The Friday morning and evening broadcast networks shows pounced on how when asked, at the joint Thursday night Bush/Blair press conference, whether he had any regrets about the conduct of the war in Iraq, President Bush responded: “Saying, ‘bring it on.' Kind of tough talk you know that sent the wrong signal to people” and “some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, ‘wanted dead or alive.'”
CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer suggested Bush isn’t always so honest as he described it as “an unusual burst of candor from President Bush.” Schieffer soon called it an “extraordinary statement” and reporter Jim Axelrod agreed it was “startling.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams found Bush’s answer so important that he played a stand-alone clip of the “most interesting moment” and brought aboard Tim Russert who saw a “remarkable, remarkable admission." On her last night as anchor of World News Tonight, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas asserted that “some of the bold talk we once heard from them is gone. Now they are voicing regrets and admitting mistakes.” Jake Tapper framed a story around how Bush and Blair “came together to project confidence in the new Iraqi government, but perhaps what came across strongest was regret." (Transcripts, and a brief look at the mornings shows, such as how NBC’s Today opened with “Admitting Mistakes” on screen, follow.)
The Today show doesn’t like to judge. In the past, they have used the HBO series Big Love as a pretext to describe polygamy as the "next civil rights battle." They also had a serious piece on an "artist" who was promoting female public nudity. And now we have the lighter side of child rape. The May 26 edition of NBC’s Today featured an interview with Mary Kay LeTourneau. You may remember her as the women who was convicted in 1997 for having sex with her then 12-year-old student. She has since served a seven year prison sentence and is now married to the former victim, Vili Fualaau, 21. Here’s how Matt Lauer introduced the piece at 7:32AM EDT:
Lauer: "Most skeptics thought it could never last. Theirs was truly a love against all odds. He was a sixth grader in suburban Seattle. She was a star teacher and a married mother of four. What began as a mentorship quickly developed into a sexual affair."
You almost expected The Edwin Hawkins Singers to turn up on set. For, short of Hillary raising her right hand on the steps of the Capitol some time in January of 2009, it just doesn't get much happier for Today than this morning. In one fell news cycle, George Bush and Enron evil-doers laid low.
It couldn't have come quick enough for Katie Couric. Interviewing Tim Russert on the president's mea culpa performance of yesterday, in which he and Tony Blair admitted to mistakes in his handling of Iraq, she asked:
"Do you think both men should have tried this approach sooner?"
Lest anyone think that the president's remorse will appease the MSM, it was obvious that, now with a taste of blood, the liberal media pack will only call for more. Couric wasted no time in going after Donald Rumsfeld:
With the Yankees fresh from taking two-out-of-three from the Red Sox, why not a Today show double-header this morning?
In the opener, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Washington for talks with President Bush, Today did its best to rain out any good news emerging from Iraq.
NBC White House reporter David Gregory observed that "two leaders who have paid a heavy political price for launching the war in Iraq will stand together tonight before the country to argue there is new reason for hope."
A hope that Gregory was quick to seek dash. Whereas new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expects Iraqi forces to be able to assume major responsibility for securing the country within 18 months, Gregory described it as a "tall order given Iraqi forces have been infiltrated by gangs fueling sectarian violence in the country."
Hey got a new book? Want it featured on the Today show? Try putting Ann Curry on the cover! The new book Extraordinary Women: Fantasies Revealed was featured in the 9:30 half hour of this morning's Today show. The cover of the book happens to feature Curry actually embracing the Earth. Curry even appeared as a guest on the segment with the book's authors. Natalie Morales conducted the interview and revealed Ann's not-so-secret fantasy: "And Ann the reason you are holding the globe is you talk about wanting to be a humanitarian, which as a journalist, I mean you do, I mean that's really a priority in your life." But one of the book's authors Ilene Leventhal pointed out Curry, as a liberal crusading journalist, is already living her dream: "I said to Ann, I said, 'Ann you already are a humanitarian.'"
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a delicate article attempting to calculate how much time Bill and Hillary Clinton spend together these days and whether their strange marriage will have negative impact on her ambitions to run for president, as some Democrats worry. (The Times headline called the subject a "delicate dance.") Only Democrats, aides, and friends were quoted. On Wednesday’s edition of Today on NBC, reporter Norah O'Donnell regurgitated the story with even more sensitivity.
Katie Couric and O'Donnell couldn't even locate the idea that Democrats get heartburn just thinking about rewinding the country back through the adultery politics of the 1990s. Couric spun it like they were just a political version of Brangelina: "When Bill Clinton burst on to the national political scene he promoted his wife Hillary as an equal political partner saying, 'two heads were better than one.' They enjoyed some of the highest highs and endured some of the lowest lows as well during their years in the White House. But now that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is eyeing her own bid for the presidency a lot of folks are asking where's Bill?"
On the same morning that Katie Couric was twinkling and giggling over Al Gore in some flowery garden, her co-host Matt Lauer took another senator from Tennessee to task: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Near the end of the interview, Lauer pressed Frist on how "critics" say his choice of legislative issues coming up shows he's "pandering to the conservative base" for a potential presidential campaign:
"Alright let me move on briefly for a second. The House has approved a constitutional amendment to make flag burning illegal and passed a bill to crack down on the practice of minors traveling across state borders to seek an abortion to avoid restrictions in their own state. You've said the Senate will look at those things this year as well as a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Now critics have said there's no chance that any of those things are going to pass and they go a step further and say you are pandering to the conservative base preparing for a run for the presidency in 2008. How do you respond?"
Let's imagine that instead of Al Gore, Katie Couric's guest this morning was a Republican presidential hopeful whose message on the environment was that we should not let alarmism push us into measures that would undermine our economy and way of life. Could you ever - ever! - imagine Katie flashing at him the 10,000 megawatt smile she has on display here for Al?
There's one more dead giveaway that Katie & Co. are getting aboard the Al Gore Enviro Train. When Today really wants to play up an issue, they brand it. Last week, flacking for the Da Vinci Code, Today sent Matt Lauer for a week "On The Road with the Code."
In introducing Gore, there to promote his global warming book and movie 'An Inconvenient Truth', Couric announced:
Sometimes you just want to throw up your hands. Interviewing another big oil exec this morning, Katie Couric's proposed solution to high gas prices was to repeal the laws of supply and demand . . . just a little bit.
Whereas Matt Lauer took a while in his interview of another oil exec to get around to his price-cutting point, Katie wasted no time. Interviewing Shell Oil President John Hofmeister, Katie's opening salvo was
"I am just wondering, you and many other oil companies are posting record high profits, of course. And while the average consumer is hurting. I am wondering, Mr. Hofmeister, would it help the long term reputation and value of your company and shareholders if you could feel the pain that consumers were feeling and decrease the wholesale value of gasoline? Is that something you would ever consider?"
Beware of supposedly objective scientists and their not-so-secret political opinions. At the tail end of "Today" on Monday, MRC's Geoff Dickens found that one Louisiana scientist had a two-faced moment on Hurricane Katrina. Al Roker asked: "We had historian Douglas Brinkley here and his book The Great Deluge and he suggested that, that Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff should resign. What's your take on that?"
Ivor Van Heerden, author of a new book simply titled "The Storm," seemed to agree that Chertoff should go, as NBC showed a photo of Chertoff and former FEMA boss Michael Brown: "I think that if you do not have disaster experience, you shouldn't be in these positions of leadership. You need to have folk who have been through the fire, so to speak to understand all the complexities of dealing with a disaster. It, it's wrong to bring in folk who do not have that experience." But experience wasn't everything when it came to Ray Nagin:
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." JFK Inaugural Address, 1961
"We can do just as much by withdrawing our troops." John Murtha, Winner, Profile in Courage Award, 'Today' show, 5/22/06
The Kennedys have come a long way since JFK gave his inaugural speech. Pres. Kennedy was a cold warrior, not only in the words of that speech, but in action. He stared down the Kremlin over the Soviets' installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and with his Cuban embargo took the world the closest it has ever been to the brink of nuclear war.
In its segment on illegal immigration and the proposed amendment to make English the country's official language, this morning's Today show pitted the following against a sole Republican senator: another senator who just happens to be the Minority Leader, the director of a school that teaches English to immigrants, the head of the association of immigration lawyers, and the NBC reporter himself, Mike Taibbi, who described the current atmosphere as 'nasty' and implied that the English language amendment was unnecessary. Along the way, Today even managed to coin a new euphemism for 'illegals.'
Taibbi began the segment reporting from what appeared to be a private-sector school in Queens, NY called the New York Language Center. Taibbi pointedly observed that at the school: "they learn one language. English. America's official national language, if a Senate amendment to a new immigration law passes." Not-so-subtle sub-text: "See, immigrants are already learning English. No amendment necessary."
On Thursday night, NBC aired the final episode of "Will & Grace" after eight seasons, but on Thursday’s "Today," MRC’s Geoff Dickens noticed Katie Couric interviewed the cast and just lathered on the praise that her 14-year-old daughter learned so much about tolerance for homosexuality from the show, and "I think that’s a great contribution to society," because "I think you have to teach tolerance at a very early age and the more comfortable people feel with people who are different, starting when they're young, the more tolerant and accepting they're gonna be as they go into adulthood." So much for CBS hiring an even-handed new anchor on the hot social issues of the day.
You would expect an NBC show to praise an NBC show, but Couric went way beyond that to a serious political lecture. She began the segment by touting the victory over what critics call homophobia:
Networks fixate on tax cuts ‘for the rich’ while ignoring exploding tax revenues.
While Congress hammered out a $70 billion tax-relief bill last week, the media wasted no time spinning it. After the House approved its version on May 10, the “NBC Nightly News” cited “Democratic critics [who said] the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy.” At roughly the same time, the “CBS Evening News” presented a graphic to its viewers showing “for incomes of $50,000 or less, you’ll average no more than $46 in savings.”
The following day, ABC’s “Good Morning America” team offered a $20 bill to shoppers at a New Jersey mall as a cynical demonstration of how little this tax cut would help some Americans.
All totaled, the broadcast networks did 16 reports on this issue in their three-day blitzkrieg, largely with the same predictable mantra: tax cuts favor the rich. Conspicuously absent was an honest assessment of just how much lower wage earners in America have benefited from the most recent income tax changes, as well as how much the government has benefited from higher tax revenues.
The Truth Hurts Without question, the best thing government can do for low-income families is not burden them with income taxes. Toward that goal, according to a March 30 report by the Tax Foundation’s Scott Hodge, the percentage of Americans not paying any federal income taxes has exploded in the past few years as a result of recent tax changes:
After a couple days in which the only people offered the opportunity to comment on the controversy surrounding the Da Vinci Code were the movie's director and cast members, this morning's Today show finally gave an outside expert and Catholic officials their shot. The result was an oddly ambivalent reaction in which the movie was simultaneously praised as offering an opportunity to teach about the Church - and condemned as filled with lies.
A quick recap on the state of play at Today. Matt Lauer has been "On the Road with the Code" this week. On Tuesday, as reported here, NBC reporter Melissa Stark timidly raised the matter of the controversy with Code director Ron Howard. Stark didn't bother informing viewers just what all the fuss is about - which is none other than the movie's premise that Christ wasn't really divine, that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had children with her, that the true religion is the "feminine divine" and that the Roman Catholic Church has perpetrated a murderous patriarchal plot to suppress the truth. That's all!
If "The Da Vinci Code" was already feeding the flames of controversy with its challenge to the basic tenets of Christianity, actor Ian McKellen managed to pour a refinery tank's worth of gasoline on the fire on this morning's 'Today' show, asserting that the Bible should carry a disclaimer saying that it is "fiction." Video: Windows Media or Real Player, Plus audio MP3
Matt Lauer, in his second day "On The Road With The Code," was in Cannes for the film festival, where the Code will have its debut. It has already been screened to some critics, who have given it decidedly mixed reviews.
It was a Greenie love fest on this morning's Today. First Today show viewers were treated to Al Gore wishing Katie a fond farewell, video which featured an early 1990s clip of Couric actually giving him dance lessons in the White House. Then at the end of the show Ann Curry promoted Sting’s annual rainforest concert with his wife Trudie Styler, complete with this promotion of global warming: "To also remind people, I mean, most scientists really agree that if we don't protect this band of rainforest in the middle part of, lower middle part of the Earth that we will, could affect the environment in a dramatic way. Some now, there's a lot more debate now today about climate change and more concern about the environment. You've seen this go up and down, the interest and the political wave of it. Where are we now and how hopeful are you that people will be able to talk about this, do something about?"
Did USA Today skew their poll results of the NSA phone collection scandal? It sure looks that way. As Brent Baker has already reported, On May 12, ABC News and The Washington Post conducted a poll to find out whether Americans support the NSA’s collection of phone call records. They asked this question:
"It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?"
Oklahoma locals (who swear they don’t love Katie Couric) have pointed out that I need to correct and clarify my earlier post on Katie’s big-bucks commencement speech in Norman. The Norman Transcript reports that the Washington Post figure of $110,000 was too small: she made $115,000 for the speech. And she donated it to charity:
OU President David Boren announced that Couric donated her entire speaking fee, $115,000 from private funds, to cancer research at her alma mater, the University of Virginia. The donation was made in honor of Couric's sister, Emily, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001 and was a former state senator.
Let's be clear: the Da Vinci Code portrays Christianity as a fraud and the Roman Catholic Church as a murderous conspiracy. As Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year recently stated, if "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising."
Yet the Today show has decided to offer the movie, scheduled for release this week, untold millions in free advertising by devoting hours of, um, worshipful coverage to it, going so far as to send Matt Lauer to Europe for the week to be "On the Road with the Code."
Much of the debate about high gasoline prices involves allegations that oil companies are 'gouging' and making 'windfall profits.' So if you were an MSM show preparing a graphic display of the various components that add up to the price of gas at the pump, the one thing you would be sure to separately break out would be profit, wouldn't it?
Not if you're the Today show. Not if you want to camouflage the fact that, in fact, the government's take via taxes dwarfs the amount that the various levels of commerce take in profit.
In conjunction with the appearance of Chevron CEO David O'Reilly, this morning's 'Today' ran just such a graphic display of the components of the price of a gallon of gas. The first panel showed that the cost of crude oil contributes $1.67 per gallon. Next was taxes, 44 cents. Now, you might have thought that the final panel would have shown profit. But no. Instead of separating out profit, Today displayed a panel mystifyingly lumping in profit with "refining and transportation" for a total of 78 cents, or roughly double government's tax take.
Peter Johnson of USA Today profiled Meredith Vieira, the incoming co-host of "Today" on NBC, and at the very end of the piece, we "conservative bloggers" made a brief entrance:
Then there was the peace rally she attended with Lily at the 2004 Republican National Convention, which conservative bloggers dug up when NBC announced that she would succeed Couric.
"I have a lot of issues with what's going on in this country, and I wanted my daughter to see what this process is like," says Vieira, who describes herself as "in the middle" politically. "I don't regret anything, but now I have to be objective. I won't preface an interview with 'I think you're a stupid idiot, but what do you think about ... ?' "
The front page of Saturday's Style section in the Washington Post carried an article on commencement addresses by Don Oldenburg. But the really amazing nugget came about 25 paragraphs in:
Most universities settle for small-splash speakers such as state politicians or captains of local industry, but others aggressively enter the celebrity lottery. Generally this means bestowing an honorary degree and covering travel expenses, rather than paying a fee...But some offer big bucks. Katie Couric, the soon-to-be CBS anchor, will receive $110,000 to speak at the University of Oklahoma's commencement -- all paid for from private funds, the university emphasizes.
According to the May 12 Today show, if you’re an "ordinary" American, you should be afraid of the President’s "snooping." Using the time honored media tradition of word repetition, the NBC program sought to portray the NSA’s gathering of phone numbers as highly sinister. In a report that aired at 7:07AM EDT, reporter Kelly O’Donnell stated that the phone records of "ordinary citizens" were compiled. In the 8AM hour, Ann Curry reported that the phone information of "millions of ordinary Americans" had been compiled. An hour later she again announced that those "ordinary Americans" had been targeted. Get it? It’s the average citizens who ought to be worried.
One thing is certain: the people within the government leaking the existence of secret anti-terror programs to the press are trying to hurt the president politically. Chris Matthews believes they have been more successful in achieving that goal with the recent leak of the phone data collection program than they were with the terrorist surveillance program leak.
On this morning's Today show, Matt Lauer asked Matthews: "Will there be a huge political fallout? Americans are evenly split on the domestic program [i.e., the terrorist surveillance progam]. Do you see this as the same situation?"
"No. Nobody can imagine being on the telephone with an Al Qaeda agent but they can imagine privacy matters.
Thursday morning's Today contained a few pop-culture nuggets that revealed liberal media attitudes. As Kathryn Lopez noted on The Corner, in the 7:30 half hour, Katie Couric turned the "American Idol" chat into a peek at her feminist parenting habits (and once again, she plugged her love for Helen Reddy):
Couric: "Oh you're so hip. A lot of people expected Chris [Daughtry] to go all the way, but last night. He got sent packing although, you were so funny. I was playing Helen Reddy on my CD player yesterday."
Lauer: "I thought it was weird. I literally, I walked past her dressing room going out of here yesterday and Helen Reddy blaring on the, on the stereo. She's in the thing like this." [Snaps fingers]
Seismic! Shocking! Startling! A bombshell!! That’s how the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows described a front-page story in today’s (Thursday’s) USA Today that breathlessly touted how “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls.” Like the TV coverage, USA Today’s story insinuated that the existence of the database was a major violation of Americans’ privacy rights and evidence that the President was lying last December when he described the NSA’s eavesdropping on suspected terrorist communications as limited and targeted.
Today’s article does not allege that any calls are listened in on. Indeed, as USA Today describes it, the program seems like a thoroughly innocuous database of the same information that appears on your phone bill, but with your name, address and other personal information removed. Given that another government agency — the IRS — maintains information on American citizens’ employment, banking, investments, mortgages, charitable contributions and even any declared medical expenses, this hardly seems like a major assault on personal liberty.
And for all of the hype, there may not even be much “news” here. Last December 24, a few days after they spilled the beans about the NSA terrorist surveillance program, New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen disclosed how U.S. phone companies were helping the NSA by giving them “access to streams of domestic and international communications.”
NBC’s Today hyped hybrid cars this morning but didn’t give consumers the full skinny on them. At the top of this morning’s Today show Katie Couric promoted an upcoming segment on the popularity of hybrids by way of taking this shot at the President’s poll numbers: "Then another crisis facing this administration, those soaring gas prices. A poll out today says only 13 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the situation right now and now many people are trying to save money at the pump by turning to hybrid vehicles but there's a big catch, they're getting harder and harder to find."
A few minutes later NBC’s Peter Alexander’s devoted a whole piece to the increased demand for the hybrids as drivers look to lower costs in the face of high gas prices. Alexander piously declared: "Not long ago people said hybrids were for hippies. Those same people are driving them now."
Check out the screen capture from this morning's Today show. NBC respectfully describes the Iranian head of state - he of the threats, among other things, to wipe Israel off the map - as "President Ahmadinejad." And our own president? He's just "Bush."
Today aired the graphic in the course of Matt Lauer's interview of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Despite mental meanderings in Ahmadinejad's letter that prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize this morning about "Crazy Mahmoud", Lauer seemingly attached great significance to the missive, repeatedly pressing Secretary Rice to seize the occasion to open direct talks with the Iranians. In doing so, Lauer was perhaps channeling former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who just yesterday wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal urging the administration to commence such talks with a view to settling "all issues of mutual concern."
In what was perhaps an attempt to innoculate themselves against criticism of their hyping of the The Da Vinci Code next week with Matt Lauer’s "On The Road With The Code," NBC’s Today show looked at the rise of "Christian conservatives," this morning complete with an interview with Pastor Joel Osteen. During the interview Couric, who is leaving for her new multimillion dollar gig at the CBS Evening News, had the gall to question Osteen’s own ventures: "...how do you square your wealth with, with sort of the tenets of, of Christianity?"
Couric even cited Bible verses to the pastor: "I looked up a couple of quotes which I found interesting. I was curious how, again, how you could square these things. It said, this is, Matthew 19, verses 23 and 24. 'Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth. It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"