A few moments ago on the February 16 "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," NBC's Natalie Morales shared a story with the late night host of actor Alec Baldwin's attempt to score a lunch date with the "Today" show talent.
I'll update later in the morning with video, but basically, a few years ago, according to Morales, Baldwin called her on the phone and told her he was working on a movie about cable news. Was Morales available for say, lunch sometime to help Baldwin with his, well, research.
Morales wasn't born yesterday, so she kindly told the "30 Rock" star that she's married.
NBC's Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with news of the Dixie Chicks' big win at last night's Grammy Awards and used the moment to take a dig at the President's expense. After Lauer teased segments on snow in the Midwest and a skydiver who survived a fall, Lauer took his shot via the big news that an outspoken liberal musical group was awarded a prize from their liberal peers in the music industry:
Lauer: "And Chicks rule! They were shunned after criticizing the President but after a big night at the Grammys the Dixie Chicks are getting the last laugh today, Monday, February 12th, 2007."
Later in the show, in the 9am hour, Natalie Morales declared it was "a big evening for some ladies who've endured some tough times," and West Coast contributor Maria Menenous scored a backstage interview with the Chicks along with Rolling Stone's Joe Levy who asked if the win was a "vindication."
Geoff Dickens noticed that last Thursday's Today show carried a remarkably docile debate between conservative commentator Ann Coulter and left-wing author and academic Michael Eric Dyson. Well, the chumminess even extends to Coulter offering a dust-cover blurb for Dyson's new book Debating Race, officially out today (it's not the first blurb on the actual cover, as it is on Dyson's website):
“I will protect both our reputations by saying Michael Eric Dyson and I often disagree—but one thing we do agree on is the importance of ideas. This book is an absolute delight to read. It contains a font of information, delivered with Dyson’s distinctive eloquence. I screamed or laughed on every page at memorable phrases (such as the comparison of Martin Luther King to Puff Daddy). As always, Dyson is fiercely honest, controversial, engaging, funny, and brimming with arguments and ideas.” -- Ann Coulter
This week, Chris Matthews' anti-Bush bigotry spilled over into a profanity laden rant. The "Hardball" host dropped the F-bomb during a live interview with Don Imus.
Meanwhile, CNN’s Paula Zahn connected opposition of illegal immigration to, you guessed it, the Ku Klux Klan. This is the same network, however, that tried to downplay proven religious bigotry by a blogger for the John Edwards campaign.
Over on ABC, "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer spent the week in Syria. She let the despotism of President Bashar Assad go mostly unchallenged.
During other segments, Sawyer chose to ask him about video games and whether he uses an iPod.
On this morning's Today show, viewers were coyly teased of an Ann Coulter versus Michael Eric Dyson debate on race in the 9:30am half-hour. NBC's Natalie Morales tantalized viewers of the upcoming fight with sure to be expected fireworks: "Michael Eric Dyson and conservative commentator Ann Coulter are gonna square off right here. Should be a very good debate." However viewers and perhaps even Today's producers, had to be disappointed as Dyson and Coulter were surprisingly chummy. Morales even remarked: "You're being very civil this morning."
Not surprisingly, Morales did engage in the old habit of one-sided labeling, as she called Coulter a "conservative commentator," but refused to note Dyson's liberal leanings, as he was referred to as merely a "civil rights activist." Morales also called the liberal Dyson's book, Debating Race, "fascinating" and "great," but didn't apply the same superlative adjectives to the conservative Coulter's book, Godless.
After more than a week of ignoring the controversy over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request for access to an extravagant plane, the three network morning shows finally covered the subject on Thursday, albeit briefly. CBS and ABC both offered full reports during the 7AM hour of the February 8 shows, while only CBS included a quote from a Republican lawmaker who criticized the possible ethical issues raised by having the opportunity to fly friends home in a posh C-32 jet. NBC’s "Today" show mentioned the story only in a news brief and then co-host Matt Lauer briefly asked correspondent David Gregory about the plane controversy.
All three networks included snarky reports on this "hot controversy." Lauer wondered if the incident would make Pelosi "look bad from a PR standpoint," while Cuomo used the pithy term, "turbulence." One wonders why it took a week for the media to jump on such a "hot controversy." At 7:06am, "Good Morning America’s" Cuomo introduced Jake Tapper with a few quips about "plane envy:"
Chris Cuomo: "We begin with the turbulence over Speaker Nancy Pelosi request for a new plane. A request that has been quickly turned down. Senior national correspondent Jake Tapper has the latest on the controversy from Capitol Hill. Jake, is this about security or ego? Sounds like a case of jet envy."
Message to Nancy Pelosi: when NBC's Matt Lauer and David Gregory agree that your quest for a big plane is turning into a PR mess, and ABC's Chris Cuomo calls it a case of "jet envy," it's time to fold your wings.
Lauer raised the matter with David Gregory on this morning's "Today": "Let's talk about the size of the plane that Nancy Pelosi has requested from the Pentagon. Depending on the spin you want to believe here, either the Speaker says it's to travel efficiently back to her home district; Republicans are saying it's an abuse of power. Either way, does it just look bad from a PR standpoint?"
Gregory agreed: "I think that's the problem. This is a Democratic leader who's promising to clean up Washington. It's worth remembering, post-9/11, the House Speaker gets private air travel by the Air Force to get back to his or her home district. Dennis Hastert went back to Chicago [in the much smaller plane shown here], Nancy Pelosi is going back to San Francisco. She wants the ability to go direct and not have to refuel on the way and have some family members go with her, and none of that is untoward, but the Air Force is saying, the military is saying 'look, we can't guarantee you a 757' which is essentially what she wants, it depends on availability. Republicans are saying 'look, this is more than just efficiency, this is extravagance.'"
On Monday’s Today co-host Matt Lauer interviewed 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards about the Iraq War and his healthcare plan. Lauer did asks some tough questions such as challenging Edwards’s call for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq within the next 18 months. Lauer read the National Intelligence Estimate, which said that would be a disaster, and he asked "so why are you right and why is an intelligence estimate, that’s basically a compilation of the best ideas of 16 intelligence groups in this country, wrong?"
However, Lauer offered some praise for this liberal former Senator. When Edwards painted a grim situation in Iraq, Matt Lauer exclaimed "I applaud your honesty." At the end of the interview Lauer showed his love for Edwards when he stated, "you’re a superstar as well." The entire transcript is below.
Tom Friedman is at it again. Whenever a reporter asks him how to fix the Middle East, Friedman's response is increasingly the same - increase taxes! On this morning's Today show NBC's Meredith Vieira brought on the New York Times columnist to discuss the Iraq debate on Capitol Hill. Setting up Friedman with his own premise, Viera asked: "Well you've said, 'We need to reshape the game board.' What do you mean by that?" Friedman then gave a long-winded response that eventually revealed his solution: "Oil tax." Below is the conversation as it occurred in the 7am half hour of the February 6 Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "Well you've said, 'We need to reshape the game board. What do you mean by that?'"
"We're on a mission from God." -- Dan Aykroyd as Elwood, "The Blues Brothers"
NBC is on a mission -- from Gore.
NBC announced its allegiance to Al Gore's stop-global-warming mission on this morning's "Today." With Tom Costello narrating, Today first ran a glowing piece on Timberland shoe company, famous for its boots, which has announced that, you guessed it, it's on a "mission" to become "carbon neutral." To achieve that, it will among other things be using wind farms and solar panels to power its factories. Costello emphasized an expert's opinion that "it's up to each one of us to cut our own carbon emissions."
Costello then stated as unquestioned fact that the carbon that each of us is responsible for by flying, driving or running our homes "adds to a layer of greenhouse gases that is warming the planet." No indication of how much current climate changes are caused by non-human factors, the kinds that caused the Ice Age and subsequent warmer period thousands of years ago.
Costello closed his segment by quipping "it's all about treading lightly." Boots. Treading lightly -- we get it.
Host Campbell Brown teased the next segment by saying "You've seen how several companies are going carbon-neutral to limit damage to the atmosphere. Up next on Today, you'll see how easy it is for all of us to help in that effort."
Like describing a spiral staircase without using your hands, "Today" pulled off the impressive feat this morning of getting through an entire segment about the UK terror plot uncovered yesterday without once mentioning that the suspects are Muslim. Oh, the word "Muslim" did pop up - but only or purposes of describing the intended victim of the plot and concerned area residents.
NBC's Keith Miller reported from London, mentioned that "the alleged target of the kidnaping [was] a British Muslim soldier on leave from Afghanistan."
NBC's Meredith Vieira played the role of disappointed Democrat on this morning's Today as she repeatedly asked Ralph Nader if he's worried he'll be remembered in history as Al Gore's "spoiler." On to promote his book The Seventeen Traditions, Nader deflected Vieira with his usual spiel about the need for more "progressive" voices in the process, even going as far to push for a Bill Moyers campaign. The following are all of Vieira's questions to the former Green Party candidate on the January 30th, Today.
Meredith Vieira: "Consumer rights activist, humanitarian, election spoiler. Ralph Nader has been called a lot of things during his remarkable career but now he's out with a new book called The Seventeen Traditions, about lessons that he learned during his childhood. He's also the subject of a new documentary called An Unreasonable Man, a profile which examines the charge that his presidential campaign cost Al Gore the election in 2000."
Yesterday NBC's Today show pondered if Hillary Clinton was referring to Bill as one of the 'evil men' she had much experience with but never got around to fully answering the question. Well NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, on this morning's Today, attempted to answer the question and found, via a Clinton surrogate, the 'evil men' Hillary was talking about were Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush. During the piece Mitchell ran a soundbite from Lisa Caputo claiming: "CertainlyKen Starr and Newt Gingrich would be at the top of that list as would be this White House." Having addressed that question Mitchell moved on to analyzing the Clinton's "complicated marriage" and how the former President "overshadowed his senator wife," but concluded that Bill’s presence was mostly positive as she regurgitated this old Clinton-line: "So as they used to say back in 1992, 'Buy one, get one free.'"
When a NBC military analyst made the case that US withdrawal from Iraq would have very harmful consequences, you might have expected Meredith Vieira to argue the point. But not only did the NBC host seem to buy into his logic, she took it a significant step farther toward its logical conclusion.
Retired LTC Rick Francona was Meredith's guest on this morning's "Today." The appearance was sparked by reports that the US has amassed firm evidence that Iran is supplying a variety of weaponry to Shia militias in Iraq, including shoulder-fired missiles and sophisticated IEDs responsible for the deaths of many Americans. The screen graphic posed the question "Is U.S. Fighting Iran in Iraq?"
Francona made his thesis clear from the get-go: "We're in a power struggle with the Iranians over who's going to exercise influence in the future in Iraq, and they want to be that power. It's either us or them."
Vieira set the stage for her off-the-Dem-reservation remarks with this question: "So they're hoping if and when we leave Iraq they will fill the power vacuum that is left?"
Just when we were getting warm 'n fuzzy with Chatty Hillary of the living room couch, she went Mike Tyson on us.
Can you imagine the MSM's collective gasp of horror if a Republican presidential candidate threatened to punch out opponents? It would be a field day for the psychologists, as one after another would be paraded across TV screens to speculate on the subconscious roots of such hostility, and opine on the fitness for office of anyone harboring such pugilistic predilections. Lefty foreign policy mavens would be invited to fret over the way such knee-jerk aggression might lead us into war, etc.
But NBC raised nary an eyebrow when reporting on Hillary having uttered just such a threat during a campaign stop in Iowa yesterday. View video here.
Push Poll: Definition: "A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning. The term is also sometimes used incorrectly to refer to legitimate polls which test political messages, some of which may be negative. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants."
Melissa Russo, political reporter for NBC's NYC affiliate WNBC, recently followed Rudy Giuliani up to New Hampshire. In her report on this morning's "Today," Russo stressed that at a GOP campaign stop, Giuliani failed to inform the Granite State Republicans that "he's far from a social conservative."
As NewsBusters reported here and here, most news organizations have been presenting a rather one-sided perspective of the brouhaha that has been ignited over former President Jimmy Carter’s recent book about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. For a change, someone chose to do an extremely well-balanced report on this subject.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell stated the following on the “Today” show Friday morning just before David Gregory interviewed the former president (video available here): “To millions, he is an icon, Nobel Prize winner for his Middle East peacemaking, best selling author of 21 books. But his latest, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, is creating a storm of criticism.”
After a brief quote from Carter’s speech at Brandeis University Tuesday evening, Mitchell continued: “The controversy starts with the book's title, deliberately provocative. But critics say the word 'apartheid' is a smear against Israel.”
Later, Mitchell addressed what most in the media have mysteriously shied away from in their reports on this subject:
If you’re a Democrat having public relations problems, there is probably no better place to go than NBC’s “Today” show. With that in mind, former President Jimmy Carter, in desperate need of a sympathetic voice to act as a magic elixir, spoke to NBC’s David Gregory Friday morning (video available here).
At first, it appeared that Gregory was actually going to take the former president to task for statements made in his controversial book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”:
Let's get right to the heart of this matter and that one sentence that Andrea Mitchell referred to from the book…'It is imperative,' you wrote 'that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the roadmap for peace are accepted by Israel.' You've since said that that sentence was improper and stupid. Well, so what did you mean exactly?
Great question. Amongst other things, the former president replied:
The lead story on Friday’s Today, in a surprising and uncommon move, featured all Republicans. Of course, all of these Republicans are opposed to the president’s plan in Iraq. NBC’s Chip Reid profiled the sponsor of one of the resolutions opposing the surge, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia.
Reid high lighted Warner’s service in both World War II and Korea, then played a sound bite of Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican opponent, stating "when a distinguished veteran like John Warner speaks out on this issue, and cautions us to take another look, it matters." Reid then played a sound bite from Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, perhaps the fiercest Republican opponent of surge and of course emphasized that he’s a Vietnam War veteran. In this story, Reid did not devote any time to Republicans that actually support the surge, including its strongest supporter, former Vietnam prisoner of war, Senator John McCain.
As the 2008 campaign heats up, members of the mainstream media are having trouble deciding between their old favorite (Hillary) and the new flame (Obama). Both CNN and ABC leapt to the defense of Senator Barack Obama after he was accused of attending an Islamic madrassah as a child. (Of course, ABC once devoted an entire episode of "Nightline" to murky allegations that George W. Bush did coke as a younger man.)
But perhaps Obama should be a little worried. The "Early Show" demonstrated exactly why Hillary is still the media’s favorite. Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews told Hillary Clinton that "ideologues on the right" were responsible for the death of her famous health care plan.
ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos asked another 2008 candidate, Bill Richardson, if, as president, he would please just raise taxes.
It's not uncommon for an interviewer to tell a guest offering orotund pronouncements that he's sounding "like a candidate." But Meredith Vieira took that one giant step further this morning, informing renegade Republican Chuck Hagel that he was sounding downright "presidential."
Of course, nothing sounds more presidential to an MSMer's ears than defeatist criticism of the war in Iraq and by extension of the current occupant of the White House. But when it came to the key question, Hagel, far from flashing presidential timber, equivocated like a garden-variety pol.
Vieira: "Senator, at this point, do you believe we are fighting and dying for nothing?"
Hagel immediately went into bob-and-weave mode: "Well, I think the Congress needs to take a look at it and each member of Congress needs to go on the record and need [sic] to address the issue in a very clear way so that they can go back to their constituents and say yes I either support an escalation to put 22,000 more troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war, or I don't."
It's probably one of the most awkward things to do for any broadcaster, making that transition from a hard news story about war or a tragic plane crash into a lighter feature story about, say, the latest Hollywood gossip about Bradgelina. It's commonplace on the morning shows for a Meredith Vieira or Diane Sawyer to make that hard turn from a story on Iraq to a piece on the hottest fashion trends, the commonly heard phrase is: "On a lighter note." Well it seems David Gregory, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, hasn't quite mastered that segue. After a Robert Bazell piece about military combat hospitals in Iraq that featured images of wounded soldiers in surgery it was up to Gregory to make that transition, except the story he was throwing to wasn't exactly an upbeat one.
Has there been any phrase that has been so used and abused by the Democrats as they seek to give themselves cover? But in one fell 'slip', Chuck Schumer gave away the game this morning: the claim to support the troops is a sham. Supporting the troops is merely something to be figured out later. It's an afterthought, to be addressed after Democrats, with some Republican support, rush through a resolution telling our troops that the mission for which they are putting their lives on the line is not just meaningless but absolutely antithetical to our nation's interests.
David Gregory interviewed Sen. Schumer on this morning's "Today."
Gregory: "The Vice-President is dismissive of this [resolution] effort yesterday saying it's not going to stop the president, and in fact he goes further, saying this will be detrimental to the troops on the ground."
Schumer: "Absolutely not, and I think it's going to be shown, when this resolution comes up, and it is non-binding, my guess is that not only are we going to get a vast majority of Democrats to vote for it in one form or another, but close to a majority of the Republicans. And that is going to shock even Vice-President Cheney."
Gregory: "But how can the public really buy the Democrats support the troops but don't support the mission? How can you do both?"
Schumer: "Well, that's the difficulty. A resolution that says we're against this escalation, that's easy. The next step will be how do you put further pressure on the administration against the escalation but still supporting the troops who are there? Andthat's what we're figuring out right now."
Tom Brokaw popped up on this morning's Today show to analyze the President's State of the Union address and join Meredith Vieira in casting doubt on Bush's ability to sell his Iraq policy. After Vieira asked how Bush's low approval ratings affected his ability to promote the new surge in troops to Iraq, Brokaw responded: "The question is, now, seven years into his presidency and more than three-and-a-half years into this war does he have any credibility left when he says, 'This is how it will work,' because so much of what he has said about Iraq has not worked the way that he described it."
Then a little later Vieira set up Brokaw on how people outside of the U.S. viewed the policy: "What about with the rest of the world? Where do you think they stand in terms of this troop surge?" To which Brokaw opined: "I think the rest of the world is standing back and saying, 'You got yourself into it, you find a way out of it.'And that's a dilemma. I know that members of the Iraq Study Group are not happy that the President has not embraced any of their diplomatic suggestions that he made, that they made about talking to Iran and talking to Syria again about rebuilding the alliances. This is a White House that it's, in its own bunker at the moment."
As Americans, we all enjoy the right to criticize the president. But particularly on august occasions like the State of the Union, most agree that the office of the presidency is entitled to a modicum of respect. Or not -- at least in Meredith Vieira's case.
David Gregory set the stage on this morning's "Today,"with his depiction of W's mood:
"The president was more modest in his approach, he appeared humbled, a real sense that he reconizes that it's going to be difficult to keep both Democrats and Republicans on board here as he tries to persuade the country to stick with him on Iraq."
That's when Vieira put her own vulgar stamp on matters:
"Yeah, not exactly like a dog with his tail between his legs but obviously no posturing, either."
NBC's David Gregory might be a decent reporter when he's not biased, and I know he's a great dancer, but he's no meteorologist. James Spann is, and on the January 22 "Glenn Beck" program on CNN Headline News, Spann explained the many other causes of global warming other than Gregory shuttling via jet from D.C. to New York to substitute-anchor the January 23 "Today" show.
Maybe D-Greg wasn't watching. The next morning he pressed White House press secretary Tony Snow if the president would "concede that humans are responsible for global warming."
But as Spann explained on Beck's program, carbon emissions are "a pop gun compared to" larger natural influences like "volcanic dust in the stratosphere, the position of the sun,
the temperature of the sun, the structure of the Earth’s magnetic poles, and
You'd think NBC News would want its viewers to tune into their coverage of tonight's State of the Union address but after listening to this morning's Today show a viewer would be hard pressed to want to tune in as Meredith Vieira and David Gregory asked repeatedly if anyone still cared what Bush had to say. Today's anchors asked that question on three separate occasions within just the first half-hour.
First Vieira, at the top of the show pondered: "The question tonight will anybody be listening to the President anymore when he speaks?" A few minutes later David Gregory, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer, asked Tony Snow: "Tony has the country stopped listening to the President?" Then in her interview with Hillary Clinton Vieira's first question continued Today's theme: "You just heard Tony Snow that he does not believe that the public has stopped listening to the President, do you agree with that?"
If Hillary isn't quite getting out the long knives, let's just say she's oiling the scabbard. As we noted earlier, on this morning's "Today" Clinton drew an invidious comparison between herself and John Edwards, referring to him as "on the sidelines" while she's in "the arena."
And after some persistent questioning by Diane Sawyer on today's Good Morning America, Hillary took a little swipe at her other major opponent, Barack Obama.
Sawyer: "Yesterday, talking about Senator Barack Obama, when asked specifically if he is qualified to be commander-in-chief, to be president, you didn't answer, you said 'I'm going to let the American people decide.' You know the office, you know him. Why not say?"
Gee, I wonder whom Hillary had in mind when she blamed her bad image on "radio and cable TV" this morning? She didn't quite name Rush, Hannity et al. as the "evildoers," but there was no mistaking the object of her disaffection.
The comment came in the course of a "Today" interview with Meredith Vieira. Meredith began with a slow-pitch softball, asking whether Hillary believes the public has stopped listening to President Bush. Hillary allowed that "there's a great discouragement about the president's leadership."
But Meredith maximized the MPH with her next question:
"Many voters still have this very negative opinion of you, and some of the words that are used to describe you are not very kind." As Vieira beginning ticking off the awful adjectives: "strident, cold, scripted, phony," Hillary burst into this political season's most insincere laughter.
Meredith took note of Clinton's feigned frivolity: "You're laughing at that. Advisors have said that they want to humanize you. Why do people seem to have that perception of you after knowing you for 15 years."