On the Friday edition of ABC’s “20/20,” Diane Sawyer stood in front of an ABC generated visual aid: A gigantic mound of plastic bags and paper towels.
With no sense of irony, the ABC host then proceeded to lecture viewers on waste and the need to use cloth bags at the supermarket. Referring to plastic bags as “plastic flowers,” Sawyer intoned, “They can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in landfills. So tomorrow, use a cloth bag at the grocery store, and let the trees have some real flowers.”
Of course, the ABC host offered this helpful advice right after another segment on inefficient Americans and the amount of paper towels and plastic bags they dispose of:
ABC’s weatherman, Sam Champion, continued his crusade to get every American to adopt liberal environmental polices. While standing in front of a massive bank of televisions, he lectured viewers on their contribution to global warming: "If you think you have nothing to do with global warming, think again. From the car you drive, to the house you live in, it all contributes to the problem."
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman appeared on the "Today" show to announce that America’s best shot at winning the war on terrorism is by going green. NBC, of course, promoted the segment as "save energy, save the world."
Al Gore has complained that the media are biased against the inconvenient truth of global warming. "I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action," Gore told a "Media Ethics Summit" at Middle Tennessee State University back in February. Gore lectured journalists that any coverage of views opposed to his own was irresponsible, calling it "balance as bias."
It's impossible to imagine the big TV networks actually accepting an edict from a conservative politician to report only their side of a major public policy issue, but a new Media Research Center study of ABC, CBS and NBC's global warming coverage finds the networks are giving Gore practically everything he demanded. Not only does nearly every global warming story exclude any contrary voices, but the coverage of Al Gore personally has been exceptionally positive as well.
The first half hour of this morning's "Today" offered an unusual window into NBC's decision to air some of the materials that the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, had mailed to the network.
Matt Lauer introduced the topic.
MATT LAUER: It puts us in an unusual position, because obviously at NBC News we always want to cover the important stories of the day and the massacre at Virginia Tech is one of the most disturbing and tragic stories any of us will ever cover. But we're not used to becoming part of the story, and with this package that he sent us, Cho has made us in some way part of the story
MEREDITH VIEIRA: The decision to air some of the images he sent to us: the video clips and the photos and to discuss what was contained in that rambling and hate-filled manifesto was not taken lightly, it was not made quickly, and we understand that this is going to be seen as devastating to many people who lost loved ones in the shooting. In fact I will tell you that we had planned to speak to some family members of victims this morning but they cancelled their appearances because they were very upset with NBCfor airing the images.
If one were to contemplate all the horrible results of the actions of this murderous psychopath in Virginia, if one were to wonder how hard and emotional have become the lives of the survivors of those whom this sick individual killed, it would seem axiomatic that the Mainstream Media would be the last group such a reflection would see as a recipient of the "tough decisions" resulting from the murders . We would naturally feel pain at the loss of the families of the VT victims. Our hearts would go out to the turmoil that surviving students would face upon trying to resume their education schedules after this monumental outrage. We would even feel bad for residents of the surrounding Virginia communities as they attempt to cope with the crime. Yes, there are a lot of people to empathize with and to feel sorry for.
Before this is over, I predict that Virginia Tech President Charles Steger will apologize for errors that he and his administration made in dealing with yesterday's massacre. But as of this morning, Steger was still seeking to defend the failure to alert students for two hours after the initial murders. As Matt Lauer politely pointed out, his explanation would seem to fail a simple test of logic.
"Today" host Lauer interviewed Steger during the show's first half-hour.
LAUER: As you continue to mourn here at Virginia Tech University, you're also facing some very difficult questions from students and from parents and from law enforcement people who are saying we had a shooting take place at 7:15 in the dormitory in this part of the campus, and yet an email didn't go out warning students even to be cautious until two hours later.
Has the Imus-inspired national conversation on race and sex jumped the shark? I'm starting to suspect so after hearing Pat Schroeder this morning. Her most notable contribution to the collective dialogue was to suggest that there's something inherently masculine about verbal meanness.
The former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado was a member of a panel moderated by NBC's Lester Holt on this morning's "Today."
Give Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira credit. On this morning's "Today," Lauer suggested to his boss's face that in firing Don Imus he had caved to pressure from advertisers and people like Al Sharpton. And Vieira held Al Sharpton's feet to the fire, now that he had Imus' scalp, about going after rappers and others who use similar language every day.
Here's part of the exchange, which came at 7:05 AM EDT, between Lauer and NBC News President Steve Capus:
CAPUS: This one went so far over the line, Matt, that it was time.
LAUER: But the timing, the timing. You really don't have to try too hard to think that NBC News caved to the pressure from advertisers like Proctor & Gamble and GM and others and perhaps caved to pressure from people like Reverend Sharpton, who we'll talk to in just a second.
Whatever Andrea Mitchell has it seems to be catching. Repeatedly, NBC's Mitchell has claimed John McCain's declining support in the polls has to do with his pro-war stance, a stance that quite frankly isn't unpopular within the GOP base. Well on this morning's 'Today' show her colleague David Gregory, in a piece about low Republican morale, claimed the very same thing. Gregory claimed: "John McCain has lost ground in the polls because of his support for the Iraq war."
Now any GOP insider could tell them McCain's support for the war is one of the key stances that is keeping McCain afloat with the base of the party. One has to wonder if Mitchell and Gregory are just having the same conversation with themselves and coming to the same inaccurate conclusions.
Members of the media are working environmental bias into the oddest segments. "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion reported this week on the trendy new concept of "green weddings." According to Mr. Champion, "more and more Americans" are embracing ideas such as not using electricity during their wedding and holding the reception in a barn. Sounds great, right ladies?
On the same topic, the "Today" show’s Martin Savidge worried that climate change could have a negative effect on the nation’s pets. (Presumably, this includes Savidge’s dog "Girlfriend.") On Friday, the aforementioned Mr. Champion plugged a global warming study that predicted overly warm spring temperatures. This was right after his early April forecast of brutal cold for the Northeast.
Imagine if you will that in September 1996, just days after America launched a missile strike on Baghdad to expand the “no fly zone,” Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich met with Saddam Hussein to discuss foreign policy matters without the permission of President Clinton.
Would the media have vociferously discussed the possibility that Gingrich had violated federal law in doing so?
If the answer is a resounding “Yes,” then why have extremely few press outlets broached this issue as it pertains to current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) recent potentially law-breaking trip to Syria?
To best understand the issue, a little history is necessary. The Logan Act was created in 1799, and reads as follows:
Call it a flying-pig moment, or chalk it up to his concern for Dems' long-term best interests if you will. But there's no denying that on this morning's "Today," Matt Lauer absolutely unloaded on Nancy Pelosi and her ill-conceived venture into foreign policy.
The segment was entitled "Democratic Diplomacy: Has Pelosi Gone Too Far?", virtually answering the question by its very asking. In the set-up piece, David Gregory rolled two telling clips. The first was of VP Cheney's comments on the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday to the effect that Pelosi's statement regarding her trip was"nonsensical." The second was of former congressman Lee Hamilton, warning that if his fellow Dems box in the president on foreign policy, Americans might conclude that the Democrats have gone "too far."
Interviewing Tim Russert at 7:06 AM ET, Lauer came out guns ablazin'.
LAUER: Vice-President Cheney called Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria "bad behavior," a Washington Post editorial on Thursday called it "counter-productive and foolish," and op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning goes a step further and suggests her trip may actually have been a felony, that it may have violated something called the Logan Act. Tim, is this the way the Democrats wanted to get off the mark in terms of foreign affairs?
Update: See bottom of post NBC's Martin Savidge took the prize for unexpected environmental advocacy on this morning's Today show. In a global warming story, disguised as a health report, Savidge went over-the-top as he blamed your car's exhaust for seemingly every problem under the Sun. In what was initially teased as an allergy report Savidge blamed fossil fuel emissions for an increase in the pollen count that is not only leading to exacerbated allergic reactions in humans and their pets but also getting in the way of police officers trying to collect fingerprints.
In the 7am half hour, Today co-host Matt Lauer introduced Savidge's global warming, masquerading as health story, segment this way: "Are you sniffling and sneezing right now? Are your eyes so watery you can barely see the TV?Well it could be your allergies. And guess what? We may only have ourselves to blame. That story now from NBC's Martin Savidge."
Would someone please let Andrea Mitchell know that John McCain is competing for the Republican presidential nomination? He's not going up against Obama, Hillary et al. in a race to determine who can surrender fastest in Iraq.
Giving her expert analysis on this morning's "Today" of John McCain's lackluster fundraising results, Mitchell claimed that John McCain is "hurt by his support for the Iraq war."
Could Andrea possibly be more wrong? McCain's support for President Bush's Iraq policy is the only thing keeping him alive, if barely, in the GOP race. Opposition to the war would put McCain in Chuck Hagel territory -- so unpopular among Republican voters that he dare not even throw his hat into the ring.
Sometimes bias shows up in the most unexpected spots. During a segment about Americans losing out to the Dutch when it comes to average height, NBC's Dawna Friesen cited a Democratic talking point, as one of the reasons. In the 7:30am half hour of this morning's 'Today' show Friesen explored the reasons why Americans are "shrinking" in contrast to the Dutch and other Western Europeans. Along with diet and nutrition Friesen blamed our shorter statures on lack of universal healthcare:
"And there's health care. Everyone in the Netherlands has access to it whereas in the U.S., 47 million people have no health insurance."
The following is the full segment as it aired on the April 2, 'Today' show:
MRC's Matthew Balan discovered on Friday's "Today" that the latest conventional wisdom among the liberal news manufacturers at NBC is that Rudy Giuliani's struggling under a wave of forthcoming media frenzies, while John Edwards has made an Elmer's Glue bond with the American people with his "60 Minutes" interview with his wife about her cancer. First, the decline and fall of Rudy:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: “I want to switch gears here, Tim, and talk about the 2008 campaign. Two candidates, in particular making news this week, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards. Let's start with Rudy Giuliani, if we can. Reports today, that when he was mayor of New York City, he knew that Bernard Kerik had a relationship with a company suspected of ties with organized crime, or to organized crime, before he appointed him as New York City police commissioner. He also said in an interview that if he is elected to the White House, he could see his wife Judith having a role in Cabinet meetings. How would assess his campaign at the end of this week? Headed in the right direction?”
Far be it from me to put in a plug for "Today," but I do hope Nancy Pelosi & Friends were watching this morning. Congressional Dems might be quick to dismiss what President Bush predicts would be the upshot of a date-certain pull-out from Iraq. But perhaps they would not so blithely disregard the observations of one of the most experienced and respected reporters on Iraqi matters . . . a New York Times staffer, no less.
During this morning's first half-hour, "Today" aired a segment devoted to answering the question "What if US Troops Withdraw?" In the first part, narrated by David Gregory, dueling experts painted alternatively gloomy and not-so-glum pictures of what things would be like if the US withdrew. Those on the "things wouldn't-be-so-bad" side seemed to receive more than their fair share of air time.
But then, Matt Lauer interviewed John Burns. As Matt observed, "few Western journalists have as a good a perspective on this war in Iraq as New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns."
"We should have went to the mob for a loan," said Bronx homeowner Ana Rosado on CNN's March 27 "American Morning."
Her statement, extreme as it was, rivaled network reporting in March about subprime loans and foreclosures.
Reporters called the situation a “meltdown,” an “epidemic” and a “crisis” that could potentially lead to recession, and blamed lenders while almost entirely ignoring personal responsibility for borrowers. Instead, media accounts portrayed borrowers as victims, many of whom seemed shocked when their adjustable-rate mortgages adjusted upward.
While lenders were painted as the bad guys, they were rarely allowed to give any perspective. The networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, have done at least 26 stories on subprime loans just in the month of March, but only six of those included a lender’s voice. That meant an overwhelming 77 percent of stories didn’t even try to explain the lenders’ position.
From the moment she participated in an anti-war march in NYC at the time of the 2004 GOP convention, there's been little doubt as to where Meredith Vieira stands on Iraq. Even so, it was something of a shock to hear the "Today" co-host express her opposition in the first person plural this morning.
Discussing the war with Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] at about 7:05 AM ET this morning, she said:
"Six out of ten Americans don't agree [with you]. They want a pull-out from Iraq. So what are we missing? When you say we are succeeding, based on what?"
"We?" Give Meredith credit for candor; but one more reason for NBC to stop pretending it doesn't lean left.
On this morning's "Today," NBC's Pete Williams engaged in slip that would have made Sigmund proud, so let's bring in the father of modern psychotherapy to analyze it. After all, he's only been dead for 68 years, plenty fresh enough for purposes of punditry.
Williams had scored quite a journalistic coup, an exclusive sit-down with embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Later, Williams chatted live from DC with Matt Lauer back in the New York studio. Discussing the decision by a senior aide to Gonzales to invoke the Fifth Amendment should she be called to testify before congress regarding the firing of the U.S. attorneys, Williams said:
"Congress could try to force Monica Lewinsky -- uh, Monica Goodling, rather, to testify by giving her immunity. But it's more likely they'll simply use her reluctance to testify as another reason to wonder what really happened. Matt."
Matt managed to control his mirth, as did Williams in signing off, but you sensed a nervous chuckle was just below the surface on both ends of the conversation.
This week, the media greeted Al Gore’s global warming testimony as though Moses had delivered it on stone tablets (Or some secular equivalent). Katie Couric, on her web blog, touted Gore’s “triumphant” return.
Matt Lauer said the right thing. Was it for the wrong reason?
Discussing on this morning's "Today" with Tim Russert the current wrangling between the Bush administration and the Dem congress over a bill to fund the Iraq war and the Dems' attempt to include a "date certain" for troop withdrawal, Matt Lauer said:
"Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, has said that sometime next month that the funding for troops on the ground will run out. So now we've got a very high stakes game of political chicken. And can you imagine the Democrats getting to a point where they actually stop the funding for troops on the ground? That would be a disaster, wouldn't it?"
“Sixty bucks! That’s ridiculous,” said one woman filling up her gas tank, on ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” March 12.
Consumer complaints and frequent mentions of "the most expensive gasoline" in the country are used by the media to hype rising gas prices. And what state has the most expensive gasoline? California.
“Let me show you what is the most expensive gasoline location in the country. A gallon of unleaded in California right now going for $3.08 a gallon,” said NBC reporter Tom Costello during the March 12 “Nightly News.”
Costello's report, like many others on NBC, CBS and ABC left out the explanation for exorbitant prices at California pumps: higher taxes and excessive environmental regulation.
In the first hour of this morning's Today show, there were not one but two segments that would make Al Gore smile. First NBC's Andrea Mitchell explored whether Al "warrior for climate change" Gore would consider jumping into the presidential race, then in the second half hour Today co-host Matt Lauer, in a segment about environmentally-friendly gadgets, gave Gore face time via a clip from An Inconvenient Truth. In fact both segments featured preachy clips from the documentary.
First up Mitchell's piece featured the following clip:
Al Gore: "The misconception that there's disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small group of people."
On this morning to promote his new book former House Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay didn't receive the kid glove treatment NBC's Meredith Vieira usually reserves for Hillary Clinton, as Vieira repeatedly questioned DeLay on his ethics but when the Today co-host hit DeLay over Iraq, The Hammer, hit back.
As Vieira deigned to interpret opinion polls on Iraq she piously proclaimed: "Well I think they are saying though, sir, not to beat a dead horse here, but I think they are saying they want American troops out by the fall of 2008." To which DeLay hammered back: "I didn't know you spoke for the American people."
From time to time we here at the MRC get emails from troops grateful for the work we do here in exposing the bias in the media's coverage of the Iraq war and their failure to report all the good things the servicemen and women there have seen for themselves. Well to those who've sent those emails we thank you but if you're looking for a morale boost you may want to avert your eyes from what was on this morning's "Today" show as NBC's war correspondents Richard Engel and Tom Aspell painted a bleak picture of the troops' resolve and even, without comment, relayed insurgent propaganda.
During the first half hour of this morning's "Today," Matt Lauer asked Engel for his take on troop morale, to which Engel responded the number of those who believe in the mission is "dwindling," and "that there are others who don't really believe in the war any more."
Interviewing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on this morning's Today show, NBC's Matt Lauer suggested Iraqis were less fearful of violence under Saddam Hussein than they are now. The Today co-host citing a poll of Iraqis asked the following:
Lauer: "Let, let me tell you about a current poll. Iraqis were asked about their lives today, Madame Secretary. Listen to these results. Nearly nine in 10 people said that they live in fear, that the violence is ravaging their country will strike them or the people that they live with. That's startling. 90 percent fear that they'll fall victim to the violence in that country right now. Don't you have to wonder what that percentage would have been under Saddam?"
Viewers tuning into this morning's Today show for their 4th year anniversary coverage the Iraq war were assaulted with doom and gloom from the news team at Today beginning with its host Matt Lauer who opened the show asking: "Is the war worth it?" At the top of the show Lauer teased Today's look back on the war this way:
Lauer: "Good morning, Iraq: Four years later. On this date in 2003, the start of Shock and Awe. Then the fall of Saddam but was it Mission Accomplished?"
George W. Bush: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
Lauer: "As the war enters its fifth year America is shell-shocked, the casualties staggering, the price tag in the hundreds of billions. Is the war worth it? And is there still a chance for victory? A look back and a look forward today, Monday, March 19th, 2007."
After his comments this morning, if Don Imus ever gets invited to a party on the terrace of Katie Couric's midtown apartment overlooking Central Park, he would be well advised not to get too close to the ledge.
Chatting with Imus on MSNBC at 8:45 ET this morning about the travails of the CBS Evening News and the advent of Rick Kaplan as its executive producer, media maven Howard Kurtz observed: "I don't know if this is attributable to Rick, but it seems to me that in the last week the show has a little bit of a harder edge, a little bit of a faster pace."
That set Imus off on an anti-Couric tirade: "It's unwatchable. And it's unwatchable because she's unwatchable. I'm sure she's a nice lady, but I mean . . ."
Keying off the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war this Tuesday, the networks will be running overviews of the situation there all week. Judging by the opening salvos this morning on ABC and NBC, you might when tuning in want to hide the sharp objects and keep the Zoloft handy. The picture painted is ceaselessly dismal, with any bright spots ignored or explained away.
Take the report by ABC's Terry McCarthy on today's Good Morning America. After citing weekend casualty statistics, he began by claiming that "now more than ever" Iraqis are nervous about the future of their country. According to McCarthy, "the sound of bombings and gunfire are constant backdrops to everyday life." Constant? Really? I daresay that in the great majority of the country, people rarely hear either. Even in hotspots like Baghdad, while such sounds are not unusual, neither are they "constant" by any means.
One challenge for the MSM is explaining away the largely peaceful and prosperous Kurdish north. McCarthy did his unlevel best: "even in northern Iraq's Kurdish region, which is relatively peaceful, the fight to keep terrorists out takes up a lot of time and energy. The Kurds dug a six-foot ditch all around the largest city, Irbil, to stop car bombs from entering."