Toppling Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and bringing the brutal dictator before a court of law is unquestionably a major achievement of the U.S. and our allies. But TV coverage has minimized the historic significance of this case. Instead, the network’s Iraq news has been a depressingly dour drumbeat of terrorist attacks, U.S. casualties and dark warnings that Iraq is on the verge of ‘civil war.’
Not even Saddam's trial for crimes against humanity has encouraged TV to take more than a cursory look at the ex-dictator's horrifying record. Our analysts here at the MRC have just reviewed every mention of the trial on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news from October 16 (when the networks began previewing the trial) through March 15 (when Saddam himself took the stand).
Asked to provide an assessment of life is for ordinary Iraqis on the third anniversary of the start of the war, on Monday's ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News, Dan Harris and Richard Engel provided different pictures. ABC's Harris conveyed more bad than good, but acknowledged some hope expressed by an Iraqi family. NBC's Engel, however, stuck exclusively to the negative. “Iraqis today show a range of complex, competing emotions,” Harris relayed as he profiled a family in which “the question of whether Iraq is better off three years later provokes debate” with the 15-year-old daughter pleased that “toppling the regime made Iraq free.” After relating how a man in a long gas line maintained such a line “never would have happened under Saddam,” Harris pressed him: “Would you really rather have Saddam back, or long gas lines? 'We don't want Saddam. But we need a better economy and more security.'” Harris concluded with how the family expresses “the same, seemingly contradictory emotions, so common in Iraq today. They sometimes miss the days of Saddam, but don't want him back. They want the Americans to get out, but just not yet.”
A more dire Engel began with how “since the U.S. invasion, there has not been a single day without mortar fire, car bombings, or IED attacks. This is not the world Afrah wanted to bring her daughter into.” Engel highlighted how callers to a radio show “complain about kidnapings, police death squads and murders between Sunnis and Shiites." He concluded with how one man told him that “when he leaves his house in the morning...he tells his family he might not see them again." Engel proceeded to tell anchor Campbell Brown about how “my closest Iraqi friend” thinks “his country is now lost." (Transcripts follow.)
A day after leading with how a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put President Bush's approval at a low 37 percent (see this NewsBusters item), Thursday's NBC Nightly News again emphasized the negative for Bush and ignored how its own survey found public support for Bush policies which the media have derided, such as majority support for the NSA wiretapping program, the Patriot Act and making Bush's tax cuts permanent. From the White House, David Gregory asserted that "they're clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the President's eroding support in the country." Gregory suggested that "at his lowest level yet in the polls, the President is left to wonder: Which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency." Ironically, Gregory relayed how "Republican leaders have said they're worried that the President's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked." Indeed they have been by Gregory and NBC News. While Tim Russert on Wednesday night gave a sentence to how "voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security," like with the terrorist surveillance issue, neither NBC Nightly News nor Today have yet to mention how 56 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent." (Transcript follows.)
Without their own poll with which to batter President Bush, last Friday the NBC Nightly News led with how “the latest Associated Press poll has the President's job approval at 37 percent” as anchor Brian Williams pointed how “that matches President Clinton at the lowest point in his presidency.” (NewsBusters item with details.) But NBC caught up Wednesday night with the other networks, and though its new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found the exact same 37 percent presidential approval rating -- so no fresh news -- Williams nonetheless led with the poll number. Bringing aboard Tim Russert, Williams prompted him: “Tim, let's start with that all-important benchmark for Presidents, the approval rating." Russert outlined: "It is not good news for President Bush, Brian. Approve: 37 percent. Disapprove of his job: 58 percent. And look at this Brian, 'direction of the country.' Only one in four [26 percent] Americans say the country is in the right direction; wrong track, 62 percent.”
Russert proceeded to highlight how “Democrats will take great joy in” the finding that 50 percent want Democrats to control Congress, “a 13 point bulge” over the 37 percent who prefer Republicans. “Analysts, of both political parties,” Russert stressed, “say with that kind of number if the election was held today they [Democrats] could re-capture the House and Senate.” But, Russert noted, “inside the poll, voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security.” (Transcript follows.)
Though they pointed out how there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, the ABC and NBC anchors on Friday night, in noting her decision to resign from the cabinet, nonetheless raised links between her and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas cited only one accomplishment of her tenure, but hardly in praise if it: “She made it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on federal land in the West, drawing criticism from environmentalists.” Vargas then added how “her agency has been entangled in the scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but she has not been implicated."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced how President Bush “accepted today the resignation of the Secretary of the Interior, who insists tonight she is not leaving because of her department's associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Williams soon asked reporter David Gregory: “How is it that her resignation late today raised the specter or the name of Jack Abramoff?" With the photo on screen, Gregory reported how “there was a picture that surfaced recently” which showed “Jack Abramoff and Secretary Norton after a meeting with some Indian tribes.” Gregory, however, related that “a Senate committee did establish ties between the lobbyist Abramoff and top deputies to Gale Norton,” but “that same panel has found no connection, or no proof, that she knew of those connections.” So why bring up the subject? (Transcripts follow.)
In the last couple of weeks, a CBS News poll found approval for President Bush at “an all-time low of 34 percent” and an ABC News/Washington Post survey pegged Bush's approval at “a new career low” of 41 percent. Without a presidential approval poll of its own with which to batter Bush, anchor Brian Williams led Friday's NBC Nightly News with how “the latest Associated Press poll has the President's job approval at 37 percent. For some context here, that matches President Clinton at the lowest point in his presidency.”
A week and a half ago, on the February 27 CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer trumpeted how “a CBS News poll out tonight shows the President's job approval rating has fallen seven points since the hurricane to an all-time low of 34 percent.” A week and a day later, on Tuesday of this week (March 7), on ABC's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asserted: "President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new career low. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the President's overall performance rating now stands at 41 percent.” (Transcript follows of how Williams opened Friday's NBC Nightly News.)
As MRC’s Brent Baker pointed out, NBC’s Lisa Myers did a tremendously balanced report on Thursday’s “Nightly News” concerning videos of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. With this recent media frenzy generating a new round of finger pointing largely in the direction of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it seems that there is another video from around this period that is deserving of greater press coverage.
As reported by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth on October 8, 2005, Lisa Myers did a piece for the NBC “Nightly News” on October 7 addressing a number of key mistakes that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco made during this crisis which the media now seem content to ignore. In this segment, Myers played a video recorded by CNN wherein Blanco admitted that she was slow in bringing in federal troops to the area, and actually waited until Wednesday, August 31 to ask the president for this assistance. In addition, the piece specifically addressed how she and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ignored warnings by experts that it would take 48 hours to evacuate the city, and, instead, after “[praying] that the impact will soften,” issued the mandatory evacuation just 20 hours before Katrina made landfall.
What follows is a transcript of this segment as transcribed by Wilmouth, along with an MSN video link (hat tip to Gary Hall). Also following is a video link courtesy of Ian Schwartz of Expose the Left of the CNN segment with Gov. Blanco. Pay particular attention to how Blanco is grilled by CNN's Miles O'Brien, and her responses.
MSNBC versus NBC News. MSNBC's David Shuster, at the top of Thursday's Hardball, and NBC's Lisa Myers at the start of the NBC Nightly News, played the identical soundbites from Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center warning, on Sunday August 28, about his “grave concern” the levees in New Orleans could be “topped,” and a clip of President Bush four days later maintaining that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." But they used the soundbites to prove opposite assessments. Shuster contended that Mayfield's video “seems to contradict what President Bush said about Katrina” since Mayfield's warning “clearly” means that “the President's team did anticipate the breach.”
Lisa Myers, however, recognized the meaning of words and how water flowing over a levee, topping it, is not the same thing as a breaching, the collapse of a levee, which is what occurred. Myers explained: "Today Mayfield told NBC News that he warned only that the levees might be topped, not breached, and that on the many conference calls he monitored, 'nobody talked about the possibility of a levee breach or failure until after it happened.'” (Transcripts follow.)
CBS reporter Jim Axelrod on Wednesday night described how “this is what awaited Mr. Bush upon his highly-publicized arrival in India: Tens of thousands turned out to protest America's presence in the Islamic world.” Also from New Delhi, NBC's David Gregory relayed how, over video of crowds and a few men around a burning effigy of Bush, “Mr. Bush has already been met by large anti-U.S., anti-war protests.” But while ABC's Martha Raddatz noted how Bush's “warm reception in Afghanistan stood in stark contrast to the scene when the President arrived later in India,” where “tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly Muslim, lined the streets,” she pointed out what Axelrod and Gregory skipped: “Despite the demonstrations, the President has a strong approval rating here in India, roughly 70 percent."
Actually, the “2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey,” posted again Tuesday, “found that about seven-in-ten Indians (71%) have a favorable view of the United States,” not Bush, and that “while U.S. favorability ratings have plunged in many countries, Indians are significantly more positive about the United States now than they were in the summer of 2002.” As for Bush personally, the Pew poll discovered that he's “widely admired” in India where “just over half (54%)...say they have a lot or some confidence that Bush will generally do the right thing in world affairs, a significantly higher percentage than in any other country except his own.” (Transcripts, and more on the Pew poll, follow.)
If you look in the dictionary next to 'disgruntled', expect to find a photo of former FEMA Director Michael Brown. As the Today show graphic read, "Michael Brown Blames White House," and NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams was there to record every embittered word, with nary a nuanced question that might have probed Brown's account of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
In the interview excerpt shown on this morning's Today, Brown sought to exculpate himself by describing a conference call he had held with the President and top administration officials in which Brown informed them that 90% of New Orleans' population had been displaced.
Claimed Brown: "I am screaming that we need to do these things. We need all this stuff. It's like the old ketchup commercial. I just could not get the stuff to come out of the bottle."
A particularly dour report on the situation in Iraq aired on this evening's NBC Nightly News (Sunday, February 26, 2006) (link with video). This is nothing new, but the last 20 seconds of the report featured remarks from a man named Nir Rosen, whom NBC innocently identified as an "Iraq analyst." Not surprisingly, Rosen is far from an impartial observer.
All three broadcast network evening newscast anchors separated themselves from the “partial-birth” abortion term, some more awkwardly than others, as all ran full stories Tuesday on the decision by the Supreme Court to take up, in the fall, the constitutionality of a federal ban on the abortion procedure -- of whatever name -- which lacks a “health of the mother” exception. After CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews touted how former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had “protected” the women's health exception, anchor Bob Schieffer saw not the potential now of new “protections” for the unborn, but instead worried about new “restrictions” that may be “imposed” on abortion. Schieffer channeled left-wing fears as he asked Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune: "So does that mean this is going to be the beginning of the end of legal abortion in this country?" Greenburg, who at another point described Justice Alito “as much more conservative” than the pre-Alito/Roberts court, set him straight: "No, there's still five justices on the court who would vote to uphold Roe versus Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion.”
Schieffer introduced the CBS Evening News coverage, with a “Late-Term Abortion” graphic over his shoulder: “The court agreed today to consider the constitutionality of the ban that Congress imposed on a kind of late-term abortion that critics call partial-birth abortion.” In his top of the broadcast tease from Torino, NBC anchor Brian Williams asked: “Can the federal government outlaw late-term abortions?" He soon awkwardly offered this description: “A late term abortion procedure that opponents of it call 'partial-birth abortion.'” Yes, he said “of it call.” Reporter Pete Williams cited "what opponents call partial-birth abortion." Over on ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas wasn't so awkward as she stuck to the simpler “so-called partial-birth abortion” verbiage. ABC reporter Jake Tapper at least folded in a description as he delineated what occurs: “The law in question is President Bush's ban on certain procedures where the fetus is at least partially removed from the womb before its aborted.” (Transcript of CBS follows)
ABC and CBS, which both led Friday night with Harry Whittington’s first public appearance since his hunting accident with Vice President Dick Cheney, held their coverage to Whittington’s comments as well as remarks from Cheney at the Wyoming Capitol. But while NBC, for the first time since the incident didn’t lead with the topic, David Gregory highlighted Whittington’s praise for the media and explored whether Cheney “has become a political liability.” Gregory, the leading antagonist on the issue in the White House press corps, ignored a poll by NBC’s own WNBC-TV which determined the overwhelming majority want no further investigation of the incident, and began his story by suggesting some vindication: “Harry Whittington left the hospital in Texas today, and ironically began his remarks by thanking the news media for its coverage of this incident."
After a clip of Cheney and then of President Bush dismissing the controversy as “noise,” Gregory saw wisdom in one conservative columnist as he brought up a piece from the day before on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page: "Republicans are now faced with the question of whether...the Vice President has become a political liability, the hunting accident being just the latest example. Conservative pundit Peggy Noonan suggested in the Wall Street Journal the President might consider pushing the Vice President to step down. 'Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now,' Noonan wrote. But many Republicans say Mr. Cheney serves an important function...." Gregory, who through his vocal hectoring of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, made sure the story became a distraction, concluded that “this week” Cheney “was a distraction." (Transcript, and more on the WNBC-TV poll, follows.)
ABC and CBS largely moved on from the Dick Cheney hunting mishap story Thursday night as, for the first time this week, they led with other subjects. Both held their Cheney coverage to short items on President Bush expressing satisfaction with Cheney’s Wednesday explanation to FNC’s Brit Hume. But for the fifth straight day, the NBC Nightly News led with the topic with reporter Kelly O’Donnell stressing Cheney’s alcohol consumption. Anchor Brian Williams set up her piece by asserting “the questions that continue tonight have to do mostly with the damage this bizarre accident has caused.” O’Donnell zeroed in on how the local sheriff’s department report relayed how victim Harry Whittington “called it an accident and told investigators, 'foremost there was no alcohol during the hunt.'” O’Donnell, however, raised doubts about such a conclusion: “The report makes no other reference to any drinking or that any blood alcohol tests were ever done. The Vice President did say in his Fox TV interview that he had a beer at lunch, noting that was hours before the shooting.”
She then moved on to how “observers say the whole ordeal has weakened Mr. Cheney's influence." Her “observers”? One soundbite from David Gergen. O’Donnell concluded with how “senior advisors make the claim that because the White House has now answered some questions, the American people should be satisfied, too.” (Transcript follows.)
Admitting he hadn’t seen the interview, at about 4:15pm EST Wednesday on CNN’s The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty charged that “it didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the Vice President to wander over there to the F-word network for a sit-down with Brit Hume. I mean, that's a little like Bonnie interviewing Clyde, ain't it?” Cafferty soon called FNC a “safe haven” for Dick Cheney and predicted “he's not going to get any high hard ones from anybody at the F-word network." CNN colleague Lou Dobbs opened his show by complaining: “Vice President Cheney finally talking about his shooting accident, but to only one news organization. Is that full disclosure or is it blatant news management?" Guest Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News called it “ridiculous” for Cheney to give “one interview to his favorite network.”And later, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann castigated Cheney for choosing the “more malleable cameras of Fox News" in place of a press conference.
Over on the broadcast network evening newscasts, NBC’s David Gregory, the most aggressive reporter in the White House press briefings, fired back at Hume, suggesting either Hume had an anti-White House press corps axe to grind or at least that Cheney chose him because of that opinion: "Speaking out for the first time, the Vice President chose to speak with Fox anchor Brit Hume, a former White House correspondent, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the White House press corps' coverage of this story." On the CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Axelrod characterized FNC as a “friendly” venue: "The Vice President chose to make his first public comments on Fox News Channel's Special Report, a broadcast Mr. Cheney sees as friendly, and has turned to before.” One doubts reporters presumed Vice President Al Gore was going to friendly media when he sat down with ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN. (Fuller transcripts follow.)
The three broadcast network evening newscasts all led Tuesday night with the minor heart attack suffered by the victim of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, but all gave equal time to, for the second night in a row, obsessing over the snubbing of the White House press corps -- this time how Scott McClellan didn’t inform them of Harry Whittington’s complication. ABC co-anchor Charles Gibson teased: “The man Vice President Cheney accidentally shot, today suffers a minor heart attack as the White House faces new questions about its silence.” NBC’s Brian Williams teased from Torino: “There are more questions tonight about who knew what and when." Elizabeth Vargas, ABC’s other anchor complained about how “today the White House, once again, chose not to tell the public about a major development in this story.” ABC reporter Martha Raddatz recited “stinging” criticism of the White House from former GOP press secretaries before she concluded by fretting about how Cheney’s “staff has still not answered detailed questions about this incident...And it's not clear they ever will."
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asserted, “Then there's the other question hanging over this: Why has the Vice President remained silent?” Gloria Borger chipped in with how someone “close to this administration” just happened to see the situation and administration incompetence the same way as the White House press corps: “‘It's no longer about indulging Dick Cheney's views of press management.' Instead, he says, ‘it's now about Iraq and Katrina and a range of other issues that play into the public's views of this administration's arrogance.'” Schieffer asked that, since “nobody's going to ask the Vice President to quit,...do you suppose that we'll see the role of the Vice President changing?...Maybe back to the funeral beat is what Vice Presidents used to do before this Vice President came along." Back to NBC, David Gregory, the most prolific antagonist to McClellan at the Monday and Tuesday press briefings, insisted that “there are still unanswered questions surrounding Saturday's shooting.” He proposed two: “Why did the local sheriff in Kenedy County, Texas wait 14 hours to interview the Vice President?” And: “Did the Vice President follow hunting safety guidelines?” (Transcripts follow.)
On Monday night, both the NBC Nightly News and the CBS Evening News, led with Vice President Cheney’s accidental shooting of a hunting companion, treating it as the most important news of the day as they focused on journalistic upset with how the late Saturday afternoon shooting wasn’t disclosed until noontime Sunday -- and then to a local reporter instead of to a member of the White House press corps. "What took so long?” anchor Brian Williams demanded as he teased the NBC Nightly News from Torino. “Tonight, the White House under fire over the Vice President's hunting accident." Williams soon echoed his earlier demand: "Tonight, what happened and why didn't the public learn about the accident sooner?" NBC reporter David Gregory, a prime antagonist at Monday’s White House press briefing, complained: “The Vice President's office would only confirm the story when asked about it some 18 hours after the incident occurred. At today's often contentious press briefing, the question remained: Why did the Vice President sit on this information?" Gregory ended by asserting: "Another serious question tonight, of course: Did the Vice President follow hunting safety standards?”
Anchor Bob Schieffer applied an historic clarion call as he teased the CBS Evening News: “It was the shot heard around the world, or at least around the country. Vice President Cheney wounds a companion in a hunting accident...” Jim Axelrod marveled, “Think about it: The Vice President of the United States shoots someone, and the general public doesn't find out for 21 hours. Now that's the recipe for an uproar." Axelrod also found it remarkable that for “two and a half hours...no one told the President Mr. Cheney had shot someone.” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos suggested the shooting “could become just a metaphor. You know, you’re already seeing the jokes about competence, the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. It brings up other questions where the White House's credibility has been called into question in the past.” (Transcripts follow.)
Over at the NBC Nightly News "Daily Nightly" blog, NBC "investigative producer" Robert Windrem relates how at the 2:30 pm editorial meeting on Wednesday, "we had a lively discussion of what the context should be" about the Muslim cartoon jihad. For his part, Windrem agreed with local liberal academics, who somehow can link cartoonists to police brutality:
The bottom line for me was that this can't be dealt with as a story about cartoons or even about Islamic prohibitions about the depiction of Muhammad. It has to be about the simmering pot that went to boil, as Shibley Telhami, the University of Maryland scholar, said this morning on Washington radio. He noted that this is the Islamic version of the Rodney King verdict. In that case, it wasn't just about the verdict against four Los Angeles policemen. It was about African-Americans' belief, whether based on reality or perception, that they had been the victims of decades of racism and thuggery by the LAPD.
The first words issued by NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams tonight were as follows:
"The plot thickens. Tonight, the President reveals new details about an alleged terrorist plot involving hijackers, shoe bombers, and a sky scraper in Los Angeles.
But there are questions."
And with that, Brian Williams launched into what appared to be quite a skeptical analysis of the details released by President Bush today regarding the foiled plot to hijack a passenger jet and crash it into an L.A. sky scraper.
Reporting on President Bush’s Thursday speech in which he detailed a foiled al-Qaeda attack on a Los Angeles office tower, the three broadcast network evening newscasts fretted about the timing in relation to controversy over “domestic eavesdropping.” ABC co-anchor Charles Gibson cued up George Stephanopoulos, “Democrats in Washington immediately began asking: Why is the President talking about this now?” Stephanopoulos contended “there is a lot of politics at play here,” but portrayed Democrats as the victims as he relayed how “Republicans hope that this war on terror issue is going to be the key to have them keeping control of the House and the Senate in these 2006 mid-term elections” while Democrats “know” they “can’t let Republicans play the fear card.”
CBS’s Jim Axelrod maintained that “the eavesdropping issue is starting to cut just a little bit differently, as even some Republicans now are starting to call for more oversight" and “the President's speech came at a time when his tactics in the war on terror are under attack from some quarters with the eavesdropping controversy consuming Washington.” It certainly is “consuming” the press corps. Axelrod zeroed in how “the White House won't go anywhere near this question of whether the eavesdropping program had anything to do with the foiling of this West coast bomb plot, won't go anywhere near it. But checking across the government today, we couldn't find one single U.S. official to say that it had.” Jim Stewart reported that “they got this information not from any wiretap, but from what they called the rigorous questioning of some al Qaeda detainees.” To which Bob Schieffer translated: “Torture." NBC’s Brian Williams opened: “The White House says it was just a coincidence that during this time while the President is under fire for a program of domestic eavesdropping, and while he's been trying to renew provisions of the Patriot Act, he just happened to choose today as the day to talk about a planned terrorist incident in the U.S. that was thwarted.” (Transcripts follow.)
Some speakers at Tuesday's memorial service near Atlanta for Coretta King used the opportunity to blast from the left the racial, budget and foreign policies of President George W. Bush, who was himself amongst the speakers. Yet Wednesday's NBC Nightly News managed to turn the event into an indictment of Bush and imaginary “deep cuts” in social programs, without mentioning the vitriolic hatred directed toward him by the very black organizations and leaders NBC's Andrea Mitchell suggested he has snubbed. Anchor Brian Williams noted how the service included “criticisms of President Bush's domestic and foreign policies.” But then he framed the story around how it supposedly “raised fresh questions about the Bush administration's record on race.”
Mitchell began with a back-handed slap at Bush: "It was an in-your-face rebuke rare for any President, especially one who doesn't often surround himself with critics." Mitchell at least pointed out how Andrew Young considered it an inappropriate forum for attacking a President, before she recited Bush's mistakes: “After five years in office, deep cuts in social programs, and searing criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush is still struggling to explain himself to African-Americans.” Of course, there haven't even been mild cuts in social programs, never mind Mitchell's ludicrous claim about “deep cuts.” Mitchell also relayed how “critics, often Democrats, remember that he has not attended an NAACP convention since taking office.” Maybe that's because a few months after he attended one in 2000, the NAACP produced a TV ad narrated by the daughter of James Byrd, the black man murdered by being dragged behind a pick-up truck, which charged that since “Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.” And Mitchell also skipped how just last week NAACP Chairman Julian Bond alleged that the Republicans' “idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side-by-side" and he asserted that “Republicans draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics." (Transcript follows, as well as video of the 2000 NAACP ad)
Over at www.mrc.org, we’ve just posted a new study of how ABC, CBS and NBC have covered the NSA surveillance story. It's just as awful as you expected — most network stories were framed around the idea that the program is probably illegal and a shocking violation of Americans’ civil liberties.
Maybe the most interesting statistic is how reporters themselves refer to the targets of NSA’s surveillance. Most of the time, it’s either “domestic spying” or “spying on U.S. citizens,” categories that account for 84% of journalists’ descriptions. Only about one-sixth of the reporters descriptions point out that the targets are either “U.S. citizens suspected of ties to al-Qaeda” or “suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.”
On Saturday's NBC Nightly News, anchor John Seigenthaler retracted and apologized for a story, which ran on December 17, 2005, accusing former President Richard Nixon of ordering his aides to target journalist Jack Anderson for murder. On the Saturday February 4 show, Seigenthaler declared: "While there were reports that Nixon aides discussed a plan to kill Anderson, there is no evidence to suggest President Nixon authorized a plan or was even aware of one. We apologize for the error."
The original story from the December 17 NBC Nightly News, filed by Seigenthaler, was inspired by the death of investigative journalist Jack Anderson, a frequent Nixon administration critic. At one point, Seigenthaler ran a clip of George Washington University Professor Mark Feldstein saying that, according to some of the Nixon tapes, Nixon was "personally obsessed" with Anderson and repeatedly told his aides to "go after him." (Complete transcripts follow.)
Campbell Brown substituted for anchor Brian Williams last night, and she also subbed on the NBC Nightly News blog, the Daily Nightly. Here's how she summarized the decision to censor out anti-Islam cartoons:
An interesting story in our broadcast tonight... and some debate internally over how to cover it. Dawna Friesen is going to update us on a controversy that started in Denmark. It involves published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons, which first appeared back in September, have been reprinted this week in other European newspapers, prompting new outrage from the Muslim world. One of the images shows a depiction of the prophet wearing a hat in the shape of a bomb. The newspapers cite their right to freedom of expression, but the protests are growing and becoming violent....After some discussion in our editorial meeting, we have decided not to show the cartoons explicitly. We are trying to treat this issue with care and sensitivity while still bringing you the story. I am sure we will get some feedback on this. Looking forward to it.
ABC and NBC, on Thursday night, didn’t find CIA Director Porter Goss’s lambasting of leakers and the news media, for publicizing secret information, very newsworthy. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer, however, noted that at a Senate hearing the intelligence officials who testified “seemed at one point as concerned about leaks to the news media as the nuclear threat" from Iran and CBS reporter David Martin pointed out how “the leak that dominated the hearing was the New York Times story about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.” Roberts also highlighted how “CIA Director Goss delivered a tirade against news leaks." But ABC’s World News Tonight ignored the topic completely, confining itself to an anchor-brief about testimony on the continuing threat from al-Qaeda, while NBC’s Andrea Mitchell allocated a mere eleven seconds to how the intelligence officials "claim the leaks about domestic eavesdropping have already disrupted valuable operations against terrorists," compared to nearly three times more time -- 29 seconds -- to how “Democrats were outraged that the administration still won't provide more details about its domestic spying" as well as how the administration won’t “say how many people are being wiretapped." (More of what Goss and Michael Hayden said, and newscast transcripts, follow.)
Eric Lipton’s New York Times article on the congressional investigation into the White House’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina suggests that President Bush was foolhardy in thinking New Orleans had dodged the Katrina bullet on Monday, August 29, a day before the levees broke and plunged the city underwater.
“That night, after the storm passed, a report sent to the White House warned of a quarter-mile breach ‘in the levee near the 17th Street Canal’ and that ‘an estimated 2/3 to 75 percent of the city is underwater.’ Yet Mr. Bush and the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, in interviews after the storm hit, said they never expected the levees to be breached. They said that after the storm had passed Monday, they were convinced that the city had survived without catastrophic damage.
There’s an old rule in marketing – stick to what sells. Lately, it appears that America’s media are doing exactly that.
Since the significant rebound in the president’s poll numbers from their October lows, along with an apparent lack of outrage by the public concerning the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and revelations of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, the media seem to be downplaying reports on current events, and, instead, focusing attention on last year’s big story that was largely responsible for the decline in Bush’s favorability ratings.
In the past three days, the media have given more air time and print space to issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, an event that occurred at the end of August 2005, than a one and a half-hour question and answer session in Kansas that the president held on Monday, and a one-hour address that the second most powerful intelligence figure in our nation gave concerning terrorist surveillance the same day.
All three major broadcast networks this evening covered President Bush’s speech in Kansas today concerning the domestic spying program. They all included the same quote of the president saying, “If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?” And, they all referenced statements made today at the National Press Club by Deputy Director of National Intelligence and former National Security Agency director Gen. Michael Hayden. Unfortunately, none of them did justice to the extraordinarily compelling description of the NSA eavesdropping program offered by the general, or his explanation of errors and omissions that have been quite common in media reports on this issue.
Regardless, what was conspicuously absent from the “NBC Nightly News” report on this subject was the most compelling statement made today by Gen. Hayden: “Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.”
To be sure, it couldn’t have been a time issue that prevented NBC from including this key segment of Gen. Hayden’s statement. After all, toward the end of the broadcast, Brian Williams had plenty of time to discuss the person in the Kansas State University audience who asked President Bush if he had seen the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” as well as show footage of the president’s answer (from closed captioning): “I hadn't seen it. I would be glad to talk about ranching but I haven't seen the movie.” In fact, there was even time for Williams to speak glowingly about the film (also from closed captioning):
In his report released Thursday on Henry Cisneros, Clinton's HUD Secretary for several years who had pled guilty in 1999 to some charges, Independent Counsel David Barrett asserted that his probe was hindered by Clinton administration officials, even after they left office. But the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, which had time for some hardly hot news stories, such as a popular restaurant in New Orleans, didn't utter a word about Barrett's complaint. ABC's World News Tonight allocated 35 seconds to Barrett and Cisneros. Anchor Bob Woodruff pointed out how “Barrett accused Clinton officials of using their power to quote, 'blunt any effort to bring about a full and independent examination.'” Woodruff added: “Critics called Barrett's investigation 'incompetent,' 'wasteful' and 'without merit.'"
Barrett maintained in his report: "Beginning in the summer of 1997, the OIC developed, to the extent it could, evidence concerning efforts by officials of DOJ and the IRS to contain and limit the investigation of Cisneros's actions.” Barrett specifically cited Janet Reno and rued: “In the end enough high-ranking officials with enough power were able to blunt any effort to bring about a full and independent examination of Cisneros' possible tax offenses in the face of what seemed to many to be obvious grounds for such an inquiry." (What CBS and NBC covered instead, the ABC item in full and links to stories on Barrett's report, follow.)
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday night refrained from applying any ideological tag to the far-left group of lawyers, who represent terror suspects at Guantanamo and elsewhere, which filed a lawsuit against the NSA's program to eavesdrop on communications between terrorists abroad and people inside the U.S., but none hesitated to place a conservative label on those opposed to Oregon's assisted-suicide law (which the Supreme Court upheld). The network reporters avoided labeling the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which was founded by the radical-left William Kunstler, and whose President, Michael Ratner, declared last month: “Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country."
On CBS, Wyatt Andrews related how, in ruling against the assisted-suicide law, former Attorney General John Ashcroft “was answering to conservatives pushing the Bush administration to protect life.” Andrews added: "This ruling also brought the first big case vote by the new chief justice, John Roberts, who sided with the conservative minority." But, without any labeling, John Roberts reported how “the NSA spying program was branded a violation of the Constitution by two civil liberties groups.” ABC's Lisa Stark pointed out how “the court's two most conservative members, Scalia and Thomas, disagreed” with the majority ruling. Anchor Bob Woodruff, however, had teased the newscast: "Two major civil rights groups sue to shut down the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping program." Pierre Thomas made those suing seem innocuous, relaying how the “attorneys, along with authors, scholars and Muslim support groups, claim unauthorized government eavesdropping will limit their ability to do their jobs." Over on NBC, Pete Williams noted how “Christian conservatives today called the ruling dangerous,” yet anchor Brian Williams announced how “today, civil rights lawyers filed the first lawsuit to challenge the government's program of monitoring the overseas phone calls of some Americans." (Transcripts follow.)