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 --"
Leave it to the Today show to find the negative side of good economic news. Reporting on the discovery of the largest oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, NBC's Martin Savidge admitted that "environmentalists might have a point," in worrying, "the discovery will hardly make a dent in America's reliance on foreign oil" and "it might cause Americans to stop conserving."
The following is the full segment introduced by Ann Curry:
Ann Curry: "Now to Today At the Pump and a major oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. The average price of unleaded gas, nationwide, is now $2.72 a gallon according to the AAA. A steady drop over the last few weeks but drivers everywhere are wondering if the price of gas will drop even further with what could be the largest domestic oil find in 38 years. NBC's Martin Savidge has more on the potential of this new find. Hey Martin, good morning."
David Gregory, just scolded by White House press secretary Tony Snow for advancing Democratic talking points, pushed them again, along with Matt Lauer, on this morning's Today show. Gregory repeated Democratic attacks on Donald Rumsfeld: "Critics have a long list of complaints against Rumsfeld. The abuse at Abu Ghraib and his role in advocating tougher treatment of prisoners. Underestimating troop levels for the war. And what critics call his arrogance in the face of bad news, like this response two-years ago to a soldier complaining about inadequate armor."
Lauer then followed Gregory's lead, pounding Senate Majority Bill Frist on the Secretary of Defense. Lauer repeatedly interrupted Frist with the following anti-Rumsfeld questions:
On this morning’s Today show, MSNBC's Chris Matthews set the table for a Republican defeat this November declaring the GOP will have to resort to "fear tactics." Also NBC’s medical correspondent took a quick slap at the administration during a piece on the health of Ground Zero workers.
First up, during a preview of the midterm elections Today host Matt Lauer and Matthews discussed what kind of strategy the Republicans would employ.
Lauer: "Let's talk strategy. You're a Republican member of Congress right now, you're running for reelection. You have two choices basically. Stand by the President and his policies or keep an arm's length. What do you do and what's gonna work?"
The ostensible topic was the NFL fantasy-league draft that members of the Today show crew recently conducted. But in sharing her strategy for making draft picks, Campbell Brown might have unintentionally offered hope to Republicans looking nervously to November and beyond.
Campbell admitted to weekend co-host Lester Holt that she knows little about football. So in making her picks, Brown said she simply adopted this strategy: "I picked the ones who looked tough and mean."
In a September 1 piece for the "Today" show, NBC reporter Keith Miller sought out Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago professor, to discuss the struggle between science and religion, since it's now being debated in front of Pope Benedict XIV. NBC labeled him simply as a "evolutionary biologist." This is what he had to say about the mixing of faith and science:
Jerry Coyne: "The scientific way of looking at the world, which defends on evidence, and the religious way of looking at the world, which depends on faith, are fundamentally incompatible."
Coyne: "And if there is anything the history of the church should show, it's that if they fight scientific advances, they lose."
Who is Jerry Coyne really? He’s a leftist professor who attacked Ann Coulter for her new treatise on liberals and religion, "Godless." Writing in the "New Republic," he called her a "beached flamingo" and went on to compare Coulter to a zoo animal, saying:
"This beast draws crowds by its frequent, raucous calls, eerily resembling a human voice, and its unearthly appearance, scrawny and pallid."
Ah, the MSM, where bad news is good, and good news . . . can't be allowed to go unchallenged. So long as a Republican is in office, that is.
Take gas prices. Over the last year the MSM has had a field day with a profusion of stories on 'soaring gas prices.' 'Today' reached an absurd apotheosis on August 7th. As reported here, Ann Curry envisioned the absolute worst: a decrease of less than 1/200th in world oil supplies leading to more than a 1/7th jump in crude oil prices - a 1:28 cause-and-effect ratio. In dollar terms, Curry fretted over the possibility that the shutdown of a BP pipeline in Alaska could cause crude oil prices to leap $10/barrel.
We've been tracking prices since then and providing regular updates at the original column. Guess what? Crude was about $75/barrel on the day of Ann's report. Since then, rather than spiking to her imagined $85/barrel, it has slumped to $69 and change. Whoops!
On this morning's Today, NBC's Matt Lauer asked New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to address the conspiracy theory that the levees were intentionally blown up to protect white neighborhoods at the expense of African-Americans. Reciting a question Brian Williams posed in his special, Lauer asked Nagin: "And finally the elephant in the room, if you will, Mr. Nagin. There are still people in the black community, many people, and Brian Williams touched on this in a special last night on NBC, who believe that the day after Katrina struck New Orleans the levees were breached intentionally. That they were blown, if you will, to flood black and poor neighborhoods to spare middle-class white neighborhoods. It would seem very difficult for New Orleans to move forward until that's directly addressed. What do you say about it?"
Is it news to anyone that Michael Brown thinks he got a bum rap on Katrina? As shopworn as was his concatenation of complaint this morning, Matt Lauer treated it with the enthusiasm of a Live at Five reporter on the scene of a fresh accident out on county route 11.
You knew this was coming: Lauer got things off to a Bush-bashing start with the famous "you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" clip of the president congratulating Brown for his work at the beginning of the relief effort.
Matt moved things along with a series of 'helpful' questions/comments:
Lauer: "You warned the president and no help arrived?"
Brown says he did.
Lauer: "The stupid talking points [defending the relief efforts] should be thrown out the window when people are dying."
Lauer: "Do you think that you have been handed all of the blame for this situation? Should the president share the blame?"
NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell continued the skewed media reporting of the Middle East by noting the important social work that Hezbollah does and how the rest of the world has a very supportive take on the terrorist organization.
Liberal TV critic Bob Laurence hypothesized that the scant coverage of the kidnaping of two Fox News journalists was due to the frequency of abductions and the network’s "insulting" attitude towards other media outlets. (According to Laurence, nobody, not even terrorists, like FNC.)