For his latest Media Reality Check on the rush to cover the alleged Marine massacre at Haditha, Rich Noyes discovered evidence that NBC's Baghdad-based reporter Richard Engel really does sound like he's a senior fellow at the Peter Arnett School of Advanced America-Hating Journalism. He's lecturing the Iraqi journalists for being appallingly slow on spreading the Haditha story before it's proven: Rich's summary of this quote was "Iraqis Falling Down on the Job."
Reporter Richard Engel: "Not mentioned in the [Iraqi TV news] broadcast: Haditha, where U.S. Marines allegedly murdered 24 civilians last November. It was first reported here in detail last week, and only then because the incident was denounced by the Prime Minister. Now, it’s barely on the news. Today at state-sponsored al-Iraqiya TV, we asked the news director why."
All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night put the 2,500 deaths of U.S. servicemen in Iraq mark ahead of the Iraqi government’s release of an al-Qaeda memo which admitted they are losing as it characterized their situation in Iraq as “bleak” and conceded that “time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance.” The CBS Evening News, however, at least incorporated both developments in their lead story run before the news that Bill Gates plans to step down from Microsoft in two years, though CBS anchor Bob Schieffer managed to slip in a plug for the upcoming Gates story as he opened: "We have two big stories tonight; Bill Gates, whose inventions changed the way we lived, is giving up day-to-day operations at Microsoft.” Schieffer then jumped to his lead: “There was also a grim milestone today. U.S. military deaths in Iraq now total 2,500.” Both ABC and NBC led with Gates.
Using language which painted Karl Rove as a guilty party who succeeded at avoiding capture by authorities, not proving his innocence, in his NBC Nightly News story on Wednesday (also carried at the top of MSNBC’s Countdown) about President George W. Bush’s morning Rose Garden press conference, David Gregory asserted: “Mr. Bush dodged several questions about Karl Rove eluding prosecution in the CIA leak case.” Viewers then saw this clip of Bush: “And obviously, along with others in the White House, took a sigh of relief when he made the decision he made and now we’re going to move forward.” The Oxford Concise Dictionary, built into the Corel WordPerfect I’m using to write this, defines “elude” as “evade or escape adroitly from.” Dictionary.com offers: “To evade or escape from, as by daring, cleverness, or skill.” Their illustrative example in a sentence: “The suspect continues to elude the police.”
The networks have been eager over the last few weeks to highlight every new charge or claim related to the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November (a new study from the MRC counted 99 stories or interviews about it over just three weeks on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows), but when a front page Washington Post article on Sunday recounted Marine Sergeant Frank Wuterich's contention that he and his squad followed the rules of engagement and were justified in their actions, the networks lost interest. NBC gave it a few seconds on Sunday's Today and a fuller story on Sunday's Nightly News, but ABC and CBS ignored it on their Sunday morning shows (GMA and Sunday Morning) while ABC's World News Tonight gave it a mere 20 seconds before a full story on suicides at Guantanamo and the CBS Evening News skipped it completely. On Monday, despite interview segments and stories on Iraq, the broadcast network morning shows ignored Wuterich's version, though ABC and NBC made time for full Guantanamo pieces. Amazingly, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't raise it with Congressman John Murtha, the lead accuser who appeared on GMA. The Monday evening shows also avoided the topic. (Detailed rundown and contrasts follow.)
NBC’s David Gregory on Friday night resurrected two of the favorite quotes of Bush-bashers as he contrasted past boasts with how the current “cautious view about the way forward in Iraq underscores the degree to which events on the ground have humbled the Bush team.” After a clip of Bush on Friday conceding the killing of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is “not going to end the war. It's certainly not going to end the violence. But it's going to help a lot," Gregory declared: "It's a far cry from July, 2003" -- when Bush uttered his “bring ‘em on" taunt. Gregory then offered a second example, Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2005 prediction that "we're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." (Transcript follows)
At a time when left-wing Bush-haters regularly call the President a “liar” and a killer, ABC and NBC on Wednesday night pegged stories to the controversy over Ann Coulter’s criticism of the very political 9/11 widows, with NBC anchor Brian Williams adding a nice touch by harkening back to Joe McCarthy as he promised a look at “why some are now asking, 'Have you no shame?'" But while the NBC Nightly News focused solely on Coulter, on ABC’s World News Tonight Jake Tapper suggested “our democracy has always been messy and vulgar” and he cited some anti-Bush slams.
The opening teaser from Williams: "And is it crossing the line? A conservative author's attack on 9/11 widows. This time, has the debate in this country just gone too far?" Williams set up the last story of his newscast by pleading: “Just when you think it seems like there are no limits on anything, someone comes along and makes a comment that goes over the line.” Reporter Mike Taibbi turned to the media’s favorite conservative-basher, David Gergen, to answer whether Coulter had “gone too far?” Over on ABC’s World News Tonight, anchor Charles Gibson cited the “uproar” over Coulter, but conceded “there is a lot of what passes for commentary these days on both sides of the political spectrum that many people find despicable.” Tapper cited how the New York State Comptroller referred to putting “a bullet between the President's eyes” and how Harry Belafonte charged that Bush is “no better” than Osama bin Laden. (Transcripts follow)
The Tuesday ABC and NBC evening newscasts ran tributes to Princeton University’s salutatorian, illegal immigrant Dan-el Padilla Peralta, and NBC also hailed the efforts of illegals in Queens to defy efforts to crack down on them. At the top of World News Tonight, Charles Gibson fretted, “American dream: A Princeton graduate who rose from homelessness to the top of his class, but could now be banned from the country because he is an illegal alien." Gibson soon touted how “we have an extraordinary story tonight of one illegal immigrant” who was amongst the few able to attend college, specifically “a young man who graduated from Princeton University today near the top of his class. He defied the odds spectacularly. Yet, because he is illegal, he faces an uncertain future.” David Muir explained his plight: "Dan-el is an illegal immigrant, which becomes very important because he's been invited to study at Oxford. And if he goes, U.S. immigration law says because he is an illegal, he can't come back for at least a decade."
Brian Williams ended the NBC Nightly News by trumpeting how Peralta “got over a major hurdle today. He graduated from the Ivy League despite living in the U.S. illegally. He moved here from the Dominican Republic when he was four. His mother was sick.” Just before the admiration from Williams, NBC ran a piece from David Gregory which looked at the immigration debate through the prism of illegals: “You see a neighborhood among the most diverse in the city on the leading edge of this fight. Some are afraid. Luis Amigo owns this bodaga. Here illegally, he says he won't visit his sister anymore, fearing he'll now get stuck in Mexico." Gregory set up “community activist” Ana Maria Archilla: “Leaving really isn't an option?" And before a minister, who didn’t differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants, argued that “we would fail our forefathers if we are not doing what we are supposed to do, to welcome immigrants,” Gregory delivered this chastisement of conservatives, "There is also this appeal: Don't let today's politics change the country." (Transcripts follow)
"The roadside blast in Baghdad on Monday that killed two CBS News crew members and seriously wounded a third has deepened concerns among television network executives about the risks their crews face trying to cover the Iraq war, some arguing that television reporters may be even more exposed than those in print journalism."
Near the end, Carter lets two news executives take some timely blasts at conservatives, and radio host Laura Ingraham in particular:
Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz demonstrated on Friday how isolated ABC is on their embarrassing assertion that Speaker Dennis Hastert is "in the mix" of a federal corruption probe, called "potentially seismic" by former Clinton toady George Stephanopoulos:
Reporters for NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and other news organizations checked out ABC's report but were waved off by law enforcement officials. "Within 15 minutes, we had three or four basic denials saying in effect this was a complete overreach, and we chose not to run it," said John Reiss, executive producer of "NBC Nightly News."
Friday night, Kurtz appeared on Washington Post Radio (WTWP) in D.C. at about 6:15 with host Bob Kur, the former NBC reporter. When ABC's Brian Ross stressed that any Hastert investigation was in its "very beginning" stages and could amount to nothing, Kurtz said it "made me question why" ABC would make it the lead story. Kur replied: "Exactly."
The Friday morning and evening broadcast networks shows pounced on how when asked, at the joint Thursday night Bush/Blair press conference, whether he had any regrets about the conduct of the war in Iraq, President Bush responded: “Saying, ‘bring it on.' Kind of tough talk you know that sent the wrong signal to people” and “some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, ‘wanted dead or alive.'”
CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer suggested Bush isn’t always so honest as he described it as “an unusual burst of candor from President Bush.” Schieffer soon called it an “extraordinary statement” and reporter Jim Axelrod agreed it was “startling.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams found Bush’s answer so important that he played a stand-alone clip of the “most interesting moment” and brought aboard Tim Russert who saw a “remarkable, remarkable admission." On her last night as anchor of World News Tonight, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas asserted that “some of the bold talk we once heard from them is gone. Now they are voicing regrets and admitting mistakes.” Jake Tapper framed a story around how Bush and Blair “came together to project confidence in the new Iraqi government, but perhaps what came across strongest was regret." (Transcripts, and a brief look at the mornings shows, such as how NBC’s Today opened with “Admitting Mistakes” on screen, follow.)
NBC brought Tom Brokaw back onto the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday to trumpet Al Gore’s “stylish and compelling movie” which “graphically describes the realities and consequences of global warming."
Sitting at the anchor desk with Brian Williams, Brokaw gushed: "Brian, the Vice President's film tonight, which is called An Inconvenient Truth, is a stylish and compelling video version of an argument that he's been making for a long time, that global warming is real and it's getting worse.” Brokaw presumed Gore’s claims are accurate as he touted how “the man who lost the presidency in the U.S. Supreme Court is suddenly everywhere again, the leading man in a new documentary that graphically describes the realities and consequences of global warming." Gore sat down with Brokaw for an interview and Brokaw pressed him about running again for President after heralding how "Gore's high-profile involvement in this film and in other public appearances these days is causing a political buzz." Back at the anchor desk, Williams asked if Gore’s movie offers any solutions. Brokaw offered up a plug for Gore’s hysterical Web site before noting a shortcoming: "Well, they direct you to a Web site called ClimateCrisis.Com. They don't deal with nuclear power which many people believe is one of the solutions that will have to be examined.” (Transcript follows)
Lisa Myers delivered an enterprising report, on Friday's NBC Nightly News, on how a Senate committee is investigating possible UN “oil-for-food” program misdeeds by former Senator Robert Torricelli. But no where in her story did she identify Torricelli's party. He's a Democrat. The only party label in the story came in an on-screen "(R) Minnesota" for Senator Norm Coleman. Anchor Brian Williams summarized the oil-for-food program and then noted how “there are allegations that a former member of Congress may have been involved in part of the scandal.” Myers began by reminding viewers of how “former Senator Robert Torricelli, forced to abandon a Senate race four years ago because of ethical lapses today is back under investigation again.” She explained: “In 1996, then-Congressman Torricelli repeatedly lobbied Iraqi officials to give lucrative contracts to a company owned by Korean-American businessman David Chang, who later went to prison for making illegal campaign contributions to Torricelli.” (Hat tip to NewsBusters contributor Tom Johnson.)
All the networks got a few minutes Thursday afternoon with President Bush at an outdoor setting along the Arizona-Mexico border, and while ABC's Martha Raddatz, CBS's Bill Plante, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and FNC's Carl Cameron all stuck, as least as aired, to immigration questions, NBC's David Gregory compared Bush's approval to Nixon's, suggested the public has reached a “final judgment of disapproval” and pressed Bush to name more “centrist” policies he'll adopt. And when Bush named tax cuts, Gregory made clear he didn't consider that centrist.
MSNBC's Hardball carried the entire interview while viewers of the NBC Nightly News and MSNBC's Countdown only saw a few excerpts. In the NBC Nightly News/Countdown piece, David Gregory reported: "The President brushed off the fact that his poll ratings are now similar to Richard Nixon's when he resigned the presidency." Gregory featured this question he had posed: "Do you think it's possible that, like Nixon and Watergate, that the American people have rendered a final judgment of disapproval on you and your war in Iraq?" Those watching the 5 and 7pm EDT Hardball heard all that, as well as how Gregory proposed: “You've said and have said in this immigration debate that you want to find 'rational middle ground' on this issue. What other areas can the American people expect you to urge a more centrist approach to policy?" Bush replied that “cutting people's taxes is rational.” To which Gregory retorted: "But is that middle ground?" (Transcripts follow)
Networks fixate on tax cuts ‘for the rich’ while ignoring exploding tax revenues.
While Congress hammered out a $70 billion tax-relief bill last week, the media wasted no time spinning it. After the House approved its version on May 10, the “NBC Nightly News” cited “Democratic critics [who said] the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy.” At roughly the same time, the “CBS Evening News” presented a graphic to its viewers showing “for incomes of $50,000 or less, you’ll average no more than $46 in savings.”
The following day, ABC’s “Good Morning America” team offered a $20 bill to shoppers at a New Jersey mall as a cynical demonstration of how little this tax cut would help some Americans.
All totaled, the broadcast networks did 16 reports on this issue in their three-day blitzkrieg, largely with the same predictable mantra: tax cuts favor the rich. Conspicuously absent was an honest assessment of just how much lower wage earners in America have benefited from the most recent income tax changes, as well as how much the government has benefited from higher tax revenues.
The Truth Hurts Without question, the best thing government can do for low-income families is not burden them with income taxes. Toward that goal, according to a March 30 report by the Tax Foundation’s Scott Hodge, the percentage of Americans not paying any federal income taxes has exploded in the past few years as a result of recent tax changes:
On the six month anniversary of Democratic Congressman John Murtha's successful publicity stunt call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News jumped on the chance to highlight Murtha's charge that last November some Marines deliberately killed more than a dozen innocent Iraqi civilians. But in treating Murtha as some kind of authoritative figure making “new allegations,” NBC ignored how the fairly well established as accurate charge (pictures exist of the immediate aftermath and three Marine officers were relieved of their commands) is old and has already been widely-reported -- including on the March 20 NBC Nightly News.
Brian Williams touted: "There are disturbing new allegations tonight from the Congressman and decorated Marine veteran who stunned the Bush administration about six months ago with his call for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.” Following a rundown from Jim Miklaszewski of the allegations, Williams trumpeted Murtha's credibility and relevance: “Jim, we should go over again, why is it significant that John Murtha is the one saying this?" Miklaszewski responded with Murtha's argument that the event bolsters his political point as to why the U.S. should leave Iraq, preceded by the misnomer that Murtha had “recently” turned against the war: “It's important because as somebody who recently turned against the war, Murtha held this up today as one of the reasons the U.S. military should get out of Iraq as soon as possible." (Transcript follows, as well as examples of earlier reporting on the November incident)
Matching the agenda of the morning shows, Thursday's network evening newscasts led with USA Today's front page story, “NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls," with none noting how the New York Times reported the same information back on December 24. Unlike CBS, however, both ABC and NBC at least pointed out how many Members of Congress were aware of how Verizon, AT&T and Bell South were providing the NSA with the numbers called by their customers, but didn't complain. Didn't complain, that is, until the news media decided to make it a big issue on which they could rail, thus providing the news media with material for further coverage.
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer demanded: “Does the government need to know who you've been talking to on the phone? Then why is it collecting millions of our phone records?” Schieffer led with how the phone companies “have been turning over the telephone records of tens of millions of their customers to a government spy agency. The overriding question is why and who has access to them. And it set off a storm on Capitol Hill where Republicans and Democrats alike are demanding answers.” Well, one liberal Republican, Senator Arlen Specter, who Schieffer interviewed. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas announced: "We begin with a revelation that may change the way Americans think about phone calls” because “the government has been collecting tens of millions of phone records. This includes phone calls to and from citizens who are not suspects in any crimes.” (Partial transcripts follow)
CBS and NBC on Wednesday night painted the tax cut extensions passed by the House through a liberal prism, relaying liberal spin meant to portray the cuts as unfair by citing the dollar amounts of expected cuts for the rich versus those earning lower incomes, without any regard for how an incredible 41 percent pay no income tax and so can't get a tax cut while the wealthier pay huge dollar amounts and so even a small percentage reduction represents a big dollar number. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson put on screen, without any attribution, how “for incomes of $50,000 or less, you'll average no more than $46 in savings. Up to $100,000, average is no more than 400 bucks saved. $100,000 to a million saves anywhere from about $1,300 to a little more than $5,500. Over a million, your savings will average nearly $42,000 a year.” After Attkisson, anchor Bob Schieffer set up a piece from Anthony Mason, on how the national debt will reach $10 trillion by the end of the Bush presidency and the National Debt clock in Manhattan is running out of space, by declaring that “critics...remind us that any tax cut is just going to drive the national debt higher."
On the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid recounted how Republicans claimed tax cuts have helped the economy before he picked up the left-wing numbers without offering any context about the dollar amounts of the cuts compared to the rate paid at various income levels, but at least he identified the source as “liberal.” Reid highlighted how “Democratic critics say the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy" and passed along how “according to the liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center, those earning more than $1 million a year would save an average of about $42,000 a year. But families earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would save only $110 a year. And the savings are even smaller for those making between $40,000 and $50,000." (Transcripts and tax burden facts follow)
For months, the media have blamed virtually anything but free market forces for the rise in oil and gas prices. NBC’s Lisa Myers attributed these increases to greed on a recent Nightly News report stating almost disgustedly “Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process.”
Imagine the nerve of ExxonMobil actually making a profit. Oh the humanity.
A few days earlier, CBS’s Russ Mitchell, clearly concerned about price gouging, asked one of his guests on the Evening News, “How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?"
I bet you can’t guess the response.
Yet, in the midst of all this hysteria, a highly unlikely source – National Public Radio’s Internet website – published an article entitled “Q&A: What’s Behind High Gas Prices?” In it, author Scott Horsley adroitly cut through the hype, and
Anyone with a working TV set knows that the broadcast networks have hyped the high gas price story (“Pain at the Pump”) to ridiculous levels. A new MRC study of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows found a whopping 183 stories in just three weeks, an avalanche of TV coverage that (helpfully to Democrats planning their midterm election strategy) has buried far more important good economic news, like robust economic growth, low unemployment and a booming stock market.
One device the networks have used to maintain an outraged tone in all of their coverage has been to plant themselves next to gas pumps and find motorists who aren’t embarrassed about whining on camera. The MRC analysts who went through all of the coverage — Geoff Dickens, Brian Boyd, Mike Rule and Scott Whitlock — counted 151 sound bites from gas buyers during the period we studied, April 12 to May 2.
Matching cable news networks interest during the day, two of the three broadcast networks (CBS and NBC, as well as MSNBC's Countdown) led Thursday night with how, at an event in Atlanta, a handful of protesters confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and accused him of “war crimes” and “lying” about Iraq. ABC also aired a story, but put the Moussaoui sentencing first. All three featured former CIA analyst Ray McGovern who demanded: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary?”But all failed to note McGovern's long record of hostility to the Bush administration. As McGovern boasted when he first got to the mike (video not shown by ABC, CBS or NBC), he's a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and if you Google “Ray McGovern of CIA” you get a plethora of returns from far-left sites (DemocracyNow.org, antiwar.com, truthout.org, alternet.org, TomPaine.com and CommonDreams.org).
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer trumpeted: “Not since the Vietnam War has a Secretary of Defense been under the kind of criticism that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been getting lately. A group of retired generals has called on him to resign, and today he caught it from another front when he went to what has been Bush country -- Georgia -- and ran head on into hecklers that included a former CIA analyst.” Of course, Atlanta is hardly “Bush country” and CBS offered no proof the protesters were locals. David Martin concluded by admiring the guts of the protesters: "This is not the first time a former CIA officer has accused the Bush administration of misusing intelligence. But, Bob, it's never been done in such an in-your-face way." NBC's Brian Williams saw a greater meaning: “Today the Secretary of Defense received a blunt and personal reminder of the split in this country over the war in Iraq.” He then showcased a woman shouting in the audience: “You lied to the American people!...You lied! You lied that Iraq's oil would pay for the war! You lied about everything the CIA told you was lies!..You're a liar!" Jim Miklaszewski next touted how “today's protests join a growing chorus of criticism against the Secretary and follow the calls from at least six retired Generals for Rumsfeld's resignation.” (Transcripts follow)
The wholesale price of oil and gasoline took a huge drop on the commodities markets Wednesday. But, you never would have known it from watching the broadcast networks’ evening news programs. In fact, the pain at the pump mantra continued in earnest at CBS and NBC without even the slightest mention of a greater than $2 decline in oil prices and an almost 9 cent decline in gasoline prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Instead, the NBC “Nightly News” did two pieces dealing with rising energy prices, including one about the politics of the problem. Brian Williams began the report: “Also in Washington tonight, these days, as we know, a lot of high anxiety over gas prices, and more political fighting over what to do about it.” Williams handed it off to David Gregory who concluded: “Amid all the anxiety tonight, some hope. Oil industry sources and administration officials say, given a recent boost in the supply of gas, that prices could actually come down, at least a bit, this summer.” Might have been a nice time to tell the viewers that they already have. In fact, after reaching a wholesale price high of $2.23 per gallon a few weeks, yesterday’s close of $2.09 represents a six percent decline in about eleven trading days. I guess energy prices are only newsworthy when they go up.
Of course, the CBS “Evening News” didn’t do much better, as it decided to report on how rising gas prices are harming a minor league baseball team. Bob Schieffer set up the segment:
Via Romenesko, we learn that long-time "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw was making some wild claims Monday night at a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The local newspaper reported he "begged the audience to put partisanship aside while the nation is at war," which the media certainly haven't. He "defended his profession against those who suggest journalists have not been balanced in covering the war and have ignored certain stories." He claimed there's mutual respect between journalists and soldiers, and while they may not always see the world "through the same prism," they have other similarities:
"We (both) live unconventional lives, we like to live off the land," he said. "Most of all, we like to get the bad guys and point out where evil is," Brokaw said.
All three broadcast network evening newscasts led Monday night with multiple favorable stories about the day of protests to promote the cause of illegal aliens. Bob Schieffer opened the CBS Evening News by trumpeting: “From coast to coast, from north to south, they wanted us to know what America would be like without them and so millions of immigrants missed work, skipped school and marched in the streets. They want America to find a place for those who came here illegally and it's too soon to know if they changed any minds in Congress. But what we do know is that construction sites shut down, hundreds of restaurants and many small businesses closed across the country...”
ABC's Elizabeth Vargas touted how “altogether, close to a million people took to the streets in more than 30 cities. And that number could still rise. It was the newest wave of protests against legislation that would increase the penalties for being in the U.S. illegally. Tonight, we have reports from around the country,” including a piece on a “man in San Antonio, Texas, who broke decades of tradition” -- for 29 years never missing a day of work -- “to make his own statement." Over on the NBC Nightly News, which put six reporters on the story, Brian Williams heralded how “we've been covering a major story unfolding all day,” showcasing video of “solid people for blocks.” Williams concluded that “the protests worked in many cases. Stores closed as workers headed out the door, and live television covered it all, all day long. We have comprehensive coverage tonight from coast to coast...” (Partial transcripts follow)
CBS and NBC on Monday night couldn't resist reminding their viewers of President Bush's “Mission Accomplished” speech. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer announced: "Today marks the third anniversary of what many thought at the time was one of the cleverest photo-ops ever, even opponents of the Iraq invasion were impressed when the President flew on to an aircraft carrier decked out in a dashing flight suit and then spoke beneath a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished.' But it turned out not to be.” Citing another CBS News poll which surveyed significantly more Democrats than Republicans, Schieffer proposed to Jim Axelrod: "With the President's approval down to another new low, 33 percent, I take it this is one anniversary the White House did not want to talk about today." Axelrod highlighted how “three years ago when the President appeared on the deck of the USS Lincoln, 74 percent of those polled approved of the way the President was handling Iraq. But contrast that to the latest CBS News poll, just 30 percent now approve of the way the President is handling Iraq. That's 44 percent, Bob, in three years."
"Today marks the third anniversary of President Bush's so-called 'Mission Accomplished' speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln," NBC anchor Brian Williams intoned. "On that day he declared, 'the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.' Today the message was less upbeat." Williams gratuitously added: "By the way, the U.S. death toll in the war is nearing 2,400." (More on the poll and partial transcripts, follow)
NBC White House correspondent David Gregory got into a sparring match with President Bush during a press conference today. Asked David Gregory:
"Mr. President, we're seeing some turnover and some change within your administration, and I wonder what it says about what you think is necessary to turn your presidency around at this point?"
The president responded with: "I think it's necessary to continue doing -- to achieving results for the American people. We've got big challenges for this country and I've got a strategy to deal with them."
Bush then cited off a laundry list of current issues to deal with, ending with, "So there's a lot to do today, but we'll continue to be results-oriented."
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night hyperventilated over “record” profits for ExxonMobil, but failed to point out how government taxes exceed oil company earnings. ABC even fretted about how much ExxonMobil “spent rewarding shareholders,” though it was less than the federal government took in taxes, and NBC excoriated the company for “cashing in” at 9.5 cents per dollar.
“Today, ExxonMobil reported profits of $8.4 billion for the first three months of this year, its best first quarter ever,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted at the top of World News Tonight before Betsy Stark complained: “The company says that's a record level of investment in new supplies. Maybe so, but it's less than it spent rewarding shareholders. 15 percent of profits went directly to shareholders in the form of cash dividends, and the biggest chunk, 40 percent, was used to repurchase Exxon's own stock." But ExxonMobil paid 83 percent as much as the $8.4 billion it earned, $7 billion, $2 billion more than a year earlier, in just federal income tax -- and a lot more in other taxes.
Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams promised, in his tease, “a reality check on sky-high oil company profits,” but all Lisa Myers delivered was demagoguery. Myers began by charging that “for outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this: Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process." Yes, ExxonMobil cashed in by investing and working to get their product to the retail customer while the federal government collected 18.4 cents per gallon in tax for doing nothing. Federal, state and local taxes total an average of 46 cents per gallon -- significantly more than the 28 cents Exxon earned on a $3 gallon of gas. (Transcripts follow.)
Leading with Karl Rove's grand jury session, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer painted CBS's coverage through a set of facts forwarded by Bush enemies as he justified his news judgment, “It is the story that is keeping Washington on edge: Who outed one of the CIA's secret agents whose husband happened to be a critic of the President and his war policy?” Jim Axelrod framed his story around how Rove being “called back in front of the grand jury yet again makes it crystal clear” that he's “still very much under a cloud of suspicion.” Axelrod seemed almost sorry for the Bush team as he concluded: "The President's poll numbers are at an all-time low, gas prices are through the roof, he's got an unpopular war and a divisive immigration debate to handle, and his chief political advisor is under this cloud. It just couldn't come at a worse time for the President.” Then, as if the media's news judgment has nothing to do with it, Schieffer observed: "I would agree that this White House just can't seem to talk about what it wants to talk about. I think today probably what they wanted to talk about was the naming of a new Press Secretary."
On the NBC Nightly News, which also led with Rove, anchor Brian Williams similarly marveled at how “the White House today was hoping for favorable coverage of one story in particular: The naming of the President's new Press Secretary, Tony Snow. And it was the story of the day from the White House right up until Karl Rove became the story.” Williams also highlighted “a new record the President may not be so proud of," an "all-time low" approval number for Bush in “our polling.” But the 36 percent approval in NBC's new poll is three points higher than a Fox News poll last week and four points above what CNN found this week. (Transcripts follow.)
ABC and NBC on Wednesday night delighted in showcasing how incoming White House Press Secretary Tony Snow last year wrote that President Bush had become “an embarrassment.” But in portraying the quote as a declarative accusation, neither ABC's Elizabeth Vargas or NBC's David Gregory put the remark into the context of how Snow was observing that Virginia Republicans not wishing to appear with Bush during the 2005 campaign suggested “Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” And neither bothered to let their viewers in on how they were just funneling quotes from a short list collected by the left-wing Center for American Progress. Vargas teased at the top of World News Tonight, “President Bush chooses a new spokesman: A conservative commentator who once called the President 'an embarrassment.'" Vargas managed to apply an ideological tag to Snow three times in under two minutes. She also ludicrously asserted that “Tony Snow is the first journalist to get this job.” Tell that to Pierre Salinger, Bill Moyers, Ron Nessen or Joe Lockhart -- who was a producer for Vargas' own ABC News.
NBC's David Gregory at least hinted at some context, though he still implied it was an accusation, as he related how Snow “has criticized his new boss, writing last year that, quote, 'George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.'” Gregory twice labeled Snow “conservative” before pointing out what eluded Vargas: “He is the first TV personality to be in the job since Gerald Ford hired away Ron Nessen from NBC News back in the 70s." (Transcripts follow.)
Gas price rage has blended with executive pay rage recently, since the media have been bashing ExxonMobil’s departing CEO, Lee Raymond, for his pay and pension package.
“Runaway pay,” said NBC’s Brian Williams on April 20, calling executive salaries and benefits “stratospheric” and “staggering.” CBS’s Bob Schieffer compared Raymond’s “golden” retirement to the “average American” on April 13. “How much is too much?” asked NBC’s Matt Lauer on April 11. And ABC’s “Good Morning America” said, “You Must Be Kidding!” referring to Raymond’s package as “stunning” on April 14.
Criticizing highly-paid executives has been in vogue at the news networks lately, but there’s something the anchors aren’t telling you: their colleagues’ top wages could soon be disclosed to the world, and Big Media are fighting it.
Large media companies have been doing everything within their power to hide the compensation plans of their own highest-paid employees from public disclosure. As reported by the Associated Press on April 11:
The broadcast network evening shows delivered a variety of spins Tuesday night on the price of gas, with CBS raising a “windfall tax on big oil” and featuring an in-studio segment with left-wing busybody Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York, about price gouging and NBC's Brian Williams worried about the concerns of those want a “greener America.” ABC's Betsy Stark rejected the price-gouging charge and while CBS insisted that eliminating environmental regulations would have little effect, Stark reported such a suspension would have an immediate impact.
CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell asked White House reporter Jim Axelrod about the idea of "slapping a windfall tax on big oil companies for these record profits that they're making?" Mitchell then turned to Spitzer: "As a consumer, it seems like it's the wild West. How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?" NBC's Williams set up a story on President Bush's proposals by citing how “advocates for a greener America” are “seeing red over what they see as a quickly degrading environment." Williams soon asked David Gergen "what are the chances” that the high prices will lead the U.S. to now move from a “carbon based society to one that's more green?" Gergen replied: "Well, one hopes that's the case...” (Transcripts follow.)