At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill teased a report on Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland: "...it's a rather controversial visit for a number of reasons." Later, correspondent Richard Roth proclaimed the state visit "has more pomp and potentially more problems" and would "bound to be shadowed by controversy along with ceremony."
Roth went on to tout a gaffe made by a Papal aide prior to the trip and noted how the Pope "courts criticism on a range of issues, from the visit's cost – figured at around $20 million – to the cover-up of sex abuse among Catholic clergyman." He also highlighted predictions of low turnouts at Papal events during the visit: "[Benedict's] welcome will be measured, in part, by the size of his crowds. Some Church officials this morning were already lowering expectations, saying seats were still unsold for several outdoor events." In fact, about 125,00 people lined the streets of Edinburgh to see the Pope's motorcade, with 65,000 attending a later outdoor mass.
The only positive comment about the Papal visit was a sound bite of Queen Elizabeth welcoming the Pontiff: "On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, I wish you a most fruitful and memorable visit." Roth concluded his report this way: "This is a country with a strong anti-clerical streak and a critical press. But, one leading paper's comment here that Benedict's 'entering the lion's den,' may also reflect a flare for dramatic overstatement."
After initially lagging behind the other networks in even mentioning the Gaza-bound flotilla's connections to terrorist groups, on Wednesday CBS finally noted the existence of such ties, and on the same day NBC caught up with CBS in highlighting calls for Israel to end its blockade. Without directly relaying to viewers that the Israelis already allow tons of aid into Gaza on a regular basis, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell began her report: "Tonight there is worldwide pressure on Israel to end its three-year blockade of Gaza, except for the United States. The White House is simply telling Israel it must guarantee better deliveries of aid."
After showing a clip of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arguing that there is plenty of food and medicine in Gaza, Mitchell continued: "That is not what NBC News witnessed in Gaza today. Muhammed Abidrabu and his family of 12 live in two tents. Their home was destroyed when Israel invaded a year and a half ago. In the cooking area, only some cooking oil and a small bag of vegetables. A million and a half people live here, strangled by poverty, unemployment and hopelessness."
While the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC have all failed to remind viewers that Israel allows regular aid shipments into Gaza over land from its side of the border, on Tuesday’s CBS Evening News correspondent Richard Roth highlighted complaints about the effect of the blockade on Gaza residents, used a soundbite of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to argue that "even [Israel’s] friends question the effect," and even noted that Egypt was opening its border with Gaza for humanitarian aid – all while still not informing viewers that the Israelis regularly screen aid shipments and allow them into Gaza.
RICHARD ROTH: The U.N. says 70 percent of its million and a half people live on less than a dollar a day. Smuggling through tunnels to Egypt provides much of what Gazans need but at prices not many can afford. Israel says the aim of the blockade is to control terrorism, but even its friends question the effect.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable.
ROTH: Wary of sharing blame, Egypt's now opened its own border with Gaza – for humanitarian reasons, said Cairo – but probably not for long.
On the same day’s The Early Show, CBS anchor Betty Nguyen also noted Egypt’s actions: "This morning, Egypt has temporarily opened its border with Gaza to let in aid shipments after Israel's raid that killed nine people on a humanitarian flotilla."
Similarly, during the war in Gaza from late December 2008 to January 2009, CBS was the network most likely to air complaints about the blockade’s effect on the people of Gaza, and the least likely to report that humanitarian aid was being transported into the Gaza Strip.
For CBS News viewers following the first week of the Israeli military’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which news shows began reporting the morning of Saturday, December 27, 2008, one could easily have gotten the impression that Israel was starving the people of Gaza by barring food entry as part of its blockade, as the network’s newscasts – The Early Show and the CBS Evening News – not only ignored news of aid shipments being allowed to cross Israel’s border into the Gaza Strip – which did receive a little attention from evening and morning newscasts on the other broadcast and news networks – but CBS also ran reports about the Israeli military blocking food and other aid into the territory. On the December 29 Evening News, correspondent Sheila MacVicar claimed: "But the violence was not one-sided. Israel carried out targeted killings, and more importantly, for the people of Gaza, imposed and tightened an economic blockade that cut off supplies of food, medicine and even electricity." During the second week of the war, on the January 7 The Early Show, correspondent Richard Roth even gave the impression that aid had not been allowed into Gaza in weeks as he reported on the humanitarian ceasefire: "Trucks full of food, water, medical supplies and fuel started moving after waiting for weeks on Israel's side of the Gaza border."
On Saturday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Jeff Glor teased an upcoming story on Switzerland’s health care system by wondering: "Could Switzerland’s health care be a model for America?" He later introduced the segment by claiming that the Swiss system could be "a glimpse of what the U.S. health care system of the future might look like."
Correspondent Richard Roth touted the Swiss "love of capitalism," but then went on to praise their socialized health care system: "The law, finally approved in a 1994 national referendum, guaranteed health care for everyone by requiring everyone to have insurance....They choose their own doctors and their own insurance company, and the whole country is covered....Switzerland devised a health care system that’s been praised as efficient and neutral. Basic insurance is the same price for everyone."
Roth did manage to find one flaw: "...it’s turned out to be expensive....No one goes broke from getting sick, but health care’s cost to the economy here is higher than anywhere except the U.S." However, as he talked to the Swiss director of the Federal Office of Public Health, Thomas Zeltner, Roth described the problem this way: "What you built here was a Rolex, and really, perhaps, you should have made a Timex." Zeltner replied: "It is a Rolex. You’re right. It should not just look like a Rolex, but also work like a Rolex." Roth concluded: "It does, and the Swiss love it..."
NBC's Anne Thompson, on Monday's Today, covered the Climategate story only to essentially dismiss it in a nothing-to-see here, move along fashion. CBS's The Early Show had a brief mention of it, and ABC's Good Morning America did nothing. Thompson, reporting live from Copenhagen, opened her piece declaring that delegates determined "this could be their last best chance to deal with the consequences of climate change," but then added "overshadowing all of this is a scandal involving some stolen e-mails that has skeptics, once again, questioning the whole idea of global warming."
Thompson went on to air criticism from Professor Ian Plimer, of the University of Adelaide who charged, "There's data being massaged," but then devoted the rest of her piece to confirming the existence of climate change, even allowing a Penn State scientist, who appeared in the e-mail exchange, to defend the use of the term "trick," by a colleague as he claimed: "What the person meant was it was a clever approach to the problem."
Who says Pres. Obama isn't backing the Iranian uprising strongly enough? Why, supporters of the struggle have chosen to immortalize Neda, the young student reportedly slain by the current regime, by creating a poster of her in the style of the iconic Obama poster made famous during his presidential campaign.
Might that have been CBS's subliminal message this morning? Of all the possible posters of the fallen girl who has become the symbol of the Iranian uprising, the Early Show chose the one displayed here in the unmistakeable style Shepard Fairey used to create his Obama poster [displayed after the break].
On Monday, correspondent Richard Roth gave a glowing report on President and Michelle Obama in Paris: "The big tourist treat in Paris this weekend was for the tourists treated to a sight of the Obamas driving by. For the President and First Lady, the treat may have been a European reprise of their date night in New York a week ago."
Reporting for the Early Show, Roth also emphasized the idea that no one in Paris was "inconvenienced" by the Obamas’ visit: "Other tourists at the Eiffel Tower Friday night were surprised when the First Lady and the Obama girls turned up, but not much inconvenienced...And no whining, at least certainly not in public, though what's to complain about when the Pompidou Center’s been opened, especially for a presidential family viewing of modern art and the day's capped with a bit of shopping at a Left Bank children's boutique."
Following Roth’s report, fill-in co-host Debbye Turner Bell showed how impressed she was with the President’s romantic getaway, remarking: "My husband’s got a lot of explaining to do." Co-host Russ Mitchell jokingly added: "If you’re a guy and your name is not Barack Obama, this is not good news. There’s nothing good about this." Bell agreed: "The bar has been raised." Later, weatherman Dave Price concluded: "No, you know what? I think it's great. I said it before. You know, whether it would be President Bush or another president, I think it's great. You know, you try and have some semblance of a – of a relationship or a family life."
On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Richard Roth reported on the outcome of the Israeli election and a possible victory for the conservative parties led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "So, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims victory, too, with fewer votes, but it's believed more support from his traditional allies in right wing parties...there's a clear sign Israel shifted to the right. It may take weeks to create the next government here, but whoever leads it, is likely to have obligations to parties on the fringe of Israeli politics." Roth also pointed out that conservative victories may hinder Obama foreign policy: "And that could be a setback for the White House, eager to restart a peace process in the Middle East."
Back in 1996, when Netanyahu first served as Israel’s prime minister, CBS had similar concerns about his "right-wing" leanings. On the May 31 Evening News of that year, then anchor Dan Rather described Netanyahu’s election: "Right-wing hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu is declared Israel's new Prime Minister." During CBS’s This Morning that same day, then co-host Harry Smith asked: "Let's talk about his words for a second. Because it's not that many months ago that a lot of people were accusing Bibi Netanyahu of fanning the flames of the Israeli right, of setting the rhetorical tone for [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin's assassination."
In a report on Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Richard Roth declared: "With Gaza City bombed and burning, Palestinians heeded Israel's warning to get out of the way, but found they had nowhere to go...Not the U.N. compound, where 700 people took shelter. Israeli artillery hit it, then hit it again...Israel claimed it was returning fire from militants. Burning with rage, the U.N. denies that."
Roth quoted one Israeli General: "We need to use force like Americans in Iraq. Hamas needs to be snuffed out." He went on to describe other victims of Israeli attacks: "But the attack also hit the Reuters News Agency office, threatening the small press corps in Gaza, which Israel is keeping small by keeping most foreign reporters out. Two journalists from Abu Dhabi were wounded. And at Gaza's biggest hospital, there were more small children in the stream of casualties than men of fighting age. Palestinians say the war's death toll is above 1,000 now, with at least half the casualties civilians."
One bright spot last week in CBS’s coverage of the war between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas came on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News as correspondent Richard Roth filed a story exploring Israeli life under a "siege mentality." Roth: " Spend a while in earshot of an air raid siren or cramped in a shelter, and it's hard not to have some sympathy. Or, if you want to understand what pushed Israelis past their limit, they'll tell you, just take a look at the numbers. Since the first one almost eight years ago, the army says more than 11,000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel."
But CBS was only starting to catch up with NBC, which had previously devoted two full stories to the situation in Sderot, Israel. After the Sunday, January 5, NBC Nightly News showed the first report, which was previously documented by Newsbusters, on Monday, January 5, correspondent Martin Fletcher filed a second piece for the show, as he spent time with a firefighter in Sderot who had been one of the Israeli settlers forced by the Israeli government to leave Gaza in 2005 in an attempt to make peace with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Fletcher noted the failure of Israel’s withdrawal: "Israel gave the land back to the Palestinians, hoping for peace. It didn't happen. The conflict continued. And now rockets are fired from his old home."
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has long been a pro-Palestinian activist and critic of Israel, and who, according to an article released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), once expressed agreement with the 9/11 attacks which he considered to be a justified attack on civilians, has been seen numerous times in the last couple of weeks on broadcast network news shows – primarily on CBS and NBC. Without mentioning his extreme views, anchors and correspondents have treated him as a trustworthy source, as if he were a neutral foreign observer, regarding civilian casualties arriving at Shifa Hospital in Gaza amid the Israeli campaign against Hamas. But, according to CAMERA: "When asked by Dagbladet (a Norwegian publication) if he supported the terrorist attack on the U.S., he replied: 'Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.' (Sept. 30, 2001)"
The article "Norwegian Doctors in Gaza: Objective Observers or Partisan Propagandists?" by Ricki Hollander, can be found here.
On the January 5 The Early Show, correspondent Mark Phillips cited Gilbert’s charges that Israel was conducting an "all-out war against civilians" as "compelling evidence" contradicting "repeated claims by Israelis that civilians are not being targeted." Phillips: "Despite repeated claims by the Israelis that civilians are not being targeted and that they are even being warned by leaflets and phone calls to stay away from target sites, the dead and injured continue to be brought into Gaza's overrun hospitals. And the evidence provided by foreign doctors in Gaza is compelling." Then came a clip of Gilbert: "So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers."
According to CBS correspondent Richard Roth, in a report on Monday’s CBS Early about an Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at President Bush during a Baghdad press conference, the incident was reminiscent of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein five years earlier: "Mr. Bush's message of progress was eclipsed in Baghdad by a sign of his unpopularity...The symbolism wouldn't have been lost on Iraqis, for whom shoes can be used to show extreme contempt, as with the footwear beaten against the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by Marines five years ago."
At the top of the show, co-host Harry Smith teased the story: "So the tabloids in New York are having a field day with the shoe attack on President Bush in Iraq. The Daily News calls it a ‘Shoe-icide Attack.’ And then the Post calls it ‘Lame Duck’." After Roth’s report, Smith looked at the video of Bush’s reaction and observed: "I mean, look at the president's face, look at the look on his face...He's amused almost by this." Co-host Julie Chen then chimed in: "He looked more embarrassed. I mean, he turned a little bit beet red afterwards."
Chen later remarked: "And he did kind of shoo off the Secret Service agent who came up-" Co-host Maggie Rodriguez interjected: "No pun intended." Chen didn’t understand the pun at first, but then added: "I didn't mean that! Hey, I'm wittier than I think this morning." In May, Chen thought Hawaii was in the Atlantic Ocean.