United States officials announced yesterday that the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will be closing in a few months. This gave NBC yet another excuse to show a montage of the famous abuse photos. Mike Boettcher, appearing at 7:06AM EST on the March 10 edition of Today, described the planned closing this way:
Boettcher: "During Saddam Hussein's reign and later under U.S. occupation, Abu Ghraib became perhaps the world's most notorious prison. Photographs of prisoner abuse by American guards at Abu Ghraib sparked an international scandal." (Pictures of abused prisoners overlap Boettcher’s comments.)
So it wasSaddam Hussein and the United States that made the prison notorious? A naked pyramid may be bad, but it’s not the same as brutal murder.
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"
The shock waves on Katie Couric's attack on Ave Maria University and its dangerous Catholic culture with its "segregation," its "intolerance," its disrespect for "civil liberties" are spreading. Myrna Blyth picks it up today on National Review, noting the same Katie who whacked the founder of Domino's Pizza as a menace wrote get-cozy notes to the Unabomber to score an interview.
Here's another example of Katie picking on religiously centered towns only when they're Catholic. The town of New Square, New York (population 4,624) floated up to national attention in 2001, after it was discovered that this all-Hasidic Jewish community offered more than 99 percent of their votes for Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2000. On "Meet the Press," Tim Russert noted The New York Daily News reported President Clinton granted clemency to four men "convicted of swiping millions in federal education grants by establishing a fake Jewish school." The clemency came after Clinton held a White House meeting in December 2000 with Senator-elect Hillary Clinton and New Square Rabbi David Twersky. Guess how rough Katie Couric was on that exclusive community, with criminal convictions cleared in a political scandal?
Joe Scarborough had some tough stuff for both parties today. He revealed that Republicans believe they will lose the House of Representatives in 2006. But no thanks to the Dems, whose failure to exploit the political opportunity he ascribed to their being "stupid."
Scarborough's appearance with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show capped a long segment themed "Has Bush Lost His Clout?" The answer was a resounding 'yes' in NBC's mind.
Today outlined a litany of presidential woe:
Being forced to accept changes to the Patriot Act to win its approval.
Action by Republicans in Congress to block the UAE ports deal.
Erosion of the president's "once ardent base."
Possibly being "forced to bend" on NSA surveillance.
A gloomy forecast for Iraq.
Dismal poll ratings.
Speaking of polls, NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell only featured the results of polls showing Pres. Bush's approval ratings at or below 40%, ignoring major polls such as this one by the Washington Post/ABC that has the president above 40%.
You’d think Katie Couric would aspire to be an anchorwoman for all the American people, now that CBS appears to be wooing her for the Throne of Rather. So why did she have to be so rough on Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, for being a Catholic?
Monaghan has an extraordinary American story. After struggling badly with his brother in a failing pizza business, he bought his brother out in 1960 and by the 1980s had accumulated amazing riches. He was enjoying them, too, all the gaudy trappings of success, and then he read the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Reading about the great sin of pride, his life changed dramatically. He stopped concentrating on material things, instead focusing his energies, and his wealth, in pursuit of spiritual good. He poured millions upon millions of dollars into pro-life and Catholic philanthropy. Among other ventures, he founded Ave Maria University. After facing zoning problems with his first location in Michigan, Monaghan struck a deal in southern Florida, not to merely build a Catholic college, but a truly Catholic town, open to anyone aspiring to live in communion with traditional values.
On March 5, the morning of the Oscars, the Today show indicated that mainstream Hollywood might be too conservative. Yes, you read that correctly. NBC correspondent Jennifer London, in a segment airing at 8:51AM EST, discussed the gay themes of Capote, Brokeback Mountain and Transamerica. She then made the following comment:
London: "The message this year? It's good to be gay in Hollywood. Or is it?"
The piece pointed out that despite the nominations of heterosexual actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger for their roles as homosexuals, many gay actors don’t come out. Ms. London also asserted that the public endorses these films, it’s the studios who are squeamish:
NBC’s Today played the story of Colorado teacher Jay Bennish’s comparing Bush to Hitler as a story of academic freedom. Matt Lauer played PR man to Bennish as he played the role of humble instructor of a simple Introduction To World Geography class. But in fact Bennish was teaching an Indoctrination to Communism class as seen in the anti-capitalistic quotes Today didn't show viewers. And it’s not like Today didn’t have the time to collect the quotes or even send invites to the offended students and parents as it’s been five days since the story first broke. No instead Today devoted its first half-hour to teasing its exclusive with the teacher that compared George W. Bush to Hitler. (Mark Finkelstein had our first take here.)
Turns out the real culprit in the Colorado kerfuffle over the teacher who compared Pres. Bush to Hitler is . . . the student who complained about it. Just ask Matt Lauer.
Interviewing teacher Jay Bennish this morning, Lauer laid out this sympathetic scenario:
Lauer: "The family here, the student's family, didn't go to the school board with this tape."
Bennish: "They never contacted me."
Lauer: "They shopped it around to conservative media outlets and finally released it to one and created an uproar. On the tape you can hear Sean Allen [the student in question] asking you questions that seem to be egging you on a little bit. Do you feel you were set up?" (More of the transcript here with thanks to Geoffrey Dickens.)
MRC's Geoff Dickens reported that in the 9 am half hour of "Today," Katie Couric went mushy for "Crash," a movie even liberal critics disliked for its manipulative (and at times unrealistic) plotting. Couric even mentioned how she liked that her daughter's ninth grade class was shown the fictional L.A.-stuffed-with-racism flick to spur discussion about America's unending race problem.
Katie Couric: "And also I think, Chris [Bridges], don't you think that, that the things weren't so black and white, so to speak, in the, in the movie. You know people were very nuanced. They had very different sides to them. So there weren't clear cut lines between bad characters and good characters were there?"
Give Katie Couric a Best Supporting Actress in the MSM production of "Doom & Gloom: the Iraq Story." Interviewing NBC military analyst Gen. Wayne Downing on this morning's Today Show, Couric was skeptical that Iraqi forces would ever be able to defend the country, underlined the view of a "vicious cycle" there, and darkly conjectured that civil war was only "a matter of time."
Couric noted reports that U.S. and British troops will pull out of Iraq by the spring of 2007, then stated: "The U.S. military denies those reports saying there is no time-table and U.S. troops will withdraw when the Iraqi forces can secure and defend that country."
Who would have thought it?: in the crucial first half-hour of their respective shows this morning, Fox & Friends Weekend didn't cover the incident at the University of North Carolina in which an Iranian drove an SUV through a crowd, injuring five people - but the Today show did.
Interviewed by Today co-host Lester Holt, one of the students who was injured stated: "I personally think it was definitely, definitely intentional, for sure."
As the injured student described the incident, involving an SUV driven by recent UNC grad Mohammed Reza Taheriazar of Iran:
"I look up and i see a car coming through in the middle of campus, which is pretty odd to begin with. I keep walking. He's going really slow. It doesn't seem like he has any malicious intent. All of a sudden I just hear the car's engine rev. I look up and the car is right there coming right at me, about five feet from me. I ended up on the hood and luckily rolled off without serious injuries."
Today co-host Katie Couric savaged Dominos Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan and Paul Marinelli, CEO of Barron Collier Company (BCC). The two appeared on the March 3 edition of the show to promote Ave Maria, a new Catholic university in Florida and the planned community that will surround it. Couric, interviewing the two men at 7:34AM EST, appeared openly hostile. She stated, "I think people will see this community as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance." Mr. Marinelli denied this claim, but that didn’t stop Couric from playing the bigotry card.
Is it just coincidence? Barely a week after new media from Rush Limbaugh [subscripton required] to this column found the Today show appearance of NY Times foreign-affairs maven Thomas Friedman noteworthy, Today had him back again this morning. Could the new media be driving news choices at the antique?
In any case, while the ostensible purpose of Friedman's appearance was to discuss President Bush's current trip to India, his most interesting comments came in relation to Iraq and by extension to the entire Middle East. His notion: the path from dictatorship to democracy in the region necessarily passes through a period of fundamentalist religious rule.
Wednesday’s Early Show on CBS carried a segment on Iraq emblazoned with the headline “Iraq Civil War.” The worry that Iraq is about to tip over into an all-out fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites has been thick in the media since terrorists bombed an important Shiite mosque a week ago. As CBS anchor Bob Schieffer announced that night (February 22): “One of the worst days ever in Iraq, and it’s Iraqis against Iraqis. A Middle East expert tells us the country has been plunged into civil war.”
But while there’s been a definite uptick in violence and death in the week since the mosque bombing, the “civil war” scenario has failed to materialize. On FNC’s Your World with Neil Cavuto earlier this afternoon, a panel discussed whether notions of an imminent Iraq “civil war” are a grim reality, or a media myth. Former CBS and NBC reporter Marvin Kalb spoke for the rest of the liberal establishment: "What is going on in Iraq now is deadly, serious stuff. People are dying there....This is not a myth. This is what is happening and the American people deserve to know the truth.”
Well, if Iraq’s future matches the current prognostications from the liberal media, it’s purely a matter of coincidence. Pessimistic media mavens have been fretting about a “civil war” since shortly after the coalition liberated Baghdad in April 2003. A brief review:
Is Chris Matthews rooting for civil war in Iraq? It's hard to interpret his words otherwise when, after asserting that officials in previous administrations and former President Bush had warned that going into Iraq would lead to civil war, Matthews observed:
"The problem is it took a little time for this to take shape."
"The problem," Chris?
Matthews' hoping for the worst was just the capper on the Bush-bashing fest he conducted with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show. Those nature documentaries of vultures on the Serengeti plain have little on the way Matthews and Lauer went after President Bush's political bones.
Now it's getting nasty. Katie Couric has pointedly suggested that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's past chairmanship of the Republican National Committee permitted him to snare a disproportionately large share of Katrina rebuilding funds.
The accusation came in the course of Couric's interview of Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. An aside: whereas Katie seemed frustrated in an earlier interview this morning of Mayor Ray Nagin when he was unwilling to point the finger at the Bush administration for allegedly slow progress, Amoss was much more compliant. He laid most of the fault at FEMA's feet, and also blamed the federal government for doing nothing to improve levees it allegedly knew were insufficient.
Didn't someone get the word to Ray Nagin? Didn't His Honor know he was supposed to use his Mardi Gras appearance on the Today show to bemoan slow progress in the rebuilding of New Orleans and take some helpful shots at the Bush administration for its stinginess in allocating only $91 billion?
If Nagin wasn't playing by the Bush-bashing script, Katie Couric was there to fill the gaps and use the opportunity to plump for more government programs including an expansion of perhaps the worst idea ever in welfare - 'public housing.'
Katie opened her interview with this negative assessment: "Only 50% of the debris has been removed. Basic services are still not up and running in some areas. That may lead some people to ask: what is taking so long?"
Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, appeared on the February 25 edition of NBC’s Today. Co-host Lester Holt began the segment, airing at 8:11AM EST, by asking Matthews about Iraq. He responded:
"The President, of course, got us to go to war in Iraq with the argument that someday down the road, that country over there on the other side of the world might someday help out the terrorists, and we've lost 3000 guys fighting that argument."
That statistic, of course, is not correct. The actual number, as of February 26, is 2294. The death of every soldier is tragic and their sacrifice should be remembered and honored. But the fact that Matthews rounded up by over 700 shows the grisly fascination that media members have with these milestones. Holt then asked the MSNBC host what options the United States had in a potential Iraqi civil war. Matthews then suggested a bleak and dire scenario:
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."
You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
"They say that all good things must end, someday, "Autumn leaves must fall, "But don't you know, that it hurts me so, "To say goodbye to you "Wish you didn't have to go "No no no no." - A Summer Song, Chad & Jeremy
Yes, it was so beautiful for the MSM while it lasted. Seemingly endless days beneath sunny South Texas skies, filled with breathless stories of possible White House cover-ups, press secretaries under the gun, earnest doctors displaying models of damaged hearts, why, even talk of the Vice-President having to step down under fire.
But the first hint that the beautiful affair could be ending came two days ago when Mr. Cheney had an earnest meeting with another man, that suave Brit Hume. Then the president announced he was satisfied with the account of the matter. And finally those party poopers at the sheriff's office had to announce yesterday that the case was closed with no charges filed.
An unsuspecting viewer watching this morning's Today show would have thought Fox News failed to disclose that VP Cheney, during his interview with Brit Hume, acknowledged having a beer at lunch on the day of the shooting incident.
But when it comes to the MSM, it pays to be 'suspecting.'
Here's how NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell artfully chose her words:
"The official White House transcript of the interview shows Cheney said 'I had a beer at lunch.' Fox News did not show that particular clip during Brit Hume's program."
I was jarred by O'Donnell's statement since, having watched "Brit Hume's program" - Special Report - I was certain I had heard reference to the mid-day beer. And sure enough, a transcript of Special Report confirms it:
It was open season on Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC's Today this morning as Katie Couric opened the show over a What's the Wait? graphic, continuing the media elite's whining that they aren't being spoonfed information from the White House: "Good morning, shooting itself in the foot? More fallout over Vice President Cheney's hunting accident as the victim suffers a minor heart attack. And once again the Bush administration delays telling the press."
Couric and Matt Lauer teased the upcoming segment with Tim Russert. Couric: "But first off still some rough sledding for the Bush administration over Vice President Cheney's hunting incident, right?" Lauer: "Yeah that's right Katie and we should also tell you that the man Vice President Cheney accidentally shot suffered a minor heart attack while still in the hospital on Tuesday. President Bush's press secretary knew about that before his news conference that same day but he didn't tell anyone. The administration was already under fire because it waited a day to tell the press when the accident happened. So what's going on? And is Vice President Cheney making a bad situation even worse by keeping silent about it? We're gonna have much more on that, Katie, with Tim Russert in just a couple of minutes."
When's the last time you recall a prominent elected official being called a morning malt liquor drinker on live national TV? It just happened on the Today show.
Today was no doubt looking for a light touch when co-host Campbell Brown interviewed New Orleans magician, comic and eccentric extraordinaire Harry Anderson in a pre-Mardi Gras piece on "Life after Katrina." But the NBC show surely got more than it was bargaining for.
When Anderson took some shots at FEMA and the federal response to Katrina, Brown, in an apparent bid for balance, responded:
"Let me ask you about Mayor Nagin, because your mayor has come under a lot of crticism too for how he's handled the rebuilding effort. What do you think of the mayor?"
She interviewed NBC reporter Richard Engel on this morning's Today show in the wake of the release of a new videotape of Jill Carroll, the US journalist kidnapped in Iraq last month. The tape showed a composed Carroll speaking before a floral backdrop.
Couric, ever the fashion maven, declared "it's actually kind of a pretty setting." Perhaps Katie can pick up some matching shoes while in 'Torino'. Engel explained that the captors appear to be sending the message that they are looking to negotiate.
While the TV-news world buzzes over whether Katie Couric brings her powdered perkiness to the "CBS Evening News" throne of Dan Rather, her current morning job still makes her look quite silly, more "That Girl" than "Evening News" anchor/icon. Drudge today is wondering whether she was "discharged" upon as she fed pigeons in Milan on camera shortly after 8 AM Eastern. Our views of the video today show no visual evidence of the number-two (and Katie later denied it happened*), but a surplus of dopey jokes about it, with Couric remarking on "sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue," and then claiming she might be needing "Purel" to clean her hands after the pigeons fed there. She makes CBS anchor Connie Chung reporting from Tonya Harding's ice rink look like the essence of hard news. Windows Media Player or Real Player
Perhaps the dumber Olympics-related "Today" moment came last Thursday, as MRC's Geoff Dickens sent along the transcript:
Today's Matt Lauer scored a Jerome Bettis-sized TD this morning by asking a question regarding the current Muslim rioting that was as unexpected as it was perspicacious. Meanwhile, former Clinton diplomat Bill Richardson offered the instinctive Democratic response to a threat to our security: bring on the UN!
Richardson, currently the New Mexico governor, described the grim state of the Muslim world: "I've never seen the situation so dire with with the threats from Iran, the victory of Hamas, the escape of Badawi in Yemen. This is a very dangerous situation. It seems that the Muslim world is exploding."
Let's give Today its due. It devoted extended coverage this morning to the growing nuclear threat from Iran. In Katie Couric's interview of Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, it was quickly established that Iran does indeed represent a serious danger. Much of the conversation involved a discussion of the various options - none of them ideal - to address the threat. One might argue that Haass' estimate that Iran remains five years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon is dangerously optimistic, but he did not attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation.
But, inevitably, Katie turned the talk to what she deemed domestic spying, alternatively dubbing it, with a wry smile, "the terrorist surveillance program."
Both NBC's "Today" on Thursday and CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday jumped on one liberal-sounding line of Bush's State of the Union address: that America is "addicted to oil."
Matt Lauer began "Today" by joking like he was attending an Alcholics Anonymous meeting. "I'm Matt and I'm addicted to oil."
Katie responded, along with rest of the crew: "Hi Matt!"
Lauer elaborated: "You get the point. In fact it's an addiction all Americans have. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's supply and most of that for driving. Well this week President Bush called on America to break its dependence on foreign oil and search for new cleaner, energy sources but presidents, as you know, have been saying that for decades. Why is oil such a hard habit to break and does the oil used in your home actually affect what's happening in the Middle East? We'll get into that."