A turn of the channel for Katie Couric on CBS Evening News is a vote for Hillary Clinton in '08, or so proclaimed Chris Matthews on the syndicated The Chris Matthews Show yesterday morning. Matthews, right before he signed off, said if Katie Couric pulls good ratings it may mean the country is ready for Hillary Clinton as president: "Will the verdict on Katie constitute an early verdict on a Hillary sitting in the President’s chair? That’s right, before we get to vote on Hillary for President we’re gonna get to vote for Katie for Anchorwoman. We’re gonna be showing our hand about how we feel about a woman with such power. How we are going to feel about the same question in 2008. This time it will be in our living rooms using a remote flicker, the next time it will be in a voting booth. "
Please check out your local MRC bias buster as we fan out to critique the new personnel moves in TV news. National Review Online was kind enough to offer me a little real estate today to argue that Katie Couric is just another Dan Rather: "But as different as her sparkly 'That Girl' personality is from Dan Rather's wizened weirdness, they have one thing in common: Truth is a malleable commodity, something to be stretched and smudged like Silly Putty on the Sunday funnies if the political cause is right."
Over at Human Events Online, MRC's Rich Noyes says the message to conservatives in the Couric and Vieira appointments is, well, tough luck, troglodytes: "CBS’s decision to name Katie Couric as Dan Rather’s permanent replacement on the 'CBS Evening News,' and NBC’s choice of daytime talk show host Meredith Vieira to replace Couric on 'Today,' both indicate a defiant attitude toward viewers fed up with the media elite’s insular liberal approach to covering political and social issues."
Newsweek puts Katie Couric on the cover this week, and the cover story by Marc Peyser and Johnnie Roberts is easy, breezy, and totally free of any troublesome analysis of whether Couric is fair and balanced enough to attract non-liberal viewers. The most eye-opening line comes from former CBS reporter Marvin Kalb, responding to Andy Rooney's nobody's-happy-about-Katie rant on the Imus show:
"I remember when CBS hired [former game-show host] Mike Wallace and gave him the morning news," says Marvin Kalb, a former CBS correspondent who is now a senior fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center. "You should have heard the men's room conversation. My God, what have they done? They destroyed the Murrow tradition—all that. I think the negative spin on Katie Couric is unfair, and I think she is going to prove those people wrong. So take that, Andy Rooney, and screw you."
Columnist and author George Weigel has a nice article on CBS's 60 Minutes and embryo-destroying stem cell research, which is mostly a list of the tough questions Lesley Stahl could have (but did not) ask the liberal advocate in the segment. He began:
The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes prides itself on asking the hard questions that other television news vehicles are too polite, or perhaps too afraid, to ask. That tough-minded approach to an important issue wasn't much in evidence, however, when 60 Minutes recently took on the question of whether "spare" embryos "left over" from in vitro fertilization procedures should be used for stem-cell research that would result in the embryos' death.
During the segment, Princeton's Robert P. George, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, tried to explain certain basic moral facts to Leslie Stahl...[But] The editing of the segment strongly suggested that 60 Minutes preferred the approach of the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Arthur Caplan, an enthusiast for research that, as he put it, would destroy "embryos...that no one will ever use for any purpose whatsoever." That, of course, is the conventional wisdom in the bioethics guild, which frequently serves as a permission-slip factory for scientists and the biotech industry.
USA Today omitted any reference to incoming Today host Meredith Vieira's anti-war activism in Peter Johnson's April 7 Life section article, even as a brief, indirect allusion to NewsBusters.org coverage of the controversy was included in an online filing posted the evening of April 6:
Conservative bloggers pounced on NBC's choice, saying Vieira has a long record on The View as an anti-war liberal. But Vieira said that on The View,
which she expects to leave in May, she was paid to express her
opinions. "There is nothing I have ever said that I am ashamed of," she
said, but on Today, her opinions "have no place. It's a different animal."
CBSEvening News anchor Bob Schieffer praised Katie Couric’s selection as his successor in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer aired during the 4pm EDT hour, and again in the 7pm EDT hour, of Thursday's The Situation Room. As MRC analyst Brian Boyd reported here, CBS correspondent Andy Rooney appeared on the April 5 Imus in the Morning radio program, where he told Don Imus that he was "not enthusiastic" about Couric’s hiring, and that "I don’t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she’s coming here." When Schieffer was asked about Rooney’s comments, he politely disagreed with his colleague.
Bob Schieffer: "Well, if he says he didn’t know anyone I, I hate to tell you, Andy, but you must have not talked to me, because I’m pleased she’s coming here, so I’d have to question you on that. You know, I, I learned a long time ago that I let everybody speak for themselves. That’s Andy’s view. That’s what, you know, that’s what Andy does. He, he speaks his mind. I, I just don’t agree with him. He’s a great friend of mine but I don’t agree with him on that."
Yesterday it was made official, Katie Couric is leaving the "Today" show on NBC to anchor the "CBS Evening News." While some CBS employees have been less than welcoming -- Andy Rooney for example -- for the most part CBS reporters have been good soldiers in promoting the company line. But, on this morning’s "The Early Show," co-host Harry Smith went above and beyond the call of duty in narrating a piece that was so laden with praise, it could have been mistaken for a eulogy. Take the following quotes for example:
Harry Smith: "Does Katie have the gravitas to anchor the evening news, to be the go-to guy, so to speak, on breaking news? Absolutely. Did you see Katie on 9/11? Have you seen her interview a president? She makes the powerful, uncomfortable, and makes real folks feel at home."
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney appeared on CBS, CNN, and FNC on Wednesday morning to address charges she hit a Capitol Police officer in the chest with her cell phone when he tried to stop her as she tried to walk right past security screeners. Well, actually, she refused in all three interviews to address the basic facts of the fracas. In all three interviews, she forced in her talking points, that the kerfuffle was "much ado about a hairdo" and that 250 black officers sued the Capitol Police for racial discrimination. CNN's Soledad O'Brien was especially dogged in trying to get out the basic facts, not that it worked.
On CBS's "Early Show," MRC analyst Mike Rule found that co-host Harry Smith was the fastest to cave in to the refusal to answer the basics:
Smith: "Congresswoman, let me, please help me construct what happened. You're entering a Capitol building, you're bypassing a metal detector, which is routine for members of Congress, what happened then?"
The American public does not seem to be too thrilled about the prospect of Katie Couric's upcoming move from doing news in the morning at NBC to in the evening at CBS.
In a twist of fate, considering that Couric has reported on polls about politicians for years, a survey commissioned by the Associated Press reveals that most Americans would rather watch her in the morning than in the evenings.
Now that Katie Couric is making the move from dawn to dusk, her legacy and the future of CBS News depends on an audience that, according to a new poll, prefers to see her in the morning.
Asked if they would rather see Couric in her longtime role as "Today" host or as the first woman to anchor a network weekday evening newscast on her own, 49 percent favored the morning and 29 percent said evening, according to a poll conducted this week by The Associated Press and TV Guide.
After 15 years as morning television's queen, Couric confirmed Wednesday that she is leaving NBC's "Today" show to become anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" this fall. Her audience at "Today" is about 6 million viewers; "CBS Evening News" has about 7.5 million.
Thinking ahead to 2008, it's clear that new CBS anchor Katie Couric has to be counted as a positive political asset for Hillary Clinton. Hillary's "Today" interviews have been almost universally sappy and sympathetic. (In a big-picture way, you might also see in solo-anchor Katie another sign, like Geena Davis's "Commander in Chief" on ABC, of an attempt by liberal media to push hard on the equal plausibility and authoritativeness of women in the top jobs.)
Katie may have been speaking both herself and Hillary in the interview that aired on February 18, 2004: "Hillary Clinton's choices in just about everything have been scrutinized and analyzed by almost everyone. She hopes as more women themselves assume positions of power voters will be less judgmental and more forgiving." Katie has been extremely forgiving in her Hillary interviews, ignoring almost all topics Mrs. Clinton would rather not discuss. Instead, Couric has treated her as a serious policy wonk and feminist icon. Here's some notable pro-Hillary quotes from the Clinton era forward:
A leading hurricane forecaster, name not given, was to release his predictions today for the 2006 hurricane season, and Harry Smith of CBS’ "The Early Show" used this as an excuse to relive the problems with FEMA during hurricane Katrina. As his guest, Smith interviewed Jane Bullock. Smith introduced Ms. Bullock:
Harry Smith: "Jane Bullock is a former Chief of Staff at FEMA."
Yet he never mentions that while she worked for several decades at FEMA, she held this lofty position exclusively during the Clinton Administration for Clinton buddy James Lee Witt. Her high place in the Clinton administration could have helped put her anti-Bush comments into some context. (The same omission occurred on the CBS News website.) Bullock claimed:
TV Newser is collating the latest Katie Couric news:
In Tuesday's New York Times,Bill Carter writes: "Any such announcement" about Katie Couric's move "will not be accompanied by a news conference at CBS, however, several people close to Ms. Couric said. Some reports this week have suggested that CBS was reserving space at its news headquarters for a formal introduction of Ms. Couric. But her associates said they believe that there is no possibility that that will happen this week. The reason, they explained, is that Ms. Couric will remain at NBC News through May 31, the full duration of her contract, and would not consent to appear at a CBS event, out of deference to her NBC employers."
Immigration has been the hot topic as of late and it was no different on Sunday’s edition of "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer. In the second segment of the program, Schieffer interviewed "New York Times" David Brooks. Schieffer introduced Brooks as a "proud conservative," and while Brooks may be conservative for "The New York Times"staff, to many conservatives he is reminiscent of John McCain in that he will be critical of conservatives to open doors to liberal media outlets.
Brooks railed against conservative Republicans who want a tough immigration bill accusing them of an unwillingness to "talk reasonably." To back up his point, Brooks points to comments apparently made by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA):
David Brooks: "I was up at a press conference this week where a House Republican said, `You know, we've got to have some people to pick lettuce in this country, so we're not going to have immigrants. Let's make the prisoners do it.’ You want to hit the guy on the head with a baseball bat. We're going to take a largely minority population, forced labor, picking lettuce and cotton. Is this ringing any bells here?"
Robert Novak's column today focuses on NASA scientist James Hansen, and how the New York Times and CBS's "60 Minutes" have played up his charges of being "muzzled" -- as many political figures would love to be limited to speaking only in The New York Times and on "60 Minutes." For our purposes, the most interesting paragraph may be Novak's last one:
In concluding the Hansen segment on "60 Minutes," CBS correspondent Scott Pelley said: "For months, we've been trying to talk to the president's science adviser, but we were finally told he would never be available." White House communications director Nicolle Wallace told me: " '60 Minutes' never contacted the press office." Assuming that the network attempted to contact the science adviser and not the press office and that both statements are accurate, they resulted in a one-sided political presentation that ignored the real scientific debate.
Chris Matthews welcomed conservative radio host Laura Ingraham – straight from her knockout victory over NBC’s David Gregory on the “Today” show a few weeks back – to his panel on the Sunday program bearing his name. Given how well Ingraham did against one liberal foe, NBC must have felt better about its chances with a panel of CBS’s Gloria Borger, TIME magazine’s Joe Klein, and the New Republic’s Andrew Sullivan. Unfortunately for NBC’s producers, they were wrong (partial video link to follow).
The conversation began with illegal immigration. After an introduction, with salient points made by Klein, Ingraham, and Sullivan, one could sense the coming imbroglio when Sullivan implied that the whole problem was caused by Republicans. Matthews asked: “Why is there such fear on the side of the people who really want action on illegal immigration?” Sullivan rather ineptly responded: “Because part of the real base, the Republican base, regard any attempt to integrate these 11 million illegals into a guest worker program or anything else as amnesty and therefore they go off the minute you even mention it, and that is Bush's problem.” Rather facile, don’t you think Andrew?
Borger entered the discussion: “I think Americans don’t want to reward people who break the law. But I think more and more Americans understand assimilation is part of what we are.”
When Hillary Clinton charged that the House Republican immigration bill would "criminalize...Jesus himself," there was national-media notice – if not criticism. Even Hillary’s "hometown" newspaper The New York Times reported on March 23 that Senator Clinton intensified her criticism of Republican immigration proposals, albeit on page B-5. But no one in the story criticized Hillary for her harsh attack. Instead, reporter Nina Bernstein noted only critics to Hillary’s left: "Mrs. Clinton had been criticized by some immigrant activists for saying little about the issue until March 8, and then speaking at an Irish-only rally, rather than at a forum more representative of immigrants. But yesterday all seemed forgiven." Bernstein’s story, headlined, "Mrs. Clinton Says GOP Immigration Plan Is At Odds With The Bible," began:
We saw in the 2000 election cycle that one way national reporters protected Democratic presidential contender Al Gore was to ignore wild or embarrassing things he said in public. The RNC and other Gore critics would play up his gaffes, but the media said "what gaffes"? If they did report the remarks, they didn’t find them overstated or wrong.
It’s not exactly 2008 yet, but the same trend looks to be happening with Sen. Hillary Clinton. She can claim that Republicans would need a "police state" to round up illegal immigrants, and then claim that Republicans would "literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself" in their anti-immigration zeal, and some media outlets didn’t notice either one of these outrages. On the hear-no-Hillary-gaffe list: CBS, NBC, National Public Radio, and USA Today. (Nexis search of "hillary and police state" and "hillary and jesus" through March 29.)
CBS's The Early Show dealt with the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card this morning, and, in the process, demonstrated again their lack of interest in presenting anything that might be beneficial to the President in a positive, or even a neutral, fashion. This attitude showed itself more, however, in the way that things were said, rather than in what exactly was said. There were the typical offhand accusations of insincerity, but most of the reporting was fairly straightforward. And the questions that Harry Smith asked of Mary Matalin were, for the most part, appropriate. But the tone and attitude that Smith displayed were not. (Windows Media video available here.)
The first piece was the news report on the resignation, from CBS' White House Correspondent Bill Plante. Of course Plante's report started, as most CBS reports on the President do, with emphasis on negatives.
Wouldn't you think that someone who fashions his show "Hardball" would have the intestinal fortitude to invite on at least one guest who disagrees with his world view? At least tonight, Chris Matthews apparently thought that unnecessary.
Here was Matthews guest line-up this evening:
Philippe Sands: left-wing Brit, author of a new book, Lawless World, accusing Pres. Bush of having decided very early on in the game to go to war against Iraq.
Susan Page: reporter for the Dem-friendly USA Today. Let's call the affable Page a voice of the more reasonable realms of the center-left media.
Craig Crawford: the snarky MSNBC/CBS political analyst who enjoys taking snide shots at the Bush administration.
Charlie Cook: political pollster, he of the Cook Political Report. Call Cook reasonably down-the-middle, but consider that the bouquets he placed in his own bio come from the NY Times, Bob Schieffer Al Hunt and David Broder. No one has ever accused Cook of being a Republican.
Sure, Matthews has had his share of Republican guests. But couldn't he have found at least one to round out tonight's left-leaning/Bush antagonist line-up?
The Senate began a debate on immigration reform today, and that seemed to be the focus on "The Early Show" on CBS this morning. Co-host Harry Smith interviewed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Republican strategist Bay Buchanan. Smith chose to frame the debate as a "crackdown on undocumented workers" and ignored the fact that these "undocumented workers" are in fact in America illegally.
This morning’s program opened with a tease from Harry Smith:
Harry Smith: "A huge battle is brewing in Washington after a weekend of massive rallies over immigration. Hundreds of thousands protested a proposed crackdown on undocumented workers."
Smith then proceeded to open his interview segment in a similar fashion:
Howard Kurtz of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” (hat tip to Crooks and Liars) spent a lot of time Sunday addressing the firestorm started this week by radio host Laura Ingraham over negative media reports out of Iraq. One of Kurtz’s guests was Lara Logan of CBS who was clearly not pleased with these assertions. In fact, Logan, reporting from Iraq, appeared rather defensive (video link to follow).
Kurtz began the show:
“Souring on the war. As President Bush goes toe to toe with White House reporters, are news organizations turning against the war in Iraq? Are they focusing almost exclusively on the car bombings and mosque attacks and brushing aside signs of progress? Three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, are they playing to the opinion polls with skeptical, even hostile coverage, or is the administration just blaming the messenger.”
After a few video clips of the president and vice president, Kurtz said to Logan: “Bush and Cheney essentially seem to be accusing you and your colleagues of carrying the terrorist message by reporting on so many of these attacks. What do you make of that?”
Logan responded: “Well, I think that's -- that is a very convenient way of looking at it.” Logan then blamed the lack of balance in Iraq media reports on security issues:
In a talk with the editor of the liberal Texas Monthly that airs on Texas PBS stations, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite uncorked some more liberal opinions. In praising the CBS-boosting, Joseph McCarthy-trashing movie "Good Night and Good Luck," Cronkite liked how it reminded Americans that "one nut could endanger the democracy," was "locking up our democracy in a very dangerous way," and persecuting people who were "simply good Americans." When pressed to compare Vietnam and Iraq, Cronkite declared that the comparison was "almost exact."
On Thursday, the Poynter Institute’s Romenesko web site linked to an interview that Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith did with Cronkite for broadcast on Thursday night in thirteen TV markets. First, they discussed the danger of Sen. Joseph McCarthy to our democracy. It's a bit surprising that at this late date, with all the archival information we have now on the Soviet state and its espionage activities, Cronkite still can't acknowledge any Soviet spies in the United States in the 1950s, and how that was a danger to our democracy.
There was some good news in Iraq this morning as 3 Christian hostages were rescued by a joint force consisting of American British and Iraqi troops. Surprisingly, CBS’s "The Early Show" led with this news.
In her report from Baghdad, CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan explained the "irony" of the rescue in that "the group, who are members of Christian peacemaker teams in Iraq, had signed a statement before their capture saying they reject the use of force to save lives." Yet, a statement released from the organization Christian Peacemaker Teams, which is not mentioned in Logan’s report, and to be fair, we are not sure it was available at the time of her report, blames the rescuers for the fact that the 3 members of their group were taken hostage to begin with:
Longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace has finally announced his retirement. His son, Chris Wallace, is host of "Fox News Sunday." On Wednesday both men appeared on "Larry King Live" to discuss the father's retirement and the son's ongoing career.
Chris Wallace chided his father for "complaining and whining" about never getting to meet the president. He said that he has "actually met the president--and several times--and been to a State of the Union briefing where he had lunch with us and discussed things."
The son jokingly added, "I'm happy to pass my father's best wishes onto the president the next time I see him."
Mike Wallace said his son only gets close to the president because he "works for Fox."
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, and while progress has been made, CBS’s the "Early Show" attempted to paint as bleak a picture as possible when discussing the war. In total, there were four stories regarding the Iraq war on this morning’s broadcast.
The first such story was a piece by CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante. Substitute co-host Russ Mitchell introduced the piece:
Russ Mitchell: "Despite escalating violence, President Bush insists the administration’s Iraq policy is working."
Bill Plante followed with a bleak assessment:
Bill Plante: "Well three years into the Iraq war with casualties mounting and no end in sight, the President and Vice President both see reason for optimism and they say there’s progress."
The national media was full of broken hearts last week when Dana Reeve died at 44, after nearly a decade of caring for disabled “Superman” star Christopher Reeve. It was obvious from the coverage that this woman had won hearts and made friendships in the media elite. But something strange happened in all the laudatory waves of coverage. Someone shrunk her activism.
It’s common for reporting on embryo-destroying stem cell research to leave out the embryo-destroying part. But the tear-stained accounts of Reeve’s sudden end often left out the words “stem cell” as well. This week’s Newsweek has a two-page article, largely about lung cancer, headlined "A Legacy of Love and Hope: Dana Reeve dedicated her life to finding a cure for spinal-cord injuries, only to fall victim to lung cancer."
Although an offer is rumored to be imminent, there appears to be an upper management split at CBS concerning the hiring of Katie Couric as anchor for the “Evening News.” According to Drudge, even though CBS President Les Moonves is “convinced Katie Couric is the right person for the job,” this is “despite warnings from top management that the move could have lackluster results.”
What makes them feel this way? “Nervous executives at CBS have been examining tapes of Couric from August 2001 -- and nitpicking her performance -- when she substituted for a vacationing Tom Brokaw.”
It’s been one day since the retirement of Mike Wallace from CBS’s "60 Minutes" was announced, and this morning the "Early Show" aired a taped interview with Wallace conducted by Harry Smith. The segment was a look back on Wallace’s career, and it seems Wallace has only one regret; he never got to interview George W. Bush, as evidenced by the following exchange:
Harry Smith: "So many bad guys you've interviewed, politicians, celebrities by the score. Is there a favorite to do one kind of interview vs. the other?"
Mike Wallace: "For substance, and by that I, you know what I mean, to be able to talk to the Ayatollah Khomeini or various Presidents, every President since Abe Lincoln..."
Was this a news report, or a coming attraction for a new series about inter-generational love? Perhaps there's a third explanation: a not-too-subtle kiss blown in the direction of a soon-to-be new employer.
Amidst rampant speculation that Katie Couric might be leaving the Today show to anchor the CBS Evening News, Couric narrated a segment on this morning's Today on the occasion of Mike Wallace's announcement this week that he will be retiring from '60 Minutes'. If you think it's impossible to sustain a gush for five minutes, you obviously weren't watching Katie this morning.
Excerpts from Katie's paen to Wallace:
He "seems to succeed at everything except slowing down."
"Fearless and willing to ask anything."
"How do you stay so vibrant, so active, so alert and continue to work so hard?"
His departure "leaves big shoes for 60 Minutes to fill."
"His legend will never fade."
Back in the studio, when Matt Lauer observed that "at 88, he is astounding," Katie offered up the ultimate accolade:
It’s been almost 3 years since the Iraq war began. How do I know? Because I was constantly reminded of this fact by CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. Four different people, 2 co-hosts and 2 reporters either mentioned that we are approaching the three year anniversary, or that it’s been almost 3 years since the war began. If you listened to CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent, Lara Logan, you’d believe not much has been achieved in that time:
Lara Logan: "Three years after this war began Iraqis are still facing an uncertain and violent future. Much of the blame for that is placed on the shoulders of the Americans by many people here who still resent the occupation."