Some people may have been wondering if the nine-day old Dick Cheney hunting story would be going away. Don’t count on it. On the February 20 edition ofthe Early Show, Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor at Newsweek, told Harry Smith that "People who don’t like [Cheney] think this is the dark, Darth Vader type." His analysis coincided with the new issue of Newsweek that features a cover story, written by Thomas, on "Cheney’s Secret World." The online edition features this sub-headline:
"He peppered a man in the face, but didn’t tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney’s dark, secretive mind-set-and the forces that made it that way." (Italics added)
Things didn't work out well at the Olympics for Johnny Weir, the flamboyant American figure skater. Favored to take home a medal, he finished a disappointing fifth after a very rugged long program.
But Johnny shouldn't feel too bad. When he hangs up the skates, there could be a promising second career for him . . . as a member of the liberal media.
Interviewed on CBS' Early Show this morning, Weir explained that he knew he wasn't at his best on the day of the long program, and in particular wasn't "feeling pretty." Then, waxing philosophical, he noted that things aren't always perfect. If they were, Michelle Kwan would be skating, and "we wouldn't be in Iraq."
Is it possible? Could there be a new angle to the controversy surrounding Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident? Desperate to try and keep this story alive, CBS’s "The Early Show" certainly tried to create one today as they attempted to highlight the Vice President’s "unprecedented power" and explore the rift this incident exposed between the Presidential and Vice Presidential staffs.
Take the following quote from CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante referring to how the Vice President chose to put the word out for example:
Bill Plante: "In any other White House, no Vice President would be able to make that call. But Dick Cheney is in a class by himself. It is clear, and this exposed it, that there are tensions between his office and the West Wing.
Since Sunday, Vice President Cheney has been accused of trying to cover up his hunting accident, since the media establishment wasn’t notified right away about the mishap; he has been fodder for late night comedians, and today on the Early Show on CBS, he had his manhood questioned by super liberal Katrina vanden Heuvel: "...I’m not sure real men hunt..."
Vanden Heuvel was on the program with Bay Buchanan. For viewers, this would be a balanced perspective on Mr. Cheney’s hunting incident, right? Wrong. Hostess Hannah Storm asked pointed questions of Ms. Buchanan, even following up on a few, but tossed slow pitch softballs at Ms. vanden Heuvel, allowing her to take political shots at the Bush administration and spout talking points one would expect to find at Moveon.org with impunity, as Storm allowed the comments to go unchallenged. For instance, take the following exchange between Hannah Storm and Bay Buchanan:
Let me begin by stating the obvious, the media has overblown the coverage of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, and nowhere was that more clear than on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. There were a total of 6 stories dealing with the subject this morning, as well as one story tease. Four of these stories plus the story tease occurred in the first fifteen minutes of the broadcast.
Julie Chen opened the program:
Julie Chen: "Good morning, I'm Julie Chen. Hunting for answers, there's a growing firestorm over the delay in reporting Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident as White House spokesperson Scott McClellan was pounded with questions at a press briefing Monday, we'll have all the latest"
In the wake of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, Harry Smith did a segment on hunting safety in the 8:00 half hour of this morning’s "The Early Show" on CBS complete with broomsticks. Dressed in an orange vest and holding a broom, Smith may have been confused for a member of the cleanup crew out on the plaza. However, we were informed that the orange vest was a hunting vest and we were supposed to pretend that the broom was a shotgun. But, if they were using brooms to represent shotguns, were the vests necessary, or were they truly fearful that the brooms may accidentally fire?
I can understand why Harry Smith and CBS wouldn’t want to use real guns for the segment, safety concerns for instance, but couldn’t CBS have spent $20 and bought some toy guns for the segment? In any case, Harry Smith’s explanation suffers from delusions of grandeur:
Imagine you're a member of the media, and in your heart you believe that a major official wouldn't mind seeing you burn to death. Think that might affect the way you cover him?
A comment on this morning's "Early Show" by veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante, while perhaps intended to be light-hearted, pulled back the curtain on just how antagonistic the White House press corps believes VP Cheney to be toward them. But more importantly, it suggests how antagonistic they likely feel in return.
The topic was the Veep's accidental shooting of hunting partner Harry Whittington, and more particularly the very contentious press conference yesterday between the White House press corps and presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. Windows Media or Real Player
With regards to the war on terror, what is the focus of the mainstream media? Is it fighting and winning? Or are they more concerned with embarrassing the Bush administration? Fran Townsend, a White House Homeland Security advisor, appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News on Friday, February 10th. The contrast could not be more stark. CNN, CBS and ABC focused on warrants, wiretaps, and whether the mayor of Los Angeles was properly informed of the President’s speech regarding a foiled attack. All of these networks, except FNC, failed to ask Townsend about the prison break of 23 terrorists, including 13 members of Al Qaeda, which one would assume is an important story.
Ms. Townsend appeared first on the CBS Early Show at 7:10AM EST. Harry Smith seemed skeptical about the timing and the subject of the President’s speech. He started by asking, "Why did the President choose yesterday to reveal this information about a plot that’s almost four years old now?" Ms. Townsend patiently explained that the members of the cell had been arrested and the leads exhausted, therefore this case was one that the President could freely discuss. Smith then went on to question whether there was an actual threat:
No more than a couple years ago, headlines invoking Britney Spears in a "lap" controversy might have brought to mind images of graphic goings-on in the Champagne Room.
But time marches on, and Britney-the-new-mother is now caught in a lap-gate of an altogether different sort after photos were snapped of Britney driving her car with her four-month old son in her lap rather than secured in a car seat. In the latest development, according to this LA Times article, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy went to her Malibu home on Tuesday "to collect information for child welfare investigators" in connection with the matter. For the record, Spears says she was feeling hounded by paparazzi and drove off with the baby in her lap to escape them.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.
Here CBS goes again. Today, with the aid of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on President Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, CBS’s The Early Show was able to once again focus on "domestic spying." Three times in the first 9 minutes of the 7:00 half hour, there was a mention of "domestic spying."
Harry Smith led off the broadcast at 7:00 with the following tease:
Harry Smith: "Good morning, I'm Harry Smith, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be on the hot seat today defending President Bush's highly controversialdomestic spying program at a Senate hearing, we'll have details."
Both NBC's "Today" on Thursday and CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday jumped on one liberal-sounding line of Bush's State of the Union address: that America is "addicted to oil."
Matt Lauer began "Today" by joking like he was attending an Alcholics Anonymous meeting. "I'm Matt and I'm addicted to oil."
Katie responded, along with rest of the crew: "Hi Matt!"
Lauer elaborated: "You get the point. In fact it's an addiction all Americans have. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's supply and most of that for driving. Well this week President Bush called on America to break its dependence on foreign oil and search for new cleaner, energy sources but presidents, as you know, have been saying that for decades. Why is oil such a hard habit to break and does the oil used in your home actually affect what's happening in the Middle East? We'll get into that."
As was reported yesterday on NewsBusters, Democratic Senator John Kerry wasn't challenged on the Today show after he claimed that 53% of Americans don't graduate from high school. Well on this morning's Early Show, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin made an equally silly claim, "50% of all residents in the United States live along the Gulf Coast." I listened to the soundbite several times to ensure I heard him correctly.
The claim came during an interview with Harry Smith about President Bush's State of the Union Address and the challenges in rebuilding New Orleans, but was Harry Smith even listening to Nagin? One would think a competent journalist would have picked up on such an outragreous claim and challenged Nagin on it, or asked Nagin to clarify his remarks. Would Smith had let that slide if it were a Republican making such assertions?
Sometimes, it's interesting to follow the choice of words reporters use and wonder whether they mean to send subtle signals. Yesterday morning, in Bill Plante's report on the "Early Show" on why the State of the Union speech might be important for Bush, David Gergen explained in a soundbite that it could be crucial for maintaining the GOP majority in the next two election cycles. Plante followed up: "And that's one reason the theatrical ritual of the president appearing before Congress in this spectacle continues even though there's no requirement for it."
Spectacle? That word could connote an embarrassing appearance. A Nexis search of CBS for “spectacle” and “State of the Union” finds this from the Saturday "Early Show" of January 16, 1999, where the “spectacle” was not Clinton’s speech but the Senate impeachment trial:
Tonight President Bush will deliver his annual State of the Union Address, and Harry Smith of the "Early Show" previewed the speech this morning. Smith interviewed Dan Bartlett, Counselor to the President in the 7:00 half hour and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the 7:30 half hour. There were stark differences in the tone Smith took with each of his guests, and in the amount of time allotted to each. Bartlett was on the program for only 3 minutes, and fielded 3 questions, while Senator Kennedy was given 7 minutes to answer four, two of which related to the passing of Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Following a routine introduction of Dan Bartlett, Harry Smith asked some tough questions which in itself is not bias, but when that is combined with the negative tone that was taken and compared to the way Senator Kennedy was treated, it raises questions about fairness. The following are Smith’s questions for Bartlett.
There’s an old rule in marketing – stick to what sells. Lately, it appears that America’s media are doing exactly that.
Since the significant rebound in the president’s poll numbers from their October lows, along with an apparent lack of outrage by the public concerning the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and revelations of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, the media seem to be downplaying reports on current events, and, instead, focusing attention on last year’s big story that was largely responsible for the decline in Bush’s favorability ratings.
In the past three days, the media have given more air time and print space to issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, an event that occurred at the end of August 2005, than a one and a half-hour question and answer session in Kansas that the president held on Monday, and a one-hour address that the second most powerful intelligence figure in our nation gave concerning terrorist surveillance the same day.
On CBS, The Early Show opened this morning with a discussion of the NSA's electronic surveillance program on Al-Qaeda suspects that it continues to call "domestic spying." It was the first item teased at the open. Rene Syler:
Using the National Security Agency as a backdrop, President Bush today will once again defend his domestic spying program as vital to the war on terror.
Less than a minute later, as they introduced the various stories they'd be covering, it was mentioned again. Julie Chen:
As we noted, President Bush has been defending his covert program to spy on Americans, and we'll have the latest on that in just a moment.
It’s been apparent since the story broke about President Bush’s terrorism surveilance program that the media wanted to frame the debate as "domestic spying" and warrantless wiretaps, and nowhere has this been more clear than on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. In the span of 9 minutes, there were two stories regarding the subject, and four mentions of or references to this topic.
7:00 Story Tease:
Good morning, I'm Julie Chen. Despite questions about its legality, President Bush is vigorously defending his domestic spying program saying it's necessary to fight terrorists. We'll hear what the President had to say and talk to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Chen: "First we want to get right to our top story this morning, domestic spying. President Bush is vigorously defending the controversial eavesdropping plan. He insists it's legal and vital to the war on terrorism. CBS Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante has the very latest. Good morning to you, Bill."
MRC's Mike Rule reports that CBS's "Early Show" had a typical breakdown of the debate over Oregon's assisted-suicide law. It's "patients" vs. "conservatives."
As Wyatt Andrews reported: "The ruling legalizes the right of terminally ill Oregon patients, patients like Jack Newbold, to end their lives when they choose with a doctor prescribed dose of barbiturates. Newbold died of his bone cancer but felt that his lethal prescription gave him power to the end...(Followed by old Newbold soundbite)...Patient groups in Oregon cheered the decision, and they predicted that other states will pass laws like Oregon's. Conservatives, however, will ask Congress to ban assisted suicide." (Introducting a soundbite from pro-life lawyer James Bopp.)
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.
On this morning’s Early Show on CBS, co-host Julie Chen teased a segment on the Abramoff situation by claiming there was "major fallout in Washington" surrounding the "Capitol Hill Corruption Scandal." What was she referring to? To me, major fallout would mean there were indictments or resignations or a slew of Congressmen announcing they would not seek reelection. But no, she was referring to the fact that President Bush and other senior Republicans were going to rid themselves of donations that came from Jack Abramoff. It began:
"I'm Julie Chen. Major fallout in Washington in the wake of the Capitol Hill corruption scandal. President Bush and senior Republican lawmakers plan to dump thousands of dollars in campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff; we'll have that story."
CBS’s Harry Smith on Wednesday’s “The Early Show” saluted New York Times reporter James Risen, who in a December 16 front-page article exposed an ongoing National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence-gathering operation aimed at thwarting al Qaeda attacks in the U.S., and whose new book, “State of War,” amplifies his concerns with the way the U.S. government has pursued the war on terror.
Shortly after 7:30 this morning, Smith touted his upcoming interview with Risen, advertising him as “the author of a new book the Bush administration does not want you to read.” A few minutes later, he introduced Risen by asserting that the NSA’s surveillance program “has shocked many Americans.” Smith used sinister language to describe the NSA program:
Yes it’s the Friday before New Year's. Yes there is not much in the way of news. But CBS was so desperate to fill time this morning, they brought on an astrologer to predict the future. Needless to say, she predicted a bad year in 2006 for both President Bush and the economy. Would it really have been on CBS had she done otherwise?
In the 8:30 half hour of this morning’s "Early Show," host Harry Smith interviewed the writer of the daily astrology column for the New York Daily News, Susan Miller. Smith began the interview inquiring about the President’s moons and planets.
Harry Smith: "Now, you know, one of the people who really had a tough year last year, his approval ratings down, everything else, President Bush. How are his moons and planets?"
I know this is the week between Christmas and New Years, but did CBS really need to dig up 12 year old news to fill time this morning? The subject was commercial advertising on public school buses in Colorado Springs, an outrage pretty much contained to liberals who hate commercials and lower school taxes.
In the 7:00 half hour of Wednesday’s Early Show, host Harry Smith interviewed two guests about the growing trend of school districts selling advertising space on their school busses, and once again the Early Show is more than a decade late in reporting the controversy (Christmas Card Controversy). Elaine Naleski, Director of Communications for Colorado Springs District 11 school, told Harry Smith "Colorado Springs District 11 started putting ads on busses in 1993 and it was because they couldn't pass a tax increase of any kind..." So why is this news? Could it be that CBS wanted to put on a guest that would argue that higher taxes are the answer? Gary Ruskin of the "consumer group" Commercial Alert opposed the idea of private revenue sources and called for higher taxes when he told Smith, " The answer is for school districts to band together and to demand a partial revocation of the Bush tax cuts and send it back to schools and police and fire departments that are absolutely abjectly poor." Ruskin neglected to mention that the Federal government is spending more money than ever on education, and that spending on education has risen faster under President Bush than it had under President Clinton, nor did Harry Smith feel the need to mention that fact either.
As Michael's blog mentions, this is CBS reporter Kelly Cobiella's depressing story from Iraq this morning, another attempt to record new victories for the efficient terrorists:
"The final election results from the December 15 election still aren't in, but the preliminary numbers have sparked massive protests and a new wave of violence. Thousands of angry protestors marched in the streets of Baghdad demanding new elections under United Nations supervision, they say the religious Shiite coalition has stolen the mid-December vote; they're threatening to boycott the new parliament if they don't see a change. As many here feared, the election results are already sparking a new wave of sectarian violence across the country -- a pipeline up in flames, a well-coordinated attack on an Iraqi checkpoint in Baqouba, and six blasts which rocked Baghdad.
On Tuesday morning’s Early Show on CBS, host Harry Smith continued to spread media pessimism about the situation in Iraq while interviewing Michael O’Hanlon from the left leaning Brookings Institution in the 7:00 half hour. Smith began the interview by asking O’Hanlon about the return of violence in Iraq, "We just watched this piece with Kelly Cobiella, there had been this peace, this lull, this sort of seeming cessation of violence during the election period and for awhile, the violence is back again, there are lines at gas stations because the price of gas has gone up in Iraq, it seems a little bit like business as usual has returned there, what do you make of this?" Smith later expressed his doubts about democracy in Iraq and their future ability to establish a government, "people are encouraged to participate in this democracy, can they form a government was the question we were asking a couple of weeks ago, do you see any signs that this is actually going to take place?"
1. On the Finkelstein-strike beat, MRC’s Scott Whitlock says NBC reporter Michelle "Canoe Girl" Kosinski used the I-word ("illegal") for the first time on "Today" in reporting, "The illegal strike is taking a toll on the city’s economy, says the city’s mayor."
2. Scott also notes that CBS’s "Early Show" brought up the other I-word ("impeachment") again this morning, as co-host Hannah Storm asked CBS analyst Gloria Borger about the NSA surveillance hubbub, "What is the fallout of this going to be? Some people are already talking of impeachment proceedings." Borger shot that down: "Well, I think that’s a bridge too far." That's milder than Jonathan Turley's encouraging words about Bush's high crimes yesterday.
Substitute co-host Russ Mitchell of CBS’s The Early Show interviewed legal scholar Jonathan Turley about the "spy scandal" on Wednesday in the 7:00 half hour. Mitchell used the interview to have Turley explain why those opposed to the President are legally accurate, and why impeachment proceedings against President Bush may be appropriate. Windows Media or Real Player
From the very beginning, this segment took a negative tone against the President and his administration, and like many interviews and stories, was completely one sided. Mitchell framed the story, as many media outlets do, in a way to give the impression that the government is spying on everyone at all times, "As we said, Capitol Hill is buzzing about the President's admission to spying on Americans without obtaining warrants," but he ignored the limited nature of the program in that it was limited to international communications and one of the parties must have known ties to terror.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
This morning on CBS's "The Early Show," in the 7:00 half hour, Rene Syler interviewed their regular political analyst Craig Crawford about whether the President broke the law in authorizing eavesdropping without a warrant, and the President’s poll numbers. This segment was one sided and negative towards the President.
Syler opened her segment saying "In a news conference Monday, President Bush vehemently defended spying on Americans to protect them against terrorism. The President said he broke no law authorizing the secret program and said the practice would continue despite concerns that it infringes on civil liberties." In introducing a story in this way, it would be fair to assume the bulk of the interview would be on this subject. Wrong. The interview ranged from the foreign surveillance issue, to finding the negatives in improving poll numbers for the President, to an assertion by Craig Crawford, in answering a question about what this is all about and what these issues mean, that what’s at stake here is not only control of Congress, but the Constitution.