Friday's CBS Evening News
led again with the Foley/page scandal, even though the two stories aired offered virtually no fresh information, as anchor Katie Couric justified the news judgment by declaring the issue is “still the talk of the town,” “is not going away” and “is overshadowing every other election issue for the moment” -- all self-fulfilling assessments sustained by the decisions of Couric and her media colleagues. Couric then moved on to Republican Senator John Warner's warning that Iraq is drifting “side-wise,” a comment trumpeted by Brian Williams at the start of the NBC Nightly News
, which also led with the page scandal: “When a key Republican Senator comes home from Iraq and says the U.S. has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?”
Buried: The drop in the unemployment rate. ABC's World News
, which unlike CBS and NBC, led with something other than the Foley fallout (the fire at a chemical plant in North Carolina), ignored it. CBS Evening News
viewers only heard of the positive trend from a clip of President Bush in the middle of Gloria Borger's lead story on how the parties are reacting to the Foley matter: “Today we got more good news: National unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent." Only NBC offered an actual news report, 20 seconds in length, on the latest numbers.
And yes, Warner said “side-wise.” I presume he meant “sideways.”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth reviewed the newscasts for me tonight to track how each treated the unemployment news.
The brief October 6 NBC Nightly News
item on unemployment, as read by Brian Williams:
"News on the economy and job front tonight, it's a bit of a mixed picture. While the U.S. job market grew by only 51,000 jobs across the whole country last month, the previous two months were revised upward, and the unemployment rate did tick down a notch to 4.6 percent."
Katie Couric teased the October 6 CBS Evening News
“Tonight, the Foley factor. The man who's not running is suddenly becoming a big issue in race after race in the battle for Congress.”
Couric then led her newscast:
“Hi, everyone. Well, tonight it's still the talk of the town. Election day is about a month away now and Republicans are worried about the fallout from the Foley page scandal. It is not going away. It's been one week now since the story broke and Congressman Mark Foley resigned and since then it's been one revelation after another with more e-mails, hand wringing and finger pointing -- all as Republicans and Democrats are battling for control of Congress. So is this Washington scandal reverberating outside the beltway? We asked two of our correspondents to take the temperature, beginning tonight with Gloria Borger.”
Borger's story looked at how the parties are reacting to the scandal, highlighted by New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Tom Kean's call for the resignation of House Speaker Denny Hastert. She also included the above-quoted soundbite of Bush, the only mention of the falling unemployment rate, to illustrate how Republicans are trying to get back to their issues: “Today we got more good news: National unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent.”
After Borger, Couric went to reporter Lee Cowan for the opinions of people in Columbus, Ohio.
Couric then highlighted some more bad news for Republicans:
“This scandal is overshadowing every other election issue for the moment, but Iraq is still a big issue for the Republicans and now a leading member of the party may have made it even bigger. Jim Axelrod has that story. Jim?”
Jim Axelrod: “Katie, the Foley scandal would be big enough if that were the only issue facing Republicans, but it's not. A usually strong ally of the President on the war in Iraq is now wavering. It's been one of the bloodiest periods in the entire Iraq war, with 35 American troops killed in the last ten days. And now Senator John Warner, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is just back from Iraq with a sobering warning.”
Senator John Warner: “It seems to me that the situation is simply drifting side-wise.”
Axelrod: “Warner's a long-time supporter of the war, a former Secretary of the Navy and a loyal Republican.”
Warner: “In two or three months if this thing hasn't come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine is there a change of course that we should take?”
Axelrod: “I ran the 'drifting side-wise' comment by a senior White House official and he said, given the way things have been going in Iraq lately, he hardly considers that to be deep criticism. Katie?”