CBS's Early Show on Wednesday played up how opponents of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan shouted down GOP representatives at recent town hall meetings, but downplayed them as "less than friendly," and marveled at their apparently "poignant" questions. The network also omitted how liberal groups targeted these meetings, and trumpeted the "nasty national shouting match" at health care town hall meetings in 2009.
News anchor Jeff Glor noted how "House Republicans are back home for the first time since passing an aggressive deficit cutting plan, including the architect of that plan, Congressman Paul Ryan." Glor used the "less than friendly" label immediately before playing a clip of an unidentified protester shouting, "Ryan, stop lying!" outside a town hall meeting held by the Republican in Wisconsin, and another of a woman who directly accused him of "screwing our generation and the next generation."
While the morning show hosts on NBC and CBS showcased the looming political threat of high gas prices for Barack Obama, ABC, Friday, simply repeated White House talking points and explained how the President will try and blame Republicans.
Reporter Bianna Golodryga noted that Obama "wasted no time" in going after the GOP. She parroted, "During his speech in Reno, President Obama argued that budget cuts proposed by Republicans would keep the country from making critical investments in new alternative technologies that could wean our dependence on foreign oil."
Golodryga offered no hint of political danger for the President, instead highlighting his claim to expose "speculators." She touted, "President Obama told a crowd here he's going to go after anybody who gouges." CBS, on the other hand, painted a different picture.
Potential presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose controversial stance on President Obama's birth certificate has made waves in the mainstream media during the past weeks, for one reason or another, has avoided interviews on CBS's morning and evening news programs so far in 2011. In fact, Trump hasn't done an interview on either The Early Show or CBS Evening News in over two years.
CBS's Jan Crawford spotlighted the Tea Party movement on Monday's Early Show, but also played up how it might present a "challenge" for potential Republican presidential candidates due its apparent unpopularity: "Recent polls show 47% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the movement. So candidates looking for Tea Party votes have to be careful not to alienate moderates."
Midway through her report, after noting the would-be GOP presidential candidates, such as Tim Pawlenty and Donald Trump, who showed up at some of the weekend rallies, the correspondent turned to possible downside that these politicians might face in appealing to the Tea Party, playing up a result from a recent CNN/Opinion Dynamics poll:
Both NBC and CBS on Monday highlighted footage of Barack Obama at the Lincoln memorial on Saturday as they portrayed a President ready to cut the deficit. In the wake of an averted government shutdown, NBC's Chuck Todd on Today enthused, "Barely pausing to consider the $38.5 billion in budget cuts he and congressional leaders had just agreed to...Mr. Obama is already looking forward" with plans to lower the debt.
Today then featured footage of the President at the Lincoln Memorial from the weekend. On CBS's Early Show, Nancy Cordes narrated, "The President bounded up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, trying to put the best face possible on a spending deal he had admitted was not to his liking."
On Friday's Early Show, CBS's Betty Nguyen used the Statue of Liberty as a live backdrop to play up how "visitors would miss out on the Smithsonian and its 19 museums...even the National Zoo" if the federal budget impasse leads to a government shutdown. Nguyen also highlighted that the "Cherry Blossom Festival...[is] set to wrap up this weekend, but the parade may not march on if the government shuts down."
Fill-in anchor Rebecca Jarvis introduced the correspondent's report, which ran 10 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, by outlining that the cost of a shutdown might be $8 billion a week "because there are so many government employees who won't be working, agencies that will shut down, and there are costs to restarting them, including our country's national parks, which is where we find...Betty Nguyen at Liberty State Park, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, with more on the expected impact at those locations."
On Tuesday's All Things Considered, NPR's Melissa Block grilled Congressman Joe Walsh, a newly-elected member of the House Tea Party Caucus, on the impasse over the federal budget. Block questioned Rep. Walsh if there was any "middle ground" on the issue, and pressed him with the Democratic caucus's label that the Republicans' budget proposals are "out of whack and unreasonable."
The host led her interview of the Illinois Republican by noting how there was "still no deal. House Republicans holding out for $61 billion in cuts," and then asked, "Is there any middle ground for you?" After Rep. Walsh gave his initial answer, she followed up with the Democrats' talking point: "Democrats, though, say that it's the Republicans who've been intransigent, that the numbers are just out of whack and unreasonable, that you are the side that's not compromising here."
Block forwarded this label of the congressman and his GOP colleagues in her third question, using one of his own quotes to accent her point: "You said in an interview with Time magazine, I came here- meaning to Washington- ready to go to war. The people didn't send me here to compromise. It sounds like you are just as intransigent as you're accusing the Democrats of being."
Over two programs totaling two and half hours of air time, ABC allowed only 65 seconds of coverage for Barack Obama's decision to break a campaign promise and try 9/11 terror suspects at Guantanamo and not in a civilian court. In contrast, all the other network evening shows on Monday and morning shows on Tuesday provided full reports.
On Tuesday's Good Morning America on ABC, Juju Chang mildly explained in a news read, "Well, we begin with a legal turnaround for the Obama administration." On Monday's World News, Diane Sawyer delicately described it as a "switch in positions." Reporter Jake Tapper noted the President has "blinked" in the face of criticism and pointed out this was a breaking of a campaign promise. (This brief mention came during a larger story about the 2012 campaign.)
In contrast, CBS's Katie Couric actually provided much stronger language. She began by asserting, "In other news, a lot of people thought it was a terrible idea to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men on trial here in New York City for the 9/11 attacks." Reporter Bob Orr, unlike Chang, labeled it a "stunning reversal" to try suspects at Guantanamo.
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes portrayed the Tea Party movement as the cause of the budget stalemate in Congress: "With a government shutdown looming, sources say negotiators are homing in on a package of cuts worth $33 billion. That's roughly what Republican leaders proposed last month, before the Tea Party wing demanded that they double their proposal to 61 billion."
Cordes went on to note how "sniping between party leaders is escalating," which was followed by a clip of House Speaker John Boehner calling on Democrats to "have real negotiations" instead of "rooting for a government shutdown." She then remarked: "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid snapped back that it was Speaker Boehner who had been holding up negotiations, not him." In a sound bite, Reid said of Boehner: "I'm glad he's returned to the conversation. It's obvious that he has a difficult situation on his hands." Cordes added: "The situation he's talking about is the group of Tea Party freshmen Republicans who are insisting that Boehner hold firm on large cuts."
New York Senator Chuck Schumer was caught on tape Tuesday instructing his Democratic colleagues on how to spin the media with regard to “extreme” Republicans and their budget cuts. "I always use extreme...That is what the caucus instructed me to use,” Schumer blurted.
The liberal senator was apparently unaware his comments were being recorded (The remarks were made moments before a conference call with reporters began.) Tuesday’s nightly newscasts on NBC, ABC and CBS all skipped the story. On Wednesday, Good Morning America, Today and Early Show did the same.
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge interviewed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and questioned President Obama's Libya policy: "...on Monday, the President said it would be a mistake to send U.S. troops to push out Qadhafi, saying quote, 'We went down that road in Iraq'...taking a shot at you and President Bush....Isn't the President being a bit hypocritical?"
Even Rumsfeld was unwilling to seize on Wragge's characterization: "Oh, I'm not sure I'd use that word." However, he went on to call for greater clarity from the administration on removing Qadhafi: "...the continued ambiguity by the President and the administration about whether or not Qadhafi will ultimately be gone is harmful....as long as the people on the ground are ambiguous as to whether or not Qadhafi's going to stay or leave, more people will be killed."
Only Good Morning America's Jake Tapper on Tuesday pointed out the relatively low public support for Barack Obama's military actions in Libya and the harsh criticism from both the right and the left.
On NBC's Today, Chuck Todd parroted, "[Obama] also took the opportunity to rebut critics on the left and the right about how and whether to target Qadhafi with the military. In total the President used the framework of American values to make the case."
On CBS's Early Show, Bill Plante narrated, "The President defended his decision to use military force in Libya, he said that when the interests and values of the U.S. are at stake, he has a moral obligation to act." Tapper, on the other hand, highlighted both the economic cost and the poor poll numbers.
On the March 25 CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge apparently merged his nuclear terms by warning viewers of leaks of "uranium and plutanium" at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Neither he nor co-host Erica Hill ever corrected the error.
On Friday's CBS Early Show, the network did its first full segment on criticism of the Obama administration's Libya policy, with co-host Chris Wragge declaring: "As the transfer of power gets set to happen, President Obama finds himself on the hot seat over his handling of the crisis." However, the segment that followed featured no input from the President's critics.
A report by White House correspondent Chip Reid described the supposed "control shift" of military operations in the North African nation from U.S. to NATO forces but did not address significant congressional criticism. Following that report, Wragge spoke with political analyst John Dickerson about the criticism of Obama, but started the discussion by wondering if such criticism would start to diminish: "...the President's been getting a lot of criticism from both sides of the aisle from not consulting more with Congress on this, really kind of waiting for this handover to NATO right now. Does that criticism now get brushed back a little with this handover?"
In a report for Thursday's CBS Early Show, contributor Taryn Winter Brill fretted over the impact of movie theater popcorn on Americans' waistlines: "Have you ever wondered how many calories you're actually consuming in that large popcorn with butter? You probably don't want to know. Pretty soon, though, you may not have a choice."
Moments later, nutritionist Katherine Brooking declared the popular concession treat to be "a calorie bomb waiting to explode." Brill then touted a government solution to the problem: "Hoping to defuse this high caloric catastrophe, the FDA is working on a provision in the health care law requiring chain establishments which serve food to list the calorie count of their menu items." She added that Brooking and others "applaud the move."
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge acknowledged for the first time on the network that members of Congress were criticizing the Obama administration for failing to seek their approval on military action in Libya: "In Washington, the Speaker of the House takes on President Obama as to why he didn't talk to Congress before launching the attacks."
While that tease seemed to suggest further discussion of the criticism during the show's Libya coverage, not a single word was mentioned throughout the rest of the broadcast. If a viewer missed those six seconds they would have heard nothing of the serious questions being raised in Washington about the administration's Libya policy.
Of the three morning shows, only ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday highlighted anger and dismay on Capitol Hill that Barack Obama did not seek congressional approval for air strikes against Libya. Reporter Jake Tapper pointed out the "real disappointment" felt by "all the Republicans I spoke to and the liberal Democrats."
An ABC graphic asserted, "Obama faces critics on Libya." Yet, although NBC's Today found time for the latest on Charlie Sheen's escapades, the program couldn't manage a full report on Barack Obama's decision bomb Libya. CBS's Early Show also failed to cover this aspect of the story.
Tapper related, "There was a conference call over the weekend in which one Democrat, one liberal Democrat, read a quote from candidate Obama about the need to seek congressional approval before taking military action and the member of Congress said, 'I agree with candidate Obama.'"
Appearing on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, Newsweek senior writer Andrew Romano touted a survey in the magazine's latest issue showing that 38% of Americans failed the U.S. citizenship test and claimed to know the cause: "One of the big ones is income inequality in the United States. We're one of the most in-equal societies in the developed world."
Romano argued to co-host Erica Hill: "When people don't have a lot of money, there's a difficulty getting a good education, there's a lack of opportunity and a lack of knowledge. That's one of the reasons why we don't do as well as northern European countries, sometimes on these surveys." Hill observed: "So it's really a question of access." Romano replied: "It is. It's a big problem."
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, news reader Jeff Glor declared: "President Obama is ready for March Madness, it appears. He broke out the brackets at the White House yesterday and made his picks in the NCAA basketball tournament." However, he lamented how the commander in chief "Didn't exactly go out on a limb....For his Final Four he chose all number one seeds."
Only moments earlier, Glor received a report from correspondent Mark Phillips in Libya, who described the losing battle rebels were fighting against dictator Moammar Qadhafi. While Glor noted the United Nations was still debating the creation of a no-fly zone to aid the democratic forces, he said nothing of President Obama's unwillingness to "go out on a limb" and lead on the crisis.
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, contributor Taryn Winter Brill touted a new University of Pennsylvania study on the influence of breakfast cereal cartoon characters on children: "Previous research has shown how these images influence children's selections, but now a new study reveals they also influence how the kids think the cereal actually tastes."
In the report that followed, Brill described how marketing campaigns "target" kids to sell unhealthy sugary cereals: "Breakfast cereal is a $10 billion a year business and competition is fierce...especially among children's cereal....They target kids with cartoon characters, in commercials and on boxes, that practically reach from store shelves to grab your kid's attention." The headline on screen during the segment read: "Cereal Offenders; Cartoon Images Affect Kids' Taste Perception."
On Thursday's CBS Evening News, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes implied that the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims was simply a political show put on by committee chairman Peter King: "Ignoring calls from Democrats to cancel his hearing...King embarked on the inquiry in a room newly decorated with fiery images from 9/11."
Cordes later declared that "King's own past assertion that most U.S. mosques are run by radicals" resulted in "poisoning the atmosphere" of the hearing. She remarked on how King's "relations with Muslim leaders there [in his Long Island, NY district] deteriorated after 9/11." A sound bite was then featured of Dr. Faroque Kahn of the Islamic Center of Long Island, who labeled King a "Muslim-basher."
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge declared: "War in Wisconsin. Democrats cry foul as Republicans break a three-week deadlock over the budget battle with a surprise late-night vote." Minutes later, he remarked that the "long standoff over a plan to roll back union rights for state workers is suddenly just about over."
In the report that followed, correspondent Cynthia Bowers described the Republican legislative move as drastic: "In an audacious tactic that will likely be debated for years in Wisconsin, Republican senators yesterday, in a matter of 30 minutes, managed to ram through controversial legislation." She continued to push the idea that it was a shock: "After nearly three weeks of intense protest that sparked a nationwide debate, last night the Wisconsin Senate rushed in to a surprise vote to cut nearly all collective bargaining power from public workers."
Since an undercover sting video was released on Tuesday showing National Public Radio executive Ron Schiller calling conservatives "seriously racist people" – for which he resigned – CBS News has failed to utter a single word about the controversy on its broadcasts. That despite NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron) also being forced out on Wednesday.
In contrast, ABC had a full story on Wednesday's Good Morning America and it led World News that night. On NBC Wednesday, Today only featured a news brief on the scandal, but a full story was featured on the Nightly News.
On ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, co-host George Stephanopoulos fretted over congressional hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims being "potentially explosive" and that "Critics are already calling this a witch hunt." The headline on screen throughout the segment read: "Hearings on Islamic Radicals: Witch Hunt or Reality Check?"
ABC was not alone in touting the "witch hunt" accusation. On CBS's Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes described how "already foes [of the hearings] are calling them discriminatory and a witch-hunt." On NBC's Today, co-host Meredith Vieira introduced a report on the hearings by noting how "critics say it amounts to a witch hunt."
Only ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday highlighted claims by a NPR executive, caught in an undercover sting operation, that Tea Party members are "seriously racist" people. CBS's Early Show completely skipped the subject. NBC's Today allowed a brief mention during a news read.
GMA's Jake Tapper extensively highlighted quotes by the outgoing Ron Schiller: "The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian." In the tapes he can be seen adding, "They believe the term, white, middle-America, gun-toting – I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
Tapper noted that shows such as Sesame Street and Frontline are award-winning. He explained, "Republicans say, then, fine. They should be just well and good without federal funding."
Tuesday's CBS Early Show featured a fawning story on President Obama's Race to the Top Commencement Challenge that sounded like it was written by the White House communications department. What the segment failed to mention was the severe lack of high schools that had actually entered the contest to have Obama speak at their graduation ceremonies.
Co-host Erica Hill teased the story at the top of the 8:30AM ET half hour and portrayed the program as a great success: "More than a thousand high schools tried to get President Obama to deliver their commencement address at last year's graduation. No easy feat to get the President to your high school....how high schools around the country can compete for that honor and a visit from the President again this year." She left out the fact that this year the White House was having tremendous difficulty attracting a similar level of interest.
The three evening newscasts on Monday and the morning shows on Tuesday mostly ignored Barack Obama's abandonment of a campaign pledge to close Guantanamo Bay and end trials of detainees there. NBC's Today, CBS's Early Show and ABC's Good Morning America all covered the story only in news briefs. Yet, when President Bush was in the White House, the networks obsessed over the issue.
Today's Ann Curry called the move to resume military trials there a "stunning reversal," but the network allowed just two brief anchor reads during the four hour program. ABC almost completely ignored the development. Monday's World News skipped the topic entirely.
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Juju Chang offered a single mention, explaining, "And an about-face from President Obama on Guantanamo Bay. He is resuming military trials for terrorism suspects held in Cuba, two years after he pledged to close the prison."
In an interview with former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill wondered if higher gas prices in the wake of Mideast unrest were the result of some sort of fraud: "We've seen prices skyrocket....Is the public right to feel taken advantage of in some ways here, or even scammed?"
Even the liberal Reich didn't accept the premise: "Well look, a lot of this is supply and demand. The country can feel a certain sense of taken advantage of. But some of this is the demand that's coming from China. I mean, you have developing nations all over the world....And their oil needs are very high. And so they are also putting pressure on oil prices. It's not just the Middle East."
If they ever take a break from publicizing Charlie Sheen’s cocaine dos and dont's, or detailing the power politics within his Beverly Hills harem, the networks should grab a copy of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. And they may want to pay special attention to this entry: “Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”
From Feb. 1 through March 6, the three networks distinguished themselves by devoting 20 times more broadcast time to Charlie Sheen’s porn stars and drug issues than to the Planned Parenthood video scandal and the subsequent vote in the House of Representatives to defund the organization.