At the late-night PBS talk show "Charlie Rose," the revolving door of hosts keeps turning. On Monday night, ABC's Barbara Walters interviewed Jane Fonda about the paperback edition of her memoir, and just past the midway point of the interview, Walters asked indignantly about conservative opposition to her. "It amazes me that I still get letters about you...what has it been since Vietnam? Forty years?...The anger. 'Traitor to her country. Honoring her would be traitorous, stupid,' and so on. It goes on and on and on." Fonda was harsh:
"Well, partly it’s organized. It’s not spontaneous. Some of it is probably spontaneous. But it’s sad, and in a way, it’s pathetic, that lo, these many years later, these people have not (pause) made sense of the war. They’re off base in terms of where the anger needs to be placed. And I’m made a lightning rod, and the right wing has been very assiduous in fanning the flame of the myth of Hanoi Jane. You know, they’ve spread lies on the Internet about things I supposedly did that aren’t true. And they’ve kept it alive because it suits their interests."
The bad news keeps coming for the Bush administration, at least that’s what we were told on PBS’s "Washington Week." For those not familiar with the program, it is moderated by Gwen Ifill, and is a roundtable discussion of reporters, each reporter taking a turn focusing on a political topic while the others ask them questions.
This week, one of the guests was Doyle McManus from the Los Angeles Times who discussed President Bush’s low approval ratings. Ms. Ifill introduced the topic:
"But if Donald Rumsfeld is having some credibility problems with the senior military, it pales in comparison to the credibility problems President Bush appears to be having with the American people. A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows more than twice as many people strongly disapprove of the president's performance as strongly approve."
Do you remember Leonardo diCaprio's turn as an ABC News correspondent, interviewing President Clinton on the environment in 2000? Well, premiering Tuesday on PBS: "Journey to Planet Earth," the latest public-broadcasting environmental-disaster documentary, hosted by pretty-boy actor Matt Damon. The show's PBS website promises:
Nearly half the world’s wildlife species may become extinct over the next fifty years. Climate change, the illegal wildlife trade, the spread of disease, and the destruction of critical habitat are pushing species to the brink. Join host Matt Damon as Journey to Planet Earth investigates what scientists call 'the sixth great extinction of the world’s animals' and what we are doing to stop it." Then scroll to the bottom of the page and see all the government agencies that have given your tax dollars to this panic-button-pusher:
In a talk with the editor of the liberal Texas Monthly that airs on Texas PBS stations, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite uncorked some more liberal opinions. In praising the CBS-boosting, Joseph McCarthy-trashing movie "Good Night and Good Luck," Cronkite liked how it reminded Americans that "one nut could endanger the democracy," was "locking up our democracy in a very dangerous way," and persecuting people who were "simply good Americans." When pressed to compare Vietnam and Iraq, Cronkite declared that the comparison was "almost exact."
On Thursday, the Poynter Institute’s Romenesko web site linked to an interview that Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith did with Cronkite for broadcast on Thursday night in thirteen TV markets. First, they discussed the danger of Sen. Joseph McCarthy to our democracy. It's a bit surprising that at this late date, with all the archival information we have now on the Soviet state and its espionage activities, Cronkite still can't acknowledge any Soviet spies in the United States in the 1950s, and how that was a danger to our democracy.
As noted by Tim Graham Tuesday in a NewsBusters item about 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace announcing that he will retire at the end of this season, “perhaps the most-recounted Wallace anecdote didn't appear on CBS, but on PBS.” Indeed, on an edition of the PBS panel series Ethics in America, devoted to war coverage, which was taped at Harvard in late 1987, Mike Wallace proclaimed that if he were traveling with enemy soldiers he would not warn U.S. soldiers of an impending ambush. “Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?", moderator Charles Ogletree Jr. suggested. Without hesitating, Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher duty...you're a reporter." When Brent Scrowcroft, the then-future National Security Adviser, argued that "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second," Wallace was mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by [the imaginary] North Kosanese on American soldiers?"
George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel, reacted with disdain: "I feel utter contempt. Two days later they're both walking off my hilltop, they're two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists, they're not Americans." The discussion concluded as Connell fretted: "But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists." (More quotes follow.)
Video excerpt #1, comments from Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace (3:10) Real (2.4 MB) or Windows Media (2 MB). Plus MP3 audio (560 KB)
Video excerpt #2, angry reaction from Marine Colonel George Connell (38 secs) Real (500 KB) or Windows Media (450 KB). Plus MP3 audio (115 KB) See note below about video quality.
Bill Moyers, former CBS reporter and former host of PBS's "Now with Bill Moyers," has fired back at a NewsBusters article that criticized him for only going after Republicans.
Now that he no longer works at PBS, Moyers has free time for such things as blogging, which he does for the Huffington Post.
In a piece called "Bill Moyers Attacks Republicans While Evoking Memories of Howard Beale," NB contributor Noel Sheppard critiqued Moyers's Huffington essay as being "an advertisement for Democratic political candidates."
"In his piece, Moyers addressed corruption in Congress as exclusively a Republican scandal, tying all of the problems on the Hill to Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, while conveniently ignoring the various Democrats."
How do members of the media really feel about Dick Cheney? Mark Shields, a syndicated columnist appeared on the roundtable discussion show Inside Washington, which airs on Friday nights on local PBS powerhouse WETA.He blasted Cheney, linking the accident to his Vietnam deferments, saying:
"I’m just grateful that he had his five deferments, because, my God, if he’d had gotten a platoon, he would have wiped out half his own men."
Shields, who has previously connected Tom DeLay to the West Virginia coal mine tragedy, also accused the Vice President of not caring about the troops and possibly being drunk when he shot Harry Whittington. Shields, in one sentence, brought up the old canard that Cheney is running the country and also suggested that the Vice President doesn’t care as much about American soldiers as he does Harry Whittington:
Is George Bush a slave owner? Viewers of this past Friday’s Inside Washington on PBS, may think so. Washington Post Columnist Colby King inferred as much saying:
Colby King: "They were supposed to behave because Masta [sic] was in the house? I mean come on."
The discussion pertained to the politicization of the funeral of Coretta Scott King, and Colby King and Dana Priest, a reporter for the Washington Post, were determined to defend the gratuitous rudeness of some of the speakers who thought it was appropriate to take political shots at President Bush. Their arguments were weak, ranging from politics at the funeral was expected:
The Public Broadcasting "Service" selected Paula Kerger from the mega-station WNET in New York to be their new president yesterday. Liberal AP media reporter Frazier Moore, a fan of "truth-telling" Bill Moyers, excluded any conservative reaction, but listed the fight over liberal bias to be among Kerger's challenges. She's ready to fight, not switch, to keep the liberal bias:
Success, she said, depends on "the ability to get the staff at PBS as well as the (station) leaders across the country to stand together. If I felt I couldn't do that, I wouldn't have taken the job."
But Jeff Chester, executive director of the [liberal] Center for Digital Democracy, proposed his own formula for success.
"On the one hand, she has to stay strong to her principles, and resist pressure from conservative critics. But she also has to appeal to those critics to get them to support a blueprint for the future.
"In order for her to succeed, I think she needs to ruffle some feathers -- and not just hide behind Big Bird."
Before the new work year really kicks in, one little thing that caught my eye in between holidays. The PBS show "Charlie Rose" had a panel of film critics on to discuss the year in movies on December 21: Richard Corliss of Time, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, David Denby of The New Yorker, and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. (For cultural conservatives, consider this fact: an hour-long show on the year in movies and no mention of "The Chronicles of Narnia.") The perfect moment of taxpayer-funded liberal unanimity came in discussing George Clooney's movies "Syriana," and more specifically, the CBS-boosting "Good Night and Good News."
LISA SCHWARZBAUM: "Obviously he's telling a story that we can all feel much happier about. This is about how journalism spoke up to power and how they stared back at a bully. And It comes out at a time when the media wants to think about whether we need to stand up further to, you know, to pressures brought to bear. But I'm fascinated that Clooney is using this kind of charming, you know, "Ocean’s 12/13/14" kind of fame that he has in order to make these movies of what he takes as political importance. I think that's a very valuable use of his celebrity."
To wrap up our list of the Best of NQ's worst quotes of the year, a look now at the more recent winners in the Dubya era. For reasons which shall become obvious (length), we'll go backwards in this post. 2005's Quote of the Year (Mary Mapes on her strange philosophy of journalism) is here.
Dan Rather's Gloom, 2004: "What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find." — Dan Rather teasing a report on the CBS Evening News on March 31, the day four American civilians were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, Iraq.
Picking up where we left off, here are the judges' picks for worst Quote of the Year during the Slick Willie era.
Onward, Christian Mouth-Breathers, 1993: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." -- Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1 news story.
Hurray, Grown Men Can Weep, 1994: "Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears." -- Newsweek Senior Writer David A. Kaplan, February 28 news story.
To welcome in 2006, I thought it might be fun (as one radio host suggested) to take a look back at all of our Quotes of the Year from the Best of Notable Quotables of the Year, all the worst, dumbest, and most bizarre quotes of each particular year. First, a look at the four years of President Bush Number One.
Iran-Contra Hangover, 1989: "For the most part, the Nicaraguan Contras burned villages and murdered civilians. On behalf of their cause, Reagan sold out his oath of office and subverted the Constitution....Oliver North presented himself as the immortal boy in the heroic green uniform of Peter Pan. Although wishing to be seen as a humble patriot, the colonel's testimony showed him to be a treacherous and lying agent of the national security state, willing to do anything asked of him by a President to whom he granted the powers of an Oriental despot." -- Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham narrating his PBS series America's Century, November 28.
Last Friday, the National Security Archive, a research institute and library located at George Washington University that collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Former PBS host Bill Moyers gave a speech to the attendees that evening in which, as has been typical for him, he didn’t have very nice things to say about the Bush administration. The full text is too long to do justice to the breadth of Moyers’ antagonism towards this White House, but some of the lowlights are:
“It has to be said: there has been nothing in our time like the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy.”
“No wonder the public knows so little about how this administration has deliberately ignored or distorted reputable scientific research to advance its political agenda and the wishes of its corporate patrons. I'm talking about the suppression of that EPA report questioning aspects of the White House Clear Skies Act; research censorship at the departments of health and human services, interior and agriculture; the elimination of qualified scientists from advisory committees on kids and lead poisoning, reproductive health, and drug abuse; the distortion of scientific knowledge on emergency contraception; the manipulation of the scientific process involving the Endangered Species Act; and the internal sabotage of government scientific reports on global warming.”
James Taranto begins his Opinion Journal piece today by reporting that the TV show "Journal Editorial Report" will not be discontinued after it leaves PBS. It will be moving to the Fox News Channel beginning in January. Its last PBS airing is December 2. This will no doubt annoy liberals who can't stand the Wall Street Journal's editorialists, but it's quite imaginable that those who like their PBS to be a complete liberal playground will say the Paul Gigot show is moving to its more natural home. It's good news that this smart show continues.
Now for the bad news: AdAge.com reports that U.S. News & World Report is dumping the "On Society" column by John Leo. (He will blog for the U.S. News website.) Your best Ken-Tomlinson-intrigue imitations are invited: is U.S. News taking Leo out of the magazine because he's been so strong in recent years at assailing liberal media bias and inaccuracy?
A Monday New York Times editorial, "Public Broadcasting's Enemy Within," goes way over the top in its rhetorical assault on Kenneth Tomlinson, the former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman who had the audacity to attempt to bring some political balance to PBS, which has long used tax money to fund liberal programming:
"As chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson proved to be a disastrous zealot. Internal investigators found he repeatedly broke federal law and ethics rules in overreaching his authority and packing the payroll with Republican ideologues."
In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry:
Ted Koppel did a long interview with Charlie Rose on PBS Monday night, a day before he retired as host of "Nightline." One segment of the interview that stuck out was their discussion of racism and racial inequality and how passionate they are about it. Koppel said it "just infuriates" him. Rose agreed:
Rose: Regrets about this "Nightline" thing in terms of – where you think, God, I missed it that day, I didn't go, or we talked about if we could have been tougher, raised better questions about war and peace with respect to Iraq, should they have waited, all of that, and questions -- You and I share another passion which is the passion about race and civil rights in america.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page today takes the time to explain its side of the controversy over former CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, PBS's expiring "Journal Editorial Report" program and the report of CPB inspector general Kenneth Konz. They were not impressed with Mr. Konz's amazing lack of contact: "As it happened, Mr. Konz conducted merely a cursory interview with [WSJ TV chief Kathryn] Christensen and Journal lawyer Stuart Karle, said he had no interest in even talking to Mr. Gigot, and never asked at all about Mr. Tomlinson. To call him Inspector Clouseau may be unfair to Peter Sellers."
On the politics, they conclude the PBS system is both liberal and bizarre:
Beyond these details, the larger political tale spun by Mr. Konz and other critics of Mr. Tomlinson is preposterous. We are supposed to believe that the vast bureaucracy that is PBS, with all of its inbred policies and interests, was somehow cowed by a single conservative board member who lacked any real management power. Any regular PBS viewer knows the opposite is true.
A New York Sun editorial (subscription may be required) notes the New York Times and a couple of (surprise) Democratic liberal senators are "in a lather over Kenneth Tomlinson's just-ended chairmanship at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They're particularly incensed over a report released yesterday by CPB's inspector general, for which [Democratic Senators] Dingell and Obey pressed, that suggests Mr. Tomlinson 'broke the law' in the course of pursuing his attempt to restore some balance to public broadcasting."
Indeed, the Times' report today is written by Stephen Labaton, who has previously filed many pro-PBS stories on Tomlinson's quest to bring political balance to public broadcasting, some of them relaying bad information, and none admitting the obvious liberal slant of PBS programming (Labaton wouldn't even call PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers a liberal, though he readily labeled the Wall Street Journal editorial page "conservative.")
The Sun goes on to make a broader point -- why, in this golden age of media diversity, is the government still in the journalism biz?
Concluding a probe prodded by Senate Democrats, the inspector general of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Konz, released his report yesterday on whether former CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson violated agency rules and procedures in his attempt to bring some (or any) balance to the routinely liberal on-air content of public broadcasting. Konz said yes. Stephen Labaton of the New York Times, who was hot in outrage on Tomlinson's conservative trail, tarts it up this morning with the headline: "Broadcast Chief Violated Laws, Inquiry Finds."
The report itself is tamer (although Tomlinson rejects it as inaccurate and political) reveals the classic split in CPB's statutory founding in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which both asks the CPB to protect pub-casting from political influence AND insure objectivity and balance in all programming of a controversial nature. What's happened instead, as Konz reports: the controversy over Tomlinson hiring contractor Fred Mann to analyze PBS and NPR content is the first time in forty years that CPB has actually evaluated an individual program for balance. (What the request for an IG report says to conservatives in Washington is: never, ever try again to balance out public broadcasting.) Tomlinson attempted to balance the Friday night lineup with "Tucker Carlson Unfiltered" and "The Journal Editorial Report." Tucker's show is already gone. The pub-casting newspaper Current says the Journal show will also end, on December 2. Bye-bye to the balance attempt...
Rachel Sklar, an occasional New York Times writer who posts at Mediabistro's blog Fishbowl NY, goes over the deep end in rejoicing at the end of Kenneth Tomlinson's tenure opposing liberal bias (or more accurately, trying to bring on some conservative balance) on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
"The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting." I swear to God, this reminds me of a line at the end of "Cujo" by Stephen King, which I read as an eleven year old and made me cry; paraphrased it went something like this: "It must be remembered that Cujo never meant to kill all those people, biting and slashing at their jugulars. He always wanted to be a good dog." Stephen King said it better than me, but it amounts to the same thing: we can't all agree on what it means to be a good dog.
Is it at all surprising that today's "site pass" advertisement entitling you to look at the left-wing Web site Salon.com is an ad for a PBS documentary starting tonight? Once again, PBS shows by its advertising decisions that it feels its natural audience is liberals.
"Rx for Survival," narrated by Brad Pitt, would be defended as an utterly nonpartisan piece that's pro-"global health." But even the episode descriptions betray a bit of tilt. Episode 5 "examines how an overabundance of nutrition — in the form of over-consumption — is causing an epidemic of obesity that is spreading across the globe." An epidemic of obesity? The tub-thumping on the "pressing need for global health systems" suggests some Carter Center/Clinton Global Initiative bias is going to seep through...
Many Americans that are truly concerned about bias in the media fear that what is reported by the press will immediately be accepted as fact by the citizenry regardless of accuracy. This morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean cited the opinion of an ABC News correspondent, Martha Raddatz, as evidence that rampant fraud occurred in the recent Iraq referendum (video link of Raddatz's comments to follow):
Dean: Secondly, on "Washington Week" this week Martha Raddatz from ABC said she had recorded on tape I believe that she saw a gentleman come in, fill out seven ballots, yes, yes, yes and stick them all in the box. If that's what we're fighting for in Iraq, we don't belong there.
Now with David Brancaccio on PBS last Friday was a special treat for conservative taxpayers. Brancaccio conducted a fawning interview with Kurt Vonnegut, a novelist who spent most of his time either attacking the Bush administration or more generally whining about life.
After a half-hour of failing to challenge Vonnegut's nuttier statements, Brancaccio gushingly declared: "Well, I think it's easy to notice that some moments with you Mr. Vonnegut add up to I think a magic moment. Thank you very much."
Yesterday I blogged about Jim Lehrer's disconnect on Friday's NewsHour in labeling conservatives disaffected with Harriet Miers with his tamely describing Justice David Souter as a member of the "so-called, quote, liberal wing" of the Court.
On Monday, Lehrer applied both liberal and conservative labels when describing a political stalemate that's been wrenching Germany for a few weeks now:
What follows is a brief exchange from Friday's edition of the PBS NewsHour, during a discussion with liberal columnist Mark Shields and conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the Harriet Miers nomination. Notice that while conservative critics of the Miers nomination are properly labeled as conservatives, Lehrer insists on watering down the liberal label for Justice David Souter:
Reuters reports PBS has named departing Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler as its first ombudsman, in an act which can only be seen as a defensive political strategy against conservatives. (The liberals are even upset at this tepid step.) The public broadcasting elite has been appalled at the naming of two ombudsmen at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- Ken Bode for liberals, Bill Schulz for conservatives. (Although that is a fairly quiet blog.) They prefer the NPR model (and the Washington Post model) -- one generally liberal ombudsman who rarely touches on conservative complaints, and usually finds them wanting when they're evaluated. This is Getler's record at the Washington Post. Liberal bias was not one of Getler's big issues.
For obvious reasons, the Left is typically very supportive of public broadcasting, since it's overwhelmingly liberal in its personnel and its political content. But Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, so far to the left that the average American liberal looks awfully conservative, is announcing a radical new solution: defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Why? Because the "corrupt" CPB board's idea that they should actually challenge PBS and NPR to attempt balanced news "compromises the independence" of pubcasters.
Oh, FAIR isn't calling for defunding public broadcasting. On the contrary, their pet idea is to RAISE taxes to provide an "independent" stream of taxpayer revenue. PBS types have tried to create legislative support for a massive endowment in the same vein. The key here is that the left wants nobody to be able to hold pubcasters accountable for the liberal (or hard-left) bias they spew with taxpayer money. They want you to put up -- and shut up. Already, Congress is deathly afraid of looking like they'd vote on the wrong side of Big Bird. The CPB Board is the only place in the federal government where someone might think liberal bias was an issue. So FAIR says, unplug it. Make the liberal bias blah-blah go away.