Viewers of this morning's Today expecting a balanced panel discussing Bill Clinton's outburst at Fox News were greeted with James Carville debating...Paul Begala? Meredith Vieira, for the most part, sat back as Carville and Begala pumped up Clinton, rallied the Democratic base and attacked everything from the administration's war on terror to Condoleezza Rice, to Fox News. There was no Michael Smerconish or any other vaguely right-of-center counterpart to make points against Clinton's outburst.
The following is a transcript of the entire segment:
Meredith Vieira: "Norah O'Donnell, thanks. Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala worked closely with former President Clinton, their book, Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory is now out in paperback and updated with new material. Good morning to both of you gentlemen. I want to start with you James."
Since one of the main issues at hand was Fox News' alleged bias, you would have thought NBC would have assembled a more 'fair & balanced' panel than James Carville and liberal sidekick Paul Begala. But just when you thought Meredith Vieira was going to lead a one-sided seance, she actually hit the liberal duo with two tough questions.
Carville provided the opening, ill-advisedly claiming that "not one 'assertation' of fact" by Clinton during his FNC interview has been challenged. Guess what, James? We've got some serious 'assertatin' goin' on over he-ah, in the person of Condi Rice, and Vieira was quick to point that out.
Vieira: "Not everybody agrees what he said is fact."
In this morning’s interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Today host Matt Lauer mostly asked serious questions about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and what more that country could do but right before the end of the interview Lauer asked Musharaff to elaborate on a charge he made about the Iraq war:
Lauer: "In your book you wrote, quote, 'I never favored the invasion of Iraq because I feared it would exacerbate extremism as it most certainly has. The world is not a safer place because of the war in Iraq, the world has become far more dangerous.' A recent classified National Intelligence Estimate, in this country, draws that exact same conclusion. So let me ask you, do you think then President Bush should be blamed for making the world a less safe place?"
A soldierasked the Secretary to define just who is the enemy. In professorial, avuncular fashion, Rumsfeld carefully described how a limited number of Muslim extremists have hijacked their faith and sought to impose their warped vision on their co-religionists. That others were seeking to regain power lost when the United States deposed dictatorial regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that still others are simply criminal elements.
Now that John McCain and his fellow “moderate” Republican Senators have made a deal with the White House allowing the CIA and U.S. military to go about the job of protecting America from terrorists, NBC’s Matt Lauer is distressed that the group didn’t “stand up” to the White House and insist on even softer treatment.
In an interview on Friday morning’s Today, Lauer confronted McCain: “Why didn’t you guys stand up and take a stand on specifics? Why didn’t you say look, OK, there’ve been reports, for example, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the secret CIA centers that he was waterboarded, we will not let that stand, Mr. President?”
And Lauer held up Colin Powell as the arbiter of whether this was a good deal, asking McCain: “Do you think now that this moves in the direction where he’ll be satisfied?”
In this morning's interview with Bill Clinton, as first observed here, NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira treated the former president as a wise sage that could solve everything that's wrong with George W. Bush and his policies.
On Hugo Chavez's remarks calling the President, the "Devil" Vieira, gave some credence to the Venezuelan president's claims, as she asked the former President: "Do we need to change the way that we act?," and "is the developing world frustrated with the way that we treat them?"
Vieira then turned to Clinton for advice on Iran: "Let me ask you, then, about President Bush refusing to meet with the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, the other day. He said he would not do that, they wouldn't be in the same room together. If you were president today would you have met with the president of Iran?"
For NewsBusters types, the question has always been whether Meredith Vieira would be as liberal as her Today show predecessor, Katie Couric. As of this morning, we have our answer. Yesterday, Hugo Chavez stood on the world stage and called the President of the United States a "devil" and claimed the speakers platform still stunk from his presence. Today, Meredith Vieira went on national TV and warned us not to be too quick to dismiss his message.
Interviewing Bill Clinton, she said:
"Now, it's easy to dismiss somebody like Chavez -- and some have -- as a nut. But do you think he is giving voice to to wider frustration in the developing world about this country and this country's policies? Do we need to change the way we act?"
Interviewed by 'Today' host Matt Lauer this morning, former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey blamed the "immoral and ugly" way he acted out on his homosexuality on the fact that his parents were straight and thus couldn't serve as role models for him.
Lauer: "Not only as governor but as a state employee, you were living a very risky life-style. Anonymous sex with random men at places like highway rest stops. You write 'I was promiscuous and sexually active in ways I consider immoral and ugly, and I justified this by telling myself I had no other choice and that my sexual urges were irrepressible.'
Asked a sympathetic Lauer: "How hard was it to try to control them?"
That's when McGreevey got off his blame-the-straight-parents defense:
President Bush might have successfully avoided Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN yesterday, but he couldn't escape Meredith Viera's backseat driving on Iran policy on this morning's 'Today.' Perhaps convinced of the value of a good gabfest by her years on "The View," Vieira left little doubt she thinks that George and Mahmoud should soon sit down for nice coffee klatsch.
Vieira's guest was Tim Russert. Alluding to the way that Pres. Bush and Ahmadinejad avoided each other yesterday, Vieira asked him:
"Eventually will [Pres. Bush] have to sit down with this man? How much saber-rattling can you do if you're talking about the potential of going to war?"
If there's one thing you might have thought Meredith would have learned over the last 51/2 years, it's that when George Bush raises the sword, he ain't necessarily planning just to rattle it.
Meredith Vieira's question on Monday about Hillary Clinton decrying Bush's "Fear Factor presidency" seemed like a tired NBC-show plug to me. (What next? Vieira asking the First Lady, "An interrogation bill. Bush faces McCain. Deal Or No Deal?") So where did this Hillary Clinton quote originate? After a little Nexis searching, it's from an interview Sen. Clinton gave to the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on January 19, 2005. (NewsMax had it at the time.) Does Vieira have an excellent memory? Or who pulled this old chestnut out?
Saying the Bush administration uses scare tactics rather than sound policy, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed deep concerns about the president's second term on a visit to Rochester on Tuesday. "The fear factor has become the overriding strategic approach that this administration uses," Clinton told the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board.
Meredith Vieira used the occasion of Laura Bush's in-studio appearance on this morning's Today to pepper the First Lady with criticisms from Hillary Clinton and even Republicans. The First Lady was on to promote her global literacy initiative but, not surprisingly, she ended up having to defend against Today's attack line of the day. After a set-up piece from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell that noted: 'some of the biggest names within [the President's] own party....continue to resist some of his plans for how terror suspects are treated,' Vieira asked if the First Lady's global literacy initiative would help restore the nation's reputation, presumably, destroyed by the President's anti-terror policies:
Over the last week, President Bush’s poll numbers have improved. While the media was quick to highlight poll results when the President’s numbers were declining, they have been less enthusiastic about noting his resurgence. Referring to the "New York Times," co-host of "Fox and Friends" Steve Doocy noted:
"...So, this is really big news for the White House and I'm sure it's going to be on page one. So anyway, with a –because I know that when the president's approval rating was falling, it was on page one..."
Mr. Doocy searched the entire front section of the "Times" on air and was unable to locate news of improving popularity for President Bush. However, it was not just the ‘New York Times" that has omitted improving poll numbers. NBC’s "Today" made no mention of an NBC poll just released yesterday showing President Bush’s approval climbing to 42%. Additionally, neither ABC’s "Good Morning America" nor CBS’s "Early Show" mentioned President Bush’s improved standing with American voters.
Rosie O’Donnell, the newly installed co-host at "The View," observed the 9/11 anniversary by stating that America "squandered" world support and the next day she asserted that "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam."
O’Donnell wasn’t the only media member to use September 11 as a pretext to bash America. CBS veteran Andy Rooney suggested in his "60 Minutes" commentary that America start acting in a way that "wouldn’t make so many people in the world want to kill us." MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann went further, accusing President Bush of "impeachable" offenses and "lies."
Appearing on another network, but continuing in the same vein, Sean Penn talked to CNN’s Larry King and mused about the President bringing fascism to the United States...
Appearing with NBC's Matt Lauer on the Today show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann discussed his recent vitriolic attack on President Bush from the September 11 broadcast of his Countdown show, during which Olbermann had accused Bush of a "crime against" 9/11 victims for not accomplishing the construction of a memorial at Ground Zero, and had accused Bush of the "impeachable offense" of "lying by implication" regarding the Iraq War. While Olbermann's inflammatory comments were not quoted by Lauer or Olbermann, the MSNBC host rationalized his rant by comparing it to President Bush's speech to the nation "politicizing 9/11 in his own way." Olbermann: "I might add that I was on the air two minutes before the President was politicizing 9/11 in his own way. I don't see that there's much difference." Olbermann also contended that views similiar to his shared by a segment of the American population were "not being articulated in the mainstream media." Olbermann: "I thought that there was a part of the persona of the nation not really being articulated in the mainstream media." (Transcript follows)
Three days after delivering a "Special Comment" (which can be found with video here) on his Countdown show denouncing President Bush on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announced that not only will he replay his "Comment" on tomorrow night's Countdown due to being "inundated with your comments and requests," but also announced that he will appear on tomorrow's Today show to "discuss the 'Comment' and other political matters." In Monday night's "Special Comment," Olbermann charged that the President had committed the "impeachable offense" of "lying by implication" to get America into a "fraudulent war" in Iraq, and called the President's "reprehensible inaction" in securing the construction of a memorial at Ground Zero a "crime against" 9/11 victims. It is also likely the MSNBC host will be promoting his recently released book, Worst Person in the World, which is based on a regular segment on Olbermann's show which sometimes features political targets and, according to an MRC study, has targeted conservatives for ridicule eight times as often as liberals. (Transcript follows)
Now it's time for one of those moments known as the Things I Wouldn't Have Done If I Knew I Was Ever Going To Get A Real News Job Again Department. In this case, it's new NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira, who, in a short stretch from her hosting "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" in syndication, hosted this special feature on the DVD for the Disney direct-to-DVD cartoon Lion King 1 1/2. She hosted the cartoon character Timon the Meerkat in "Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle?" There are several obvious reasons for saying yes to this gig. 1. The cash. 2. Being a nice ABC corporate player. 3. But most of all, for the children. (One more pic...)
For a media that likes to complain about the incivility and personal attacks that Republicans have supposedly injected into our politics over the past generation, the networks' reactions to former Texas Governor Ann Richards underscore journalists' partisan approach to what is fair and what is foul.
In 1988, then-Texas state treasurer Richards laced her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention with a series of nasty, mocking attacks on then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. Instead of deploring her descent into the “politics of personal destruction” — as they might have if the speechmaker were a conservative Republican and the target was a liberal Democrat — the media elite swooned, with then-CBS anchor Dan Rather admiring her “scalpel-style attack” on the Republican presidential candidate.
Remembering Ann Richards this morning, all three broadcast network shows re-visited her ridicule of Bush, admiring it as “biting wit” and “fun-loving spirit,” with ABC’s Diane Sawyer touting Richards as the “sassy, funny homemaker who became Texas governor.” ABC, CBS and NBC all played the same sarcastic soundbite of Richards from 18 years ago. “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver-foot in his mouth.”
Matt Lauer had a chuckle at the expense of his guests - then took Dems to task. Michael Smerconish scolded a Republican. And Meredith Vieira gave further evidence of a style looser than that of her perky predecessor.
That's the nutshell wrap on the first half-hour of this morning's Today.
Politics first. Lauer opened his interview with the chrome-domed duo of James Carville and Philly radio host Michael Smerconish by rubbing his own less-than-hirsute pate and observing with a laugh in the shot captured here: "First time in a long time I feel like I have a luxuriant head of hair."
But things quickly turned serious. Echoing a sentiment expressed by his rookie sidekick yesterday, Lauer left little doubt he feels the Democrats are squandering an electoral opening by failing to propose sufficient specifics on national security. Lauer to Carville: "if you [Dems] ever had an opportunity to take advantage of it, it's now, and the Democrats can't get their act together."
On her first day of work NBC's new Today co-host Meredith Vieira mistakenly called House Majority Leader John Boehner the "House Speaker." The blooper came as Vieira, in a segment with Tim Russert, referred to an earlier report by David Gregory, as he, once again, over-hyped a remark from Boehner. Vieira mistakenly asked Tim Russert:
Vieira: "Meanwhile you have, as David Gregory pointed out, the House Speaker saying, criticizing the Democratic, the Democrats for criticizing the President by saying that they're really soft on terrorism, that their commitment to fighting the war is not really there. That's worked effectively for the Republicans in the past, that argument. Do you think that it still will work?"
In her Today show debut this morning, Meredith Vieira gave a flash of her ego - but not of her liberal politics. There was the obligatory opening love-in with co-host Matt Lauer in which Vieira claimed "I feel like it's the first day of school and I'm sitting next to the cutest guy." But then there was an interesting exchange that might presage conflicts to come. In what is apparently a Today show tradition, Matt had the crew replay the opening voice-over announcing "Meredith Vieira, live from Studio 1-A in Rockefeller Plaza."
Asked Matt: "Like the way it sounds?"
Vieira: "I do, but it's still 'Matt Lauer' and 'Meredith Vieira.'"
Lauer: "I don't think that's going to change - unless you bump me off."
Jane Fonda, Rosie O'Donnell and Gloria Steinem team up for a new radio network and NBC's Today, not surprisingly, is ready to promote it. The Today show invited on the "legendary Jane Fonda," as Ann Curry called her, to plug the new Women's Radio Network this morning. In fact the Today cast couldn't contain their excitement for the "sometimes controversial" activist.
Curry: "By the way Jane Fonda, you look great. You look marvelous."
Lauer: "Yikes! She looks fantastic doesn't she? I don't think she can hear us otherwise she'd be saying thank you."
Yesterday Matt Lauer treated Hillary Clinton with kid gloves but on this morning's Today, Bush, once again, got the hostile treatment from Lauer. However in this morning's portion of Lauer's long interview with the President, Bush stepped up, even calling Matt out for trying to "justify" the Democratic position.
Lauer: "Do you know of any Democrats, that in your opinion, are trying to or would like to appease terrorists?"
George W. Bush: "I know Democrats who want to leave Iraq before the job is done and that would be a terrible mistake."
Lauer: "But those Democrats don't see the war in Iraq as inseparable from the overall war on terror."
In the fourth half-hour of NBC’s Today on September 11, co-host Matt Lauer chatted with Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert and former anchorman Tom Brokaw about what's happened to America in the last five years. It wasn't pretty. Lauer cited lost civil liberties, Russert lamented we're "pretty much alone" in Iraq, and Brokaw found both parties weren't enthusiastic enough about demanding more "sacrifice" -- as in tax increases.
MRC's Geoff Dickens found that around 8:35 AM Eastern time, Brokaw suggested that while it was politically dangerous to sound the usual partisan notes on this anniversary, "Nonetheless the country is fully engaged in a very robust debate, as they say these days, about the wisdom of the policies." Lauer grew specific: "And some of the changes and some of the controversial subjects we've talked about in the last several years here. The loss of some personal liberties as a result of this war on terrorism and yet when you poll people and you ask them are they willing to give up those personal freedoms and feel safer a majority of people say yes."
While NBC's Matt Lauer baited Sen. Hillary Clinton to admonish the administration to say we're not safer, he attacked the President for, in fact, trying to make the nation safer. Lauer prompted Clinton: "Are you comfortable that the United States did not break the law in conducting that kind of interrogations in those secret sites?" Then later in the program, as first noted by MRC's Brent Baker, Lauer repeatedly attacked Bush over interrogation methods worrying: "Are you at all concerned that at some point, even if you get results, there is a blurring the lines of, between ourselves and the people we're trying to protect us against?"
Video clip of Lauer's combative exchange with Bush over treatment of terrorists (3:20): Real (5.6 MB) or Windows Media (6.5 MB), plus MP3 audio (1.1 MB)
On Monday morning, the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on the morning shows of each of the three broadcast networks, ABC’s "Good Morning America," NBC’s "Today," and CBS’s "Early Show. While "Good Morning America," and "Today" avoided talk of possible future campaigns, Rene Syler on the "Early Show" looked ahead to the Presidential campaign in 2008 and inquired if Mr. Giuliani would himself be a candidate:
"If I could, sir, ask you about your political aspirations because there's been a lot of talk. You remain a presidential prospect for 2008, will you run for president?"
Matt Lauer gave it the old college try, doing his best to lure Hillary Clinton into some Bush-bashing on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. But demonstrating savvy political instincts, or at least those of her advisers, Clinton held fire, not deigning to swing at the anti-Bush softballs Lauer served up on this morning's 'Today.'
Lauer: "Are we safer today five years after the attacks of 9-11?"
Hillary: "I think it is fair to say we are safer but not safe enough. We have a lot of work to do."
Lauer lobbed a couple questions inviting Hillary to suggest that our war on terrorism has made things worse:
"I am curious how you feel about this. Do you think there are more or less people today, more or fewer people today who want to bring harm to the United States than there were in the days prior to 9-11 and the actions we have taken post 9-11?"
This morning’s Wall Street Journal carries an editorial summarizing the findings of a new study from the Media Research Center that documents how the broadcast networks have skewed their coverage of the War on Terror in favor of those most concerned about civil liberties, not protecting the American people from another homeland attack. Here’s how it begins:
The title of a CBS special report Wednesday night posed the question that haunts us all after 9/11: "Five Years Later: Are We Safer?" Given the show's brevity--an hour minus commercials--and the complexity of the subject, CBS's treatment was predictably shallow. After host Katie Couric asked President Bush a few questions of the "your critics say . . . how do you respond?" sort, and we toured the federal antiterrorism command center, there was little time left for an in-depth examination of anything.
We're all familiar with this definition of a conservative: "a liberal who's just been mugged." This morning, Ted Koppel devised a variation on the theme that could be taken as an insult to his fellow lefties: "a liberal is a conservative who just got arrested."
Koppel's line came in the course of a Today show interview with Matt Lauer to discuss a special that Koppel is about to air in his role as Managing Editor of the Discovery Channel [so that's where he went after leaving ABC!]. As Lauer described it, the documentary, entitled 'The Price of Security,' addresses "the balance between securing the nation and protecting our individual liberties."
Egged on by NBC’s Ann Curry, 9/11 widow and media fave Kristen Breitweiser attacked Ann Coulter and the President on this morning’s Today. On to promote her new book, Wake-Up Call, Breitweiser was portrayed as merely a non-partisan 'stay-at-home-mother,' as Curry never mentioned her 2004 support for John Kerry.
Before playing a clip of Coulter with Lauer, Curry asked Breitweiser: "You know conservatives, as you know, well know, have attacked, criticized heavily 9/11 widows for, including you, for, for some of what you've said over these years, over these five years. In fact on this program, Ann Coulter, the writer, said something to, to Matt Lauer. Let's take a quick listen to what she said."
A few months back, 9/11 widow Kristin Breitweiser suggested that former CIA Director George Tenet and named FBI agents are as deserving of the death penalty as Zacarias Moussaoui. You might think that with opinions such as those, Breitweiser had made her liberal bones. Apparently not enough to suit Ann Curry's taste. On this morning's Today show, Curry found Breitweiser's comments on Ann Coulter insufficently bitter, and tried to lure her into even a more avid condemnation of the conservative commentator.
Curry began with this bouquet: "From your grief, you have drawn strength. You have given that strength to us." Ann, I'd say that even before Kristin came along you and your MSM colleagues had all the strength necessary to bash the Bush administration.
Later, it was on to Curry's Coulter-bashing invitation:
"Conservatives as you well know have attacked -- criticized heavily 9/11 widows, including you, for some of what you've said over the years, over these five years. In fact, on this program, Ann Coulter, the writer, said something to Matt Lauer." Today then played the clip of Coulter saying "these broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, revelling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefarazzis, I've never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much."
When Breitweiser decided to take the high road, offering 'kudos' to Coulter for having her 'voice heard' and being 'engaged in the political process,' Curry reacted in horror:
"But she's saying that you used your grief! She's saying --"