In an interview conducted Sunday in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney, and shown on Monday’s Nightline, Terry Moran decided “to put this personally” and condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, leaves Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters. Moran asked: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, “it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney’s defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran’s contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?” Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether “the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?" (Transcript follows.)
Washington Post TV writer Tom Shales, fresh from defending TV news no matter how wrong it is (as in Mary Mapes), is fussing this morning that Terry Moran had the unmitigated gall to question the TV coverage of Iraq as less than three-dimensional:
Moran sounded similarly specious Monday night with a report he taped in Iraq. "It's not the place you see on TV every night," he said. "Much of the media coverage here is one-dimensional." So then, what? We should put on our 3-D glasses? "Nightline" was going to show all the bad boys of broadcasting how to do it? Moran's report wasn't revolutionary and didn't justify his lecturing others in the TV news business.
New York magazine's Meryl Gordon captured the end of Ted Koppel's arrogant reign over "Nightline," and Koppel grew especially cranky (he "drips with contempt") when asked about the Bush administration's public relations on the war in Iraq.
Twice in the past two years, Koppel has raised the ire of the Bush administration with segments called "The Fallen," in which he read aloud the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq. "I didn’t do it to piss them off," he says. "It was to honor the people who have lost their lives, to remind us that a tiny fragment of the population is bearing a disproportionate burden." His voice drips with contempt as he talks about the Bush team’s spin tactics on Iraq. "There’s this sense, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what’s going on over there—just do what we tell you, don’t question it. We know what we’re doing, leave the grown-ups alone.’ It’s not smart, it’s not healthy, and in the final analysis, it doesn’t work."
It’s easy to get sentimental when long-standing TV personalities bow out of the shows that made them a household name, whether it’s an entertainer like Johnny Carson or a news man like Ted Koppel, who just pulled the curtain on a 26-year career as host of ABC’s “Nightline.” His timing seemed perfect: after the retirement of Tom Brokaw, the self-immolation of Dan Rather, and the cancer death of Peter Jennings, the loss of Koppel’s nightly presence drew on fond memories of the so-called glory days of TV news. An era is finished.
Koppel is especially beloved in journalism circles as a symbol and a spokesman for substance in TV news. Saying goodbye on “Good Morning America,” Koppel declared, “I think the mission statement would be that our responsibility is to tell people what's important, not to stick our finger up in the air and test the winds to see what the public thinks is, is important.”
Like some of the other shows, it seemed a little unanimous on CNN's "Reliable Sources" today. They began with a panel of raving leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, liberal historian Robert Dallek, liberal CNN correspondent Bruce Morton, and UPI Pentagon correspondent Pam Hess, who must qualify as the most conservative one on the panel. Krugman muffed it early when host Howard Kurtz asked if Walter Cronkite could galvanize the anti-war movement today by saying we've lost, we should withdraw: "If Walter Cronkite were alive -- sorry, he is alive. If Walter Cronkite were on the news today, if a Walter Cronkite equivalent were on the news, he would -- immediately after that broadcast we just saw, he would have been called a traitor."
In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry:
Ted Koppel did a long interview with Charlie Rose on PBS Monday night, a day before he retired as host of "Nightline." One segment of the interview that stuck out was their discussion of racism and racial inequality and how passionate they are about it. Koppel said it "just infuriates" him. Rose agreed:
Rose: Regrets about this "Nightline" thing in terms of – where you think, God, I missed it that day, I didn't go, or we talked about if we could have been tougher, raised better questions about war and peace with respect to Iraq, should they have waited, all of that, and questions -- You and I share another passion which is the passion about race and civil rights in america.
Ted Koppel closes up shop on "Nightline" tonight. He will be widely revered and remembered as a voice for hard news and serious long-form reporting. Several decades ago, Koppel’s format was even welcomed by conservatives at the time as a place to be heard for more than six seconds. ("The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" was another. Both were biased at times, but offered some space to be heard.) But Koppel also has a record with some serious (sometimes atrocious) liberal bias. One of the most recent: going to Vietnam to interview communists to prove John Kerry was right about his war record.
The first that comes to mind: "Nightline" devoted a one-hour special resurrecting the October Surprise myth that Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign operatives nefariously delayed the release of American hostages in Iran for political gain. When media and congressional investigations again proved the theory a farce, we asked for a retraction and an apology, and a "Nightline" spokeswoman told us: "That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That's a headline. That's not a half-hour show." There’s a list of bias examples in this Brent Bozell column from 1997. For something more up to date, you can consider the hard-left sources Koppel dug up to explain those thuggish neoconservatives wanting to wage war on Saddam here.
Rep. John Murtha is getting a second round of liberal media gravitas for opposing the Iraq War after he voted for it. Brent Baker just noted the May 7, 2004 CyberAlert, where Koppel used Murtha and former Reagan official William Odom (whom he later acknowledged opposed the war before it occurred), as grist for his question of the day (or every day): "Tonight, Hanging in the Balance: Is Iraq an unwinnable war?"
In fact, Koppel liked Murtha's pessimistic stance so much, he devoted the entire May 10, 2004 Nightline to an exclusive interview with the pessimist. One choice exchange came in the discussion of whether Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, or if he's responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:
ABC "Nightline" reporter Dave Marash gets a little overwrought in saluting the end of his (and Ted Koppel's) era on the late-night ABC beat:
"I am deeply endebted [sic] to ABC News for giving me 16 years in 'professional Heaven,' Ted Koppel's Nightline. My debt to Ted himself, and to executive producers Tom Bettag and Leroy Sievers is even greater, for the opportunity to travel the world, learn from it and report on it, with some nuance and detail. If news were a religion, Reality would be its diety [sic], and Ted, Tom and Leroy were resolute in building a broadcast which consistently served its audience by serving Reality. Nightline subordinated, or at the very least, harmonized, personality and style to an aggressively transparent presentation of the complexities and complications that define the Real World Out There. Truly, Nightline has been a 'first draft of history,' not of Page 6." (For non-vets of the New York Post, that's their gossip page.)
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. Blitzer asked Cummings on The Situation Room: “Do you believe, if it was, in fact, a slow response, as many now believe it was, was it in part the result of racism?” When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn’t give up: “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"
Later, on CNN’s NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”
Opening the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams predicted that the "catastrophic hurricane strike, and the U.S. government response to it, will in the years or decades to come, perhaps necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment and more.” ABC’s Ted Koppel charged on Nightline that “the slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty and a seemingly indifferent government.”
While introducing the lead story on Thursday’s Nightline, Ted Koppel confessed near confusion as to how the media missed attacking the NRA in July, when the Senate passed the latest gun bill. He described the media as "clearly on the side of stricter gun laws," then complained that the "press even missed it or overlooked" the bill which he described as "Christmas in July" for the NRA. To justify coming to the story late, Koppel concluded, "And while we are late in reporting it, this, we felt, is truly a case of better late than never." (read the full transcript...)