CNN on the NYT: Bushies 'Beat Up On a Newspaper' To Pander to Conservatives

The liberal media party-line has hardened on the breathtaking arrogance of the New York Times, the self-appointed spoilers of secrecy. The White House is apparently insincere in its criticism -- it's merely pandering to the right-wing base.

MRC intern Eugene Gibilaro found CNN reporter Ed Henry charging up Capitol Hill with this spin on Tuesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360," that the Times was being hounded for political gain. "Republicans stepped up their barrage on the New York Times for publishing details of a once-secret program tracking the banking transactions of terrorists." After a quote from Sen. Pat Roberts charging the Times should look in the mirror of blame for the next terror attack, Henry continued:

"From the president on down, Republicans have been reading from the same script."

President Bush: "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful."

Vice President Cheney: "I think that is a disgrace."

Representative Peter King: "Disgraceful and illegal."

Henry: "They're teeing off on news stories that reported questions about the legality of a Bush administration program that uses an international database to review the banking transactions of thousands of Americans. The story was also reported by the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, but the attacks have focused on the New York Times. The chance to beat up on a newspaper with a liberal reputation is too good to resist for an administration struggling to keep its conservative base happy."

Wait just a minute. Where to start? Even Henry's story noted later that there aren't any real questions from Bush foes about the program's legality. The Times has tried to argue that it's just undesirably invasive, but not illegal. Notice Henry uses the words "banking transactions of thousands of Americans," another attempt at "domestic spying" lingo. This is a program tracking international transactions of Americans and others, looking for moving money among suspected terrorists. But Henry makes it sound like they're looking at your MasterCard transactions.

Then there's the lines about how the Times is singled out, and not the L.A. Times or Wall Street Journal. Well, those papers are liberal also (the Journal in its news pages, not editorial pages), but they only ran the story after the Times let the cat out of the bag. They could also be attacked for spreading this no-longer-secret news, but it was the Times who made the first arrogant decision to overrule the administration and the bipartisan heads of the 9-11 Commission. Henry also ignores that Bush did not single out the Times or any paper in his Monday remarks.

Henry ended the story by noting that unlike the NSA brouhaha, "very few Democrats have raised questions about the banking program. Republicans are confident they're on solid legal ground, which is why they're firing away at the Times, and if they score points with conservatives along the way, so much the better."

This is the kind of story that underlines that CNN can't point at Fox and say they're biased, and we're objective. It's appalling that reporters are so cynical that they can't understand the genuine anger and passion of Republicans on this story, and seek to command the audience to doubt the sincerity of the Republicans when it challenges liberal media hubris. 

If Bush and Cheney wanted to pander to conservatives by attacking the press, they certainly could have been bolder and harsher than they were. If this was a political campaign against the press, why is it just limited to this issue, and not the entire scope of political coverage? And when the Clintonites explicitly attacked the conservative press in the last administration, did CNN find a cynical pandering to liberals? Please doubt that very much.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis