Awarding Barack Obama two grades of A-minus and one B-minus while presenting John McCain with two grades of B-plus and one B-minus, at the end of his “Nightline Report Card” segment on Friday night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared Obama the “winner” -- with a big illustrative check mark on screen:
Bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change. His number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage. He was a credible commander-in-chief, that he could hold his own on national security. He did that tonight. He gets the win.
The grades from the ex-Democratic operative: On “Strategy,” Obama an A-minus, John McCain a B-plus; for “Style,” Obama another A-minus, McCain another B-plus; and on “Accuracy,” Obama got his lowest grade, a B-minus, McCain a B.
For two decades, going back to the Willie Horton ads of 1988, we’ve heard liberals accuse Republicans of race-baiting. Throughout this campaign, there have been endless whispers, suggestions, and outright accusations that GOP could/would play the race card because Obama is half-black. Now Barack Obama has found his bizarre version of Willie Horton, and it’s…Rush Limbaugh.
Obama sneakily tried to air a Spanish-language TV ad telling Latinos that Limbaugh thinks Mexicans are all stupid and Mexican immigrants should all shut up and go home, and that Limbaugh and John McCain are identical twins on immigration.
None of it is true. Now when Obama talks about reaching across the aisle and healing a divided Washington, we’ll fall to the ground laughing.
On Thursday’s Nightline, ABC co-anchor Terry Moran offered up a nearly seven-minute-long hit piece on “John McCain 2.0,” about how the GOP nominee has, according to Moran, dramatically changed his basic message, his campaign style, his policy positions and launched a dirty ad campaign.
“The old John McCain repeatedly promised voters a different kind of campaign — nobler, less nasty, better,” Moran argued. “That was then, this is now.” After running a clip from an ad criticizing Obama for voting in favor of sex education for kindergartners (“called, quote, ‘simply false’ by the non-partisan Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org,” Moran scolded), Nightline offered a condemnatory soundbite from ABC analyst Matthew Dowd: “I think the McCain campaign wants to have a campaign in the mud.”
On Thursday's "Nightline," co-anchor Terry Moran trashed John McCain for running a hypocritical, dishonest campaign against Barack Obama. He accused the Republican of doing "the kind of thing that George W. Bush and his supporters did to McCain in South Carolina in 2000." The segment, which featured no examples of sleazy campaigning by Barack Obama, began with co-anchor Cynthia McFadden complaining, "Make no mistake, John McCain very well may defeat Barack Obama. But to do so, has he compromised principles in the style that got him this far?"
She also whined, "With just 47 days to the election, is the Straight Talk Express shifting course? Will the real John McCain please stand up?" Moran's tone dripped with sarcasm as he ripped into the Arizona senator's supposed hypocrisy. The ABC journalist fretted that McCain "clearly decided he's got to change. Change a lot, in some ways, in order to win this thing." As old and new clips of the candidate were spliced together, Moran added, "John McCain meet John McCain."
On The Situation Room today, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer made a surprising admission to, of all people, real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump:
BLITZER: What do you think of his (Obama's) decision to pick Joe Biden as his running mate?
TRUMP: I really don't know Senator Biden but I know one thing. He's run a number of times for president. He's gotten less than 1 percent of the vote each time. And that's a pretty tough thing. You know, he's also been involved in pretty big controversy like plagiarism in college and various other things. That's a pretty big statement. So perhaps you change over a period of time. But when you plagiarize, that's a very bad statement. That hasn't been brought up yet, but I'm sure at some point it will. I'm sure that Sarah Palin will bring it up in a debate or somebody's going to bring it up.
BLITZER: Are you talking about plagiarism when he was running for president?
TRUMP: No, I'm talking about when he was a college student as I understand it, and this was a big issue originally but he supposedly plagiarized as a college student. That's a pretty serious charge.
BLITZER: I don't remember that. We'll check it out. But maybe you obviously have a better memory about that.
In portions of Charles Gibson's third interview with Sarah Palin aired on Friday's 20/20 and Nightline, but not earlier on World News, Gibson demanded to know why she and John McCain “keep saying” Barack Obama will raise taxes when he says he won't, followed up her wish that Roe v Wade be overturned by -- in a question left out of the ABCNews.com transcript -- contending “it's a critical issue for so many women. You believe women should not have that choice?” and after Palin expressed support for gun rights, he asserted “we spend billions of dollars a year every year treating people who are victims of gun violence” and pleaded, as if more gun control is the only solution: “Nothing we can do about that?”
As the two sat in Palin's Wasilla home, Gibson scolded her and McCain:
Why do you both keep saying that Obama is going to raise people's taxes? It's been pretty clear what he intends. He's talked about middle-class tax cuts, extending Bush tax cuts on everything but people who own or earn more than $250,000 a year -- cuts taxes on over 91 percent of the country. Why do you keep saying he's going to raise people's taxes?
ABC's Charles Gibson pressed Sarah Palin repeatedly, in a fresh interview excerpt aired on Thursday's "Nightline," to cry uncle and concede global warming is “man-made” -- but even when she did he wasn't satisfied and pushed for more of a mea culpa. "Nightline," which made “War, God and Oil” the on-screen header for excerpts from Gibson's interviews, began with a slightly longer version of what "World News" carried earlier, mostly about foreign policy, followed by new video from a second interview Gibson conducted as the two walked alongside the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
Gibson presumed not believing global warming is “man-made” is some kind of shameful oddity as he wondered: “Do you still believe that global warming is not man-made?” Palin offered that “I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming,” but that wasn't enough for Gibson, who held up John McCain as the oracle and lectured:
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
ABC reporter Lisa Fletcher interviewed friends of Sarah Palin for a segment on Monday's "Nightline" and grilled them on whether a "small town mom" will be able to "sit down with Putin and deal with foreign issues?" Fletcher, who herself was a small town reporter before joining ABC in December of 2007, mostly avoided friendly queries and instead grilled the Alaskan friends of the Republican vice presidential candidate.
At one point she asked pal Sandy Hoest, "She's spent less than two years as the governor of Alaska. Why should Americans have any confidence whatsoever that this woman can fulfill the duties of vice president of the United States?" Later on, the journalist challenged, "Is it possible to be pro-choice and vote for Sarah Palin?" When a few of Palin's friends identified themselves as pro-choice, Fletcher pounced, "Does that put a strain on your friendship with Sarah?"
Assessing Barack Obama's speech last Thursday, for the “Nightline Report Card,” ABC's George Stephanopoulos awarded Obama A's as he dismissed Republican complaints about his “red meat” attacks on John McCain, declaring they allowed Obama to affirmatively answer “the commander-in-chief question” and hailed how he addressed social issues “in a way that a majority of Americans” will embrace. But this week, he tried to discredit McCain's points. On McCain's assertion he's more bi-partisan than Obama, Stephanopoulos recited a list of issues where “Obama has reached out to the other side.” Then citing McCain's claim that he will cut taxes while Obama will raise them, Stephanopoulos countered:
Senator Obama's plan, and this has been verified by outside experts, 95 percent of the country will get a tax cut, that's not the same -- that is bigger than the one that John McCain offers.
Overall, Stephanopoulos awarded Democrats with slightly better grades than the Republicans for their respective confabs, including ten A's over four nights to the Democrats in Denver, twice as many as the five A's over three nights he gave the Republicans. Throwing out F's he gave both parties for what he saw as bad stages, and an incomplete for each, of 15 grades for the Democrats, he issued ten A's, two grades of B+, two of B and one C. This week, from St. Paul, Stephanopoulos presented 12 grades for the Republican convention: Five A's, one A-, four grades of B, one B- and one C.
Sarah Palin's Wednesday night Republican convention speech was widely greeted with praise from television commentators and the short break between her address and Rudy Giuliani's beforehand didn't leave much time for analysis of Giuliani's, but ABC's George Stephanopoulos managed to find a dark side to both while ABC's Nightline devoted a six-minute story to “new details tonight on a brewing controversy in Alaska,” a “nasty family scandal that's come to be called trooper-gate.”
Following Giuliani's speech, Stephanopoulos declared it “far and away the toughest speech we've seen so far” at both conventions and ruminated: “What I wonder about is how it came across on television. A little too nasty? A little too ugly? I don't know.” After Palin finished, he fretted that she “she also spent a lot of time attacking” and “that could come off as quite negative to some viewers.”
Issuing the Nightline “Report Card,” Stephanopoulos, who a week earlier awarded Joe Biden and Democrats four A's, gave Giuliani and Palin three A's, a B and a C. For “Red Meat,” he presented an A “for substance,” but a C “on delivery” because he contended their repeated mention of how Barack Obama was a “community organizer” came across as “a little too derisive.”
The ultimate objective in journalism is to deliver fresh information to the audience, to break heretofore unshattered stories.
Last night, ABC's Terry Moran did exactly that.
To get there, you must first wade through an extraordinary amount of Moran-Goo, as he slathers it liberally all over his reporting of the official nomination vote. But this is hardly groundbreaking. What comes next is.
The excited media throngs have already long hailed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for being the first bi-racial candidate ever to secure a major Party's nomination for President.
Moran yesterday added to the historic aura surrounding the Senator's parents.
“Professor George Stephanopoulos,” on Wednesday's Nightline, awarded the Democrats “straight A's” for the third day of their convention, with an A for “Filling in the Blanks,” an A for “Heartstrings,” an A for “Red Meat” and an A for “Body Language.” The former Bill Clinton campaign operative and White House aide glowed over “a night of perfect political choreography” from his former boss and other Democrats as he marveled “the only problem Barack Obama has right now, and it's a high-class problem, as Bill Clinton used to say, is can he top what happened tonight?” Anchor Terry Moran echoed: “An extraordinary series of speeches.”
Nightline has used Stephanopoulos all week to assign grades. Not counting his F on Monday night for the "garish stage," of eleven grades over three nights Stephanopoulos has presented eight A's, two grades of B+ and one C.
"Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden interviewed Pastor Rick Warren on Monday about the presidential forum he held with Senators Barack Obama and John McCain and pestered him to just admit that he's a Republican. At one point, she goaded, "You know, there are some people who feel that this is kind of a sham operation. That really, we know you, as an evangelical, are a Republican, a John McCain supporter."
Warren responded by asserting he's a registered independent, but the ABC correspondent kept trying to pin the pastor and author down as a GOP supporter. Speaking of Warren's parishioners and his own preference, she queried, "But do you feel like at some point, Rick, you owe the people who look to you for guidance more than that? I mean at some point before this election are you going to get up--" After Warren interrupted and replied that he wouldn't be telling anyone who to vote for, McFadden followed-up: "So if someone were to come to you and say, you know what, forget character, I'm going to vote for the guy who is opposed to abortion, would you say they need to go back and think a little harder?"
Cynthia McFadden didn't exactly say John McCain had no character, but she certainly implied it. In an interview with Pastor Rick Warren on ABC's "Nightline," McFadden was trying to get Warren to indicate if he would counsel his flock on who to vote for, and what he would say to people who say "forget character," pick the pro-lifer.
The feature on Warren came after the pastor's Civic Forum on the Presidency held over the weekend at his 22,000-member church in southern California. McFadden asked Warren if he "owed" it to "people who look up to you" to tell them for whom he was voting .
While ABC’s Good Morning America suspended its coverage of the John Edwards scandal following reporting on Monday, the CBS Early Show continued to cover the affair for a third consecutive day on Wednesday. Even NBC’s Today, covering the Olympics in Beijing, managed stories on Edwards on both Monday and Wednesday. Considering it was during an interview on ABC’s Nigthline on Friday that Edwards confessed to cheating on his wife, it is interesting that GMA was outdone in covering the story.
On Wednesday, the Early Show looked at the money trail leading from Edwards to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, as co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "We will also talk about new bombshell revelations in the John Edwards affair, including claims that he did know his mistress was being paid and that he rekindled the affair after confessing to his wife." The segment began with a report by correspondent Bianca Solorzano: "According to the National Enquirer, the publication that first broke the story of John Edwards' extramarital affair, Edwards was aware of payments being made to his former mistress Rielle Hunter, something he denied on Friday...The allegations could not only have legal ramifications, it would shed considerable doubt on Edwards' other denial, that he fathered Miss Hunter's child."
Yesterday, in a stinging indictment of his Old Media colleagues' la-la-la treatment of the story of John Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter, Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten asserted that Edwards "may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism."
I'll get to Rutten's mostly perceptive points in a bit.
That's because recent developments indicate that Edwards may still be believe he can eventually re-enter public life, and they are relevant to Rutten's assertion:
It's still nearly a year away but the television industry is buzzing about what will happen when "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is forced out of his position at the end of May next year. More than likely, as the New York Post's Adam Buckman points out, Leno will jump ship to ABC which will force some schedule changes at that network:
With Leno, ABC has a once-in-a- blue- moon opportu nity to suddenly seize the lead in late- night after decades of play ing also-ran to NBC and CBS.
But what of "Nightline" and Jimmy Kimmel, you ask? They will have to get out of the way.
And it won't matter to the higher-ups at Disney if the news-di vision suits get their noses out of joint over losing their half- hour in late-night after 29 years.
Nothing against "Nightline" - it's a fine show, better and livelier these days than it was in the last years of the Ted Koppel era.
On Wednesday, "Nightline" co-host Cynthia McFadden and correspondent David Wright condescendingly reported on the disparity in the media's coverage of Barack Obama and John McCain. McFadden began a segment on the Arizona senator by snidely asserting, "Now, if you have a younger sibling, you can probably relate to what Senator John McCain has been going through this week. Whatever he does, everybody seems to be talking about the new kid in town."
Expanding on a report he filed for the July 23 "World News," Wright, in an almost embarrassed tone, remarked, "Pity the poor Straight Talk Express. While, Barack Obama is off globe-trotting, grabbing all that high profile, high octane attention, we're here on the tarmac in Allentown, Pennsylvania." He also described the media's obsession with Obama in a passive tone, asking McCain, "Do you kind of feel like you're going to be stuck playing defense from now until November?" and stating, "...It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and you're left to kind of react to that." Wright confidently predicted that in the next few days, "What can you almost guarantee he [McCain] will be talking about? Obama." Something, one assumes, people like David Wright will make happen.
On Monday's "Nightline," ABC reporter Jake Tapper challenged Barack Obama over the fact that "there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11." He pointedly asked Obama to provide an example of when he has actually reached across the aisle to break from Democratic orthodoxy and generally proved that it is possible for the Obama-friendly program to ask tough questions of the Democratic candidate.
After bringing up the Supreme Court's ruling last week that gave legal benefits to enemy combatants, Tapper reminded Obama that there has been no terrorist attack since 9/11. He then quizzed, "...And [the Bush White House says] the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you oppose. How do you know that they're wrong?" Tapper also mentioned examples of Senator McCain bucking his own party and challenged, "Have you ever worked across the aisle in such a way that entailed a political risk for yourself?" In contrast, frequent "Nightline" contributor David Wright has previously rhapsodized that Obama rallies are like "Springsteen concerts."
Reporter Jake Tapper provided some refreshing balance to ABC's "Nightline" on Wednesday with a snarky, sarcastic look at the people least likely to be chosen as vice president by Barack Obama. He presented a top ten list that included many controversial figures that Democrats would rather ignore. (One such person was Tony Rezko, whose corruption conviction was only mentioned in passing on the show.) Tongue firmly planted in cheek, he speculated, "Number ten would logically be Reverend Wright who would bring energy to the ticket and would be great in a traditional vice presidential role as attack dog. But just who would he attack?" Tapper then cut to a clip of the reverend damning America.
After mentioning Chicago professor William Ayers and how he could be a comfortable VP choice, someone that Obama knows well, Tapper sarcastically noted, "On the minus side, Ayers used to be a fugitive as a member of the domestic terrorist group, the Weather Underground, so he might not pass the vetting process." Highlighting Congressman William Jefferson and Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as "Obama's indicted super delegates," the ABC journalist mused, " By waiting until the last minute to announce their support for Obama, they showed their loyalty, which is a pro. On the con side, they could soon be cons."
When France 2 TV helped stoke a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment and violence by presenting the world footage it claimed to show the Israeli military targeting and killing a Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, a scene that has been invoked by Osama bin Laden and many other terrorists and suicide bombers, the American news media also ran the story, showing the footage numerous times on major television news shows. But evidence has mounted over the years that Israeli troops likely were not the ones producing the gunfire seen in the video. And the sources of the footage at France 2 TV are under increasing fire for their role in the matter, last week losing a court battle to media critic Philippe Karsenty, who goes so far as to charge that the al-Dura footage was actually a staged scene, and that the boy may still be alive, part of what has become a reportedly common practice of Palestinian film makers as they record scenes of fake violence to be used as propaganda. A look at such filmmaking and acting has been examined in the documentary Pallywood, complete with a corpse in a fake funeral procession that gets up on its own after falling off the stretcher after the "Jenin massacre" hoax, and an ambulance that arrives immediately next to the body of a man literally two seconds after he is supposedly shot. CBS's 60 Minutes was among those accused of being duped into using scenes of staged violence as if they were real. (Transcripts follow)
On Friday's "Nightline," ABC reporter Bianna Golodryga filed a segment on the "super rich" who are untainted by the tough economic times and once again highlighted left-wing investor Warren Buffett's calls for more taxation. Without ever labeling Buffett as liberal (he has endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president), Golodryga cheerfully proclaimed that the billionaire is "concerned about the burgeoning wealth gap." The ABC reporter then parroted Buffett's claim that his cleaning lady is paying more in payroll taxes then he does on capital gains. "She doesn't have a lobbyist," the investor complained
Of course, neither Buffett nor Golodryga pointed out that the top one percent of earners pay 39.4 percent of all federal income taxes. In fact, Golodryga has touted Buffett's liberal economic policies before. On November 15, 2007, on "Good Morning America," she lauded the investor for coming out "on behalf of fairness in taxes," in relation to his calls to retain the estate tax and (liberally) reform capital gains tax policy. She rhapsodized to viewers that Buffett was on "your side over taxes and fairness."
ABC's "Nightline" on Monday continued the network's trend of hyperbolically, and in this case, apocalyptically, fretting over high gas prices in America. Anchor Martin Bashir introduced a segment by wondering if $4 a gallon gas might result in some people stealing gasoline, or, as he put it, "taking some drastic measures." Speaking to a car security expert who claimed that such theft would be a misdemeanor because the total cost would be below $1000, reporter John Donvan lost all perspective and replied, "But we may soon be paying more than $1,000 for a tank of gas." [audio available here]
Donvan, in a snarky tone, even cited the plot of the futuristic thriller "The Road Warrior" to support his argument. He speculated, "And in the future, of course, they will be stealing gas and fighting over it. We know that because of the 1981 Mad Max classic 'The Road Warrior.'"
Michael Pollan, a long-time opponent of "agribusiness" - the food industry - was featured in a segment on his new book, "In Defense of Food: And Eater's Manifesto." Pollan advocates a return to an all-organic diet and offers tips for healthy eating.
Pollan praised "the authority of mom" and lamented that "the holders of culture when it comes to food (mothers) have been undermined by both the scientists and the food marketers."
The broadcast featured Maricopa, Ariz., a community near Phoenix where one in 10 homes is for sale.
"While existing homes go begging for buyers, builders continued putting up new houses," said ABC correspondent Brian Rooney. "As many as one in 10 of the homes in Maricopa are for sale right now, as builders, banks, homeowners with mortgages they can't afford all compete to sell at lower prices."
Over a three day stretch, ABC devoted almost 15 minutes of air-time to a documentary filmmaker who asserts in his movie "Bloodline" that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a massive hoax perpetrated on humanity. Additionally, on Friday's "Nightline," reporter Elizabeth Vargas left out any mention of the bizarre interests of the film's director, Bruce Burgess. He's directed and written documentaries on Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51 and a secretive look at a U.S. government's supposed cover-up of the alien landings at Roswell.
Wouldn't it be relevant to know that Burgess seems to be fascinated with every weird conspiracy imaginable? (And hasn't the mainstream media mocked bloggers for not being restrained journalists? How serious is Bigfoot and the the subject of the Bermuda Triangle?) On Sunday's "Good Morning America," Burgess's second stop on his ABC tour, co-host Bill Weir at least asked about his extravagant interests: "I do have to point out the fact that some of your other documentary work includes the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, looking for Bigfoot in Oklahoma." (NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein blogged this appearance.)