In the wake of November's election results there was much discussion in the press over whether or not the newly strengthened Republican Party would be willing to compromise with Democrats. However, since Monday's announcement of a deal on extending current tax rates, many in the media have been critical of President Obama for giving in to the GOP.
Before the votes had even been cast in the midterm election, on ABC's November 2 Good Morning America, former Bill Clinton advisor and co-host George Stephanopoulos worried: "[Republicans] have to make a choice, as well. Do they choose to cooperate with President Obama or stand firm on principle, which is going to guarantee gridlock?"
At the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith made liberal reaction to President Obama's Monday announcement of a tax deal with Republicans the central focus of coverage: "Let's make a deal. President Obama and Republican leaders agree to extend Bush-era tax cuts for everyone. What did the President get in return? And will it be enough to stop any challenge from angry Democrats?"
In the later segment, little attention was given to Republican reaction to the deal. While two sound bites of the President's address on the issue were played, no Republican sound bites were featured.
Smith lamented how the deal "breaks a long-standing promise by the President." Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante followed by explaining: "The President did campaign on a promise to end tax breaks for the wealthy. But he had no leverage....in order to get tax breaks for the middle class, he's had to settle for this." Plante concluded his report by declaring: "Democrats are still angry. A lot of them think that the President sold out to the Republicans."
On Saturday morning, FNC’s Fox and Friends Saturday and ABC’s Good Morning America highlighted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez’s assertion that negotiating with Republicans taxes is like negotiating with terrorists. NBC’s Today show included a brief mention, but CBS’s The Early Show and CNN Saturday Morning ignored the New Jersey Democrat’s over-the-top rhetoric.
FNC included a soundbite of Menendez in the opening teaser, as co-host Alisyn Camerota asked if the "hostile words" of Democrats would "hurt negotiations." On ABC, correspondent David Kerley included a clip of the "tough language," and co-host Bianna Golodryga gave Republican Senator Orrin Hatch a chance to respond as the Utah Senator appeared as a guest. Golodryga: " I want to begin by asking your response to that dramatic language we heard from your Democratic counterpart, Senator Menendez, basically calling Republicans terrorists with regards to the process of tax cuts."
FNC began its show:
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. It's Saturday, December 4. Two major tax votes happening today in the Senate, but are the Democrats' hostile words hurting negotiations?
SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): It's almost like the question of: Do you negotiate with terrorists?
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith discussed a potential deal between the Obama administration and House Republicans on maintaining current tax rates, declaring: "The Democrats are – their noses are out of joint about this." Political analyst John Dickerson agreed: "Very much so, because they want the President to stand up and fight."
Dickerson went on to detail liberal efforts to put pressure on Obama: "There are ads that are going to be running this weekend saying, 'Don't Cave, Mr. President.' They want Barack Obama to make a stand and say Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy...and Democrats want tax cuts for the middle-class." He added: "But the President is making a deal and it doesn't look like it's going the way the liberals want and they are very angry."
On Friday, the CBS Early Show failed to make any mention of New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel being censured by the House of Representatives on Thursday for 11 ethics violations. ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today did cover the historic punishment, but adopted a very sympathetic tone toward Rangel.
In a slightly extended news brief on Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos described the censure as "an unusual moment," seeming to lament that Rangel "had to accept the punishment." Correspondent Jonathan Karl remarked that Rangel "was defiant right to the end" and "told reporters this was a very political vote." Stephanopoulos concluded the report by praising such bitterness: "That's right. He fought it. He tried to get an alternative passed. But in the end, handled that apology with real grace."
At the top of Wednesday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill fretted over Republicans pledging to focus solely on economic issues in the lame duck session of Congress: "Gridlock alert. Just one day after promising to work together while meeting with President Obama, GOP leaders may now put a halt on cooperating with Democrats on Capitol Hill. So will Washington find itself at a standstill?"
Moments later, co-host Harry Smith lamented how "the spirit of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats after yesterday's White House summit seemed to fade quickly." In the report that followed, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante solely blamed the GOP for the division: "There are new questions this morning about just how sincere the spirit of cooperation in Washington really is. CBS News has confirmed that Senate Republicans have collected signatures on a letter which pledges to block everything unrelated to tax cuts and spending during the lame duck congress."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appeared on all three major morning shows, on Wednesday, and was pressed by ABC, CBS and NBC's anchors about whether or not the President would fold and compromise with the Republicans on keeping the Bush era tax cuts in place - but it was the Today show's Meredith Vieira that hit him the strongest question from the left as she asked Gibbs what kind of "message" would Barack Obama "send to his base" if he doesn't raise taxes on the wealthy, adding, "many of whom already wonder what happened to the fighter they elected president?"
Vieira began her interview with Gibbs by noting that, according to her NBC colleague Chuck Todd, White House officials were "privately conceding that the President will bend on this tax issue" and that would include "tax cuts for every one, including the very wealthy" and continued to repeatedly push Gibbs to say if Obama would support tax increases on the rich, something Matt Lauer also did in his interview yesterday morning with Republican Congressman Eric Cantor.
Over on ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos bolstered the left's soak the rich line as he tried to get Gibbs to reassure Obama's base: "You just said extending the tax cuts for the wealthy is a line in the sand. Does that mean the President would veto any bill that extends the tax cuts for the wealthy?"
A major staff shakeup has occurred on the CBS Early Show. Starting January 3, current co-hosts Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez, along with weatherman Dave Price, will all be replaced. Saturday Early Show co-host Chris Wragge and the broadcast's current news reader Erica Hill will take over for Smith and Rodriguez, while former ABC weather person Marysol Castro will take the place of Price.
Associated Press television writer David Bauder reported the changes on Tuesday, noting: "CBS News is completely overhauling 'The Early Show' to give the broadcast team a fresh look." The network morning show has long trailed in the ratings, consistently coming in a distant third compared to NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America.
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante scolded Republicans for not being willing to work with Democrats in an upcoming White House meeting: "President Obama made a point of raising expectations for Republicans, who up to now have united against him....The newly empowered Republicans...seemed in no mood to compromise."
Plante went on to cite a Washington Post op ed by Republican congressional leaders as evidence of their resistance to compromise: "...sure to aggravate the Democrats, with language like this: 'Our friends across the aisle have clung for too long to the liberal wish list, including a job-killing health care law. Now we have a real chance to move away from the misplaced priorities of the past two years.'" While touting raised expectations for the GOP, Plante also highlighted Democratic efforts to lower expectations for themselves: "The White House spokesman is trying to keep expectations for today's meeting low. Probably a good idea in light of what the Republicans had to say in their op-ed in today's paper."
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday offered a sympathetic take on the decision of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to release potentially damaging U.S. security documents. The ABC host wondered if it was "important information for the public to have."
Talking to Congressman Peter Hoekstra, Stephanopoulos read a quote to the Republican, repeating the words of Assange: "If citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what's going on behind the scenes." Stephanopoulos then emphasized, "He says he's performing a public service."
Labeling the uproar over new TSA screening procedures as a "tempest-in-a-teapot," Harry Smith avoided pressing TSA chief John Pistole on CBS' "Early Show" Wednesday about the controversies of the new methods. Rather, Smith deferred to asking Pistole to explain the process further and "de-mythify" false rumors.
"There are so many myths about this, not the least of which is 'Well you know, the TSA guy, he's standing there, he can see your – you know what'," Smith told Pistole Wednesday on CBS' "The Early Show." Smith asked Pistole to "De-mythify this process a moment" and clarify that "somebody is in another room looking at this stuff. They never see your face."
"That is misinformation," Pistole responded to the "myths" Smith referred to.
"Early Show" co-host Maggie Rodriguez today glossed over the TSA's use of intrusive pat-downs while drilling down on the potential for "gridlock" if distressed passengers cause "chaos" this weekend over the enhanced security measures.
"There is, as I'm sure you know, this online movement that's gaining more and more momentum calling for people tomorrow to opt-out of those full-body scanners and get pat-downs instead to create chaos at the airport," noted Rodriguez, interviewing aviation expert Peter Goelz. "The head of the TSA told me yesterday that will only serve to further delay and further irritate passengers. How bad do you think it could get?"
Parroting the TSA chief's talking points, the CBS anchor failed to question Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, about the potential for civil liberties abuses. Instead, CBS displayed graphics hyperbolizing "TSA Turbulence" and fretting "Will Passenger Gridlock Hamper Holiday Travel?"
Rodriguez even shifted the burden of responsibility from the government to the passengers: "Is there anything, Peter, that you suggest that people do as they travel in the next couple of days to make things go smoothly?"
On Monday, all three network morning show's eagerly highlighted former First Lady Barbara Bush voicing opposition to a Sarah Palin presidential run while suggesting the former Alaska governor has spent too much time in the public eye. As Harry Smith proclaimed at the top of CBS's Early Show: "It's all Palin all the time. But could the most famous family from Alaska be on the verge of overexposure?"
Later on the Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante noted: "But there are critics. In an interview with Larry King, former First Lady Barbara Bush weighed in on the possibility of a President Palin." A clip was played of Bush: "I think she's very happy in Alaska and I hope she'll stay there." On NBC's Today, correspondent Norah O'Donnell declared: "Nothing like some controversy to help sell a book, right? Just as Palin gears up for her national book tour and a possible presidential run, Barbara Bush says she likes Palin, but hopes she stays home." Finally, on ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent John Berman announced: "Sarah Palin seems to be everywhere. But, not everyone approves. Why Barbara Bush and other Republicans are saying enough."
NBC's Today on on Monday offered the most sympathetic take on the growing outrage over invasive pat downs being conducted at airports by the Transportation Security Administration. While ABC highlighted "outrage" and CBS observed how some find the procedures "violating," Today host Matt Lauer worried about the government "caving" on the policy.
All three morning shows interviewed TSA Administrator John Pistole. But, only Matt Lauer fretted, "...I hate to even think of what happens if the government caves in on this, and relaxes these procedures, and someone manages to get something on board a plane and causes harm. Imagine the questions you'll be asked at that point."
Lauer asserted that with the comparatively small number of people complaining, the anger could be "overblown." While all three programs played a clip of Barack Obama critiquing the screening program, Today, Good Morning America and The Early Show failed to portray the controversy as a problem for the White House.
On Friday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on leaked excerpts of Sarah Palin's new book, 'America By Heart,' claiming, "some of the topics she tackles may be surprising." One such topic was Palin's criticism of the media for promoting Levi Johnston: "It was disgusting to watch as his 15 minutes of fame were exploited by supposed adults taking advantage of a lost kid."
While Cordes found that comment "surprising," CBS, and the Early Show in particular, were chief among those who exploited Levi Johnston and his attacks on the Palin family. As has been detailed on NewsBusters, throughout 2009 and 2010, the CBS Early Show has featured six lengthy stories on Johnston, including three "exclusive" interviews.
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith cheered the public trading of General Motors stock as evidence that Obama administration's bailout of the auto industry had worked: "GM's big comeback. In a stunning turnaround, General Motors begins to sell it's stock less than 18 months after the government's massive $50 billion bailout."
Smith even went so far as to ask: "Will American taxpayers make a profit on the investment?" Moments later, fellow co-host Maggie Rodriguez praised the companies "amazing turnaround" and observed: "What a difference a year and a half makes....here we are17 months after a bailout GM is trading publicly again." Later in the show, Rodriguez remarked that she hoped the cost to British taxpayers for the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton "ends the way GM's is ending, with the taxpayers getting paid back."
Of the three morning shows on Thursday, only CBS left out any mention of Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder while reporting on the nearly complete acquittal of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Early Show news anchor Erica Hill asserted that "the verdict is in for the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court and it is being seen by some as a serious setback for the government." Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted on 284 out of 285 charges against him. The President's name never came up on CBS.
Over on NBC's Today, the four hour morning program devoted a scant 40 seconds to the topic. But even in that short amount of time, reporter Ann Curry was more definitive than CBS. She at least allowed, "But, the decision could undermine President Obama's plan to put other Guantanamo Bay detainees on trial in civilian courts."
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski declaring victory in her write-in bid for reelection and portrayed her as a victim of the GOP: "[She's] in a very unique position, not beholden to the Republican leaders who turned their backs on her when she decided to run and not beholden to the tea party, which did everything it could to defeat her."
In reality, it was Murkowski who turned her back on the Republican Party after losing the primary and continuing to run against GOP nominee Joe Miller. Cordes sympathetically declared: "This was a huge uphill battle for Lisa Murkowski, who was urged by Republican leaders not to wage this campaign after she lost her primary bid....It was a risky bid and the risk paid off."
Tuesday's evening news broadcasts and Wednesday's morning shows allowed a scant four and a half minutes of coverage to the conviction of powerful Democrat Charlie Rangel over ethics charges. In comparison, these same programs devoted 121 minutes to exhaustively examining every aspect of the announcement that Prince William is getting married, a disparity of 30 to one.
NBC's Today featured the most reporting on the British engagement, 41 minutes of coverage on Wednesday. Yet, the morning show discussed Rangel's misdeeds for only one minute and 45 seconds. Good Morning America was even worse. Just 12 seconds on the New York politician's failure to pay taxes and report income, but 31 minutes for the fashion, style and location of a wedding that won't take place until 2011.
The Early Show did slightly better on the Congressman: 38 seconds for Rangel, but 35 minutes for Prince William. The breakdown of just the morning shows is 42 to 1. (108 minutes for the wedding and two and a half for Rangel.)
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, news reader Erica Hill used loaded liberal terms to describe a Texas pro-life event that Sarah Palin attended on Wednesday: "Palin shared the stage in an anti-abortion rights rally with Texas Governor Rick Perry."
Hill touted how despite making no announcement to make a 2012 presidential run, Palin "was looking an awful lot like a candidate," adding that the appearance with Governor Perry represented "a dream ticket for some tea party supporters." However, after playing a brief clip of Palin, Hill noted how "A just-released Associated Press poll finds of all the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin is the most polarizing."
On Monday's CBS Early Show, political analyst John Dickerson discussed President Obama's strategy against Republicans in Congress, particularly on tax cuts: "[He] said there's got to be a way to pay for it, again trying to put pressure on Republicans to say if you want to spend $700 billion, you've got to find the cuts, make them own those cuts, which are painful and might be quite unpopular."
Earlier, co-host Harry Smith asked about the possibility of Obama and the GOP working together on stopping earmark spending. Again, Dickerson saw the issue as a chance for the President to go after his opponents: "...an opportunity for the President not only to get involved in the conversation but, also, to perhaps drive a bit of a wedge within the Republican caucus, they have different opinions in the Senate, Mitch McConnell has a more favorable opinion of earmarks than say some of the tea party-backed conservative candidates or some House members and the President can say, 'hey, maybe I have a chance to cause a little mischief in the Republican caucus.'"
On Friday, CBS's Early Show previewed President Obama's upcoming 60 Minutes interview by showing a clip of the softest moment of the exchange and skipping over a series of more challenging questions from correspondent Steve Kroft.
While the preview featured Kroft sympathetically asking the President if he hadn't "sold his successes well enough," the 60 Minutes correspondent began the interview by questioning Obama's policies: "At your news conference, you seemed unwilling to accept the idea that this was a rejection, in any way, of your agenda and your policies. Is this a defeat, a reflection on your leadership?" Obama responded by lamenting: "And people looked at that and they said, 'boy, this feels as if there's a huge expansion of government,' and-" Kroft interjected: "Well, it was a huge expansion of government."
In a preview of President Obama's upcoming 60 Minutes interview on Friday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Steve Kroft is shown commiserating with the commander-in-chief over midterm election losses: "People have made the argument you lost control of the narrative, you've let other people define you, that you haven't sold your successes well enough."
Kroft was understanding as he lamented Obama's political problems: "People who were among your most ardent supporters...feel a little disappointed, that they think that you've lost your mojo, that you lost your ability, that touch you had during the campaign to inspire and lead." He noted how "everybody in Washington writes about this sort of aloofness that you have. And I'm sure that drives you crazy."
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith saw Republican goals to limit government spending as antithetical to improving the economy: "How do you unleash the economy and not spend any money, oh, by the way, because that's the other mandate, is don't increase the deficit and don't – don't – 'I don't want one more cent of tax on me.'"
Smith put the question to Time magazine Washington deputy bureau chief Michael Crowley, who was equally skeptical: "I think it may be impossible, frankly. What Democrats would like to do is they would say you actually have to spend more money, have the government put money into the economy to get it moving again." He warned against conservative policies: "Republicans say we're spending too much, maybe cut taxes, but tax cuts aren't free, either, tax cuts increase the deficit. Maybe you could loosen regulations but you saw what happened on Wall Street when things were deregulated. It's really not as simple at this point as doing any of those things without taking a big risk that comes along with it."
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith continued to fret over government gridlock in the wake Republican electoral gains, asking Ann Coulter: "...big Republican wave just rolls in there. There'll be a routine vote, for instance, to increase the debt ceiling and the tea party guys are going to say, 'over my dead body.' And the government comes to a screeching halt. Then what happens?"
Coulter responded by predicting how the liberal media would spin such a scenario: "Well, the media will blame the Republicans. But, it's no longer 1995. That was the last time there was a government shutdown. And America, when there's a government shutdown, they're all responsible. The President is as responsible as Congress. But now we have the internet, so I think the Americans are going to know it this time."
On Saturday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Wyatt Andrews previewed the Washington DC 'Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear,' organized by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: "Almost all of the folks we found said they hope it's about the moderates of America....Stewart seems to have touched what you might call the anti-anger nerve."
Andrews went on to chide conservative figures for divisiveness: "In a year when the President was called a liar and when Fox's Glenn Beck labeled the President a power-hungry socialist and a Nazi." He described how: "Stewart took Beck on." Andrews then explained that rally participants "told us they wanted less name-calling in the media and more accomplishment in Washington." However, he failed to make any mention of Stewart's own long list of vulgar name-calling incidents.
On Monday, while both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today covered the scandal involving reporters at CBS Anchorage affiliate KTVA caught on tape discussing ways to attack Republican Joe Miller's senate campaign, CBS's Early Show failed to make any mention of the incident.
On Good Morning America, White House correspondent Jake Tapper reported: "In Alaska, some reporters with the local CBS affiliate at a rally for Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller accidently left a message on the voice mail of Miller's spokesman." An audio clip of the voice mail played: "You know that of all the people that will show up tonight at least one of them will be a registered sex offender. We need to find that one person." Tapper followed with a clip of Sarah Palin condemning the comments on Fox News Sunday: "Those are corrupt bastards, Chris. That's what's wrong with the media today."
In an interview with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith was already predicting failure if the GOP won control of Congress: "1994 was an important year for Republicans....Some people would say that didn't end so well for the Republicans, especially with the stalemated government. Have you any concerns that that might happen again?"
Barbour, who is also head of the Republican Governors Association, shot back: "It's going to be up to the President. I think the Republicans are going to hear the people very plainly, 'cut out all this spending, don't raise our taxes. Focus on job creation, economic growth.' What's the President going to hear? And I can't answer that."
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith got into the Halloween spirit by dressing up as Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach from the show 'Glee,' and on NBC's Today, correspondent Tamron Hall showed up as President Obama. For Smith, it was the second consecutive Halloween he chose a female persona, going as celebrity chef Julia Child in 2009.