Rooney to Apologize to Bush; Gumbel Pushed Guest for Criticism; West Wing's Liberal Points; Brokaw Broaches Blaming the U.S.
1) On Sunday night Andy Rooney will apologize to President
Bush for denigrating him as "not too smart" for saying terrorist
"harbors won't be safe" when Afghanistan is
"landlocked." Rooney realized, "upon reflection," that
Bush "was probably speaking metaphorically." A letter-writer
suggested: "Andy must think 'wildlife preserves' are breakfast
2) Nightline needs to "fact check" itself. John
Donvan used a clip of Ari Fleischer to show how he threatened free speech
by decrying Bill Maher's "coward" comment. But minutes later
Ted Koppel scolded the rest of the media: "Seen in it's entirety...it
does not sound like a warning from the White House or a threat. Ari
Fleischer got a bum rap on that one."
3) When a British columnist was insufficiently anti-Bush
and Blair, CBS's Bryant Gumbel scolded him: "You're soft peddling
your words this morning...you've also said, for example, that 'playing
the world's policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe, it's what led
us into this.' That 'America and Great Britain must draw in its horns
and stop propping up favored states.'"
4) NBC's The West Wing, devoted to staffers discussing
terrorism with a group of high schoolers, gave air time to some pretty
conventional liberal points. Characters raised the "black list,"
blamed "abject poverty" for terrorism and argued that "is
the same as it is right here" where gangs "give you a sense of
dignity." They also worried about "the patriotism police."
5) Tom Brokaw skated close to the line of blaming the U.S.
for the terrorist attacks as he hoped "we'll think more carefully
about how" the U.S. "relates to other people who have a good
deal less than we do." Earlier, Brokaw argued against reporters
wearing flag pins because it's "a sign of solidarity toward
whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role."
6) Another rant from Adam Clymer who angrily referred to a
Senate employee, who cleared the galleries after Strom Thurmond collapsed,
as "a bureaucratic hack." Clymer found Tom Daschle's
night on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney will retract his attack on President Bush
as "not too smart" when it was Rooney who wasn't very smart
USA Today's Peter Johnson reported Thursday
that Rooney "will apologize for noting in his commentary two weeks
ago that President Bush didn't sound too swift when he said that America's
enemies in Afghanistan think their 'harbors are safe. But they won't be
safe forever.'" On the September 23 60 Minutes Rooney had
countered: "Afghanistan is landlocked. It doesn't have a
Johnson relayed the content of some of the
letters Rooney received: "'If you didn't know the meaning of 'safe
harbor' you probably thought the 'underground railroad' had tracks.'
Said another writer: 'If he really thought Bush meant seaports, Andy
must think 'wildlife preserves' are breakfast jams.'"
Johnson explained Rooney's realization:
"Upon reflection, Rooney said Wednesday that he realized that Bush --
or whoever wrote the speech for him -- was probably speaking
metaphorically, not literally. And that he, Andy Rooney, was wrong."
"Upon reflection"? It was obvious to
everyone in the world in the first place except to Rooney, or whoever
wrote that commentary for him.
On Sunday night, Johnson reported, Rooney will
concede: "Look. George W. Bush is your president and he's my
president. I feel bad about what I said, and I apologize for saying
Rooney's foolishness is not news to
CyberAlert readers. The September 28 edition asked: "Andy Rooney:
Mean-spirited cheap shot, bad humor or, after he questioned President
Bush's intellect, is he not too bright himself? Last Sunday on 60
Minutes Rooney showed a clip of President George Bush declaring that
'this is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but they won't be
safe forever.' Rooney claimed that demonstrated Bush is 'not too
smart' since 'Afghanistan is landlocked, it doesn't have a
For a complete transcript of Rooney's
September 23 commentary, and a RealPlayer video clip of the portion in
which he mocked Bush's intellect, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010928.asp#3
What's really amazing is how Rooney's
idiocy got onto the air. Apparently no producer saw anything off-base
about his comments.
needs to "fact check" itself. For the last couple of weeks the
now hour-long Nightline has ended each show with a "fact check"
in which anchor Chris Bury or Ted Koppel corrects a rumor circulating the
Internet or elsewhere. But Wednesday night's "fact check"
corrected an error which Nightline itself had made earlier in the very
same show, though Koppel did not acknowledge his own program's goof.
In a piece on how voices of dissent are being
suppressed, reporter John Donvan used as an example the reaction to Bill
Maher's "we are the cowards" remark. Donvan then repeated the
common assertion, that in reaction to Maher, White House Press Secretary
Ari Fleischer had issued a threat to free speech: "It's a terrible
thing to say, and it's unfortunate. The reminder is to all Americans that
they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a
time for remarks like that. It never is."
At the end of the program, however, MRC
analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that, without noting Donvan's
interpretation, Koppel read Fleischer's remark in full and concluded:
"Seen in it's entirety, in context, it does not sound like a warning
from the White House or a threat. Ari Fleischer got a bum rap on that
Koppel had set up the October 3 report from
Donvan: "In times of crisis, times like these, we narrow the range of
opinions that we would like to hear. We trumpet the virtue of our freedoms
even as some, in the name of patriotism, move to restrict them."
Donvan held up Maher as a victim, playing this
clip from Maher on the September 17 Politically Incorrect: "We have
been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's
cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you
want about it, not cowardly. You're right."
Donvan reported: "Immediately Maher's
sponsors, Sears and Federal Express, pulled their advertising. Seventeen
stations dropped the program, including the ABC station here in
Washington, which wrote to The Washington Post, 'The First Amendment also
gives WJLA the right to broadcast what it deems appropriate.' Bill Maher
went out and apologized."
Donvan later added: "Bill Maher's remarks
on Politically Incorrect caused one kind of controversy. Here were some
others. Jerry Falwell blaming the terrorist attack on American
morals....And on radio, Louisiana Congressman John Cooksey's views on
Rep. Cooksey: "I don't care what their race
is or what their religion is, but I can tell you this. If I see someone
that comes in, that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around his
diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked."
Donvan: "All three of these incidents
achieved scandal proportions and it wasn't long before the White House was
asked to comment. On Cooksey."
Ari Fleischer: "The President was very
disturbed by those remarks."
Donvan: "On Falwell, the White House called
his remarks inappropriate, and on Bill Maher."
Fleischer: "Assuming the press reports are
right, I mean, it's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. The
reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch
what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. It never
At the end of the show, Koppel made just what
Donvan did the subject of his "Fact Check" segment: "It
sounded just a little nasty, even alarming. Here was the President's Press
Secretary Ari Fleischer being asked at a White House briefing about Bill
Maher's comment, especially the part about the U.S. having been the
cowards for lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. The part of
Fleischer's response that got most of the attention was this: quote, 'The
reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say,' end
quote. Well, here's the Fact Check.
"Earlier in that same briefing, Fleischer
had been asked about the comment of Republican Congressman John Cooksey of
Louisiana ....What did the President think about that, Fleischer had been
asked. And it was in the context of both those comments, Cooksey's and
Bill Maher's, that Ari Fleischer gave this response: quote, 'I'm aware of
the press reports about what he [Maher] said. I have not seen the actual
transcript of the show itself, but assuming the press reports are right,
it's a terrible thing to say and it's unfortunate. And that's why there
was an earlier question about 'has the President said anything to people
in his own party?'"
Koppel interjected: "That would be the
reference to Cooksey." Koppel continued quoting Fleischer:
"'The reminder is,' Fleischer went on, 'to all Americans that they
need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and that this is not a
time for remarks like that. It never is.'"
Koppel assessed: "Seen in it's entirety,
in context, it does not sound like a warning from the White House or a
threat. Ari Fleischer got a bum rap on that one. And that's our Fact Check
and our report for tonight."
So, it's inappropriate to say Americans
should "watch what they say" and not call the U.S. military and
political leaders "cowards," but it's perfectly fine to call
for restricting speech that impugns an ethnic group? Sounds like Koppel is
just drawing the anti-free speech line, which he and Donvan were
condemning, at a different place.
critical enough of George W. Bush and Tony Blair to satisfy Bryant Gumbel.
Thursday's The Early Show on CBS brought aboard, via satellite from
London, a former Member of Parliament who in columns for the Times of
London has rebuked the Bush/Blair policies.
But when he failed to lash out at Bush and
Blair, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that Gumbel became disappointed:
"You're soft pedaling your words this morning...you've also said, for
example, that 'playing the world's policeman is not the answer to the
catastrophe, it's what led us into this.' That 'America and Great
Britain must draw in its horns and stop propping up favored
Gumbel never identified the party to which his
guest belonged, nor the paper for which he writes, but I found his columns
on the Times of London Web site and in one he said he belongs to the
Gumbel introduced the October 4 interview:
"Matthew Parris is a British columnist who has been very critical of
the stated coalition's intention to stamp out terrorism. He's in London.
Mr. Parris, good morning...What's wrong with the stated goals of Prime
Minister Tony Blair and President Bush?"
Parris replied: "The stated goals of the
Prime Minister and the President have reduced considerably since the days
immediately after the attack. Immediately after the attack there looked
like the distinct possibility of a violent and angry response taken more
in anger than after careful thought. I think a lot of careful thought has
gone on and, in fact, nothing much has happened yet. And I have little yet
with which to differ from either the Prime Minister or the President. But
there are voices in Britain who are worried about this thing spinning out
of control, and we're still worried about it spinning out of control. It
hasn't yet done so, and as long as it doesn't do so we're with the Prime
That wasn't the response Gumbel was hoping
for: "Well, you say you have little to differ with them but I'm
looking at some of your words and you've called current moves, your words
again, 'dangerous babble, bawling nonsense.' To whom does that
Parris maintained he was only concerned about
the "barrage of nonsense" about "wiping people out"
that was enunciated shortly after the attacks.
Gumbel decided to read his own words back to
him: "You've said the talk about crushing terrorism, again, I'm
looking at your words, is 'nonsense' and that going after Osama bin
Laden would only create 20 more like him. Why do you think that?"
Parris answered that getting one terrorist
won't solve the problem and the world must separate mad extremists from
the softer core which sympathizes with their cause but does not support
A frustrated Gumbel pressed again:
"You're soft peddling your words this morning, Mr. Parris, but I
mean, I'm looking at them right here. Your words are pretty inflammatory,
I mean, you've also said, for example, that 'playing the world's
policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe, it's what led us into
this.' That 'America and Great Britain must draw in its horns and stop
propping up favored states.' Are you suggesting they withdraw support of
Parris agreed that he U.S. and British role in
the Middle East has "inflamed things."
To read columns by Parris, go to the
"Comment" section of The Times of London: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/section/0,,262,00.html
From a drop down menu you can select past
columns by all of their columnists.
special The West Wing on Wednesday night, devoted to White House staffers
discussing terrorism with a group of visiting high school students, gave
air time to some pretty conventional polemical points of the Hollywood
Characters found it quite natural for students
to compare the Islamic terrorists to the Christian Right, though they were
corrected, raised the 1950s "black list" as an example of what
can happen when people perceive an outside threat, blamed "abject
poverty" for fueling terrorism and illustrated the point by arguing
that "is the same as it is right here" where inner-city gangs
"give you a sense of dignity." Plus, in a possible reference to
Bill Maher, one character warned about "somebody getting lynched by
the patriotism police for voicing a minority opinion."
The plot of the October 3 West Wing, written
by Aaron Sorkin after the September 11 terrorist attack, had a group of
high school students visiting the White House when a security lock down is
enacted because the FBI has learned a terrorist, who tried to enter the
U.S. through Canada, had as an associate a man by the same name as a
staffer in the White House complex. The employee of Arab descent is
assumed guilty and is grilled by the Secret Service about his background
and political views. The outcome of this subplot was obvious as the FBI
soon located in Germany the terrorists' real accomplice, giving the
employee a chance to rail against prejudice against Muslims and forcing
"Chief-of Staff Leo McGarry" to apologize.
Meanwhile, "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh
Lyman," played by Bradley Whitford, had escorted the students into
the cafeteria where he and other main characters discussed terrorism with
the students. There's too much here to fully analyze and I don't know
enough about 7th century Muslims to check it, but a few exchanges stood
out to me:
-- Josh Lyman: "Islamic extremist is to
Islamic as blank is to Christianity."
Student: "Christian fundamentalists."
Another student: "Jehovah's
Josh: "Guys, the Christian Right may not be
your cup of tea but they're not blowing stuff up."
The answer: the KKK.
-- Josh: "Right or wrong, and I think
they're wrong, it's probably a good idea to acknowledge that they do
have specific complaints. I hear them every day. The people we support,
troops in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq, support for Egypt. It's
not that they just don't like Irving Berlin."
"Donna Moss," Lyman's assistant:
"Yes it is."
Josh: "No it's not."
Donna: "I don't know about Irving Berlin,
but your ridiculous search for rational reasons why somebody straps a bomb
to their chest is ridiculous."
-- When "Press Secretary C.J. Craig"
defends the CIA and says we need more spies with more power,
"Communications Director Toby Ziegler" argues: "During
times of great crisis and threat America has used draconian measures
before and I think maybe you've forgotten just how effective they've
been. Can you name some?"
Student: "The black list."
Toby: "I want her to name them."
C.J.: "The Black list."
Toby: "Thank you."
C.J.: "Look, I take civil liberties as
seriously as anybody, okay. I've been to the dinners. And we haven't
even talked about free speech yet and somebody getting lynched by the
patriotism police for voicing a minority opinion. That said, Tobis,
we're going to do some stuff. We're going to have to tap some phones
and we're going to have to partner with people who are the lesser of
(Recall that during the September 17
Politically Incorrect Bill Maher had raised the prosecution of West Wing
producer Aaron Sorkin: "We can't afford to be fighting wrong and
silly wars: the Cold War, the drug war, the culture wars -- busting
television producers at the airport for taking funny mushrooms to Las
Vegas while the terrorist-looking guys with the knives get right on. We
have to outgrow childish and antiquated stuff real fast.")
-- Asked where terrorists come from,
"Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn," played by Rob
Rowe, contends: "Everywhere. Mostly they come from exactly where'd
you'd expect: Places of abject poverty, despair. Horribly impoverished
areas as an incubator for the worst kind of crime."
"Charlie," the personal aide to the
President, chimes in: "Which is the same as it is right here. The
same as it is here. I live in Southeast DC. If you don't know the area,
think Compton or South Central LA, Detroit, the South Bronx. Dilapidated
schools, drugs, guns and what else?"
Charlie: "Gangs. Gangs give you a sense of
belonging and usually an income. But mostly they give you a sense of
dignity. Men are men and men will seek pride. Everybody here's got a
badge to wear. I'm the Deputy Communications Director, I made
Presidential Classroom, I know the answer, I'm going to Cornell. You
think bangers who walk around with their heads down saying 'oh man I
didn't make anything out of my life. I'm in a gang'? No man. They
walk around saying 'I'm in a gang, I'm with them.'"
To match the above characters with faces, go
NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien Tom Brokaw skated very close to
the line of blaming U.S. policies for the terrorist attacks as he hoped
"we'll think more carefully about how" the U.S. "relates
to other people who have a good deal less than we do." A few days
earlier, Brokaw argued: "I don't think a journalist ought to be
wearing a flag because it does seem to be...a sign of solidarity toward
whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role."
Appearing on the NBC late night show on
Wednesday evening, the NBC Nightly News anchor outlined how he hopes the
nation will change in the wake of the terrorist attacks:
"I wrote a piece in the New York Times, on
the op-ed page, reflecting on when I was a young reporter and John Kennedy
was killed and I knew then that we would change but I had no idea how.
That set off a chain reaction: Vietnam and the social upheaval of the
'60s and led to Watergate and a lot of other things. We hope that this
will be more beneficial in terms of change, that we'll, that we'll
have a greater faith in our political system, that we will take more
seriously these threats that exist in the world and that we'll think
more carefully about how this great country -- and it is the greatest
country -- but how it relates to other people who have a good deal less
than we do in terms of the protections that we have and the material
wealth that we have and how we fit into their vision about what their
place is in the world."
An October 2 story in Northwestern
University's Daily Northwestern, highlighted by Jim Romenesko's
related the content of an October 1 conference call Brokaw had with Medill
Graduate School of Journalism students. Reporter Justin Ballheim relayed:
"Brokaw said he came home at 2 a.m. on Sept.
12 and had 'a couple of stiff drinks.' Moments later, he found himself
breaking down in what he called 'a cathartic exercise.'
"'I would hate to think that I've lost so
much of any personal feelings that I could go on and report something like
this without being affected by it,' he said.
"At the same time, Brokaw said journalists
should not be overly influenced by the recent surge of American
"'I wear the flag in my heart,' he said.
'I'm a patriot, and I think being a patriot means: Love your country but
think you can always improve it. And part of my role as a journalist is to
ask questions and to examine the issues that will lead to some improvement
of the country. I don't think a journalist ought to be wearing a flag
because it does seem to be, to me at least, a sign of solidarity toward
whatever the government is doing, and that is not our role.'"
On Conan O'Brien's show he identified his
"stiff drink" as scotch.
Brokaw also promised the Medill students:
"We will not broadcast anything that will jeopardize American
For the Daily Northwestern article in full, go
Clymer is back in the news for becoming irate that he and other reporters
were removed from the Senate gallery when Senator Strom Thurmond collapsed
on the floor on Tuesday.
The MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me to a story
in the October 4 Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper about Capitol Hill,
which quoted from a Clymer rant. An excerpt from the report by Mark
Congressional reporters are crying foul about a news blackout imposed
by the U.S. Capitol Police and Senate officials after Sen. Strom Thurmond
(R-S.C.) fell ill on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
Within minutes of Thurmond being helped to the floor after complaining
of lightheadedness, the viewing galleries were shuttered, television
cameras controlled by the Senate were turned off, and a security perimeter
was established, forcing reporters to vacate the second-floor hallways and
restricting their movements on the East Front plaza....
Reporters waiting on the East Front plaza for Thurmond to be brought to
the ambulance were pushed back by police officers enforcing the emergency
perimeter, causing some scribes to question why they were being denied the
right to do their jobs. Inside, two Capitol Hill veterans squared off over
the press's right to report the news.
Adam Clymer, a New York Times correspondent, accused Robert Petersen,
the director of the Senate Daily Press Gallery, of failing to look after
"Anyone who closes the gallery and keeps the press from doing its
job shouldn't be working in the press gallery," Clymer said moments
after butting heads with Petersen at a media stakeout over the issue of
access to the galleries. "He is a bureaucratic hack."
"Daschle went along with it," Clymer continued, "and
that is outrageous."
Petersen refused to comment on the argument except to say, "He
asked me 'Do you think the gallery should be cleared?,' and I said, 'Well,
common decency is if a man was dying, you wouldn't want an
For the entire story, go to: http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2001/10/news1004b.html
Hard to imagine why anyone would call Clymer a
"major league asshole." Maybe Daschle would now agree with Dick
Cheney's "big time" endorsement of George W. Bush's
observation. -- Brent Baker
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