the author expresses:
It's a tried and true tactic of interest groups seeking to influence public opinion -- and legislative policy -- on a controversial issue. Find the most sympathetic individual case you can, and get the media to focus on that, rather than on the broaders merits of the matter. A prime example of the phenomenon was on display today at Good Morning America. Congressman Marty Meehan [D-MA] has introduced legislation that would repeal the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy, with the result that gays would be able to serve openly in the military. Hearings are scheduled to begin soon.
ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper narrated a segment on Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva [ret], described as the first member of the US military seriously injured in the Iraq invasion, losing a leg and part of a hand. In conjunction with the debate on the bill, Sergeant Alva publicly announced, apparently for the first time today, that he is gay.
Tapper interviewed Sergeant Alva at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Later in the segment, we heard from Dixon Osburn of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, another gay rights group that focuses specifically on gays in the military. It seems likely that one or both of these groups have identified Alva as a spokesman, then took his story to ABC, which ran with it.
As noted in NewsBusters on Monday, NBC’s "Today" show breathlessly reported the claims, articulated by filmmaker James Cameron in a new Discovery Channel documentary, that the tomb of Jesus, with Christ buried inside, has been located. Co-anchor Matt Lauer hyped the network’s exclusive interview with Cameron by credulously repeating the documentary’s assertions and stating the film could "rock Christianity to its core."
In contrast, the other networks provided a more skeptical interpretation. On the February 26 edition of ABC’s "Nightline," anchor Terry Moran repeatedly noted that many archaeologists are skeptical of the claims that the tomb of Jesus and a reported family have been found. On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," reporter Dan Harris prefaced a segment on the subject by observing, "If the claims in this new documentary are true, and many people doubt that they are, they would challenge some of Christianity's central articles of faith..." Over on CBS, "Early Show" anchor Hannah Storm peppered the film’s director, Simcha Jacobovici, with a number of tough questions:
Hannah Storm: "Simcha, are you attacking the basic tenets of Christianity that Jesus indeed rose from the dead?"
Hannah Storm: "What about people who say this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, Simcha?"
"Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion continued his promotion of left-wing environmental causes on Thursday. Champion, who has previously hosted a segment on whether "billions" will die from global warming, reported from Los Angeles to preview the upcoming Oscars.
He also highlighted a party being held by the climate change organization Global Green USA a group founded by the former Russian General Secretary, and noted Communist, Mikhail Gorbachev. And this isn’t the first time Champion has touted Global Green:
Sam Champion: "We are, again, inside the Academy headquarters, right where it all happens in Hollywood. And we wanted to tell you that it’s not just gold and red, the colors of Oscar this week, but there's another big color, and that's green. It’s eco-friendly green, environmental friendly green that's highlighted this week. Some celebrities are driving eco-friendly cars to the Oscars instead of limos, and by the way, there’s also a green carpet at the environmental group Global Green’s party last night. A lot of celebrities were there, and so were we."
Penelope Cruz: "It's something that where everyone can contribute."
Champion: "Oscar nominee Penelope Cruz is just one of the stars trading in the Oscar gold for a little green, to highlight one of Hollywood's hottest issues, global warming."
Celebrity #1 (not identified): "If there's no nature, there's no us."
If you make more money than I do is that anyone’s problem?
The news media made a big deal out of “income inequality” especially “out of control” CEO pay as NBC’s Carl Quintanilla called it on Oct. 20, 2006 during the “Today” show. Robin Roberts took aim at the same topic: “Now to the golden parachute that has a lot of people seeing red,” during “Good Morning America” on January 4.
But the reports on the income gap missed two alternative perspectives from economists: that the widening income gap is an illusion and that in either case the gap really doesn’t matter. Read the full Business & Media Institute report here.
On the Wednesday edition of "Good Morning America," ABC correspondent Jake Tapper reported on the power of Hollywood in presidential politics and the pitfalls of accepting celebrity support. However, while GMA found the time to gush over Barack Obama’s celebrity status, going so far as to include a graphic of an Oscar statue with Obama’s head on it, Tapper didn’t mention that Hollywood’s fund-raising is almost exclusively for liberals and Democrats:
Chris Cuomo: "Now, to the power of Hollywood on presidential politics. Candidate Barack Obama raked in $1.3 million by going Hollywood. It's a deep pocket that more and more are trying to reach into. Here's senior national correspondent Jake Tapper."
Jake Tapper: "Last night, at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the stars came out for another million dollar affair, honoring a thin, statuesque idol of color. No, not Oscar, Obama. Barack Obama."
Actor George Clooney: "He's the most charismatic person I've been in a room with in a long time."
Nothing for the MSM like dumping a little pre-emptive cold water on the Bush administration and the situation in Iraq. Introducing his interview with Vice-President Cheney this morning, ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl claimed:
"It would appear that the British announcement [of a partial withdrawal of forces from Iraq] is bad news for the Bush administration, but in the first official reaction from the United States, Vice-President Cheney told ABC News that he thinks that the announcement is actually good news -- a sign of progress in Iraq."
ABC then ran the clip of VP Cheney making his case: "I look at it, and what I see is an affirmation that in parts of Iraq things are going pretty well. I talked to a friend who just the other day had driven from Baghdad down to Basra [in the Shia-dominated south], seven hours. Found the situation dramatically improved from the way it was a year or so ago. Sort of validated the British view that they have made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore afford to reduce their force levels."
On February 8, in the midst of Diane Sawyer’s Dictator ‘07 Tour, a whirlwind trip that saw her offer softball questions to both the dictators of Iran and Syria, the "Good Morning America" anchor sat down to speak with a group of Syrian women. As already noted on NewsBusters, Sawyer portrayed the brutal Syrian regime as a family friendly paradise. An onscreen ABC graphic identified one female, Bouthaina Shaaban, simply as a "top ranking female in President’s cabinet." Sawyer afforded Shaaban a platform to bash America for its failure to help women balance home and career:
Diane Sawyer: "What do [Syrian females] think of American women? They say we have so many opportunities, yet they'd give us something from Syria, safety on the streets, family to help with children, and the government helping too."
Bouthaina Shaaban (Top ranking female in President’s cabinet): "They could be a lot better, family and professionally-wise in making family life in balance with the profession. I feel the U.S., as a very rich and strong country, could have offered a lot more for working women."
As it turns out, slamming the U.S. is a common action for Shaaban. She’s actually a fierce propagandist, as well as virulently anti-American and anti-Israel. Last year on CNN, she likened the actions of Israel in Lebanon to those of the Nazis in World War II, an outburst that drew no response from Wolf Blitzer. And in February of 2005, Shaaban hinted that the United States and Israel were behind the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
On the Tuesday edition of “Good Morning America,” host Robin Roberts slammed the insurance industry for daring to make a profit in the years since Hurricane Katrina. She also used the segment as a vehicle to call for more government regulations. The piece, combatively titled “GMA Gets It Done: Getting Answers” suggested the subjective, advocacy oriented slant that the program would take. (Additionally, last week, Diane Sawyer previewed the multi-day story, describing it as “a call to arms.”)
Roberts repeatedly took insurance company representative Bob Hartwig to task for the industry’s “record profits.” A sampling of Roberts’ hostile questioning can be found below:
Robin Roberts: “When people who have lost everything, who are in dispute with various insurance companies and they see the amount of money that-- the profit that is being made in such a year, these home owners scratch their heads a little bit. Do you understand?”
Roberts: “Though people find it hard to believe during such a devastating year, you still make a significant increase in your profit. And they’re saying, ‘Good grief, we trusted you.’”
Roberts: “You know that rings hollow, what you just said, to so many people. They don't believe that anymore.”
When's the last time you saw an MSMer dispute a politician on the tenets of his own faith? It happened today on Good Morning America when George Stephanopoulos challenged Mitt Romney's depiction of a tenet of Mormonism.
Weekend GMA host Kate Snow noted to the "This Week" host that at a Mitt Romney event Friday someone called out to the candidate that he didn't "know the Lord." Snow asked George to what extent Romney's Mormonism might be a "big hurdle" for him.
Stephanopoulos: "Polls certainly show that it is. He faces a lot of skepticism from evangelical Christians. When I spoke with him, I asked him how Muslims might perceive the Mormon belief that Jesus will return to the United States and reign personally here for a thousand years."
GMA then rolled a clip of Romney saying the following: "Our belief is just like it says in the Bible, that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives will be a place where there's a great gathering, and so forth. It's the same as the other Christian tradition."
Stephanopoulos: "Actually, we checked in with a Mormon spokesman who said that's not exactly true. They believe the New Jerusalem is here in the United States, in Missouri, and that's where Jesus is going to come."
Interviewing anti-war Senator Russ Feingold this morning, Good Morning America weekend co-host Bill Weir offered his interpretation of the mid-term election results and virtually taunted Democrats for being insufficiently aggressive in confronting President Bush:
"Do you hold your party responsible, not only for the authorization, but for the seeming inability to muster a unified front to fight the president on this, to get what you want, and apparently what the American people wanted with the mid-term elections, and end the war?"
As already reported on NewsBusters, Friday’s "Good Morning America" used the pretext of the 2008 presidential election to wonder just how bigoted America is. In a segment that aired in the 7:30 hour, Diane Sawyer talked to former NBA star John Amaechi about his new book, the revelation that he’s a homosexual, and an anti-gay diatribe delivered by ex-Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway.
This is the second time in five days that the ABC program has promoted Amaechi’s book. And just as with the piece on Senator Obama and his candidacy, Sawyer used isolated incidents to draw conclusions about all of America:
Diane Sawyer: "All right, as we said now, we're going to give you a story that wades right into this country's secret prejudice against gays in America. The former pro basketball player who revealed he is gay is with us. His name is John Amaechi. He has been the target of an anti- gay tirade by a former NBA all-star, Tim Hardaway."
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer, who has previously asked Senator Barack Obama if America is secretly ‘more racist or sexist,’ introduced a story on the issue of the 2008 presidential election and race. The ABC co-host prefaced the issue by mentioning that some African American leaders are not supporting the Illinois politician because they think the U.S. isn’t ready to vote for a black candidate.
According to Sawyer, this is creating a spotlight on questions about race and "what Americans really feel inside." Correspondent Jake Tapper continued this "Is America racist?" theme by citing a vague statistic, which was given no attribution, that 15 percent of white voters say they’d vote for a black person, but, in truth, "never, ever would":
Diane Sawyer: "Well, the 2008 presidential race turns out to be turning a spotlight on questions about race and what Americans really feel inside. Senator Barack Obama is watching black political leaders throw support to Hillary Clinton. And why? They have said publicly, they don't think America is ready to elect a black candidate. ABC's senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has more on this counter-intuitive event. Jake?"
Jake Tapper: "Good morning, Diane. Well, 84 percent of Americans say a candidate being black would not effect their vote one way or the other. But, the dirty little secret, what some experts call the 15 percent lie, the 15 percent of white voters who tell pollsters they'd be willing to vote for a black candidate, but in the privacy of the polling place, never, ever actually would."
What happens when a noted politician announces he’s running for President? Well, in the case of conservative Republican Mitt Romney, CBS’ "Early Show" gives the story a scant ten seconds. But what if that candidate is Democrat Barack Obama? Well, then the same program devotes over nine minutes of coverage! (For those keeping count: A 54: 1 advantage for the Democrat.)
Over on ABC, "Good Morning America’s" Diane Sawyer continued her Dictator ‘07 tour. She portrayed the authoritarian Syria as a pro family, welfare paradise.
Later in the week, Sawyer asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, noted Holocaust denier, how often he cries.
On the Thursday edition of "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer responded to critics of her recent visits to Syria and Iran. After reading some viewer e-mails about the interviews she conducted with leaders of those countries, including a question on why ABC allowed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so much time to spew his propaganda, Sawyer informed her audience, "People all over the world, whatever their governments are doing, people all over the world really do have a yearning to live at peace on this planet, I believe."
Perhaps the GMA host was taking the words of the Iranian President to heart. During one interview, he told her that mass rallies containing "death to America" chants shouldn’t be taken personally by U.S. citizens.
Earlier in the segment, which aired at 7:48am on February 15, Sawyer defended the necessity of such trips by citing the need for greater understanding:
File this one under "MSM condemns ee-vil corporations." As you'll note from the screencap, ABC's Good Morning America today branded State Farm Insurance "not a good neighbor." What is State Farm's sin? Its decision not to write new homeowners and commercial policies in the state of Mississippi.
Did you note that? State Farm has decided not to write any new policies. This in no way affects the insurer's liability for existing policies. State Farm has made a simple business decision: given the legal environment there, Mississippi is not a good place for an insurer like it do to business.
"Mike Fernandez, vice president of public affairs for State Farm, said Mississippi's 'current legal and political environment is simply untenable. We're just not in a position to accept any additional risk in this homeowners' market.'"
That didn't stop Diane Sawyer from introducing a segment on the news by speaking of "outrage" over insurance companies and declaring that "some" call State Farm's decision "heartless and others call it plain greedy."