It's probably one of the most awkward things to do for any broadcaster, making that transition from a hard news story about war or a tragic plane crash into a lighter feature story about, say, the latest Hollywood gossip about Bradgelina. It's commonplace on the morning shows for a Meredith Vieira or Diane Sawyer to make that hard turn from a story on Iraq to a piece on the hottest fashion trends, the commonly heard phrase is: "On a lighter note." Well it seems David Gregory, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, hasn't quite mastered that segue. After a Robert Bazell piece about military combat hospitals in Iraq that featured images of wounded soldiers in surgery it was up to Gregory to make that transition, except the story he was throwing to wasn't exactly an upbeat one.
Has there been any phrase that has been so used and abused by the Democrats as they seek to give themselves cover? But in one fell 'slip', Chuck Schumer gave away the game this morning: the claim to support the troops is a sham. Supporting the troops is merely something to be figured out later. It's an afterthought, to be addressed after Democrats, with some Republican support, rush through a resolution telling our troops that the mission for which they are putting their lives on the line is not just meaningless but absolutely antithetical to our nation's interests.
David Gregory interviewed Sen. Schumer on this morning's "Today."
Gregory: "The Vice-President is dismissive of this [resolution] effort yesterday saying it's not going to stop the president, and in fact he goes further, saying this will be detrimental to the troops on the ground."
Schumer: "Absolutely not, and I think it's going to be shown, when this resolution comes up, and it is non-binding, my guess is that not only are we going to get a vast majority of Democrats to vote for it in one form or another, but close to a majority of the Republicans. And that is going to shock even Vice-President Cheney."
Gregory: "But how can the public really buy the Democrats support the troops but don't support the mission? How can you do both?"
Schumer: "Well, that's the difficulty. A resolution that says we're against this escalation, that's easy. The next step will be how do you put further pressure on the administration against the escalation but still supporting the troops who are there? Andthat's what we're figuring out right now."
Tom Brokaw popped up on this morning's Today show to analyze the President's State of the Union address and join Meredith Vieira in casting doubt on Bush's ability to sell his Iraq policy. After Vieira asked how Bush's low approval ratings affected his ability to promote the new surge in troops to Iraq, Brokaw responded: "The question is, now, seven years into his presidency and more than three-and-a-half years into this war does he have any credibility left when he says, 'This is how it will work,' because so much of what he has said about Iraq has not worked the way that he described it."
Then a little later Vieira set up Brokaw on how people outside of the U.S. viewed the policy: "What about with the rest of the world? Where do you think they stand in terms of this troop surge?" To which Brokaw opined: "I think the rest of the world is standing back and saying, 'You got yourself into it, you find a way out of it.'And that's a dilemma. I know that members of the Iraq Study Group are not happy that the President has not embraced any of their diplomatic suggestions that he made, that they made about talking to Iran and talking to Syria again about rebuilding the alliances. This is a White House that it's, in its own bunker at the moment."
As Americans, we all enjoy the right to criticize the president. But particularly on august occasions like the State of the Union, most agree that the office of the presidency is entitled to a modicum of respect. Or not -- at least in Meredith Vieira's case.
David Gregory set the stage on this morning's "Today,"with his depiction of W's mood:
"The president was more modest in his approach, he appeared humbled, a real sense that he reconizes that it's going to be difficult to keep both Democrats and Republicans on board here as he tries to persuade the country to stick with him on Iraq."
That's when Vieira put her own vulgar stamp on matters:
"Yeah, not exactly like a dog with his tail between his legs but obviously no posturing, either."
NBC's David Gregory might be a decent reporter when he's not biased, and I know he's a great dancer, but he's no meteorologist. James Spann is, and on the January 22 "Glenn Beck" program on CNN Headline News, Spann explained the many other causes of global warming other than Gregory shuttling via jet from D.C. to New York to substitute-anchor the January 23 "Today" show.
Maybe D-Greg wasn't watching. The next morning he pressed White House press secretary Tony Snow if the president would "concede that humans are responsible for global warming."
But as Spann explained on Beck's program, carbon emissions are "a pop gun compared to" larger natural influences like "volcanic dust in the stratosphere, the position of the sun,
the temperature of the sun, the structure of the Earth’s magnetic poles, and
You'd think NBC News would want its viewers to tune into their coverage of tonight's State of the Union address but after listening to this morning's Today show a viewer would be hard pressed to want to tune in as Meredith Vieira and David Gregory asked repeatedly if anyone still cared what Bush had to say. Today's anchors asked that question on three separate occasions within just the first half-hour.
First Vieira, at the top of the show pondered: "The question tonight will anybody be listening to the President anymore when he speaks?" A few minutes later David Gregory, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer, asked Tony Snow: "Tony has the country stopped listening to the President?" Then in her interview with Hillary Clinton Vieira's first question continued Today's theme: "You just heard Tony Snow that he does not believe that the public has stopped listening to the President, do you agree with that?"
If Hillary isn't quite getting out the long knives, let's just say she's oiling the scabbard. As we noted earlier, on this morning's "Today" Clinton drew an invidious comparison between herself and John Edwards, referring to him as "on the sidelines" while she's in "the arena."
And after some persistent questioning by Diane Sawyer on today's Good Morning America, Hillary took a little swipe at her other major opponent, Barack Obama.
Sawyer: "Yesterday, talking about Senator Barack Obama, when asked specifically if he is qualified to be commander-in-chief, to be president, you didn't answer, you said 'I'm going to let the American people decide.' You know the office, you know him. Why not say?"
Gee, I wonder whom Hillary had in mind when she blamed her bad image on "radio and cable TV" this morning? She didn't quite name Rush, Hannity et al. as the "evildoers," but there was no mistaking the object of her disaffection.
The comment came in the course of a "Today" interview with Meredith Vieira. Meredith began with a slow-pitch softball, asking whether Hillary believes the public has stopped listening to President Bush. Hillary allowed that "there's a great discouragement about the president's leadership."
But Meredith maximized the MPH with her next question:
"Many voters still have this very negative opinion of you, and some of the words that are used to describe you are not very kind." As Vieira beginning ticking off the awful adjectives: "strident, cold, scripted, phony," Hillary burst into this political season's most insincere laughter.
Meredith took note of Clinton's feigned frivolity: "You're laughing at that. Advisors have said that they want to humanize you. Why do people seem to have that perception of you after knowing you for 15 years."
If opposing abortion makes you a "social conservative," what does supporting abortion make you? Why, nothing at all, or certainly nothing worth mentioning in NBC's eyes.
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell narrated a segment on this morning's "Today" about the three candidates who threw their hats into the presidential ring over the weekend: Hillary, Bill Richardson and Sam Brownback.
O'Donnell described Hillary simply as "Senator Hillary Clinton." Nothing about her views on abortion.
O'Donnell identified Bill Richardson as the first potential Hispanic president, "adding to the Democratic field of potential firsts if elected: Clinton, the first woman and Barack Obama, the first African-American." How nice.
Nothing about Richardson's views on abortion either.
But when it came to the Republican newly in the race, virtually the first words out of O'Donnell's mouth were: "Two-term Kansas senator Sam Brownback isa social conservative who opposes legalized abortion."
Earlier this week, I wrote about NBC’s giddy, pop-music-backed "No Man Required" segment on "choice moms," single women who choose to have babies without fathers. The primary subject of reporter Janet Shamlian’s piece was attractive businesswoman Stacy Madison: "Having spent years focused on her career, when she wasn't in love at 39, Stacy Madison went shopping at a Boston sperm bank and came home with twins." At story’s end, Madison rebutted Dan Quayle’s "Murphy Brown" speech this way: "I would have loved to have started a family the traditional way, met somebody, fallen in love, been younger. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way."
Guess what? "Never in love" Stacy was married for five years and decided to be a mother after the divorce. Which means NBC lied by omission. Wouldn’t anyone see this story as presenting a never-married 39-year-old? Or when a woman says she wishes she had "met somebody" and "fallen in love," does NBC think it’s perfectly clear that you’ve been around the marriage merry-go-round? I regret not Googling the name right away, which quickly revealed NBC’s dishonesty. The first article came from a 2004 article in Jewish Woman magazine. I was stunned to read:
On January 4, 2007, Consumer Reports released what the media considered a damning report that found that many infant car seats are unsafe at 38 mph side-impact crashes. In other words, small children were a car crash away from a grave injury or fatality.
The next morning, ABC, NBC, and CBS's morning programs played up the report, featuring the story prominently. CBS's Hannah Storm even used a newborn baby in a car seat as a prop during an interview.
Well, two weeks and a federal government study later, Consumer Reports issued a retraction. Turns out the laboratory they hired basically performed crash tests that simulated a side impact at 70 mph, a speed at which you are very lucky to come out alive regardless of your age or whether or not you're restrained in a car seat.
Of course, industry insiders felt this was coming, and one even said so on the January 5 "American Morning." But you didn't hear any of that two weeks ago on "Today," "Good Morning America," or "The Early Show." [full story here]
Here's Hillary's idea of diplomacy: bend to her will, or she'll put your life in danger. And that's how she treats our allies.
Yikes. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, let me try to send a message to Hillary's handlers: emergency personality makeover required! A couple more appearances as angry and unpleasant as this morning's on Today and Hillary's odds of winning the Dem nomination will be as slim as those she accorded to that of the surge succeeding.
The strategy for Hillary's conversation with Matt Lauer was transparent. Because her substantive position on Iraq is not as anti-war as that of Obama or Edwards, Hillary sought to compensate, in appealing to Dem primary voters, by sounding angrier about our policy than either of her rivals. From that perspective, you might say: Mission Accomplished. This was Hillary, rhetorically speaking, packing an M-4, grenades slung, knife between teeth.
But at what cost to her likability? Don't voters have to be able to warm up to a candidate? Yet Hillary hovered barely above absolute zero.
Beyond her tone, her message was about as cold-blooded as you can get. Twice she suggested threatening to cut off funding for the personal security of Iraq's leaders. As Hillary put it: "I don't think we should continue to fund the protection for the Iraqi government leaders or for the training and equipping of their army unless they meet certain conditions."
This was no idle threat. It was clearly a key element of Hillary's plan, one she repeated later:
"I [suggest] putting leverage on them and saying 'you know what, we provide security for the members of this government, we're cutting funding for that.'"
Since we’ve touched on the topic of the media celebrating women’s "independence" from men, there’s also this. On Monday’s Today, in the 8:00 am hour, NBC aired a story and a debate segment on a hot trend of mothers who choose to have fatherless children, "no man required." But this wasn’t merely a news story, but a cheerleading report, complete with supportive music bubbling underneath (including "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves," the 1980s feminist pop song by the Eurythmics with Aretha Franklin.) When they allowed a few seconds of dissent, all the music stopped. In the debate segment, co-host Meredith Vieira’s questions were fairly tough, but the feminist guest walked all over the defender of fatherhood with strange arguments: "I think selfish gets a bad rap. Every parent, to be a good parent, has to be selfish."
Vieira began: "In the old days, women who had children out of wedlock were few and far between. But now a record number of single women are having children on their own, no man required. More now from NBC’s Janet Shamlian."
Has Chris Matthews surged and accelerated his war against President Bush? Did the MSNBC host and analyst refer to the Commander-in-Chief as "evil"?
In the course of Matthews dialogue with Lester Holt, guest-hosting on this morning's "Today," Holt raised the possibility that President Bush might choose to expand the war into Iran:
Holt: "The president of course has stepped up language against Iran for its interference within Iraq. He sent a naval aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf. If he makes this now against Ahmadinejad, if Ahmadinejad becomes the 'poster thug' in this case, does that increase support for the war?"
Matthews: "Well, the president may well choose to widen the war for political reasons . He may do it for military reasons. We do have our troops under assault in Iraq and he has to protect the troops. And if there is Iraqi [sic, presumably Iranian] involvement in the other side he has to take steps. The danger is we might cross the border into Iraq [sic, again surely referring to Iran], therefore triggering a reaction from Iraq, from Iran rather, and then we go to war with Iran. And I think the President might well want to do that. Who knows what evil lurks? But the fact of the matter is that the American public may never get a say in this. The Congress may never get a say in it."
Last week saw the dawning of the new Democratic majority and members of the media seemed to be charmed by the event. ABC reporter Cokie Roberts described a photo-op of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding her grandchild as "fun" and "completely natural." CBS’s Bob Schieffer interviewed Pelosi and pressed her to raise taxes. And "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney became nostalgic for Democrats of old, saying it’s "hard to dislike Jimmy Carter."
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann continued his fevered attack on all things Republican and conservative. He’s now accused White House Press Secretary Tony Snow of "bald-faced lying" about a Bush speech. Olbermann’s cohort in liberalism, Chris Matthews, described the Vice President of the United States as someone "who always wants to kill." Later in the week, he told his "Hardball" audience that he was "terrified" of the President’s plans for Iran. Chris, calm down!
In the 8 am hour of NBC's Today on Wednesday, they hailed old co-host Barbara Walters (then given the lesser title of "panelist") and showed old 1970s clips -- often with Walters sounding liberal notes. Viewers in 2007 saw a list of golden oldies showing Barbara's moxie, including:
"Let's get out! Just get out of Vietnam."
"This is Womanhood Day...Get your own cup of coffee!"
And touring the disastrous Cultural Revolution in communist China: "Today, the women in China speak of their total equality with men." Equally poor and oppressed. Sometimes equally murdered.
Matt Lauer said "Today came a long way, baby." Politically, maybe not so much.
Could Meredith Vieira be emerging as one of the morning shows' most incisive inquisitioners? As we noted here, Katie Couric's replacement at "Today" recently gave Ted Kennedy a rather rough going-over regarding his legislative proposal to require the president to obtain congressional approval for a surge.
This morning, she took on the hitherto untouchable Barack Obama. And while her tone and line of questioning were not disrespectful, neither was there any hint of the kind of MSM cheerleading that the junior senator from IL has no doubt come to expect.
Before we get to Vieira's questions, take a good look at the screencap. By his super-serious mien and the marble-pillared setting he chose for the interview, Obama was clearly trying to project the image of a ready-for-prime-time Commander-in-Chief. Call him "Stone Cold Barack Obama."
Time magazine devoted its "Ten Questions" interview this week to NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer. Time’s Jeanne McDowell had a light touch, asking about Meredith, and Katie, and squabbling with Tom Cruise. The interview quickly draws the reader to this comparison: Lauer was tougher on Tom Cruise than he was with Hillary Clinton in the famous "vast right-wing conspiracy" interview of 1998, despite the great difference in importance between a president lying in court and an actor/Scientologist fighting with Brooke Shields over anti-depressant pills. It unfolded like this:
What do you consider your best interview?
Hillary Clinton because of the convergence of events that were happening at the time. It was a few days after the Monica Lewinsky story broke. I fully expected Mrs. Clinton to cancel. She was a scorned woman whose husband had just been exposed for cheating. [The exchange] went extraordinarily well and resulted in the often quoted "vast right-wing conspiracy" interview. But it required as deft a touch as I ever have had to use.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be campaigning to be the liberal media’s favorite Republican office-holder. On Tuesday, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today publicized his "bold" new plan to offer billions in new state government subsidies to provide "universal" health coverage, even to millions of illegal immigrants. ABC co-host Robin Roberts openly endorsed it: "there is definitely a crisis, and it's good to see at least trying something, something, especially to help those that are uninsured." While ABC seemed to offer no opposition, except to frame it briefly as a potential "budget buster," NBC at least noted critics in small business and opponents of subsidizing (and attracting) illegal immigrants.
MRC’s Justin McCarthy reported that ABC promoted the California health plan as a challenge to President Bush and the new Democratic Congress to follow up and do something similar nationwide:
Anyone remembering the ascent of Newt Gingrich to House Speaker in 1995 surely noticed a difference between media coverage of that historic event and Nancy Pelosi taking the gavel back for the Democrats in 2007. One had all the joy of a child’s funeral. The other was New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
CNN even had a countdown clock to the Democrats regaining the majority. All that was missing was a lighted crystal donkey that would descend down a pole on the top of the Capitol dome. CNN’s Dana Bash called Pelosi’s gavel grab a "moment to savor," surely true for her supporters, but the bitterest of pills to swallow for those who worked their hearts out last year to keep Pelosi and her liberal army from retaking the House. CNN left no doubt where it stood on this divide.
The liberal media despised Newt, and adore Nancy. They’ve demonstrated this by the way they played up the Gingrich threat in the weeks after the ’94 GOP tsunami, while virtually ignoring Pelosi and her radical agenda for the last two months.
It was the worst of times, it was the best of times on this morning's "Today." Throughout the show's long opening segment on Iraq, and regardless of the visuals: from David Gregory to President Bush, troops on the ground, Nancy Pelosi, Gordon Smith, etc., the screen graphic continued to skeptically ask "Lost Cause?"
So when Meredith Vieira began her subsequent interview of Ted Kennedy, there was every reason to expect her to lob softballs to the senator on the legislation he's introducing requiring Pres. Bush to obtain specific congressional authorization of a surge.
This morning's Today show opened with Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer amazed at the warm temperatures in New York City and of course it didn't take long before the specter of global warming was raised. Lauer ominously opened the show: "Meanwhile a record warm weekend in the East has people wondering what's going on?" Vieira went even further as she bluntly blurted: "So I'm running in the park on Saturday, in shorts thinking this is great but are we all gonna die? You know? I can't, I can't figure this out."
But when it came to an actual scientific-based opinion WNBC weatherman Chris Cimino, filling in for Al Roker, didn't exactly jump to blame global warming...at first. Initially Cimino was non-committal about blaming global warming, instead focusing on El Nino but lest he risk the wrath of his Today show anchors he did cover his liberal bases as he asserted: "Of course the bottom line is you don't throw a lot of greenhouse gases into the air no matter what whether it affects the weather or not."
Rather than the "liberal bias" rubric, file this one under "coarsening of the culture." We had a dubious first this morning: a network news host informing the world that one of her guests had just experienced a hot flash.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman was Meredith Vieira's guest for purposes of discussing the good news that scientists have discovered a way to extract stem cells from amniotic fluid and placentas, a breakthrough that could render moot the embryonic stem cell controversy.
But at the end of the interview, in promoting an upcoming segment devoted to menopause, Vieira "outed" Snyderman in these terms:
"You'll be back for our menopause series. And Nancy was actually fanning herself earlier. She had a hot flash. She knows what she's talking about."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear ambitions; his flouting of the recent unanimous UN Security Council resolution to stop his march toward acquiring nuclear weapons; his repeated vows to wipe Israel off the map and his various threats to the US, including at least one to achieve "a world without America"?;
Israel's possible plans to defend itself and eliminate Iran's nuclear program?
If you're NBC, the choice is clear: the answer is #2. Consider the editorializing that crept in the news item NBC's Amy Rohbach "news" item on this morning's "Today."
After a run of sordid beauty-queen stories, it doesn't get much more refreshing -- or inspiring -- than this. A beauty queen lays aside her crown not because of scandal but . . . to serve her country. Meet Jessica Gaulke, who has given up her crown as Minnesota's Queen of the Lakes because her National Guard unit has been activated. Jessica is scheduled for training at Fort Hood, TX and then deployment to Iraq.
The story gets even more dramatic. In the course of her interview by NBC's Natalie Morales on this morning's "Today," Jessica announced that a week from now she will be marrying her fiance.
"Today" generally played the story in positive terms as the graphic it displayed during much of the interview, "Brave Beauty", suggests. Still, Morales couldn't help but inject NBC's official line on the war into the interview:
"Do you have any reservations about going there, especially as you see how it's basically escalated into civil war there?"
Cam Edwards at NRANews.com offered something interesting to add to the Geoff Dickens list of Matt Lauer's frequent episodes of anti-gun bias. In August 2000, Lauer interviewed Knoxville, Tennessee auto dealer Greg Lambert about how apparently outrageous it was that Lambert offered guns as part of his car sales pitch. (I break down laughing when Lauer says "Even children who come to your dealership are going to get a free water pistol, and some people say that's just going too far.")
But here's the Greg Lambert story Matt Lauer hasn't done. In November 2006, Lambert used his own gun to defend himself against a 19-year-old man who came to buy a car, and then decided to hold him up. When faced with Lambert's gun, the man fled and was later arrested. (A Knoxville TV station offered early details here.) The Knoxville News Sentinel then added that the county sheriff was charging the assailant with a murder that occurred ten hours earlier.
It was hard to tell what was making Andrea Mitchell angrier: Bill O'Reilly's assertions that NBC has a liberal bias, or his repeated and perhaps ungentlemanly references to the lady's "30 years" of experience. In any case, the look on Andrea's face was unmistakable: she was not the happiest of campers.
Mitchell appeared on this evening's Factor for purposes of touting her new book. But kudos to O'Reilly for taking the occasion to directly confront a leading NBC light with the network's undeniable leftward tilt - which Mitchell proceeded to flatly deny.
This is must-see video, which you can see here, but let me entice you with these two tidbits.
NBC's Matt Lauer celebrated 10 years at Today this morning and to be sure his run as co-anchor is chock full of biased interviews and liberal slants on a range of issues from the environment to the war on terror but a review of Lauer's record indicates one issue stands out as a particular obsession of Lauer's - guns. Whenever the issue of gun control was hot in the news Lauer could be counted on to push his guests for the harshest restrictions on the Constitutional right to bear arms. On September 5, 2002 Lauer asked then NRA President Charlton Heston: "Have you ever gotten up one morning, read the newspaper or seen the news about a particularly horrific crime or event that involved a shooting and thought even for a second, I may be on the wrong side of this issue?" And when asked by an interviewer in 2000 if he could ask Bill Clinton just two questions, Lauer eschewed impeachment, declaring: "It wouldn't be about [Monica Lewinsky]. I'd ask, 'What are you going to do about guns? Why not make this issue one of your legacies?''
It’s really marvelous to watch a member of the media get slapped around, especially on their own turf. Such was certainly the case on Thursday’s “Today” show when co-host Meredith Vieira tried to catch multibillionaire Donald Trump in a “Why are you talking about Rosie O’Donnell” trap. Even though Vieira claimed to know Trump “for a while,” she dramatically underestimated his ability to dance between the raindrops and demonstrate to the audience why he could buy and sell her a thousand times over (video available here, hat tip to Hot Air).
The pummeling came early and often after Vieira asked, “Why would you reduce yourself to this kind of mudslinging with Rosie O'Donnell?” After Trump gave a reasonable answer, Vieira said, “But is it dirt.” And that’s when the fun began, as Trump appropriately responded:
The new year may have just begun, but members of the media are relying on time-tested bias to attack conservatives and Republicans. Chris Matthews recently slimed Fox News host Bill O’Reilly by linking him to such despotic leaders as Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
During the funeral of President Gerald Ford, Katie Couric attacked the Reverend Billy Graham for being "remarkably partisan." A "Time" magazine correspondent slammed the departed Ford for not criticizing the Iraq war publically, calling it "unpardonable."