While print media and cable news channels are all over the "sweetheart" mortgage deals given to two Democratic U.S. senators, network news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC are keeping mum even though the scandal involves one of their favorite targets: Countrywide.
"This is a huge story ever since Portfolio magazine broke with this story. Print media outlets have covered it, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the cable networks are there," Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor told "Fox & Friends" June 20. "And then you look at the evening news shows: they're non-existent."
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez described the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow filming on Church property of a movie prequel to "The DaVinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, this way: "...the battle between Tom Hanks and the Vatican. You know he's in Rome filming the prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' and the Church there is up in arms, they're barring them from filming in churches. They believe the film, like the book, is sacrilegious."
On Wednesday, ABC’s "Good Morning America" featured a story on the controversy in which correspondent Nick Watt declared: "When the might of Rome clashes with a literary behemoth, expect some colorful language. 'An offense against God,' is what a diocese of Rome spokesman just called this book." Watt then later proclaimed: "The Dan Brown express will not be stopped," to which GMA co-host Diane Sawyer replied: "Yes, Nick, I mean that's the irony, isn't it? The more the Church complains, probably the better it is for the business."
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s "Early Show," correspondent Allen Pizzey explained: "Fans of the book, 'Angels and Demons,' keep streaming into the churches in Rome where the plot unfolds. But the film crew turning it into a movie has been banned from them and any other Church property. The plot is not overly anti-Church, but some of the most graphic scenes are not something with which the Church wants to be associated."
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an upcoming segment on Michelle Obama appearing on ABC’s "The View": "Also this morning, like Cindy McCain did this past spring, Michelle Obama co-hosted 'The View' yesterday. We're going to see how comfortable she was with the women of 'The View' and what she had to say on everything from sexism in politics to who does the housework in the Obama home."
Later, correspondent Tracy Smith reported: "Perhaps hoping she'd give her husband a bump in the polls, Michelle Obama played co-host on 'The View' yesterday. Tackling topics from panty hose...to political attacks." A clip was then played of "View" co-host Joy Behar asking Obama: "Do you feel there was any sexism in the media?," with Obama replying: "I -- there is -- yes, there's always a level of -- people aren't used to strong women."
Smith later explained appearances by both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama on "The View" by touting a CBS News poll from April: "58% of voters were undecided on how they felt about Michelle Obama. 75% were undecided about Cindy McCain." Smith then credited Bill Clinton with beginning the trend of presidential candidates, and their wives, making guest appearances on popular shows: "In 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton got attention by playing the sax on Arsenio...Since then, guest spots on entertainment shows have become a political rite of passage." Smith remarked how: "McCain traded barbs with Letterman. And Obama got his groove on with Elllen."
Appearing on June 18's "Hannity and Colmes," "View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck opened up about her rocky relationship with former co-host Rosie O’Donnell. Hasselbeck discussed Michelle Obama’s guest co-host on "The View" before the conversation moved on to Rosie.
Elisabeth exclaimed how much fun "The View" panel is today and then noted that "it was [fun] then it wasn’t, then it is now." The daytime personality added regarding Rosie O'Donnell "we certainly aren’t friends. I’d be lying if I said that. And do I wake up in the morning feeling less stressed when I go to work? Yes, I do."
Hasselbeck claimed the worst moment in her relationship with Rosie involved the now famous on air fight.
"Good Morning America" reporter Kate Snow resorted to typical liberal terminology while asking Cindy McCain on Thursday about abortion and "women's rights groups." After observing that her husband, Senator John McCain, has been courting females, Snow simplistically asserted, "...But women's rights groups say once [women voters] discover he's anti-abortion, they may change their minds." So, pro-abortion organizations equal "women's rights groups?"
The interview, which took place in Vietnam where Mrs. McCain has been working with a charity organization, did feature friendly subjects, such as the children of the politician's wife and other topics. But Snow also offered questions that appeared designed to trap McCain. Speaking of Barack Obama, Snow queried, "Would you feel safe with Barack Obama as your president?" After mentioning the lack of interviews Cindy McCain has participated in, the ABC correspondent blurted, "And if [people] say, oh, she's just sort of up there and posing, what would you say to people who think that?" In contrast, "Good Morning America" has delivered numerous softball pieces on the spouses of Democratic presidential candidates.
It's rare to hear an MSM figure flatly suggest that a presidential campaign lied, but Joe Scarborough broke out the the l-word today in wondering whether chief Obama strategist David Axelrod did just that when he emphatically denied, on yesterday's show, that there is a concerted "makeover" of Michelle Obama in the works.
Now her husband’s presidential campaign is giving her image a subtle makeover, with a new speech in the works to emphasize her humble roots and a tough new chief of staff. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will do a guest turn on “The View,” the daytime talk show on ABC, with an eye toward softening her reputation.
When Axelrod appeared on Morning Joe yesterday at 7:40 AM EDT, Scarborough quizzed him about the matter [dialogue as per closed-caption transcript]. The senior Obama aide's denial of a makeover plan couldn't have been more categorical:
As we've noted at NewsBusters, there's been scant coverage of a new scandal involving Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.). Both senators chair committees with oversight of the financial industry and Dodd is behind a bailout package for mortgage lender Countrywide. Both senators got "VIP" treatment from Countrywide Financial for refinancing agreements on their respective mortgages.
So today I thought I'd check our internal records at the MRC and the transcripts at Nexis to see what sort of coverage the three broadcast networks have devoted to this story.
What I found was a big fat zero.
Countrywide did, however, pop up three times on NBC newscasts between the beginning of June and today. All three stories were about celebrity Ed McMahon's foreclosure woes.
The day after Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama in Detroit, MSNBC kept repeating the allegedly big news with the on-air question "Will Gore Help or Hurt Obama?" Left out of that question: Who cares? Does Gore’s endorsement matter at all?
Pundits usually declare in today’s media-saturated world that endorsements from major politicians or movie stars just don’t have much impact. A Who’s Who of the Beautiful People in Hollywood endorsed and actively campaigned for John Kerry – and had no impact.
With Al Gore it’s the same thing. He doesn’t bring a single vote Obama doesn’t already have. He could have participated in the process but he waited until the primary challenge from Hillary was over. Now he supports Obama. Where in the world is the news there?
Does Barbara Walters refrain from publicly airing her personal opinions? The veteran journalist said just that on the June 17 "View," though the evidence does not back her up. Discussing the death of Tim Russert, the conversation quickly shifted to journalistic objectivity.
Walters claimed to have been "trained" to "not give" her "opinion." As the conversation progressed, Walters questioned the panel if they know "what my opinions are." Joy Behar replied "I sort of get it, but not really." Elisabeth Hasselbeck added, "I may guess, but you’ve been objective."
Either Behar and Hasselbeck have been absent minded, or they are sucking up to the boss. Although Barbara Walters has not been as outspoken as the other co-hosts, she has offered her opinions on more than one occasion.
"The View" creator has used her perch to praise House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then attacked the same speaker from the left. She endorsed left wing films such as Michael Moore’s "Sicko" and Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth." Barbara Walters and objective journalist? Hardly.
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."
On the June 17 edition of "The View," Joy Behar stated the obvious that "more people die in hospitals than anywhere else." Of course, that makes perfect sense given that people who are dying tend to get rushed to the hospital. Instead Joy Behar, who blamed earthquakes on global warming offered a more intriguing answer: "because it’s germ free."
The panel conversed about the high prevalence of germs in our world and its dangers. Behar, attempting to refute that germs are always harmful, clumsily cited the high death rate in hospitals. Not only did she fail to note that dying people tend to check into hospitals in one last effort to cling on to their lives, they are hardly germ free given the high concentration of sick people.
Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck both disagreed that hospitals are void of germs.
Ex-journalist Linda Douglass, now a spokesman for Barack Obama, admitted in a piece in Monday's Washington Post that she "always" had "fundamental differences" with Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The former reporter, whose long history of liberal bias has been chronicled by NewsBusters, also announced to the Post's Howard Kurtz that she believes "reporters are constantly struggling with themselves to suppress their own opinions," but Douglass personally finds working for Obama to be "really liberating."
The former correspondent for both CBS and ABC denied claims of media bias by oddly citing other journalists as proof she was objective: "It was no secret to the reporters around me that I have Democratic-leaning views. But they said I was always fair." Despite the vouching of other reporters, it should be pointed out that this is the same person who insisted on calling liberal Senator Jim Jeffords a "moderate," knocked President Bush for not being inclusive and opined that although (then) Congressman Bob Dornan was "extreme," he fit in well with the "increasingly conservative Republican Party:"
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Jeff Glor praised the courage of Barack Obama for promoting fatherhood during a speech on Father’s Day while running for president: "A job that usually requires safe, focus-group tested messages. This one seemed like anything but." Obama’s speech, in which the Illinois Senator declared that many fathers, particularly in the African-American community, are "M.I.A.," "AWOL," and "...acting like boys instead of men," was described by co-host Maggie Rodriguez as "A blunt Father's Day message from Barack Obama to African-American men."
On ABC’s "Good Morning America," correspondent Jake Tapper reported: "...it was a provocative speech, the first major party African-American presidential candidate in history took the opportunity of Father's Day to deliver some tough love to the African American community on the subject of the disintegration of the black family." The report also featured a clip of Obama’s speech that lasted a full1 minute and 12 seconds.
On Friday's "Good Morning America," former top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos attacked criticism of Barack Obama as comparable to "the experience of the Michael Dukakis Democratic campaign in 1988, of John Kerry's campaign in 2004." In an apparent dig at the Swift Boat veterans and their criticism of John Kerry, the ex-Democratic official-turned journalist maligned, "In both those cases, the Democratic candidates were attacked by unfair and untrue charges but failed to respond and lost the election." Stephanopoulos, who worked on the Dukakis campaign, didn't mention what "unfair and untrue" changes he was referring to regarding the '88 election.
Both the Stephanopoulos segment and a previous piece by ABC reporter Jake Tapper discussed attacks and "unflattering and untrue" criticism of both Barack and Michelle Obama. Tapper observed that the candidate's wife has made some "controversial comments." However, the GMA reporter, and later Stephanopoulos and news anchor Chris Cuomo, failed to mention what those statements might be. To be fair, Tapper has previously highlighted Mrs. Obama's utterance that, with the 2008 campaign, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country." But it would have been helpful to have played the clip on Friday's segment. After all, is there not a difference between internet smears that the Illinois senator is a secret Muslim and criticism of actual statements made on the campaign trail?
On Thursday, ABC News took global warming hysteria to a new level.
After Chris Cuomo and Bob Woodruff previewed an upcoming environmental scare piece on "Good Morning America" as previously reported by my colleague Scott Whitlock, an article was posted at the network's website asking (emphasis added throughout):
Are we living in the last century of our civilization? Is it possible that all of our technology, knowledge and wealth cannot save us from ourselves? Could our society actually be heading towards collapse?
Following this irresponsibly alarmist opening paragraph, the article continued:
This September, in Earth 2100, a dramatic ABC News 2-hour broadcast, the greatest minds across the globe will join together in a countdown to the year 2100 to tell us what we must do to survive the next century … And what may happen if we don't.
As Whitlock transcribed for your review Thursday, here were some of the key moments of hysteria on that morning's "GMA" (video available here):
Joy Behar, who has made anti-Catholic remarks in the past, appeared unforgiving about Mel Gibson’s past anti-Semitic slurs. Discussing the news that the actor and Oscar winning director was counseling Britney Spears, Behar expressed outrage that Britney’s mother would "allow" the pop star, who is 26, to seek help from Gibson.
Behar reminded the audience of Gibson’s now notorious anti-Semitic comments upon his DUI arrest. "The View" co-host exclaimed she would never send her daughter to an "anti-Semite." Elisabeth Hasselbeck reminded Behar that Spears is an adult whose mother no longer has that authority.
In order to promote a new climate change special airing this fall, Thursday's "Good Morning America" hyped terrifying future predictions of "more floods, more droughts, more wildfires" and, bizarrely, invited viewers to somehow morph into prophets and "report back" about what life is like in the year 2100. Featuring a slate of global warming alarmists, reporter Bob Woodruff previewed "Earth 2100" and touted the show as "a countdown through the next century" that "shows what scientists say might very well happen if we do not change our current path." An online version of this story hyperventilated, "Are we living in the last century of our civilization?" [Audio available here]
However, the oddest concept of this upcoming special includes a interactive online game that Woodruff claimed "puts participants in the future and asks them to report back about what it is like to live in this future world." Certainly Dan Rather and the ethical machinations of other journalists have lowered the bar of journalism in recent years, but how does one "report" on life in the year 2100? Is ABC providing a time machine? Doesn't "report," in this instance, just mean "making stuff up?"
"Good Morning America" weekend anchor Kate Snow conducted a fawning interview with the "renowned," "fascinating" Gloria Steinem on Sunday's program. Leaving aside any mention of the feminist author's very liberal opinions or her controversial statements, Snow focused only on the issue of whether former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost "because she is a woman, because the system was stacked against her as a woman, because America is the way it is for a woman?"
Sounding like a disciple of Steinem, Snow also worried about whether Clinton's failure could harm women. She fretted, "And now that she's not made it, do you think there will be any kind of backlash, then, against women or against the women's movement?" Appearing to be in awe of the feminist, Snow closed the interview by gushing, "So fascinating. We could sit here all day." Perhaps if Snow had actually spent all day with Steinem, she would have found time to wonder if some of the author's more controversial and shocking statements had actually harmed Clinton, such as in March when she derided supporters of John McCain for touting his POW experience as an asset in the presidential campaign. Steinem also told the New York Observer that "from George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT-109 we have behaved as if killing people is a qualification for ruling people."
Joy Behar couldn’t call her city councilman before Senators Obama and Clinton ran for president? That is what "The View" co-host suggested on the June 11 edition. Complaining about the condition of her neighborhood sidewalk, Behar finally called her city councilman because "Obama and Hillary have empowered me to take charge of my personal politics." Sherri Shepherd enthusiastically replied "you’re ready for a change, yes."
Earlier in the show, the panel shared their experiences weathering the severe storm that hit New York City the previous night. Like clockwork, Behar blamed the storm on global warming stating "there’s a little bit of weirdness going on, you have to admit it, in the world weatherwise." When Sherri Shepherd asked if that results from "the global warming," Behar snapped "of course!" Behar has previously gone so far as to blame earthquakes on global warming.
"Good Morning America" highlighted how financial matters have Americans so stressed out, their health is literally deteriorating.
The segment, titled "Recession Depression," blamed personal issues on the "troubled" economy. ABC made yet another comparison between today's economy and the economy during the Great Depression. Only this time, the reference was used to predict a rise in suicides.
"The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented," said ABC reporter Chris Cuomo.
On Monday's "Good Morning America," for the fourth time in just two and a half months, the ABC program featured a segment on the so-called pregnant man, Thomas Beatie. Since first reporting the story on March 26, GMA has been fascinated with the case of the woman who had surgery to become a man, but kept her reproductive organs and is now having a child.
On Monday's show, reporter Ryan Owens fretted, "But how will society treat this less than conventional family?" The journalist offered liberal, non-judgmental platitudes such as "Today, Thomas says, different is normal." Spouting more sayings from Beatie, Owens recited, "Love makes a family, he says, and that's all that matters." On April 4, correspondent Andrea Canning lauded the transgendered woman as "the man the world has been waiting to meet." On March 26, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, cooed, "Oddity aside, biology aside, it is all about love of this child and as long as that's present, everything else is really going to be normal." Each story avoided what many would consider to be a salient fact: Despite media hype, men do not, in fact, give birth to children.
Even co-host Diane Sawyer seemed to be having trouble with the story. On Monday, she announced, "Beatie, the transgendered woman who became a man and she will -- he will give birth next month."
ABCNews.com reported on Sunday that the network had invited Senators Barack Obama and John McCain to appear in a joint, 90 minute, primetime town hall meeting on ABC. This hardly seems balanced, as ABC has donated 64 minutesworth of town hall air time exclusively to Democrats during the just-ended presidential primary season. This came about through two such events that aired on "Good morning America" on March 26 and July 16, 2007, one with Hillary Clinton and another with John Edwards.
The Republicans, however, had no representation in a GMA town hall. So, what sense does it make to include a Democrat in ABC's first 2008 town hall that would have actually featured a GOP contender? (Yahoo News has reported that the Obama and McCain camps are rejecting of the offer of a joint appearance.) However, if ABC were to argue that McCain has also turned down previous requests for a exclusive town hall, is it likely that Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee or any of the other Republican primary contenders would have all said no to the same free publicity given to Edwards and Clinton?
The first such event featured softball questions from co-host Robert Roberts to Senator Clinton, including a query about whether the former first lady's 1993 plan for universal health care was "ahead of its time." Roberts even allowed Clinton plants from the town hall audience to pose questions:
On Friday's "Good Morning America," Chris Cuomo talked with Hillary Clinton supporter Senator Charles Schumer of New York and sympathized about how tough exiting the campaign must be for the candidate. After observing how some dared describe her failure to immediately endorse Barack Obama a calculating move, Cuomo empathized, "But, you know her. You've been talking to her. How difficult has this all been for her emotionally?"
In an earlier segment, reporter Kate Snow recounted the secret meeting between Senators Obama and Clinton on Thursday. After summarizing in an impressed tone how reporters were camped outside the New York senator's Washington home, Snow marveled, "But somehow, Senator Clinton managed to slip out of her house undetected to meet secretly with Obama at the home of Senator Dianne Feinstein." Yet, in 2003, when President Bush secretly traveled to Baghdad to have Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops, the press did not appear as awed. The MRC's Brent Baker recounted the annoyed tone that many journalists adopted in a December 1, 2003 CyberAlert:
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."
The same network newscasts that hyped the 2005 "alleged massacre" by U.S. soldiers in Haditha are so far ignoring the acquittal on all charges of Lieutenant Andrew Grayson on Thursday. Grayson was accused of attempting to cover up details of the events surrounding a raid that lead to the death of 15 Iraqis. However, Grayson's acquittal was skipped by ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show. (CNN's "American Morning" covered the story only as a news brief.)
In contrast, the morning shows seemed much more interested in the subject back when dark allegations were made about the actions of U.S. solders in Haditha. On Memorial Day 2006, then-GMA host Charles Gibson intoned, "America honors its fallen war heroes, but troubling new information about Marine misconduct in Iraq. A new eyewitness on what could be a mass murder of civilians. Was there a cover-up?" On the March 20, 2006, "Nightly News," host Brian Williams touted the "disturbing new allegations" made by Congressman John Murtha about Haditha. (It should be noted that, so far, five of the eight originally charged with murder or cover-up have been acquitted.) On May 25, 2006, referencing the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in 1968, "Nightline" host Terry Moran speculated, "Will Haditha be the My Lai of the Middle East?" On June 7 of that year, reporter Andrea Mitchell opined on "Today" that Haditha was a "black eye for American policy."
To mark the 40th anniversary of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's death, "Good Morning America's" Claire Shipman filed a fawning report on Thursday in which she compared Barack Obama to RFK. Splicing together footage of Kennedy and Obama, Shipman noted the "similarities" and nostalgically declared, "The search to shift that mantle, futile of course. But also a quintessentially American desire for, if not a happy ending, some sense of completion."
GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, son of former Governor Mario Cuomo and himself a member of a famous Democratic family, lauded RFK's daughter Kerry Kennedy (who was featured in the piece) as a "beautiful representative" of a "special and beautiful family." Of course, Cuomo failed to mention that he formally was the brother-in-law of Kerry Kennedy. (The ABC anchor's brother and current Democratic Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, married and then divorced her in 2003.)
AP reports Michelle Obama will serve as a guest host of ABC's The View on June 18, a few weeks after Cindy McCain took a turn. E! Online gabbed: "No celebrity guests have been booked yet, but we're sure Barack Obama's Princeton and Harvard-educated missus will have no trouble being heard over the most vocal ladies in daytime."
AP's dispatch is brief, but whacks at critics: "Michelle Obama was injected into the campaign when the Tennessee Republican Party posted an online video questioning her patriotism. That prompted her husband, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, to say political opponents should lay off his wife."
Isn't this "injected" language a little weird when political reporters gush over her as the "Supersurrogate" who can wow crowds all over?
AP's brief did not quote her controversial claim that she loves her country when it empowers her husband: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
With Hillary Clinton's presidential run apparently over, ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday offered a love letter to the New York Senator. Well known Clinton fan Kate Snow and co-host Diane Sawyer rhapsodized about Clinton's "ground-breaking," "historic" campaign. The segment also featured Hillary poetry from author Maya Angelou. Splicing Snow's audio with Angelou's voice, the GMA reporter enthused, "Maya Angelou once wrote a poem about Clinton. 'She needs to rise. Don't give up on Hillary.'" Angelou then instructed, "Rise. Rise." [audio available here]
Sawyer's introduction to the segment sounded itself like a poem. She extolled the "ground-breaking, crossroads" in which the candidate found herself. After lauding the presidential contender "who ran her campaign on her own terms," Sawyer raved, "This woman, as we said, forged into determination and purpose her whole life.As someone said, no thorns, no throne. No gall, no glory. No cross, no crown." The ABC graphic accompanying the story fawned, "Senator Clinton's Amazing Journey: How She Changed the Face of U.S. Politics." Snow gushed that the presidential bid was the "culmination of a life-long journey." Speaking of the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton, she credulously repeated, "But it was a love story that would change the course of [Hillary's] life."