Just in time for the Big Announcement, National Review Online has two columns up on Katie Couric. I'll start with Myrna Blyth, whose book "Spin Sisters" revealed Katie's $7,500-a-week trainer. She told how Katie used poetry to hand out an award to the editor of Glamour magazine at a gathering of the feminist elite, the New York Women in Communications luncheon. But the standout line of the piece came from a top editor at the New York Times: "Jill Abramson confided proudly that Al Hunt had once said that she had 'balls like cast-iron cantaloupes.'”
Jonah Goldberg takes a hard line in his piece, that the higher you go in TV news, the lighter the load gets:
Playing the straight man to perfection, Matt Lauer kicked off the second half-hour of this morning's Today show by asking Katie Couric: "Anything new?"
In responding, Couric made official what she acknowledged was "the worst kept secret in America": that after 15 years she was leaving Today to go to the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes. Here, for posterity, was the opening line of Couric's announcement:
"I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I've decided I'll be leaving Today at the end of May."
You could see this one coming a mile away. As soon as Matt Lauer announced that Today was inaugurating a series called 'One Nation Under God' on the role religion plays in our country, and that the first episode would focus on President Bush, you knew we were in for a bumpy ride.
The series plays off a new book, 'American Gospel', by Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham. In his set-up [and I do mean set-up] piece, David Gregory claimed that "the Bush era has created not just a political but a religious divide."
Continued Gregory: "Critics have accused the president of using religion to close himself off from opposing points of view." Oh, I don't know, David. He seems to hear you pretty loud and clear.
TV Newser is collating the latest Katie Couric news:
In Tuesday's New York Times,Bill Carter writes: "Any such announcement" about Katie Couric's move "will not be accompanied by a news conference at CBS, however, several people close to Ms. Couric said. Some reports this week have suggested that CBS was reserving space at its news headquarters for a formal introduction of Ms. Couric. But her associates said they believe that there is no possibility that that will happen this week. The reason, they explained, is that Ms. Couric will remain at NBC News through May 31, the full duration of her contract, and would not consent to appear at a CBS event, out of deference to her NBC employers."
Perhaps I was reading into things in light of the rampant speculation about Katie Couric's possibly imminent departure for the CBS Evening News anchor spot. But this veteran Today watcher sensed a distinct mood of nostalgia on the set this morning.
Katie Couric was back after a couple weeks vacation, and all the crew members went out of their way to remark on the reunion of the regular cast. Beyond that, there was something in the air as somber as Katie's black outfit, as if the cast sensed this might well be the last week they were together as a unit.
Lauer: "Haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. Good to have you back." The pair jokingly shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time.
A very tired and very cranky Al Franken appeared on the March 31 edition of the Today show. The segment, which aired at 7:12AM EST, saw Franken respond to a barb from fellow radio talk show host Michael Smerconish with this witty barb: "Screw you." Also, host Matt Lauer couldn’t find time to ask Franken about Air America’s dismal ratings or the "involuntary loan" that the radio network took from a children’s charity. He did, however, manage to note a happy event for the struggling state of liberal talk:
Lauer:"Al Franken is host of the Al Franken show on Air America radio, celebrating a second anniversary today, so congratulations."
Some might say it wasn't necessarily my finest moment at NewsBusters when, back in December, I speculated that, reporting from a chilly Rockefeller Plaza, Today's Matt Lauer might have been wearing a Palestinian 'solidarity scarf.' See Keffiyeh-Gate?
At the time, I noted that:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political rallies to talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
No not even reviews of kids movies are free from a tinge of liberal bias at the Today show. During Gene Shalit's Critic's Corner the dorky mustached film critic couldn't help himself:
Gene Shalit: "Good morning and welcome to the Critic's Corner. Think global warming isn't real? Ask Manny the Mammoth, Diego the Tiger or Sid the Sloth. They first met in the animated hit Ice Age and they formed an unlikely herd. Now in Ice Age: The Meltdown they're fleeing floods of melting ice and the results are joyous.... Carlos Saldahna's direction and the smart three-scribe script makes this Ice Age very cool. The herd's happy 88 happy minutes will melt away your out-of-theater cares while attesting that global warming is no snow job. Audiences everywhere get ready! Here comes Ice Age: The Meltdown starring the herd shot 'round the world. And that's the Critic's Corner for this morning."
A quick take on a morning when I'm headed to Washington, DC.
Sometimes, you just can't win with the MSM. For weeks, the MSM has been calling for a White House shake-up. So when it came in spades yesterday with the resignation of chief of staff Andy . . . Card [spades, Card. Come on, tough room here!], naturally the media applauded the bold move.
Or not. Veteran NewsBusters readers know better. There is no appeasing the liberal media. They recalibrate their line of attack and move on. But who could have predicted the tack Matt Lauer would have taken in interviewing good-soldier Mary Matalin on this morning's Today show? Lauer suggested, of all things, that Card left . . . too soon!
On March 24, the Today show featured a segment on the Vice President’s personal needs for hotel visits. The piece, which aired at 7:20AM EST, featured three references to Cheney’s requestthat all televisions be tuned to Fox News. A few days later, the Smoking Gun, the website that broke the Cheney story, did a follow up on John Kerry’s requirements. The NBC series has yet to cover this. And if they did, they would probably not report this demand:
"Newspapers: all local plus New York Times, Washington Post"
In all its cacophony and moments of absurdity, this morning's Today show segment on immigration was a supremely edifying example of the confusion, high emotion and complexity of the immigration debate. Matters reached their Alice-in-Wonderland apotheosis when Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was shown arguing that illegal immigrants are good . . . 'citizens.' Said Feinstein:
"They pay taxes, their children are Americans, they go to schools, they're good citizens and they're needed."
This was in line with the fait accompli argument advanced by La Raza representative Janet Murguia. She referred to what she estimated as the 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country as "people are working in backbreaking work that nobody else wants to do in this country. We need to . . . understand that they are already part of this country."
Where is the liberal moral outrage? Oh, to be sure, the left is making its political points in the wake of the case in which a man is facing the death penalty in Aghanistan for having converted from Islam to Christianity. Story here. Administration critics have been quick to question the value of Pres. Bush's efforts in bringing democracy to the Muslim world if situations such as this one are the outcome.
But in reporting the matter on this morning's Today, NBC's Andrea Mitchell cast domestic protest of the matter strictly in terms of moral outrage on the part of the "Christian right".
Have a look at the legend that 'Today' ran beneath the image of Pat Buchanan this morning. 'Republican' strategist? Really? Buchanan quit the Republican party in 1999 to run for president against George W. Bush as the candidate of the Reform Party. Go to Buchanan's official web site, The American Cause. The creed advanced there is Pat's particular brew of protectionism, isolationism and conservatism, with nary a reference to the Republican party.
So why, might you ask, would NBC engage in such false packaging? The answer is obvious: to gull viewers into thinking that it is presenting a fair balance of opinions.
Call it the Ingraham Effect. Two days after Laura Ingraham sent shockwaves through the MSM with a Today show appearance in which she charged that the media accentuate the negative in their Iraqi coverage, and just the day after a palpably stung Today responded with a segment defending its coverage, Today led its show this morning . . . with good news from Iraq.
To be sure, Today would under any circumstances have covered the rescue of three self-styled Christian peace activists. Story here. But would Today have otherwise highlighted the story of a successful coalition military operation in the way that it did? In the show's very opening, Katie dramatically intoned:
Stung by allegations levelled by Laura Ingraham yesterday, NBC has admitted that its Iraqi coverage is inaccurate because it's . . . not negative enough.
Ingraham clearly hit an MSM sore spot with the charges she made during her appearance on yesterday's Today show, in which she locked horns with David Gregory and James Carville. Read Laura in the Lions Den.
Ingraham accused most American media of covering Iraq from their balconies in the Green Zone, confining their reports largely to IEDs and killings and missing the more positive stories that abound across the country.
On this morning's Today show, a defensive NBC asked whether it is doing a good job reporting on Iraq, and - surprise! - the Peacock Network assured itself and its viewers that indeed it is. If anything, Today told us, the situation in Iraq is even worse than the MSM portray it. You might say NBC's position is that its coverage is not negative enough.
Hard as it may be to believe, polygamy is now a "civil rights" issue. That is, if you believe the Today show and HBO’s "Big Love." Just last week, NBC featured a sympathetic look at a man who wants women to have the right to go topless in public. Today has now focused on multiple spouses. The March 19 segment, airing at 8:33AM EST, profiled a man who is married with two wives. After being told that three adults (NBC hid their identity) sleep in the same bed, NBC's Lester Holt blurted out, "See, automatically my mind goes to, then, to sexual fantasies." The co-host later noted that with "the growing political acceptance of same sex unions, polygamy activists are emerging." He hopefully noted that some are "calling it the next civil rights battle and the battle lines are being drawn."
Holt began by promoting the new HBO polygamy themed series, "Big Love." He mentioned that the show has "raised the profile and fascination with these extended marriages." The non judgmental attitude continued as a polygamist, who is identified as "Jacob," (not his real name) was given free range to promote his lifestyle:
I will always have a soft spot for NBC reporter Michelle Kosinski. After all, it was Michelle's Canoe-Gate stunt that got my NewsBusters career off to a nice start. Michelle was back on the weather beat on this morning's Today show. And once again she made a weather-related allegation that strained credulity.
As we know, in MSM-land all extreme weather events from the very hot to the very cold are somehow the result of global warming. Michelle's topic this morning was the record-breaking cold and heavy snows that have swept the nation's mid-section. She reported from a very cold and snowy Springfield, Illinois [snow in Springfield on the first full day of spring - haha, we get it]. But somehow, Michelle managed to parlay this unusually cold and wintry weather into the threat of . . . increased hurricane activity, which of course is the result of unusually warm weather in the tropics.
Was it David Gregory, or an SNL parody of a biased liberal MSMer? The topic on this morning's Today show was whether media coverage of Iraq has presented a distorted picture. Under the circumstances, you might have thought Gregory would have feigned some facsimile of fairness. But his very first question to James Carville advanced the theory that . . . President Bush is a liar.
Asked Gregory: "Is the problem for this president and top administration officials that the public doesn't believe what they say anymore?"
Like a top point guard, Laura Ingraham tenaciously fought through the Gregory-Carville double-team to make her case. She pointed out that NBC and the Today show expended huge resources to cover the Olympics and even to answer the question "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" She suggested that they devote some of the same resources to broadcast the Today show directly from Iraq, that they accompany troops, speak with US and Iraqi military personnel and with villagers and see the reality on the ground.
On the third anniversary of the Iraq war, the Today show ran a generally predictable segment assessing successes and failures and looking to the future. To be sure, former Clinton administration official Wendy Sherman insisted that the President needs to start "telling the truth." And Gen. Barry McCaffrey thought that not deploying what he considered to be an adequate number of troops was a huge mistake. And yes, former Bush admin spokesman Dan Senor was more sanguine.
But when it came to revealing Today's bias, most telling were the three man-in-the-street interviews.
The first was a man who expressed support for the Commander-in-Chief, if not for the war per se, and hoped for the mission "to go through as smooth as possible, with as many, with the least number of lives lost as possible."
Have a look at the chart at the bottom and answer one simple question: what's the biggest gasoline-price story over the last six months? Sure looks as if it was the way gasoline prices nose-dived about 80 cents from September to November. Remember all those MSM stories highlighting the plunge? Neither do I.
But let market fluctuations push prices up about fifteen cents in the last month, and you can be sure that the MSM will start bemoaning 'soaring gas prices.'
As you can see from the screen capture, the Today show was at it this morning. In fact, as Today had to admit, we currently are enjoying "the biggest oil inventory in seven years," which normally would keep prices down. If there's a culprit in this scenario, perhaps we can thank those folks at Archer Daniels Midland and their friends in Congress who have forced ethanol down our throats and gas tanks.
Nudity. Perhaps that's NBC's strategy for maintaining high ratings if Katie Couric departs the network. The March 17 edition of Today featured a segment on a artist who seeks to "challenge the taboo issue of women’s bodies." The vehicle for such change? Why, topless women, of course. NBC was only too happy to oblige. The story, airing at 7:49AM EST, featured no less then 22 screen shots of pixilated nudity, including a seven second clip of a woman skating topless. Additionally, the photographer, Jordan Matter, is a well known liberal who stated on his website that the goal of his art project is:
Matter: "Challenging this inequity between the sexes is the purpose of my work. There has been a recent shift in America towards a socially conservative philosophy, so right after Janet Jackson's breast was exposed at the Super Bowl, I started asking women to appear topless in New York City."
When does healthy reportorial reserve cross the line into cynicism? Today's coverage this morning of Operation Swarmer, the counter-insurgency offensive in the Samarra region of Iraq, illustrates the issue.
NBC's skepticism was as clear as the legend that appeared on-screen throughout the segment: "Were Iraqi Targets Hit?" Surely it is appropriate to ask and try to answer how effective a military operation has been. But in openly wondering whether any targets were hit, Today perhaps comes close to labelling the operation a sham.
Questions about NBC's motives were only heightened when immediately following the Samarra segment, Today ran a piece, narrated by White House antagonist-in-chief David Gregory, which posed the question: "Politics of War: Can Bush Overcome Iraq?"
Although an offer is rumored to be imminent, there appears to be an upper management split at CBS concerning the hiring of Katie Couric as anchor for the “Evening News.” According to Drudge, even though CBS President Les Moonves is “convinced Katie Couric is the right person for the job,” this is “despite warnings from top management that the move could have lackluster results.”
What makes them feel this way? “Nervous executives at CBS have been examining tapes of Couric from August 2001 -- and nitpicking her performance -- when she substituted for a vacationing Tom Brokaw.”
You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying. Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them.
Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president." Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.
I thought the MSM is ardently opposed to the death penalty. Aren't these the same folks who wrung their collective hands at the prospect of poor Tookie Williams getting the needle? Sure, he murdered four people in cold blood and joked about it, but hey! - he wrote a children's book.
But, no! The Today show was distraught at the prospect that "the 20th hijacker" might have slipped the noose [or the needle]. They went so far as to play a clip from a family member of one of the 9/11 victims saying that "I felt like my husband had been killed again." Shades of that NAACP anti-Bush ad from 2000. See item #2 here of this MRC report.
Was this a news report, or a coming attraction for a new series about inter-generational love? Perhaps there's a third explanation: a not-too-subtle kiss blown in the direction of a soon-to-be new employer.
Amidst rampant speculation that Katie Couric might be leaving the Today show to anchor the CBS Evening News, Couric narrated a segment on this morning's Today on the occasion of Mike Wallace's announcement this week that he will be retiring from '60 Minutes'. If you think it's impossible to sustain a gush for five minutes, you obviously weren't watching Katie this morning.
Excerpts from Katie's paen to Wallace:
He "seems to succeed at everything except slowing down."
"Fearless and willing to ask anything."
"How do you stay so vibrant, so active, so alert and continue to work so hard?"
His departure "leaves big shoes for 60 Minutes to fill."
"His legend will never fade."
Back in the studio, when Matt Lauer observed that "at 88, he is astounding," Katie offered up the ultimate accolade:
Bush and Murtha: same struggle! At least, that's apparently how Joe Biden sees it. The senator from Delaware, interviewed by Katie Couric on this morning's Today show, criticized the administration's withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Iraq, and claimed the president "is determined to get it down under 100,000 troops this year. He will be down to 30,000 next year."
Biden - bidding for headlines? - continued: "his plan and Murtha's plan are not that far apart."
Of course there's a world of difference between Bush's plans and those of Murtha. As recently as in a speech given yesterday, Pres. Bush reaffirmed the US committment in these terms: "Our goal in Iraq is victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation."
If you put stock in the actual results of the Memphis GOP straw poll, you've got things . . . Oz backwards. At least, that's Chris Matthews' view.
In Dorothy's adventure, the Wizard cautioned us to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." But this morning, Chris Matthews told us that the way to understand what happened in Memphis was to do just that - look behind the curtain at the Republican heavy-hitters lining up behind John McCain.
Interviewed by Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, Matthews claimed:
"The big thing for McCain is the strength he showed not in the straw vote [where he finished at the bottom of the pack] but among powerful people. [Haley] Barbour, Lindsey Graham, Trent Lott and [J.C.] Watts all talked up McCain. I think McCain is building up strength."
United States officials announced yesterday that the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will be closing in a few months. This gave NBC yet another excuse to show a montage of the famous abuse photos. Mike Boettcher, appearing at 7:06AM EST on the March 10 edition of Today, described the planned closing this way:
Boettcher: "During Saddam Hussein's reign and later under U.S. occupation, Abu Ghraib became perhaps the world's most notorious prison. Photographs of prisoner abuse by American guards at Abu Ghraib sparked an international scandal." (Pictures of abused prisoners overlap Boettcher’s comments.)
So it wasSaddam Hussein and the United States that made the prison notorious? A naked pyramid may be bad, but it’s not the same as brutal murder.
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"