On Monday, June 30, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to labor unions seeking to obtain more control over public employees who do not want to join the union. Despite the setback for union bosses, NBC Nightly News was the only network evening news broadcast to cover the ruling on Monday evening.
In addition, President Obama nominated Robert McDonald to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs and fix the troubled agency yet ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer and the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley were nowhere to be found on this story either. [See video below.]
Despite Thursday's unanimous Supreme Court ruling that so-called "buffer zones" banning pro-life protests near abortion clinics was a violation of the First Amendment, all three network evening newscasts hyped assertions by abortion advocates that such unconstitutional measures "prevent violence at clinic entrances." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On NBC Nightly News, correspondent Pete Williams began his report on the high court's decision by proclaiming: "Massachusetts was trying to avoid scenes like this – patients at abortion clinics confronted and hassled, sometimes even violence." Footage ran of pro-life protesters being held back by police barricades and one unidentified man shouting: "They're lying to you and they're gonna kill your baby!"
The evening newscasts of all three broadcast networks tonight reported on the unanimous decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that President Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in making recess appointments when the U.S. Senate was technically in session. Rather than couching the ruling as a stunning rebuke of presidential overreach by Mr. Obama, however, coverage on CBS and NBC made it sound like an intrusion on presidential prerogative. ABC's Terry Moran described the ruling as the Court saying "no, no president has [the] power" to make recess appointments when the Senate declares itself to be in session (no matter how sparsely attended).
By contrast a search of Nexis transcripts reveals that on June 28, 2004, when the Supreme Court reached a 6-3 decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld -- a Fifth Amendment due process case regarding an American citizen captured in Afghanistan as an enemy combatant -- the network evening newscasts hailed the ruling as "a real blow to the Bush administration" (ABC's Charles Gibson), a ruling that "struck at the very core of the way President Bush has been conducting the war on terrorism" (ABC's Manuel Medrano), with "the justices... say[ing] the Bush administration cannot expect the courts to stay on the sidelines in the war on terror" (NBC's Pete Williams).
NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams this morning refused to answer queries from Dan Joseph of our sister site MRCTV.org regarding the peacock network's lack of coverage of the ever-deepening IRS scandal, including Lois Lerner's missing emails. "I cover the Supreme Court. You're asking the wrong guy," Williams protested, insisting that while he "[has] a lot of power at NBC... deciding how much coverage" goes to stories not on Williams's beat "is not one of them." "I respect your question, but you're asking the wrong guy," he reiterated.
The Supreme Court, however, is just one part of Williams's beat. He also covers the U.S. Justice Department, which has thus far failed to start proceedings to prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress and whose department head, Attorney General Eric Holder, is resisting calls for a special prosecutor in the IRS scandal. To watch the full exchange, click play on the embed below the page break.
Today a unanimous Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that police may not search the contents of an arrested individual's cell phone without first obtaining a warrant. While all three broadcast networks reported on the Riley v. California decision in their June 25 evening newscasts, only CBS's Janet Crawford directly referred to the "Obama administration" as having "argued cell phone searches were like a search of a suspect's wallet, briefcase, or coat, which don't require a warrant."
ABC's Terry Moran skirted around a reference to the Obama administration, saying simply that "the government" made the argument that searching a cell phone was akin to searching a wallet. NBC's Pete Williams likewise failed to describe the Obama administration's involvement in the case, to which it was not a party, but in which it took great interest.
Second Amendment foe Alex Wagner on Monday predictably attempted to use the tragic shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. to push for gun control. Reporter Pete Williams, appearing on MSNBC to simply offer facts on the unfolding situation, completely dismissed the left-wing question from Wagner.
The Now host noted that Barack Obama referred to the attack as another "mass shooting." Wagner hopefully suggested that comment "presages the White House taking up the issue again, perhaps, the issue of gun violence and gun safety reform." She continued, "We don't know that many details about the shooting but we are hearing that the gunman was armed with a long gun and an AR-15. Those have been weapons of choice in other mass shootings in America." The anchor lectured, "...It's worth noting the U.S. has had on average one mass shootings every month since the year 2009." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
When it comes to reporting on North Carolina's new voter ID law, NBC News's Pete Williams is an improvement over his colleagues at MSNBC, who practically portrayed the new law as the ghost of Jim Crow coming back to haunt the Tar Heel State with a new spin on the detested poll tax. That said, the peacock network's senior justice correspondent did not give viewers of the August 13 Nightly News a balanced or accurate portrait of the law, and indeed suggested that the law was motivated by racial and partisan animus.
Williams began his segment -- titled "The Fight to Vote" in an onscreen graphic which accompanied substitute anchor Lester Holt's introduction -- by noting the plight of one "Alberta Curry, who lives near Fayetteville [and] has voted in every presidential election since 1956." Ms. Curry, an elderly African-American woman, "doesn't have a birth certificate and says it will be hard to comply with North Carolina's tough new voter ID Law" which "was passed a month after the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act," Williams complained. After dispatching with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's point of view in a brief soundbite, Williams listed three changes rendered by the new law, the first of which was misleading:
On Friday night, during MSNBC's live coverage of the police standoff with bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, host Chris Hayes seemed to still be worried about the issue of "Mirandizing" the terror suspect, as he took time to ask NBC's Pete Williams whether the authorities would be "proceeding according to the textbook" in giving him "due process."
A few days earlier on Tuesday's All In show, Hayes had fretted that any terror suspects might not be read Miranda rights as he called it a "disgrace" that Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins had recommended not doing so if any suspects turned out to be noncitizens.
A bit past 8:30 p.m. on Friday, as Pete Williams filled in viewers on the standoff, Hayes brought up Miranda rights as he posed:
ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday again offered the most biased coverage on the gay marriage case before the Supreme Court. All three network morning shows skipped specific mention of the multiple thousands who marched for traditional marriage on Tuesday. ABC, however, used loaded terms such as "marriage equality" rather than gay marriage. Reporter Terry Moran gushed over the liberal position: "This is a social movement, a 21st century social movement that arrived with astonishing speed at this court, driven by activists, by Hollywood in part and by young people, especially on social media." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
In contrast, he portrayed a skeptical Supreme Court as old and out of touch: "The wave of increasing support for gay marriage in America, especially among the young, is crashing on the Supreme Court and the justices, average age 67, seem downright perplexed." Moran highlighted the case of Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian whose case is before the Supreme Court. He sympathetically related, "when Thea died in 2009, Edie got hit with almost $400,000 in federal estate taxes, a penalty she would not have had to pay if she were married to a man."
At the top of Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie seemed to get swept up in the network's own one-sided reporting on the gay marriage cases before the Supreme Court, proclaiming: "Supreme decision. This nation's highest court taking up the divisive issue of same-sex marriage this morning. Will the justices make it legal in every state?"
In the report that followed, justice correspondent Pete Williams touted the anticipation of gay marriage supporters: "The day has finally come for the people who've lined up for days to see the historic argument....The two California couples at the heart of today's case are already here after a brief visit Monday to see the Constitution at the National Archives. Their lawyer says Prop 8 should be struck down because allowing them to get married would have no effect on traditional couples."
Sadly, MSNBC cannot follow sister network NBC’s lead in reporting the story of disgraced Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill) and his impending prison sentence for illegally using campaign funds for personal usage.
On the February 20 edition of NBC Nightly News as well as on the February 21 edition of Today, both shows correctly identify Jesse Jackson Jr. as a Democrat, but their MSNBC morning show Morning Joe skipped the important detail. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Williams conceded the the court had ruled correctly, but rather than chiding the president for violating his oath of office with unconstitutional appointments, he blamed Senate Republicans for driving Mr. Obama to do so. For his part, Roberts agreed, mumbling "mm hmm" in reply to the ex-lobbyist's partisan swipe [MP3 audio here; video follows page break]:
Reporting on the Supreme Court taking up the issue of gay marriage for the first time, on Friday's NBC Nightly News, justice correspondent Pete Williams proclaimed: "The fact that the Court has agreed to take up both cases could mean that the Justices are prepared to get to the heart of the same-sex marriage issue, and that could result in what would essentially be the Roe v. Wade of gay rights." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
At the top of the broadcast, anchor Brian Williams billed the upcoming report as "big news...that could change everything." Introducing a repeat of the story on Saturday's Today, co-host Lester Holt announced: "Game changer? The U.S. Supreme Court plans to tackle two cases involving same-sex marriage. So will this become the law of the land?"
The 2007 video of then-Senator Barack Obama hinting at racism in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina isn't the only news story that NBC's Todayshow stuck up its nose at during the first days of October. The morning newscast has conspicuously ignored covering the latest developments in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It hasn't devoted a full segment or even a news brief to the issue since September 29.
As Today devoted air time to how Mitt Romney's debate performance was supposedly "completely overshadowed" by "hunting" Big Bird, ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning devoted full reports on Monday to a former security official's charge that the State Department ignored repeated requests for extra security at the diplomatic facility in Libya.
Readers are advised to remove all food, fluids, and flammables from proximity to their computers before proceeding. You've been warned.
NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams on this weekend's syndicated Chris Matthews Show actually said that when it comes to nominating judges, "A Democratic president is more likely to appoint somebody near the middle who is less ideological" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As the weekend's syndicated Chris Matthews Show concluded, the entire panel chose political figures echoing sentiments either from the left or at least in criticism of conservatives to answer host Matthews's "Big Question" of who has "made a big, gutsy decision so far this year."
NBC's Nightly News on Friday offered a one-sided segment touting Barack Obama's decision to lift the threat of deportation to young people who came to America illegally. The Pete Williams report featured six clips of individuals or groups thrilled by the reaction, only two against and one nuanced response by Mitt Romney.
Williams began by touting, "Young people covered by the new policy cheered the announcement outside the White House." An unidentified woman enthused, "I can't describe it. It's so amazing. I'm so happy." A crowd in front of the White House chanted, "Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes, we did!"
On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams accused a federal judge of bringing politics into the judicial process simply by ordering the Justice Department to explain controversial comments President Obama made against the Supreme Court: "Politics are ideally supposed to stay out of the nation's courtrooms, but that's not what happened this week in a federal courtroom in Texas."
In report that followed, correspondent Pete Williams proclaimed: "The political controversy spilled into a Texas federal court, where the rules are designed to filter out politics, interrupting arguments about a challenge to part of the Obama health care law." Williams noted how Judge Jerry Smith "put a Justice Department lawyer on the spot" to explain the President's attack on the court system and made sure to point out that Smith was "a Reagan appointee."
Imagine that one of the FBI's most wanted mobsters had a brother who for decades had been a Republican power broker in a deep red state like say Texas. On top of that, that Republican party boss may have helped his brother flee justice. Imagine that that mob boss was arrested last night after 16 years on the lam.
MSNBC would most certainly report not just the capture but the political connections of the mobster's brother, right?
Borrowing the phraseology of left-wing bloggers, NBC Justice correspondent Pete Williams has (so far) thrice invoked Nazi terminology to describe SB-1070, the Arizona immigration law that continues to be the object of liberal scorn.
The first reference occurred today during the 10 a.m. EDT hour of "Jansing & Co.," when Williams called the state measure the "show us your papers law."
Moments later, Williams led the top of 11 a.m. EDT hour of "MSNBC Live" by repeating the "show us your papers" line.
The NBC correspondent took a break for about an hour before rephrasing the legislation during the 12 p.m. EDT hour as the "round up the usual suspects law."
When reporting on the nationality of a criminal from another country who has already been arrested, it normally would be considered unnecessary or even uncalled for to take the extra step of explicitly identifying the suspect’s ethnicity or religious affiliation as well. But, given that Israelis, the vast majority of whom are Jewish, often face sharp criticism and negative press reaction over conflicts with their Arab neighbors – inflaming anti-Semitic sentiment – if an Israeli citizen who is non-Jewish is implicated in a violent crime, informing viewers that he is non-Jewish would seem to be in order.
But so far in the media coverage of serial stabber Elias Abuelazam’s arrest, some major news shows on both broadcast and news networks have avoided explicitly informing viewers that he is not a Jewish Israeli, while others have been more upfront with viewers on the subject. CNN’s The Situation Room, the NBC Nightly News, FNC’s Fox and Friends, and CBS’s The Early Show all have directly relayed to viewers at least once that Abuelazam is an Israeli Arab. But ABC’s World News, the CBS Evening News, FNC’s Fox Report, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN’s American Morning and NBC’s Today show have all avoided such a direct identification of ethnicity.
While Thursday reports on both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today featured Proposition 8 supporters questioning the impartiality of California Federal Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to strike down the state's referendum defending traditional marriage, CBS's Early Show failed to provide any such arguments.
On Good Morning America, correspondent Terry Moran explained: "Opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to fight on and blasted the judge for, they said, letting personal interests trump his legal duty." A clip was played of one Proposition 8 supporter: "The judge has imposed his own agenda upon the voters and the children and the parents of California."
On Today, legal correspondent Pete Williams noted: "But opponents of gay marriage, who supported Proposition 8, denounced the ruling and began preparing to fight back." Supporter Randy Thomasson explained: "The judge has shut the Constitution, imposed his own agenda. He's made a lot of people happy in the gay community in San Francisco, but he is the most dangerous type of judge in America."
The Early Show report by correspondent Priya David-Clemens only featured a couple brief sound bites of gay marriage opponents in "outright disbelief" of the ruling, but no specific criticisms of the judge being biased. In contrast, three sound bites in favor of the ruling were featured.
Of the three network morning shows, only Good Morning America noted that Judge Walker was himself openly gay. Introducing the segment, co-host George Stephanopoulos mentioned: "The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, a Republican first nominated for the bench by Ronald Reagan, he is also openly gay." Both the Early Show and Today skipped over that detail.
“For the first time, Americans got to see the woman President Obama called a ‘trailblazer’ in action,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer trumpeted Tuesday night before Jonathan Karl framed his story on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s hearing around how “a confirmation hearing isn't usually a laughing matter, but if we learned one thing about Elena Kagan today, it's that she has a sense of humor.” Like NBC, Karl featured Kagan joking about how she was probably at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day.
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, as well as CNN and FNC, highlighted Senator Jeff Sessions pressing Kagan on her treatment of military recruiters. Karl used the exchange to praise Kagan: “We also learned that Elena Kagan can take a punch. As when Republican Jeff Sessions slammed her decision as Harvard Law dean to ban military recruiters from the school's career office....She made no apologies for taking a strong stand against the military's ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy.”
CBS’s Jan Crawford declared Kagan “held her own, she was confident, showed flashes of wit, but she didn't break a lot of new ground,” while NBC’s Pete Williams touted how “she displayed flashes of humor.” (CNN expressed concern Kagan wasn’t liberal enough: “Some of her answers on hot-button issues may not please all of her fellow Democrats.” More below.)
Despite referring to it as "landmark" and "huge," the network morning shows on Tuesday mostly ignored Monday's Supreme Court ruling, which declared the Second Amendment a fundamental right that cannot be violated by state governments. Good Morning America, The Early Show and Today devoted just two minutes and 34 seconds to discussing the important decision.
ABC's GMA offered 21 seconds with a single Juju Chang news brief during the two hour program. This didn't stop the show's hosts from covering crucial topics, such as spending eight and a half minutes dissecting whether Michael Douglas' ex-wife deserves residuals from his upcoming Wall Street sequel.
CBS's Early Show allowed 25 seconds for Jan Crawford to explain the significance of the decision. Host Chris Wragge rushed, "Now what's the importance, if you can just tell us, quickly, of this 5-4 decision?"
All three network evening newscasts on Monday downplayed the start of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, with NBC Nightly News squeezing in just 24 seconds for Kagan at the tail end of a story about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor the 2nd Amendment. For their part, CBS and ABC offered full stories outlining Kagan’s first day before the Judiciary committee after packages devoted to the gun rights’ ruling.
Only CBS’s Jan Crawford suggested the hearings were more than a ritual leading to Kagan’s inevitable confirmation: “When President Obama nominated her in May, her confirmation was considered a sure bet. But Republicans are emboldened by what they see as a weakened president and sense that support for Kagan in the country has dropped.”
Both Crawford and ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl included Republican criticisms of Kagan’s lack of experience and the hostility to the military she displayed at the Harvard Law School. As for NBC, they mentioned none of those issues, and only included a brief soundbite of Kagan promising to be “impartial.”
Here’s the entirety of NBC’s brief discussion of Monday’s hearing:
The Monday morning shows on CBS, ABC, and NBC all worked to portray President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a moderate and open-minded legal scholar, downplaying her liberal views. All three network programs also minimized her controversial decision to ban military recruiters on campus while Dean of Harvard Law School.
On CBS's Early Show, legal correspondent Jan Crawford touted Kagan as "an intellectual heavyweight and consensus builder." Crawford noted how Republicans had "several lines of attack" against Kagan and would "try to paint her as a liberal activist." Crawford herself recently described Kagan as having "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left."
On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman did a fawning segment on Kagan in the 8AM ET hour, describing the former Dean as "intellectual" and "full of personal charm" during her tenure at Harvard. Shipman claimed that Kagan had "a determination to be open-minded," despite banning military recruiters from the university's campus over the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. On that issue, Shipman explained that despite Kagan's decision being unpopular "among student military vets....Iraq War veteran Kurt White says they were won over by Kagan's persistent outreach, another example of her political skills." Shipman failed to mention that White would be testifying on Kagan's behalf during the confirmation hearings.
In quite a contrast to the immediate tagging of the Bush and Obama Supreme Court nominees as “conservative” (and that includes Sonya Sotomayor), on Monday night ABC and NBC refrained from applying any ideological description to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan while CBS snuck in one. CBS's Jan Crawford declared “her career has put her solidly on the left,” but contended “she will have significant conservative support among academics and lawyers” and warned “that support alarms some liberals.”
Amongst the non-ideological superlatives: ABC's Diane Sawyer trumpeted the “historic nomination” of the “five foot three inch powerhouse,” CBS's Crawford insisted “her interests reflect her openness. She loves softball and poker” (poker reflects “openness”?) and NBC's Pete Williams hailed her as an “accomplished poker player, opera lover.”
ABC, CBS and NBC all highlighted Kagan's high school yearbook picture of her in a robe and holding a gavel (ABC's Moran: “Even in high school, check out her yearbook photo here, she had her sights set on the high court”), but none pointed out the explicitly very liberal polemical points she made just a year or two later, nor did CNN's The Situation Room.
Has the Obama administration compromised national security by leaking the fact that it's obtaining actionable intelligence from Umar Mutallab? On this afternoon's Hardball, Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported the breaking news that Obama admin officials have told him that the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Mutallab, is providing actionable, fresh intelligence.
Williams stated that officials told him the intelligence is "very valuable and still current" and that the government is "aggressively chasing down" the leads obtained.
All three morning shows on Wednesday highlighted the revelation that a conservative activist had been arrested in connection to an attempt to tamper with the phones of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Despite jumping on the "Louisiana Watergate" story only 17 hours after it was first reported, the networks took five days to file full reports on the same James O’Keefe and his undercover footage exposing corruption at ACORN.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, reporter Pierre Thomas recounted O’Keefe’s previous expose, charitably describing ACORN as "an advocacy group which helps the poor." On NBC’s Today, Pete Williams found sinister motives in right-wing outrage at the organization. He sneered, "Because ACORN helped register thousands of low income voters, Republicans pounced." (Could the illegal activities and voter fraud associated with the group have been another reason for GOP attacks?)
Tuesday night ABC's Brian Ross highlighted how in a 2007 presentation mass-murdering Army Major Nidal Hasan exposed his radicalism and adherence to Islam over the U.S. Army as he charged “it's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims,” and declared: “We love death more than you love life.”
But neither CBS nor NBC cited those quotes for their viewers as they gave short-shrift to Hasan's remarks in “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military,” a slide show disclosed by Dana Priest in Tuesday's Washington Post (click on “Launch Photo Gallery” for Hasan's entire presentation at Walter Reed in June of 2007).
On the NBC Nightly News, Pete Williams just briefly noted how Hasan asserted that “releasing Muslim soldiers as conscientious objectors would increase troop morale and, quote, 'decrease adverse events.'” Bob Orr, on CBS, at least characterized it as “a shocking presentation to colleagues,” and related only how “Hasan argued forcing Muslim soldiers to fight wars in Muslim countries puts them 'at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly' and he ominously warned of 'adverse events.'”