Via Romenesko, we learn New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove reported that retired CBS "60 Minutes" boss Don Hewitt finally decided that Dan Rather did in fact deserve the ax for that Memogate fiasco:
CBS legendDon Hewitt hasn't been shy about criticizing Dan Rather, but the grand old man of "60 Minutes" had stopped short of publicly recommending termination for the central figure in CBS News' painful 2004 Memogate flap.
"Should Dan Rather have been fired?" Time magazine managing editor Jim Kelly asked the 83-year-old Hewitt during a Court TV journalism panel at Michael's.
Dan Rather spoke in Los Angeles -- and said all the same things about how journalism needs a "spine transplant" -- it sounds better than journalism needs "document authentication before broadcast." But the next time someone in the media elite mocks the president for cheerleaders-only town hall meetings, see how the Los Angeles Times notes the Rather talk went, late in their article:
He appeared pleased when, in a question-and-answer period, members of the audience, who like CBS viewers in general tended to skew older, told him how much they had admired him during his 44-year career at CBS. A speaker series producer and a member of Rather's entourage chose the questions from written submissions before the event began, said Dan Savage, managing director of SR Productions, which booked the event.
Obliquely referring to Rather's troubles, one member asked what role bloggers had played in his career. "Their influence was less than perceived," he said, equally obliquely. Some bloggers, he said, have found blogging to be "a good way to further a particular political agenda. It's not a crime," he said. But the public should recognize "there's a new opportunity here to manipulate public opinion."
Via Orbusmax, some odd words from Dan Rather in the Portland Oregonian, produced from softball questions by the paper's Jonathan Nicholas.
NICHOLAS: The rise of cable and the explosion of the Internet have resulted in the Balkanization of the national conversation. Just so many voices. Many people these days actually seem to believe there's no such thing as actual news. It's all just attitude. How is this affecting our civic life?
RATHER: Call me what you want, but I firmly believe there is such a thing as news. From where I sit, too many people want to advance their own partisan agendas and cast it as "news." A surprising number of people are willing to accept it as such. Three people sitting in a room shouting at each other may be interesting, it may be entertaining, but it's not news.
You can’t swing a dead cat lately without smacking into an article concerning Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Pennsylvania) view of the necessity to withdraw American troops from Iraq. In fact, as reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, Murtha is going to be on CBS’s “60 Minutes” discussing exactly that on Sunday with none other than Mike Wallace. However, for some reason, that same demised feline has little chance of ever coming in contact with a report of the Congressman’s proclivities to take funds from Washington lobbyists. Today, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke ranks from the mainstream media in this regard.
In an article entitled “Santorum Reaps Money From Lobbyists,” the Post-Gazette’s Maeve Reston led with the revelation that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) has taken more money from Washington lobbyists in the 2006 election cycle than anyone else on Capitol Hill. However:
The media’s idolizing of Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who in November advocated withdrawing from Iraq, will continue on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, which will feature a segment on him and his supposedly prescient forecast that most troops will soon leave Iraq, by Mike Wallace, a journalist who has already made clear that he shares Murtha’s view of the war. In late November on FNC, Wallace contended that "Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam" and asserted that "we should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods." Back in 2004 at a Smithsonian forum, Wallace argued that “this is not, in my estimation, a good war” and declared that “it sure is not a noble enterprise.'"
Previewing, on Friday's CBS Evening News the Sunday 60 Minutes segment, Wallace bucked up Murtha’s credibility by touting how he “is a decorated veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He was a Marine for 37 years, knows a lot about the military, been a Congressman for 32 years, so he knows a bit about politics, too.” And “based on all of that, he told us that most American troops will be out of Iraq a lot sooner than we think." The brief excerpt from the Sunday 60 Minutes piece focused on Murtha’s prediction that by the end of the year the “vast majority” of troops will be out of Iraq. Wallace relayed: “Murtha told us that mounting pressure from constituents in this election year will force the Congress to pass his withdrawal plan or something like it to bring the troops home." I’d bet the full 13-14 minute version on Sunday night, which is previewed on CBSNews.com, will include a lot more admiration for Murtha and his cause. (Transcripts of the CBS Evening News story, as well as Wallace’s comments about Iraq, follow.)
Few shows have shown more of an anti-Bush, anti-conservative slant than CBS's "60 Minutes." (See this report on their complete Bush v. Kerry one-sidedness in 2004.) But that doesn't mean CBS people will admit it. CBS's "Public Eye" site has a question and answer feature called "10 Plus 1," which is ten questions from Public Eye staffers and one from the public. Today, the interviewee was "60 Minutes" producer Andy Court, and the inquiry was "a (slightly edited) question from reader Chester W." (Oh, to see the original):
Q. "60 Minutes" has a long standing tradition in seeking out the facts on stories that greatly effect public opinions in the world. Have you ever considered investigating the "60 Minutes" staff (or other news outlets like yours) to see if there really is a slant towards the democrats left wing policies?
Tom DeLay’s ouster from the House leadership is the “one good thing that's come out” of the Abramoff scandal, CBS’s Andy Rooney declared Friday night during a live appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live. Asked by King about “the tapping of phones in the interest of national security,” Rooney called it “a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. And how the President has convinced himself or how the Vice President has convinced the President that this is a good thing to do, in the interests of American security, it's a disgrace." But when King suggested that “you think it's despots that do that in times of,” before King got to the word “war,” Rooney rejected King’s characterization of Bush: “Yes, they certainly do. I'm not willing to call President Bush a despot.” Rooney went on to regret how Bush gets bad information: “I don't know where he gets his information, but I don't think it's very good."
Dan Rather fawned over former President Bill Clinton, and giddily promoted Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, in a new story for the New Year’s day 60 Minutes ostensibly focused on Clinton’s effort to get low-priced AIDS medicines into China. Rather pointed out how Clinton couldn’t take Air Force One on a trip to China, and wondered: “Do you miss it?" Clinton said he misses the workplace on it. Rather, looking bemused, followed up: "Do you, in some quiet moment, look forward to the time when maybe you fly on it in a different capacity, as First Husband?" Rather then trumpeted Geena Davis’ character on ABC's Commander-in-Chief: "We now have on television, we have a woman President of the United States. Is the country ready for a woman President, a real woman President as opposed to one on television?" CBSNews.com has posted a semi-transcript of the story, but by providing summaries of Rather’s inquiries, instead of a word-for-word transcript, the sycophantic nature of Rather’s exchange is obscured. (Transcript follows.)
Earlier in the story, Rather hit Clinton from the left on the prices charged by pharmaceutical companies: “Too strong, or not strong enough, to say there’s price-gouging on these AIDS medicines?” Clinton pointed out: "Their view is they're protecting their intellectual property." Rather wasn’t convinced: "Can you argue with anybody who says, 'well I think it’s price gouging’?” Clinton came around: “Well, in my mind, I think they could sell them for a lot less without losing money. I do think that."
On tonight's edition of 60 Minutes Dan Rather was supposed to interview Former President Bill Clinton for the "work" his foundation has done for AIDS relief. However, it quickly turned into a fluff piece that promoted his Presidency, how much he accomplished, and his hopes to be the First Husband.
Clinton blames those big bad pharmaceutical industries for charging high prices for medicine that prevents people who are suffering from AIDS to use it. He accuses them of price gouging and thinks that they can "sell them for a lot less and not lose any money". Of course the report does not mention the amount of money and time devoted on researching cures and medicine that will prevent death.
On the subject of AIDS relief failure during his Presidency, Clinton blames Congress:
CLINTON: Well I don't think I could have done more. It was like pulling teeth to get any foreign aid money from Congress when I was there and when they had a President of their own party and they had their core Christian conservative constituents saying okay we want to fight this, and then it became much easier. I wish I could have gotten more but I couldn't have.
Yes, that darn Congress. I don't think Clinton heard what he said. He thinks that Congress withheld on giving money and then some how predicted that a Republican President would be elected in '96 or in '00 and then they would give it. Congress punished millions of people just because Bill Clinton was not of their party? I hope that Bubba does know that not all members of Congress were Republican during his tenure as President.
As NewsBusters’ Clay Waters reported, a National Security Agency surveillance program, codenamed “Echelon,” – apparently similar to what the NSA is doing today to counter terrorist activities that has garnered tremendous media outrage in the past four days – existed some years ago. In fact, according to a February 27, 2000 Associated Press article, the ACLU had been expressing its concern regarding this program for quite some time:
“Nevertheless, the American Civil Liberties Union has been requesting congressional hearings on Echelon for nearly a year. In a letter sent to the House Government Reform Committee in April 1999, the ACLU said: ''It is important that Congress investigate to determine if the Echelon program is as sweeping and intrusive as has been reported.''
This AP article also referenced a letter that the NSA had sent to Congress concerning the upcoming “60 Minutes” story:
Jim Romenesko picks up on this morning's Boston Globe interview with 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace. Highlights follow; the questioner is the Globe's Suzanne C. Ryan.
Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?
A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?
One real moment in the Bozell-Mapes interview on C-SPAN2 was when Mapes said Al Gore's Vietnam record was "a perfectly legitimate story," so Bozell asked, did you do it? "I did not." But she thinks that sometime, somewhere at CBS, somebody did it. Bozell says mmm, no. No investigative piece. You may wonder: how did CBS cover Al Gore's mysteriously brief tenure in Vietnam as a military journalist? I covered that for National Review Online last year. Paw around in Nexis, and you get next to nothing, vague mentions for a few seconds, and never any sign of curiosity about the hows and whys of young Al's machinations:
In 2000, CBS had next to zero interest in Al Gore's mysterious history during his brief service in Vietnam, including his discussions with old CBS nemesis Gen. William Westmoreland. In 1999, Newsweek's Bill Turque found a Gore friend who said Gore "met twice that spring with the former commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam to discuss Gore's options. Westmoreland guaranteed no cushy deals, according to Gore's friend, but left him with one sweeping assurance: 'I believe he will be watched,' the general said. 'He will be cared for.'" Later, Turque added: "The two met during the general's visit to [Fort] Rucker in 1970, and Gore has intimated over the years that the general encouraged him to go. According to Michael Zibart, a Nashville friend, Gore said that Westmoreland told him he 'would be making a grave error if he didn't serve in Vietnam.'"
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales also has a regular column in Television Week magazine, and now he's coming to the aid and support of disgraced (Shales calls her "highly respected") CBS producer Mary Mapes. The article chides CBS "uber-boss" Les Moonves for his hostility toward CBS News, since Mapes claims Moonves once "half-jokingly" said he'd like to "bomb the whole building." He brings up the George Clooney CBS-glorifying hatchet job "Good Night and Good News" to claim that maybe today, Congress will reopen the case not to investigate Joseph McCarthy, but to "lambaste 'the media' and how they covered the story." This is where it gets interesting. Shales complains about Vanity Fair being mean to Mapes:
In the New York Times Sunday book review, Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter checks out "Truth and Duty," the apologia from Mary Mapes, the disgraced former CBS News producer of "Memogate" infamy, in which she blames right-wing bloggers and everyone but herself for how her "expose" of Bush's National Guard duty blew up in the face of her network.
The liberal Alter is highly critical of Mapes and CBS, but makes a rather paranoid and over-the-top claim about "Buckhead," the Atlanta attorney who originally questioned the fake documents used by CBS's "60 Minutes II" to attack President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record.
"Buckhead"'s posting on the right-wing FreeRepublic website began the blogosphere's speedy evisceration of the forged memos, but Alter has this novel spin: "The blogger's anonymous assertion, within hours of the broadcast, that the proportional spacing and type font of the Killian memos did not exist in those days was only one of many falsehoods spread by political hit men."
The claims that Mary Mapes is now making on her Truth and Duty book tour are as obtuse and embarrassing as those made by CBS News in the 10 days after the 60 Minutes hit job on President Bush aired back on September 8, 2004.
This morning on Fox & Friends, Mapes told co-host E.D. Hill that when she was first given the now-infamous memos, “I assumed they were forgeries,” but became convinced of their reliability by comparing them to official records and talking to others in the National Guard at the time.
Those arguments were laughable back in 2004, and only Mapes (and Dan Rather) seem in utter denial of the obvious: that they were victims of a not-very-convincing hoax.
Mary Mapes, the former CBS News producer who became famous for her involvement in a “60 Minutes II” segment last year concerning President Bush’s involvement in the Air National Guard, had an excerpt of her upcoming book, “Truth and Duty,” printed in the December issue of Vanity Fair.
An Editor and Publisher article published last evening stated the following:
“Mapes writes that she had felt the Guard segment was a big success after airing on Sept. 8, 2004, until the following morning at 11 a.m. when she learned that a bunch of ‘far-right’ Web sites were claiming that documents were forged.
"That same day about 3 p.m. she recalls staring at the Drudge Report and seeing a big picture of Rather at the top and a headline saying that he was ‘shaken’ and hiding in his office. The phone rang and it was Rather, telling her he'd just heard about the Drudge deadline and he wanted to assure her that he was not 'shaken' and was not hiding out.
"He signed off with a favorite expression of his: ‘FEA’ for ‘---- them all.’"
On this morning's Today Katie Couric devoted a large part of the 8:00am half hour to her interview with CBS News' Mike Wallace. During the segment NBC's graphic bragged: "Role Reversal, Answering The Tough Questions." However Couric never asked Mike Wallace about his most recent visit to a Brady Center fundraiser for gun control as blogged by Tim Graham.
Couric did ask Wallace to comment on CBS spiking his story with tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand and on Dan Rather's National Guard story fiasco (He said Rather should've resigned) but for the most part the "tough questions," were of the following variety:
Couric, introducing the segment: "The guy with nerves of steel who dared to ask the toughest questions no matter how famous or infamous his subject. Turns out Mike Wallace doesn't flinch when answering tough questions either as I found out when I interviewed him at his home on Martha's Vineyard. It's been 37 years since Mike Wallace first took the chair at 60 Minutes and as long as his health obliges the 87-year-old news man sees no reason to stop the clock. Do you feel terrific?"
Time's "Ten Questions" feature is wasted this week on CBS "60 Minutes" hound Mike Wallace. I'm not saying Wallace isn't worth interviewing, but Time managing editor James Kelly gives him a complete book-promoting walk in the park. He doesn't ask about the latest Wallace gaffe in the news, his appearance at an anti-gun Brady Center fundraiser. (See here and here.) He asks about CBS boss Les Moonves being no Bill Paley, but he doesn't ask directly about Dan Rather's Memogate fiasco. (Wallace told the New Yorker he couldn't watch Rather's newscast.) He just nibbles around Wallace's conduct in a 1982 Vietnam documentary that caused Gen. William Westmoreland to sue. He doesn't ask what I would have asked: why did you promote Jack Kevorkian's assisted suicides? The ending is the most ridiculous, with Kelly asking "Your epitaph?" Wallace responds "Tough but fair."
Recalling how Watergate “didn't take off until people started talking about higher ups” in the White House, on Tuesday night’s The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, CBS’s Lesley Stahl predicted that the Valerie Plame case “could possibly take off the way the Watergate one did." Stahl fondly remembered how Watergate “really took off as a big story when it went into the Senate and there were hearings held by the opposition party.” That, she dejectedly noted, “isn't likely to happen in this case" given GOP control of both houses of Congress. When Stephen Colbert, a veteran of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, whimsically pointed out on the second night of his new 11:30pm EDT/PDT show that “if you look at the issues, Nixon was a pinko. I mean, it was education and stopping the draft and women's rights and the environment. I mean, he was the boogie man at the time. But he's way to the left of John Kerry," Stahl disagreed and credited (or is it blamed?) Reagan for moving America to the right: "I wouldn't say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right." A resigned Stahl soon added: "The center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit." She didn’t seem pleased about it.
Cam Edwards, a talk-radio host at NRANews.com, drew out CBS Public Eye facilitator Vaughn Ververs on the subject of "60 Minutes" star Mike Wallace appearing at a $250-a-pop fundraiser (and birthday party for political humorist Art Buchwald) for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Ververs took that question to Wallace and CBS senior vice president for standards Linda Mason. Mason suggested the network was investigating whether Wallace would be allowed to report on gun issues after this appearance. Wallace claimed he had no idea the Buchwald party was an anti-gun fundraiser until a few weeks before the event. (This is a bit odd, since we raised a fuss about the perception of taking sides back in July.) He then decided to remedy the conflict by paying for his own ticket and tickets for family members. Doesn't that ADD to the conflict, that now he's not simply drawing other people into buying tickets, he's putting his own dollars in the Brady basket? Ververs declared:
Even when journalists try, they just don’t understand Middle America. CBS proved the point with a story on the multi-billion dollar business of NASCAR. Even in a story made possible by the enormous success of the sport, CBS’s “60 Minutes” depicted racing promotions as “hucksterism” and advertisers as “not wholesome” while the product itself was portrayed as an “good ol’ boy Southern Confederate flag sport” hostile to minorities.
Reporter Lesley Stahl’s October 9 piece described the depths of the free market that NASCAR was willing to delve into: “They'll even rename a race for a sponsor. Warner brothers got the “Batman Begins 400” this summer.” Stahl overlooked the fact that sporting events, like college football bowl games, are often named after advertisers.
Stahl also criticized NASCAR’s aggressive marketing, telling CEO Brian France, part of the sport’s founding family “You are unabashed in the hucksterism category.” France had nothing to apologize for. According to a September 5 Fortune magazine story, “NASCAR had total corporate sponsorship revenue last year of $1.5 billion, compared with $445 million for the NFL and $340 million for Major League Baseball.” Fortune added that 106 of Fortune 500 companies are involved as sponsors – “more than any other sport.”
That wasn’t enough to keep Stahl from criticizing NASCAR’s sponsors. When France told her, “I mean, we have limits,” about which sponsors are accepted, Stahl replied: “You do? Could’ve fooled me.” The exchange continued and Stahl complained that “You do Viagra, you do liquor.” Stahl then got to the heart of her critique: “You promote this sport as family values. You are sponsored by things that are just not wholesome. I mean, for years it was cigarettes. I mean, come on. Now it's liquor.” Stahl never mentioned that all of the products she criticized were legal. She was unhappy because they were “just not wholesome.”
Fortunately, NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver Richard Petty was on hand to explain the free market beauty of the sport and its founding family. “They took nothing, and kept working. And over 55 or 60 years this is what you see, okay? That's capitalism.”
60 Minutes on Sunday featured correspondent Bob Simon interviewing Elian Gonzalez. In his piece, we learn that Castro's cameraman/propagandist Roberto Chile helped Simon produce the interview.
Bob Simon: "Elian's arrival in Cuba seemed designed for a conquering hero. And here he was without his two front teeth.
Simon: "Elian embarked on a two-month tour of Cuba, all recorded by Castro's personal cameraman, Roberto Chile, who helped us on our story, too. Chile was rolling the first time Elian met Fidel.
Simon then goes on to catalog Elian's celebrity in Cuba, listing all the ways he's used as propaganda, but never labeling it as such or asking Elian if he feels he is being used by the Cuban dictator for political purposes:
Somebody took the leash off Andy tonight! Andy Rooney was in rare form! Not that this will be a shock to anyone, but Andy Rooney attacked the Bush Administration tonight. I thought CBS was going to have a new culture after the embarassment from Rathergate? I thought CBS, "60 Minutes", etc, were going to work on a new culture on reporting the truth with their news segments? Obviously, this does not apply with Andy. Not only was Andy sneering with his attacks on the Bush Administration and the military tonight, but his arguments were just not true! I realize that Andy has an opinion segment, but that still should not allow him to push un-truths.
Roy Hallums, the American hostage rescued September 7, 2005 appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss how life was when he was held captive and when he returned home. Lesley Stahl conducted the interview and tried ever so hard to get Roy to give an anti-Bush remark.
STAHL: Has anyone from our government called you, like our President? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Senator? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Congressman? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Noone? HALLUMS: No STAHL: Nothing? HALLUMS: No, no one has called me. STAHL: How do you feel about that? (with a huge grin) HALLUMS: If nobody calls thats small potatoes compared to what I was in. You know, I'm just happy to be back.
Tonight (Sunday, September 18, 2005), 60 Minutes aired a segment entitled "Life in Baghdad," hosted by Scott Pelley and produced by Shawn Efran. The story was nothing but the bleakest of portraits of life in the city of Baghdad. The story? Violence, fear, despair: repeat.
However, unless you were paying close attention to Pelley's introduction to the story, you may have missed the fact that the segment originally aired nearly one year ago (On 60 Minutes II, October 6, 2004)! ("Last fall," as host Pelley put it.)
Well, a lot has happened since last fall! Free elections! A stronger Iraqi security force! A forthcoming constitution!
Has life improved in Baghdad since last year? 60 Minutes doesn't want to tell us. (On the other hand, if they don't want to tell us, that could be a sign that things are getting better.)
Sunday's 60 Minutes closed, as usual, with a crabby commentary by everyone's favorite curmudgeon, Andy Rooney. His kvetch of the week had to do with how much people incessantly using cell phones annoys him.
Now, perhaps in a spirit of corporate synergy, today's Against the Grain column by CBS News's Dick Meyer happens to be about how much people incessantly using cell phones annoys him.
At one point Myers defensively insists:
Contrary to what you undoubtedly think by now, this column is much,
much more than just a misanthropic, Luddite rant by a cranky
middle-aged white man. This is a genuine public service.
I'm sure Rooney tells himself the same thing, except for the "middle-aged" part.
Not an instance of bias, but a touch of humor: The Late Late Show's host Craig Ferguson gently ribbed his network's entertainment and news lineup during his opening monologue last night/this early morning, scoring laughs off the tedium of CBS's 60 Minutes by comparing that show to braving long lines at theme parks.
“When I first moved to southern California, I went to Disneyland, it was bigger than my hometown. Really, why, I get lost. I loved it though I thought, if I ever have a kid I’m going to bring him or her to Disneyland, and the time is coming, because my son, I think, he’s four years old. He’s ready. He’s, you know, I’m getting little clues, he’s saying things like, ‘Daddy, will you take me to Disneyland.’ I’m ambivalent about taking him to an ABC/Disney theme park. You know, I wish CBS had a theme park too. Imagine the rides? It’d be fantastic. Everybody Rides Raymond, that’d be nice, that’d be nice. CSI of the Caribbean would be a lot, I dunno, 60 Minutes, waiting in line, I dunno, anyway...”