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.
Is there no bridge too far for Joe Scarborough to cross in defending charges of liberal bias against his NBC/MSNBC employers? On last night's Scarborough Country, Joe adopted a position so sycophantish, even Keith Olbermann might have been embarrassed by it.
Scarborough suggested that NBC News had done the right thing in assembling a panel on the Iraq surge composed exclusively of experts hostile to the President Bush's proposal. Scarborough's suggestion came in the course of a segment on Bill O'Reilly's revealing interview with Andrea Mitchell last week, during which he confronted her on NBC's liberal bias. Video: Real (4.3MB) or Windows (5MB) PlusMP3 (795 KB)
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.
As we noted here, when Andrea Mitchell appeared on The Factor last week, Bill O'Reilly confronted her over NBC's leftward tilt. Andrea not only denied any NBC bias, she also vouched for CBS' and ABC's fairness. For good measure, Mitchell claimed that Chris Matthews is no liberal.
Tucker Carlson fired back on his MSNBC show this afternoon. The gist of his argument: that in attacking Keith Olbermann, O'Reilly was actually promoting the Countdown's lefty host. There was only one problem with Carlson's theory: O'Reilly never mentioned Olbermann. Not once. I watched the Factor segment live, wrote about it, posted a video excerpt and - just for good measure - have gone back and checked the closed-caption transcript and can confirm that not only did O'Reilly not mention Olbermann, he never so much as alluded to him or his show.
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."
To quote Jimmy Durante: everybody's trying to get into the act.
At the "Today" show, it's not enough anymore to be subjected to the liberal preaching of Vieira, Lauer and Curry. Now weatherman Al Roker wants to harangue us, too. Roker had been off for a few days, and this morning we found out why:
"We were in South Africa at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. Life changing. Good for her. She's done such an amazing job." Wonderful. Good. Glad to hear it. But Al didn't stop there.
"And to the people who are castigating her: boo on you. If you've done as much as she's done, very nice. But if you didn't: shut up."
NBC's Today show cast celebrated the return of the Democrats to power to the House as "historic" but when the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans took over the House in 1995 Today wasn't so laudatory. At the top of this morning's Today show Meredith Vieira, as first noted here, declared: "Look it's a very historic day on Capitol Hill. Nancy Pelosi the first woman to become Speaker of the House. I'm excited as a woman to see that happen." Then Vieira's colleague, Natalie Morales, repeated the "historic" refrain during the 8am news update: "It's a history making day on Capitol Hill. Democrats take control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years and they're set to elect a woman, Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker for the first time ever."
However a flashback to January 4th, 1995 shows Today didn't exactly greet the GOP so graciously.
Meredith Vieira gave herself some cover. It might have been a bit awkward for her to openly avow that she was excited as an anti-war protester, or as a Democrat, a liberal, a proud member of the MSM, etc., to see Nancy Pelosi sworn in as Speaker. Meredith settled for the less controversial formulation: "It's a very historic day on Capitol Hill. Nancy Pelosi, first woman to become Speaker of the House. I'm excited as a woman to see that happen."
Why do I suspect that Meredith wouldn't be quite so excited if, say, Republican Deb Pryce of Ohio were about to grab the Speaker's gavel?
The passing of President Gerald Ford drew a dignified, even warm farewell from the national press. There was near-consensus that he would be remembered for his decency and the risk he took, pardoning Richard Nixon from Watergate prosecutions in an effort to heal the nation. It is proper that the press is kind today. It ought to be remembered, however, that the press was not of this opinion when Ford took office.
For example, Time magazine’s cover story on the pardon in September 1974 declared that "Ford's first major decision raised disturbing questions about his judgment and his leadership capabilities, and called into question his competence." The cover carried suggestive sub-headlines like "Squandered Trust" and "Premature and Unwise." Such was the media’s mood toward this man’s actions in office.
It's not too early to declare Katie Couric a failure as an evening news anchor and to suggest she return to her successful slot as a morning news show host. That's the considered opinion of Jon Friedman, "Media Web" author at Dow Jones's Market Watch. Read "How CBS can salvage the Couric debacle" here.
Friedman's frank assessment::
"America loved the early-morning Katie. Whether she likes it or not, it's evident that viewers embraced her for the 'P' word: perkiness. Fair or not, however, the nation isn't willing to accept her in the traditionally solemn evening-news time period."
As a former aide to Tip O'Neill, Chris Matthews is accustomed to offering advice to Democratic Speakers of House. With President Bush's announcement of a surge apparently imminent, Chris Matthews made clear his marching orders for Nancy Pelosi this morning: don't fund it.
Interviewed by Meredith Vieira on the "Today" show, Matthews opined:
"She better have, it seems to me, a strong voice about the war. And that's not just putting Jack Murtha out there to lose. And she's gotta get out there and win on this argument. This is going to come down to funding, whether anybody like it or not. The purse strings are now controlled by the Democrats; they cannot abdicate that. They have to choose, whether they're for the president's position with this new escalation that seems to be coming or they're not with him. They can't fall back and tut-tut and hiss the president. They've got to do something about it."
Retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw spoke for eight minutes at President Ford's memorial service today in Washington, but the most memorable lines offered thanks for how Ford welcomed the media as friends, not enemies, unlike Richard Nixon. He also praised Ford for supporting his wife as she spoke out on issues that weren't "politically correct."
“As a journalist I was especially grateful for his appreciation for our role even when we challenged his policies and taxed his patience with our constant presence and persistence. We could be adversaries, but we were never his enemy, and that was a welcome change in status from his predecessor’s time."
Reporting for the Tuesday edition of CNN’s "Newsroom," correspondent Arwa Damon labeled Saddam Hussein’s execution "an act of sheer revenge" and predicted it would have only negative consequences. Damon now joins NBC reporter Richard Engel who last week also described the death of the tyrant as "revenge." Additionally, Ms. Damon characterized the grainy cell phone footage of Hussein’s death as "chilling" and noted that onlookers "taunted" Saddam. The CNN reporter suggested that the execution of the former Iraqi leader would further split the country apart:
Arwa Damon: "With Shia chants defining Saddam Hussein's last moments, it turns his execution into an act of sheer revenge and risks driving even moderate Sunnis further away from the Shia-led government that they already have little faith in to begin with. And so, rather than uniting Iraqis, it appears that Saddam's death is really only further dividing them."
Don't look for Tom Brokaw to turn up in an "Army Strong" ad anytime soon . . .
Brokaw will praise President Ford in the eulogy he will deliver later today. But it was the former NBC anchor in a much more familiar role -- that of criticizing a Republican administration -- on this morning's "Today." Along the way, he did his best to dampen enthusiasm among potential military recruits.
Discussing the execution of Saddam and the possibility of a surge, Brokaw opined:
"The manner in which Saddam Hussein was executed reveals the essential truths about Iraq: that this is a deeply divided country along tribal lines. Andthe idea that we're going to impose the rule of law and democracy there by putting in more troops now will seem to most people,especially those families that may be sending somebody there, like a folly. And a lot of families, and I think a lot of people who are raising their hands to join the armed services are wondering 'I'm giving my life for that?'"
Well, this morning comes a report from a certified MSM source lending credence to W's assertion. NBC's Richard Engel, who nobody would confuse with a Bush administration defender and who only yesterday was deploring the execution of Saddam as "primitive and vindictive," appeared on this morning's "Today" to discuss the aftermath of Saddam's death.
Asked host Lester Holt: "Lots of concern that there would be a violent response to the execution from Saddam loyalists, supporters. What has the reaction been so far?"
This morning's "Today" show characterized the execution of Saddam Hussein with a multiplicity of negative terms. According to NBC reporter Richard Engel, reporting from Baghdad:
"The Iraqi government is now going to great lengths to say that this execution was carried out with the utmost respect for human rights; that it was a very organized, precise event. However, interviews that we've conducted with witnesses, judges and other people who attended and followed all the proceedings say it was much more emotional and chaotic."
Continued Engel: "The execution was primitive and vindictive. "
Engel stated that the site of the execution was one of Saddam's most notorious intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, where Shia radicals were executed, "Shia from the same party now leading the Iraqi government." As video of Prime Minister Maliki, a Shia, flashed on the screen, Engel concluded: "today was their revenge."
CBS broke into programming at about 10:18 Eastern time to report that Saddam Hussein had been executed. The short Special Report was drily anchored by Katie Couric, but included a brief interview with the typical Democratic expert: Richard Holbrooke, an Assistant Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador under Bill Clinton. Couric left out the worked-for-Clinton part. Unsurprisingly, Holbrooke said the execution of Saddam would have absolutely no effect on the dire situation in Iraq for President Bush:
“In the long term, it doesn’t change anything…He was a dead man walking. And so in the end for President Bush, Katie, the crisis, this emergency he’s facing, the policies he has to announce shortly, are not going to be changed by what happened today.”
NBC began its Friday Today broadcast with the grim-sounding news that Saddam Hussein will be executed soon. Why grim? Isn't this a moment, at least a day, showing some good news from Iraq, and reminding the country that it did something in deposing Saddam that pleased the Iraqi people? For NBC, this is merely a short interruption in the non-stop bad news from Iraq. It's an event they are predicting will be quickly overshadowed by increased violence. Lauer concentrated on the fears of our government, and Russert declared violence was a "huge fear" of the administration. Russert went on to predict that the Bush team would try to justify the war on Saddam around the execution of the dictator, but any echo of celebration "could in fact be very short term, depending on what level of violence follows his death."
An uptick in violence might happen. But it also seems that this prediction helps prevent a single news cycle from sounding any kind of positive note. Lauer began the Saddam part of his chat with Russert this way:
Both ABC’s "Good Morning America" and NBC’s "Today" picked up where they left off yesterday, and promoted a new "Washington Post" story detailing how former President Ford and ex-President Nixon were closer friends than previously believed. Both networks used the opportunity to once again highlight Gerald Ford’s dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, and both networks portrayed Mr. Ford as being more anti-war than he in fact was.
ABC and NBC for the most part played the same audio clips from both the Woodward tapes and a Nixon tape from 1973, including playing the exact same shortened audio clip of President Ford as evidence that the former Republican president strongly disagreed with the war in Iraq:
"I think Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq."
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell claimed:
"Gerald Ford believed the Iraq war was a mistake...Gerald Ford told [Bob] Woodward that he strongly disagreed with the president’s decision to go to war..."
Was it just good-natured joshing, or did some MSM elitism creep into Matt Lauer's interview-ending question to Tim Russert on this morning's "Today"?
"What's up for the New Year for you? Same thing as usual: keg of Old Milwaukee and a noise-maker?"
What's this? Condescension to Russert's blue-collar image leavened with a dab of drunken-Irishman humor? The camera crew burst into guffaws, but check the video - was Russert's laugh a bit more strained?