Back in 1994, the last time Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate, the broadcast networks tried to suffocate the Republican challenge with negative spin. NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw scoffed at the GOP's Contract with America: "It is long on promises, but short on sound premises."
No Republican got worse press that year than the man who would be Speaker, Newt Gingrich. ABC's Jim Wooten slammed Gingrich as "the national poster boy for the politics of resentment and rage." CBS's Eric Engberg skewered Gingrich as "bombastic and ruthless....the family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife."
Fast forward 12 years, and now Republicans are defending their House and Senate majorities in a tough election. But the broadcast networks have so far refused to scrutinize the Democrats who wish to lead the next Congress.
After twice turning over its “freeSpeech” segment to sympathetic pleadings on behalf of illegal aliens, Tuesday's CBS Evening News provided time to a small city mayor who is working to curb the illegal influx into his community. In the October 17 segment (CBSNews.com's transcript), Lou Barletta, the Mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania explained how his city was “gripped by fear” and “because of violent acts committed by illegal aliens, my residents were afraid to shop -- or even drive -- on certain streets.” So, because of the federal government's “failure”to address the problem, “we created ordinances designed to deter landlords and businesses from renting to and hiring illegals. Those who knowingly break our laws will face financial penalties. These laws will make Hazleton one of the toughest cities in the nation for illegals.”
Back on September 21, CBS aired the plea of an illegal alien to stay in the U.S. and on September 6, the second night of the “freeSpeech” segment which launched the night before with Katie Couric's assumption of the anchor chair, viewers heard a plug for an upcoming pro-illegal alien rally before a sympathetic take on the plight of illegal mothers separated from their kids they left behind.
In a Monday CBS Evening News story on how the FBI has reported that violent crime rose 2.3 percent in 2005, with a 9.2 percent hike in mid-sized cities -- a topic CBS hyped as "Eye on Crime: The Crisis" -- Byron Pitts attributed the increase in part to police officers deployed to Iraq as well as to the media's favorite culprit: a cut in federal spending. Pitts traveled to a mid-sized city, Minneapolis, where he found that “like so many cities its size, resources are strained. One burden, dollars diverted to Homeland Security. An added burden, the war in Iraq." A police officer lamented: "We have probably 30 to 40 officers that are serving in Iraq right now." But in a department of nearly 900 officers, that's only about four percent of the force. Pitts soon proposed another factor: "Since 2004, the Feds have cut funding for state and local police departments by nearly 50 percent. So with fewer police officers, more at-risk kids and more gangs go unwatched."
Although a Monday CBS Evening News story included a soundbite from an expert dismissing the idea as “preposterous,” the newscast treated a far-left conspiracy theory -- about how the Bush administration is somehow manipulating the pump price for gas to help in the election -- as credible and worthy enough to deserve a broadcast network story. Citing how the price of a gallon of gas has fallen to the lowest all year, anchor Katie Couric wondered: “Is this an election year present from President Bush to fellow Republicans?” Over a shot of a "GOP: Grand Oil Party" bumper sticker laying on a dashboard, reporter Anthony Mason asserted: "Gas started going down just as the fall campaign started heating up. Coincidence? Some drivers don't think so." The man in the car insisted "I think it's basically a ploy to sort of get the American people to think, well, the economy is going good, let's vote Republican."
Over headlines from Daily Kos and Huffington Post, Mason conceded you can “call the conspiracy theory crazy,” but he touted how “it's spreading through Internet blogs and over the airwaves. And a recent poll found 42 percent of people actually believe the Bush administration has deliberately manipulated the price of gas to affect the election."
Friday's broadcast network evening newscasts (6:30pm EDT feeds for ABC and CBS, 7pm for NBC) delivered contradictory reports on whether U.S. officials believe North Korea conducted a nuclear test last weekend. On the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod reported from the White House lawn: “The first tests on air samples from near North Korea have been completed and U.S. intelligence agencies now appear ready to confirm this was indeed a nuclear test.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams similarly relayed: “American officials say the very first tests of air samples from the skies above do show some indication of increased radiation, but they say it will be more days now before all the tests are completed.”
On ABC's World News, however, anchor Charles Gibson asserted: “There is still a question tonight as to whether North Korea did or did not conduct a nuclear test. Monitoring of the air over North Korea by the U.S., by the Chinese and by the Japanese has come up negative.” Over a matching graphic, Gibson reported: “No radioactive particles have been found.” Jonathan Karl suggested “that it may have been a failure and they have not ruled out the possibility that it could be a fake. There will be more tests coming, Charlie, it may be several days before we have anything definitive.” (Reid v Foley below)
The arrival of Katie Couric to the CBS anchor desk hasn't panned out like the suits had thought. It's really no surprise considering that she's made essentially no real editorial and staff changes to introduce ideological diversity to broadcast television. Last week, the CBS News staff nearly revolted when Couric and her producers dared to allow someone to say on the show that school violence is the product of people taking religion out of public schools.
Five weeks into her tenure at the "CBS Evening News," Katie Couric's
broadcast continues to slip in the ratings, falling into third place
last week for the second week in a row.
With an average of
7.04 million viewers, Couric's audience last week was the smallest
she'd had since taking over the evening news anchor desk, and it's
lower than the number that tuned in for her predecessor Bob Schieffer's
last week on the air in late August, according to Nielsen Media
Despite how the estimate of 665,000 Iraqi deaths caused by violence since the war began -- a number forwarded in a new report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health -- represents quadruple the highest monthly rate as tracked by the UN and is 13 times larger than the total compiled by the Iraq Body Count group, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric set up a Wednesday story on the guesstimate by declaring as fact: “Now we're learning that the war has been a lot more deadly than we knew.” David Martin proceeded to treat the number as perfectly reasonable as he put the blame on the U.S.: "A new and stunning measure of the havoc the American invasion unleashed in Iraq. A study published in the British journal Lancet estimates 655,000 Iraqis -- 2.5 percent of the entire population -- have died as a consequence of the war. To understand how large, consider this: The same percentage of the much larger American population would be 7.5 million dead.”
Martin noted how, at his press conference, President Bush disputed the accuracy of the estimate, but that treated it as merely a political spat. Martin, as well as ABC and NBC, failed to note the imprecision of the number extrapolated from interviews with about 1,800 Iraqi families, or expert doubters of the methodology, some of whom were cited in the Wednesday New York Times story which featured this pull-out statement in the middle of the printed article: "It's not a precise count, and the margin of error is wide." In a larger story, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski gave an air of authority as he relayed: "An independent study released today by Johns Hopkins University claims that more than 650,000 Iraqis have been killed in the war...”
A new CBS News/New York Times poll discovered, that despite day after day pounding from the news media, two-thirds said the Foley matter will make “no difference” in how they vote -- with 72 percent of independents saying so as well as a majority of Democrats (51 percent). But, Monday's CBS Evening News ignored that response as Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer found plenty of other bad news for the GOP to highlight. Couric asserted that Mark Foley's “tawdry story continues to unfold just 29 days before the midterm elections,” as if she and her media colleagues are not active participants in fueling it, and the “poll tonight indicates the GOP is in big trouble.” Schieffer declared: “This poll is about as bad as it can get for Republicans” because it suggests “that more and more Americans just don't believe them anymore, whether they are in the White House or in Congress.” Specifically, “a sizable majority, 57 percent, believes the President had warnings before 9/11 of a terrorist attack,” “nearly half, 47 percent, believe Democrats are more likely to share American moral values compared to 38 percent for Republicans” and “by two to one, Americans now believe Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats.”
Over on ABC, George Stephanopoulos listed a lot of bad news for Republicans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but anchor Charles Gibson began with how the fresh survey found “just 18 percent of voters consider the scandal an important issue.” NBC's Martin Savidge undermined the premise of how GOP voters are disillusioned. For the NBC Nightly News, he traveled to Tennessee where he learned that “Christian conservatives blame former Congressman Foley, not the party. Everyone we talked to said they'll be there come election day.”
It takes a lot of effort to miss 810,000 new jobs. The Labor Department managed it, but at least they corrected the problem. The networks have over-reported job losses and now this huge piece of good news got lost in the shuffle.
The October 8 Washington Post highlighted the incredible revision. “Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest in five years, the Labor Department reported, adding with some embarrassment that it had suddenly discovered an estimated 810,000 net new jobs that it had somehow overlooked in the year ended in March,” wrote Steven Pearlstein.
Liberal comedian Jon Stewart regularly analyzes and criticizes the cable and broadcast news programs. When someone tries to do the same to his "Daily Show," however, the Stewart says he's just a comedian doing "fake news."
That used to be true back in the day when "Daily" was primarily comprised of spoof reports and fake interviews. But since Iraq war started, "Daily" has largely turned into a nightly bash-Republicans program, with the news of the day as the cudgel. In so doing, Stewart has evolved his show into a news program, despite his protestations to the contrary.
Here at NB, we've long thought that "Daily" should be treated as a news show, even if its host is too timorous to want that kind of scrutiny. Now, a new study has come out confirming our point of view:
Friday's CBS Evening News led again with the Foley/page scandal, even though the two stories aired offered virtually no fresh information, as anchor Katie Couric justified the news judgment by declaring the issue is “still the talk of the town,” “is not going away” and “is overshadowing every other election issue for the moment” -- all self-fulfilling assessments sustained by the decisions of Couric and her media colleagues. Couric then moved on to Republican Senator John Warner's warning that Iraq is drifting “side-wise,” a comment trumpeted by Brian Williams at the start of the NBC Nightly News, which also led with the page scandal: “When a key Republican Senator comes home from Iraq and says the U.S. has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?”
Buried: The drop in the unemployment rate. ABC's World News, which unlike CBS and NBC, led with something other than the Foley fallout (the fire at a chemical plant in North Carolina), ignored it. CBS Evening News viewers only heard of the positive trend from a clip of President Bush in the middle of Gloria Borger's lead story on how the parties are reacting to the Foley matter: “Today we got more good news: National unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent." Only NBC offered an actual news report, 20 seconds in length, on the latest numbers.
According to CBS Evening News host Katie Couric, a Monday installment of its "freeSpeech" segment, which espoused a strong conservative viewpoint, could be viewed as "repugnant." The issue was discussed on tonight's episode of The O'Reilly Factor (Wednesday, October 4, 2006).
In light of Monday's shooting at a Pennsylvania Amish school, CBS invited Brian Rohrbough, the father of a victim of the 1999 Columbine school massacre, to speak on "freeSpeech."
Quite simply, Mr. Rohrbough delivered a powerful and thoughtful editorial. His commentary is a must-read/must-see (link (with video)). Among other things, Mr. Rohrbough said:
This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.
All three broadcast networks last night reported on the Dow record high, pointing to falling oil prices as a reason for the latest market rally.
But the market's been heading on an upward trend for years, throughout climbing oil prices and the media's persistent pessimism on the economy.
Of the three networks, I found CBS had the most negatively-slanted coverage, and NONE of the big three gave any thought to the Bush tax cuts being a catalyst for economic growth.
For my full story, check out the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org.
Here's an excerpt:
While CBS’s Anthony Mason offered qualified praise for the market’s recent rally, he sowed seeds of doubt about the market’s strength. Mason highlighted a retiree who “doesn’t trust this new rally” and then warned that “some Wall Street analysts see another bubble in the economy” with real estate.
CBS News reporter Gloria Borger on Tuesday night broached a subject which political correctness would advise she avoid. In a CBS Evening News story about the latest developments in the Mark Foley case, she relayed the view that Foley's sexual orientation helped protect him from scrutiny: “There's a secondary story here, one that rank and file Republicans will only talk about privately: That it was common knowledge that former Congressman Foley was gay and not discreet. One senior House Republican tells CBS that there's a lot of anger at what he describes as 'a network of gay staffers and gay members who protect each other and did the Speaker a disservice.'” Borger concluded: “Republicans worry that their voters could well decide to sit this election out if they're disgusted, and that could mean the party loses control of the House.”
“It could be too late for damage control,” CBS anchor Katie Couric intoned Monday night in painting the worst-possible scenario for continued GOP control of the House in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal. Reporter Gloria Borger declared: "There is no getting around it: The unraveling of the page scandal could be the undoing of some House Republican leaders, if not their hold on Congress.” With the words on screen, she highlighted how “one senior House Republican tells CBS News that this scandal 'could be the congressional equivalent of Katrina'” and “'our base is moral conservatives, and we look like a bunch of hypocrites who just didn't want another scandal before the election.'”
Over on ABC's World News, George Stephanopoulos unequivocally stated: “This issue became the number one issue in every congressional race in the country. And both Republicans and Democrats say it has the potential to cost Republicans the Congress.” Anchor Charles Gibson noted how House Speaker Dennis Hastert “says, 'Well, I was deceived.'” Gibson then suggested Hastert be held accountable: “Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said: 'The Buck stops here.' What is the jeopardy of the House Republican leadership?" Stephanopoulos replied, "The question is: How much more did they know? And why didn't they act on what they knew? That's what Democrats are going to push.” And the Washington press corps, too.
Thursday's CBS Evening News pondered the new technology used by political campaigns at YouTube, but national political correspondent Gloria Borger dwelled on the videos embarrassing to Republicans -- Sen. George Allen's "Macaca" remarks, a Florida House candidate's blacks-can't-swim comment, and Sen. Conrad Burns snoozing. (There was fleeting attention on the George W. Bush-Joe Lieberman "kiss" and its clearly Bush-loathing flavor.)
At least when CBS's The Early Show had Bill Plante study the phenomenon on Tuesday morning, he balanced Allen with a Democrat, Sen. Joe Biden joking about needing an Indian accent to walk into a 7-Eleven. Borger underlined Allen as an idiot: "Virginia Senator George Allen has become a poster child for what can go wrong when a candidate gets caught saying something stupid...the controversy paved the way for new charges this week that Allen has a racist past."
Last night all three network newscasts did story's on a proposed ban on trans fats in New York City restaurants. Katie Couric practically made out trans fat to be a lethal lipid stalking the stainless steel kitchens of the Big Apple's finest eateries
“New York, New York is getting ready to lead the nation in evicting a killer from restaurants,” teased Katie Couric at the intro to the “Evening News.”
Yet oddly enough, it was her correspondent's report that was the most balanced of the three networks, as correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reported the price tag accompanying the ban for any restaurants holding on to offending cooking oils: $2,000 per violation.
The Dow Jones had its second-best closing average ever and
consumer confidence shot up, but CBS and NBC undercut the good news with
speculation on hurricanes and “echoes” of corporate scandals.
“With gas prices dropping by the day, Americans are suddenly
feeling a whole lot more confident” about the economy, CBS anchor Katie Couric
noted during the September 26 broadcast, before introducing an Anthony Mason
story on the dropping price of natural gas.
Even so, Mason warned viewers, “don’t count your savings
just yet. Even though the forecast is for a milder energy bill this winter,
your meter will still be at the mercy of weather and world events.” Using the
backdrop of video clips of hurricane devastation and war, Mason then posited
that “another Katrina whipping through the Gulf or an escalation of tensions”
could send crude oil and natural gas prices up again.
What’s politically toxic in Campaign 2006? On the CBS Evening News Friday night, Katie Couric covered the U.S. Senate race in New Jersey, and the danger was apparently a Republican standing anywhere near Team Bush. Couric pressed Republican candidate Tom Kean Jr. about President Bush: "Would you like him to come?" The second time she asked, she giggled. She weirdly compared the Kean family to the fictional mob family in The Sopranos. (Would she ever do that to the Kennedys?)
Couric ever-so-barely revealed "scandal has wracked the Democratic Party here," but gave no specifics. Newly appointed Sen. Bob Menendez is facing a federal probe for renting out his property to a community group, and then securing millions in federal grants for that community group. At the very least, liberal groups the networks often use as expert sources, like Public Citizen and the Center for Public Integrity, say Menendez is guilty of a conflict of interest. But CBS viewers would have no idea. They just heard Menendez say it’s "smear tactics to hide a right-wing agenda."
ABC, CBS and NBC all ran stories Thursday night tied to Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson's pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative, held in Manhattan, to invest $3 billion to fight global warming by developing cleaner fuels. Doubts about global warming being driven by fossil fuels, naturally, were ignored. On ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, Kate Snow giddily concluded: “Branson says Al Gore gave him the idea for this initiative, but his real motivation was quite simple: To keep the world beautiful for his children.”
CBS's Katie Couric, however, spent the most time championing Branson's cause. She announced: “British mogul Richard Branson is vowing to fight global warming and he's putting his money where his mouth is. He has joined a growing list of billionaires who are donating to philanthropic causes, making a huge pledge today to former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative. He is promising $3 billion over the next ten years.” Viewers then saw an interview with Branson, who proclaimed: “I don't want to be the generation that destroys this world for our children and our grandchildren.” Couric noted how Branson made his “fortune through the airline industry,” presuming it “does contribute, quite frankly, to global warming. Do you find it at all ironic that, that this is your main cause?” She cued him up: “When did you have an awakening about this issue? Do you remember a point in time where you had some kind of epiphany and said, 'I really need to get involved in this cause'?” (Transcript follows)
On Thursday night, for the second time in about two weeks, the CBS Evening News turned over its “freeSpeech” segment to a sympathetic person pleading for the rights of illegal aliens, this time a successful illegal who's done well. (So far, CBS has not run a commentary from anyone advocating a crackdown on illegal aliens.) Identifying him as an “illegal immigrant,” CBS concealed the identity of “Carlos” by using a fake name and putting him in shadow. He explained: “I cannot show you my face tonight because if I were identified I could be deported. After hearing my story, I hope that you will question whether this is what I deserve.” The college-age “Carlos,” whose family came in on a tourist visa when he was eleven and overstayed their visas, asserted: “Almost from the beginning my parents paid taxes, and two years after we arrived here, they applied for legal residency. Believe it or not, our application is still pending. That means my parents and sister and I can still be deported even though we did everything we were supposed to do to try to become legal.” Except follow the rules for their visa.
“Carlos” concluded: “I ended up graduating fifth in my high school class and have since graduated college and I hope to become a lawyer. But because I am undocumented, I could never get a license to practice law and that puts me in a state of limbo. I've grown up here and I feel American -- I just lack the piece of paper that validates it.” (Transcript follows)
For the second week in a row, Bob Schieffer used his Wednesday “freeSpeech” slot on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric to forward a left of center outlook on the world. Last week (NewsBusters item), he denounced the Bush administration's “secret prisons,” arguing in establishing them the U.S. has adopted “the methods of our enemies.” This week, the network's Chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation said he rejected equating Iraq with Vietnam, but “I am beginning to see parallels in the remarkably similar way the government then and the government now reports war news. During Vietnam, the government was on a never ending search for good news. Victory was always just around the corner. Over and over there were sightings of that light at the end of the tunnel. In 1964, a Senator returned from the war zone and declared: 'We are winning and everybody knows it, but Americans.' Sound familiar?”
Schieffer, anchor of the newscast until just a few weeks ago, cited some misinformation about Iraq and then argued: “Two different wars, but when the government spin machine starts spinning, it is hard to tell the difference.” (Transcript follows)
On the very day a USA Today/Gallup poll was released showing President Bush's approval rating up to 44 percent, “his highest rating in a year” according to USA Today's front page story on the survey, a poll that also found the generic Democrat versus Republican choice for Congress even at 48 to 48 percent amongst “likely voters” -- closing from a ten point advantage for Democrats (53 to 43 percent) in a CNN poll of “likely voters” just two weeks ago -- Tuesday's CBS Evening News aired a story on how Bush is hurting GOP incumbents and issues are trending in favor of Democrats.
Gloria Borger traveled to Missouri where “voters have a history of reflecting the national mood, and right now President Bush is unpopular here. That's why running as a Republican incumbent requires some distance from the President.” Looking at the Senate race between incumbent Republican Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill, Borger contended: “Missouri may be a red or Republican state, but Democrats believe the key issues are now turning blue. And it's not just about the war. In this state, it's also about local issues like an increase in the minimum wage and support for stem cell research, both statewide ballot initiatives the Democrats hope will bring out their voters.” And what campaign story would be complete without the obligatory disillusioned Republican: “Missouri Democrats are targeting voters like Lindsay McCarroll, a Republican who thinks her party has lost touch.” McCarroll complained: “I don't think they're listening to the people, I don't think they're doing what the people want, so I'm going to vote for someone else this time.” (Transcript follows)
Well sports fans, the plot is getting so thick you can drive a truck over it. TV Newser is reporting that Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time” who went on quite a rant Friday night about being denied his free speech rights by CBS, might be mistaken. According to the New York Daily News (emphasis mine): “‘If I or my representatives got it wrong about how the 'Free Speech' segment of the 'CBS Evening News' is, sorry, our bad,’ Maher said yesterday in a statement. ‘I'm ready, willing and able to speak about the topic I originally suggested.’"
Isn’t that special? In fact, according to Vaughn Ververs at CBS’s “The Public Eye,” the “Evening News” is in no way opposed to addressing religion:
Remember last year at this time when you couldn’t turn on your television set without coming across a story on rising gasoline prices? Well, a year later, gas is now $2.50 a gallon, down 50 cents in just one month, twenty-nine cents lower than last year, and the broadcast network news programs couldn’t care less. As reported by Reuters Monday:
The freefall in U.S. gasoline prices continued as the average pump price dropped 12 cents over the last week to $2.50 a gallon, the government said on Monday.
The fall comes on the heels of an 11-cent drop the previous week.
The national price for regular unleaded gasoline is down 29 cents from a year ago and the lowest since late March, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service stations.
Last September, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, the media regularly warned of rising natural gas prices and exploding heating bills. Yet, when these same energy costs plummeted a year later – and utility companies announced large reductions in charges to consumers – the networks paid little attention to the news.
On September 14, natural gas prices declined to their lowest point in two years. As reported by the Associated Press: “October natural gas futures fell 55.7 cents to settle at $4.892 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The last time front-month natural gas futures settled below $5 was Sept. 16, 2004.”
Well sports fans, the plot is still thickening. TVNewser reported on Monday that a fellow comedian has responded to Bill Maher’s “free speech” rant reported by NewsBusters here and here.
To refresh memories, Maher said on his Friday evening “Real Time” program “if CBS News doesn’t understand what free speech is, what am I supposed to expect of Fox News?” Deliciously, someone who has worked for both HBO and FNC had an answer for Maher:
Often, the warmth of media memories toward a politician hinge on where they stood, or where they ended up standing. In Monday's Washington Post, TV critic Tom Shales reviewed the HBO debut of the documentary "Goldwater on Goldwater," made by C.C. Goldwater, the granddaughter of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, loaded with liberal experts who lauded his resistance to the religious right. Shales sermonized:
Goldwater, who died in 1998, was the man who defined conservatism for more than one generation and who essentially split with the conservative movement when it became allied with pseudo-religious extremists. To Goldwater, the essence of conservatism was that government should stay out of people's lives as much as possible, and he was "appalled," his granddaughter says, by the "social agenda" of the far-right-wingers who seek to control the Republican Party now.