ABC political reporter Liz Marlantes covered the coming House debate on Iraq for "Good Morning America" Thursday, but something seemed seriously missing: conservative Republicans who support the war. They seem to be the ones who have organized the resolution being debated, but they're not in ABC's story anywhere. Marlantes began:
Today the House of Representatives will debate a resolution that honors U.S. servicemen and women and declares the U.S. is committed to completing the mission in Iraq. Democrats are already calling it a political trap. Despite a positive turn of events in Iraq, the debate in Washington is all about an exit strategy.
The networks have been eager over the last few weeks to highlight every new charge or claim related to the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November (a new study from the MRC counted 99 stories or interviews about it over just three weeks on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows), but when a front page Washington Post article on Sunday recounted Marine Sergeant Frank Wuterich's contention that he and his squad followed the rules of engagement and were justified in their actions, the networks lost interest. NBC gave it a few seconds on Sunday's Today and a fuller story on Sunday's Nightly News, but ABC and CBS ignored it on their Sunday morning shows (GMA and Sunday Morning) while ABC's World News Tonight gave it a mere 20 seconds before a full story on suicides at Guantanamo and the CBS Evening News skipped it completely. On Monday, despite interview segments and stories on Iraq, the broadcast network morning shows ignored Wuterich's version, though ABC and NBC made time for full Guantanamo pieces. Amazingly, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't raise it with Congressman John Murtha, the lead accuser who appeared on GMA. The Monday evening shows also avoided the topic. (Detailed rundown and contrasts follow.)
On Monday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Charles Gibson interviewed Rep. John Murtha, the perfect opportunity to press him hard on how Zarqawi might not have been defeated if our troops had gone "over the horizon," as CNN’s Carol Lin suggested the other day. But that didn’t happen. MRC's Brian Boyd reports Gibson calmly set him up to turn the entire good news around into more grist for getting out of Iraq ASAP. It began with Charlie playing up Murtha’s military credentials (oops, left out those controversial medals):
"We're going to turn now to Congressman John Murtha, who has been a very outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. A combat veteran; spent 37 years in the Marine Corps, himself; and he's joining us this morning from Johnstown, Pennsylvania."
If Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and all of al Qaeda’s leaders in Iraq and throughout the world laid down their arms and surrendered to American forces, would the media report it as good news?
Judging from the initial press reaction to the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq by the American military on Wednesday, the answer appears to be no.
In fact, this tepid response to the death of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq – a man who has at times in the past couple of years been depicted as more vital to this terrorist network than the currently in-hiding bin Laden – suggests quite disturbingly that America’s media are fighting a different war than America’s soldiers.
According to NewsBusters, CNN’s senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr said the following about Zarqawi’s death on “American Morning” Thursday:
"Some people say it will enrage the insurgency, others say it will hurt it pretty bad. But if you think about the different groups in Iraq, you have to think that Zarqawi's death is not going to be a big deal for them."
However, CNN didn’t always feel that Zarqawi’s death or capture would be so inconsequential. Just days after Saddam Hussein was found in his spider hole, Paula Zahn brought CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher on to discuss a new threat in Iraq. Zahn began the December 15, 2003 segment:
On the other end of the spectrum, Interviewed this morning on GMA, Richard Clarke - former White House advisor, turned author and bitter Bush-administration critic - scoffed at the significance of the killing of Zarqawi. Host Diane Sawyer was happy to second Clarke's emotion.
Sawyer: "First question has got to be this morning, is it any safer in Iraq and will the war end any sooner?"
It's sad that within minutes of announcing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, the network morning shows were already carrying criticism of the Bush administration. Not only did NBC invite Sen. Joe Biden to attack Bush incompetence (funny day for that!), ABC's Bill Weir reminded the audience that Zarqawi beheaded American Nicholas Berg, and then replayed Berg's left-wing dad saying at the time that he had no desire for his son's killers to be killed. Weir then reported that he spoke to Berg's father this morning, and he condemned the Zarqawi killing as part of an endless cycle of retribution.
UPDATE: MRC's Brian Boyd has the transcript, and it should be noted that Weir also found a more traditional victim's relative response:
While NBC interviewed Joe Scarborough on the "gay marriage" front (and CBS stayed out of the fray), ABC followed up their Claire Shipman report on "Good Morning America" with an interview with very liberal San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Typically, co-host Charles Gibson asked about whether this issue is pandering and good politics for Republicans, but not whether it's been pandering or good politics for Democrats.
Gibson began: "We're going to turn next to Gavin Newsom. He's the Democratic mayor of San Francisco, and as you'll recall, a couple of years ago, he ordered city officials to marry gay couples, and he touched off this debate to some extent. And Mayor Newsom is joining us from our San Francisco bureau. It's good to have you back with us, Mr. Mayor...Your opinion on this? Do you think there's any chance, snowball's chance in you know where, that this will become part of the Constitution, or is this just politics?"
While NBC's David Gregory described the marriage-amendment battle as a move to placate conservatives on Monday morning, ABC's Claire Shipman's story on "Good Morning America" highlighted opposition to the amendment within the White House. MRC's Brian Boyd found the labeling imbalance was here, too:
Shipman: "He's wading into one of the nation's most divisive social issues again today...Restating his position in the hopes of driving his conservative base to the polls in November." Liberals were unlabeled: "Both pro- and anti-gay marriage forces have been pushing their agendas in state legislatures and courts. Thirteen states have passed bans on gay marriage. Only Massachusetts has made gay marriage legal. The public is divided. Half of Americans, 51 percent, oppose legalizing gay marriage.
New York Times columnist and best-selling foreign-policy author/guru Thomas Friedman appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday, mostly to address the administration's Iran initiative. But MRC's Brian Boyd also noticed Diane Sawyer turned to Friedman's harsh but very green Wednesday column beginning with the sentence: "Is there a company more dangerous to America's future than General Motors?"
Sawyer: "[B]oy, did you cause a stir yesterday with your column saying that it's time for Toyota to take over General Motors because General Motors has offered what to subsidize gas for people who in effect buy gas-guzzlers?"
The Friday morning and evening broadcast networks shows pounced on how when asked, at the joint Thursday night Bush/Blair press conference, whether he had any regrets about the conduct of the war in Iraq, President Bush responded: “Saying, ‘bring it on.' Kind of tough talk you know that sent the wrong signal to people” and “some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, ‘wanted dead or alive.'”
CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer suggested Bush isn’t always so honest as he described it as “an unusual burst of candor from President Bush.” Schieffer soon called it an “extraordinary statement” and reporter Jim Axelrod agreed it was “startling.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams found Bush’s answer so important that he played a stand-alone clip of the “most interesting moment” and brought aboard Tim Russert who saw a “remarkable, remarkable admission." On her last night as anchor of World News Tonight, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas asserted that “some of the bold talk we once heard from them is gone. Now they are voicing regrets and admitting mistakes.” Jake Tapper framed a story around how Bush and Blair “came together to project confidence in the new Iraqi government, but perhaps what came across strongest was regret." (Transcripts, and a brief look at the mornings shows, such as how NBC’s Today opened with “Admitting Mistakes” on screen, follow.)
On Wednesday night's "World News Tonight," ABC reporter Brian Ross claimed House Speaker Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the Justice Department in relation to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. In response, the Justice Department quickly put out a statement saying Hastert was not under investigation. This morning, MRC's Brian Boyd found ABC's "Good Morning America" wasn't backing down an inch, as Brian Ross reported:
"Despite flat and repeated denials from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials insist to ABC News the FBI investigation of Capitol Hill corruption has widened to include potentially Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Officials describe the 64 year old Illinois Republican as very much in the mix of the corruption investigation, something the Speaker told ABC News he was unaware of."
A half hour after championing Al Gore's "comeback" on Tuesday's Good Morning America (see this earlier NewsBusters item), the show celebrated the Dixie Chicks and their new album, treating them as victims for the negative reaction to the lead singer's 2003 charge, from overseas, that she was "ashamed" to be from the same state as President Bush. Diane Sawyer fretted over how "suddenly country radio stations pulled their music, people destroyed the album, hounded their relatives and tracked them down with death threats." But, she touted, "they are roaring back. It is a new album called 'Taking the Long Way' and in it they dare to announce, at least when it comes to the haters, they're not ready to make nice. They are spirited, unbowed and they are back with a new single called 'Not Ready to Make Nice.'" Sawyer insisted that "among their biggest supporters were the soldiers fighting in Iraq who said they were fighting for the right to freedom of thought and speech." After highlighting how the group's video features a hit on Vice President Cheney -- "to talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming" -- Sawyer read a sympathetic e-mail to them: "Do you feel basically that you've been vindicated and that the American public moved to your position?" (Transcript follows)
With "The Comeback Kid? Al Gore Takes on the World,” as the on-screen moniker, ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday championed Al Gore’s comeback, through his hysterical global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which ABC took quite seriously as Claire Shipman touted a potential Gore presidential run.
Shipman enthused: “The guy that George Bush Senior derisively dubbed 'Ozone Man' may have hit his stride after five years in hibernation by promoting his longtime passion.” Shipman trumpeted: "Al Gore and global warming. On the face of it, not two subjects you'd expect to add up to the buzziest film since the last Michael Moore flick. But check it out, here's Al being celebrated in Cannes, doing the celebrity thing at an LA opening, power-walking a green carpet in Washington as rumors of another presidential run swirl." Without scolding Gore for scaremongering or the usual media accusation against conservatives -- using fear -- Shipman calmly relayed how Gore’s “environmental message is blunt: humanity is sitting on a time bomb and has about ten years left to deal with it. It's the messenger, though, this almost President turned dynamic professor who's making most of the waves, dominating the blog-chatter.” Letting a hopeful Arianna Huffington answer, Shipman cued her up: “Is he going to go for the Oval again?" Shipman concluded by gushing: "What does Al Gore say about the possibility of another run? We asked him the other night....He gave a hearty laugh but didn't say no." (Transcript follows)
ABC News has officially picked Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to shore up World News Tonight. Is that good news for conservatives? Well, when he hosted the 2004 town-hall style debate between President Bush and John Kerry, Gibson chose a balanced set of questions that equally represented liberal and conservative concerns. Good for him -- that’s a balancing act that previous town hall moderators, like PBS’s Jim Lehrer and ABC’s Carole Simpson, failed to do.
But as a frequent fill-in on World News Tonight and on Good Morning America, Gibson has rarely tinkered with the media elite’s liberal template:
Illustrating the far-left composition of the faculty at one of the most prestigious journalism schools, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism professor Sandy Padwe called the dismissal by Time magazine, for budget reasons, of investigative reporters Donald Bartlett and James Steele, “a disgrace. Two of the best investigative reporters ever, and they're on the street? It's a f---ing travesty." In fact, at both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Time, Bartlett and Steele delivered shoddy, ideologically-driven left-wing “journalism” which should have embarrassed any journalist with pride in their profession. Nonetheless, in the Thursday CJR Daily posting which quoted Padwe, veteran journalist Steve Lovelady gushed: “Barlett and Steele came to be regarded by many as the premier investigative team in the business, and one that consistently met benchmarks to which others could only aspire.”
Networks fixate on tax cuts ‘for the rich’ while ignoring exploding tax revenues.
While Congress hammered out a $70 billion tax-relief bill last week, the media wasted no time spinning it. After the House approved its version on May 10, the “NBC Nightly News” cited “Democratic critics [who said] the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy.” At roughly the same time, the “CBS Evening News” presented a graphic to its viewers showing “for incomes of $50,000 or less, you’ll average no more than $46 in savings.”
The following day, ABC’s “Good Morning America” team offered a $20 bill to shoppers at a New Jersey mall as a cynical demonstration of how little this tax cut would help some Americans.
All totaled, the broadcast networks did 16 reports on this issue in their three-day blitzkrieg, largely with the same predictable mantra: tax cuts favor the rich. Conspicuously absent was an honest assessment of just how much lower wage earners in America have benefited from the most recent income tax changes, as well as how much the government has benefited from higher tax revenues.
The Truth Hurts Without question, the best thing government can do for low-income families is not burden them with income taxes. Toward that goal, according to a March 30 report by the Tax Foundation’s Scott Hodge, the percentage of Americans not paying any federal income taxes has exploded in the past few years as a result of recent tax changes:
John Green, the ABC producer who became somewhat notorious for his statement that President Bush "makes me sick," is now back on the job according to the New York Post:
He's baaack! Weekend "Good Morning America" executive producer John
Green - suspended more than a month ago after partisan e-mails and
voice messages denouncing President Bush and claiming Madeleine
Albright had "Jew guilt" were leaked to the media - has returned to his
post a changed man. Insiders say he is "tanned, rested and ready, and
boasting he's 15 pounds lighter after a month of suspension and
'vacation' in Europe." Green urged the staff to "take all of their
vacation time this summer because it's so good for the mind and body."
"There was a terrific late night out at the 72nd Street Boat Basin to
celebrate his return," a TVNewser tipster adds. "And he got a big ovation at the morning meeting."
On Friday, Good Morning America devoted its first three stories to the collection of phone numbers by the National Security Agency. GMA reporters portrayed the news as creating a "firestorm of controversy" and as hitting Capitol Hill "like a ton of bricks." Yet the white-hot criticism was all coming from liberal Democrats during an election year. And as an ABC poll found, by two to one Americans think the program is justified.
Diane Sawyer introduced the first story, "But let's begin now with those 200 million Americans who may have had their phone calls tracked by the NSA. It has touched off a firestorm of controversy in Washington, pitting privacy against the war on terror. But ABC's Kate Snow and George Stephanopoulos have been covering this story from all angles for us. And we begin with Kate, who's in our Time Square studios here."
Seismic! Shocking! Startling! A bombshell!! That’s how the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows described a front-page story in today’s (Thursday’s) USA Today that breathlessly touted how “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls.” Like the TV coverage, USA Today’s story insinuated that the existence of the database was a major violation of Americans’ privacy rights and evidence that the President was lying last December when he described the NSA’s eavesdropping on suspected terrorist communications as limited and targeted.
Today’s article does not allege that any calls are listened in on. Indeed, as USA Today describes it, the program seems like a thoroughly innocuous database of the same information that appears on your phone bill, but with your name, address and other personal information removed. Given that another government agency — the IRS — maintains information on American citizens’ employment, banking, investments, mortgages, charitable contributions and even any declared medical expenses, this hardly seems like a major assault on personal liberty.
And for all of the hype, there may not even be much “news” here. Last December 24, a few days after they spilled the beans about the NSA terrorist surveillance program, New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen disclosed how U.S. phone companies were helping the NSA by giving them “access to streams of domestic and international communications.”
Maybe the ABC show should change its name to 'Demagogue Morning America'. Earlier this week, Charlie Gibson trotted out windfall-profit taxes and limits on executive compensation as 'solutions' to high gas prices.
This morning, Kate Snow took the demagoguery up-close-and-personal, flashing a $20 bill in the faces of modest-income Americans to elict predictable responses about the tax cut they would be receiving under a Republican-backed plan.
Snow set the tone by announcing that the proposed extension of the tax cuts "would cost the federal government $70 billion." Of course tax cuts don't cost the government anything . . . since it's not the government's money. But that's not the way the MSM or liberals in Congress see it. Everything really does belong to the government, so that when it extends a tax cut, it is "spending" money.
The worst possible 'solution' to the high cost of gasoline would be price controls, since they would simultaneously discourage production while driving up demand. But running a close second and third in the bad-idea sweepstakes would be a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and a cap on the amount oil companies can pay their executives. Two out of three ain't bad, so let's give GMA's Charlie Gibson an A- for his attempt to demagogue the gas-price issue this morning.
His guest was the soft-spoken James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, the nation's third-largest oil company.
Gibson opening shot was to suggest that "consumers have a right to be angry" in light of the estimated $135 billion the six largest oil companies are expected to make in 2006. Gibson didn't attempt to suggest why high profits justify consumer anger. Remember, market economics dictate that sellers price their products at the level yielding the highest profits, not necessarily at the highest possible price. Consider Wal-Mart, for example, which has reaped huge profits by consistently offering prices lower than those of competitors.
Anyone with a working TV set knows that the broadcast networks have hyped the high gas price story (“Pain at the Pump”) to ridiculous levels. A new MRC study of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows found a whopping 183 stories in just three weeks, an avalanche of TV coverage that (helpfully to Democrats planning their midterm election strategy) has buried far more important good economic news, like robust economic growth, low unemployment and a booming stock market.
One device the networks have used to maintain an outraged tone in all of their coverage has been to plant themselves next to gas pumps and find motorists who aren’t embarrassed about whining on camera. The MRC analysts who went through all of the coverage — Geoff Dickens, Brian Boyd, Mike Rule and Scott Whitlock — counted 151 sound bites from gas buyers during the period we studied, April 12 to May 2.
ABC seems to love the story of Rush Limbaugh's "drug deal." The same story that led the Friday edition of ABC’s World News Tonight was also mentioned at the top of this morning’s Good Morning America, even though there's nothing new to say.
So instead of news, ABC just suggested Limbaugh belongs in jail. Co-host Charlie Gibson teased "Rush to judgment? Rush Limbaugh is set to sign a deal with prosecutors today after three years of prescription drug fraud investigations. But, did he get off easy? The controversy ahead."
Then at the end of the 7am EDT half-hour, Gibson again suggested Rush deserved harsher punishment: "Coming up on Good Morning America, a rush to judgment? He’s made a deal with prosecutors. Did Rush Limbaugh get off easy?”
All three network morning shows played the envy card Thursday morning, as they hyped the “record high profits” and “corporate greed” of American oil companies. High on their agenda: ExxonMobil’s announcement of $8.4 billion in profits, which the networks implied was scandalous given the high price of oil.
But unstated in the network coverage was the fact that the U.S. government took in more than $7 billion from ExxonMobil during the first quarter of 2006, a jump of more than $2 billion from the same time period in 2005. And that doesn’t count the more than $7.6 billion in excise taxes — the gas tax — that ExxonMobil collected for the government during the same quarter. Plus another $11 billion in "other taxes" and ExxonMobil sent the government more than $25 billion in the first quarter of 2006 -- three times more than the amount network reporters seem to feel is obscene.
Big Government is making more off of high gas prices than Big Oil.
The media has recently put on quite a show about high oil prices. On Good Morning America reporter Ron Claiborne is spending the week on the road and hunting down motorists who want to "talk back to the oil companies". Today he was live from a gas station in Cleveland, Ohio.
In his report, Claiborne stated that "the mood on the road that we found is one of outrage. People are very, very angry over those high gas prices like you see right here. And also over those corporate profits, those oil company profits. And it's also a mood of suspicion and in some cases fear."
One "boiling mad" motorist ranted, "They're making billions and I'm making nothing. I'm poor. You know, I've got to pay $3 a gallon. It's cutting into my food bill and travel bills and my shoes and everything."
Gas price rage has blended with executive pay rage recently, since the media have been bashing ExxonMobil’s departing CEO, Lee Raymond, for his pay and pension package.
“Runaway pay,” said NBC’s Brian Williams on April 20, calling executive salaries and benefits “stratospheric” and “staggering.” CBS’s Bob Schieffer compared Raymond’s “golden” retirement to the “average American” on April 13. “How much is too much?” asked NBC’s Matt Lauer on April 11. And ABC’s “Good Morning America” said, “You Must Be Kidding!” referring to Raymond’s package as “stunning” on April 14.
Criticizing highly-paid executives has been in vogue at the news networks lately, but there’s something the anchors aren’t telling you: their colleagues’ top wages could soon be disclosed to the world, and Big Media are fighting it.
Large media companies have been doing everything within their power to hide the compensation plans of their own highest-paid employees from public disclosure. As reported by the Associated Press on April 11:
All three broadcast morning shows this morning noted President Bush’s choice of Tony Snow as new White House press secretary, but only ABC’s Good Morning America saw the need to parrot from the thin list of anti-Bush quotes from Snow’s columns being passed around by the liberal Center for American Progress (although reporter Jessica Yellin presented the quotes as if they were the result of her own research, hiding the fact they came from Democratic partisans).
MRC news analyst Brian Boyd caught Yellin’s piece on Snow, which aired at about 7:05 EDT this morning (Wednesday), with the snarky headline "SNOW JOB" on the screen: “Snow knows both politics and the media. He was the director of speechwriting for George Bush, Sr., and has clocked a decade as a conservative commentator for Fox News,” Yellin began.
Snow has been a conservative commentator for Fox News, of course. But after Joe Lockhart became Bill Clinton’s White House press secretary in 1998, no one at ABC described him as a “former liberal producer for ABC News.”
Have a look at the two screen captures from this morning's shows. Same issue, different takes. Good Morning America is apparently sure that gas price gouging exists, and wants to stop it. 'Today' is agnostic, simply posing the question whether gouging is going on.
But when you turn to the substance of the two segments, there was one consistency: neither show adduced any evidence of gouging. Not a scintilla to show that oil companies are in fact colluding. And without collusion there can be no sustained gouging, since any company that pushed prices higher than market levels would immediately lose its sales to competitors.
Over at GMA, the guest was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for all the world looking like a politician wanting to give the appearance of doing something about a problem over which he in fact has little control.
Sawyer opened by raising the gouging issue: "You are targeting gouging, which is the guy at the pump, the middle guy. How is this going to help and how soon, specifically, the person paying $2.91 on average right now?"
A seemingly sympathetic Frist replied:"Diane, you're exactly right. This $2.91, over $3 in some areas right now, cannot be sustained by the person driving their kids to school or filling up their tractor with fuel."
On the heels of MSM outrage at the retirement package granted to Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond [see Brent Baker's report here], Good Morning America was back at the class-warfare ramparts this morning with a new target in its sights, Dr. William McGuire, head of UnitedHealth Group. As the result of share prices that have increased over 7,000 percent, stock options granted McGuire are currently worth in excess of $1 billion.
ABC reporter Dan Harris narrated the segment, and GMA set the tone with its title - "You Must be Kidding!" But there was no joking about the class-warfare on display in the opening lines: "The head of one of the nation's largest healthcare companies is sitting on more than a billion dollars in stock openings while Americans go uninsured."
Good Morning America will use even the smallest excuse to give Jane Fonda a microphone. This morning Fonda was invited on the program to talk about the newly released paperback version of her autobiography, "My Life So Far". The only change to this edition is a new preface and a DVD.
Last year when the hardcover edition of "My Life so Far" was released, Good Morning America invited Fonda on for an interview aired in two parts: April 5 and April 6, 2005. Below are transcriptions of the Vietnam War segments of the interviews from today and April 6, 2005.
April 17, 2006:
Charlie Gibson: "You have written, also extensively in the book, about Vietnam and that era. And you have called it, that picture on the anti-aircraft battery, you've called it an horrific lapse of judgment. You've said you'll go to your grave regretting it.