As part of an ongoing retrospective of the the first decade of the 21st century, Newsweek has ginned up a boatload of top 10 lists and assigned some Hollywood celebrities and Washington politicians to pen brief blurbs to accompany some of the entries. One such list, the top 10 "History-Altering Decisions" of 2000-2009 has at least two such entries that are worthy of addressing here: Actor/comedian Dennis Leary's "Florida Uses Butterfly Ballots" [ranked #6] and Sen. John Kerry's self-congratulatory "Kerry Picks Obama to Give Keynote 2004 DNC Address" [ranked #1].
Befitting Newsweek's biases, Leary and Kerry's entries point to Obama as an almost messianic figure, as though he were the literal object of history, or at least the last 10 years of American history.
First, Leary opined about how one dramatic moment can set in motion a chain of events can profoundly affect history, in effect comparing the assassin's bullet that ended John Kennedy's life with the butterfly ballots used in 2000 in some Democrat-friendly Florida counties:
There’s liberal hypocrisy on the part of New York Times economics columnist and left-wing blog-follower Paul Krugman in his Monday nytimes.com blog post, "Proposed extensions of Godwin’s Law."
Leading into a discussion of how he thinks people should discuss inflation and interest rates, Krugman said:
Godwin’s Law -- which says that in any sufficiently long online discussion, someone will compare his opponent to Hitler -- is often interpreted to mean that if you do, in fact, start making Nazi comparisons, you’ve lost the argument and can no longer be taken seriously. I’m all for that. (Does this mean that we should no longer take any significant figure in the Republican Party seriously? Yes, it does.)
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of a unique political speech. On November 13, 1969, Vice President Spiro Agnew questioned the network news divisions' domination of the political debate, and the "narrow and distorted picture of America [that] often emerges from the television news."
Despite the very different times we lieve in today compared to the Old Media days of the late 1960s -- a time when the Big Three were a very dominant force in determining what Americans saw and discussed -- much of what Agnew said then remains a compelling critique of TV news today:
Setting the Agenda: "We cannot measure this power and influence by traditional democratic standards. They can make or break -- by their coverage and commentary -- a moratorium on the war. They can elevate men from local obscurity to national prominence within a week. They can reward some politicians with national exposure and ignore others. For millions of Americans, the network reporter who covers a continuing issue, like ABM or civil rights, becomes in effect, the presiding judge in a national trial by jury."
Tom Brokaw made an appearance on this morning's edition of Morning Joe this morning, plugging his interview with the former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Brokaw was, of course, reporting from the historic Brandenburg Gate this morning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Brew Crew were gathered in their studio with national security expert Dr. Richard Haas, discussing such weighty subjects as the American response to the fall of communism, the geopolitical advantages and disadvantages of that event, and so on. And which of these subjects did Brokaw use to segue into the subject of his interview?
Noting tomorrow’s 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday’s Today show, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw claimed East Germans were “still adjusting to the harsh economic realities” of life after communism. But a recent poll of former East bloc countries by the Pew Research Center actually discovered that the people of what was East Germany are actually the biggest enthusiasts of the shift to capitalism, with 82% approving, higher than any other ex-communist country.
Brokaw did note, however, that the current “center-right” Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was “born and raised in East Germany,” implicitly acknowledging that her youth spent under communism obviously did not make her a fan of leftist economic policies.
The suggestion that capitalism is somehow “harsh” compared to communism echoes what many liberal journalists argued after the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. “The transition from communism to capitalism is making more people more miserable every day,” CBS reporter Bert Quint argued in 1990.
On June 12, 1987, as the liberal media elite were toasting the leader of the Soviet Union as a great champion of progress, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin Wall and challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to put his money where his mouth was: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (Video.)
Gorbachev did not open the gate or tear down the Berlin Wall, but two years later the people of East Germany did. News broke in the U.S. late in the afternoon (Eastern Time) on November 9, 1989 that the communist government would no longer restrict travel to West Berlin. Just a few hours later, ABC’s PrimeTime Live hosted former President Ronald Reagan to celebrate what would turn out to be the death blow against communism in Eastern Europe. We found the tape in our archives, and posted a video excerpt at right. (Audio excerpt here.)
As readers of Cal Thomas’s latest syndicated column already know, the Media Research Center is releasing a new report today on the media’s coverage of communism, timed to coincide with the 20 anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Monday. Sad to say, but before, during and after those momentous events two decades ago, many in the liberal media continuously whitewashed the true nature of communism, or suggested free-market capitalism was somehow worse.
For our report, Better Off Red?, Scott Whitlock and I combed through the MRC’s archives; the quotes (and 19 audio/video clips) we pulled together show some liberal journalists utterly failed to accurately depict communism as one of the worst evils of the 20th century, and often aimed their fire at those who were fighting communism rather than those who were perpetuating it. The full report has more than 70 quotes; here's a sample from the Executive Summary:
■ Before it collapsed, these journalists insisted those enslaved by communism actually feared capitalism more. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," CBS anchor Dan Rather asserted in 1987.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson on Wednesday night had time to convey President Barack Obama's praise of Edward Brooke for “breaking barriers” as the first popularly-elected black U.S. Senator, but not to inform viewers he broke that barrier as a Republican. On NBC, however, David Gregory noted Brooke's party affiliation: “The Massachusetts Republican urged the lawmakers who gathered to congratulate him to put aside partisan differences and work together.”
Neither Gibson nor Gregory pointed out that after two terms representing Massachusetts, in 1978 Brooke, a fairly liberal Republican, was challenged and beaten by one of the media's liberal heroes, the late Paul Tsongas -- a Democrat who was a white guy.
Once again, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow can't let a week pass without denigrating former vice president Dick Cheney, the better to shift attention from Obama's beleagured presidency.
Here's Maddow on her cable show Sept. 8, relaying news of British intelligence officials apparently still chagrined at Cheney for forcing their hand to arrest suspects in the '06 airline bombing plot before they were prepared to do so --
As President Obama prepares to deliver his 29th speech on health care, this time before a joint session of Congress, it recalls Bill Clinton’s September 22, 1993 speech to Congress on the same topic. Back then, media liberals hit some of the exact same points journalists are making today: “reform” would end the “shame” of America being the only industrialized nation without universal coverage; that a bigger role for government would cost nothing or even save money in the long run, and that government bureaucrats were preferable to insurance companies.
After a year of media cheerleading, however, Congress finally scrapped Clinton’s health care ideas. But the unpopularity of Clinton’s government-based solutions contributed to the election of the first Republican-led House of Representatives in more than four decades. That’s not to say history will play out the same way this time, but the media spin on behalf of ObamaCare certainly echoes the language of the 1990s. A review:
The Charlie Rose show on PBS was a natural place to get the warmest, most exaggerated praise for Ted Kennedy on the night after his death was announced, on August 26. Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the networks’ favorite pundits, declared he was "an unparalleled giant in history." Rose said his record was a "towering, towering achievement, far beyond many presidents." Newsweek editor Jon Meacham was placing him in a tiny Senate Hall of Fame: "Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Ted Kennedy." After that, he said, a huge dropoff in talent.
Al Hunt was the strangest, but at least he began to realize his exaggeration was too implausible to continue: "He didn't demonize people at all. He demonized positions, but not people. Bob Bork might have been a rare exception of that."
ABC News has just announced that Good Morning America co-anchor Diane Sawyer is taking over as the anchor of World News when the current anchor, Charlie Gibson, retires in January. Coincidentally, the MRC has just finished a new report, “Good Morning, Bias,” on the liberal spin Sawyer brought to Good Morning America (and previously as co-anchor of the network’s 20/20 and Primetime Live newsmagazines).
As our ABC analyst Scott Whitlock uncovered, Sawyer has repeatedly lauded high-profile liberals, including Nancy Pelosi (“galvanized steel with a smile”) and Hillary Clinton (“political mastery,” “dazzling”), while in her infamous 20/20 interview, Sawyer targeted Ken Starr’s report on Bill Clinton as “demented pornography, pornography for Puritans.” Here are some of the highlights of what Scott uncovered in his research; for the full package, including eight video clips, visit www.MRC.org.
The death of Edward Kennedy was undeniably a big political story, but the five days of intense media coverage also exposed how journalists see the Senator's ardent liberal agenda as an unquestionable good for America, not as controversial policies that fueled high-tax big government at the expense of the free market.
Reporters painted Kennedy as Mother Teresa. "Over five decades, Ted Kennedy carried the torch passed on by his brothers, for civil rights, for the poor, and for the sick," CBS's Harry Smith opened The Early Show on August 26, just hours after Kennedy's passing. "For nearly half a century in the Senate, Ted Kennedy spoke for the people who had no voice — the poor and the disabled, children and the elderly," anchor Katie Couric echoed on that night's CBS Evening News.
The Huffington Post explains that "Melissa Lafsky is the deputy web editor at Discover magazine, where she writes the Reality Base blog. She was previously the editor of the New York Times's Freakonomics blog, and is a former associate editor at HuffPo's Eat The Press." So she's a major-media-certified pundit when she wrote about Chappaquiddick drowning victim Mary Jo Kopechne on Arianna's pages yesterday:
Mary Jo wasn't a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan. She was a dedicated civil rights activist and political talent with a bright future....We don't know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she'd have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don't know, as always, could fill a Metrodome.
Still, ignorance doesn't preclude a right to wonder. So it doesn't automatically make someone (aka, me) a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded.
Savannah Guthrie is apparently very smart. Guthrie was a member of the prestigious Order of the Coif (which has nothing to do with promoting good scalp health, nor with seventeenth-century headwear) while earning a J.D. from Georgetown Law, highlight her ability to learn dull and boring things very quickly.
Lost among the dusty tomes of Georgetown, however, was the fact that Ronald Reagan was a very nice guy.
On the Friday edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Brew Crew was discussing the apparent Zen-like calm of the Obama White House. Guthrie, drawing on her spectacular knowledge of the Reagan era, noted the difference in temperament between the Reagan and Obama administrations:
Our national media are treating the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy as an historic event, more historic even than the deaths of presidents like Gerald Ford. Is this level of attention warranted?
We can all grant that Ted Kennedy was a major legislator with his hands in a lot of historic government action. He was at times a very eloquent speaker and was always a passionate fighter. To his side of the aisle, he was their inspirational leader.
Now add the personal story: Two of his brothers were mercilessly assassinated. He was the final Kennedy from that generation. Clearly, when the media spent countless hours mourning the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., a man who never had a political career, the death of an actual Senator of 46 years should be a greater event.
It is not the amount of coverage that bothers, it is the quality of reporting. "[The Kennedys] are the closest thing we have in this country to royalty, the clan's iconic images engraved on our national consciousness." That's how ABC's Claire Shipman put it on the August 26 Good Morning America, echoing what others have been saying across the dial. CBS anchor Harry Smith began this way: "He bore the unspeakable grief and overwhelming hopes of a nation."
In a Thursday New York Times appreciation of CBS producer Don Hewitt, television writer Mike Hale avoided the whole concept of liberal bias in the work of Hewitt or his creation, 60 Minutes. Instead, Hale suggested that in threading the needle between an "increasingly radicalized" audience and stuffy advertisers, CBS and Hewitt created a "kinder, gentler, more conservative take" for 60 Minutes than controversy-stoking British and Canadian shows that inspired it. (Hewitt represented "cautious CBS News values, the kind exemplified by that other recently deceased titan, Walter Cronkite.")
How hard was it for CBS to be "more conservative" than the Canadians? Consider this brief explanation of the "slyly subversive" film Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam, produced for the TV show that inspired CBS: "Working without a script, [filmmaker Beryl] Fox went to Vietnam with portable equipment and shot two kinds of cinema verite footage: placid images of the ordinary life of the Vietnamese peasantry and shocking images of the war’s carnage and destruction as wrought by sometimes disturbingly cheerful American pilots and soldiers." These were then edited together for propaganda impact.
With President Obama and congressional liberals facing loud protests over their big government health care plan, journalists are casting the anti-ObamaCare forces as “ugly,” “unruly,” “nasty” mobs, with reporters presenting the most odious images (like pictures of Obama drawn as Hitler) as somehow representative. But when President George W. Bush faced left-wing protests, the media scrubbed their stories of radical voices and depicted demonstrators as mainstream, and even “prescient.”
In January 2003, all of the broadcast networks touted an anti-war march organized by the radical International ANSWER, an outgrowth of the communist Workers World Party. Signs at the rally read: “USA Is #1 Terrorist,” “Bush Is a Terrorist,” and “The NYPD Are Terrorists Too.” National Review Online quoted several protesters who claimed 9/11 was a Bush plot, “like when Hitler burned down the Reichstag,” and argued Bush would “build a worldwide planetary death machine.”
Reporters bypassed all that hate and showcased the protesters as everyday Americans. On ABC, Bill Blakemore stressed how the protest attracted “Democrats and Republicans, many middle-aged, from all walks of life,” while CBS’s Joie Chen saw “young, old, veterans and veteran activists — all united in the effort to stop the war before it starts.”
With the Obama administration and their friends in the media denouncing the sometimes loud dissent that liberals are facing in town hall meetings on health care, it’s worth recalling how some of those same journalists celebrated the anti-Bush dissenters and denounced what they claimed was the Republican administration’s attempts to stifle dissent.
Back in 2006, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann attacked what he called President Bush’s “portable public chorus” (does President Obama have one of those?) For telling “those who dissent...[that] we are somehow un-American.” PBS’s Bill Moyers in 2003 found it “galling” to see “all those moralistic ideologues in Washington...attacking dissenters as un-American.”
In 2003, Olbermann saluted protests: “It is political dissent that created this country and sustained it and improved it.” But on Friday’s Countdown, Olbermann called the anti-Obama protests “societal sabotage,” determined that the grassroots groups are “fake” and insisted that “the protestors are not interested in hearing any voices other than their own.” (But the anti-Bush protesters were open-minded?)
From time to time, our analysts at the Media Research Center have compiled in one location the research we have in our files on a major news celebrity. By pulling all of the worst quotes and video clips into a single Web page, we hope that these “Profiles in Bias” can be a useful resource for anyone looking into the topic of media bias or looking for background on a network news personality.
This summer, we’re pulling together reports on the big morning news anchors. MRC’s Kyle Drennen, who watches The Early Show for us, has assembled all of the worst bias from CBS’s Harry Smith, who has co-hosted the show since 2002. Previously, Smith co-hosted CBS’s This Morning from 1987 to 1996; he also occasionally fills in as host of Face the Nation and anchor of the CBS Evening News.
The package Kyle assembled, “A Smattering of Harry Smith’s Liberal Smugness,” contains the worst quotes from the past 20 years. A sample of what he uncovered in his research follows the jump; for the full package, including nearly a dozen video clips, visit www.MRC.org.
Is there a double standard in how the struggling economy is being portrayed during the Obama presidency vs. the Bush administration?
While the 1% contraction in the economy reported by the Commerce Department on Friday was seen as a "hopeful sign" by the New York Times, "crystallizing expectations of a turnaround," actual economic growth of 1.9% during the Bush years was just another "arrow" seen pointing to a recession.
So how unusual is it for a new President to be featured seven times on Time’s cover, as Barack Obama has been (with First Lady Michelle Obama snagging her own solo appearance)? A look back at Time’s covers finds Bill Clinton matched Obama’s celebrity in 1993 — seven covers for himself, one for Hillary. But the last three Republican Presidents — Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush — were given relatively short shrift. (Larger images below the jump.)
Indeed, looking at the covers from when those three Republicans won the presidency through early August of their first year in office, Reagan and the two Bushes combined were only featured seven times — and it would have been only six if Reagan hadn’t been shot by an attempted assassin (April 13, 1981 cover story).
It’s not new that the networks skipped the anniversary of Mary Jo Kopechne's death in Ted Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick. In 1989, NBC mentioned it as a sour moment now overcome, as an introduction to a story on how Kennedy gained new bipartisan respect as a great legislator, as "King of the Hill." In 1994, in our newsletter MediaWatch, we summarized how they also tried to ignore the 25th anniversary, or mentioned it in passing.
Sen. Ted Kennedy faces his toughest reelection bid ever, yet the national media conveniently ignored the tragedy at Chappaquiddick. The 25th anniversary of the incident came and went on July 18 with little media attention shown to the mystery surrounding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. On July 18, CNN's Inside Politics ran a short story on Chappaquiddick, and it was alluded to during a segment on anniversaries on the July 17 Late Edition. It also received a brief mention on the July 24 CBS Evening News in a story on anniversaries. The New York Times on July 18, and Newsweek's July 25 edition also mentioned the tragedy as part of broader stories; ABC, NBC, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time and U.S. News & World Report did not.
Looks like it might be time for summer school instruction in American history for left-wing radio and MSNBC host Ed Schultz.
Here's what a caller said on Schultz's radio show July 16 and Schultz's oblivious response (click here for audio) --
CALLER: This gentleman who called previously, asking where in the Constitution does it say that health care should be provided? And I know where it says. It says that you have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, without health care, people can be deprived of life due to death from lack of medical care.
While the big liberal media usually find it hard to skip any news related to the Kennedy family, ABC, CBS and NBC breathed not a word about Saturday’s 40th anniversary of Chappaquiddick. On the night of July 18, 1969, Senator Edward Kennedy left a party with 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne and later drove off a bridge. Kennedy left the scene with Kopechne still in the submerged vehicle; he did not call the police until the following morning.
The Saturday and Sunday New York Times and Washington Post also had nothing about Chappaquiddick. Several newspapers did carry a brief, if inadvertent, mention, since on Saturday the Associated Press made it the day’s “Highlight in History” in their re-cap of big news events that happened on a July 18, beating out the start of the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 and the death of naval hero John Paul Jones in 1792.
Earlier this week, ABC, CBS and NBC all noted the tenth anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. That Kennedy was an “icon” according to CBS’s Harry Smith, and “the Prince of Camelot” to ABC’s Chris Cuomo, a former cousin-in-law. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, killed July 18, 1969 after leaving a party with Senator Edward Kennedy. That night, Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, and left the scene with Kopechne still in the submerged vehicle; he did not call the police until the following morning.
Over the course of the past four decades, the media elite have touted Kennedy as a “liberal lion,” spending far more time celebrating his ideological agenda than reminding people of his behavior that night in 1969. As my colleague Brent Baker noted in an op-ed back in 1999, the media have come to refer to Chappaquiddick as a “Kennedy tragedy,” not a “Kopechne tragedy.”
As the media mark the tenth anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., it's worth recalling the overwrought coverage of ten years ago. Here is an op-ed by MRC's Brent Baker, originally published in Human Events on August 6, 1999 detailing the media elite's reaction to Kennedy's demise.
The sudden death at too early an age of the only son of an assassinated President is certainly a major news story, but the television networks wouldn't leave it at a few stories reviewing the good works of John F. Kennedy's Jr.'s life. Instead, they used his July 16 death as a chance to launch a week-long tribute to him as America's "crown prince," gushing about the wonderful contributions of the entire Kennedy family, recreating the myth of "Camelot" and praising the achievements of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass).
"He laughed off the attempts to elevate his status but, in fact, he was as close to royalty as this country had," declared NBC's Tom Brokaw barely nine hours after the news broke that JFK Jr.'s single-engine plane was missing.
But the networks certainly did "elevate his status" by giving him the royal treatment. As soon as the networks learned on Saturday morning, July 17, that his plane was missing they all went wall-to-wall with live coverage, though they had little new to report as the day progressed. ABC and NBC even shifted their sports programming to sister cable channels. That night ABC, CBS and NBC rushed to produce prime time specials.
On Friday night’s Hardball, guest host Lawrence O’Donnell enthusiastically promoted HBO’s new, glowing Ted Kennedy documentary.
He began by declaring "There‘s so much ground to cover. We don‘t have enough time for this. And I want to show the people out there, people under 60, who don‘t know the early Ted Kennedy, don‘t remember the early Ted Kennedy, I want to show what you have got in this movie." But O’Donnell’s interview completely left out the biggest scandal of "the early Ted Kennedy" – the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.
This seemed especially odd as O’Donnell recounted with filmmaker Caroline Waterlow how Richard Nixon was obsessed with Ted Kennedy:
O'DONNELL: Imagine that. Here you are, a senator. You have a president of the United States obsessing all day, is there something we can hang on him. Is there something we can accuse him of?
WATERLOW: With all—to think of Teddy, with all the things he was dealing with politically and within his family and all of the losses he has suffered, he was also—