After ignoring for months how Democratic control of the House and Senate would put left-wingers in charge of key committees, on Thursday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts acknowledged that reality as they sprinkled the “liberal” label in their stories. On Wednesday night, the three newscasts featured interviews with likely House Speaker Nancy Pelolsi (NewsBusters post), but only ABC applied an ideological tag, with Charles Gibson describing her as a “liberal Democrat.” Prompted by Senator George Allen's concession, thus meaning a Democratic takeover of the Senate as well as of the House, the networks looked at the new make-up of Capitol Hill. None, however, mentioned the far-left John Conyers, who has advocated impeaching President Bush, assuming the Chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee.
CBS's Sharyl Attkisson noted how "the agenda will be largely set by the powerful congressional committees with some of the longest serving liberals in charge" and she cited how “Republican Tom Davis on Government Reform will be replaced by liberal Democrat Henry Waxman, who's known for tough oversight of corporations and government." On screen, by a picture of Waxman, CBS put a laudatory-sounding quest: “Corporate oversight?”ABC's Jake Tapper stuck only to the Senate as he referred to the "liberal lion, Senator Ted Kennedy" at Health Education and Labor and concluded with how “complicating the Senate math for the President is the fact that seven Democratic Senators are harboring serious presidential ambitions for 2008 -- meaning many of them are going to try to appeal to the party's liberal base." NBC's Chip Reid only managed one liberal label -- “Vermont liberal Pat Leahy” -- as he recited a litany of new House and Senate committee chairmen.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sat for interviews Wednesday with reporters for all the networks. NBC's Brian Williams and CBS's Katie Couric put the most emphasis on her presumed “history-making” ascension to House Speaker and allowed her to offer the most-benign descriptions of the policies she will pursue. “Our conversation with Nancy Pelosi, a woman on the verge of making American history,” Williams trumpeted in teasing the NBC Nightly News. Over video of President Bush, with Vice President Cheney and House Speaker Hastert behind him at a State of the Union address, Williams relayed how Pelosi “says she is most excited to change this picture, to put a female face in this frame of three male faces for the very first time." Williams sycophantically gushed to her: "Let's talk about history because I know history was riding along with you as you watched the results last night. I know you have thought today about your mother. I know you have thought today about your father, your own children and grandchildren."
A smiling and spellbound Couric wondered: "A lot has been made of the fact that you, if elected, and it appears that you will be, that you will be the first woman Speaker of the House and the highest ranking woman in the United States government. What does that mean to you?" Pelosi replied: "It's pretty exciting, I have to say. I'm just so excited that a Democrat will be Speaker of the House." To which Couric oozed: "So you're a Democrat first, a woman second?" (Transcripts follow)
The MRC's Rich Noyes this afternoon reminded me of how the CBS Evening News smeared Robert Gates, nominated Wednesday by President George W. Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, when President George H.W. Bush nominated him to become CIA Director in 1991. A short item in the June, 1991 MediaWatch, a monthly newsletter the MRC published at the time, recounted:
SPOOKING CBS. President Bush's May 14 selection of Robert Gates to head the CIA was well received by leaders of both parties, but you'd never know that from watching CBS reporter Eric Engberg. Instead, he linked Gates to the Iran-Contra affair through tabloid-style innuendo: "During the time when William Casey was secretly overseeing the sale of arms to the Iranians and aid to the Contras, as laws were broken and money flowed, his loyal number two at the CIA was Robert Gates." Engberg put on Tom Blanton of the (unlabeled) leftist National Security Archive (NSA) to proclaim: "The worst case is that Bob Gates participated in a coverup. The best case is that Bob Gates is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil bureaucrat who watched all this information come through his office and looked the other way."
In an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney excerpted on ABC's World News on Friday night, George Stephanopoulos cited the “exceptionally low” 4.4 percent October unemployment rate announced earlier in the day -- down two-tenths from September to the lowest since early 2001 -- and wondered: “Why don't you think the President's getting more credit for that?" Cheney blamed the media: “Well, you guys don't help. The fact of course is that what's news is if there's bad news and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.”
Indeed, Cheney was prescient. On Friday night ABC limited coverage to the Stephanopoulos question and 15 seconds from anchor Charles Gibson nearly 19 minutes into the newscast while CBS, and NBC to a lesser extent, spun the good news into bad. NBC's Brian Williams gave it just 20 seconds as he reported “employers added 92,000 jobs in October,” but added how “that was below expectations.” Williams skipped how the August and September job numbers were revised to show 139,000 more jobs created. And though wages have grown by 3.9 percent over the past 12 months, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric used the lower unemployment news as a segue to ask: “But do the jobs out there pay enough? A big issue in the battle for Congress this year is how much the lowest-paid workers make.” Viewers then saw a full story on the plight of minimum wage workers and how raising it is "resonating" with voters. (Transcript follows)
With less then a week before Election Day, members of the mainstream media are doing everything they can to elect Democrats. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has stepped up his fevered attacks, referring to President Bush as both "stupid" and a liar. Later on in the week, he included Media Research Center President Brent Bozell in the November 2 "Worst Person in the World" segment.
Speaking of cable networks, an analysis of the CNN "Broken Government" special shows that Lynne Cheney was right in denouncing it as nothing more then left-wing Daily Kos-style propaganda.
Over on CBS, "The Evening News" featured a laudatory segment on "trend setting" California. Not so coincidentally, all the trends were liberal. On the subject of morning bias, "Today’s" David Gregory turned over a segment to Michael J. Fox and his promotion of Democratic candidates.
Completing the network trilogy, ABC’s "Good Morning America" talked to a group of "real-life actual voters"in a Ohio diner. Oddly enough, none of these hungry citizens seemed to like Republicans very much. Perhaps this was a Democratic diner.
Last Monday, Brian Stelter at the TV Newser blog said CBS’s “freeSpeech” commentary segments (an innovation Katie Couric began when she took over the anchor throne on September 5) had “failed” at their stated goal of opening up the airwaves to more than the media elite’s “usual suspects.” Looking at the first 34 “freeSpeech” segments, Stelter calculated that “the vast majority of the guests have national media platforms, like books, columns, magazines, and Senate podiums.”
Three days later, CBS News’s own blog, “Public Eye,” itself wondered if the segment was too insidery. “I think the answer is that it has been a mix,” Evening News Executive Producer Rome Hartman told CBS’s bloggers. “If you look at all 30 or so [segments] that have run — and I haven't counted — maybe a third have been from what you might call ‘pundits.’ The point of the segment is interesting voices from everywhere.”
During a discussion on Tuesday's CBS Evening News about John Kerry's seeming insult of troops in Iraq, anchor Katie Couric invoked a deep voice as she mimicked an imaginary possible Republican ad of the future: “John Kerry insults the troops. Do we really want the Dems to take over?” Couric offered her impersonation, an odd persona to be taken on by a broadcast network anchor, during a segment with former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry and former Bush Communications Director Nicolle Wallace. McCurry, confident the media will quickly move on, had predicted: "By this time tomorrow night people won't remember what John Kerry said because the story line will move on and they're be talking about Iraq and how badly the war is going...” Couric turned to Wallace and set up her impersonation of the announcer in an anti-Democratic ad: "Will this really be forgotten by this time tomorrow? Do you think Republican operatives are putting this comment into political campaigns all over the country?” (Full exchange follows)
On Monday’s CBS "Evening News," correspondent Sandra Hughes highlighted "trend-setting California" for "tackling ground-breaking issues the federal government won’t touch." She listed liberal policies enacted by California, such as funding embryonic stem cell research, raising the minimum wage, providing discounts for prescription drugs, and for enacting "the nation’s most restrictive law on greenhouse gas emissions." Hughes further noted that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s "saving grace" has been his decision to work with Democrats instead of against them.
"Evening News" anchor Katie Couric introduced the segment calling the Congress do-nothing, and portrayed California as a trail blazing state:
Katie Couric is trying to talk past her program being stuck in third place (see Monday's chat with Peter Johnson in USA Today), but she really let the fangs show a bit in her interview for the November issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. When asked about published rumors of feuding with Matt Lauer and "high-handed" diva treatment of her staff, Couric grew angry, and sounded a lot like Hillary Clinton:
"I think there are a lot of angry, frustrated people, and I think that sometimes they happen to be writers," she says. "Our society still has a difficult time accepting strong powerful women and not typecasting them as evil, power-hungrylunatics." So, she has decided, "I’m going to be on a blackout for the first few months." Bad press, she says, "can suck your spirit dry."
Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" offered more evidence that Katie Couric's CBS interview with Michael J. Fox was too cozy and unchallenging. She didn't push the celebrity into admitting a common celebrity error: he's speaking without reading. On Missouri's Amendment 2, the center of his ad pushing Democrat Claire McCaskill for Senate, he said, "I have to qualify it by saying I'm not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative. Although, I am quite sure that I'll agree with it in spirit, I don't know, I— On full disclosure, I haven't read it, and that's why I didn't put myself up for it distinctly." (AP didn't find that part newsworthy.)
CBS’s "The Early Show" followed last night’s Michael J. Fox bonanza on the "Evening News" with more of the same on Friday morning. "The Early Show" aired more than 13 minutes of coverage to stories mentioning Fox, more than 10 minutes of that focused on Fox alone, while just a mere 40 seconds dealt with a response ad starring Patricia Heaton and Jim Caviezel.
Hannah Storm called Fox "courageous" and asserted "you just couldn’t take your eyes off the television last night." Harry Smith thought Fox’s interview was "powerful" and urged all those opposed to embryonic stem cell research to "at least listen to these arguments." Additionally, CBS tried to make Fox out to be nonpartisan, despite the fact that he is running commercials for Democratic candidates. Yet in their awe of Michael J. Fox, there was no exploration of the claims made in his political commercials and whether they are indeed factually accurate. Nor did CBS take the opportunity to differentiate between different types of stem cells. In fact, in a live interview, Katie Couric called Rush Limbaugh, someone who raised questions about Fox’s ads, "heartless."
Ignoring the inaccuracies in Michael J. Fox's TV ads against some Republican Senate candidates, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric gave him a lengthy forum -- more than eight minutes -- to react to Rush Limbaugh's suggestion his swaying in the ads was exaggerated beyond the real impact of Parkinson's disease and to advocate for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. With video of Fox behind her, Couric portrayed Limbaugh as the aggressor: “The battle over embryonic stem cell research turns ugly, and he is a target.” Though Fox's ads denounce Republicans and insidiously suggest they are against curing his disease, Couric never challenged Fox on the false charges he made in the ads which injected Fox into partisan politics. She never even played those portions, instead only showed this positive line from one of the ads: "In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures." In that ad against Missouri Republican Senator Jim Talent, Fox distorted Talent's opposition to cloning into how "Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us the chance for hope." In his ad for Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, Fox alleged that Republican candidate Michael Steele “would put limits on the most promising stem cell research,” meaning embryonic. But embryonic has not shown promise and there's lots of research money going into it.
Couric noted, “in the spirit of full disclosure,” that “my dad has Parkinson's disease” and that “in the past I've made contributions for Parkinson's research through Michael J. Fox's foundation." But, she didn't note if she will give equal time soon to someone with a contrary view to Fox's on the desirability of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (Full transcript and counter-information follows)
While some have puzzled or protested over why CBS would offer its "freeSpeech" megaphone on the Evening News to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, it shouldn't be missed that the Left has not been ignored. Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation sounded off on Bush subverting the Constitution on October 9. On Tuesday night, CBS gave the spotlight to Arianna Huffington, who decried the right-wing politics of fear, which would suggest that there's nothing in the world a little "detente" won't fix:
Let’s face it: "The sky is falling" or "the nukes are coming" is a frighteningly effective sales pitch.
Don’t get me wrong: North Korea testing a nuke is real bad news. But I couldn't help but wonder what political use Karl Rove and the president would put this real bad news to. After all, banging the fear gong and trying to scare the hell out of us has worked like a charm for President Bush and the GOP.
Katie Couric touted, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, how her Thursday broadcast will feature an interview with actor Michael J. Fox. It will air just three days after conservatives denounced as misleading and distorted his TV ads, about stem cell research, against Republican Senate candidates. In a spot for Democratic Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, for instance, Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, charged in reference to the Republican incumbent: “Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us the chance for hope." (See my Tuesday NewsBusters posting for details.)
Couric's plug for the Fox interview followed a piece from Cynthia Bowers on the battle in Missouri with competing ads about stem cells, a story which failed to address the accuracy of the Fox ads. Couric plugged the Fox appearance as an “exclusive” interview: "By the way, tomorrow we'll have an exclusive interview with Michael J. Fox on the stem cell legislation and Rush Limbaugh." No word on when CBS might give equal time to someone with a different view. (A transcript of a portion Bowers' story follows)
If things continue like this, Katie Couric is going to be begging for her old job back, for in less than 48 hours, a second major newspaper has totally lambasted her performance as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. After yesterday’s drubbing by USA Today, New York’s Newsday stepped into the ring. Entertainment columnist Verne Gay pulled no punches (hat tip to TVNewser):
There is no urgency to this broadcast, no bite, no edge and - for the most part - no personality. It is often like a pudding pop for the toothless crowd. Too polite, too nice, too eager to please and too willing to leave viewers at the end of each show with a little smile or a little tear, most often courtesy of soft-news guy Steve Hartman.
Er, I mean Katie Couric. I guess the legendary perkiness doesn't extend to her reporting on the economy in this election season when pessimism is all the rage in the networks. Somehow I doubt it's because she's still a morning person struggling to deal with a later work shift:
Gas prices hit their lowest point since January and the Dow Jones closed on yet another record high, but on the October 24 evening newscast CBS’s Katie Couric colored her business briefing in red, focusing on Ford Motor Company’s (NYSE: F) quarterly loss and the five-year-old Enron scandal. Competitors ABC and NBC also noted the bleak news from Detroit, but tossed in positive business news items.
Couric set the tone announcing that Ford was “battling red ink and losing badly.”
Did you hear that loud crashing sound on Sunday? That was either media members across the country jumping off the Hillary for President bandwagon, or the Clintonistas slapping their knees over the gullibility of the press and the people they cater to.
Without question, the charming junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was the toast of the Sunday morning programs this weekend. From Meet the Press to The Chris Matthews Show, discussions centered on the presidential aspirations of a man that precious few had heard of prior to his well-publicized speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
A night after ABC led with the supposedly “remarkable reversal” by Senator Barack Obama to think about running for President, and a full story on the NBC Nightly News, both network evening newscasts were back again with full stories Monday night on Obama the “rock star.” Remarkably, given how he decides what is newsworthy, at the top of World News Charles Gibson asked: “Why does he get so much attention?” ABC's puff story for Obama -- reporter Kate Snow gushed about how “his base is growing. Even Oprah seemed to endorse him" -- followed the lead story about dour poll numbers for Republicans.
With “Overnight Sensation” on screen, NBC anchor Brian Williams hailed in his teaser: “Tonight, the overnight sensation surrounding a Senator with real star power, may have changed everything for the Democrats in the run for the White House.” Williams later cited how Obama has “rocked the political world” and cued up Tim Russert with how “they say here's a guy who could actually cause excitement over American politics to break out again.” Russert championed how “he's getting rock star treatment all across the country.” (CBS, and transcripts for ABC and NBC, follow)
So much for sisterhood. Broadcasting & Cable reported Monday that female correspondents aren’t getting as much work on the CBS Evening News since Katie Couric became the anchor six weeks ago (hat tip to Drudge, emphasis mine throughout): “[S]ince Couric’s arrival, women have received 40% fewer assignments than they did under herpredecessor, Bob Schieffer. Men, meanwhile, have seen no cutback in their workload.”
Boy, it didn’t take long for Katie Couric to go from media darling to whipping girl, did it? You’d think the perky one did something really obscene, like stating that she was voting for a Republican in the upcoming midterm elections. Yet, there it was in large type at USA Today: “Couric Fails to Keep CBS News on Top for Long” (hat tip to TVNewser). In reality, that might be the kindest statement in this article about Couric which began (emphasis mine throughout):
CBS's Katie Couric led her October 19 "Evening News" with salacious, but non-political developments in Foleygate pertaining to the ex-Congressman and his relationship as a teenager with a Roman Catholic priest.
But while her rivals at ABC and NBC also covered the Foley news, they also gave full reports on the Dow's record close above 12,000. Couric only briefly mentioned the news, and followed it with a brief item about how former NYSE chairman Richard Grasso was ordered to return millions from a retirement package.
Of course Grasso's overcompensation, while newsworthy, has no bearing on the actual health of the economy or the stock exchange. But including it without explanation as a complement to the Dow story is a way to negatively spin an otherwise positive development to a general news audience.
I will shortly post an article to the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org Web site and post an update when that article is available online.
Back on October 6, Katie Couric promised that the Mark Foley scandal “is not going away.” And just under two weeks later, on Thursday night, she did her part to keep it alive by leading the CBS Evening News with six minutes on it, starting with salacious descriptions of the teenage Mark Foley's alleged sexual activity with a Catholic priest. Couric offered a warning to viewers as she hyped the supposed importance of the priest's recollections: “A stunning development tonight in the congressional page scandal, and you may not want your young children to hear the story we're about to tell. The priest Mark Foley accused of molesting him as a child has come forward. Now retired, the priest admits that he and Foley, then barely a teenager, were naked together in a sauna, but he says, quote, 'Everybody does that.'”
Via phone, Couric talked earlier in the day to the priest in Malta. Citing a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, Couric inquired: "According to this newspaper account, it also says that you massaged him when he was naked, and you were naked in the same room on overnight trips." Father Anthony Mercieca replied: "He'll stay with his towel on and go on the bench and I will massage his neck and his back." Couric remarked that “this was probably the weirdest interview I've ever done” -- raising the unanswered question of why she considered the 72-year-old's memories of back massages the lead story of the day -- before moving on to Gloria Borger for a full story on testimony before the ethics committee.
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