On the Thursday January 12 CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer let slip to the audience that he already considers the Bush administration's controversial NSA wiretapping program to be "illegal," even though this issue is in dispute.
Correspondent Mika Brzezinski filed an unrelated story about phone record availability, which conveyed that anyone can purchase another person's cell phone records without that person's permission, and whether there should be government protection for the privacy of cell phone subscribers. After the story's completion, Schieffer quipped that the government could just buy people's phone records instead of doing "illegal eavesdropping":
Bob Schieffer: "Well, thank you very much, Mika. I mean, maybe the government doesn't need to do this illegal eavesdropping. They could just buy it."
All three broadcast network evening shows on Wednesday night highlighted Mrs. Alito crying at the Senate confirmation hearing for her husband Samuel, as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham apologized for character attacks on her husband by left-wing Senators. Citing the breakdown, CBS’s Gloria Borger suggested the emotional outburst “may be the picture that people really remember from these hearings,” and she asked: “The question is whether the Democrats took this a step too far today?" But ABC adopted as fact the liberal Democratic allegations about the supposedly bigoted agenda of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas referred to Alito’s “membership in a controversial group opposed to women and minorities at his college.” The subsequent report from George Stephanopoulos highlighted a soundbite of Democratic Senator Richard Durbin describing CAP as one which “would discriminate against women and minorities." Stephanopoulos relayed how Democrats “say the group was notorious for its discriminatory agenda when Alito listed it in his 1985 job application for the Reagan Justice Department. So notorious that prominent Princeton alumni like Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist had publicly disavowed it."
In fact, a founder of the group, William Rusher, told National Review Online that CAP was simply “a group of alumni who were concerned over various liberal tendencies that had developed in the Princeton administration." A member of the group, former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano, now an FNC contributor, told FNC’s John Gibson late Wednesday afternoon that it was not “anti-integrationist, anti-feminist,” but instead “was a traditional, conservative mainstream organization.” Napolitano added that the group’s magazine, from which Senator Ted Kennedy read to smear Alito with guilt by association, had as its editor a woman as well as a man who was a native of India. (More from Napolitano, as well as transcripts of the ABC and CBS stories, follow.)
Gloria Borger on the “CBS Evening News” tonight demonstrated some humanity and compassion that is quite rare and sorely lacking from most members of the modern American media. In her report today about the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, Borger stated that Mrs. Alito crying behind her husband “may be the picture that people really remember from these hearings.” Furthermore, she twice stated that Democrats might have gone too far with their questioning today (video link to follow).
In the middle of a fairly balanced presentation of the day’s events, the screen showed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) questioning Judge Alito, and facetiously asking him if he was a bigot:
CBS’s Gloria Borger was so intent on tying Tom DeLay to Jack Abramoff that she “obtained” -- meaning someone with an agenda gave to her -- a very blurry C-SPAN video which she trumpeted on Monday’s CBS Evening News: "In this 2003 videotape of a convention of College Republicans obtained by CBS News, Jack Abramoff all but called Tom DeLay his hero." After running a clip of Abramoff declaring that "Tom DeLay is who all of us want to be when we grow up," Borger, as if a public official can control who praises him, ran video of Abramoff giving DeLay a hug as she charged: "Now the cozy relationship between the lobbyist and the leader has left DeLay without a top job in the House and left Republicans scrambling to keep their majority.”
Two days earlier, CBS suggested the GOP is in a “panic.” On Saturday’s CBS Evening News, just hours after DeLay announced his decision to not seek reinstatement as House Majority Leader, anchor Thalia Assuras asked reporter Gloria Borger: "So is there panic in the Republican Party?" Borger, who in her preceding lead story had described DeLay as "a brash, often uncompromising conservative," affirmed the thesis forwarded by Assuras: "I would have to say there is some panic, an awful lot of nervousness in the aftermath of this Jack Abramoff scandal..." (More in Monday’s MRC CyberAlert. Full transcript of Borger’s Monday story follows.)
CBS started its "Public Eye" weblog in the wake of the Dan Rather fake-memo fiasco as "an opportunity for our audience to hold CBS News more publicly accountable." But the interview Vaughn Ververs posted today with new "Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman sends an odd signal. Hartman feels compelled (or perhaps sincerely believes, however odd that sounds) to state than Dan Rather remains one of "the great figures of the [CBS] news division." Is this really a "new era" at CBS?
Brian Montopoli on the CBS Public Eye site asked some CBS insiders about whether Pat Robertson is as newsworthy as he used to be. They said no:
I asked "Evening News" host Bob Schieffer for his thoughts on Robertson and whether he thought there were others who better represent evangelicals. Schieffer, who considers himself a religious person, has covered Robertson and interviewed him several times in the past, and says "at the beginning he represented a particular point of view, and articulated it quite well." But he's reluctant to cover him now.
"I think we have to be very careful about quoting Robertson, because I'm not sure who he represents anymore," he said. "His comments have gone beyond interesting and into bizarre." The "Evening News," he points out, has not covered Robertson's recent comments.
Interviewing General Peter Pace, from Iraq, on Sunday’s This Week, fill-in host Terry Moran pressed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "One of the concerns that people have right now, post-election, is that it's one thing in a democracy to learn how to vote, it's another to learn how to lose. Are you concerned at all, and is the United States prepared, for the potential of a civil war?" Pace assured Moran that is unlikely. Later in the day, on the CBS Evening News, after Kelly Cobiella reported from Iraq on Sunni dissatisfaction with the election results, anchor John Roberts put “civil war” into play: “Are we seeing the very first signs of a potential civil war here?"
It seems like a common pattern lately. A mainstream media outlet publishes a bombshell story, and within days, the whole thing unravels quicker than a cheap sweater swarmed by kittens. Such is beginning to look like the case for The New York Times’ eavesdropping controversy, which is showing a lot of wear and tear for its age.
Wednesday wasn’t a very good day for the ongoing health of this story, or for members of the media hoping that the recent revelations concerning National Security Agency espionage tactics could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
The day started with a former member of the Clinton White House voicing strong words of support for the Bush administration’s behavior. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed entitled “President Had Legal Authority to OK Taps,” former associate attorney general John Schmidt refuted media protestations concerning the illegality of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens who are in contact with known members of al Qaeda without a court order allowing it to do so:
Though Bob Schieffer introduced Wednesday's CBS Evening News by using loaded language as he pointed out how, “to protest the President's decision to continue spying on American citizens, a federal judge took the unprecedented step of resigning from the court that issues warrants in such cases,” an event also highlighted by ABC and NBC, unlike those networks, CBS White House correspondent John Roberts informed viewers how “the President got support today from an unusual quarter: Democrat Jane Harman, a key figure on the House Intelligence Committee.” He highlighted how she asserted that “I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security” and, in a slam at the leaker and the New York Times, that the “disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.” Schieffer, however, remained most interested in the resignation. After Roberts wrapped up his story, Schieffer marveled to him: “I want to go back to this federal judge resigning. I must say in all my years in the news business, I've never heard of a federal judge resigning in protest over anything.”
ABC held its “eavesdropping” coverage to an anchor-read brief, but one devoted to the judge, while in a full story on the Patriot Act and Bush's “decision to order spying inside the U.S. without a warrant,” NBC's Kelly O'Donnell highlighted the resignation. (Transcript excerpts follow.)
Picking up on a front page New York Times story, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” the three broadcast networks led Friday night with the revelation, which animated the cable networks during the day, about how post-9/11 the NSA has monitored communication by a few thousand people in the U.S. in touch with those on al-Qaeda lists captured in Pakistan, or an expanding chain of those connected to that initial cache. Despite the limited focus on identifying sleeper agents before they could murder Americans, the networks treated the policy as a violation of the rights of all Americans. With “Big Brother” in front of a picture of President Bush, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: “Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans." NBC's Brian Williams teased: "Government spying. Tonight, revelations of domestic eavesdropping on hundreds of phone calls by the federal government, part of top secret orders by President Bush after 9/11." Williams insisted that now “the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us.”
Though the White House maintains the policy is legal and congressional leaders as well as a federal judge were told about it in 2002, CBS characterized the policy as illegal. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Has the government been using its spy satellites to illegally eavesdrop on Americans?” Schieffer then declared as fact: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11.” (Transcripts of the newscast leads, and some excerpts from the New York Times story, follow.)
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, led Thursday night with glowingly positive spins on the election in Iraq. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, the only anchor in Iraq, celebrated in her tease: “So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future.” She then led World News Tonight with how “millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government.” Remarkably, she pointed out how “the Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” Campbell Brown, filling in for Brian Williams, teased NBC Nightly News: “A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day." She began her program by trumpeting: “It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy.”
Bob Schieffer suggested surprise at the success as he teased the CBS Evening News: “Iraq held an election and millions voted. It really happened, but what happens next?” Schieffer then delivered a positive, yet more muted than ABC or NBC, lead in which he described “one of the largest turnouts for a free election in the history of the Arab world.” (Transcripts follow.)
As Election Day approaches in Iraq, the “CBS Evening News” tonight chose to lead with an al Qaeda video (video link to follow) that showed masked gunmen executing Iraqi police recruits in the middle of the day, as well as two Iraqi women pleading for their lives before being shot. Correspondent Lara Logan interviewed Michael Ware, a western journalist who is so well connected in this part of the world that he is regularly given such videos. During the interview, Ware suggested that this particular tape was “an inspirational video” that aids “recruitment” and acts as a “fund-raising device.”
Ware then interviewed a Ba’athist “insurgent” who used to be a top-ranking military official under Saddam. At the conclusion of this interview, Logan chided the Bush administration for not using this man’s services: “Ironically, this insurgent commander is exactly the type of military leader that the U.S. once turned away, but is now reaching out to, hoping to lure them back into the Iraqi army that's desperately short of experienced leaders.”
While CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer on Wednesday night highlighted how, in a fresh CBS News/New York Times poll, President Bush’s approval rating has risen five points since October, he pointed out just one other survey finding -- one which matched a Democratic agenda item -- that “58 percent of those questioned said the U.S. should set a timetable for troop withdrawal; 39 percent said no.” But Schieffer skipped how the survey also discovered that the public agrees with Bush and rejects the policy urged by Congressman John Murtha and left-wingers, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chairman Howard Dean. As reported in the CBSNews.com summary of the poll: “Six in 10 say they would agree with President Bush’s statement that removing U.S. troops from Iraq now would be ‘a recipe for disaster.’" Specifically, 61 percent responded “yes” compared to 34 percent who replied with a “no” -- a nearly two-to-one ratio. (Transcript follows.)
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer reminded viewers how “we reported last night that a group of House Republicans was ready to start proceedings to permanently remove Tom DeLay from the House leadership because of his indictment on campaign money laundering charges. Well, the Republicans held a closed-door meeting today, but there was no effort to remove DeLay, who has stepped down temporarily until the case is resolved.” Indeed, on Tuesday’s newscast Gloria Borger claimed that “tomorrow morning, House Republicans are going to meet behind closed doors and they are going to tell their leaders in no uncertain terms, ‘We never want Tom DeLay back as our Majority Leader.' They're saying to their leaders, ‘We want new elections in the early new year. And if you don't allow us to do it, we are going to force these elections on you.'” Borger promised: “I guarantee you, Bob, there are going to be people coming out of the woodwork to run for leader in the Republican Party. There's no shortage of ambition up here." (Full transcript follows.)
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
The Tuesday broadcast network evening newscasts jumped on an inconsequential House hearing, which the AP reported was attended by just seven Members of Congress, where five residents of New Orleans hurled charges that racism limited help after Hurricane Katrina. ABC actually led with the hearing as anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "On World News Tonight, the angry voices from inside the storm. The victims of Katrina tell Congress they're still not getting help because they are poor and black." Vargas trumpeted the charges: “They were brought in front of Congress today so that the voiceless could be heard. Five people whose lives were torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. Five black people who say that when the hurricane came, for so many like them, race did matter.” One woman asserted: “When we stepped outside, guns were pointed on us. I felt like we were being told to go outside in order to be killed. No one's going to tell me it wasn't a race issue." ABC reporter Linda Douglass acknowledged believability was in question: "Members listened intently but were skeptical of some of the more extreme charges. Like this one, from [Dyan] French [Cole], who insisted someone deliberately flooded poor neighborhoods." She ludicrously alleged: "I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee." Ridiculously, Vargas characterized the hearing as "extraordinary.”
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer championed Dyan French Cole, affectionately known to CBS News as “Mama D,” as he described her as a “key witness” and reminded viewers that CBS’s “John Roberts first reported on her from New Orleans right after the hurricane. And now Congress isn't likely to forget her, either. She gave them an earful today.” CBS viewers won’t have her wackiest and most insidious charge to forget since in nearly an entire story devoted to her rants, Roberts avoided discrediting her by never mentioning her claim about how the levees were “bombed.” Instead, he personally interviewed her and took her allegations seriously: "She came...to testify on whether race played a role in the Hurricane Katrina response." NBC anchor Brian Williams touted how “a special House committee heard emotional testimony from Katrina survivors who insisted racism was a big factor in the government's slow response to the disaster.” Kerry Sanders, who showcased Dyan French Cole, also skipped over her levee “bombing” charge, began: "In New Orleans, according to a Gallup poll, six in ten blacks said if most of Katrina's victims were white, the rescues would have come faster." (Transcripts follow.)
The three broadcast networks all did segments this evening on the former 9/11 commission’s report card released today. Though all three focused on the negatives, only the "CBS Evening News” ignored the good grades given by the commission, while also failing to mention that a key problem highlighted in this report is already being addressed by legislation pending in Congress (video link to follow).
Bob Orr quickly gave a rundown of the “F’s” and the “D’s” given by former commission members for the government achieving a set of priorities they deemed necessary to avert another terrorist attack. However, as can be seen in the full report card, Orr chose not to mention any of the 12 “B’s” given by the commission, or the “A-” obtained for “Terrorist Financing.” Orr also reported:
Less than a month ago, San Francisco Chronicle TV columnist Tim Goodman declared that Keith Olbermann ought to be the future of broadcast network news. This morning, Goodman touts Olbermann (and Oprah, and Jon Stewart) for Dan Rather's old job, opines that Katie Couric-to-CBS "will not change the network news blues," and gives CBS boss Les Moonves a fashion tip. (Speaking of which, a hat tip to Romenesko.)
Goodman opens, "The truly sad part about the rumors of Katie Couric becoming anchor of the 'CBS Evening News'" is that Couric's choice wouldn't signify "a revolution." He goes on:
On Thursday night's CBS Evening News, while filing a story about a "change in tone" by the Bush administration that is "an answer to critics who claim the President won't acknowledge errors or learn from them," correspondent John Roberts distorted soundbites by both President Bush and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace to boost Roberts' story theme which implied that the administration is finally admitting to mistakes in conducting the war in Iraq. Remarks by both men were characterized by Roberts as part of a "campaign of contrition."
In Pace's remarks, made in a speech at the National Defense University on Thursday December 1, the Joint Chiefs Chairman, rather than admitting to any mistakes in conducting the war, merely lamented that military people like him "have not articulated well enough" positive developments "in Iraq and in Afghanistan" to the American public to combat negative portrayals by the media. Roberts, evidently desperate to find something in Pace's speech he could characterize as "admitting mistakes," ignored the overall positive theme of the speech that much progress has been made in Iraq, and zeroed in on the rare self-critical remark Pace made in the speech.
The media’s pessimistic holiday shopping forecasts fail to register with reality.
Don't miss my latest at the Free Market Project: Contrary to the media’s pessimistic forecasts for the Christmas shopping season reported by the Free Market Project in late October, strong retail sales this Thanksgiving weekend got the annual end-of-the-year buying bonanza off to a bang. In fact, the economic data available prior to this weekend looked so strong that the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, actually raised its sales forecast for 2005 holiday shopping from a 5 percent year-over-year increase to 6 percent.
Regardless of this upgrade in expectations by retailers themselves, and the fabulous start to the shopping season, the media continued to rain on everybody’s parade.
After rejecting overtures from CBS earlier this year, Katie Couric is being actively courted by new CBS News president Sean McManus, the L.A. Times reports:
While the 48-year-old morning host is contemplating the offer, sources
said, it's unclear whether she can formally negotiate a new job until
her NBC contract expires in May.
NBC News President Steve Capus said the network hopes to hold on
to Couric, who has been the face of the "Today" show for almost 15
years. He called the growing speculation about her next step
CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves had unsuccessfully tried to lure Couric
away last spring when Dan Rather left the anchor desk. Since then,
veteran Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has served as interim
anchor of the evening newscast, a stint he expected would only last a
few months, while network executives pondered how to remake the show.
When McManus replaced news President Andrew Heyward in October, he
announced that one of his immediate goals was to court new talent to
the network. Couric has been his top priority, sources said, with the
news president offering her "the moon" to come aboard.
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
"The experts have spoken, this hurricane season will go down as the biggest, baddest, deadliest, and costliest of all time," Jim Acosta ominously intoned opening his report on the November 29 edition of the CBS Evening News. Yet while the loss of life and livelihood from Hurricane Katrina was horrific, the loss of life in the 2005 season was not record-breaking.
Over 20,000 died in the Great Hurricane of 1780, Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed over 11,000* in Central America, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900 killed 8,000. [see link]
See my article with more detail at FreeMarketProject.com
* NOAA's Chris Vaccaro gave me a more conservative 9,000-total death toll figure over the phone, which I included in my article. At any rate, the death toll from these hurricanes far surpasses the death toll for Katrina.
Twelve days ago when Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who had long been critical of the Bush administration’s running of the war, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all emphasized his importance and influence as they led with his press conference. CBS showcased Murtha’s attack on Vice President Dick Cheney’s lack of military service and ABC ran a 90-second excerpt of Murtha. But on Tuesday night, after the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (“Our Troops Must Stay”) from the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, in which he cited “real progress” in Iraq and argued against withdrawing troops, ABC and CBS didn’t utter a syllable about his assessment. The NBC Nightly News, at least, squeezed in a soundbite from Lieberman, though David Gregory also highlighted a puny protest as he relayed how “opposition to the war followed the President today to a Denver fundraiser, as more than a hundred angry critics met Mr. Bush's motorcade.” In his op-ed, Lieberman had bemoaned: “What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.”
ABC’s World News Tonight, which led with multiple stories from New Orleans on the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, held its coverage of Iraq to a brief item on “peace activists” taken hostage and anchor Elizabeth Vargas provided a 20-second preview of Bush’s Wednesday speech on his Iraq policy.
Snowstorms topped the CBS Evening News before David Martin provided a story on how Secretary of Defense “Rumsfeld rattled off signs of progress,” which Martin ran through. “For all the progress cited by administration officials,” Martin then ominously concluded, “one key factor shows no sign of improving: For the past two months, an average of three Americans has been killed each day in Iraq, and that's the highest since January." Anchor Bob Schieffer then turned to Lara Logan in Baghdad who said one of Rumsfeld’s assertions “simply isn't true” and undermined a couple of others. (Full transcripts of the CBS and NBC stories follow, as well as more on Murtha coverage.)
Strong "Black Friday" showings across America were given short shrift by the Washington Post this "Cyber Monday" which buried the story in a four-paragraph blurb on page A10 in the District and Maryland home edition.
But not only were the numbers good in comparison to last year, they far surprassed the expectations of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry group which analyzes and forecasts the performance of the American retail industry.
A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his “patriotism,” though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a “leading supporter” of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned” (that would be John Kerry), who “fired back" at the “personal attacks” on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: “When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics.” Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha “had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as my Thursday night NewsBusters item detailing CBS's coverage noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today.'' (NewsBuster's Noel Sheppard here, and Tim Graham here, dug out other instances of Murtha's hostility to the war going back to 2003.)
Orr proceeded to assert that “the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker,” Michael Moore. “Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on,” Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: “But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the “smear” of Murtha and how “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country...” Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that “the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough,” before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how “name-calling exploded in the House." (Complete transcript follows.)
As reported by the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, the network evening news broadcasts tonight all lead with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn.) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq. Yet, they seemed disinterested in focusing much attention on Rep. Murtha's “denouncement” of the Iraq war more than a year ago. (Please see a May 10, 2004 CNN story stating, “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a ‘lack of planning’ by Pentagon chiefs and ‘the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable.’") Maybe most important, the networks totally ignored the fact that Rep. Murtha has been expressing disgust with the Bush administration’s prosecution of this war since six months after it started.
Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with how things were going in Iraq on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of President Bush’s defense leadership team. The network news organizations this evening chose not to inform their viewers of this, and, instead, implied that Rep. Murtha was a "hawk" that has always supported this war, and that his statements today were recent revelations.
Quite the contrary, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):
Though more than a year ago Democratic Congressman John Murtha denounced the Iraq war, asserting that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today,'' on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all led by championing Murtha's call for the immediate withdrawal of troops and showcased his ridicule of Vice President Cheney's lack of military service. “On military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer asserted in bucking up Murtha's credentials at the top of his newscast, insisting therefore “all of Washington listened” to him. The media certainly did. With the text on screen, Schieffer soon highlighted how Murtha “noted the Vice President had never served in the military and said, and I quote, 'I like guys who got five deferments and had never been there, then send people to war and don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'” Schieffer asked John Roberts: “So, in this kind of situation, the White House has got to be worried about, because this is clearly a sign that support for the war is beginning to fade on Capitol Hill."
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams teased: “The war of words over Iraq. Tonight a key Democratic supporter in Congress says it's time to get out, while the White House steps up its attacks on critics.” Williams led by touting: “When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn't be news, but it was today, because of who he is. Congressman John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran....Today, John Murtha said the U.S. must get out of Iraq. It's a debate that has followed President Bush halfway around the world.”
“An influential Democrat who supported the war says American troops should come home now," anchor Bob Woodruff trumpeted at the top of ABC's World News Tonight. Woodruff distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush “took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.” ABC's new White House reporter, Martha Raddatz, then claimed that “a visibly perturbed President called Democrats 'irresponsible' for continuing to criticize his administration's use of pre-war intelligence." And Raddatz highlighted how “Murtha ripped into the Vice President, taking aim at his lack of military service." In fact, Bush and Cheney are upset about being charged with “lying” to get the nation into a war, not at general criticism. ABC gave Cheney barely 30 seconds, but devoted more than 90 seconds to a “1st Person” excerpt from Murtha. (Full transcripts follow.)
[UPDATE, 8:50pm EST Friday: On Friday night Woodruff offered “a clarification about” his claim Bush called his critics “unpatriotic.” Woodruff reported: “He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'” See this Friday NewsBusters item for the entirety of Woodruff's correction.]
Bob Woodward's revelations, in a Wednesday Washington Post front page story, “Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago,” seemingly undermined two premises of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald's case against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney's former Chief-of-Staff -- that he was the first to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame and that everyone involved remembers when they were told about Plame. But while the developments animated cable television all day, all the broadcast networks ignored it in the morning and in the evening both CBS and NBC, which led October 28 with multiple stories of Fitzgerald's indictments, spiked the story while ABC's World News Tonight devoted a piddling 31 seconds to Woodward's disclosures. The CBS Evening News found time for supposed dangers to kids of cold medicines and a look at "why the obesity crisis is far worse for African-Americans." The NBC Nightly News provided stories on claims the U.S. used “chemical weapons” in Iraq and on the effectiveness of diet pills. (Story rundown follows.)
At his October 28 press conference, Fitzgerald asserted, as shown tonight on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume: "He [Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter." In fact, the Post reported that “a senior administration official,” not Libby, told Woodward “about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed” and thus before Libby talked about it with a reporter, a disclosure which provides some support for Libby's contention that he heard about Plame from a journalist. The Post also noted how “the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling” in 2003 about Plame's job, Walter Pincus, “does not recall the conversation taking place,” thus boosting Libby's contention that different people can have different recollections of old conversations.
What ABC squeezed in and how MSNBC's Chris Matthews saw nefarious motives (“a confidential source could be using rolling disclosure here for a political purpose” to help Libby) behind Woodward's source allowing him to talk, follows.
[UPDATE, 2:45pm EST Thursday: On Thursday morning, CBS held the development to a very brief news update item, NBC squeezed it into the very end of a session with Tim Russert while ABC actually touted it at the top of Good Morning America and provided a full story. See full rundown below.]
[UPDATE #2, Thursday 10:30pm EST: CBS and NBC caught up Thursday night with full stories -- by Gloria Borger on the CBS Evening News, by Andrea Mitchell on the NBC Nightly News.]
All the networks jumped on the revelation Monday, that in applying for a job with Ed Meese in 1985, Samuel Alito boasted of his belief “the constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” Of the broadcast network stories, CBS's Gloria Borger and Bob Schieffer, however, displayed the most interest in the concerns of “moderate” Republicans and whether the disclosure could block his confirmation. After a soundbite from an former clerk to Alito that Alito's “personal beliefs are irrelevant when he's working on a case," Borger ran a clip from marginally Republican Senator Susan Collins and then fretted: “The document raises new questions for Collins and other Republicans about whether Alito still holds the view that the right to an abortion is not guaranteed in the constitution." Schieffer soon asked Borger if this means Alito is toast: "Gloria, give us a bottom line here quickly. Does this mean that Judge Alito may not get confirmed after all? A lot of people thought he was headed toward confirmation." Borger tried to rewind Schieffer's proposition, but again emphasized the worries of “lots” of moderate Republicans: "I think this makes the path a little bit more rocky, Bob. There're going to be lots of moderate Republicans asking lots of tough questions. We just don't know where it's going to end up yet." (Full transcript follows.)