Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS News who, according to the CBS website, lives in London with her husband, filed a report this morning on the CBS “Early Show” from Baghdad as featured at NewsBusters. The text of her report shows tremendous similarities to an article by Patrick Cockburn published this morning in the British daily The Independent.
To begin with, Cockburn’s article is entitled “Iraq: 1000 Days of War,” with a subheading “From Shock and Awe to a country torn between insurrection and democracy.” Logan’s segment this morning began: “Well, it wasn't long after U.S. Forces unleashed their shock and awe campaign that the Iraq war seemed to be over. But it's now a thousand days since it all began in March 2003 and we're still here.”
On Tuesday morning’s Early Show in the 7:00 half hour, Harry Smith interviewed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. In a humorous moment, during the interview Harry Smith forgot Senator Frist’s name while in the process of asking a question:
"But the violence doesn't seem to be abating Mr. uh , uh , it's, we have 30,000 Iraqis dead, acknowledged by the President yesterday, more than 1,000 United States men and women have died in this conflict thus far, is there a body count at which point the cost of the war is no longer acceptable?"
Smith took a hostile tone with Frist, questioning him with Democratic talking points. While Frist was answering the question, and talking about the dangers of cutting and running in Iraq, Smith interrupted him and asserted that there were no terrorists in Iraq until the United States got there, and that in fact it is the United States who has now created a "terrorist haven" in Iraq.
As Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco prepares for testimony on Capitol Hill tomorrow, some credit should go to CBS for reporting on surfacing documents that show Blanco "in an embarrassing light." It’s a little balance after the FEMA-pounding Olympics at the time. MRC's Mike Rule found that Bob Orr reported:
"As New Orleans was drowning, the staff of Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco feverishly tried to avoid a public relations disaster. New e-mails just released by Republican congressional investigators show the governor's staff worked to portray her as hands on, in control, and a working executive.
"Please put Governor Blanco in casual clothes, a baseball cap, etc," reads one of the emails from a political consultant. "She needs to visit a shelter in prime time and talk tough, but hug on some folks and be sensitive."
Despite some of the optimism that has been expressed in a number of recent media reports leading up to Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq – in particular, the great job that ABC News has been doing the past few days with its “Iraq: Where Things Stand” series – CBS’s “The Early Show” stayed quite glum this morning (video link to follow). Julie Chen introduced the segment stating, “President Bush says progress is being made, but many Iraqis have other ideas.” Lara Logan reporting from Baghdad then played a numbers game that created the appearance that there have been more American deaths in Iraq than is the case:
“Some 18,000 Americans have been killed and injured since the start of this war. But 94% of those casualties occurred after the fall of Baghdad.”
After a month of hounding President Bush for low poll numbers, Thursday’s “Early Show” on CBS ignored their own network's poll showing President Bush’s approval rating has improved by five points over the last month. But a month ago, when a CBS poll found lower ratings for the President, the “Early Show” mentioned it two days in a row. CBS’s Bill Plante was quick to point out that among modern Presidents; only Richard Nixon was lower at this point in his second term. The next day, Thalia Assuras touted how “the President’s poll numbers are defining a new low.” However, CBS's polling partner, the “New York Times”, found President Bush’s rising poll numbers important enough to put on their front page above the fold Thursday morning under a headline reading “Economy Lifts Bush’s Support in Latest Poll,” and the poll was also featured on last night's "CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer.
Yesterday, CBS Early Show co-host Hannah Storm asked White House aide Dan Bartlett about how most Americans think the economy is tanking: "Finally Dan, quickly, I know you came on to talk about the economy today, the President is going to address this today, there are some positive numbers but we have Americans shopping at discounters, they spent their money on gas this summer, they're worried about heating costs. What can you tell the majority of Americans who actually feel that the economy is getting worse?"
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 American media are giving President Bush low marks and mixed reviews regarding his just ended trip to China. Here are some of today’s headlines:
Bush’s China Visit Fails To Narrow Differences (Reuters via Boston Globe)
China Mostly Aloof to U.S. Priorities (Chicago Tribune)
U.S., China Seem to be Worlds Apart (Newsday)
Bush Skirts Rights Issue (LA Times)
CBS’s “Early Show” this morning began its segment on this issue: “The president is getting mixed reviews for his Asia trip after little was accomplished in his meetings with China.”
Yet, the Chinese media were much more positive about Bush’s trip. For example, People’s Daily Online offered the following headline, “Media: Bush's China visit sends "positive signal" to China-US relations.” It conveniently gave a recap of opinions being expressed by other newspapers and websites with links:
CBS’s “The Early Show” began this morning’s program with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq yesterday (video link to follow). Much like the way the networks ignored Rep. Murtha’s past statements against the war in their evening news broadcasts yesterday, Rene Syler began the segment by referring to him as “an influential Democratic congressman with close ties to the military.” Bill Plante called him “a pro-defense Democrat who voted for the war.” Once again, no reference to Murtha having changed his view of the Iraq war back in September 2003 as reported by NewsBusters here.
Plante, while not suggesting that Murtha’s statements yesterday were at all partisan, referred to the White House’s response as “sharply partisan.” In addition, Plante positioned the announcement of a proposed South Korean reduction of troops in Iraq as a “polite protest” of the war by that country, “a decision the White House insisted wasn’t final.” Yet, Plante’s own network is reporting at its website: “The Defense Ministry said it plans to include the troop reduction plan when it seeks parliamentary approval for extending the deployment in Iraq, as it is required to do each year.” As such, it isn’t final.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
CBS’s Thalia Assuras did a piece on “The Early Show” this morning (video link to follow) about President Bush’s falling poll numbers. In it, she took a snippet out of an interview that Bob Schieffer did with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) yesterday on “Face The Nation” to indicate that the senator was “concerned” about these polls and what they are currently suggesting. However, the sentences after this fragment that were not included in Assuras’s report qualified McCain’s concerns.
For example, Assuras stated, “The latest poll shows his support remains at its lowest ever, and that’s causing concern in his own party.” Then came McCain’s quote: “As a loyal Republican and a person who’s loyal to this president I am of course concerned. These numbers are not good.”
However, what CBS chose not to show the viewer were McCain’s next sentences (from caption dump):
CBS's Rene Syler interviewed the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, in the first half hour of today's Early Show. Her first question to Pace was prefaced by the body count of yesterday's suicide bombings at American hotels in Amman, Jordan at the hands of terrorists who had crossed the border from Iraq. In light of that tragedy, Syler wondered: "Do you take this as a sign that we are losing the war on terror?"
Though Syler and other co-hosts of the Early Show mentioned today is Veteran's Day and briefly thanked American veterans for their military service, there were no positive stories on accomplishments in Iraq or Afghanistan or reviews of progress in the war on terror overall. This is par for the course for the Early Show, however, as I've blogged here and here. The full transcript is posted below:
Rene Syler on Wednesday interviewed former President Jimmy Carter yesterday in the 8:30 a.m. EST half hour of the Early Show, tossing him softball after softball which he hit out of the park while plugging his book, Our Endangered Values. In the transcript of her questions below, you'll see her setting up Carter on the "separation of church and state" theme which Carter used to pontificate about conservative dominance of American politics, particularly by the religious right.
Syler might have found it instructive, however, to visit The Living Room Candidate (click on photograph in Carter column entitled "Bible") to see a 1980 television ad for Carter's reelection campaign in which Carter played the faith card in an electoral battle against Reagan.
Julie Chen in the 8:00 a.m. EST half hour of The Early Show hyped "sky-high" gas prices which led to "record profits" for oil companies in a brief anchor-mention on the Senate Commerce hearings today on oil and gas prices, illustrating that a myth debunked in a Free Market Project (FMP) study released last Thursday is still being promoted by CBS News [parts in bold are my emphasis]:
Gas prices haven’t topped inflation-adjusted highs. NBC’s Anne Thompson and other journalists continued to claim “American consumers have suffered through months of record-high gas prices” even as prices dropped.
One of the common themes for gasoline reporting all summer was to claim "record prices," even though the reality was much different. Inflation raises overall prices over time, causing the raw number to go up.A gallon of gas might have cost 25 cents decades ago. That's why inflation-adjusted prices are the only accurate way to compare costs from one decade to the next.
According to the Energy Department, the inflation-adjusted high for a gallon of regular gas is $3.11, set in 1981. But Katrina and Rita sent the media scurrying for stories, and "record highs" were mentioned at least eight times.
CBS was especially fond of the term. It appeared three times during the CBS stories. Anchor Bob Schieffer of the "CBS Evening News" said incorrectly that gas prices had peaked "at a record $3.07 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina" during the October 24 broadcast.
CBS's The Early Show ran a positive story set in Iraq today which cast the work of American troops in a positive light and showed CSI: New York star Gary Sinise airing criticism of negative media coverage. The story by correspondent Hattie Kauffman, however, was a gimmicky plug during "CSI Week" on the Tiffany network's morning show to plug new episodes of the trio of highly-watched CBS crime dramas.
Towards the end of her report on Sinise's charity, Operation Iraqi Children, Kauffman set up Sinise's criticism of the media: "In addition to his performances on the USO tour, Sinise continues to stay in touch with the troops in Iraq. From them, he hears the good news that he complains is overlooked in press coverage."
Sinise: "I get another side of the story that we don't hear through the media, and it's, you know, more positive things happening than you would think."
Kauffman agreed: "The news reports are a bomb, a car bomb, a suicide bomb."
Sinise continued: "It's always about a bomb or a suicide bomber or somebody getting killed. And, of course, that's dramatic and all of that. But on a day-to-day basis, there's a lot of improvement. There's a lot of hope. There's a lot of kids that are going to school that never got to do that before."
Former President Jimmy Carter has a new book and is making the morning show rounds. He appeared on American Morning with Soledad O'Brien via satellite from Washington, DC, and in an excerpt of a taped interview with Rene Syler aired in the 7:00 a.m. half-hour of CBS's The Early Show. Syler's full interview will air at a later date, but if today's excerpt is any indication, it won't be a tough interview with balanced questions.
Syler lets Carter make unsubstantiated claims without asking him for evidence, particularly Carter's assertion that the President always intended to start a war with Iraq, well before 9/11, and his hinting that there is likely a sinister explanation for faulty intelligence before the Iraq war. Syler didn't ask Carter about his fellow Democrats, including former President Clinton, who had similar intelligence from the CIA and made equally alarming claims about the threat from Hussein with weapons of mass destruction in years past.
It's not every day a major al Qaeda figure with a huge bounty on his head gets captured, so when that happens, you'd expect it to lead the news. But apparently not at CBS, where the Early Show led instead with President Bush's latest poll numbers and the Lewis "Scooter" Libby court appearance today.
First, the teasers from the opening credits tipped off the readers to which story the Early Show found more important:
Hannah Storm, co-host: "The Vice President's former chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby will be arraigned today in the CIA leak case. This as President Bush's approval rating hits an all-time low. We'll get the latest from the White House."
Harry Smith, co-host: "I'm Harry Smith. In the war on terror, one of America's most wanted men, a key al Qaeda leader with a $5 million bounty on his head has been captured in Pakistan. We'll have details."
The broadcast network morning shows did segments today concerning yesterday’s surprise “closed session” in the Senate demanded by Democratic minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). All three appeared quite pleased with what occurred while suggesting that it was a big win for the Democrats, and indicating that the Republicans were very angered by “the stunt.” However, even though they have now had almost a day to research the history of such events, much like what was reported by NewsBusters yesterday, not one of the programs discussed just how rare these sessions are, or questioned why this subject matter warranted a closed session. (Video links of the CBS and NBC segments to follow.)
As soon as network reporters heard of his nomination, they began to brand Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a right-wing extremist. During live coverage Monday morning, ABC's Charles Gibson termed Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of an otherwise "liberal appellate court." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello. On Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin labeled Alito as "conservative" five times in 50 seconds.
Monday's evening newscasts carried the same message. On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Alito a "staunch conservative," while Terry Moran found him "deeply conservative." CBS's John Roberts said that "if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction." In contrast, NBC's Brian Williams, agreed Alito was "dependably conservative" but he also saw an "independent streak," as did reporter Pete Williams.
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is conservative and all the television coverage Monday morning made that clear, but several reporters went further by either repeatedly applying the tag or by adding adjectives to suggest he's out of the mainstream. On ABC's Good Morning America, Jessica Yellin issued five labels in under 50 seconds, describing Alito as someone who will please Bush's "conservative base," has "established conservative credentials," is "a law and order conservative," who is "in the mold of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia" and whose "writing is so similar to the conservative justice's, he's sometimes nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Just before Bush's announcement, Charles Gibson called Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of the otherwise "liberal appellate court." Gibson soon repeated himself: "The President has picked somebody very conservative." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied a few minutes earlier on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello before Jeffrey Toobin applied the "very conservative" tag. NBC's Katie Couric asserted that Alito "could be a controversial choice" because he's "a favorite on the right and he would replace moderate justice Sandra Day O'Connor."
Still shot is of Yellin. Transcripts of above and more quotes follow.
As ABC, CBS, and NBC all dived into live coverage today to report the indictment of Vice President Cheney's top aide Scooter Libby, this is not at all the way the networks covered indictments of cabinet officers in the Clinton years.
In September 1997, we reported in Media Watch that when former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 39 counts, the networks aired a single evening news story. Three of the four networks -- ABC, CNN, and NBC -- underlined that the Smaltz inquiry had so far cost $9 million. None of them noted civil penalties originating from targets of Smaltz's inquiry amounted to more than $3.5 million. The next morning, CBS's morning show, called CBS This Morning, didn't even mention Espy's indictment. Months later, I noted in a Media Reality Check that on December 11, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts for misleading the FBI about payoffs to a mistress, Linda Medlar. NBC Nightly News filed one story; ABC's World News Tonight gave it 18 seconds. CBS Evening News didn't arrive on the story until the next night, and gave it nine seconds, a fraction of the two minutes Dan Rather gave the nightly El Nino update, about the weather "giving a gentle lift to the monarch butterfly." The morning shows were worse: NBC's Today passed on two anchor briefs, and ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning ignored it.
The Miers withdrawal having not yet broken and indictments in the Plame investigation still uncertain, the Early Show focused primarily on Hurricane Wilma in their first half hour's coverage. They seem to have gone for the "government response is painfully slow while people suffer" angle, casting doubt on FEMA and state disaster relief agencies as millions are still without power and face long lines for gas, food, and water.
First co-anchor Rene Syler led off at 7:05 EDT, tossing to Trish Regan live from Miami:
"President Bush visits southern Florida today, where there is growing frustration over relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. There are shortages of food and fuel, and some four million people remain without power. CBS News correspondent Trish Regan is live in Miami with more on this. Trish, good morning."
Regan opened: "Good morning, Rene. Well, people are growing increasingly frustrated, they're waiting sometimes five hours in line for basic things like food, water, and ice. I can tell you this morning, already, the gas lines have started. The biggest issue here for people is their lack of power."
In an attempt to downplay the scope of the communist infilitration into our government in the 1950's and the true role Joseph McCarthy played during the era of so-called "McCarthyism", George Clooney stated on the Early Show that: "Yes, there were communists infiltrating some areas of government. Not many, a couple of guys" in promoting his new movie.
A couple of guys? As I pointed out in my most recent column, there were more than just "a couple" of Soviet spies in various levels of our government and society. (See the end of this posting for a brief list).
But CBS wouldn't challenge this claim of downplaying McCarthy against famed CBS reporter Edward Murrow. After all, as they note: Clooney's "latest project falls firmly into the latter category and is very close to Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith and those working at CBS News." Why would CBS challenge anything positive that is said about one of its own reporters?
CBS's David Martin filed a report on today's Early Show on the sacrifice paid in Iraq by small towns across the country as 25 percent of the Iraq war dead are from rural areas compared to 20 percent of the military as a whole hailing from rural America. Martin focused on the July death of Sergeant Victor Anderson in his story. Anderson was a reservist from Ellaville, Georgia, a town with a population of 2,000, which Martin noted in the closing of his report, the same number of US deaths in Iraq.
Martin's piece put a face on the 2,000 benchmark and used the number to illustrate the loss of life in the Iraq war already as equal to that of a small tight-knit, patriotic Southern town. But in August, the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave its readers a fuller look at Anderson as a person, a Reservist who worked hard to lose weight and pass physical muster to be shipped out to Iraq rather than work a desk stateside:
In the months leading up to the imminent announcement from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald concerning “Leakgate,” there has been an endless stream of gloomy predictions from mainstream media representatives that indictments would destroy the Bush administration, and totally dismantle the president’s agenda for the rest of his second term. For example, as was reported here, David Gergen stated on yesterday’s “Early Show,” “If indictments are handed down, it's going to be a real blow to the administration and comes at a terrible time.” And, “If [Bush] were to lose Karl Rove, he'll lose a right arm. And it’s really hard to climb out of a hole without your right arm.”
By contrast, CBS’s Hannah Storm had Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins on “The Early Show” this morning, and the two high-profile pols didn’t agree with this assessment. In fact, both stated that if indictments are issued for Lewis Libby and Karl Rove which force them to resign, it could end up being a good thing for this White House (video link to follow):
[An update to my colleague Tim Graham's posts on Good Night and Good Luck co-star and director George Clooney found here and here.]
CBS Early Show host Harry Smith today interviewed George Clooney in the last half hour of the program. At one point Smith---who apparently from the interview really liked the film---notes he saw a screening of the film in New York City, with other journalists and asks Clooney for the reaction he received from his colleagues:
Harry Smith: "I saw it at a screening here in New York. Every newsperson in the city was in the room. You were there. What did they tell you afterwards?"
[Clooney: "...for us, it was quite something to have Morley Safer or Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw, any of the guys come over and tap you on the shoulder and say, 'you got it right.'"]
Smith: "Got it right, got it right. It's interesting because the battle in the newsrooms. We think of that time back then as being simpler in some way, because here is Murrow who is clearly on a crusade. But he's fighting with his bosses, he's fighting with Bill Paley. Let me run this clip, and it shows that, were it ever thus. Things never change. Take a look at this."
Smith went on later in the interview to lament the lack of modern day Murrows willing to "sacrifice" what Murrow was when airing the McCarthy documentary:
As reported here by NewsBusters, U.S. News and World Report’s editor-at-large David Gergen on CBS’s “Early Show” last Friday made the claim that the Wilson/Plame affair had some similarities to Watergate. Today on the same program, Gergen changed direction, and is now comparing this “scandal” to former President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings (video link to follow):
“Well, you know, the country went through a large conversation about that just a few years ago about Bill Clinton because the underlying events there with Monica Lewinsky were not illegal. But what he got charged with and what he was impeached by in the house was whether he had lied about it after the fact. So -- and we know -- you know, Harry, going way back to Watergate, that the standing rule -- standard rule in Washington is the cover up is always worse than the crime. So I would be cautious in dismissing the idea that if there's no underlying crime, there's nothing serious about this. Perjury and obstruction of justice have long been regarded as serious crimes. You're expected under the majesty of the law, to tell the truth to investigators. And Richard Thornburgh, a former Republican attorney general, has taken a view, I think rightly, that perjury and obstruction are in and of themselves serious.”
The first half-hour of today's Early Show featured a brief anchor read by Hannah Storm on the 1,998th and 1,999th American deaths in Iraq, followed two segments later with a Bill Plante segment on the Valerie Plame leak investigation (sandwiched between was an obituary for civil rights icon Rosa Parks who died yesterday). At the end of Plante's piece, he suggested the upcoming 2000-fatality benchmark is just the cherry on top of the problems the White House is having with the Miers nomination and the Plame investigation:
Adding to the President's problems, of course, the fact that the U.S. death toll in Iraq will soon pass 2000, and that links directly back to the argument at the heart of the leak investigation, the justification for the war. Hannah?
Yet the particular political tussle which sparked the leak and hence the investigation---the assertions of Valerie Plame's husband Joseph Wilson--- has since been discredited or severely questioned in a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, a fact Plante doesn't mention but was reported prominently at the time, including Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post on July 10, 2004:
Filing a report from the White House lawn shortly after 7:30 this morning on CBS's Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante described Vice President Cheney's chief-of-staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby as both high-profile and little-known:
Fitzgerald has turned out to be more thorough than just about anyone has anticipated. He has focused on two of the President's highest-profile aides: Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both of whom talked to reporters about the Valerie Plame case and her husband Joseph Wilson. Libby is the Vice President's chief-of-staff and his national security adviser. A little-known but key analyst and confidante. A major proponent of the war in Iraq, Libby was reportedly enraged by Valerie Plame's husband Joseph Wilson's criticism of the war. His testimony to the grand jury about what he said and when may be at odds with that of some reporters.
Of course, Rove has been a source of mainstream media fascination as well as a left-wing bogeyman since President Bush took office. Lewis Libby, however, has not had the same cachet. A search in Nexis of "Karl Rove" in CBS News transcripts from January 20, 2001 (President Bush's first inauguration) to October 1, 2005 produced 178 hits while a search for "Lewis Libby" in the same time frame produced only 25 hits, with all but six of them occurring since June 2004. A search for "Scooter Libby" produced 17 hits, some of which were duplicates of the "Lewis" search.
My colleague, NBC analyst Geoff Dickens, earlier noted the Today show ruminating on the 2000 casualty-benchmark which may soon be reached in Iraq. CBS's Early Show also featured a story on this theme in their first half-hour. Unlike the Today show, however, the casualty story was not linked with unrelated political stories like the Plame investigation, indeed, the Early Show treatment of that came in the next half hour. Another difference: the Early Show's Syler did ask for positive news (see portion in bold below), from Baghdad-based correspondent Kimberly Dozier on the constitution referendum:
Rene Syler in New York Early Show studio @ 0708 EDT: "In Iraq, the US military approaches a painful milestone. Nearly 2000 American troops have been killed since the war began. Again, today, insurgents are on the attack. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier is live in Baghdad. Good morning, Kim."