When Republican leader Trent Lott made racially insensitive remarks, the MSM was immediately flooded with speculation as to whether he could survive in his political leadership post.
But when Hillary Clinton did the same, the Today show portrayed her as going on the offense, not being on the defense.
You might have imagined Today's graphic for this morning's segment would have read along the lines "Hillary Feeling the Heat". Imagine again. In fact it read "Off and Running? Hillary Attacks GOP." Offense, not defense.
Today also conveniently failed to mention that her 'plantation' comment was made in church. Even the New York Times was constrained to acknowledge that her remarks came at "the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem."
The demonstrators' signs read "Withdraw the Terrorist US Army", so naturally I assumed it was a DNC event, perhaps with John Kerry and Al Gore leading the way. But no, turns out that for the second day running the Today show devoted an extended first segment to the attempted strike on Zawahiri and the harm it might have done to our relations with Pakistan.
Katie Couric introduced the piece, labeling it "collateral damage in the war on terror," and noting "one thing is for sure, the attack killed women and children and has put a strain on the relationship between the US and this key ally."
FNC’s Brit Hume on Monday night picked up on how, in trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as a bigot, Senator Ted Kennedy, in a quote showcased by many media outlets, read from what was really a satire. Hume noted how at the hearings last week Kennedy read this from a magazine published by Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP): “People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic.” Hume informed his viewers: “But the magazine's editor at the time says the article was pure satire, a send-up of what liberals think conservatives think. He added quote, 'I think left-wing groups have been feeding Senator Kennedy snippets and he has been mindlessly reciting them,' unquote." As Tim Graham noted in a Friday NewsBusters item, in his ABCNews.com blog that day, Jake Tapper first reported how Dinesh D’Souza, the editor to whom Hume referred, had let him know that the 1983 piece in Prospect magazine was satire.
Last week, NBC, CNN and the Washington Post -- amongst many other outlets -- highlighted Kennedy’s reading of the quote, which he displayed on a board behind him, yet none, as far as I’ve observed, have offered any clarification. NBC’s Pete Williams featured the Kennedy soundbite on Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News and Thursday’s Today; CNN’s Bob Franken recited it himself on Thursday’s American Morning; and two Thursday Washington Post stories quoted Kennedy’s citation of the quote. (Rundown follows.)
When the administration tried to buck up troop morale by warning that some of the war's critics go too far, NBC's David Gregory had a hissy fit and portrayed the administration as the thought police. On this morning's Today Matt Lauer introduced Gregory's piece that aired in the 7am half hour: "On Close Up this morning is all fair in love and war? Not according to President Bush. The President says it's okay for Democrats to criticize the war in Iraq as long as they don't go too far." Gregory, apparently offended that someone other than the MSM or the Democrats was trying to set the agenda opened: "Good morning to you Matt. Well in this election year with the debate over the war bound to intensify you said it the President is now attempting to preempt his Democratic critics by demanding that they disagree responsibly. It's the President's executive order to war critics: don't cross the line."
You know the Ted, Chuck & Joe Show flopped when even Chris Matthews accuses the Dems of "buffoonery" in the Alito hearings. Yet that is exactly what Matthews did in his appearance on this morning's Today show:
"I don't think any points were scored by the Democrats. There was a lot of buffoonery by Democratic senators."
For whatever reason, Matthews was on his most 'fair & balanced' behavior. For example, in discussing Pres. Bush's joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, Matthews described Merkel's predecessor, the left-wing Gerhard Schroeder, as "very obnoxious," having taken "one cheap shot after another at us" and exploited our tribulations in Iraq for his own political gain.
Discussing the Alito hearings on this morning's Today show, Matt Lauer and Tim Russert sounded less like host and analyst and more like two disappointed teenaged boys, griping as they exit the theater that the movie didn't deliver enough exploding cars and train wrecks.
Lauer's opening question sounded the theatrical theme: "did the event live up to its billing?"
Russert panned the paucity of pyrotechnics: "It sure didn't, Matt. People talked about a confrontation. It certainly wasn't that. It started off with a bang and ended with a whimper."
But to the extent things did get nasty, who was responsible? Lauer slyly suggested that it was . . . Alito's own fault.
Much as the MSM likes to bury stories inimical to Democratic interests, there was no way the Today show could ignore Mrs. Alito's tears. Not only was it clearly the political story of the day, but the footage of Mrs. Alito's distress was much too riveting not to run.
Above the graphic "Democrats Gone Too Far?", Katie Couric interviewed Delaware senator Joe Biden. Was Katie speaking from feminine solidarity, or was she assuming the role of Democratic strategist, concerned that her party had hurt itself with its latest antics?
In any case, she gave Biden a rather rough going-over, beginning with her question as to whether the Dems had indeed gone too far in their questioning that ultimately led to Mrs. Alito's weeping. Without apologizing, Biden recommended that the current confirmation process be junked. Since nominees are so cautious in their comments, Biden suggested cutting out the hearings entirely and going directly to a Senate floor debate on nominations.
As we detailed here, on yesterday's Today show Matt Lauer yesterday blurted out in the midst of an interview "let's face it, [Alito] is an ultra-conservative."
If that weren't slur enough in the liberal mindset, Dem strategist James Carville continued the assault on this morning's Today, accusing Alito of being: "completely enamored and impressed with power."
Carville and consulting sidekick Paul Begala were in to chew the fat with Katie Couric over the Alito hearings and the pair's new book, "Take it Back," their prescription for reforming the Democrat party and the country at large.
A leitmotif of the interview was Katie Couric's exasperation with Democrats. Exasperation at Dem failure to sufficiently rake Alito over the coals, exasperation at Dems for ignoring the Carville-Begala bromides for recapturing power.
Sometimes, liberal media types just can't 'hep' themselves. This morning's Today show provided a prime example, as Matt Lauer, in a bolt from the blue, revealed what really lurks in liberal hearts.
By all appearances, Lauer was headed for a genial stroll in the park with affable former GOP Sen. Fred Thompson, in to discuss the Alito hearings. Thompson had been the successful 'sherpa' for John Roberts in his confirmation process.
Matt got off to an even-handed start, noting that from their opening statements it seemed clear that most senators had already made up their minds. Lauer asked whether the confirmation process was really all about giving senators a chance to make partisan speeches.
What do you think the odds are that in the very first minute of its segment on Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the morning her confirmation hearings were set to begin, the Today show twice described Ginsburg - former chief counsel of the ACLU - as a "liberal" and spoke of her confirmation "moving the court to the left"?
Yet Andrea Mitchell managed the precise mirror image in the first 60 seconds of her story on Samuel Alito this morning, twice referring to him as a "conservative" and adding that his confirmation would "move the court to the right."
And when it came to outside advocates, Today chose two anti-Alito voices [former Clinton aide Joe Lockhart and a fellow from People for the American Way], versus a sole Alito supporter - former Solicitor General Ted Olson. Today did play a fleeting clip of former GOP Rep. Vin Weber, but only for purposes of describing lobbying efforts, not to endorse Alito.
It's always curious when liberal-media types start hailing the brilliance of conservatives when their arguments line up with liberal wishes. Since the Jack Abramoff plea, both Newt Gingrich and National Review Online have suggested it would be nice for House Republicans to find a Majority Leader with a more reformist image. To MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, these people are suddenly brilliant and impressive, as he declared in a "Today" pundit segment on Friday. MRC's Scott Whitlock took it down yesterday.
"Well, Newt Gingrich isn't, maybe, the most popular guy in the country. But he is ruthlessly brilliant. And he knows that this is the time to nail this guy. And he's going out and said, let's get rid of Delay, now. And you've got the National Review, the historically conservative, very impressive magazine all these years for the conservative movement, started by Bill Buckley. That's come out now and called for him to get out of the way. I think the big casualty here, to the delight of the liberals and chagrin of the people who helped build the Republican majorities, Tom Delay looks like victim number one here. I'm not sure the party's going to be the victim by next November. Because one of the great ironies of politics is that when you get the body out of the way, the party that suffered the loss doesn't seem to look so bad."
Pat Robertson has no one to blame but himself for the criticism he's attracted in reaction to his latest looniness, in which he suggested that Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was divine retribution for dividing the land of Israel. For that matter, on the all-publicity-is-good-publicity theory, Robertson might be reveling in the notoriety.
So while the Today show can hardly be faulted for reporting Robertson's outrageous comment, was it necessary in doing so to take a gratuitous swipe at the beliefs of millions of Americans?
In its segment, Today catalogued a number of Robertson's controversial statements, from his suggestion that the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to calling Islam a "scam," to predicting that Orlando could be hit with earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor for flying gay pride flags.
Once in a while, it happens. TV serves up human drama in real time. So it was on this morning's Today show, when the bereaved son of one of the Sago miners confronted the governor of West Virginia over allegedly lax safety enforcement in the mine.
Matt Lauer began with a stand-up interview at the disaster site of WV Governor Joe Manchin. Lauer then brought in John Bennett, the adult son of Jim Bennett, one of the miners who died. Bennett stood at Lauer's other side.
Bennett described the history of violations in the mine. Lauer turned to Manchin to inquire about the violations. Manchin had launched into his response when Bennett took matters into his own hands.
Bennett, wearing the red cap in the photo here, spoke across Lauer directly to Manchin:
Intelligence reporter James Risen co-wrote the Times’ December 16 front-page scoop about government spying on terror suspects in the U.S. without first obtaining search warrants. As was later revealed by Drudge (but not by the Times), the story seemed rather conveniently timed to coincide with his upcoming book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”).
Risen’s book is out now, and Katie Couric interviewed him for the Today show Tuesday morning, where he said of his many anonymous sources:
“…many of these people had grown up in the environment of knowing that in order to get to listen in on Americans you had to get a court order and they saw something was happening in which that was not being done. That there were, that the courts were being skirted, the Congress, that the laws had not been changed. And they believed that for whatever reason the Bush administration was skirting the law. Now that'll be something that we can all debate about whether or not they did skirt the law? But that was the reason the people came forward. They believed that something was going wrong."
Katie Couric's just-completed interview with NY Times Reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA surveillance story and is now publishing his book on the matter, 'State of War,' offered a window on the MSM view of the matter. For her questioning of Risen, give a gentlelady's 'C' to Couric, who earned the bulk of her grade by asking:
"Did [the leakers] have any sympathy or understanding about this new climate this country finds itself in and the criticism the Bush administration took prior to 9/11 for not putting the pieces together and figuring out that a terrorist attack was imminent? In other words, did they acknowledge that tough times may call for tough measures?"
Much as the folks at Today revel in reporting soaring gas prices and plunging Bush poll numbers, pesky facts - in the form of a recent Bush poll rise - can get in the way.
But that was not about to stop Katie Couric this morning. The Perky One, tan and blonder-than-ever in her return from vacation, explained away Bush's recent poll bump as resulting soley and exclusively from his mea culpas.
Katie's guest was reliable all-purpose talking head Howard Fineman.
"His poll numbers started to tick upward before the holidays, Howard, because it was sort of a more candid, contrite approach on the part of the President. Will he continue the strategy, do you think?"
Imagine you're a guest on the Today show on New Year's Day, and the host asks you to predict the top stories for the year to come.
What are the odds you choose as your two top stories for 2006: job-loss anxiety among white-collar workers, and white-collar crime?
Yet that is precisely what Marcus Mabry, Newsweek's Chief of Correspondents [pictured here], did in his just-completed interview with host Lester Holt.
While acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of strength, Mabry led with unemployment anxiety among white-collar workers as his #1 story for the year to come. He insisted that:
"the confidence of the American worker is at its lowest point in a very long time, particularly white-collar workers. We see anxiety we have not seen since the days of the dot.com bust. What you see is many Americans filled with job insecurity, who are worried about whether they're going to have a job a year from now. We see greater insecurity than in decades."
As anti-terror techniques go, the one announced this week by the TSA - that of chatting with airline passengers to see if they exhibit tell-tale signs of nervousness - seems relatively unlikely to result in racial or ethnic profiling, since it focuses on behavior rather than superficial characteristics.
But that wasn't sufficient to prevent Matt Lauer, with a little help from his guest, from playing the racial profiling card on this morning's Today show.
From the get-go, NBC terrorism expert and former FBI agent Christopher Whitcomb expressed scorn for the new program: "the color coding system was kind of ridiculous, and I kind of think this is. I think the public looks at this and says 'what are they doing?'"
James Carville appeared, all alone, on the December 28th edition of the Today. Let’s count the number of things wrong with the piece, airing at 7:15AM: During the interview, Campbell Brown questioned Carville uncritically, never challenged his assertions, and, worst of all, allowed the man to pimp his new film. Brown opened the piece this way:
"As we prepare to ring in the new year, we can’t help but wonder what big political stories will dominate in 2006. Democratic strategist James Carville is going to peer into his crystal ball this morning."
Conservatives rightly complain that MSM shows such as Today have a paucity of guests from the right, and that those who do appear are treated with skepticism if not outright disdain.
But I'd say there's an exception to the rule. It's my sense that conservatives want to see Ann Coulter appearing only rarely on MSM shows, and that when she does, that the occasion be treated as something of a Texas Steel Cage Match, or better yet, as the introduction of a Kong-like creature brought onto the set, to be released from her shackles for the briefest of moments as she confronts her antagonists while displaying her panoply of rhetorical weapons.
That rule was honored when, a couple years ago, Katie Couric interviewed Coulter. The appearance came not too long after Coulter had described Couric as the "affable Eva Braun" of morning television. There was electricity in the air, ill-disguised animosity, the sense that an actual cat-fight might break out at any moment.
In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
1. On the Finkelstein-strike beat, MRC’s Scott Whitlock says NBC reporter Michelle "Canoe Girl" Kosinski used the I-word ("illegal") for the first time on "Today" in reporting, "The illegal strike is taking a toll on the city’s economy, says the city’s mayor."
2. Scott also notes that CBS’s "Early Show" brought up the other I-word ("impeachment") again this morning, as co-host Hannah Storm asked CBS analyst Gloria Borger about the NSA surveillance hubbub, "What is the fallout of this going to be? Some people are already talking of impeachment proceedings." Borger shot that down: "Well, I think that’s a bridge too far." That's milder than Jonathan Turley's encouraging words about Bush's high crimes yesterday.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
The December 21st edition of Today featured a rather alarmist report by Andrea Mitchell about domestic spying. The story, complete with requisite pictures of Abu Ghraib, aired at 7:15AM. It started off with Katie Couric's ominous introduction. She stated that with regard to spying, "some are wondering if Americans are losing their civil rights in the process.
When it comes to the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC, the Today show just can't bring itself to pronounce the 'I' word, for illegal.
In contrast with his reticent Today show appearance yesterday, this morning NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took off the verbal gloves, repeatedly condemning the union for its illegal strike, which violates the Taylor Law prohibiting public employees in New York from striking. Among other things, Bloomberg stated that striking union members would be fined two days pay for every day the strike lasts.
But whereas Today expressed concern for the plight of commuters and the city's economy, and Katie made sympathetic noises in her interview of Bloomberg, the show remained terribly bashful when it came to reporting the undeniable fact that the strike is illegal.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
Let's get one thing straight: the the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC is illegal. Even the New York Times, in this article, had to acknowledge that stubborn fact:
"The state's Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees and carries penalties of two days' pay for each day on strike, but the transit union decided it was worth risking the substantial fines to continue the fight for what it regards as an acceptable contract."
In addition to the tremendous inconvenience the strike inflicts on the seven-million largely working-class people who use the transit system daily, the economic loss has been estimated at as much as $400 million per day.