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.
Several network stories have framed the violent reaction of some Muslims to Pope Benedict's quotation last week of how 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos II said, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,” not around demands that Muslim leaders denounce the uncivilized reaction, but around how the Pope had “provoked” the violence, “damaged” relations with Muslims and should have realized what his words would cause.
Brian Williams teased Monday's NBC Nightly News: "The Pope says he's sorry, but is his apology enough? Tonight, there's fresh outrage and new threats over his words about Islam." Reporter Richard Engel soon held the Pope accountable: “This Pope is seen as something of a hardliner who wants Europe to understand its Christian roots, to embrace them first...” Over on the CBS Evening News, Mark Phillips insisted that “an angry reaction among Muslim extremists might have been anticipated, but even moderates...say the Pope's words make their job much harder.” ABC anchor Charles Gibson contended: “Perhaps the surprise was that the Vatican was surprised that Muslims took offense.” David Wright's conclusion suggested both religions are equally responsible, when only one is committing violence: “Two of the world's great religions, a crucial test: Can they speak frankly without causing an uproar?” On Sunday night, anchor Dan Harris led with how “some Muslims say the Pope's apology doesn't go far enough.” ABC featured Professor Fawaz Gerges, who declared: “I think even though the Pope apologized today, I think it's gonna take years for the damage done to Christian-Muslim relations to be repaired.” (Transcripts follow)
The plot thickens. After Bill Maher claimed on the Friday evening installment of HBO’s “Real Time” that CBS prevented him from discussing religion on the “freeSpeech” segment as reported by NewsBusters, the executive producer of the “Evening News” has now denied this. As reported by TVNewswer (hat tip to reader Tracheostomy):
In an e-mail to TVNewser, CBS responds to Bill Maher:
"Bill Maher was never told that he couldn't discuss religion in a 'Free Speech' segment," Rome Hartman, executive producer of the CBS Evening News, said. "In fact, 'Free Speech' has already addressed religion and we expect others will in the future."
This obviously goes counter to Maher’s statements on Friday:
Is CBS’s new “freeSpeech” segment on the “Evening News” really free? Maybe not, as TVNewser reported Saturday (hat tip to Drudge) that Bill Maher – who had been invited on to be one of the free speakers – was told that he couldn’t discuss religion:
“On Friday's Real Time on HBO, Maher explained that CBS approached him to do a 'freeSpeech' segment on the new Evening News. He asked if he could talk about religion but was rejected and told that he would be provided with a list of 'approved' topics," an e-mailer says.
The actual transcript of what Maher said Friday night concerning this issue is as follows:
In a brief item on the Friday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asserted: “At the top of tonight's news briefing, a who's who of President Bush's adversaries on the world stage all together in one place. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among the leaders in Havana for the meeting of the non-aligned nations. Raul Castro is playing host. His older brother, Fidel, is still recovering from intestinal surgery.”
ABC and NBC, however, realized those leaders and others gathered, for the summit in Havana of the “Non-Aligned Movement,” are enemies of the United States, not just the current occupant of the Oval Office. Fill-in ABC anchor Kate Snow referred to how the organization “regularly takes anti-American stances and today was no exception” and reporter Jim Avila, in Cuba, relayed how “America's short list of antagonists” were “all bashing the United States for opposing Iran's nuclear program, all of them together in Cuba, capital of anti-Americanism.” NBC's Brian Williams, anchoring from Havana, described the summit of non-aligned nations as “all of the enemies of the United States, really, gathered in one room.”
Matching the news judgment of the broadcast network morning shows, the network evening newscasts on Thursday all highlighted the late Ann Richards' sarcastic insult, for the conditions he was born into, of then-Vice President and GOP presidential candidate George Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. CBS anchor Katie Couric even put it into her up front tease: “Remembering Ann Richards: One of the most colorful women in American politics.” Viewers then heard and saw her infamous line: “Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!” CBS reporter Morley Safer led his obituary of her with her derisive slam: “Ann Richards' leapt from obscurity took place at the 1988 Democratic convention when she lit into George Bush, the Republican presidential candidate.” ABC anchor Charles Gibson highlighted how “with her Texas twang and sharp tongue, she became an instant celebrity at the 1988 Democratic convention with a speech that poked fun at the first President Bush.” Over on NBC, Brian Williams announced before the media's favorite clip: “She was no friend to the Bush family. In fact, she is best remembered for this, the night her pistol went off at the 1988 Democratic convention when she took on the first President Bush.” Williams and Couric described her as “colorful” while Gibson praised her as “an original voice.”
Not exactly media bias but worth noting: Dan Rather is hard at work on producing his new HDNet show. The report comes from the same Freeper, MindBender26, who correctly announced the departure of Dan Rather from CBS.
Rather is working overtime on his new satellite-fed dinky cable show.
Editors who have seen first drafts of story treatments say it is WAY
over the top, sort of a "Howard Beale on LSD reading Rolling Stone
straight to camera, with a Texas accent" concept.
In other media business news, Sean Hannity is apparently set to leave his perch at ABC Radio.
Bob Schieffer, CBS's Chief Washington Correspondent and host of Face the Nation, used the “freeSpeech” segment on Wednesday's CBS Evening News to denounce the Bush administration's “secret prisons,” arguing in establishing them the U.S. has adopted “the methods of our enemies.” But our terrorist enemies don't put Americans into prison -- they murder Americans. Schieffer, who anchored the CBS Evening News until two weeks ago, told viewers of the broadcast now anchored by Katie Couric that he was “glad” the U.S. took the “suspected 9/11 ringleaders” out “of those secret CIA prisons. For me, it's a matter of national security -- ours. Democracies have no business running secret prisons. That's what our enemies do. If we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of people around the world, as the administration says we are, I won't feel very secure if the people around the world believe we are no different than our enemies.”
Schieffer also contended that “weapons didn't win the [Cold] War. We won when the people under Soviet domination could finally look across the Iron Curtain and see that open, democratic government made for a better life. Their governments were buying missiles when all they wanted were better schools and washing machines.” He concluded by arguing: “As Americans, we do believe our system offers a better way. But the only way to convince others of that is if we live by our values. Real security begins with remembering who we are. We gain nothing by adopting the methods of our enemies.” (Transcript follows)
Cartoonist Henry Payne of the Detroit News welcomed Katie Couric to CBS with a couple of cartoons about her Photoshop diet: they're here and here. (There's also this one on Plamegate.) I thought the overeager people making Katie skinnier was a silly mistake. If you want to suggest that Katie's just as good as the men, the last thing you do is suggest she has to be supermodel-skinny to succeed.
On Monday's Late Show on CBS, David Letterman read a humorous list of suggested sign-offs Katie Couric could use at the end of the CBS Evening News. Among the proposals: “Three of tonight's stories were fake. Write in if you think you know which ones,” "I’m gonna go get my freak on," "Let’s turn this mother out again tomorrow," "Til tomorrow, morons,” “Return to your sad little lives,” “From me to you, suck it” and, my favorite, “Putting the 'BS' in CBS.” (Full list below)
UPDATE: Couric ended Tuesday's CBS Evening News by showing Letterman reading seven of his ideas, but none of the ones hinting at false stories: "Save us, Superman," "Well, I’m off to the dog track," "That’s the deal, Lucille," "Here, kitty kitty kitty," "Keep feelin’ the funk," "Oh, Lordy, I gots the news fever" and "I’m Katie Couric, I'm gonna go get me some ribs."
Friday's broadcast network evening newscasts delivered three different levels of priority to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report which concluded there were no connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, hardly fresh news. The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric didn't air a syllable about it [UPDATE: CBS led with it on Saturday evening, see below], ABC's World News with Charles Gibson teased it and made it the newscast's second story (after the suicide bombing in Kabul) and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams led with it. Gibson teased: “A Senate report rejects a central argument for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying there is no Iraqi link to al-Qaeda." Reporter Martha Raddatz characterized the report as “a stinging rebuke to those assertions made by the White House leading up to the war...and long afterwards. In four years, the administration has argued that Saddam Hussein was tied to Abu Musab Zarqawi and al-Qaeda."
Williams opened his program by mocking the naivete of many Americans: "Good evening. According to an opinion poll just released this week, 43 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. That is almost half the country. Linking Iraq and al-Qaeda has been a tricky business. Some in the administration have made the tie. Tonight the notion of any link between the two has been shredded by a big new report issued by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.” (Partial transcripts follow)
Look no further than NewsBusters for complete coverage of Katie Couric’s debut as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News." The MRC’s Brent Baker began the week by noting a previous Couric claim that she’s not biased, but Fox is. Additionally, the new anchor has hired liberal Douglas Brinkley as the show’s historian. On September 5, Couric appeared on "The Early Show," only to apparently forget the program’s name! (Perhaps the perky anchor should do some homework on her new network.)
Ms. Couric wasn’t the week’s only big news. On September 6, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews talked to a Green Party candidate who called for President Bush’s execution. He later told the man, "I like you already." Somewhat ironically, this was only a day after Matthews wondered if Republicans would be using "fear tactics" and other extreme strategies to get elected. (Perhaps calling for the President’s execution could be an example?)
In another Chris Matthews story, NewsBusters Editor Matthew Sheffield talked to the host and was told the Valerie Plame story is now too complicated for coverage. In international news, Mr. Sheffield also noted the BBC’s continuing refusal to disclose the religious background of terror suspects.
Asked how he feels about what happened, Armitage said, "Every day, I
think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I
let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs.
[Armitage] says he was reading Novak's newspaper column again, on
Oct. 1, 2003, and "he said he was told by a non-partisan gun slinger."
The CBS Evening News on Thursday night became the first broadcast network evening newscast to report how former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the one who revealed how Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but CBS portrayed the Wilsons and taxpayers as the victims of the probe, not Scooter Libby or Karl Rove (whose name was never uttered), nor questions about the special counsel's pursuit. Couric framed the piece by asserting Wilson accused Bush of using “faulty intelligence to justify the war in Iraq” and the “leak ultimately sent a reporter to jail, got a top White House aide indicted, and set off a criminal investigation that has cost taxpayers $20 million so far.” In the “exclusive” interview with David Martin, Armitage maintained: “Oh, I feel terrible everyday. I think I let down the President, I let down the Secretary of State, I let down my department, my family, and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.” Martin then asked: "You feel you owe the Wilson's an apology?" Martin did point out to Armitage, "You would have taken a lot of wind out of this whole feeding frenzy if you had come forward," prompting Armitage to say he had just honored the special counsel's request. And Martin wondered: “Did you ever think of saying, 'Mr. President, I screwed up'?”
Martin never addressed why the special counsel continued the probe when he knew up front that Armitage was Bob Novak's source, or retracted any of CBS's past mis-reporting (see below). CBS also presumed some facts not in evidence as Couric described Valerie Plame as an “undercover agent for the CIA” and Martin relayed: “It's a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer.” (Transcript follows)
A small world of self-proclaimed “conservative” retired Marine Colonels disillusioned with President Bush, Republicans and the war in Iraq. Ten months after CNN's John King featured criticism of the Iraq war from retired Marine Colonel Jim Van Riper, in an Anderson Cooper 360 story from North Carolina on supposed declining support for the war in a conservative area, CBS's Byron Pitts traveled to the same state and located the very same Marine to demonstrate that on the war “even some life-long conservatives are no longer hearing the President's message." On Thursday's CBS Evening News, Pitts touted the ex-Marine's credentials: "Retired Marine Corps Colonel Jim Van Riper is a Christian, card-carrying member of the NRA who voted for President Bush twice. But as more Marines have died in Iraq, his confidence in the Bush administration died as well." Van Riper asserted: “I don't mind arrogance except when there's dead bodies as a result." Pitts explained how “Van Riper will vote for Democrats across the board," and then cued him up: “If you could sit across from President Bush, what would you say to him?" Van Riper: "Sir, I'm disappointed."
King signed off from Greenville, while Pitts reported from Jacksonville, the home of the Camp Lejuene Marine Corps base, presumably an area with thousands of retired Marine corps officers -- yet CNN and CBS, ten months apart, stumbled upon the very same retired Marine Colonel -- an amazing coincidence. (Transcript and more follows)
Rush Limbaugh delivered the "freeSpeech" segment on Thursday's CBS Evening News. Anchor Katie Couric set up him up: “With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 coming up, the topic tonight is the war on terror. And there may be no one more opinionated on the subject than radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.” Limbaugh began: “My friends, it's time to face a hard cold fact: Militant Islam wants to kill us just because we're alive and don't believe as they do....Now, this threat is not just going to go away because we choose to ignore it.”
He soon zeroed in on the problem: “But some Americans, sadly, are not interested in victory. And yet they want us to believe that their behavior is Patriotic. Well, it's not. When the critics are more interested in punishing this country over a few incidents at Abu Grahib and Guantanamo Bay than they are in defeating those who want to kill us; when they seek to destroy a foreign surveillance program which is designed to identify those who want to kill us and how they intend to do it; when they want to grant those who want to kill us, U.S. constitutional rights, I don't call that patriotic.” (Full text follows)
Limbaugh seemed greatly amused that a number of his fans and friends didn't trust him to go on the program. They figured the whole thing could be a dirty trick by those duplicitous liberals. No doubt they planned to set up Rush, "Punk'd" style.
They also criticized him for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
President Bush's announcement Wednesday, that he wants military tribunals for al-Qaeda operatives he's moved from secret sites to Guantanamo Bay, drew some unusual respect from top broadcast network stars, particularly ABC's George Stephanopoulos and CBS's Bob Schieffer, for its political cleverness. Stephanopoulos declared on World News with Charles Gibson: “Here the administration took an admission, and a mandate from the Supreme Court, and turned it into a powerful political statement. That's some clever jujitsu there.” Over on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, ex-anchor Schieffer told his replacement: “Well, he was very deft in how he did this, Katie....The President stressed the benefits from this program, he talked about how much information they'd gotten from these people...”
NBC's Tim Russert also employed the “jujitsu” term, but not in such an admiring way as he recalled how Democrats “remember after September 11th the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, a Democratic idea. The President opposed it. He then took it, jujitsu, and drove it and ran against Democrats in the midterm elections, of 2002, successfully.” Russert also passed along how Nancy Pelosi oddly charged: “The last time we saw a picture of Donald Rumsfeld, he was shaking Saddam Hussein's hand.”
A night after giving its “freeSpeech” platform over to the liberal Morgan Spurlock to gripe about the lack of “civil discourse,” the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric on Wednesday employed the feature to help plug a Thursday protest in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants. CBS put a soft and sympathetic edge on the topic by showcasing a Los Angeles Times reporter, Sonia Nazario, concerned about mothers in the U.S. separated from their kids south of the border. Couric set up Nazario by pointing out how, on Thursday in DC, there would be “a demonstration in favor of amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.” The “freeSpeech” segment, Couric explained, would focus “on mothers who come here illegally, and the children they leave behind.”
Nazario began: “If we are going to start to solve our immigration problem and stay true to our family values, we need to understand the plight of hundreds of thousands of mothers now in the U.S. and the children they felt forced to leave behind in Central America. It's a humanitarian crisis.” Nazario is the author of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother. (Transcript follows)
The new CBS Evening News with Katie Couric showcased her over correspondents (in a change from Schieffer's day she handled the opening plugs for upcoming stories), spotlighted her legs (at the top of the show, as she sat with an interviewee and stood in front of the anchor desk at the end of the program) and marked the Early Show-ization of the evening newscast with stories crammed into gimmicky segment titles: “CBS News Briefing” (four stories in 40 seconds), “CBS News Snap Shot” (“exclusive” pictures of Suri Cruise which Couric giddily touted as “proof positive that yessiree, she does exist”) and a “freeSpeech” commentary in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock railed against how the media paint Americans into extremist positions. Over new theme music, the voice of Walter Cronkite announced: "This is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric."
On the political agenda front, Couric opened with a topic apart from Tuesday's events: Setbacks in Afghanistan as the new female anchor handed off to female correspondent Lara Logan: “In the War on Terror, you have to wonder: Is it back to the drawing board? It's easy to forget Afghanistan is where that war began, and that 21,000 U.S. servicemen and women are still there. Now, nearly five years after U.S. forces defeated the Taliban and scattered the al-Qaeda terrorists they were protecting, the Taliban and their terror tactics are back.” While ABC and NBC aired stories on President Bush's speech about the dedication of terrorists and the Democratic reaction, CBS ran a story on Bush's arguments and then countered them with Couric interviewing New York Times columnist Tom Friedman who mocked Bush: “He's saying we're in the fight of our life, that the World War III of our generation, but let's have a tax cut.” Friedman also lamented: “We're a country that is seen widely around the world as exporting fear and not hope."
I just watched Katie Couric's debut as the anchor of the CBS Evening News
and it was, much to my surprise, not very different than it was when
Bob Shieffer was helming. I expected at least a couple radical
stylistic changes that would set the CBS Evening News apart
from it's competitors on NBC and ABC and shake things up a little. But
there was nothing new. All in all, Couric's debut was, well, ordinary.
I've put together a 4:21 video summary of Couric's debut, available here, in case you missed it.
In terms of substance, Couric began the broadcast by wondering if it was
"back to the drawing board" on the war on terror because things seem to
be going poorly in Afghanistan. She spoke at length with Thomas
Friedman about the words versus the actions of the Bush administration.
In the coming hours and days, my colleagues at MRC and NewsBusters are sure to provide comprehensive, in-depth analysis of Katie Couric's debut this evening as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. From the opening segment, whose message was that things are worse in Afghanistan than you realize, to an interview with MSM foreign policy fave Thomas Friedman decrying tax cuts, to anti-McDonald's hypster Morgan Spurlock, ahem, spuriously trying to pass himself off as an opponent of hype, it was all pretty predictable liberal stuff.
But Katie did - unintentionally no doubt - permit a telling moment of candor to slip through the MSM filter. Introducing a segment on Pres. Bush' speech today on matters of national security, Couric said:
"The war on terror began of course with the September 11th attacks on the United States."
In a serious indicator of approaching liberal bias on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Howard Kurtz noted yesterday:
The revamped program has just hired its own historian, author Douglas Brinkley, and has taped outside contributors delivering 20 possible commentaries for its new "Free Speech" segment (including a couple by Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson).
As noted by Mark Finkelstein, CBS’s "Early Show" on Tuesday dedicated two segments, one in the 7:30 half hour and the other in the 8:00 half hour, to promote tonight’s debut of Katie Couric as the new anchor of "The CBS Evening News." Given that Couric is employed by CBS and had been in competition with the "Early Show" from 1999 when CBS renamed it’s morning news broadcast until her departure from NBC’s "Today Show" earlier this year, shouldn’t Couric at least know the name of the program on which she was appearing? Apparently she does not.
According to TVnewser.com, in behind the scenes video released by AOL, Couric refers to the "Early Show" as "CBS This Morning," the former name of the show (video available here). During the interview, Couric told "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith that she hoped viewers would find her broadcast “instructive” and spun the low ratings of the “CBS Evening News” as something positive:
Looks like CBS got itself a two-fer. Katie's not just an anchor - she's a comedian, too!
The highlight of her extended interview with Harry Smith on this morning's Early Show, touting her debut on tonight's CBS Evening News, was her claim that what the "old media" has to offer in contrast with the new media is . . . "integrity and standards."
Couric is apparently a jokester of the deadpan school, managing to get off the line without dissolving into guffaws. This from the woman about to take over the illustrious Dan Rather Forged Document Chair, named in honor of the hoax perpetrated by the old media and peremptorily exposed by that lacking-in-integrity new media. Is the irony lost on Katie that the opening for her job occured because Dan Rather was sacked over the exposure of his lack of integrity and standards?