The Early Show on CBS treated FEMA Director Mike Brown and Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) to tough questioning, although Brown was seared by co-host Hannah Storm while Harry Smith, reporting from New Orleans, only slightly singed the state's chief executive, and mostly on relief efforts underway now, not on what the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans could have done before the hurricane.
Below are the questions to Brown and Blanco respectively as I transcribed them.:
Harry Smith, interviewing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on the Early Show today, started off by asking him where all the relief aid was, where the workers were. Smith said he was relaying this as the frequent complaint of Gulf Coast survivors of Hurricane Katrina that he'd been talking to. After Barbour replied that things were being tirelessly coordinated and set in order to get relief to needy residents as soon as possible, Smith prompted Barbour to give the viewers at home a glimmer of hope about the efforts underway:
Yeah, you know, I hear that loud and clear. I guess, you know, as we're out here with the people that have been directly affected by it, it's hard not to have an emotional response to the pain that they're experiencing on an ongoing basis. And I'm just feeling like maybe we're just going to be a little bit of a conduit back to you so you know what's going on down here. Is it, usually in a hurricane, after a day or two, there's a little light on the horizon, there's a little hope on the horizon, what, can you give us any good news today?
It's good and wholly appropriate for Smith to seek to present a balanced picture of the setbacks and progress of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, if only indirectly at Barbour's prompting. Now if only Smith and his colleagues at CBS would apply that template to coverage of Iraq, and balance out their consistently bleak picture with concurrent good news.
ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today this morning ignored the "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy Tour" which is steaming its way towards Crawford, Texas to demonstrate in support of President Bush and the war in Iraq. CBS's The Early Show briefly mentioned it in the 8:30 a.m. news briefing by co-host Julie Chen:
And war protester Cindy Sheehan could face more opposition when she returns to Texas. A group supporting the U.S. mission in Iraq is headed to Crawford, they're calling it the quote, 'You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy Tour.'
The demonstrators are scheduled to arrive in Crawford in the afternoon of the 27th of August. When they arrive, I'll wait, perhaps in vain, for CBS correspondent Mark Knoller to give Deborah Johns coverage equal to that which he gave Sheehan.
Tuesday's morning shows, especially NBC's Today, trumpeted as scandalous Monday's comment by Pat Robertson that "the time has come" for the United States to think about assassinating the communist and virulently anti-American Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, saying the option was better than "another $200 billion war."
"We fine broadcasters for using four-letter words, we say that's offensive. So is it offensive to call for the assassination of a world leader?" NBC's Matt Lauer castigated. Today began its show by showing Robertson, with the words "Thou Shalt Not Kill?" at the bottom of the screen. In spite of the top-of-the-broadcast hype, Today's coverage consisted of two brief stories read by news anchor Natalie Morales during the 7am and 9am updates.
CBS News has not reported this week on Janet Napolitano and Bill Richardson---Democratic governors facing reelection in 2006 in Arizona and New Mexico, respectively-- declaring states of emergency stemming from US-Mexico border security issues. Neither The Early Show nor the CBS Evening News have touched the story. Yet on Sunday, the day after Richardson issued his state of emergency declaration, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer pitched a softball which DNC chairman hit out of the park to slam Republicans as "scapegoating" immigrants for the upcoming 2006 midterm elections:
Yesterday MRC's Rich Noyes posted to Newsbusters and issued a Media Reality Check regarding the broadcast media ignoring the Able Danger story. Today, the Early Show's Hannah Storm interviewed Anthony Shaffer, the Army officer at the heart of the story, which centers on al Qaeda intelligence that he claims military lawyers did not allow him to forward to the FBI during Clinton's administration, as well as the 9/11 commission leaving this fact out of its final report. In an otherwise good interview, however, Storm failed to mention 9/11 commissioner and former Clinton Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick's culpability in writing the controversial "wall" memo which enforced a strict separation of intelligence sharing between the military or CIA and the FBI, as CNSNews.com's Scott Wheeler reported in April 2004:
Unlike last week's brief but welcome departure from biased coverage on gas prices, CBS's Early Show was back to form with its biased reporting today, this time with correspondent Mark Strassmann faulting businesses for factoring higher gas prices into the price of goods and services:"And as prices keep going up, more businesses want customers, want you, to pay fuel surcharges, as if paying for your gas wasn't enough, now you're expected to pay for other people's."
Of course, it shouldn't have to take a brilliant economist to tell Strassmann that all businesses always pass on all their input costs to consumers in the final price of their goods and services, including the costs of fuel as well as wages, health care, taxes, and regulation, and that if not for a separate "surcharge," the additional fuel cost would just be factored and hidden into the "regular" price.
ABC and CBS's morning shows ignored, and NBC only ran one newsbrief item on Friday morning, about the now-pulled and patently false NARAL Pro Choice America advertisement about Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts.
NARAL's 30-second ad, discredited by the non-partisan Annenberg Center Fact Check, ran only on CNN and a few local stations in Maine and Rhode Island (the home states of three pro-choice liberal-leaning Republican senators). Nonetheless, the controversy over the misleading and distorted claims was discussed on cable and hotly debated in the blogosphere, so ignorance of the controversy by the broadcast news desks is not the issue here.
It's impossible to imagine this lack of media scrutiny were it a conservative, pro-life group making false claims about the Supreme Court nominee of say a President John Kerry.
CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante mistakenly characterized seasoned anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's pilgrimage to Crawford, Texas, where Mrs. Sheehan daily protests the war and demands to speak with President Bush. Plante filed a report in the 7:00 a.m. half hour of The Early Show from Crawford which, while noting that opposition to Sheehan from other Iraq military families is starting to grow, mainly focused on support she is receiving from left-wing activist groups like MoveOn.org. Where Plante, and co-host Julie Chen mislead the viewer, however, is how they leave the impression that Sheehan is a political novice who has inspired professional activist groups on the Left to rally to her side. Plante fails to relay how Sheehan has been a vocal anti-war leader and Bush critic for quite a while now, including joining far-left Rep. John Conyers in June in calling for investigations into the Downing Street Memo.
In a rare departure from the media's template on gas price reporting, you know, raise the specter of price gouging, blaming SUVs and other "gas guzzlers," et cetera, CBS's Julie Chen actually mentioned that lack of oil refining capacity is seen by experts as one factor in high gas prices.
Chen relayed this as the second item in her 8:30 a.m. newsdesk briefing on today's edition of The Early Show.
Julie Chen: "The price of gas makes hitting the highway expensive, especially in California. In Hollywood, drivers are now paying $2.99/gallon for regular unleaded. But so far, it's not stopping people from filling up."
Unidentified man at gas station: "Three bucks a gallon isn't nice but, if it bothered me, I'd think of some way around it, right? Drive less."
The broadcast networks and CNN on Monday morning trumpeted the vigil outside of President Bush's Texas ranch by a virulent Bush-hater, but didn't really fully convey her hatred. NBC's Katie Couric showcased her at the top of Today: “And a mother's vigil. Her son died in Iraq. Now this woman is camping outside the Bushes' Texas ranch and demanding a meeting with the President today, Monday, August 8th, 2005." On CBS's Early Show, news reader Julie Chen snidely played off of Bush's vacation: "President Bush may be on vacation in Crawford, Texas, but one mom wants to make sure he doesn't forget there's a war going on in Iraq.” On Saturday, CBS anchor Thalia Assuras had noted how “while President Bush has heralded the sacrifice of the fallen, his words were met with anger today.” That story featured Cindy Sheehan's accusation: “I'm never going to be able to enjoy another vacation because he killed my oldest son."
Full August 9 CyberAlert item follows. For today's MRC CyberAlert, click here.
Political news often lacks the sizzle and spice that morning shows desire. It's hard to hold good ratings if you dwell on the meat and potatoes of public policy that is fairly complex. But everyone understands an allegedly corrupt Democratic congressman getting busted by the feds.
FBI agents raided the Washington and New Orleans homes of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) yesterday as part of an ongoing public corruption probe, law enforcement authorities said.
Agents conducted early-morning raids at Jefferson's homes in the 1300 block of F Street in Northeast Washington and in the 1900 block of Marengo Street in New Orleans, authorities said. His car on Capitol Hill was also searched.
In 2003, Mike Paranzino, a conservative activist, organized BoycottCBS.com in response to the Tiffany Network planning to air a horrendously biased (not to mention poorly acted) miniseries on Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Paranzino and others were successful in getting CBS to drop-kick the dramatic monstrosity to a sister cable network Showtime.
Fast forward to today, and CBS and Paranzino again cross paths, but this time on more amicable terms. Today's edition of The Early Show featured a now-retired stay-at-home dad. Correspondent Tracy Smith reported the feature. No mention was made of Paranzino's fight with CBS, although his career as a political activist was mentioned in passing.
When is a baby a baby? Apparently for the media not when in the womb, even if that child is "planned and wanted" as former Clinton Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was wont of saying. Reporting on the recent birth of Susan Anne Catherine Torres, the daughter of Virginia woman Susan Torres, who suffered a stroke resulting in brain death in May, CBS Early Show correspondents used medical jargon to refer to baby Susan when she was as yet unborn:
CBS The Early Show 3 August 2005 (Wednesday)
Julie Chen, co-host, from Los Angeles studio: "In Virginia, a remarkable delivery, as we noted, a woman who had been brain dead for nearly three months gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday. CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras reports."
Thalia Assuras, narrating taped video, the opening seconds of which were not heard: "...May, the day before Mother's Day, but even in death, the 26-year old gave life again Tuesday by Caesarean section, to one pound thirteen ounce namesake Susan Anne Catherine Torres, a sister for brother Peter."
Jason Torres, husband: "I just hope they see it as the last beautiful act from their mother."
Assuras: "Husband Jason Torres spoke to CBS News in June about his decision to maintain his wife on life support at the Virginia Hospital Center at Arlington, Virginia, until the fetus reached viability. The minimum of 24 weeks in the womb for survivability was surpassed in July."
CBS News isn't alone. The Associated Press and Reuters (yeah, the same guys who call terrorists "militants"), also insisted on the term fetus to describe baby Susan when she was yet unborn.
Ken, it's sad to see coverage of embryonic stem cell research in general, which often omits is that the embryo is currently destroyed before the stem cells can be extracted. All the sympathy is expended on the Cody Unsers, who we recognize as fully human, but the embryos don't even have a cute ultrasound picture to show us they're fully human.
CBS's The Early Show this week offered balance in its treatment of embryonic stem cell research in its two part series, "Two Faces of Hope," but came short of fully delivering. Monday's installment by Hattie Kauffman centered on Cody Unser, a paralyzed stem cell research advocate, with no critics allowed talking head time to cast doubt on the promise of embryonic stem cell research. Tuesday's mostly positive portrayal of frozen embryo adoption by correspondent Tracy Smith, however, featured a critic of embryo adoption, as well as Smith asking her story's subjects, J.J. and Tracy Jones, if they had allowed their adopted son to be used as a "political pawn" at a White House event they attended in May which encouraged embryo adoption.
The Early Show once again ignored the release of a positive economic report. The NFP (Nonfarm Payroll) numbers showed decent gains for June and healthy revisions up for both April and May. After the numbers came out, TES still had time for six stories, including one about a family with a new set of identical triplets to add to their identical twins. At least TES didn't accuse the Bush administration of drafting a couple of the newborns to join the labor force.