Two days after CNN founder Ted Turner told journalists at the Reuters office in Manhattan that the war in Iraq was one of the “dumbest” decisions in history, that only women should be allowed to run for office -- though he simultaneously touted the male Al Gore, a “great leader,” for President -- and argued Iran should be able to have nuclear weapons since “we have 28,000. Why can't they have ten?”, he appeared Thursday night on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman where he spouted fresh silliness.
Recalling for Letterman his activities in the 1980s, Turner implied that he ended the Cold War: “I was trying to bring the Cold War, help bring it to and end with the Goodwill Games and a bunch of our initiatives that we worked on with the Russians and it worked.” Turner described Cuba as “a wonderful place” and fretted: “I think it's crazy that we don't have relations with Cuba when we made normalized relations with Vietnam after the Vietnam war.” He argued: “If we wanted democracy to function and capitalism in Cuba, what we need to do is send a whole lot of tourists down there to get everybody materialistic like we are up here. And then we would have already, I'm sure, I believe, that communism would have been gone from there if we'd have just been friends with them.”
A couple of snippets from this morning's "news" segments on ABC and CBS...
On The Early Show, Rene Syler interviewed the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former Bush administration official, Richard Haass. After having played the video of Chavez calling Bush "the devil," of crossing himself and saying that he could still smell the sulfur in the air, Syler's first question for Haass, her first question on this head-of-state behaving that way on the world's primary diplomatic stage?
"Let's start with those comments by Hugo Chavez yesterday. He makes this personal attack on the president calls him the devil a number of times. Is that appropriate?"
What, Rene -- you couldn't figure that one out for yourself?
Well sports fans, the plot is getting so thick you can drive a truck over it. TV Newser is reporting that Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time” who went on quite a rant Friday night about being denied his free speech rights by CBS, might be mistaken. According to the New York Daily News (emphasis mine): “‘If I or my representatives got it wrong about how the 'Free Speech' segment of the 'CBS Evening News' is, sorry, our bad,’ Maher said yesterday in a statement. ‘I'm ready, willing and able to speak about the topic I originally suggested.’"
Isn’t that special? In fact, according to Vaughn Ververs at CBS’s “The Public Eye,” the “Evening News” is in no way opposed to addressing religion:
Remember last year at this time when you couldn’t turn on your television set without coming across a story on rising gasoline prices? Well, a year later, gas is now $2.50 a gallon, down 50 cents in just one month, twenty-nine cents lower than last year, and the broadcast network news programs couldn’t care less. As reported by Reuters Monday:
The freefall in U.S. gasoline prices continued as the average pump price dropped 12 cents over the last week to $2.50 a gallon, the government said on Monday.
The fall comes on the heels of an 11-cent drop the previous week.
The national price for regular unleaded gasoline is down 29 cents from a year ago and the lowest since late March, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service stations.
Last September, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, the media regularly warned of rising natural gas prices and exploding heating bills. Yet, when these same energy costs plummeted a year later – and utility companies announced large reductions in charges to consumers – the networks paid little attention to the news.
On September 14, natural gas prices declined to their lowest point in two years. As reported by the Associated Press: “October natural gas futures fell 55.7 cents to settle at $4.892 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The last time front-month natural gas futures settled below $5 was Sept. 16, 2004.”
Well sports fans, the plot is still thickening. TVNewser reported on Monday that a fellow comedian has responded to Bill Maher’s “free speech” rant reported by NewsBusters here and here.
To refresh memories, Maher said on his Friday evening “Real Time” program “if CBS News doesn’t understand what free speech is, what am I supposed to expect of Fox News?” Deliciously, someone who has worked for both HBO and FNC had an answer for Maher:
Often, the warmth of media memories toward a politician hinge on where they stood, or where they ended up standing. In Monday's Washington Post, TV critic Tom Shales reviewed the HBO debut of the documentary "Goldwater on Goldwater," made by C.C. Goldwater, the granddaughter of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, loaded with liberal experts who lauded his resistance to the religious right. Shales sermonized:
Goldwater, who died in 1998, was the man who defined conservatism for more than one generation and who essentially split with the conservative movement when it became allied with pseudo-religious extremists. To Goldwater, the essence of conservatism was that government should stay out of people's lives as much as possible, and he was "appalled," his granddaughter says, by the "social agenda" of the far-right-wingers who seek to control the Republican Party now.
On Monday’s “Early Show,” co-host Hannah Storm interviewed First Lady Laura Bush. Unlike Mrs. Bush’s interview on “Today,” Storm’s questions were much more supportive of the first lady, yet she still managed to sneak in a few questions regarding America’s image abroad and the first lady’s role in approving President Bush’s speeches.
Storm held off until her fourth question before delving into the issue of America’s reputation abroad:
The plot thickens. After Bill Maher claimed on the Friday evening installment of HBO’s “Real Time” that CBS prevented him from discussing religion on the “freeSpeech” segment as reported by NewsBusters, the executive producer of the “Evening News” has now denied this. As reported by TVNewswer (hat tip to reader Tracheostomy):
In an e-mail to TVNewser, CBS responds to Bill Maher:
"Bill Maher was never told that he couldn't discuss religion in a 'Free Speech' segment," Rome Hartman, executive producer of the CBS Evening News, said. "In fact, 'Free Speech' has already addressed religion and we expect others will in the future."
This obviously goes counter to Maher’s statements on Friday:
Is CBS’s new “freeSpeech” segment on the “Evening News” really free? Maybe not, as TVNewser reported Saturday (hat tip to Drudge) that Bill Maher – who had been invited on to be one of the free speakers – was told that he couldn’t discuss religion:
“On Friday's Real Time on HBO, Maher explained that CBS approached him to do a 'freeSpeech' segment on the new Evening News. He asked if he could talk about religion but was rejected and told that he would be provided with a list of 'approved' topics," an e-mailer says.
The actual transcript of what Maher said Friday night concerning this issue is as follows:
On Friday’s “Early Show,” CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen offered a one sided global warming report. The story appealed to the emotions of viewers and only cited scientists who are alarmist on the subject. Bowen referred to specific findings and opinions offered by scientists who claim “man made” global warming is a threat, while only offering the reality that critics of man as the cause of global warming exist and not their opinions or research.
Citing NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, Bowen noted some frightening conclusions:
“He told a climate conference this week, ‘I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change, no longer than a decade at the most.’ If nothing is done, Hansen foresees a different world with rising seas that would put coastal regions under 3-20 feet of water, more heat waves, more prolonged droughts worldwide, and imminent extinction of animal species in the arctic, including polar bears...”
For a media that likes to complain about the incivility and personal attacks that Republicans have supposedly injected into our politics over the past generation, the networks' reactions to former Texas Governor Ann Richards underscore journalists' partisan approach to what is fair and what is foul.
In 1988, then-Texas state treasurer Richards laced her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention with a series of nasty, mocking attacks on then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. Instead of deploring her descent into the “politics of personal destruction” — as they might have if the speechmaker were a conservative Republican and the target was a liberal Democrat — the media elite swooned, with then-CBS anchor Dan Rather admiring her “scalpel-style attack” on the Republican presidential candidate.
Remembering Ann Richards this morning, all three broadcast network shows re-visited her ridicule of Bush, admiring it as “biting wit” and “fun-loving spirit,” with ABC’s Diane Sawyer touting Richards as the “sassy, funny homemaker who became Texas governor.” ABC, CBS and NBC all played the same sarcastic soundbite of Richards from 18 years ago. “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver-foot in his mouth.”
On Wednesday’s "Early Show," co-host Rene Syler offered results from Tuesday’s primaries, but the labels were remarkably different. In Rhode Island, Syler classified Senator Chafee’s opponent as a "conservative," but in New York, Senator Clinton’s ultraliberal opponent was simply classified as "anti-war." Bob Schieffer offered commentary on the Rhode Island race, and called the Club for Growth "very conservative." Back in August, Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont was labeled as "anti-war" while the "Early Show" never referred to Lamont backers as "very liberal."
The top story on the "Early Show" was the primary results, and the story was narrated by Rene Syler. She noted Stephen Laffey was a conservative:
Cartoonist Henry Payne of the Detroit News welcomed Katie Couric to CBS with a couple of cartoons about her Photoshop diet: they're here and here. (There's also this one on Plamegate.) I thought the overeager people making Katie skinnier was a silly mistake. If you want to suggest that Katie's just as good as the men, the last thing you do is suggest she has to be supermodel-skinny to succeed.
It was stunning, and yet it was eerily reminiscent of the extraordinary discipline of Team Clinton. Days before the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11" was to air, they determined the network fudged in its commitment to follow faithfully the facts in the 9/11 Commission report. A scene or two in the otherwise remarkable presentation was false.
And this was the angle Team Clinton needed in order to pounce. The Clinton campaign kicked into high gear in the days before it aired, with the ex-president and his lawyering aides and Democrats in Congress all pressuring ABC to dump the film.
It’s important to understand that Team Clinton didn’t demand the film be edited for accuracy. They wanted everything -- including all the accurate criticisms and findings – thrown in the garbage. Clinton had his usual cleanup squad write letters to ABC chief Bob Iger demanding the $40 million movie be deep-sixed: "We expect that you will make the responsible decision to not air this film."
On the September 10 episode of "Sunday Morning," Katie Couric talked with the "Jersey Girls," the 9/11 widows who endorsed Senator John Kerry for President in 2004 and have been highly critical of the Bush administration. However, there was no balance or features of 9/11 families who support President Bush such as Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother in the terror attacks. In the piece, Couric just barley touched on the groups endorsement of John Kerry in 2004, while she picked out select quotes from Rush Limbaugh, (no date given for his supposed remarks) and a quote from Ann Coulter's book "Godless" that present the views of those who disagree with the 'Jersey Girls' as being unsympathetic to their loss:
CBS’s "Sunday Morning" claimed the rights of Muslims in America have been trampeled since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "Sunday Morning" ran a story narrated by Elizabeth Kaledin, a reporter who normally discusses health issues, that featured three Muslims complaining about American policy since 9/11 and offered no voices of Muslims who disagree. One of the three, Mohammed el Filali claimed:
"There is liberty and justice for all, except if you're Muslim."
Back in July, Time magazine elevated left-liberal blogger Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, to Washington editor of their online site, Time.com. Cox, whose background includes stints at Mother Jones and The American Prospect, had built her reputation, and audience, with occasionally witty, constantly snarky and generally profane commentary on the sex lives of Washington residents. But she had an audience, and Time apparently felt that that justified her promotion. So she moved from the fringes of the blogosphere towards the mainstream press.
And now she's moved further. It's a good bet, I'd think, that most of the audience of The Early Show don't know her background. Well, they didn't learn any of it from her appearance this morning, when she was introduced as, yes, the Washington editor of time.com. Yes, that's what she is. But she's not a non-partisan political analyst, not in any way, shape or form, even though CBS treated her, presented her to their audience, as if she were. She was the first analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night. At least through the first hour, she was the only analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night.
Instead of opening with his usual monologue of jokes, Craig Ferguson, an immigrant from Scotland, began Monday night's Late Late Show on CBS with a tribute to America, a refreshing attitude not often heard these days in the mainstream media. “I consider myself an American,” he declared on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, adding: “I've been here for a long time. I love this country.” Ferguson contended: “Anyone who cares about anything, when these rat bastards flew those planes into those buildings, if you're a human, it would insult everything inside you.” Ferguson suggested “this is a defining moment for our generation. For one generation, it was the assassination of Kennedy, for another it's 9/11. It's 'Where were you on September the 11th?'”
Ferguson proceeded to recount how a few days after 9/11 he was at the Warner Brothers lot, where he was an actor on the Drew Carey Show, for a memorial service. The Teamsters had put up on the side of a building a huge U.S. flag and as the wind blew some of the clips holding it up came loose, but the flag stayed in place. He recalled: “For all the fear and terror that 9/11 brought, I thought then when I saw that flag stay there, I thought that's the way it is here. This is an ill wind and it moved the flag and a couple of clips popped, and the country reeled back from it, and for all the arguments and all the rascals and the scoundrels on either side of political debates, all across who try and claim this awful, awful day as something they own, there is argument and debate in America, and that's what makes us the country that we are. And when that wind blew, and when that ill wind blew in America, the flag was still there. The flag was still there.”
I wrote, earlier today, about how The Early Show began the broadcast this morning by politicizing 9/11. I had stopped watching after the Axelrod segment to write about it, and just recently got back to it. I was almost stunned by how right my headline had been. I just didn't know the half of it. The first hour of the show was filled with politics, the vast majority of it negative towards the Bush administration and the rest just inappropriate.
First, we had the Axelrod piece, as referenced earlier.
Axelrod: The President's aides have made it clear this is no time for politics, although his very presence here is a reminder of the lost popularity for Mr. Bush in the past five years....In the days and weeks after the President climbed that rubble pile at Ground Zero and promised revenge, the President had an 89% approval rating. Five years later that number is 36%. Later today the President will head from here in Manhattan to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At 11:45 A.M., Mr. Bush will participate in a ceremony in Shanksville. He will then fly to Washington to lay a wreath at the Pentagon. At 9:00 tonight the President will address the nation in what we're told will be a non-political speech.
On Monday morning, the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on the morning shows of each of the three broadcast networks, ABC’s "Good Morning America," NBC’s "Today," and CBS’s "Early Show. While "Good Morning America," and "Today" avoided talk of possible future campaigns, Rene Syler on the "Early Show" looked ahead to the Presidential campaign in 2008 and inquired if Mr. Giuliani would himself be a candidate:
"If I could, sir, ask you about your political aspirations because there's been a lot of talk. You remain a presidential prospect for 2008, will you run for president?"
The 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, is clearly an event that needs to be marked and acknowledged. One can only imagine the furor that would arise if the President of the United States were to neglect observing and commenting on the day. On the other hand, if he were to choose this particular time to come out with partisan political attacks, to attempt to take advantage of the anniversary observances in purely political ways, I believe we can say, with some confidence, that the mainstream press would be vociferous in their condemnation. History suggests to us that the media in this country is on the lookout for any signs of partisanship from the President today. (It also suggests that that vigilance is, shall we say, one-sided. Attacks against the President for allowing the towers to be destroyed "on his watch," as it were, would be unlikely to arouse the same sense of outrage.)
Look no further than NewsBusters for complete coverage of Katie Couric’s debut as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News." The MRC’s Brent Baker began the week by noting a previous Couric claim that she’s not biased, but Fox is. Additionally, the new anchor has hired liberal Douglas Brinkley as the show’s historian. On September 5, Couric appeared on "The Early Show," only to apparently forget the program’s name! (Perhaps the perky anchor should do some homework on her new network.)
Ms. Couric wasn’t the week’s only big news. On September 6, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews talked to a Green Party candidate who called for President Bush’s execution. He later told the man, "I like you already." Somewhat ironically, this was only a day after Matthews wondered if Republicans would be using "fear tactics" and other extreme strategies to get elected. (Perhaps calling for the President’s execution could be an example?)
In another Chris Matthews story, NewsBusters Editor Matthew Sheffield talked to the host and was told the Valerie Plame story is now too complicated for coverage. In international news, Mr. Sheffield also noted the BBC’s continuing refusal to disclose the religious background of terror suspects.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal carries an editorial summarizing the findings of a new study from the Media Research Center that documents how the broadcast networks have skewed their coverage of the War on Terror in favor of those most concerned about civil liberties, not protecting the American people from another homeland attack. Here’s how it begins:
The title of a CBS special report Wednesday night posed the question that haunts us all after 9/11: "Five Years Later: Are We Safer?" Given the show's brevity--an hour minus commercials--and the complexity of the subject, CBS's treatment was predictably shallow. After host Katie Couric asked President Bush a few questions of the "your critics say . . . how do you respond?" sort, and we toured the federal antiterrorism command center, there was little time left for an in-depth examination of anything.
It's been natural for some to link the Clintonista campaign against ABC's "The Path to 9/11" with the efforts of MRC and other groups protesting CBS's flimsy biopic on "The Reagans." (Rich Noyes makes one obvious point of difference: Clinton is cogent enough to defend himself. In the fall of 2003, Reagan was deep into his Alzheimer's disease and dying.) Brent Bozell columns from that time are here and here. Brent still believes that if ABC corrects its docudrama if it doesn't have documentation for something being challenged, it's doing the right thing.
In the coming hours and days, my colleagues at MRC and NewsBusters are sure to provide comprehensive, in-depth analysis of Katie Couric's debut this evening as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. From the opening segment, whose message was that things are worse in Afghanistan than you realize, to an interview with MSM foreign policy fave Thomas Friedman decrying tax cuts, to anti-McDonald's hypster Morgan Spurlock, ahem, spuriously trying to pass himself off as an opponent of hype, it was all pretty predictable liberal stuff.
But Katie did - unintentionally no doubt - permit a telling moment of candor to slip through the MSM filter. Introducing a segment on Pres. Bush' speech today on matters of national security, Couric said:
"The war on terror began of course with the September 11th attacks on the United States."
In a serious indicator of approaching liberal bias on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Howard Kurtz noted yesterday:
The revamped program has just hired its own historian, author Douglas Brinkley, and has taped outside contributors delivering 20 possible commentaries for its new "Free Speech" segment (including a couple by Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson).
As noted by Mark Finkelstein, CBS’s "Early Show" on Tuesday dedicated two segments, one in the 7:30 half hour and the other in the 8:00 half hour, to promote tonight’s debut of Katie Couric as the new anchor of "The CBS Evening News." Given that Couric is employed by CBS and had been in competition with the "Early Show" from 1999 when CBS renamed it’s morning news broadcast until her departure from NBC’s "Today Show" earlier this year, shouldn’t Couric at least know the name of the program on which she was appearing? Apparently she does not.
According to TVnewser.com, in behind the scenes video released by AOL, Couric refers to the "Early Show" as "CBS This Morning," the former name of the show (video available here). During the interview, Couric told "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith that she hoped viewers would find her broadcast “instructive” and spun the low ratings of the “CBS Evening News” as something positive:
Looks like CBS got itself a two-fer. Katie's not just an anchor - she's a comedian, too!
The highlight of her extended interview with Harry Smith on this morning's Early Show, touting her debut on tonight's CBS Evening News, was her claim that what the "old media" has to offer in contrast with the new media is . . . "integrity and standards."
Couric is apparently a jokester of the deadpan school, managing to get off the line without dissolving into guffaws. This from the woman about to take over the illustrious Dan Rather Forged Document Chair, named in honor of the hoax perpetrated by the old media and peremptorily exposed by that lacking-in-integrity new media. Is the irony lost on Katie that the opening for her job occured because Dan Rather was sacked over the exposure of his lack of integrity and standards?