There’s an old saying: What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When it comes to mainstream media reporting, nothing could be further from the truth.
No finer example of a media double standard has been recently evident than in the furor that has evolved over revelations of National Security Agency eavesdropping. To be more precise, the press response to The New York Times report on this subject last Friday is in stark contrast to how they reacted in the ’90s when the Clinton administration was found to be engaging in extraordinarily similar activities.
A perfect example surfaced in a Washington Postarticle written yesterday by Charles Lane. In it, Lane referred to changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under former President Clinton after the Aldrich Ames affair. For those unfamiliar, Ames was a CIA agent that was convicted in 1994 of working for the former Soviet Union:
From promoting the "socially conservative instincts" of Sen. Hillary Clinton to lamenting the lack of gas rationing in support of the Iraq War, there was no shortage of bizarre bias in the New York Times in 2005. To celebrate the year in slant, Times Watch presents a selection of the absolutely most biased quotes from Times reporters and writers.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
The folks over at The New York Times must be laughing their heads off. With the President’s poll numbers on the rise, a fabulous election result in Iraq, and the potential extension of a key antiterrorism bill that the administration holds dear, the Times stole Christmas from the White House last week with the release of one carefully-timed article.
After some pretty horrible months in September and October, President Bush has been fighting his way back up from a virtual poll abyss. The economy—regardless of left-wing protestations to the contrary—has been humming. Energy prices—regardless of, well, you get the point—have been plummeting. And, the Sunnis, who largely boycotted the past two elections in Iraq, were giving signs that they would participate in Thursday’s elections in very large, enthusiastic numbers.
All the President needed to make this holiday season a truly joyous one was a relatively safe, incident-free day at the Iraqi polls Thursday, and the Patriot Act to be extended before Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.
The Grinch…err., I mean, the Times had something else in mind.
Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes still has her liberal blinders on, judging by the letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. Responding to an unfavorable review of her book by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Mapes nevertheless credits Alter for being right about the anti-CBS jihad from "the right."
"A thousand times, yes! The bogus questions about typeface used to 'discredit' CBS's Bush/Guard story were a fraud, as Jonathan Alter wrote in reviewing my book, 'Truth and Duty' (Nov. 20). He's also right that the so-called independent panel was a legalistic/ corporate inquisition against the news division I love. I guarantee you that, given the chance, Dick Thornburgh, his firm's lawyers and Lou Boccardi would find even Alter's work sadly lacking. Despite the millions that CBS paid, the panel got a lot wrong and still won't answer for it, just as the president has never explained his aborted military service. CBS panicked over the blog attack and strained to appease the right, whose tactics against us were the same as with Wilson, Plame, Clarke and other administration 'critics.'
Travel caused me to miss Friday's big lead scoop in the New York Times on domestic spying by the National Security Agency ("Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"), but the rest of the blogosphere took the story on from multiple angles, questioning the pieces timing, agenda, even its newsworthiness.
The Times article no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned:
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”
As reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, the media are in full dudgeon over new revelations of a secret eavesdropping, antiterrorism strategy by the White House. However, there are some key elements of this story that the president just discussed in his weekly radio address as reported by the Associated Press that The New York Times and others either neglected to share with the public, or downplayed in their reports:
“Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ‘consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.’ He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ‘a clear link’ to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.”
In a post-9/11 world, this does seem to be a reasonable strategy to avert further terrorist attacks. Wouldn’t most Americans wish that the 9/11 hijackers all had their “international communications” intercepted regardless of the existence of a court order to do so?
Paul Farhi wrote an article for today’s Washington Post that confirmed yesterday’s Drudge Report exclusive sited by NewsBusters that the New York Times failed to disclose a major story it broke surrounding U.S. spying in America was part of a soon to be released book by one of its columnists, James Risen. In addition, Farhi indicated that the timing of the release of this report might indeed have been designed to correspond with a Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act. The antiterrorism bill was blocked last evening in the Senate with members claiming revelations in the Times article may have been the death knell.
According to the Post:
“The [Times] offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.”
And what about the timing surrounding the renewal of the Patriot Act?
This morning’s New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has certainly created a huge buzz in the media that has taken some focus away from the good news concerning yesterday’s highly successful elections in Iraq: “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.”
The Drudge Report, in an exclusive, just announced that this story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau is just “one of many ‘explosive newsbreaking’ stories that can be found -- in [Risen’s] upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!” Yet, “The [Times] failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.”
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
Continuing a mini-trend at the New York Times of downplaying Holocaust denial among Middle East leaders, Thursday morning brings this headline to a Page 5 story regarding the latest anti-Semitic rantings of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Iran's President Clarifies His Stand on Holocaust: It's a European Myth" The Iranian leader called the Holocaust a "myth" used by Europeans to create a Jewish state.
In contrast, the Washington Post gives the outburst much stronger play, with a story from one of its own foreign service reporters, not just using AP copy as the Times does. The Post also places the story on the front page, accompanied by a solid headline: "Iran's President Calls Holocaust 'Myth' in Latest Assault on Jews."
This morning, it was the New York Times publishing a positive story about tomorrow’s historic elections in Iraq. ABC News has been doing a lot of optimistic segments on this subject since Sunday. Tonight, it was the “NBC Nightly News’” turn (video link to follow). Brian Williams introduced the segment by first suggesting that the “American media often cannot report the good news in Iraq because travel is still so dangerous.” He continued: “But tonight, we do have some extraordinary pictures of life there, and there are signs you'll see of progress.”
Richard Engel then showed young boys playing soccer on a street, a fashion show that occurred a month ago, along with a film festival. Then, on to the bastion of capitalism, the Baghdad stock exchange, where “without computers, traders take orders by phone and execute them by hand, an average of $3 million in shares trades here a day, 10 times the amount under Saddam.”
Two "breakthoughs" in stem-cell research announced at roughly the same time have, based on Google News searches, received very disparate treatment in news coverage.
to view the Google News screen shot. Note: the "hours ago" indicator
is only for the lead item listed. Both stories originated in news coverage in
the early AM on December 13.
first, originally covered by the Louisville Courier Journal, is about adult
stem cells and how researchers are claiming that they can be made to do all the
tricks that, until this "breakthrough," embryonic stem cells have been
thought to be able to perform:
University of Louisville researchers have coaxed stem cells from adult mice to change into brain, nerve, heart and pancreatic cells. That could lead to treatments for human diseases and end the debate over embryonic stem cells.
"We have found a counterpart for embryonic stem cells in adult bone marrow. This could negate the ethical concerns," said Dr. Mariusz Ratajczak, leader of the research team and director of the stem-cell biology program at U of L's James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
This adult stem cell "breakthough" had only 31 "related items" in a Google News search as of about 10 AM today, with no apparent coverage by the Associated Press or the New York Times. United Press International is the only major wire service or major newspaper that has mentioned the story.
second, primarily covered by The Washington Post's Rick Weiss ("Human
Brain Cells Are Grown In Mice") appeared on Page A03 of the paper on Tuesday,
December 13, and is about embryonic stem cells:
The New York Times finally checks out the Democrat-Jack Abramoff connection -- briefly, anyway.
Philip Shenon's "Democrat Returning Donations From Abramoff's Tribal Clients" reports that Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, ranking Democrat on the Senate committee investigating controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is "returning $67,000 in political contributions from Mr. Abramoff's former partners and Indian tribe clients."
But although there is an obviously juicy hypocrisy angle to this story (Dorgan has been an outspoken critic of Abramoff), Shenon's story is relegated to a short piece at the bottom of page 24 in Wednesday's edition.
"The ranking Democrat on the Senate committee investigating the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff announced on Tuesday that he was returning $67,000 in political contributions from Mr. Abramoff's former partners and Indian tribe clients. The lawmaker, Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, has been accused of hypocrisy by Republicans for having not acknowledged the contributions from Mr. Abramoff's clients while at the same time sharply criticizing him in hearings of the Senate panel, the Indian Affairs Committee."
Late last night, the New York Times decided to run a story alleging major ballot fraud on the eve of the Iraqi elections through fraudulent ballots from Iran:
Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said. The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border.
But there is one problem with the Times article... the single-sourced story appears to be totally false:
The head of Iraq's border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday's elections. "This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq's borders. "I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters....
In a potential sign of the changing tide in the media, the New York Times published an article at its website late this evening entitled “Sunni Bastion Now Turning to Ballot Box.” In it, Edward Wong depicted pre-Election Day Iraq as being almost a shining example of democracy in action.
Wong began optimistically: “Along the main boulevard here in Saddam Hussein's hometown, hundreds of campaign posters have flowered where insurgents once tossed homemade bombs at American troops.” By the third paragraph, he was almost exultant: “But turnout in the parliamentary elections on Thursday is expected to be high, reflecting the shift in attitude of many Sunni Arabs toward the American-engineered political process.” By the fourth paragraph:
Free Market Project (FMP) Director Dan Gainor has a piece online at the FMP website detailing how mainstream movie critics and entertainment reporters have uncritically heralded George Clooney's silver screen outing, Syriana, as a true or near-true-to-life account of how American oil companies operate in the Middle East.
Among them, A.O. Scott of the New York Times in his November 23 review: "Someone is sure to complain that the world doesn’t really work the way it does in ‘Syriana’; that oil companies, law firms and Middle Eastern regimes are not really engaged in semiclandestine collusion, to control the global oil supply and thus influence the destinies of millions of people. OK, maybe."
In its usual over-the-top manner, the New York Times has once again treated the destruction of New Orleans due to ravages of Hurricane Katrina as a product of the Bush administration.
The Times's Sunday lead editorial, "Death of an American City," waits until two-thirds of the way down the article to place blame on something other than the federal government: the local and state government officials who run New Orleans and Louisiana. The Times neglects to mention that it is Democrats who primarily run the government in both New Orleans and the State house.
Colunmnist Charles Krauthammer's Weekly Standard essay on the moral defensibility of torture in fighting terror has raised eyebrows, and the New York Times tries to gin up more controversy in a feature on Krauthammer for the Sunday Week in Review.
The story by Anne Kornblut, "He Says Yes to Legalized Torture," includes the text box: "In a controversial article, Charles Krauthammer says that at times, coercion is morally necessary." A sidebar excerpts passages of Krauthammer's article in "the conservative Weekly Standard" interspersed with rebuttals by blogger/author Andrew Sullivan, whom the paper identifies as "also a conservative, who replied in the most recent issue of The New Republic, where he is a senior editor."
While conservative talk radio blazed this week over DNC chair Howard Dean's comments on Iraq, that the idea we're going to win is "wrong," an important question arises: did the average American who does NOT listen to talk radio, but relies on network morning or evening news, hear the same uproar? Are the aware of the brouhaha? Don't bet on it. A quick search of the name "Howard Dean" in Nexis from Sunday to Friday showed no Dean mention on ABC. None on CBS. NBC had this snippet on Wednesday morning from Kelly O'Donnell: "The president dismissed comments from Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, who compared Iraq to the Vietnam war." That's the closest the networks came.
What if you live in fly-over country and read the national papers online, or bought copies across the country of USA Today, or the New York Times? If you read USA Today last week, you'd know nothing of Dean's comments. The New York Times mentioned them in an A-5 story by Sheryl Stolberg on Wednesday headlined "Democrats Still Search for Plan on Iraq." Dean surfaced in paragraph 13. The Washington Post was rare for putting the story front and center on Tuesday, in a story by Jim VandeHei and Shailagh Murray headlined "Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks" featuring Dean's comments in paragraph two, on the front page. How about National Public Radio?
A front page New York Times story on the global warming talks in Montreal chose to place all the blame for America’s refusal to move forward with the highly controversial Kyoto Protocol on the Bush administration. In doing so, the Times didn’t inform its readers about the history of this accord, and, in particular, that the Senate in July 1997 voted 95-0 against it. In addition, the Times completely ignored any of the obvious economic consequences to America if it entered into a global warming treaty that did not include China.
Yet, that didn’t deter the Times from identifying a culprit: “In a sign of its growing isolation on climate issues, the Bush administration had come under sharp criticism for walking out of informal discussions on finding new ways to reduce emissions under the United Nations' 1992 treaty on climate change.”
For some reason, New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin, in Montreal to cover a climate change conference, instead gives prominent coverage to an ongoing rave of young leftwing environmental activists.
Friday's "Youths Make Spirited Case at Climate Meeting" gives a shout-out to the lefties:
"But a stream of participants hiked through the frigid night to a corner building on the far side of Chinatown that pulsed with light and thudding music. Inside, a local nonprofit group called Apathy Is Boring was giving a party. There was no apathy in attendance -- just 300 people, most in their 20's, who had come from as far away as Australia and Los Angeles to pester the 'fossils' -- the legions of gray-suited negotiators who, these young people said, were hijacking their future."
I heard Laura Ingraham notice Thursday that New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall used an L-word in her story on playwright and Nobel Literature Prize winner Harold Pinter's "furious howl of outrage" against America in his Wednesday acceptance remarks. It comes in paragraph five: "The literature prize has in recent years often gone to writers with left-wing ideologies. These include the European writers José Saramago of Portugal, Günter Grass of Germany and Dario Fo of Italy." Actually, these men could all be placed on the "hard left," if Lyall wanted to pick that label. Lyall's story is the top e-mailed story of the last 24 hours, as of 10 PM Eastern. The headline is wimpy in comparison to the howling speech: "Playwright Takes A Prize and a Jab at the U.S.," it says. See if the second paragraph sounds like a little "jab" to you:
After a month of hounding President Bush for low poll numbers, Thursday’s “Early Show” on CBS ignored their own network's poll showing President Bush’s approval rating has improved by five points over the last month. But a month ago, when a CBS poll found lower ratings for the President, the “Early Show” mentioned it two days in a row. CBS’s Bill Plante was quick to point out that among modern Presidents; only Richard Nixon was lower at this point in his second term. The next day, Thalia Assuras touted how “the President’s poll numbers are defining a new low.” However, CBS's polling partner, the “New York Times”, found President Bush’s rising poll numbers important enough to put on their front page above the fold Thursday morning under a headline reading “Economy Lifts Bush’s Support in Latest Poll,” and the poll was also featured on last night's "CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer.
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
The New York Times just can't forgive Mel Gibson for making "Passion of the Christ." Editor-columnist Frank Rich assailed it, most amusingly when he predicted it would be "a flop in America" and rather appallingly when he called it "a joy ride for sadomasochists" and accused Gibson of anti-Semitism.
Wednesday's paper dredges up the anti-Semitic charge in a front-page business-section story by David Halbfinger promoted on the "Inside Box" on the front page with this heavy language:
"Mel Gibson, whose 'Passion of the Christ' was assailed by some critics as an anti-Semitic passion play -- and whose father has been on record as a Holocaust denier -- has a new project under way: a nonfiction mini-series for television about the Holocaust."
David Cloud reports on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's talk at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in "Rumsfeld Says the Media Focus Too Much on Negatives in Iraq," but devotes most of his small Tuesday story to anti-administration side issues and rebutting unrelated statements by Rumsfeld.
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that news media organizations were focusing too much on casualties and mistakes by the military in Iraq and were failing to provide a full picture of the progress toward stabilizing the country. 'We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact,' he said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies."