Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday, only the NBC Nightly News mentioned that it was Flag Day. But not until the very last seconds after the final story. Then Brian Williams observed as he closed his program:
“That's our broadcast for this Thursday night, which also happens to be Flag Day. Thank you for being with us. I'm Brian Williams. We'll look for you right back here tomorrow evening. As we leave you tonight, a look at this Flag Day 2007 across our country. Good night.”
As Williams spoke, and continuing for a few more seconds beyond that, for 25 seconds in all viewers saw video of the flag over the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, Virginia followed by the flags around the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams conceded on Thursday's newscast that NBC has focused on the interests of those in favor of the immigration bill as he acknowledged “a lot of people” have a different perspective. A week after the immigration bill collapsed in the Senate, NBC got around to the other side -- but that's still sooner than ABC or CBS. With "Immigration Backlash" on screen, Williams explained how “as we have covered the immigration debate here, we have heard from numerous Americans who are trying to run businesses, make money and in some cases bring in ripe crops. They've been begging lawmakers for a workable immigration solution. A lot of people think this country is letting too many people in. Tonight we hear their take on immigration.”
In the subsequent report, David Gregory narrated video from North Carolina as he relayed how “a retired schoolteacher complains the reform plan ignores the steady flow of illegal immigrants” Gregory realized that “the anger in North Carolina is being felt around the country and it has created a nearly-unprecedented grassroots movement dedicated to defeating the immigration measure.” He characterized the view as part of “an anti-immigration assault” fueled by “opponents of the immigration bill who claim it's nothing more than amnesty for law breakers." But he then cited opposition to all immigration: "The issue cuts across party lines. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and 40 percent of Democrats think immigration hurts more than it helps.”
Was it the most important speech of President Reagan’s life?
Who knows? But, on the 20th anniversary of the moment many historians believe signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War, none of the broadcast evening news programs bothered to even mention it.
Instead of covering the anniversary of President Reagan’s demands in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany, for Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” (video and transcript of the speech available here), ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” reported:
The immigration bill crafted by U.S. senators and White House negotiators behind closed doors may have been Topic A on talk radio over the past few weeks, but after heavy positive coverage of the “landmark” deal on May 17 and 18, ABC, CBS and NBC provided surprisingly little airtime to the hot debate.
MRC’s Matt Balan and I examined the broadcast networks' morning and evening news coverage from May 17 through June 8. We found just 73 stories (36 full reports and 37 brief items) totaling 104 minutes, or one percent of available airtime.
Nearly half the coverage (45%) aired May 17-18 as the deal was introduced, after which the issue virtually disappeared. The CBS Evening News, for example, ran no stories from May 22 until June 7, when Katie Couric read a brief item on the bill's imminent failure.
Earlier today, Mark Finkelstein found that NBC thought the reaction to President Bush in eastern Europe was "over the top," which suggests their own dismissive judgment of his worth. "Over the top" was not a designation NBC used when President Clinton was hailed by large, adulatory crowds in eastern Europe. On June 22, 1999, as Brent Baker noted at the time, the NBC Nightly News featured the late reporter David Bloom touting how Clinton was greeted as a "liberator" – unlike President Bush?
BLOOM: In a refugee camp filled with mud and misery, but also today, hope, President Clinton, with his wife and daughter, walked hand-in-hand with children who escaped Kosovo's hell, but who cannot escape their own nightmares. 'The children,' Mr. Clinton says, 'have a glazed-over look in their eyes, full of hurt and terror and loss.' This woman tells the president, "My little boy has seen people killed. He's still afraid." But with the war over, these refugees, many still afraid to go home, fearing the unknown, greet the president like a liberator.
Are you sick and tired of Paris Hilton and all the attention given to this wealthy debutant when there are so many more important issues facing the nation?
Well, if so, you’re in good company, for in a commencement address at Williams College last Sunday, CBS “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric accurately stated that this “fluff…can rot your mind and distort your values.”
Yet, just four days later, Couric actually gave more airtime to Paris Hilton’s brief departure from jail than every other story that evening with the exception of the opening piece about growing tensions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush and the final segment dealing with a retirement home for champion racehorses.
To set this up, here is the relevant text from Couric’s commencement speech:
From print to television, the formal declaration published by the group of eight most developed nations emanating from their summit in Germany was depicted as a winner for the host country’s chancellor Angela Merkel, while George W. Bush was the big meanie standing in the way of progress against the liberal bogeyman known as global warming.
For instance, NBC’s David Gregory said the following on Thursday’s “Nightly News”:
ABC's Charles Gibson fretted Thursday night over the likely impending demise of the “landmark” immigration deal as George Stephanopoulos blamed conservatives and on NBC Chip Reid faulted “extremes on the left and the right.” Gibson teased World News: “Tonight, the landmark compromise on immigration is in big trouble on Capitol Hill. Some Senators saying if we can't pass this, we can't pass anything.” Gibson proceeded to assert that the bill “was considered the best hope for doing something on immigration.” After a story from Jake Tapper on the debate in the Senate, Gibson expressed frustration to George Stephanopoulos: “What's so counterintuitive to me, George, is that a lot of the Senators who think and say most strongly that something has to be done to reform immigration are the ones who are voting for these killer amendments.” Stephanopoulos held conservatives responsible: “They are getting a lot of cross pressures, Charlie, particularly on the conservative side.”
Meanwhile, on the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid described how Democrats are opposed to the temporary worker program because of how it may take jobs from Americans and Republicans are opposed to what they consider “amnesty” for illegals -- both mainstream views in the two parties. Yet Reid applied an “extreme” tag: “You've got the extremes on the left and the right trying to kill the entire bill, rather than except the provisions they detest.”
Touting it as “some unusually direct talk today from Democratic candidate Barack Obama on the issue of race, something he rarely focuses on in his speeches,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday decided to showcase a clip of Obama delivering a standard liberal critique of President Bush for not spending enough federal money on social programs. Williams relayed how “Obama said the Bush administration has done little to address what he called 'a quiet riot' of discontent and despair among blacks in this country, one that erupted in L.A. 15 years ago and has been building again since the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.”
In the clip, NBC viewers heard Obama issue the hardly unusual liberal talking point that “this administration was color blind in its incompetence” before he avoided holding those in question responsible for their own plight: “All the hurricane did was make bare what we ignore each and every day, which is that there are whole sets of communities that are impoverished, whole sets of communities that don't have meaningful opportunity and don't have hope and are forgotten.”
No journalists in the last thirty years have built more of a legend than the old Washington Post pairing of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As the Watergate wrecking crew that put Richard Nixon in the scrap yard, they are America’s most venerated “icons” of investigative reporting.
But since that event, the paths of Woodward and Bernstein have separated dramatically. Woodward is still considered the top-dog journalist in Washington, a titan no president can ignore if he cares about his historical legacy, or his short-term political standing. By contrast, Bernstein has bounced around to cushy media jobs, at ABC, and at Time magazine, rarely distinguishing himself, with a mere fraction of Woodward’s celebrity aura.
Reporting how President Bush “called on 15 other nations to join the U.S. in taking new steps to reverse climate change” by reducing “greenhouse gas emissions,” the NBC Nightly News demonstrated how caving in to liberal demands will not generate positive press coverage as NBC focused on those who complained Bush's plan “doesn't go far enough.” From Chicago, anchor Brian Williams marveled Thursday night at how “President Bush today underwent something of a conversion. He called for new action on global warming, something he resisted doing for a long time.” Williams proceeded to devote an entire report to how “the reaction to the President's global warming speech today was cold in some quarters.” Anne Thompson, identified as NBC's “chief environmental correspondent,” relayed how “environmental leaders I talked to today certainly weren't impressed. One said it was worse than too little, too late, and several agreed that it was a PR strategy, designed to keep President Bush from looking like an obstructionist at next week's G-8 meeting.”
In fact, from what I can tell by looking at LexisNexis, Google News, and closed-captioning dumps, the only media outlet in the nation that covered this story was Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes.”
This is despite the fact that the Drudge Report broke the story at 10:27AM eastern time Thursday.
What’s potentially even more shocking is that all three network evening news broadcasts began with reports out of Iraq. For instance, here’s how CBS’ Katie Couric began Thursday’s “Evening News” (from closed-captioning):
Last night the rhetorical attack on Avandia was fierce.
"We're starting with a story that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans because a new study out today says a drug they take increases their chances of having a heart attack and dying," warned CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric.
After a week of inaccurate reports about the “record high” price for gas when, adjusted for inflation, the price was still below the cost in March of 1981, on Monday night ABC, CBS, and NBC again touted a “record high” price, but at least NBC acknowledged it simply matched the real 1981 price, while CBS alluded to a 1981 comparison. With “Record Prices” on screen, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reported that “gas is up another 12 cents in just the past week to a nationwide average tonight of $3.22 a gallon. Adjusting for inflation, that beats the all-time high set more than a quarter century ago at the start of the Iran-Iraq war.” In fact, it does not beat it but only “matches” it, as NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams relayed: “For the second week in a row gas prices have hit a record high. The feds say the average price for unleaded regular soared eleven-and-a-half cents over the last week to a new record of $3.22 a gallon. That matches the peak price reached during 1981 during the Iran-Iraq war when the figures are adjusted for inflation.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson, however, continued to deliver distorted reporting in which he refused to adjust for inflation. “Gas prices hit another all-time high,” he announced in teasing the May 21 World News. He set up the subsequent story: “Another Monday, another record high for the price of a gallon. The government says the price of gas went up 12 cents a gallon from last week, when it was already at a record high.”
Brian Williams turned over just under five minutes of Wednesday's NBC Nightly News to a live interview with former President Bill Clinton about his effort to address global warming, a fawning session which amounted to little more than pontificating from Clinton cued up by Williams, who set the tone by asking: “What does the current administration have to answer for? How much of it, in your view, is their fault?” The ostensible news hook for the segment: The “Clinton Climate Initiative's” announcement of “a global Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program.”
The three other questions Williams managed to squeeze in between Clinton's long-winded answers to the easy inquiries: “What have you done in your personal life that contributes to better environmental health, let's say, in this country?” Clinton insisted: “I have a hybrid vehicle which I drive, which I drove to New York to work today.” Does the former President of the United States really drive his own car and not ride in a Secret Service-driven limo? And where do the agents ride in a puny hybrid? [Update: or it could be a not so puny hybrid SUV] Williams didn't ask, but instead treated Clinton as an energy use expert: “For the people who find it hard to believe that replacing bulbs in their home or changing the vehicle they drive could make a difference, what's your counter-argument?” Finally, Williams turned cute: “How much of your personal time these days are you spending as, let's call it, political advisor to somebody close to you?”
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Tuesday night couldn't resist ridiculing the late Jerry Falwell for pointing out how a children's character on a PBS show appeared gay -- though gay rights advocates had earlier made the same observation -- and CBS brought aboard liberal presidential historian Douglas Brinkley who called Falwell “comedy fodder for people,” found it relevant that “feminists never liked him,”and dismissed him as “a backlash figure” whose “returning to family values was returning to women being in the kitchen.”
On ABC's World News, which unlike CBS and NBC did not lead with Falwell's death, Dan Harris asserted: “In the final years of his life Falwell alienated some in his own movement with a series of controversial statements. For example, he said the children's TV character 'Tinky Winky' was a gay role model.” CBS's Richard Schlesinger recalled that in later years “Falwell started making embarrassing missteps, denouncing a popular cartoon character as a gay role model.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, Bob Faw, who concluded his piece by asserting that “the Reverend Jerry Falwell -- crusader and polarizer -- was 73,” raised the PBS show: “In 1999, Falwell was ridiculed when he complained one of the PBS Teletubbies was gay.” But a 1999 Cox News story archived on a gay news Web site, began: “In the flap over whether Tinky Winky the Teletubby is gay, the real news is that the Rev. Jerry Falwell is late to the party.” Phil Kloer pointed out that in 1998, the year before Falwell spoke out, “the gay magazine The Advocate presciently wrote that 'PBS is clearly terrified that the same fundamentalists who boycott Disney are going to flip once they get wind of the latest lavender love puppet.'”
Television anchors must compress complicated subjects into simple sentences, but on Friday night NBC's Brian Williams delivered too simple of a presumption when he set up a story, on Rudy Giuliani's latest attempt to explain his abortion position, by trying to paint Republicans as out of the mainstream as he asserted that “most Americans believe a woman has a right to an abortion. Most Republicans do not.” While it's true that most don't want abortion completely banned under all circumstances, the majority favor restrictions on such a “right” and only 16 percent, according to a February Washington Post poll, want it “legal in all cases.” And interestingly, the latest abortion poll on the PollingReport.com's abortion page, a May 4-6 survey by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, discovered that 50 percent identified themselves as “pro-life” compared to a minority of 45 percent who called themselves “pro-choice.” NBC's own late April poll found that, by a fairly solid 53 to 34 percent, most agreed with the Supreme Court's decision upholding the federal law banning “partial-birth” abortions.
The broadcast network evening newscasts, reflecting the focus of the media's approach to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement that he will step down on June 27, framed their reviews of his ten-year tenure around the unpopularity of his decision to join the U.S. in the Iraq war. On CBS, however, Elizabeth Palmer uniquely found time to recall how Blair won in 1997 by “dragging Britain's old left-wing Labour Party to the political center” and she cited a couple of other achievements. Nonetheless, like ABC and NBC, CBS included the obligatory citation of how the British press derided Blair as “Bush's poodle,” a derogatory characterization also highlighted on Thursday's morning shows.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams saw great meaning in Blair's decision as he cited Blair's resignation as one of the “concussions from the war in Iraq” which reflected “the political cost of an unpopular war,” asserting: “There are combat casualties of the war in Iraq, there are civilian casualties. Today we saw a political casualty, Tony Blair stepping down.” NBC's Keith Miller observed that “Tony Blair was perhaps the best Prime Minister America never had. But at home, the press labeled him 'Bush's poodle' and his approval rating plunged.” From London, ABC's David Wright declared: “People here ridiculed him as 'Bush's poodle.' The Iraq war has been albatross for Blair, dragging down his approval ratings and drowning his hopes for a positive legacy.” CBS anchor Katie Couric announced that “Blair's role as the President's ally ended up costing him dearly.”
Imagine for a moment that one of the leading Republican presidential candidates said that 10,000 people had been killed by the recent tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, Saturday.
Do you think this would have been easy fodder for the broadcast television news divisions that always seem fascinated with gaffes made by folks on the right?
If your answer is an unequivocal “Yes,” then why did ABC, CBS, and NBC completely ignore Sen. Barack Obama’s statement Tuesday wherein he accidentally exaggerated the death toll from the Greensburg tornado by 9,988?
The Katie Couric as “CBS Evening News” anchor experiment appears to be failing, and failing miserably.
As TV Week reported Tuesday (h/t TVNewser): “The news is not good for third-place ‘CBS Evening News With Katie Couric,’ which in the week of April 30 hit its lowest total viewership since at least 1987.”
According to TVNewser’s Brian Stelter, the “at least 1987” qualifier refers to Nielsen ratings not going back any further.
The news wasn’t any better for one of Couric’s competitors either:
Apparently, it doesn't take much to flummox Brian Williams. He wrapped up Monday's NBC Nightly News with a whole story devoted to a “paralyzing question” which “can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear.” The dilemma? “Paper or plastic” at the grocery store. “The grocery store dilemma,” he teased, “'paper or plastic?' What is the right answer to that paralyzing question in the checkout line?” Williams repeated his terminology in plugging the story before an ad break: “What is the right answer to that often-paralyzing question at the checkout, 'paper or plastic?'”
Williams introduced the eventual May 7 story by fretting about how people “are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision.” Maybe if you're a self-obsessed environmental extremist with too much free time, but I doubt most people feel such pressure and are able to easily make the choice without liberal guilt. Williams asserted: “Tonight, as part of our ongoing series of reports on the environment, 'America Goes Green,' we take on the question that can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear. We've all been there. You come to the end of the checkout line and then comes that question, 'paper or plastic?' For that one brief moment, we grocery buyers are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision. Is there a correct answer?”
Reporter Anne Thompson turned to a left-wing activist group, naturally unlabeled, for the answer:
“To find out what to do in the grocery store, we turned to Alan Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coast. So if that's where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says, it's plastic.”
“To make all the bags we use a year it takes 14 million trees for paper, 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags create 70 percent more air pollution than plastic. But plastic bags create four times the solid waist, enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years.”
The bottom line: Avoid both, as she concluded:
“Re-use and recycle is the environmentalist mantra for plastic and paper. But the best choice, they say, is cloth or canvas and B.Y.O.B. -- Bring your own bags.”
On April 25, 2007 the Dow soared to another record close, this time above 13,000. As Newsbusters reported here, here and here, the networks did anything but cheer. In fact, network broadcast reporting of the Dow's recovery since 2003 has been marked by pessimism.
Katie Couric introduced the April 25, 2007 CBS "Evening News" report with this dismal statement:
"Even as investors are making money in the market, Anthony Mason reports there are concerns tonight about the rest of the U.S. economy."
Mason made good on Couric's tease, with a class warfare remark that "Wall Street and Main Street appear to be headed in different directions" because of housing and gas prices.
On Monday's NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw gave a sentence to a criticism of the Clinton administration, by former CIA Director George Tenet, not mentioned in broadcast network evening newscast stories last week, or Monday night on ABC and CBS, nor on Sunday's two-part 60 Minutes interview -- all of which focused on Tenet's attacks on Bush officials. Brokaw relayed: “He said that he was frustrated during the Clinton administration because, he said, Attorney General Janet Reno had ruled that a CIA plan to assassinate Osama bin Laden was illegal.” Brokaw didn't raise that subject during his live Monday Today show session with Tenet about Tenet's book, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, but it could come up in part two set to air Tuesday morning on tape.
Brokaw had ridiculously implied on Friday's NBC Nightly News that conservatives who have cited former CIA director George Tenet's “slam dunk” comment about Iraq possessing WMD had, in fact, claimed that the comment was a prediction that the war itself against Iraq would be a “slam dunk.” Brokaw relayed how Tenet insisted “he was talking about assembling a stronger case to take to the public so it would have a better understanding of what the CIA believed to be true. He was not, he says, saying that a war against Iraq was a slam dunk.” (Brad Wilmouth's NewsBusters item)
On Friday's NBC Nightly News, former anchor Tom Brokaw ridiculously implied that conservatives who have cited former CIA director George Tenet's "slam dunk" comment about WMD in Iraq had in fact claimed that the comment was a prediction that the war itself against Iraq would be a "slam dunk." The former NBC anchor filed a report detailing Tenet's criticisms of the Bush administration from Tenet's newly released book At the Center of the Storm.
After the pre-recorded report had covered some of Tenet's criticisms of Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Richard Perle, Brokaw turned to Tenet's claim that his "slam dunk" comment was taken out of context by Bush defenders. After a a clip of Cheney claiming that Tenet said "the case against Saddam on weapons of mass destruction" was a "slam dunk," Brokaw appeared live to conclude his report, and delivered his own distortion of how conservatives have used the quote. Brokaw: "Former director Tenet ... insists that he was talking about assembling a stronger case to take to the public so it would have a better understanding of what the CIA believed to be true. He was not, he says, saying that a war against Iraq was a slam dunk." (Transcript follows)
Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the media found someone other than Seing-Hui Cho to blame -- legal businesses like Roanoke Firearms, Glock and eBay.
Roanoke Firearms' owner John Markell was treated as an accomplice to the horrific crime by ABC's Brian Ross:
“The Roanoke Firearms store where Seing-Hui Cho bought his murder weapon has a history of selling guns involved in murders. It is the fifth time a gun sold in this store has been used in a homicide, according to gun shop owner, John Markell,” said Ross on the April 18 “Good Morning America.”
While Tuesday's NBC Nightly News commendably devoted a story to mourning in the Fort Bragg community after the loss of nine 82nd Airborne soldiers in Iraq, a loss to the division anchor Brian Williams described as “the largest since June of 1969,” reporter Bob Faw pivoted from sadness over the deaths to how “even here, where support for the war has been unswerving, the latest round of casualties raised new doubts about the American military presence in Iraq.” Faw included the views of those in the Fayetteville, North Carolina community who praised the soldiers and still support the war, but stressed, based on a few anecdotal quotes from people on the street, how “on this day, publicly, the voices of dissent grew louder and angrier -- even here.” Viewers then heard a woman declare: “It's senseless. All they're doing is going over there and dying for nothing, absolutely nothing.”