"Lecture" & "Tongue Lashing"; "Paying Price" for Standing with NRA?; Rather Slammed Condit Story But Spread Rumor in 2000
1) Dan Rather portrayed President Bush as being on the
"receiving end today of a lecture from the Pope" and "an
international tongue lashing over global warming." ABC's Peter
Jennings saw only benefits to what the Pope opposes as he stressed how
experimenting on human embryos "might lead to a cure for some very
serious diseases." NBC's David Gregory rued how the Pope "only
made it harder" for Bush to determine what is the "right thing
to do on stem cell research." On global warming, ABC's Bob Jamieson
let viewers in on points rarely heard on network TV.
2) Dan Rather on Friday: "President Bush can count on
the NRA among his most ardent supporters because of its pro-gun rights
policies. But is the President paying a price for that backing? ....One of
the Attorney General's positions is costing him the support of some people
who might otherwise be his allies."
3) Media Reality Check "Quick Take" distributed
by fax on Monday afternoon: "'High Road' Anchor Baselessly
Slammed GOP in 2000. CBS's Dan Rather Condemns Condit News as
'Speculation,' but He Aired False Report of GOP Dirty Trick."
4) "Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos
and Claire Shipman"? Stephanopoulos is filling-in all week as co-host
of GMA. USA Today reported it's part of a tryout to find a replacement
for Charles Gibson.
Rather on Monday night portrayed President Bush as being on the receiving
end of rebukes from both the Pope and the "international"
community as he teased the July 23 CBS Evening News: "A world of
pressure on the President. President Bush gets a papal lecture about
embryonic stem cell research and an international tongue lashing over
CBS reporter John Roberts soon claimed that
"Mr. Bush found himself right back in the European pressure
cooker" as the Pope "injected himself into the intensifying
debate over federal funding of stem cell research." On global
warming, Roberts only relayed the liberal environmentalist line, but over
on ABC Bob Jamieson gave rare network air time to noting how the Kyoto
treaty exempts India and China and he allowed a conservative to point out
that "if every nation on Earth that had signed the Kyoto Protocol
actually lived up to its stipulations, temperatures would only be
one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit cooler than they would have been
ABC anchor Peter Jennings didn't see an
aggressive Pope on the attack, but did see only benefits for the research
the Pope opposes, as Jennings referred to how experimenting on human
embryos "might lead to a cure for some very serious diseases,
including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."
NBC's Brian Williams offered that spin, but
also added the contrasting perspective: "Others say it is tinkering
with sacred human life." The Pope "only made it harder" for
Bush to determine what is the "right thing to do on stem cell
research," NBC reporter David Gregory asserted seconds later. But he
made it harder for Bush only if you assume his position is wrong.
More details about coverage of Bush in Europe
on the three broadcast network evening shows on Monday, July 23:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
opened the show: "Good evening everyone. The President saw the Pope
today and the Pope told the President in no uncertain terms that research
involving embryonic stem cells was an evil on the same level as
infanticide. The debate about experimenting on human embryos, which might
lead to a cure for some very serious diseases, including Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's, has been on the President's mind for many weeks and has,
as you know, become a very intense political as well as a moral
-- CBS Evening News. After the above quoted
tease, Dan Rather began his program: "President Bush is ending up his
European trip in the spotlight and on the spot on several policy issues
that could have lasting global impact. There's the sudden surprise word
that U.S. talks with Russia could link the missile shield plan that Mr.
Bush wants to a deal Russia's President Putin wants on nuclear weapons
reduction. More about that shortly. First, President Bush found himself on
the receiving end today of a lecture from the Pope on embryonic stem cell
research. And a steaming rebuke from world leaders about global
John Roberts started his subsequent piece, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "This was supposed to be
the easy part of the President's trip after a weekend of taking fire
from G-8 leaders on global warming. Instead, Mr. Bush found himself right
back in the European pressure cooker. First, it was the Pope who injected
himself into the intensifying debate over federal funding of stem cell
research, urging the President to reject what he termed 'the evils of
destroying embryos in the name of science.'"
Bush: "Of course I'll take that point of
view into consideration."
Roberts: "The admonition forced out a
president reluctant to talk about his decision on stem cells. Mr. Bush
today detailed an agonizing process, weighing the promise of embryonic
research against its profound moral implications."
After a clip of Bush saying the process has
"been deliberative," Roberts moved on: "At almost the same
time, in Bonn, negotiators from 178 countries forged a united front
against the President on global warming. After a marathon negotiating
session, they defiantly announced they had rescued the Kyoto treaty the
President had tried to kill. America's allies vowed to ratify the treaty
to reduce greenhouse gases in the next year and persuade President Bush to
drop his opposition to the pact. Not likely, said the national security
Condoleezza Rice: "But the United States
believes that this particular protocol is not in its interests nor do we
believe that it really addresses the problem of global climate
Roberts concluded: "The Bonn agreement
seemed to kill any chance the White House had to build momentum for a
compromise to Kyoto while the Pope's warning raised the political stakes
on the issue of stem cells. Mr. Bush found out today that on the world
stage, the spotlight can be harsh."
More like a "harsh" spotlight from
Over on ABC, viewers heard some points rarely
voiced on network television. On Monday's World News Tonight Bob
Jamieson looked at the Bonn meeting where 170 nations voted to keep Kyoto
alive. He showed the delegates booing the U.S. representatives and let a
guy from the NRDC blast the U.S. as a "climate outlaw." But then
he let viewers hear Bush's reasoning, noting that Kyoto "exempts
China and India, even though within decades they will be the world's
biggest polluters. And the administration believes it will produce little
Jerry Taylor, Cato Institute: "If every
nation on Earth that had signed the Kyoto Protocol actually lived up to
its stipulations, temperatures would only be one-tenth of a degree
Fahrenheit cooler than hey would have been otherwise. That doesn't give
us a whole lot of bang for the buck."
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams
opened the show with a more-balanced presentation than did ABC's
Jennings and without Rather's condescending attitude about a
"lecture" from the Pope: "Good evening. They are arguably
the two most powerful men in the world: the American President George W.
Bush and Pope John Paul II. On the agenda during their meeting today, what
is rapidly becoming one of the most emotional, polarizing and
controversial issues of our time -- the use of cells from human embryos
for research. Some insist it is the route to a cure for many diseases.
Others say it is tinkering with sacred human life. Today the Pope made his
position very clear as the President prepares to make a decision."
After running a clip of Bush saying the U.S.
will go forward with missile defense even if testing violates the ABM
treaty because it's the "right thing to do," David Gregory
concluded by lamenting:
"But determining the right thing to do on
stem cell research has not been so easy for Mr. Bush, and today the Pope
only made it harder. The President said he is still studying several
compromise options, but no one can predict when he'll make up his
Apparently, Gregory has already made up his
Dan Rather two months to decide that the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit tale was
worth one story, but on Friday night, without any actual events to justify
a story, the CBS Evening News self-generated its own story about how bad
it is that John Ashcroft is in bed with the NRA.
Picking up on the view of one police union,
Rather suggested that Ashcroft's position on gun rights "is costing
him the support of some people who might otherwise be his allies."
Reporter Jim Stewart concluded the one-sided story by snidely recalling:
"An NRA Vice President predicted last year that if Bush were elected,
they would quote, 'work out of the White House.' This kind of early
success, however, has to exceed even the NRA's highest expectations."
And that's not a good thing to CBS News.
Rather set up the July 20 polemic:
"President Bush can count on the NRA among his most ardent supporters
because of its pro-gun rights policies. But is the President paying a
price for that backing? As CBS's Jim Stewart reports, one of the Attorney
General's positions is costing him the support of some people who might
otherwise be his allies."
Stewart began: "Attorney General John
Ashcroft's idea to throw away all the criminal background check
information on gun buyers just one day after their purchase is suddenly
running into opposition from law enforcement. This week the International
Brotherhood of Police Officers said they simply want more time to check
sales records for criminal activity."
Sergeant Marc Lawson, International Brotherhood
of Police Officers: "It's an opportunity to double check, maybe even
triple check, or to evaluate any glitches in the system."
Without bothering to explain Ashcroft's
reasoning, Stewart continued: "The FBI, too, under former Director
Louie Freeh, is on record asking that the documents be kept for a minimum
of 90 days, which is the current rule, and sources say the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was never consulted about the change and
disagrees with Ashcroft. Still, Ashcroft's proposal is just one of several
recent Bush administration initiatives championed by the gun lobby.
Earlier this month Undersecretary of State John Bolton opposed a small
arms agreement at the UN on the grounds it would constrain arms sales by
Undersecretary of State John Bolton: "The
United States believes that the responsible use of firearms is a
legitimate aspect of national life."
Stewart: "While earlier, in a letter to the
National Rifle Association, Ashcroft eagerly agreed with the NRA's
constitutional interpretation of gun ownership rights, a view critics
believe will only inspire more challenges to current gun control laws.
It's all enough to cheer the heart of any gun lobbyist. An NRA vice
president predicted last year that if Bush were elected, they would quote,
'work out of the White House.' This kind of early success, however,
has to exceed even the NRA's highest expectations."
On keeping the records of gun buyers, what
happened to the media's vaunted concern for the people's "right
MRC's July 23 Media Reality Check "Quick Take" distributed by
fax on Monday afternoon: "'HIGH ROAD' ANCHOR BASELESSLY SLAMMED
GOP IN 2000. CBS'S DAN RATHER CONDEMNS CONDIT NEWS AS 'SPECULATION,'
BUT HE AIRED FALSE REPORT OF GOP DIRTY TRICK."
To view this online as fax recipients saw it,
access the Adobe Acrobat version:
For the "Quick Take" fax the MRC's
Rich Noyes took what Rather told the New York Times on Monday, about how
he avoided Levy/Condit because of his distaste for the "gossip"
and "speculation' which overshadowed "facts," and
contrasted it to how last August he opened the CBS Evening News by
implicating the "Republican-backed" independent counsel in a
leak aimed at ruining Al Gore's big convention acceptance night, a leak
later traced to a judge appointed by former President Carter, a Democrat.
The text of the July 23 Media Reality Check:
Dan Rather insists that his non-coverage of the scandal surrounding
Democratic Congressman Gary Condit is a journalistic virtue, not
head-in-the-sand foolishness. An article in Monday's New York Times
quoted the CBS Evening News anchor's explanation of his own rules for
good reporting: "I've tried to stand for what I believe in --
decent, responsible journalism....When rumors, gossip, speculation and all
this other stuff begin swirling, and other people begin reporting it --
frequently, I'm sorry to say, reporting it as fact -- my question always
was, and continues to be, what do we know on the basis of our own
On Thursday's Imus in the Morning radio program, Rather similarly
claimed to be "high road, hard news," but during last year's
political campaign he presented his own speculation as news, baselessly
accusing Republicans of detonating "a carefully orchestrated,
politically motivated leak" on the last day of the Democratic
National Convention. Here's how Rather began the August 17, 2000 CBS
"Timing is everything. Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as
the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, and now Gore must do so
against the backdrop of a potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated
story leak about President Clinton. The story is that Republican-backed
special prosecutor Robert Ray, Ken Starr's successor, has a new grand
jury looking into possible criminal charges against the President growing
out of Mr. Clinton's sex life."
In fact, the story about the Clinton grand jury probe was accidentally
leaked to an Associated Press reporter by a federal judge appointed by
Democratic President Jimmy Carter. But Rather's ignorance of the facts
did not restrain his later prime time speculation about the
"You don't have to be a cynic to note that this has all the
earmarks of a carefully orchestrated, politically motivated leak,"
Rather wrote at the time in a "Notebook" item for the CBS News
Web site. While he now lectures the rest of the media about restraint,
Rather has never apologized for the damage that his wild speculation may
have caused to Ray or others. The CBS Evening News, however, did correct
itself on Friday, August 18, 2000 -- when Rather was enjoying a
END Reprint of Media Reality Check "Quick
To view a RealPlayer clip of Rather opening
the August 17, 2000 CBS Evening News, go to:
For more on how Rather and others treated the
leak, go to:
Morning America with George Stephanopoulos and Claire Shipman"?
Stephanopoulos is filling in all of this week for Charles Gibson on GMA
and on Monday USA Today reported it's part of a tryout to find a
successor to Charles Gibson who, along with Diane Sawyer, may soon want to
move on from what was supposed to be a short-term assignment to rescue the
In his July 23 "Inside TV" column,
USA Today's Peter Johnson reported about the former Clintonista:
"Although Jack Ford remains Gibson's main
substitute, ABC executives are still unclear about who'll succeed Gibson.
White House correspondent Terry Moran subbed recently, and now
Stephanopoulos is getting a shot -- the first time he has subbed for a
whole week. 'I'm always looking for new ways to stretch,'
Stephanopoulos says, 'but I don't think Charlie has anything to worry
Let's hope not. Gibson may tilt a bit to the
left, but he's a model of balance compared to Ford, Moran and
Stephanopoulos. But so far this week Stephanopoulos has hardly been able
to touch any politics as he is hosting the show's week-long look at
wedding planning -- just in time for his wedding this fall to actress
Alexandra Wentworth. -- Brent Baker
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