Americans 1st, Journalists 2nd; Bush Scolded for Invoking God; Bin Laden: "Hope for Suffering People"; Bill Maher on the Defense
1) Americans first and journalists second, at least for
now. CBS's Dan Rather pledged to give the government "the benefit
of any doubt" because "I want to fulfill my role as a decent
human member of the community and a decent and patriotic American."
The VP of NBC News urged his staff to be careful not to report any secrets
which may place the U.S. military in danger.
2) More media plaudits for Bush's speech on Friday's
morning shows. He even won over Bryant Gumbel, who conceded "the
President did well in his speech," and Juan Williams, who gushed on
Fox News Sunday: "I just thought he was spectacular."
3) "Invoking God, saying God's on our side, we need
to keep this secular," Newsweek's Eleanor Clift lambasted President
Bush in reviewing his address to Congress.
4) NPR's Nina Totenberg denounced the "silly season
of thinking that there is really no need for a federal government" as
she used the terrorist attacks as an opportunity to spout off about how
they demonstrate the necessity for the federal government.
5) A Friday night ABC News special featured a journalist
who claimed people "suffering in the world, seeing their children die
of preventable disease" support Osama bin Laden because he represents
"the hope for suffering people of a solution to their
6) After the initial video showing celebrating
Palestinians no one dared record more video. The Weekly Standard revealed
the Palestinian threat: "Anyone who tried to film or photograph
cheering Palestinians after that first disastrous bit of footage was
released might have gotten himself killed."
7) Bill Maher has gone on a media offensive to explain his
characterization of Americans as "cowards" for "lobbing
cruise missiles from 2000 miles away." But ABC's Washington, DC
affiliate dropped his show as Sears joined FedEx in pulling its ads.
8) A sign the U.S. is getting back to normal: The Miss
America pageant on ABC featured contestants delivering banal liberal
political pronouncements about campaign finance reform, gun control and
Correction: In the rush to transcribe network comments after President
Bush's Thursday night speech to Congress, the September 21 CyberAlert
quoted Howard Fineman as referring to "movie director Frank
Kaplan" and Tom Brokaw citing "Evan R. Murrow." Those names
should have read Frank "Capra" and "Edward" R. Murrow.
Dan Rather pledged to give the government "the benefit of any
doubt" in the early days of this crisis and the Vice President of NBC
News has promised to put patriotism ahead of putting out news which may
place Americans in danger.
While Rather declines to wear a flag or ribbon
on the air because, he asserted, "I have the flag burned in my heart,
and I have ever since infancy," on CNN on Saturday he promised:
"I want to fulfill my role as a decent human member of the community
and a decent and patriotic American. And therefore, I am willing to give
the government, the President and the military the benefit of any doubt
here in the beginning."
Last week, USA Today quoted a memo from NBC
News Vice President Bill Wheatley in which he urged his staff to
"please take great care to make sure that our broadcasts don't
inadvertently pass along information that could prove helpful to those who
would do harm to our citizens, our officials and our military."
During a taped interview with Howard Kurtz
aired at about 6:45pm EDT on September 22, as a mini-Reliable Sources
show, Kurtz asked Rather if he fears "a danger" that
"journalists would be reluctant to criticize the Bush administration
and the Pentagon for fear of a public backlash?"
Rather replied: "I think that's probably
true, but I think what is more important -- and let me again just speak
for myself -- that particularly in the early stages -- and I would
continue to say these are the early stages -- that it is less a fear of
backlash. Listen, I've had backlash -- man, have I ever had it -- and a
lot of times justified. I'm not afraid of backlash. What I want to do, I
want to fulfill my role as a decent human member of the community and a
decent and patriotic American. And therefore, I am willing to give the
government, the President and the military the benefit of any doubt here
in the beginning. I'm going to fulfill my role as a journalist, and that
is ask the questions, when necessary ask the tough questions. But I have
no excuse for, particularly when there is a national crisis such as this,
as saying -- you know, the President says do your job, whatever you are
and whomever you are, Mr. and Mrs. America. I'm going to do my job as a
journalist, but at the same time I will give them the benefit of the
doubt, whenever possible in this kind of crisis, emergency situation. Not
because I am concerned about any backlash. I'm not. But because I want to
be a patriotic American without apology."
That prompted Kurtz to wonder: "Well,
speaking of patriotic Americans, there is a bubbling controversy in the
business, as you probably know, about whether journalists on the air
should wear these little lapel flags. NBC's Tim Russert did it on Meet the
Press. ABC News has barred its people from doing that. Does it seem to you
that journalists who show the flag are being patriotic, or are they
somehow kind of turning it to cheerleaders for team USA?"
Rather insisted that he has "no argument
with anyone who does it," but he doesn't because "it doesn't
feel right to me. I have the flag burned in my heart, and I have ever
since infancy. And I just don't feel the need to do it. It just doesn't
feel right to me. And I try to be -- particularly in times such as these
-- and I have tried to be in touch with my inner self, my true inner self,
and I tried to listen. And my inner self says you don't need to do that.
But I have absolutely no argument with anyone else who feels
Last Wednesday USA Today quoted a memo from an
NBC News VP in which he urged his staff to be careful to not give away any
secret military information. In his September 19 "Inside TV"
column, Peter Johnson revealed:
"Loose lips sink ships. That famous World
War II admonition has been invoked by NBC News, which warned its
correspondents and producers Tuesday to take care in their reporting
because 'that old saying has new meaning.'
"NBC News executive Bill Wheatley told
staffers via memo that 'it's now time to be extremely cautious about
what we report. Please take great care to make sure that our broadcasts
don't inadvertently pass along information that could prove helpful to
those who would do harm to our citizens, our officials and our military.
Let's be careful about reporting specifics of presidential travel, of
security arrangements, of secret military plans, troop movements and the
Some hopeful signs that some media leaders see
themselves as Americans first and journalists second.
Bush earned more plaudits from network reporters and analysts on Friday
morning and over the weekend for his Thursday night address to Congress,
though Bryant Gumbel bizarrely worried if it would be wise to "spend
the entirety of what's earmarked for Social Security surplus to fight this
war?" (See the September 21 CyberAlert for post-speech analysis from
Thursday night: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010921.asp)
-- ABC's Good Morning America, September 21.
Charles Gibson opined: "I've covered a lot of presidential speeches
to the Congress, but last night, a speech like no other in my
lifetime....That was an extraordinary night."
Diane Sawyer closed the show, MRC analyst
Jessica Anderson noticed, by conceding: "I was so moved by the
paragraph of the President's speech, where he said, 'Great harm has been
done to us. We've suffered great loss. In our grief and our anger we have
found our mission and our moment to move forward.'"
-- CBS's The Early Show. Bush even won over
Bryant Gumbel, who acknowledged: "It really galvanized the nation.
The President did well in his speech."
Interviewing Senator Majority Leader Tom
Daschle, however, Gumbel returned to quaint concerns, MRC analyst Brian
Boyd observed. Gumbel pressed Daschle: "You said in your remarks
after the President's speech that Congress stands ready to give the
President whatever he wants or needs in this war on terror. Are you
supportive of the President's willingness to spend the entirety of what's
earmarked for Social Security surplus to fight this war, if that's what's
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer inquired of Tim
Russert: "Tim, did the President do what he had to do last
Russert affirmed: "Absolutely Matt. It was
an excellent speech and a very important one. We're a country on the verge
of war, on the brink of recession. It was important that the President and
Commander-in-Chief rally the nation last night. He did just that."
-- FNC and Fox. On FNC's Fox and Friends,
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory noted, reporter Brian Kilmeade gushed:
"It must have been so hard to keep your emotions in check, especially
a man in President Bush who says that he wells up easily. I saw the
passion, saw the focus, the determination, and the compassion. It was as
good a speech as I've ever seen in my life, especially when you talk
about addresses to the nation from the President."
Two days later, during the roundtable segment
on Fox News Sunday, the generally liberal Juan Williams proclaimed:
"I thought he really did a stellar job."
Williams proceeded to assert that Bush looked
a bit weak in his first few post-attack appearances as "statements
from the President weren't inspiring," but "man, I tell you,
on Thursday night I just thought he was spectacular. I thought he was
reassuring and inspiring to the American people. In terms of his political
fortunes and his ability to conduct this war, I think he has set himself
in a supreme place."
always count on Newsweek's Eleanor Clift for the contrarian liberal view
and she came through on the McLaughlin Group. She complained about
Bush's address to Congress: "Invoking God, saying God's on our
side, we need to keep this secular."
Clift warned on the McLaughlin Group aired
over the weekend: "I thought the President's speech had perfect
pitch for a domestic audience, but I think there was some major errors
when you're talking about an international audience. Invoking God,
saying God's on our side, we need to keep this secular. We don't need
to join it as a holy war. Secondly, he should have pointed out that this
government has protected Moslems in Kosovo, in Bosnia, and to make it
really clear that this is not a war against Islam."
On her second point, as John McLaughlin might
say, she stumbled onto the truth about how several recent U.S. military
deployments have protected Muslims.
Nina Totenberg over the weekend used the deadly terrorist attacks as an
opportunity to distort the position of conservatives as she claimed the
attacks demonstrate the need for the federal government.
On Inside Washington, the show carried by many
PBS affiliates as well as the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, Totenberg
"We have gone through I think a kind of,
what I would call a silly season, of thinking that there is really no need
for a federal government. When in fact the federal government fought the
Civil War, solved the Great Depression, fought the First and Second World
Wars, won the Cold War. And now we're going, I think, some of the
state's rights stuff is going to subside and we're going to find out
why we are not just a loose confederation of states but a republic and a
federal national government and that's what this period is for."
Those who have questioned the role of the
federal government, however, have done so in areas other than national
defense and criminal justice. Conservatives and libertarians see those as
the federal government's most important or only roles, other than
providing for a currency.
than one newspaper columnist or professor has tried to put the burden on
the United States for provoking the terrorist attack by consuming so much
of the world's resources while the poor are left behind around the
world. I've not seen such views espoused on network television (not
counting PBS or Arab guests on Nightline), but Friday night's ABC News
special, aired before the two-hour multi-network telethon, gave time to
one writer who broached that reasoning as he rationalized the hopelessness
fueling the terrorists.
Richard Rhodes, whom anchor Peter Jennings
identified only as "a journalist and an historian," claimed
people "suffering in the world, seeing their children die of
preventable disease and of malnutrition" support Osama bin Laden
because he represents "the hope for suffering people of a solution to
The September 21 ABC News special, America
Fights Back, featured a series of soundbites from writers and media
figures, such as Tom Clancy, Shelby Steele and Ted Turner, with their
observations about the terrorist attacks.
Rhodes was amongst the dozen or so and he
insisted: "These acts didn't come out of nowhere. People are
suffering in the world, seeing their children die of preventable disease
and of malnutrition. Such people look for leaders and heroes and saviors.
And unfortunately they aren't all Gandhis, the leaders and the saviors
that they look for. Osama bin Laden and his ilk represent the hope for
suffering people of a solution to their suffering. What do we as Americans
have to put in place of that? I think we have to look beyond retaliation
and realize that the problems that plague the Middle East are our
That reasoning sounds eerily like the excuse
given to rationalize why some of the poor in the U.S. commit crimes.
why you haven't seen much video since the day of the terrorist attacks
of Palestinians celebrating it? The Weekly Standard magazine disclosed
last week that "anyone who tried to film or photograph cheering
Palestinians after that first disastrous bit of footage was released might
have gotten himself killed."
Catching up with an item from a week ago, an
excerpt from the Scrapbook in the September 24 edition of the Weekly
Perhaps the most disgusting images following the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were the ones of Palestinian men, women, and
children dancing in the streets in east Jerusalem, celebrating the death
of thousands of Americans, yelling, "God is great," and enjoying
some celebratory sweets.
The jarring scenes -- so at odds with the familiar images of aggrieved
Palestinian victimhood that are a staple of international news broadcasts
-- infuriated Americans, and, for a different reason, the Palestinian
Authority. Frantic apologists for Yasser Arafat, who have spent years
toiling in the propaganda vineyards, saw their long work souring before
their eyes. Yasser Arafat rushed off to give blood for shipment to America
-- and the gesture got him almost no credit. By the end of the week,
though, some media sympathizers were cluck-clucking that too much had been
made of this footage, that the video is atypical -- that, after all, we
have been shown the same images over and over.
But there's a good reason for this last fact, that also does no credit
to the Palestinian Authority. Anyone who tried to film or photograph
cheering Palestinians after that first disastrous bit of footage was
released might have gotten himself killed. Hence AP footage of similar
celebrations in Nablus was never released.
According to the AP, which protested to the Palestinian Authority,
Arafat-allied Tanzim militia made death threats to an AP cameraman who
recorded the Nablus footage. "Several Palestinian Authority officials
spoke to AP in Jerusalem urging that the material not be broadcast. Ahmed
Abdel Rahman, Arafat's cabinet secretary, said the Palestinian Authority
'cannot guarantee the life' of the cameraman if the footage was
broadcast." This is why no one has yet seen the AP's video of the
Nablus rally, which reportedly numbered 4,000....
Washington, DC affiliate has, at least for now, dropped Politically
Incorrect from its schedule in the wake of host Bill Maher calling
Americans "cowards" for "lobbing cruise missiles from 2000
miles away." But Maher has been trying to explain that he meant no
insult toward the military.
On the September 17 Politically Incorrect last
Monday, the first show since the terrorist attacks, Maher recalled the
U.S. response to previous terrorist attacks and contrasted that with how
the terrorists a week earlier had killed themselves: "We have been
the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 miles away, that's
cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you
want about it, not cowardly."
Maher opened his Wednesday night, September 19
show, with a statement about how that comment was not aimed at the
military but at political leaders. To read it and more about his initial
comments, refer back to the September 19 CyberAlert. Scroll down to the
end of the item for the "Web Update" in brackets to read
Maher's subsequent statement as posted by MRC Webmaster Mez Djouadi: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010919.asp#3
By phone on Friday's The View, the daytime
ABC show, Maher elaborated on his defense, as taken down by MRC analyst
"On my show, we talked about this and I do
apologize to the military who took it the wrong way. If anyone thought
that I was talking about the military being cowards, I certainly wasn't.
I think that was a flame that was deliberately fanned by some people, but
nobody on the night we did the show thought that's what I meant and that
isn't what I meant. I meant that as a country, especially as a
government, in the past, we knew this terrorist threat was coming and we
didn't do enough to stop it. We didn't really want to get into the
sewer and kill the rat, and I think we're paying the price for that now.
And I don't think what happened last Tuesday had to happen if we had
been more alert and more stout in fighting this enemy previously, and I
don't think this country wanted to do that. They bombed our embassies in
Africa a couple of years ago, and all we did -- that's what I was saying
-- all we did was lob cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical factory....
"I think the problem we face now in America
and on our show, and honestly, I don't even know if we can do our show
anymore, because I see everything that people say, the guests are
petrified to speak because everything now has to stand this litmus test
and you can't have an open -- and our show has always depended on having
an adult conversation where you can say anything."
A few hours later on NBC's Tonight Show
Maher recalled that he had asked if America can change to address
terrorism. He then ruminated, "But I forgot to ask: Can I change? Can
my show change? Because being provocative, which is what we do -- and
thinking outside the box and thinking the unthinkable and just throwing it
around like that -- that's what we've always done. But these are more
sensitive times and the country has been through a national trauma and I
have to tell you, Jay, the idea this week that I added somehow to this
trauma just makes me feel awful and I am miserably sorry about doing that
and I mean that from the bottom of my heart because I love my
Maher's explanations came too late or were
not enough to satisfy Albritton Communications-owned WJLA-TV in
Washington, DC, which pulled Politically Incorrect from its line-up and
replaced it with Inside Edition on Thursday and Friday night. Sears has
also joined FedEx in pulling its ads from the show.
A Saturday, September 22 Washington Post story
reported the decision of the local ABC affiliate. An excerpt from reporter
Paul Farhi's story:
"Politically Incorrect" has apparently lived up to its name.
WJLA-TV, Channel 7 in Washington, has pulled the late-night talk show off
the air indefinitely after host Bill Maher said this week that the U.S.
military has been "cowardly" for attacking enemies from afar.
The station dropped Thursday's program and planned to do the same last
night in response to Maher's remarks. The ban will continue "on a
day-to-day basis," said Chris Pike, WJLA's president and general
WJLA, Washington's ABC affiliate, was at least the third station to
suspend the weeknight program. ABC stations in Des Moines and Sioux City,
Iowa, also have done so. Sears and FedEx canceled their ads on the show
this week as well....
In an e-mail sent to viewers who complained [about the
"cowardly" remark], Pike wrote, "We at WJLA were also
offended by the insensitive remarks....At this time of great sorrow in our
nation, and our community specifically, we have tried to maintain the
highest level of sensitivity in our local news coverage, on-air promotion
and advertising. Although we strongly defend the right of free speech, Mr.
Maher's ill-timed comments demonstrated a lack of feeling for the victims
of this tragedy."
The station has received "many" phone calls and e-mails of
complaint, and some in support of Maher, said Pike....
Maher issued an apology earlier this week, saying in a statement,
"In no way was I intending to say, nor have I ever thought, that the
men and women who defend our nation in uniform are anything but courageous
and valiant, and I offer my apologies to anyone who took it
For the Washington Post story in its entirety,
go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7142-2001Sep21.html
more lighthearted note, you know America is getting back to normal when
the Miss America pageant on ABC features contestants delivering banal
liberal political pronouncements.
During Saturday night's contest, a final
five contestant proclaimed her support for campaign finance reform and,
because she sees "several stories...everyday about eight-year-olds
who accidentally shoot their sibling," gun control. And the eventual
winner declared herself an "environmentalist" as she boasted
that her state is the "leader in environmental protection."
Host Tony Danza asked Miss District of
Columbia, Marshawn Evans: "Marshawn, I'm also a political animal. I
really, it makes me a little crazy sometimes, but my big issue is campaign
finance reform. What do you think about that?"
Evans answered: "Well, I think we do need
campaign finance reform. I think that there's a lot a lot of people who
would like to run for elected office but they can't because they don't
have to the money to do so and I think if we had reform we'd be able to
have more people who truly cared about their positions being elected [to]
Later, each contestant received 30 seconds to
explain their platform. Evans advocated "investing in youth for a
safer future." Danza challenged her: "If one is a strong
advocate of gun control, what do you say to a father who loves to hunt and
teaches his son, an eight-year old, that it's every American's right
to won a gun?"
Evans replied: "I do believe that it's
every law-abiding citizen's right to own a firearm. At the same time I
would probably tell that father about a story, several stories that I hear
everyday about eight-year-olds who accidentally shoot their sibling. And
we have to realize that although we do have the right to own firearms we
have to have responsible gun control legislation and responsible gun
control ownership. So I would advocate for not only reducing the access of
firearms to young people, but also promoting safe gun control through gun
safety locks as well."
At the top of the show the eventual winner,
Miss Oregon, Katie Harman, boasted that her state is "America's
leader in environmental protection." Later in the show she affirmed:
"Just being an Oregonian and seeing how beautiful the surroundings
are, absolutely I'm an environmentalist. I want to preserve our
nation's beauty and Oregon is a perfect representation of that."
Hey, there are just so many hours of Brian
Williams, Lester Holt, Bill Hemmer, Aaron Brown and Linda Vester you can
watch. I needed a break and just my luck that I tuned in to the Miss
America pageant only when contestants were uttering political comments.
I missed the whole swimsuit segment, er, I
mean, "lifestyle and fitness" category. Honest. But there's
always the videotape. -- Brent Baker
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