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.
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge introduced a story updating the John Edwards scandal and potential legal charges against the former Senator: "...a grand jury has been looking at evidence that he may have violated campaign finance laws. Now the former Democratic presidential hopeful has hired a political heavy hitter to fight off possible charges."
In the report that followed, legal correspondent Jan Crawford continued to take the focus off Edwards and place it on prominent liberal attorney Greg Craig: "Edwards has now enlisted a heavyweight...Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig has joined Edwards' team....Experts say bringing him on the case is a sign Edwards is worried about where this investigation is heading." The headline on-screen throughout the segment read: "Bracing For A Fight; John Edwards Hires Fmr. White House Counsel."
At the top of Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proclaimed: "Tough talk. As the violence continues to escalate between rebel forces, and Moammar Qadhafi's military, President Obama sends a clear message." A sound bite was played of Obama calling on Qadhafi to step down on Thursday. In a later report, correspondent Mandy Clark claimed Obama had "drawn his line in the sand."
On the February 24 Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted the "very strong words" in the President's first public statement on the crisis. On that same broadcast, Clark claimed that Libyans "...felt encouraged that the President had come out with such strong words. They now feel that the eyes of the international community is upon Qadhafi, and that will force him to hold back on any bombing campaigns or any war crimes that he might commit."
Discussing the possibility of Newt Gingrich running for president in 2012, on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted "big negatives" for the former House speaker: "...baggage that he brings with him...the government shutdowns back in the '90s, to being forced out as speaker, to the fact that he's on his third marriage, which is probably going to alienate some social conservatives."
Political analyst John Dickerson agreed with Wragge's assessment: "Well, some of that baggage, they're trophies. He can say, 'I fought for these principles harder than anyone else.' But as you say, the personal baggage is considerable. He's not only had multiple marriages but he is an admitted adulterer. That matters in Republican primaries, where religious voters care about that kind of thing."
ABC and NBC touted the Obama administration's new report on women by leading their evening news shows with it on Tuesday. Diane Sawyer gushed over the "huge new report," while NBC's Savannah Guthrie trumpeted the "first comprehensive White House report on women since...Kennedy asked Eleanor Roosevelt to lead a study." CBS also highlighted the report on Evening News and on The Early Show the next day.
NBC's Brian Williams, during his introduction to correspondent Savannah Guthrie's report, proclaimed how "the White House reported some new numbers today about women in this country, and while, in many ways, women continue to pass men by, an old problem is just as bad, just as serious, and it continues to hold women back economically." After noting the gains by women in terms of college attendance, Williams continued that the problem was "the pay gap in the workplace, and that hasn't changed."
Guthrie began with her Eleanor Roosevelt line, and continued that the report "paints a portrait of a modern woman- less June Cleaver, more Liz Lemon" (Tina Fey's character from "30 Rock"). She then spouted some of the figures from the Obama administration document:
During a report on the latest developments in Wisconsin for Wednesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Cynthia Bowers proclaimed that the 14 Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois to block Governor Walker's budget proposal from passing have "become heroes to protesters." She lamented: "Now comes word, albeit from a Republican, some may be ready to come home and concede."
Bowers used the "hero" label following a sound bite from one of the fugitive state senators, Jon Erpenbach: "For him [Walker] to use dedicated public servants who clear our roads, take care of our sick, teach our kids, as poker chips is ridiculous." At the end of her report, news reader Jeff Glor wondered: "Any timetable right now, as far as you know, of when those Democratic senators might return to Wisconsin?" Bowers replied: "No. But the Senate Majority Leader did indicate to us that some of them want to come home. It's just a matter of how to finesse it, so they don't appear to be the bad guy in this with their constituents, and the protesters."
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted a new poll claiming people support unions over Republican plans to cut state deficits: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that a majority of Americans, 56%, are opposed to cutting the pay and benefits of state workers to balance budgets while just 37% are in favor of it."
While Wragge called them "state workers," the actual poll consistently used the phrase "public employees," never state workers or government workers. On NBC's Today on Tuesday, pollster Frank Luntz explained how one phrase invokes a positive response while the other does not. Speaking to co-host Matt Lauer about the newly released CBS poll, he noted: "If you call them 'public workers' a majority of Americans respect them. If you call them 'government workers' a majority of Americans don't." Clearly, CBS and the New York Times selected wording that would elicit a response favorable to the liberal position on the issue.
At the top of Saturday's CBS Early Show, co-host Russ Mitchell cheered unions protests across the country: "Workers uniting. 50 rallies are planned in 50 states today, as organizers show solidarity with Wisconsin state workers, fighting to preserve their right to collectively bargain for benefits and work conditions."
Introducing the segment later, fellow co-host Rebecca Jarvis noted how the protests were organized by MoveOn.org. Rather than accurately label the organization as left-wing, she simply referred to it as "an advocacy group." In the report that followed, correspondent Cynthia Bowers announced that "workers who are coming to these rallies around the country to support Wisconsin workers are being told to wear those red t-shirts we've become so familiar with." The headline on screen throughout the segment referenced Karl Marx: "Workers of the Nation Unite; 50 State Rallies to Support Union Rights."
While even the liberal National Public Radio blog highlighted how the "U.S. Struggles to Evacuate; Others Don't" in Libya, on Saturday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Harry Smith gave the effort high marks: "If they were handing out a report card, as far as the embassy is concerned, it would be an A+." [Audio available here]
Co-host Rebecca Jarvis implied some displeasure with the evacuation in her question to Smith: "How do the Americans that you're talking to feel about the job that the U.S. embassy did throughout the ordeal in getting them to safety?" Smith dismissed any criticism of the government response: "There's so much anti-government sentiment in America about how different parts of the bureaucracy respond to things....the way that everything was handled was just absolutely impeccable."
At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted President Obama's statement on the violence in Libya: "...making his first public statements on the situation there with some very strong words." However, moments after Obama's Wednesday comments, liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews admitted: "...that was pretty tame language given the horror that's going on in Tripoli."
On Thursday, Early Show co-host Erica Hill spoke with correspondent Mandy Clark, who was reporting from Libya, and asked about the impact of Obama's words on the crisis: "...he was saying the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and unacceptable. How much of President Obama's words have made it to people on the streets of Libya?" Clark claimed: "Everyone we spoke to felt encouraged that the President had come out with such strong words. They now feel that the eyes of the international community is upon Qadhafi, and that will force him to hold back on any bombing campaigns or any war crimes that he might commit."
On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Michael Isikoff claimed a prank phone call on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "provided his critics with evidence that his real motivation is what they've been saying all along, to crush public unions." On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill declared the "embarrassing" call revealed Walker's "plan for putting pressure on the big unions."
Isikoff suggested that Walker's private phone conversation with Ian Murphy of the left-wing Buffalo Beast website (who was pretending to be billionaire donor David Koch) ran counter to the Wisconsin Governor's public statements on his budget-cutting proposal: "Publicly, Governor Scott Walker has insisted the standoff over union rights in Wisconsin is all about saving money." On the Early Show, correspondent Dean Reynolds proclaimed: "Walker is heard discussing strategy to force Democratic senators to return to Wisconsin and vote. In another exchange, he tells of plans to punish state workers with layoffs."
Loud protests by Wisconsin public employee unions against a budget reform proposal from new Governor Scott Walker have drawn considerable national network news attention since Thursday, the day Democratic state senators fled the state in a last-ditch gambit to prevent the bill from becoming law. A story-by-story analysis by the Media Research Center shows the Wisconsin protests are a perfect case study in the media’s longstanding double standard favoring left-wing causes while demonstrating much more hostility to the Tea Party and conservative protest.
Last March, as thousands protested on Capitol Hill in the days before the passage of ObamaCare, CBS’s Nancy Cordes slammed it as “a weekend filled with incivility,” while World News anchor Diane Sawyer painted the Tea Party as a violent gang, with “protesters roaming Washington, some of them increasingly emotional, yelling slurs and epithets.” In August 2009, ABC anchor Charles Gibson complained how “protesters brought pictures of President Obama with a Hitler-style mustache to a town hall meeting,” failing to mention that the signs were produced by Lyndon LaRouche’s wacky fringe movement, not the Tea Party or conservatives.
In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge worried about the fallout from budget cutting in Wisconsin: "It seems to look like this governor [Scott Walker] is trying to basically break unions and that other states may then follow suit. Is this – should unions be on alert all around the country?"
Huckabee pointed out: "I think unions have to get realistic. They can't expect to pay $1 in and get $57 from the state as a pension match. Nobody else gets that." Earlier, Wragge expressed skepticism of Governor's Walker's handling of the issue: "...what you've seen...with the workers and the unions versus Governor Scott Walker and the teacher sick outs, do you think this was handled the best way it possibly could have been?" Huckabee defended Walker: "I think he's got to call attention to the fact that this is a serious issue....You can't borrow money that you can't afford to pay back."
In an interview with the Democratic minority leader of the Wisconsin state senate on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proposed a solution to the political stalemate over curbing benefits for public union workers in the state, suggesting Democrats "work together" with "more moderate Republicans" to "come to some sort of agreement that could then put pressure on the Governor."
Minority Leader Mark Miller eagerly agreed: "Absolutely. I think cooler heads need to prevail....There is such a thing as compromise. The Governor needs to be part of that." Earlier, Hill had explained that: "There's been a proposal put forth by moderate Republicans in the state which would effectively take those collective bargaining rights away [from teachers unions], but only for two years, it would bring them back in 2013." To which Miller remarked: "Well, the problem is, is that the Governor has to agree. And the Governor has not done anything except insist...it has to be his way. All or nothing. And the Governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, you negotiate."
Discussing the union protests in Wisconsin with political analyst John Dickerson on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge noted: "You talk about this being a potential Tea Party movement for the Left." In response, Dickerson proclaimed: "...this is the energizing moment on the Left, progressives and unions have always been together....It's about the threat to their benefits."
It's interesting that Dickerson made a positive comparison to the Tea Party, given that last year he appeared on the Early Show and described how Democrats hoped the conservative movement would "overreach" and become "a stain on the Republican Party." On Monday, he further explained to Wragge how liberals "were a little dispirited, Barack Obama didn't turn out to be the president they had hoped. Well now they're quite energized and it's not about President Obama anymore."
The same networks that assailed the allegedly extreme invective from the Tea Party have, thus far, not found anything interesting about signs implying that Scott Walker, Wisconsin's Republican governor, is a Nazi or a dictator in the style of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
On Thursday's newscasts and Friday's Today, Good Morning America and the Early Show, the extreme rhetoric of some of the signs went unremarked. Some of the images, which included pictures of Walker as Adolf Hitler and signs that read "Scott Mubarek [sic]: Get Out," were seen briefly during crowd shots.
But, none of the programs raised any objections to the hateful rhetoric surrounding Wisconsin's plan to reform collective bargaining and force federal workers to pay for part of their retirement.
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge attempted to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curb costly benefits for public sector unions in his state as purely political: "Your teachers union, which votes Democratic...hit very hard. Yet your police, state trooper, firemen unions, who all supported and endorsed you, did not get touched in any of this. Why is that?" [Audio available here]
In the live interview, Walker quickly dismantled the entire premise of Wragge's attack: "Chris that actually is not true. There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent." Wragge was undeterred in his follow up question: "But you understand their position with some of the state workers, saying you're essentially taking away their voice by trying to break these unions. You understand that, correct?"
The network morning shows on Thursday failed to find any controversy in union protests from Wisconsin, ignoring the signs comparing Scott Walker, the state's Republican governor, to the Taliban, the Nazis and Hitler. Fox News, on the other hand, highlighted the attacks on "Mullah Walker."
Wisconsin radio talk show host Vicki McKenna appeared on Your World With Neil Cavuto to discuss the battle over whether state employees will have to pay more for their pension and health care. Citing the attacks by liberals, she informed, "I have been called the Taliban, Hitler...I mean, anything that involves dictator, tyrants or genocide, historical references to slavery."
In comparison, Good Morning News anchor Juju Chang spun the story: "Well, a bill seen as the most aggressive anti-union proposal in the country goes up for a vote in Wisconsin today." She simply claimed that state workers are "swarming the capitol in protest."
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante seized on a rare instance in which the Obama administration and conservative members of Congress happened to agree on a single budget cut: "It's not very often that the Obama administration finds itself on the same side as Tea Party Republicans when it comes to spending."
The spending in question was funding for the production of jet engines for F-35 fighter aircraft. As Plante described it: "Defense Secretary Gates and the President say it's not necessary. And so do fiscal conservatives." He also noted that cancelling the project was "a defeat for House Speaker John Boehner....Part of it would have been made in his district." The on-screen headline read: "Budget Battle; GOP Fiscal Hawks Torpedo Boehner Pet Project."
Of the three morning shows on Monday, only ABC's Good Morning America aggressively pushed the Obama administration on a lack of substantial cuts in the 2012 budget. NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show either downplayed the issue or didn't fully explain the President's new spending.
ABC's Jake Tapper declared that Obama's plan "shows that the President will not take the lead in any aggressive measures to reduce the debt." He also pointed out, "President Obama's budget projects at least $1 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, but it still creates $7.2 trillion in new debt, pitting the President on a collision course with Republicans who are already saying this budget does not take the deficit seriously enough and deeper cuts are needed."
NBC's Chuck Todd ignored the new spending in the budget and instead asserted that the White House is "join[ing] the battle" with its new plan. Todd blandly repeated Obama's talking points on the cuts.
During a report on Friday's CBS Early Show, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes emphasized division in the new Republican Congress: "The prospect of a mutiny had sent Republican leaders scrambling to craft an even leaner budget, and make good on their promises to the Tea Party....Just this week, small groups of conservatives defeated two of their own party's measures on the House floor."
Cordes went on to highlight tensions at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were booed by one faction of attendees. While Donald Trump, who's toying with a presidential run in 2012, took a swipe at his fellow Republican, Congressman Ron Paul." The headline on screen throughout Cordes's report read: "GOP Power Struggle; Agree to Budget Deal After Early In-Fighting." Later in a 7:32AM ET news brief, news reader Jeff Glor similarly declared: "Republicans are closing out a week of infighting."
All three evening newscasts on Wednesday and the morning shows on Thursday identified disgraced former Congressman Chris Lee as a Republican. On the February 10 Today, Kelly O'Donnell twice tagged the ex-representative, who resigned after shirtless photos of him surfaced online, as "conservative."
The NBC reporter asserted, "The former Congressman is a former businessman, considered an up and coming conservative." Just seconds later, as a picture of the politician appeared, she added, "This is the image, shirtless and flexing, that tanked the political career of Chris Lee, a conservative, Republican Congressman from Western New York."
Continuing to made ideological references, O'Donnell pointed out: "He had even been given the plum job of delivering the weekly Republican address last spring."
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Michelle Miller reported on planned closures of 2,000 U.S. Post Office locations: "...in this age of digital communications, online bill paying, and Federal Express, are physical post offices still relevant?" She seemed to answer her own question: "Folks are not going to let this go down without a fight...It's what makes their community whole."
During her report, Miller explained how the government subsidized organization had "a record deficit this year of $8.5 billion, the Postal Service loses a staggering $23 million a day and is facing a growing number of problems." Even so, she played on the emotions of viewers, interviewing an elderly New Jersey man named Harold Schutzman, who explained: "[I] got a friend there at the desk, Gary. I can't get into the paying by e-mail."
At the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill cheered President Obama's supposedly pro-business move of speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday: "Obama's olive branch. The President reaches out into hostile territory and meets with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urging the private sector to start hiring."
Introducing the later report on the speech, co-host Chris Wragge touted the event as Obama's continued "effort to make peace with big business," despite the Chamber being "a group that he has battled ever since he took office." Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante noted how "Mr. Obama pledged to work on lowering federal spending, revising the corporate tax code, and eliminating some federal regulations." What the coverage failed to point out was that 43 major new regulations were imposed by the Obama administration in 2010.
While both CBS's Early Show and ABC's Good Morning America identified The Huffington Post as a liberal blog when discussing AOL purchasing the web site for $315 million, on NBC's Today, news reader Ann Curry simply described it as an "online news site" co-founded by "pundit" Arianna Huffington.
On Good Morning America, news reader JuJu Chang referred to The Huffington Post as a "top-ten news site" but accurately described it as being "co-founded by liberal commentator Arianna Huffington." The Early Show's Jeff Glor did not label the blog a news site at all and was the most direct in pointing out its ideological slant: "Huffington Post, a left-leaning site, was founded in 2005."
Yesterday the pro-life activists at Live Action released a video of a sting operation they conducted at a Planned Parenthood office in New Jersey. The video clearly shows the office manager giving counsel to a couple posing as pimp and prostitute who claimed to have minors employed as prostitutes, some from out of the country.
Yet despite the shocking content of the video, neither ABC, NBC, nor CBS covered the story in their February 1 evening news programs. Likewise the February 2 "Good Morning America," "Today," and "CBS Early Show" also failed to cover the story.
Speaking to physicist Michio Kaku on Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge fretted over the recent series of severe winter storms and wondered: "...nine storms in seven weeks, why is this happening?...a lot of people want to talk about global warming and thinking that that may actually come into play here. Is that accurate? Is that having an effect on what's going on?"
Dr. Kaku agreed with the suggestion: "Yes. It seems to violate common sense, but as the Earth begins to heat up, that means more moist air in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico on average. Which creates more precipitation, and eventually more snow." Wragge followed up: "Is this going to continue?" Kaku argued: "...on average, temperatures are going to rise. Remember, last year was the hottest year ever recorded in the history of science, next to 2005, since 1880. So the Earth is heating up. We can debate exactly what's driving it. But, hey, get used to it. We're going to have more energy sloshing around the Earth, more extremes, and swings."
Rather than bring in a top White House official to respond to a federal judge declaring Obamacare unconstitutional, ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday used the occasion to attack possible presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Highlighting the individual mandate that was struck down, Monday, Stephanopoulos focused on Massachusetts' health care plan passed when Romney was governor: "You not going to apologize for the individual mandate?" Following up, the morning show host chided, "So, let me be specific: Are you apologizing for imposing that requirement that people buy health insurance?"