CBS's Liberal Senator; CNN "Terrorist" Update; Pulling Maher Defended and Cancelling Suggested; MRC & Limbaugh on Jennings
1) Another fictional liberal Democrat in prime time. On
CBS's Citizen Baines, "Senator Elliott Baines" boasted:
"I pushed through gun control legislation, helped expand
Medicare." Later he complained there's much left for him to do:
"You know, every day another river gets polluted." One of the
Senator's campaign aides, who is black, was upset that the Senator's
opponent is "young, black, Republican. Pisses me off."
2) "CNN has not 'banned' the use of the word
'terrorist,'" a CNN public relations official stated Friday in
countering a Wall Street Journal story. That should reassure Howard Kurtz,
host of a CNN show, who when asked on Friday morning what he would do if
he were fired for using the word, defiantly proclaimed: "That's
fine because I'm not going to use any other word."
3) The company which owns the ABC station in Washington,
DC that dropped Politically Incorrect defended its decision. And in a
National Review column Jonah Goldberg contended "the real aim of the
show is to make fun of conservatives while sounding 'politically
incorrect.'" He noted: "Maher calls himself a libertarian, but
the fact is he's a libertine socialist."
4) An explanation of the MRC's analysis of Peter
Jennings as a claim about what he said has been added to the "Urban
Legends Reference Pages." Plus, Rush Limbaugh has posted audio of a
couple of the offending quotes so you can listen for yourself.
CBS drama revolves around a U.S. Senator. Naturally, like the
administration on NBC's The West Wing, he's a liberal Democrat.
On the premiere Saturday night of Citizen
Baines, Senator Elliott Baines, played by James Cromwell, boasted of his
achievements: "I pushed through gun control legislation, helped
expand Medicare and Medicaid." Later he complained there's much
left for him to do: "You know, every day another river gets
polluted." The show's producers also made clear the kind of
Republicans they like: Ones who are "moderate" and
"pro-choice." One of the Senator's campaign aides, who is
black, was upset that the Senator's opponent is "young, black,
Republican. Pisses me off."
Here's how the CBS Web site describes the
9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT drama produced by John Wells Productions in
association with Warner Bros. Television:
"When Elliott Baines (Cromwell), a prominent
three-term United States Senator, loses his bid for re-election, he must
leave Capitol Hill and return home to Seattle to start living the next
chapter in his now uncertain life. Joining him are his three grown
daughters, who are often at odds not only with their father but also with
each other. Ellen (Davidtz), the eldest, is a lawyer considering a move
into the political arena; Reeva (Adams) is a busy mother of two, with
problems at home; and Dori (Barrett) is a young woman still trying to find
her niche in life. Caught up in their own lives and used to living them
without their father's presence, the three don't know what to expect from
his return -- and neither does Elliott."
The premiere episode opened with "Elliott
Baines" at home in Seattle in election day. He pointed out to a house
guest a picture of himself with Jim Brady who "helped me lobby for
As "Baines" re-assures his daughter
he will win despite tight polls, he espouses his liberal platform:
"They are always tight and rarely right. They had me down by five in
'84 and I won by three. I am coming off the most productive term I ever
had in the Senate. I pushed through gun control legislation, helped expand
Medicare and Medicaid, extended permanent normal trade relations with
A bit later at his campaign headquarters he
watches TV coverage of how his Republican opponent, "Richard
Hanson," is chauffeuring people at a retirement home to the polls.
Baines Campaign Director "Denise," who herself is black,
laments: "Young, black, Republican." Press Secretary
"Sherman" rues: "Don't forget moderate." Denise
continues: "Pisses me off."
As the day progresses, Senator Baines travels
to a ferry landing to greet voters. He expresses regret to a campaign aide
as he realizes he might lose: "It's just a shame. You know, every
day another river gets polluted, another kid gets hooked on drugs. Can't
even keep guns out of our schoolyards and our health care system is so
screwed up people's heads are spinning. There's still so much I want
At the campaign's hotel suite that night the
Senator overhears a bad omen as an incumbent Democrat loses to an upstart
Republican in Ohio named "Whistler." The TV anchor's report
reflected the kind of Republican Hollywood likes: "Whistler entered
the race as a complete long shot and now he's emerged the winner. He has
led a moderate campaign as a strong labor supporter, pro-choice
The show ends as Senator Baines learns that he
too has lost his re-election bid.
The preview on the CBS Web site for the next
episode on October 6:
"Dori's on-again, off-again musician
boyfriend helps the former Senator Baines do some soul searching after his
surprising loss for reelection.
"Back at his Seattle home, Elliott wakes up
to the sounds of blasting music and smoothies being blended in his kitchen
by Claude Waverly, Dori's occasional boyfriend. Later that day, after his
chauffeur quits and he finds himself out in a parking lot with a dead car
battery, Elliott calls home and finds that Claude is the only one around
to help. While waiting for a tow truck over a couple of drinks at a nearby
bar, Claude imparts some much-needed words of wisdom to Elliott.
Meanwhile, Dori helps Reeva spy on her husband, Shep, who she suspects is
having an affair, and Ellen feels uneasy about her law firm's suggestion
that Elliott come to work for them.
Sounds more like a soap opera than a political
drama, so maybe with the star character out of the Senate the liberal
pronouncements will wane.
For more about the show and its cast,
including a photo of James Cromwell who you will recognize from his many
small roles in movies and TV shows: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/citizen_baines/
issued a clarification on Friday to make sure everyone knows they have no
problem with the terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" for
the September 11 attacks and Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's Reliable
Sources, proclaimed he wouldn't abide by any edict barring the terms:
"I'm not going to use any other word. The T-word is the word
here." Kurtz contended: "I just think this kind of value-neutral
reporting is hogwash."
The September 28 CyberAlert relayed: "CNN
reporters are supposed to refer to the 'alleged hijackers' and not
'terrorists,' an AOL Time Warner spokesman told the Wall Street
Journal, because 'CNN cannot convict anybody; nothing has been judged by
a court of law.'" The CyberAlert pointed out, however, that
"CNN journalists are not following the policy. They are citing the
'terrorist attacks' and the 'terrorist hijackers.'"
On Friday, the CNN public relations department
sent to the MRC the following statement about CNN's policy, which
matches the actual on-air content cited in the September 28 CyberAlert:
"CNN has not 'banned' the use of the word 'terrorist.' In fact, CNN
has referred to the persons responsible for the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon as 'terrorists' and the act as 'terrorism' since
The clarification from CNN executives must be
a relief to Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, who also hosts
CNN's Reliable Sources. MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught, on MSNBC's
Imus in the Morning on Friday, this rebuke from Kurtz:
"Excuse me, if you commandeer an airliner
and you drive it into the building with an express intent of killing
thousands of innocent civilians, what are you supposed to call these
people? 'High octane tourists?' One commentator came up with the
phrase 'casualty facilitators.' I mean, I just think this kind of
value-neutral reporting is hogwash, I mean, you don't want to convict
people but at the same time, what are we talking about here? There's no
better explanation, word, description for these acts then the most, the
rawest kind of terrorism."
Imus: "So what happens if you go on your
show on CNN, Reliable Sources, and describe them as terrorists and they
Kurtz: "That's fine because I'm not
going to use any other word. The T-word is the word here-"
Imus: "Well, good for you."
Kurtz: "CNN told me yesterday that they
didn't have, had not put any restrictions on the use of the word...as
far as the people on those planes, for me it's the T-word all the
As it should be.
Maher. In a letter to the editor published Saturday by the Washington
Post, the President of the company which owns the ABC affiliate in
Washington, DC that stopped carrying Politically Incorrect, defended his
company's decision. Frederick Ryan argued: "As the nation mourns
the loss of innocent airline passengers and office workers, we reject Mr.
Maher's view that the fanatics who took their lives were anything more
than despicable cowards."
The day before, in a column published by
National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg suggested that while Maher's
current offense does not deserve cancelling his show it should be anyway.
Goldberg contended "the real aim of the show is to make fun of
conservatives while sounding 'politically incorrect.'" Goldberg
observed: "Maher calls himself a libertarian, but the fact is he's a
The September 29 Washington Post ran this
letter from Frederick Ryan Jr., President and Chief Operating Officer of
Allbritton Communications Co., the parent company of WJLA-TV:
I must respectfully disagree with The Post's Sept. 26 editorial
"Resisting the Censor's Impulse" regarding WJLA-TV's decision to
refrain from airing Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect."
Unlike government censorship, WJLA's decision to suspend airing the
show was rooted in the station's concern about taste and sensitivity at
this time of unprecedented loss for our country, especially Washington.
It is important to note that "Politically Incorrect" is
produced by the Disney ABC Entertainment Division. It is not a product of
ABC News. Further, Mr. Maher is a satirist, not a journalist. In his
attempt at humor he is unguided by rules of journalism or the standards
that ABC News, The Post or other major news organizations follow.
The First Amendment entitles Mr. Maher to speak his views no matter how
outrageous or insensitive they may be. The First Amendment also gives WJLA
the right to broadcast what it deems appropriate.
In making this decision, we think of so many friends, family, neighbors
and colleagues who have faced personal loss in our community -- our
viewers and your readers. Today, brave men and women of the military go to
work in a Pentagon that still bears the charred memories of their lost
friends and colleagues.
We believe that it is beyond the bounds of taste and decency to give
voice to Mr. Maher's characterization of U.S. military efforts against
terrorism as "cowardly."
As the nation mourns the loss of innocent airline passengers and office
workers, we reject Mr. Maher's view that the fanatics who took their lives
were anything more than despicable cowards.
We regularly hear from our viewers -- sometimes irate about a
controversial news story, other times accusatory about editorial
positions. But today we hear from the pained hearts of those whose grief
is only exacerbated by reckless, insensitive remarks such as those by Mr.
Maher. We stand by our decision.
END reprint of letter to the editor
"Maher's Final Half Hour: Why PI should
go," read the headline over a September 28 column by Jonah Goldberg,
Editor of National Review Online. An excerpt:
Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, is under attack. Sears
and Federal Express pulled their sponsorships of the show. Viewers are
angry. Several affiliates have dropped him. His show is teetering on the
brink of cancellation, all because he said that the terrorists who
attacked the World Trade Center weren't cowards. Rather, he said, "We
have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away.
Now, I'm torn. On the one hand, Maher is not entirely wrong, though his
comments were poorly timed and mean-spirited. The Clinton policy of
risk-free symbolic strikes against Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was
On the other hand, Politically Incorrect deserves to be canceled more
than any show not currently on the WB. Maher, his producers and fans have
long contended that the show makes a valuable contribution by inviting
apathetic Americans into the "national conversation." Of course,
it's a mystery to me why any American who can't be bothered to pay
attention to politics unless Pamela Anderson is discussing it should be
welcome in that conversation.
I'm embarrassed to admit I've been on Politically Incorrect a few times
but will never again. Still, I think I've identified the two basic
problems with the show: the concept and the host.
Politically Incorrect is one of the last icons of the 1990s conflation
of celebrity and politics: George magazine, Murphy Brown, "policy
summits" at the White House for the likes of Billy Crystal and
Richard Dreyfuss, "serious" speeches by Barbra Streisand.
The result of this phenomenon was a profoundly cynical approach to
important questions. It said that fame, as opposed to serious work,
intelligence or experience, was the best criterion for determining who has
a legitimate opinion.
....the idea behind Politically Incorrect is to get a bunch of pretty
people together and have them argue with politicians and other political
professionals (journalists, activists, etc.).
Of course, the real aim of the show is to make fun of conservatives
while sounding "politically incorrect." As Maher told Playboy in
1997, "Ninety percent of show-business people are nutty
liberals." So the liberal seats are filled with lefty comedians,
movie stars, and rappers. This leaves the conservative seats to mockable
right-wingers. Worse, not only does the audience root for the celebrities,
but the host and producers do too.
Which gets us to the second problem with the show. Bill Maher is
anything but an impartial host. He sucks up to Hollywood liberals because
A) he needs to get them back on the show, B) he usually agrees with them,
and C) they tend to be wildly ignorant.
Maher calls himself a libertarian, but the fact is he's a libertine
socialist; he favors guilt-free promiscuity and legal drugs, but
everything else is eligible for a government takeover. Remember:
Libertarians are for as little government as possible, particularly in the
economic and regulatory realm. Maher supported Ralph Nader for president
and has said he favors a government takeover of the electoral system. To
call himself a libertarian is like a Vishnu worshipper calling himself
The truth is that Politically Incorrect lasted longer than it deserved.
And, in the wake of the Sept. 11 murders, Maher's style of cynical
mocking, sophomoric sex-talk, and knee-jerk America-bashing was destined
to die on the vine no matter what, because it's inappropriate, dated and
boring just like the title of the show.
Does he really deserve to be canned because of this specific remark?
Probably not, but why get caught up in the details?
END of Excerpt
To read Goldberg's piece in full, go to: http://www.nationalreview.com/nr_comment/nr_comment092801b.shtml
Indeed, while Maher's show may not be
produced by ABC News, its advocacy of liberal positions and nightly
denigration of conservatives, should long ago have led ABC to either
correct the imbalance or replace the program.
about the MRC's approach to Peter Jennings' September 11 coverage as
the "Urban Legends References Pages" has decided to classify as
"false" an Internet-circulated quote from Jennings. Plus, Rush
Limbaugh played the remarks by Peter Jennings which upset so many and has
audio of them posted on his Web site.
The MRC has received some impassioned e-mail
over the past couple of weeks following our September 19 Media Reality
Check fax ("What Did Jennings Say? ABC Anchor Never Insulted Bush
During Crisis Coverage, But Did Label His Day Trip 'A Little
Strange'"), which was picked up last week by the Washington
Post's Howard Kurtz, and a column by MRC President L. Brent Bozell which
First, let me assure everyone that we did
indeed watch all of the coverage, not just review transcripts. In fact, as
of last week there were no transcripts available from ABC News of the live
September 11 coverage. The MRC recorded the entire day as aired both by
Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV, which did run all of Jennings
as he speculated about the location of the President and talked to Ann
Compton when she got off Air Force One in Shreveport, and the
uninterrupted ABC News coverage carried by ESPN from 1 to 6pm EDT. The
MRC's Rich Noyes reviewed the tapes of the entire day, paying particular
attention to the key times when complaints were made. That review led to
the September 19 Media Reality Check: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/Fax20010919.html
Second, many e-mail writers suggested the bias
came through the tone and facial expressions shown by Jennings. That's
very subjective and intuitive. With such an important story the MRC would
be poorly serving our audience if we lowered our standards from tracking
what is actually said by a reporter to intuiting his or her mood.
Third, in the hours and days after the
terrorist attacks a series of bizarre and preposterous claims were made in
e-mails and elsewhere about what Jennings said on the air. Many included
full sentence statements from Jennings within quote marks. That led people
to demand that the MRC expose Jennings and then to ask why we were
conspiring to cover up his "treason."
That put the MRC in a difficult position since
we normally are critical of journalists, but in this case realized from
our recollections of watching the live coverage that the claims did not
sound accurate. So, we decided to review the coverage to definitively
determine what Jennings really said.
All else being equal, we would have done
something on his demands to see and hear immediately from Bush and how
they illustrated the way the networks have turned the presidency into the
empathizer in chief, putting his public appearance and words ahead of him
making important decisions at closed meetings.
But, and this is the big but, the claims about
what he said were so ludicrously distorted, to the extent that we feared
that many really believed what they heard or read, that we felt correcting
the record was most important.
So, that is was led to the September 19 Media
Reality Check which I introduced in CyberAlert with words I still stand
by: "Since the September 11 terrorist attacks the Media Research
Center has received quite a few complaints about what Peter Jennings said
during the hours after the tragic incidents. The quotes cited, however,
fit into one of three categories: never uttered, distorted or taken out
I am confident that if those so upset by our
defense of Jennings could re-watch his coverage outside of the heat of the
moment, many would agree that what he said wasn't as bad as they now
In the CyberAlert which reprinted the report
on Jennings I stated that "we will not compound the erroneous claims
by repeating them here."
However, since the "Urban Legends
Reference Page" has posted one of the e-mails, I will quote from it
here to illustrate the exaggerated nature of the claims. From a widely
forwarded and copied from e-mail urging a boycott of ABC News and
demanding that Jennings be fired: "His comment that President Bush
should 'quit hiding behind the Secret Service, come out and face the
Nation and explain 'The President's Failure' to protect the country from
these terrorists attacks.' As far as I am concerned, this is at best
'the lowest form of attack and unworthy of any news organization' and
at worst could be considered an act of 'Treason.'"
After pointing out that Jennings never uttered
such a sentence, the urban legends page authors observed: "Clearly,
many viewers were put off by Jennings' demeanor on the day in question,
feeling that he acted unprofessionally and was inappropriately critical of
President Bush. However, what Jennings meant is matter of opinion; what he
actually said is a matter of fact. The anonymous e_mailer quoted above
presented his interpretation of Jennings' statements as an actual
For the Jennings analysis posted by the
"Urban Legends References Pages," go to: http://www.snopes2.com/rumors/jennings.htm
For their assessment of the accuracy of
terrorist attack related rumors, go to: http://www.snopes2.com/rumors/rumors.htm
Now to Rush Limbaugh, who last week on
Wednesday and Friday provided the public service of running audio clips of
two Jennings comments from September 11. The remarks were ones Limbaugh
had earlier misconstrued, leading Limbaugh to retract his initial critical
assessment of Jennings.
I would note that both soundbites played by
Limbaugh were cited in the MRC's report, so we were hardly hiding
anything Jennings said that upset people. To illustrate how, though
Jennings' comments weren't as bad as he originally conveyed, they were
noteworthy, Limbaugh played two bites from just past 12:50pm EDT. Here's
how we quoted, in our report, the two Jennings soundbites selected by
-- "The President and his response to this
is also part of the psychological package because the country looks to the
President on occasions like this to be reassuring to the nation. Some
Presidents do it well, some Presidents don't."
-- Traveling with the President, ABC's Ann
Compton reported on Secret Service fears for his safety. Jennings said
soon the country will "expect him to be back in Washington, to send
not just a message to those of us in the nation who look to the President
for some sense of political and national stability, but also to the other
parts of the world where these enemies of the United States, of whom
we've talked quite a lot about today, at the moment must surely think
they have the United States on the run, to some extent."
To hear these for yourself via Windows Media
Player, go to: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_092601/content/tape.guest.html
This is on Rush's free site. Scroll to the
bottom of the page to hear all 16 minutes of what Limbaugh explained on
his show last Wednesday. Move forward 9 minutes to hear the two Jennings
soundbites. The direct address for the Windows
Media Player audio:
As Limbaugh noted on Friday's show, given
Jennings' long record of hostility toward conservative policies and
leaders it was logical for viewers to be skeptical of Jennings and to
infer the most negative interpretation of anything he said. In this case,
however, Jennings didn't live up to his reputation.
Jennings stated on September 11: "The
President and his response to this is also part of the psychological
package because the country looks to the President on occasions like this
to be reassuring to the nation. Some Presidents do it well, some
That may not be what you or I would have said
that day, but it is not an outrageous observation. Indeed, suggesting Bush
may not be as good a public communicator as Reagan or Clinton was a common
view, one even shared by Bush himself. As Fred Barnes wrote in the October
1 Weekly Standard:
"Republicans in Congress used to beg White
House aides to get the President to speak out more, to be more like
President Reagan. Sorry, they were told, Bush believes that's not his
strength, and he has no intention of trying to be what he isn't."
Barnes noted that after Bush's address to
Congress he now is a "rhetorical President able to stir the
I bet Peter Jennings realizes that too. So
let's move on and monitor Jennings for any future anti-conservative or
pro-liberal bias. -- Brent Baker
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