Israel might be defending itself on two fronts this morning, but that might not be enough. The Today show was attacking on at least three. And in a brief-but-telling moment, Andrea Mitchell gave away the blame-Israel game with a spontaneous shake of the head.
Here's the gist of Today's reporting:
Israel's offensive against Hezbollah is based on a 'pretext.'
The Bush administration has dropped the diplomatic ball. It should have sent higher-level people in to mediate sooner. In the meantime, despite the concerns of America's European allies, the Bush White House has given Israel a dangerous 'green light' to attack.
The Bush administration is not responding effectively to the crisis because it is 'overwhelmed' and spread too thin by involvement elsewhere.
With ghoulish glee, Today wasted no time speculating on the possibility of $100/barrel oil resulting from the heightened tensions.
Quiz time: When is a political ad that features pictures of deceased, flag-draped American heroes controversial? Apparently, the answer is only when Republicans produce such a commercial. The Democratic Campaign Committee has posted a 60 second spot on their Web site, and it shows images of the coffins of American military personnel, as well as a soldier standing in front of a makeshift grave marker. (Update, 5:40pm EDT July 14: The ad has now disappeared from the DCCC Web site, replaced by one calling for a hike in the minimum wage.)
Unsurprisingly, ABC, NBC and CBS expressed no outrage over the Democrats attempt to politically exploit America's fallen. NBC'sToday show,ABC's Good Morning America, and CBS's The Early Show this morning all completely ignored the issue.
To say that Russian President Vladimir Putin was gruff in his interview with Matt Lauer would be an understatement. While Lauer asked some probing questions, he also offered up an unsolicited critique of Bush administration's rhetoric toward Russia, calling it 'very harsh.' When Putin responded with a nasty jab at VP Cheney over his shooting incident, Matt didn't blink, continuing instead to focus on the tough talk of the Bush White House.
Lauer was in St. Petersburg for the g-8 summit Russia is hosting, and scored an exclusive sit-down with Putin. In the set-up piece, Andrea Mitchell rolled the tape of VP Cheney saying of Russia's energy manipulations: "no legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail."
Here at NewsBusters, we keep close tabs on the MSM. That's why I can say with considerable confidence that this morning, the Today show ran its . . . nth segment on 'soaring gas prices.' The template is time-honored: reporter standing in front of gas pumps with scary-high price placards in background. Cut to clips of regular folks filling up, expressing varying degrees of outrage. Bring in an 'oil industry expert' for some words of wisdom. Back to reporter at pump, warily wondering just how much higher prices can go. Conclude with hosts back in the studio, tongues a-cluckin'. Rinse and repeat.
In a segment narrated by NBC reporter Lisa Daniels, the formula was followed to a 't' again this morning by the Today show, with one notable innovation: co-host Ann Curry used the occasion to work in an endorsement of hybrid cars and ethanol.
Give the Ragin' Cajun credit: the man works fast. In a Today show appearance lasting only six minutes, and shared with former Bush administration official Dan Senor, Carville managed to work variations on the word 'failure' into his comments no fewer than six times.
At the same time, I defy anyone to read the transcript or watch a replay of Carville's comments on Pres. Bush''s foreign policy and find one solitary instance in which he proposes an alternative or even offers constructive criticism. His rap was utterly bereft of any notion of what the Democrats would do, and do better, if they regained power.
Sometimes, NBC’s Today show bombards a viewer with bias. Other days, the spin is sprinkled throughout the show; July 7 fell into the latter catagory. In a segment on the North Korean nuclear standoff that aired at 7:05AM EDT, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski discussed that country’s recent missile launches. The piece featured a quote from Joseph Cirincione, who, as an NBC graphic identified, is a "nuclear weapons expert."
Cirincione: "[Kim Jong Il] is demanding that the U.S. negotiate with him, not that we surrender, that we come to the table and cut a deal."
Cirincione isn’t simply a "nuclear weapons expert." For eight years, he was the Director for Non-Proliferation at the liberal Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. As the MRC’s Brent Baker reported in a CyberAlert dated October 5th, 2004, he was also a generous donor to the John Kerry campaign. So, in this light, his comments calling for negotiations and reasonable dialogue with the North Korean dictator can be seen in a more honest context. Does anyone believe that Pat Toomey, President of the right-leaning Club for Growth, would ever be labeled as simply an "economics expert" and not have the phrase "conservative" tacked on? It should also be noted that during this segment, NBC, like CBS, didn’t find the time to mention the recent report that the missile North Korea recently launched was aimed at Hawaii.
To those of us who see the Castro regime as an ugly dictatorship whose people are mired in poverty due to the communism it has imposed, little is more annoying than to hear the MSM tout the glories, as reported here by MRC, of Cuba's 'free health care,' and low illiteracy and infant mortality rates. Beyond the dubiousness of the statistics cited, are the media suggesting that trading freedom for a bowl of government porridge is a good deal?
In any case, judging by this morning's Today show, it looks as if the MSM have finally found a communist dictatorship they will not extol. The media have drawn the line at, well, the DMZ line separating South from North Korea.
We might assume that on a holiday like the Fourth of July, there's not going to be a lot of liberal media bias. But a search through the MRC's "Notable Quotables" archive shows there have been a few sharp examples that could ruin an Independence Day. I'd begin with with this one from 1994: "We hear the stories of discrimination in education and housing and jobs all the time. We hear the violence between races. Do you think it's possible that America is simply an inherently racist place?" That was Today (then-substitute) co-host Matt Lauer, not exactly waving the flag. If it was an audition, it must have worked. Here are some others:
2003: "Tonight, we’re going to show you a new true face of homelessness in America. Today’s homeless are families, and the families you will meet have done everything right and yet there’s no place for them. Still, they struggle to find a home....There are more families homeless in New York City now than at any in the last 20 years....in numbers, it’s estimated, not seen since the Great Depression." – NBC’s John Hockenberry on the July 4 Dateline.
What do you call an ardent Arlen Specter supporter who proposes a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and accuses Republicans of 'chicanery' for introducing proposals on gay marriage and flag burning? Why, a 'conservative' of course - if you're NBC's Today show and your guest is Michael Smerconish.
This is the MSM's means of convincing viewers that there is balance in their choice of guests. As I noted here, the mislabelling reached its pinnacle a while back when Today labelled Bush antagonist Pat Buchanan - someone who left the GOP seven years ago to run against W - a 'Republican strategist.'
Today was back at the name game this morning. As you'll note from the screen grab, it labelled Michael Smerconish a 'conservative.'
Should we look for Matt Lauer to close his next interview of Condi Rice by clasping her hands? Perhaps a verklempt Dick Cheney thanking Campbell Brown for "standing by me through every crisis"? Could be, judging by Al Roker's interview of Star Jones this morning.
OK. Star isn't Secretary of State. She's someone who got bounced as co-host of a televised coffee klatsch. Even so, some of the journalistic values on display were eye-brow raising. For openers, what does it say about Today's news values that the interview, stretching across two half-hours and three segments, was the longest this veteran Today watcher can remember?
And then there was the personal relationship between Al and Star. The flag first went up when Star thanked Al for having phoned her with information: "I actually remember a phone call when you saw something in the paper that I had not even seen that was pretty nasty."
If she was watching 'Today' this morning, you can imagine Hillary Clinton using her best North-Korean-parliament rhythmical clapping in response to what she saw. It might be 'ronery' in her Georgetown or Chappaqua spreads, but it's always heart-warming to know you've got friends at the highest-rated morning show.
The premise was that while Hillary has been a long-time bogeywoman of the right, "these days Clinton's biggest critics aren't necessarily in the GOP." It was noted that "she was recently booed by Democratic audiences for arguing against timetable to pull US troops out of Iraq."
The segment also noted her "split with liberals" in her support for an amendment prohibiting flag burning."
Sure, Tim Russert is a pillar of the great center-left media establishment. You can take the man out of Mario Cuomo's office, but you can't entirely take Mario's office out of the man. Even so, as MSM types go, Russert is among the more fair-and-balanced.
But in his Today show appearance this morning, Tim simply didn't make sense. Asked by Campbell Brown about the White House's anger at the New York Times for its latest divulging on an anti-terror program, Russert responded:
"There is no doubt this was an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media, particularly the New York Times. It resonates with the organized Republican conservative base: taking on the media,liberal media. Remember Spiro Agnew, back in the Nixon administration: the 'nattering nabobs of negativism.'
The disgust of conservatives directed at the New York Times after the newspaper on Friday again undermined national security, this time by taking the lead in exposing a program to monitor international financial transactions by terrorist operatives, hasn't much disturbed the broadcast networks. While the cable news channels have been filled with coverage, especially after President Bush on Monday called the disclosure “disgraceful,” the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer hasn't touched the controversy -- though it has made time for stories on how at Wimbledon women are paid less prize money than men and on a left-wing (un-labeled) group's efforts to raise the minimum wage -- and other broadcast network coverage has questioned the administration's motives.
On Monday night, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell asserted that “today's coordinated White House assault is more than simply shared frustration. Analysts say there is political upside as well." Tuesday, on NBC's Today, co-host David Gregory doubted the White House, wondering “whether we should be taking their word for it. That these are legal programs, inappropriate programs. Do you think the administration has earned the right, has any administration earned the right in this kind of war to protect that kind of secret?" Chris Matthews replied: "Well not this one.” On CBS's Early Show, Harry Smith called the paper an “easy target” and suggested: "Is this just a way to attack the evil media or does he have a legitimate beef here?" Meanwhile, on Tuesday's GMA, ABC's Jessica Yellin featured New York Times reporter Eric Litchblau's insistence that “we're not trying to tilt the debate, we're not trying to influence the debate one way or the other. We're just trying to inform the public debate," as well as a great zinger from radio talk show host Scott Hennen about how the Times has become “a terrorist tip sheet."
The Seer of MSNBC hath spoken: no matter how good the news might be now for President Bush, he will be in worse shape come the November elections.
That was Chris Matthews' reading of the entrails on this morning's Today show. Guest-hosting David Gregory interviewed him, and, sounding the same theme we saw over at this morning's Early Show, cast the controversy over the latest leak of an anti-terror program not as a threat to national security, but as "this attack on the New York Times."
Gregory teed up this softball for Matthews: "The question is, whether should we be taking their [the administration's] word for it, that these are legal programs? Do you think the administration, any administration, has earned the right . . . to protect that kind of secret?"
There could be an NBC intern out of work by lunch-time. Somebody failed to get the DNC/MSM talking points to Barry McCaffrey. A guest on this morning's Today show, the retired general obstinately refused to go along with the party line in reacting to the news that a drawdown of US troops in Iraq is in the works. Didn't Barry at least watch Carl Levin over the weekend? The Dem senator from Michigan had made it clear that this was all about election-year politics.
Co-host Campbell Brown picked up right where Levin left off.
Brown: "Based on your assessment of the situation on the ground, do you think this plan is realistic?"
McCaffrey: "Yeah, sure. . . Realistic assumptions will probably occur."
No-o-o-o-o! Brown took another tack: "Put 'realistic' aside and tell me whether you think it's a good idea, though."
When it comes to cutting and running, John Kerry, Jack Murtha and Nancy Pelosi take a back seat to no one. But what if - quelle horreur! - the terrorist insurgents in Iraq beat them to the white flag punch?
Amidst the news of the day, from plots to bomb the Sears Tower to more Dem disunity, Jim Miklaszewski let slip this little bombshell, coming from a press conference by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey:
"On the positive front, Casey revealed for the first time the Sunni insurgency has reached out to both the U.S. and Iraq to find some way to end their terrorist campaign."
Maybe it was just tough love, but NBC's "Today" gave the Democrats a rather rough going-over this morning. And cast in the role of flip-flopping heavy was none other than John Kerry. The subject matter was Democrat disunity over plans for Iraq, and co-host Campbell Brown set the tone by suggesting that the internal debate could be evidence of "a Democratic party at war with itself."
Norah O'Donnell began the segment she narrated by observing that "Republicans are working to exploit Democratic divisions in November elections." After noting that Kerry has a proposal to pull all troops out by 2007, she cut to a clip of Sen. Mitch McConnell [R-KY] on the floor of the Senate pointing out "the junior senator from Massachusetts has had four positions on Iraq."
In a chock-filled first half-hour of Today, the family of one the soldiers murdered in Iraq shared their grief and pride, Andrea Mitchell got it all wrong about conservative discontent, and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett declined to rise to Matt Lauer's bait.
Although the appropriateness of publicizing the grief of bereaved families is often debated, their dignity is a frequent source of inspiration. Here, the father of PFC Thomas Tucker of Oregon, reportedly tortured and murdered by the new al-Qaeda leader in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Zarqawi, spoke with simple eloquence:
"We don't understand the big political picture. We understand what has happened. Our son has died for the freedom of everybody in the United States. We are very proud of our son."
Two weeks certainly aren’t a large sampling, but since the much-heralded – and over-celebrated – departure of the perky Katie Couric, NBC’s “Today” show actually widened its average daily viewing margin over second-place rival ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
As reported by the Associated Press (hat tip to Drudge): “‘Today’ beat second-place ‘Good Morning America’ of ABC by an average of 1.3 million viewers in the two weeks following Couric's last show on May 31, according to Nielsen Media Research. The NBC show's margin of victory (5.85 million to 4.92 million) was tighter during Couric's last full week on the air.”
Yikes. And, generating advertising dollars without Couric hasn’t been a problem either: “NBC also says it has earned about $25 million more in ‘upfront’ advertising sales for ‘Today’ in the fall than it did last year at this time, when the morning show was facing a stiffer challenge from ABC.”
Double yikes. Finally, one of NBC’s top brass might have added a bit of a parting shot at Katie to drive the point home:
For a TV host, there's nothing much more difficult than interviewing a family member of someone who has been killed or seriously harmed. So when the uncle of one of the US soldiers kidnapped and killed in Iraq called for the offering of a massive ransom and a prisoner exchange, give Matt Lauer credit for having had the courage to challenge him.
Here's how it went down.
Lauer was interviewing Ken MacKenzie, a well-spoken, well-informed uncle to PFC Kristian Menchaca. Asked Lauer:
"A group linked to al-Qaeda on its website has claimed that they actually took Kristian and another soldier. What's your reaction to that?"
"My reaction is the United States government should have immediately notified these Shura Council mujahadeen that the United States government was offering a $100-million reward and offering to exchange the 2,500 mujahadeen detainees that Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq plans to release several weeks from now. I think the U.S. government was too slow to react to this, they should have had a plan in place. Because the U.S. government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life."
The three broadcast networks have focused growing attention on inflation recently – 42 stories since early May. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer declared on June 14 “Well, it is back, inflation, that is.” The following day, ABC’s Bill Ritter cautioned, “everything from mowing the lawn to joining a gym could cost you more money.”
Yet, when positive inflation news was announced just hours later by the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, ABC didn’t even bother reporting it on its evening news program. Meanwhile, the other two broadcast networks paid inflation relatively little notice compared to their other stories that night.
On June 15, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke told Chicago’s Economic Club that higher energy costs haven’t had a big impact on other prices, and there are even signs that such pressures may be waning. The stock market exploded on the announcement with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising by almost 200 points, or 1.83 percent – its best one day showing since April 2005.
Rather than welcome the news after focusing on the evils of inflation, the networks paid little attention. ABC’s “World News Tonight” didn’t even report Bernanke’s statement about inflation. This was particularly odd as “Good Morning America” just hours a few earlier did a rather lengthy segment on the issue.
In the past week, President Bush has visited Iraq, had his top political operative cleared of wrongdoing, and presided over the elimination of the terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. NBC’s Today show took note of this fact and the June 16 edition featured a segment on Bush’s upturn in fortunes. But if conservatives expected the media to be happy about Bush’s "good week," they were sadly mistaken. Today reporter Norah O’Donnell began her piece, which aired at 7:13AM EDT, by stating that the Bush administration hoped the current string of positive events would become more then "just a fleeting bit of good news." She also implied that the President’s trip was a political stunt:
"And the President may get the most mileage...literally and figuratively, out of his drop-in to Baghdad...with secrecy both necessary and adding dramatic effect."
Just days after substitute Today co-host Campbell Brown applied a little bit of weekday Tim Russert elbow grease to Howard Dean, asking about the Democratic split on Iraq, Brown's interview with James Carville this morning didn't even contain questions, just set-up statements.
First, MRC's Scott Whitlock reported, Brown asked a soft question on the segment's premise on whether Bush is on the mend: "So let me ask you both this question. And Michael you start. Are we going to look back at this week and say this is the week that President Bush got his mojo back?" Smerconish said yes, Bush was now the "comeback kid."
Then came Brown's completely supine non-question: "All right, James. You're laughing. Go ahead."
Yesterday Lee Cowan, of CBS News, may have exaggerated the size of the protests in Baghdad by people loyal to cleric Muqtada al Sadr, in response to President Bush’s surprise visit. But today, he made up for it. Cowan, reporting from Baghdad for "The Early Show" on CBS, was the only reporter on the 3 major network morning shows to quote from al Qaeda documents found after the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
While "Good Morning America" on ABC and "Today" on NBC gave only cursory mention of the documents, "The Early Show" led the program with the story. Co-host Julie Chen noted the significance of the documents and what they could mean when she introduced Cowan’s piece:
Has Katie Couric's departure had a salubrious effect on Matt Lauer? Freed his inner moderate? The jury's still out. And to be sure, in his interview of Bill O'Reilly this morning Lauer managed to take shots at Ann Coulter and the Iraq security situation. Still, when an MSM host suggests that releasing prisoners from Guantanamo could result, of all things, in an 'international Willie Horton,' it does make you sit up and take notice.
Meanwhile, BOR himself, fresh from his visit to Guantanamo, energetically made the case for the current system of detaining enemy combatants.
Lauer did start things out with a quick jab at the state of security, or lack thereof, in Iraq:
Our media today seem absolutely allergic to good news, especially when it comes to Iraq.
In the early morning of June 8, the story broke that American forces had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, our most infamous terrorist enemy in Iraq. This was terrific news, a time for rejoicing in America. A man who viciously caused the death of thousands, and killed Americans like Nicholas Berg by personally sawing off their heads, would kill no more.
This should have been a time for national euphoria, and for most, it was. But the media’s hearts clearly weren’t in it. Within just a few minutes of the “Today” show announcement, a viewer could draw the clear sense that the poor-mouthing had begun. Matt Lauer began by noting the “timing” was certainly right for a Pentagon dragged down by allegations of a Marine massacre at Haditha. NBC invited Sen. Joe Biden to describe how President Bush has been “basically crippled at home and abroad because of the incompetence of the way his administration has operated at home and abroad.” We’re going to discuss Bush incompetence – minutes after we learn Zarqawi was located and eliminated?
What's gotten into Campbell Brown? I'd had her pegged as a conventional MSM liberal, but in recent times, she has manifested a refreshing streak of independence that was very much on display in her interview of Howard Dean on this morning's Today show.
Things came to a head over the Dems' vague and conflicting positions over Iraq.
Began Brown: "Let me ask you about Iraq. I want to ask a straightforward question. What is the Democrats' position on Iraq? What solution do Democrats have?"
Dean: "We believe that the President is wrong to say this will be left to the next president. That's not the right approach. Secondly, we believe there needs to be a transition, that the Iraqis need to take over and our troops need to come home and be redeployed to other parts of the world to fight terrorism. The war on terror has nothing to do with the war with Iraq, or at least it didn't until the president got us in there. We believe in transition. This is now the responsibility of the Iraqis. And we believe that this cannot be left to the next administration. It needs to be dealt with now."
Hit back Brown: "But 'dealt with now', that's not that different from President Bush's position."
The networks have been eager over the last few weeks to highlight every new charge or claim related to the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November (a new study from the MRC counted 99 stories or interviews about it over just three weeks on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows), but when a front page Washington Post article on Sunday recounted Marine Sergeant Frank Wuterich's contention that he and his squad followed the rules of engagement and were justified in their actions, the networks lost interest. NBC gave it a few seconds on Sunday's Today and a fuller story on Sunday's Nightly News, but ABC and CBS ignored it on their Sunday morning shows (GMA and Sunday Morning) while ABC's World News Tonight gave it a mere 20 seconds before a full story on suicides at Guantanamo and the CBS Evening News skipped it completely. On Monday, despite interview segments and stories on Iraq, the broadcast network morning shows ignored Wuterich's version, though ABC and NBC made time for full Guantanamo pieces. Amazingly, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't raise it with Congressman John Murtha, the lead accuser who appeared on GMA. The Monday evening shows also avoided the topic. (Detailed rundown and contrasts follow.)
Here's a strategy for pro-life activists: start talking up the fact that humans share 90% [or whatever the number is] of their DNA with seals. It might win you more sympathy from the MSM. For while the liberal media love to celebrate 'a woman's right to choose', they go all weepy at the prospect of baby seals biting the dust, er, ice.
The Today show was at it again this morning with a segment on the baby seal harvest in Canada, complete with the predictable footage of those cuddly baby seals at the mercy of heartless hunters. 'Today' even warned us that "what you are about to see may be disturbing to some people."
What have the Dems and their MSM echo-chamber been clamoring for, nay, demanding, when it comes to Iraq? Why, a troop withdrawal, of course. Yet there was Matt Lauer on this morning's Today, fretting that President Bush might . . . withdraw troops.
Lauer's lament came in the course of his interview of former General Barry McCaffrey, looking ahead to the Iraq summit that Pres. Bush is holding at Camp David beginning today with his top national security advisers.
" Do you worry about a political side of this, that the administration may pull a substantial number troops out of Iraq just prior to November's mid-term elections simply to sway public opinion?"