Associated Press reporter David Bauder wrote a story on the new MRC study on the wide and deep disparity of morning TV news coverage of the presidential candidates in 2007. It's fair and balanced. But for us, obviously, the most entertaining part was hearing the network producers respond to the charges. They said it's all the Republicans' fault for being so shy with interview requests, and declared the Democratic race was so stuffed with historic firsts, it just demands blockbuster coverage:
You've got a former first lady and a black senator fighting for the nomination," said Jim Bell, executive producer of NBC's "Today" show. "That's historic. We're not going to make apologies for covering that."
Stories about the cancer relapse of Democrat John Edwards' wife Elizabeth were also counted in the total. It's unfair to count a personal story like that in a tally that suggests bias, said Jim Murphy, executive producer of ABC's "Good Morning America."
On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," guest host George Stephanopoulos’s close ties to the Clinton administration were again on display. The ABC anchor interviewed the ex-boyfriend of Chelsea Clinton about his new book on the subject of teaching American history in Iraq. Just last month, Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Bill Clinton, gave a softball interview to Kristin Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore.
In that segment, the GMA substitute host misleadingly characterized the drug arrest of Albert Gore III as getting "in trouble speeding." The Vice President’s daughter also joked that she modeled a character in her new novel about Washington politics after Stephanopoulos. During the August 30 piece, the network anchor introduced author Ian Klaus by glowingly announcing, "...Some people might be watching today and saying, 'You know, I've seen him somewhere before. I've heard his name before.' And that's because you were actually dating Chelsea Clinton when you went to Iraq."
Watching network morning show anchors interview the Democratic presidential candidates often makes you wonder if you’ve seen tougher interviews on overnight acne-care infomercials. Their questions are often so simple and promotional that you wish they’d just go ahead and wear their "Hillary!" or "Obama ‘08" buttons on the set.
There is no pretense of political balance. They are actively rooting for a Democratic victory next year, and they have the power to make a real difference. Notwithstanding their overall loss of audience in the last decade, ABC, CBS, and NBC morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable-news competitors and are geared toward the mostly apolitical mainstream, which makes them an important free-media showcase for presidential hopefuls. A new study shows that if this year’s campaign coverage on the TV morning shows were a primary election, the Democrats would win in a landslide of attention and hyperbole.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center assessed all morning-show coverage on the Big Three from January 1 through July 31.
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," weatherman and liberal global warming activist Sam Champion featured tennis star Billie Jean King in his latest attempt to hype the danger of climate change. In a new segment entitled, "Just One Person," King vaguely described her new environmental charity, GreenSlam, in such a way that it appeared to confuse GMA audience members standing behind her. At Champion’s prompting, she bemoaned all the "green noise," a term she never explained, in today’s society. Equally confusing were her constant references to "green collar studies."
Most bizarre, however, was when the tennis star appeared to be distracted, much in the way a five-year old would be upon seeing a butterfly. King noticed a tennis ball wedged in an adjacent camera and fixated on it as an example of recycling (as seen above). Apparently bewildering even Champion, she rambled, "We want to use things again. Okay? You see this tennis ball? You have one on your camera over there so that you don't whack somebody. It’s protection. There’s one at the end of, there’s one at the end of the camera there. That’s reusable. [Points to GMA camera.] All these little things we can do. I’m taking shorter showers. I’m worrying about the plastic bags now."
Tuesday’s "Good Morning America" used the arrest of Senator Larry Craig in a men’s bathroom as an excuse to again herald the end of the Republican Party. Guest co-host Bill Weir teased a story on the Idaho legislator by wondering, "Is the GOP losing its grip?" Reporter David Kerley saw this as a case of Republican hypocrisy. He pointedly observed that "Craig is a conservative who lists among his goals to defend and strengthen the traditional values of the American family."
In early summer, the ABC morning show found another reason to predict doom for the GOP. Co-host Chris Cuomo, introduced a June 25 story on new polling data by claiming that the Republican candidates were "hitting some serious bumps in the road." He then ominously added, "So now the question is, can any of them beat the eventual Democratic nominee?"
Much like tasty snacks, the networks can never stop their addiction to “food police” groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest.Yesterday morning it was Good Morning America that was shilling for them, saying, “Did you realize you were paying more for less food?”
What was the target this time? The 100 calorie “snack packs,” that CSPI themselves have fought for. CSPI is upset about the cost, even though companies have gone out of their way to create less fattening snacks, (in smaller portions, and with some new recipes).
GMA reporter Elisabeth Leamy starts off the segment like this:
On Monday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Robin Roberts interviewed Barack Obama in New Orleans and asserted that politicians from "both parties" would be coming to the formerly hurricane ravaged region to "point out the Bush administration's shortcomings in fixing many problems that still exist, like those being forced to still live in trailers." While the ABC co-host didn’t explain who was forcing the residents to live in trailers, she did offer the 2008 Democratic candidate a softball interview where the only tough questions came from the left.
GMA guest co-host Bill Weir teased the segment by optimistically spinning Obama’s "plan to bring New Orleans back." Roberts proceeded to ask the senator about friendly topics, such as his desire to "reach out to Republicans." In fact, the only time she challenged the candidate was with a query from the left. Responding to Obama’s goal of forcing insurance companies to pay into a national disaster reserve, Roberts complained, "A lot of people are going to say, ‘Senator Obama, the insurance company, they have laid many roadblocks, many people think, in this recovery role.’ Is it realistic to think that they would be a part of something like this?" The GMA co-anchor pressed with a follow-up, claiming, "But that's how it's been. How can you change that?"
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," reporter David Wright sought out a socialist, a liberal activist and a Democrat to bash President Bush for failing, thus far, to visit Vermont during his two terms in office. However, he didn’t discuss how President Clinton similarly neglected Nebraska for nearly eight years. Following up on a CNN report about Bush’s "snub," co-host Robin Roberts began the segment by asking why the Commander in Chief was giving the state a "cold shoulder." An ABC graphic continued the complaining, it read, "Vermont Feeling Left Out: Why Won’t The President Visit?
While Wright found time to note that the northern state is "eco-smart and gay-friendly," he managed to ignore the fact that Bill Clinton didn’t visit Nebraska until a little over a month before his term ended. (In its report, CNN did mention this point.) The ABC correspondent spent much of his segment discussing Bush’s absence with Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, one a Democrat, the other a self-described socialist, and also Ben Cohen, a liberal activist and founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Washington State authorities and the FBI on Monday released photos, taken by the captain of a Pugent Sound ferry, of two men that passengers and crew saw acting suspiciously -- taking photos of doorways, for instance -- but Thursday's Good Morning America seemed more concerned about “ethnic profiling” than identifying the potential terrorists who had been seen on up to a half-dozen ferries. “The case is raising concerns about security. But it's also raising concerns about possible ethnic profiling,” declared news reader Kate Snow. Reporter Neal Karlinsky asked: “Are these two men terrorists casing the boats for attack?” or “are they totally innocent passengers, the victims of ethnic profiling?” After noting their suspicious behavior, Karlinsky characterized them as victims: “But the men are not accused of anything, leading the Muslim community to wonder, what if the two men did not appear to be of Middle Eastern descent?” Aziz Junejo, Seattle Muslim Community spokesman, asserted: “To point that person out because of the features of a Middle Easterner is just plain wrong.” Karlinsky concluded: “The FBI says the huge ferry system is among the most vulnerable maritime targets in America. The question is, are these men a threat, or just victims of a jittery public?”
On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Chris Cuomo completely glossed over the health care implications of a Canadian mother giving birth to quadruplets in America and not her home country. According to Cuomo, Karen Jepp and her husband, the new parents of identical quadruplets, had to be flown 300 miles from Calgary to Montana on August 16, because "every neo-natal unit in their country was too crowded to handle four preemie births."
Apparently, it didn’t occur to Mr. Cuomo to wonder why all the hospitals in Canada, a nation with universal health care, were full. During a subsequent interview with Jepp and her husband J.P., the co-host continued with this unquestioning explanation. He elaborated, "...Towards the very end, it gets even more complicated....You know, they're not ready for them at the hospital. Your doctors have to make calls. You have to fly 300 miles to have [the children]." Considering that back in June, "Good Morning America" co-anchor Diane Sawyer announced "a commitment to take a hard look at the health insurance industry," it seems odd that unusual circumstances, which forced a very pregnant mother to fly to another country and give birth, would be of such little interest to Mr. Cuomo.
On Monday, "Good Morning America" reporter John Berman ignored any role that journalists might have in the developing scandal of anonymous individuals altering Wikipedia entries. On the ABC program, Berman alerted viewers to the fact that companies such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks have changed sections in their Wikipedia bios. However, he skipped the recent revelation that both the BBC and New York Times have been linked to derogatory, childish alterations in President Bush’s entry. (CNN covered the story on August 16.)
Berman began the segment by asking viewers how they would feel if they knew "the entry on Wal-Mart was edited by someone inside Wal-Mart? The Starbucks entry? By someone inside Starbucks." He also noted that the CIA has changed its section. However, the ABC reporter failed to explain that a new computer program, which can determine who alters Wikipedia information, traced the culprit behind the addition of the words "jerk, jerk, jerk" to President Bush’s Wikipedia profile. The source? A New York Times computer. There was also no discussion of a similar incident involving the insertion of the word "wanker" to Bush’s entry from a BBC computer.
Of the three morning shows, only ABC’s "Good Morning America" has reported the comment by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that part of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is made up of "air-raiding villages and killing civilians." Both CBS’s "Early Show" and "Today" on NBC have ignored the August 14 comment. On Friday’s GMA, however, reporter David Wright filed a report on the statement and wondered if Obama is ready to be president. An ABC graphic pointedly asked, "Obama’s Foot in Mouth Disease? Too Inexperienced For Campaign?"
After playing a brief clip of the Illinois senator’s comment, which he made during a speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Wright mentioned previous impolitic statements by Obama, such as threatening to invade Pakistan. The ABC journalist noted that Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, raised the issue of civilian casualties with President Bush. He asserted, "...Presumably, Hamid Karzai used language that was more diplomatic, more presidential."
“But fundamentally it comes down to where you’re having the toys made. They’re being made in China, you don’t have oversight, there’s tremendous pressure for them to cut corners and keep costs down, because that’s how you make money. So allow me to ask you sir, how much money are you saving having these toys made in China?”
"Good Morning America" asked "What is going on?" with the stock market on August 16. Anchor Chris Cuomo asked Bianna Golodryga if the market drop is a correction or a recession.
"There seem to be two schools of thought here, those involved in all this sophisticated mortgage lending are saying this is the beginning of the end. But stock analysts are saying it is just a correction. Where are people's heads down there today?" said Cuomo
An on-screen graphic read, "Very Nervy Wall Street Correction Or Recession?"
According to ABC’s John Berman, one reason that crooks in Texas have been bilking hospitals out of money is because they’re "fed up" with the health care system. During a segment on Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," the correspondent filed a report on successful, financially stable individuals who pretend to be poor in order to avoid paying their health insurance related hospital fees. Berman couldn’t help but give their actions a political motive:
John Berman: "As egregious as this sounds, it may be another example of how fed up people are with the health care system. One survey found one in ten people believe it's okay to submit false claims or collect when you don't deserve it."
“Crashing” stock market? “Legalized gambling”? ABC’s “Good Morning America” berated the stock market for trampling on a supposed individual right to a mortgage.
Chris Cuomo’s August 13 story on a couple who had their mortgage pulled due the recent “drama on Wall Street” started like this:
“To a certain extent the stock market has always been a form of legalized gambling, where Wall Street tries to cash in on bets made on the right companies. But for many financial institutions, the chips were the mortgages of hard-working American families, in danger of losing their homes, or now never getting a chance to live the American dream.”
On Tuesday’s "Nightline," co-anchor Martin Bashir filed a report on businessman Tom Monaghan, founder of a Catholic university in Florida and a community that will attempt to embrace traditional Christian values. Bashir regurgitated a two-year-old criticism that the town has "been described as a Catholic Jonestown, a kind of Catholic Iran, where individual rights and liberties are curtailed."
The various network news shows have come to this shocking conclusion: It’s summer and it’s hot. Could global warming be to blame? Ann Curry, guest anchoring NBC’s "Nightly News" on Tuesday, speculated, "Record heat and drought in the United States and Europe. New fears tonight that it's all the result of global warming." Harry Smith, over on CBS’s "Early Show," had the same idea. The morning show anchor definitively asserted, "Before we do anything else, there is in fact, global climate change.
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," ABC host George Stephanopoulos raved about singer Melissa Etheridge’s hosting of Thursday’s Democratic debate on gay issues. He enthused, "Melissa Etheridge is the new Ted Koppel!" Stephanopoulos, a former top Clinton aide and now the host of "This Week," also framed the debate from a decidedly pro-gay rights angle:
George Stephanopoulos: "...This is remarkable that a forum like this is happening. It would never happen on the Republican side, at least not yet."
Would Stephanopoulos spin a GOP debate on defending the Second Amendment as something the Democrats wouldn’t be interested in, at least not yet?
On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Diane Sawyer gushed over new photos of 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards renewing his wedding vows with wife Elizabeth. Sawyer touted having "the very first pictures of a very personal backyard ceremony."
Reporter David Muir also found the pictures to be "incredibly personal," despite the fact that the Edwards campaign provided them to both People magazine and ABC News. And, of course, Sawyer couldn’t resist mentioning the story, highly touted in the media, that the couple spends their wedding anniversaries at Wendy’s. The GMA host enthused, "And we should say, however, they did also have their ritual anniversary Wendy's burger." This observation came only nine days after the last story on the Edwards’s trip to Wendy’s:
CBS, the Rathergate network, offered up another misleading report. The August 8 edition of "The Early Show,"at 7:09 AM, edited a Hillary Clinton quote from the August 7 AFL-CIO debate to portray her as a populist.
JOIE CHEN: Front-runner Clinton also came up against sharp elbows with rivals accusing her of cozying up to big-money lobbyists. Before thousands of union members, the New York Senator sought to portray herself as champion of the little guy.
CLINTON: So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.
What she actually said was in the context of her preference in attacking the Republicans. The full quote is much more divisive than portraying herself "as champion of the little guy."
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," reporter Jake Tapper used the story that Rudy Giuliani’s daughter had joined a pro-Barack Obama Facebook group as a segue to recount the travails of other presidential children. Somehow, his list of wayward youths included only the offspring of famous Republican politicians, while ignoring Democratic embarrassments, such as the recent drug arrest of Al Gore III.
Additionally, GMA anchor Diane Sawyer closed the segment by discussing parent/child relationships with guest host George Stephanopoulos. Sawyer mentioned how she fought with her father, a Republican judge, over politics:
Diane Sawyer: "...I remember what a hard time I gave my father about politics."
Diane Sawyer kicked "Good Morning America" off this morning with economic worries about Wall Street, the "credit crunch" and "record" foreclosures.
“We do begin with the week on Wall Street, where the Dow took another huge hit, plunging 280 points in just two hours. The cause of the worst credit crunch in almost quarter a century and you’ve seen it in the neighborhoods – a record number of foreclosures,” said Sawyer.
But according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBAA), foreclosures are not at a record when viewed by percentage. GMA’s one-sided talk of a “record number of foreclosures” misled viewers. Foreclosures are up compared to 2006, but so are the number of home loans.
On Monday’s "Good Morning America," guest host George Stephanopoulos pressed 2008 Republican candidate Mitt Romney over whether he will "do more to address" the issue of his Mormon faith.
This is the same ABC program that has repeatedly raised questions about whether the former Massachusetts governor’s religion could damage his ‘08 chances. In June, reporter Dan Harris speculated on how "uncomfortable questions" about Mormonism could harm the campaign.
In contrast, GMA gushed over a CNN sponsored event in June where Democratic candidates discussed their faith. An onscreen graphic wondered, "Are evangelicals embracing Democrats? New party of God?" For that segment, co-host Robin Roberts marveled, "...Senator Obama out on the campaign trail has, has freely talked about his faith." She also played an extended clip of Hillary Clinton discussing the important role faith played in her life.
Larry King, best known recently for his scintillating interviews with thinkers such as Paris Hilton, proved that he can still ask tough questions, to conservatives that is. In an interview with Vice President Cheney about Guantanamo, he wondered, "You have to torture them when they’re there?" Former VP Al Gore, on the other hand, received puff questions about Madonna and penguins.
Speaking of media coddling, "Good Morning America" anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts appeared to be infatuated with the story that 2008 Democratic candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth spend their wedding anniversaries at Wendy’s. Roberts even promoted the former senator by referring to him as "Presidential nominee" John Edwards.
Our TV network media personalities really want you to believe they can relate to the average American. After all, when you’re a high-minded soldier fighting on the side of the proletariat, it’s important to be a victim of the economic injustices you bring to light, right?
Not so fast. It turns out some of the most prominent journalists are doing quite well, according to the July 26 TV Guide. Early this year, a Business & Media Institute report exposed the “income inequality” talking points of the news media. Some journalists continue to attack the wealthy and complain about the downtrodden “middle-class” despite their own $3, $8 and $15 million salaries.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has been highly critical of CEO compensation, referencing “stratospheric sums some CEOs make” and complaining about “golden parachute[s].”
On Friday, the network morning shows downplayed or ignored 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s muddled comment that nuclear weapons shouldn’t be used in "any circumstances" in Afghanistan or Pakistan. On CBS, the "Early Show" didn’t cover the story at all. During the three hour broadcast of the "Today" show, NBC found time for only one brief anchor read.
ABC’s "Good Morning America" provided the most coverage, but that simply amounted to a solitary anchor brief and then a quick, defensive summery of Obama’s statement by "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos:
George Stephanopoulos: "...Barack Obama, appearing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in going after al Qaeda or the Taliban in Pakistan....What he's drawing fire for though is talking about it. A lot of nuclear strategists say you should never talk about how or when you're going to use nuclear weapons. The Barack Obama people though say they make no apologies. They're not going to back down at all and that they’re saying, uh, the correct policy that people need to hear."
On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," ABC reporters offered advice to Dick Cheney on how to resuscitate his "rock bottom poll numbers." The network featured clips from a Bush-bashing cartoon and correspondent Cokie Roberts even suggested that if the Vice President wants to change his image, he needs to do it on "Jon Stewart and maybe talk to Doonesbury."
The Claire Shipman-hosted segment, which played like a media victory lap over Cheney’s unpopularity, also featured snarky comments, such as this dig about the Vice President briefly taking over for George W. Bush during his colonoscopy in July:
Claire Shipman: "He was even acting president for a few hours during the President's recent colonoscopy. Did he dream about taking on Iran? No, he says. He wrote a letter for his grandkids and then made it public."
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," anchors Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer touted the marital relationship between Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife. Co-host Robin Roberts recounted the often repeated story of how the Edwards couple spend their wedding anniversary, including their recent 30th, at the restaurant Wendy’s.
Roberts, perhaps in a Freudian slip, even referred to the former North Carolina Senator as "presidential nominee John Edwards." Sawyer gushed that the candidate and his wife "are going to renew their vows." "Happy anniversary," she added.
Yet, this is the same morning show that has vastly underplayed stories that aren’t quite so cute and endearing for the '08 contender. For instance, during a recent GMA town hall with John Edwards on the subject of poverty, Ms. Sawyer only managed to mention the trial lawyer’s 28,000 square-foot mansion once.
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," and again on Sunday, ABC anchors eagerly touted the idea that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could be fired at any second. On July 27, GMA host Chris Cuomo discussed sworn Senate testimony given by Gonzales and wondered if the Attorney General had been "caught in a lie with the whole nation watching?" (An ABC graphic helpfully asked, "Is Atty General lying?")
Mentioning claims that Gonzales testimony has been contradicted by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Cuomo, whose brother is the Democratic Attorney General of New York, asked "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, "...Bottom line, is Alberto Gonzales out of a job at end of business today?"