Another example of network journalists creating their own self-fulfilling story. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams set up a full story on how President Bush has returned to his Texas ranch “after an overseas trip that was not supposed to be about Iraq, but that topic ended up following him all the way around the world.” As if reporters, who were the ones posing the questions to him about Iraq and making it a topic on their newscasts, had nothing to do with it! Then, over video of Bush trying to open the closed doors in China, David Gregory opened his piece by finding deep meaning in the minor incident: “The President's botched exit from an impromptu press conference spoke volumes about this latest trip abroad." Gregory proceeded to act as if reporters were mere observers when they were directly responsible for imposing their news agenda: "All this month, from Latin America to Asia, foreign travel has provided Mr. Bush no escape from his political troubles. In Argentina, trade talks collapsed overshadowed by anti-America protests and persistent questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak investigation." (Full transcript follows.)
On November 4, the night of Bush's press conference in Argentina, a NewsBusters item recounted how “the broadcast networks...treated as of great import how President Bush was 'dogged' at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.” NBC's “Brian Williams stressed how Bush's 'political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.' Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's 'domestic woes came along, too' with 'four of five' press conference 'questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.'”
As reported by the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, the network evening news broadcasts tonight all lead with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn.) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq. Yet, they seemed disinterested in focusing much attention on Rep. Murtha's “denouncement” of the Iraq war more than a year ago. (Please see a May 10, 2004 CNN story stating, “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a ‘lack of planning’ by Pentagon chiefs and ‘the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable.’") Maybe most important, the networks totally ignored the fact that Rep. Murtha has been expressing disgust with the Bush administration’s prosecution of this war since six months after it started.
Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with how things were going in Iraq on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of President Bush’s defense leadership team. The network news organizations this evening chose not to inform their viewers of this, and, instead, implied that Rep. Murtha was a "hawk" that has always supported this war, and that his statements today were recent revelations.
Quite the contrary, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):
Though more than a year ago Democratic Congressman John Murtha denounced the Iraq war, asserting that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today,'' on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all led by championing Murtha's call for the immediate withdrawal of troops and showcased his ridicule of Vice President Cheney's lack of military service. “On military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer asserted in bucking up Murtha's credentials at the top of his newscast, insisting therefore “all of Washington listened” to him. The media certainly did. With the text on screen, Schieffer soon highlighted how Murtha “noted the Vice President had never served in the military and said, and I quote, 'I like guys who got five deferments and had never been there, then send people to war and don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'” Schieffer asked John Roberts: “So, in this kind of situation, the White House has got to be worried about, because this is clearly a sign that support for the war is beginning to fade on Capitol Hill."
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams teased: “The war of words over Iraq. Tonight a key Democratic supporter in Congress says it's time to get out, while the White House steps up its attacks on critics.” Williams led by touting: “When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn't be news, but it was today, because of who he is. Congressman John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran....Today, John Murtha said the U.S. must get out of Iraq. It's a debate that has followed President Bush halfway around the world.”
“An influential Democrat who supported the war says American troops should come home now," anchor Bob Woodruff trumpeted at the top of ABC's World News Tonight. Woodruff distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush “took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.” ABC's new White House reporter, Martha Raddatz, then claimed that “a visibly perturbed President called Democrats 'irresponsible' for continuing to criticize his administration's use of pre-war intelligence." And Raddatz highlighted how “Murtha ripped into the Vice President, taking aim at his lack of military service." In fact, Bush and Cheney are upset about being charged with “lying” to get the nation into a war, not at general criticism. ABC gave Cheney barely 30 seconds, but devoted more than 90 seconds to a “1st Person” excerpt from Murtha. (Full transcripts follow.)
[UPDATE, 8:50pm EST Friday: On Friday night Woodruff offered “a clarification about” his claim Bush called his critics “unpatriotic.” Woodruff reported: “He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'” See this Friday NewsBusters item for the entirety of Woodruff's correction.]
Bob Woodward's revelations, in a Wednesday Washington Post front page story, “Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago,” seemingly undermined two premises of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald's case against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney's former Chief-of-Staff -- that he was the first to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame and that everyone involved remembers when they were told about Plame. But while the developments animated cable television all day, all the broadcast networks ignored it in the morning and in the evening both CBS and NBC, which led October 28 with multiple stories of Fitzgerald's indictments, spiked the story while ABC's World News Tonight devoted a piddling 31 seconds to Woodward's disclosures. The CBS Evening News found time for supposed dangers to kids of cold medicines and a look at "why the obesity crisis is far worse for African-Americans." The NBC Nightly News provided stories on claims the U.S. used “chemical weapons” in Iraq and on the effectiveness of diet pills. (Story rundown follows.)
At his October 28 press conference, Fitzgerald asserted, as shown tonight on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume: "He [Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter." In fact, the Post reported that “a senior administration official,” not Libby, told Woodward “about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed” and thus before Libby talked about it with a reporter, a disclosure which provides some support for Libby's contention that he heard about Plame from a journalist. The Post also noted how “the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling” in 2003 about Plame's job, Walter Pincus, “does not recall the conversation taking place,” thus boosting Libby's contention that different people can have different recollections of old conversations.
What ABC squeezed in and how MSNBC's Chris Matthews saw nefarious motives (“a confidential source could be using rolling disclosure here for a political purpose” to help Libby) behind Woodward's source allowing him to talk, follows.
[UPDATE, 2:45pm EST Thursday: On Thursday morning, CBS held the development to a very brief news update item, NBC squeezed it into the very end of a session with Tim Russert while ABC actually touted it at the top of Good Morning America and provided a full story. See full rundown below.]
[UPDATE #2, Thursday 10:30pm EST: CBS and NBC caught up Thursday night with full stories -- by Gloria Borger on the CBS Evening News, by Andrea Mitchell on the NBC Nightly News.]
On NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” this morning, the host’s panel members stated that the reason 55 percent of Americans surveyed in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were comfortable with the way the CIA is treating captured terror suspects is because Americans either “don’t know the truth” or “don’t want to know what the specifics are.”
The discussion was focused on torture issues raised in Congress this week, and Matthews brought up this poll to demonstrate that a majority of Americans don't seem to be concerned by how the CIA is interrogating prisoners. Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic quickly responded, “I don't think they know the full truth of what we're doing.”
Eight years ago, when a Democrat was President and Republicans won the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather gave the results a piddling 12 seconds, didn't even utter the names of the winners and made clear that local issues -- “the high cost of automobile insurance and a tax on car ownership” -- were “the key issues.” But on Wednesday night, the same newscast gave a minute and thirty seconds to the election results which included names as anchor Bob Schieffer inserted an ideological label into his description of Virginia: “In New Jersey, Democrat Jon Corzine won one of the nastiest races ever. He'll be the next Governor there. And in conservative country, Virginia, another Democrat, Tim Kaine, won the Governor's race there.” Gloria Borger then declared that “this was not a great night for President Bush, particularly in the state of Virginia.” She cited how “he went in and he campaigned for the Republican candidate for Governor who lost, and, Bob, this was a state the President himself won by eight points in the last election." Borger ignored a basic fact which undermines her analysis: The Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia won in 2001 when Bush's approval rating, just two months after 9/11, was over 80 percent.
NBC's even more flagrant bias contrast, ABC's crediting of Clinton's good economy for the GOP wins and Morton Kondracke's prediction on FNC that “if I were Howard Dean and I looked at these results, I'd be really disappointed” because, despite Bush's plunging popularity, Democrats did no better this year than four years ago in the same races, follows
Last evening, NBC’s “Nightly News” began its program with a report from the Pentagon concerning new rules governing the torture of prisoners. In a two minute forty-four second piece, a total of 15 seconds was devoted to demands by Republican leaders of Congress for an investigation into who leaked information about overseas CIA detention centers to the Washington Post.
Brian Williams began the segment by bringing up Abu Ghraib, and passed it off to Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon, who, of course, began with stories of Abu Ghraib as pictures of abuse there rolled across the screen. Miklaszewski finished the segment (video link to follow):
ABC, CBS and NBC all ran stories Tuesday night explaining the “anger” behind the rioting in France by Muslim “youths,” but on the NBC Nightly News reporter Jim Maceda went so far as to specifically complain about how “immigrants are left to fend for themselves, with no government affirmative action programs.” Maceda did add how “even worse, the French economy is stagnant, with few new jobs being created," but he moved on to other comments about the rioting without anything more about the role of high taxes and regulation in causing that “stagnant” economy. (A lengthier transcript follows.)
Regardless of economic data, press accounts are typically negative and pessimistic.
The economy has been growing at a very strong clip since October 2001. Real estate prices are at their highest levels in history, as are homeownership and Americans’ average net worth. Unemployment also is lower than the average during any of the past three decades. Yet Americans are very down, and one third even think the economy is in a recession. Is consistently negative media coverage influencing public attitudes? Might headlines like “Job growth less than expected” and “Jobs come up weak” have something to do with the gloom being felt across the country?
The Labor Department announced unemployment numbers for October on November 4, and despite a decline in this rate and an addition to payrolls, the media reported the gains as “surprisingly meager,” “stalled,” “damped,” and “disappointing.”
Hoisted on their own petard? Washington journalists have formulated outrage over how “Scooter” Libby fed information to New York Times reporter Judy Miller which ended up on the paper's front page one Sunday, and then Vice President Cheney appeared on a Sunday talk TV interview show where he insidiously cited the story as proof of the potential nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein. On Friday night, the broadcast networks pulled the same maneuver as they treated as of great import how President Bush was “dogged,” at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.
"The President also found himself shadowed by the controversy that has helped drive his popularity to record lows, the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer," ABC anchor Bob Woodruff announced on World News Tonight, which led, as did CBS and NBC, with stories which covered the violent protests as well Rove. ABC's Jake Tapper noted how “Bush came to this summit to talk about his free trade policy that he says would help ease poverty and create jobs in the region,” but pointed out how “questions about the CIA leak scandal, and the role of top aide Karl Rove, continue to dog him." CBS's Bob Schieffer echoed Tapper's terminology: "President Bush is in Argentina tonight, dogged by questions from back home.” John Roberts began his story, as if the media were observers and not participants: "President Bush was thankful for the chance to get out of Washington. But it didn't take long for Washington to catch up with him." NBC's Brian Williams stressed how Bush's “political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.” Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's “domestic woes came along, too” with “four of five” press conference “questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.”
Fred Barnes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, scolded the reporters for posing questions “Senator Durbin or maybe Senator Schumer drafted them for them” since “they were Democratic 'talking points.'” He suggested: “Somebody should explain to members of the mainstream media, that they are not a part of the political opposition. They're supposed to be reporters. They don't have to echo Democrats." (Barnes in full, a bit more from ABC, CBS and NBC, plus the questions posed to Bush, follow.)
It’s the Poor Innocent Consumer vs. Big Bad Oil, with a side of Politicians to the Rescue.
The media love a good controversy – so much so that they stir things up when the facts don’t warrant it. Since oil companies released their profit numbers last week, the news template has been one of angry consumers claiming they’ve been harmed and politicians vowing to do something about gas prices. Both parties have been aided by the media, who declared that oil profits were "beyond imagination."
On “CNN Sunday Morning” October 30, hosts asked viewers to respond to the question, “Who do you hold accountable for high gas prices?” Ignoring market forces that set prices in favor of playing a political game, Anchor Tony Harris also rephrased the question: “Who are you blaming?”
CNN’s Miles O’Brien framed a report about high third-quarter oil profits as “something to get your blood boiling” and “get you a little outraged” on the October 28 “American Morning.”
The fact is, when the price of a product goes up, the people who sell that product make more money. The only way this happens is if consumers keep buying.
That’s the oversimplified version of what happened to oil companies’ profits in the third quarter of 2005. Interruptions from the hurricanes tightened supply, but consumer demand stayed high, fueled by China and India – so gasoline prices went up. Oil companies profited from the situation, but they didn’t arbitrarily set their prices extra-high. Market forces determined prices.
Unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been getting it. Rather than accepting the way the market works, they have pitted consumers against oil companies, bolstering the case of those who call for a “windfall profits tax” on the companies’ earnings. That includes members of Congress, who have scheduled a hearing on energy pricing and corporate profits for November 9.
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) summed up the news template when she said, “At a time when the American people are struggling to pay their energy bills and the residents of my own state of Maine will be hard-pressed to pay their home heating costs this winter, it is deeply concerning and, frankly, outrageous that oil companies are boasting record-breaking profits,” according to the October 28 Los Angeles Times.
As soon as network reporters heard of his nomination, they began to brand Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a right-wing extremist. During live coverage Monday morning, ABC's Charles Gibson termed Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of an otherwise "liberal appellate court." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello. On Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin labeled Alito as "conservative" five times in 50 seconds.
Monday's evening newscasts carried the same message. On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Alito a "staunch conservative," while Terry Moran found him "deeply conservative." CBS's John Roberts said that "if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction." In contrast, NBC's Brian Williams, agreed Alito was "dependably conservative" but he also saw an "independent streak," as did reporter Pete Williams.
Former Republican house majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had a large victory in court yesterday, but ABC and NBC didn’t think it was important enough to include in their evening news broadcasts.
As reported by the Washington Post: "Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) won an early round in his money-laundering and conspiracy trial Tuesday by getting a judge aligned with Democratic candidates and causes removed from the case."
Yet, even though the announcement of DeLay’s indictment on September 28 was headline news, neither ABC nor NBC thought that this legal victory for the former majority leader warranted informing their evening news viewers.
In covering on Monday night the nomination of appellate court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, ABC and CBS distorted his role and position on the husband-notification abortion case and pegged him as a “staunch” or “hardline” conservative, but NBC managed to correctly describe his role in the abortion case and depicted him as “dependably conservative, though with an independent streak." The NBC Nightly News, however, jumped from Alito to a nearly full story about how the Bush White House’s attempt at “diverting attention from the Scooter Libby indictment won't be easy because of the unanswered questions” which David Gregory helpfully went on to list before declaring that what today’s administration is saying is “a far cry from the candor that candidate Bush once promised."
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased World News Tonight by asserting, as if it were his preference and not a ruling on the constitutionality of a law signed by a Democratic Governor, that Alito “once said a woman should tell her husband before she gets an abortion." On the CBS Evening News, Gloria Borger maintained that Alito “has favored limits on abortion; most notably arguing that women seeking abortions should be required to inform their husbands first." NBC’s Brian Williams correctly related how “he voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion.” (ABC’s Jake Tapper undermined the media assumption that Alito was out of touch as he noted that “recent polling indicates more than seven in ten Americans support Alito's position.)
On ideological labeling, ABC’s Vargas asserted: “Conservatives are thrilled, liberals incensed.” She went on to relay that “he is said to be brilliant and a staunch conservative.” CBS anchor Schieffer saw Democrats not liberals when he touted how Bush has “made the conservatives happy, but the Democrats are upset." John Roberts proceeded to assert: “Alito's judicial philosophy so mirrors that of the Supreme Court's hardliner, Antonin Scalia, that he's been nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Roberts ominously warned: "If confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for years to come." (Lengthier transcripts follow.)
As ABC, CBS, and NBC all dived into live coverage today to report the indictment of Vice President Cheney's top aide Scooter Libby, this is not at all the way the networks covered indictments of cabinet officers in the Clinton years.
In September 1997, we reported in Media Watch that when former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 39 counts, the networks aired a single evening news story. Three of the four networks -- ABC, CNN, and NBC -- underlined that the Smaltz inquiry had so far cost $9 million. None of them noted civil penalties originating from targets of Smaltz's inquiry amounted to more than $3.5 million. The next morning, CBS's morning show, called CBS This Morning, didn't even mention Espy's indictment. Months later, I noted in a Media Reality Check that on December 11, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts for misleading the FBI about payoffs to a mistress, Linda Medlar. NBC Nightly News filed one story; ABC's World News Tonight gave it 18 seconds. CBS Evening News didn't arrive on the story until the next night, and gave it nine seconds, a fraction of the two minutes Dan Rather gave the nightly El Nino update, about the weather "giving a gentle lift to the monarch butterfly." The morning shows were worse: NBC's Today passed on two anchor briefs, and ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning ignored it.
Unlike ABC and CBS, on Thursday night, NBC informed viewers of a report on the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal, as NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams stated that "2,000 companies paid nearly $2 billion in kickbacks directly to Saddam Hussein" and that "the country with the most companies involved in this was Russia, followed by France." A complete transcript of the story from the October 27 NBC Nightly News follows:
Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” was on the "NBC Nightly News” this evening talking about Harriet Miers. He stated that the announcement of her resignation this morning is part of a new strategy by President Bush to “get control of his second term that is spiraling out of control.” In addition, according to Russert, Republicans are calling this "The week from hell.”
In Russert’s view, Republicans weren’t interested in seeing what would happen on November 7 when the confirmation hearings were scheduled to begin, and instead advised the president to “lance it now.”
Finally, Russert said that if indictments do indeed come tomorrow from Patrick Fitzgerald, "[Republicans] hope there are plea bargains and this issue is quickly resolved and settled to spare the president’s second term."
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
On Wednesday night's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell filed a story in which she turned to Bush administration critic and former National Security Council member Flynt Leverett, "who quit in protest before the war," to contribute a soundbite charging that the Bush administration "had decided to fight back" against Joseph Wilson in response to his criticism of the Iraq invasion. Mitchell also, without challenge, relayed Wilson's contention that his trip to Niger discredited the possibility that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Niger, as she merely passed on that he concluded "it wasn't true." Absent was the argument that Wilson's original report, which mentioned Iraq's attempt to expand trade with Niger, may have actually added credibility to President Bush's State of the Union assertion that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," since Bush's statement said nothing of whether the efforts were successful. Additionally, the British government has continued to stand by its claims.
In the days and weeks following the disaster in New Orleans, many in the media suggested that the federal government’s “slow” response to Hurricane Katrina was caused by the race and economic condition of those impacted. President Bush had to regularly answer the questions of reporters concerning this, while media members opined at will.
Most famous of such assertions was reported by NewsBusters when rapper Kanye West said during a televised Katrina relief fundraiser that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Earlier that day, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said, “Almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black.” And, as also reported by NewsBusters, CBS News’s Nancy Giles said: “[Bush] has put himself at risk by visiting the troops in Iraq, but didn't venture anywhere near the Superdome or the convention center, where thousands of victims, mostly black and poor, needed to see that he gave a damn."
For weeks now, the media have breathlessly hyped the possibility that presidential advisor Karl Rove might be indicted by the grand jury looking into the leak of CIA employee Valerie Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak. Or, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could choose not to indict anyone, and instead issue a detailed report of who knew what, when they knew it, and from whom they heard it.
Given the ridiculously overwrought coverage of the last month, if Fitzgerald’s report confirms media suspicions that Rove and/or vice presidential aide Lewis Libby talked to reporters about Valerie Plame and weren’t completely forthcoming to investigators, you can expect the networks to go absolutely nuts, whether anyone is indicted or not.
It seems to come earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it? No, not Christmas ads on TV, but the annual media festival of gloom and doom surrounding holiday-related retail sales.
This year, it started in August, when temperatures were in the 100-degree range across much of the country. Hurricane Katrina wasn’t even a ripple off the coast of Africa, and CNN was doing a downbeat piece called “Dreaming of a Blue Christmas.” Four full months before the holiday, CNN was asking how higher fuel prices were going to negatively impact America’s Christmas cheer: “Consumers are pinched. Retailers are squeezed. Who'll get bruised first by higher fuel prices as the countdown to the holiday shopping season gets underway?”
Does the name “Aaron Broussard” ring a bell? Well, he is the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who was immortalized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” right after Hurricane Katrina hit when he suggested – with tears in his eyes – that the slow response by the federal government resulted in the unnecessary death of the mother of one of his colleagues. When it turned out that his claims were disputed by the son of the deceased woman, Tim Russert invited Broussard back on “Meet the Press,” and as was reported by NewsBusters, Russert let him off the hook again.
Last evening, Carl Quintanilla did a report on the “NBC Nightly News” about concerns being addressed by residents of Jefferson Parish that the drainage pump operators responsible for preventing flooding during storms were dismissed by Broussard before Katrina hit, and that this is why so many houses in the parish ended up being destroyed. These grievances have now become a class-action lawsuit against Broussard, a fact that was downplayed in Quintanilla's report.
Also missing in this piece were recent revelations that Broussard – in a possible effort to cover his tracks – is seeking to fire the head of the East Jefferson Levee District.
Yet, with all this intrigue, Quintanilla didn’t interview Broussard concerning any of these recent allegations, and, instead, chose to address e-mail messages that were transmitted between FEMA representatives in the midst of the disaster.
What follows are highlights from an article by the Associated Press concerning the class-action suit against Broussard, a Times-Picayune article about the firing of the Levee District chief, a full transcript of Quintanilla’s report with a video link, as well as video links of both Broussard appearances on “Meet the Press.”
There’s been much debate since America liberated Iraq some 31 months ago concerning whether or not this nation could ever become a true democracy. The events of the past couple of days indicate that this region is taking quite well to an American-style government, and that it’s party officials have quickly learned that if you don’t like the results of an election, just get an attorney to file some complaints demanding a recount.
Of course, as one would expect, America’s press are eating this up. For instance, the Associated Press reported:
“BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq’s electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit an ‘unusually high’ vote count from most provinces in the country’s landmark referendum on the draft constitution.”
“The electoral commission’s statement came as Sunni Arab lawmaker Meshaan al-Jubouri claimed fraud had occurred in Saturday’s election — including instances of voting in hotly contested regions by pro-constitution Shiites from other areas — repeating earlier comments made by other Sunni officials over the weekend.”
All three broadcast networks filed reports concerning these fraud allegations on their respective evening news programs, including “The NBC Nightly News”: “In Dialah, one Sunni politician said there were 39,000 yes votes, even though there are only 36,000 registered voters.” Sounds a lot like media reports from Ohio after last November’s elections in America.
What follows is a full transcript of NBC’s report, along with a video link.
***Update*** NBC’s “Today Show” jumped on the election fraud bandwagon this morning. Campbell Brown said, “Election officials in Iraq are counting votes again." Video Link.
As Brent Baker noted last night, the networks were far more excited about the supposed scandal of the administration having “a staged event” where the President talked by satellite with soldiers serving in Iraq. (Speaking of “staged,” how often do you think Brian Williams or Bob Schieffer sit down in the anchor chair and just wing it?)
Andrea Mitchell pretty much gave it away on Thursday’s Nightly News, allowing that “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events. And often the news media ignore the choreography.” But the networks didn’t want to “ignore the choreography” yesterday, because it didn’t fit their spin. Mitchell preferred to expose what she called “a rare look behind the curtain of a White House trying to sell an increasingly unpopular war.”
If the Iraq war is “increasingly unpopular” — and polls suggest it is — one reason may be because the broadcast networks have heavily skewed their news agenda toward the bad news coming out of Iraq: car bombings, U.S. casualties, terrorist attacks, squabbling among Iraqi politicians, etc., etc.
I just finished a study of every Iraq story aired on the three broadcast network evening newscasts this year, from January 1 through September 30, nearly 1,400 stories. (More)
Thursday's NBC Nightly News led, yes led, with how, as anchor Brian Williams put it, President Bush had that morning conducted “a staged event" via satellite with ten U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi soldier in Iraq. “Today's encounter was billed as spontaneous,” Williams intoned. “Instead, it appeared to follow a script.” Andrea Mitchell warned that “the troops were coached on how to answer the Commander-in-Chief” and, indeed, not until two minutes into her three-minute story -- after showing clips of how a DOD official had told the soldiers the questions Bush would ask -- did Mitchell note how “the White House and at least one of the soldiers says the troops weren't told what to say, just what the President would ask." So, the answers were not staged. The soldiers, naturally nervous about appearing on live TV with the President of the United States, were simply told who should answer which question and to “take a breath” before answering. Scandalous! Over video of Bush on the aircraft carrier, Mitchell went on to remind viewers of how “this isn't the first time this administration used troops to help sell the Iraq war.” But she also admitted a media double-standard: “Many administrations, Democrat and Republican, stage-manage events and often the news media ignore the choreography.”
ABC's World News Tonight also devoted a full story, though not the lead, to the media-generated controversy. Terry Moran contended that “the fact that this was so carefully choreographed...shows just how urgently the White House wants not just a success on the ground in Iraq, but a PR success at home for this embattled President." Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer opined that “unfortunately for the President, after satellite cameras caught administration aides rehearsing the soldiers beforehand, Democrats dismissed the whole thing and said the troops deserved a lot better.” Lara Logan managed to cover other material in her story and uniquely showcased a soldier who told CBS: "The truth is that everything that was said was meant to be said, though it may have sounded scripted in some places. Nerves kick in, for one. Two, everyone puts their thoughts together. You put it down, you go over and over it a hundred times."
MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann also led Thursday with the “staged” event and the AP distributed a story breathlessly headlined, “Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged.” But on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume noted complaints the event was "not entirely spontaneous" before Carl Cameron pointed out that Bush posed an unplanned question to the Iraqi soldier. In the panel segment, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon recalled how when “back in December” a soldier asked Rumsfeld about armor, a question that “had been planted by a reporter, I didn't hear any outcry from the press.” (UPDATE with CNN coverage and transcripts follow.)
The results of the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were released last night, and pressrooms around the nation appeared to be pleased. “NBC Nightly News” reported it this way (video link to follow):
Tim Russert: Brian, not good news for George W. Bush's second term thus far. Only 39% of Americans approve his job. 54% disapproval. That 39% approval is the lowest in the five years of his presidency. And Brian, listen to this: Only 2%, 2% of African Americans in the United States approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency. The lowest we've ever seen in that particular measurement.
Even though the big news event this week was the president’s nomination of Harriet Miers to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, NBC’s Chris Matthews this morning, on a show that bears his name, chose to lead with Karl Rove’s upcoming testimony in front of a grand jury. To assist him, Matthews stocked his panel with the likes of Andrea Mitchell, Clarence Page, Judy Woodruff, and a lone “conservative” voice, Howard Fineman.
Of course, when Howard is the sole “right-wing” member of a panel, you’re certainly not going to get a fair and balanced discussion on any issue. As a result, what ensued was quite a Rove bash-a-thon, with dire prognostications of what the meaning of this fourth appearance in front of the grand jury could mean for Rove as well as the Bush administration.
September employment was little-changed despite predictions of 500,000 job losses.
Remember all those reports filed by the mainstream media predicting doom and gloom right after Katrina devastated New Orleans? Well, the first significant piece of economic data to be released since the hurricanes hit suggests that these media prognostications – as predicted by the Free Market Project on September 6 – had no basis in fact.
This morning, the Labor Department released employment numbers for the month of September, and they were much stronger than forecast. In fact, they were so strong that the U.S. dollar rallied against most of the world’s currencies in expectation that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates further than many economists had hoped.
To refresh everyone’s memory, here is a sampling of what the media were saying about the economy after Katrina first made landfall:
Recent press accounts suggest earlier calls for a unifying nominee were a red herring.
The past few months have been a target-rich environment for America’s press. Between the president’s declining poll numbers, increased hostilities in Iraq, two devastating hurricanes, exploding energy prices, some high-profile political scandals, and a couple of Supreme Court vacancies, the media certainly have had a lot of juicy issues on their plates.
Yet, it seems that the president’s unexpected nomination of Harriet Miers defused the highly anticipated battle over retiring justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement, and the press are so disappointed by the subsequent lack of bloodletting that they are trying to stoke the curiously absent fires of discontent themselves.
Hurricane devastation has left millions trying to rebuild their homes and lives. But flood-damage lawsuits against insurance companies now threaten the industry’s solvency across the country, and the broadcast media are helping make the case against industry.
According to reporters on CBS and NBC, the fact that some homeowners didn’t have flood insurance is “an ugly surprise” and a “hard lesson” for people “who thought their insurance companies would pay for the wreck they used to call home.”
Reporters have given the impression that Gulf Coast homeowners didn’t understand their insurance policies and that that might give them the legal standing to demand money they weren’t contracted to receive.
CBS’s Harry Smith introduced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs, famed for his $250 billion settlement from tobacco companies, on the October 5 “Early Show.” Scruggs has indicated plans to file suit against three private insurers for coastal clients, accusing insurance companies of misleading them and denying coverage for hurricane losses.
The New York Times reported on October 5 that Scruggs’ first suit, filed on October 4, centers on one Mississippi couple who did not have flood insurance. They say their insurance company misled them into thinking they had protection that they didn’t. Scruggs has said he might file more than 1,000 similar suits, avoiding a class-action suit.