"Taliban Officials Say"; ABC Focused on Civilian Killed by U.S.; Bush's Oil Interests Behind Terrorism Fight; Reagan Oldest Ever
1) Introducing two CBS Evening News stories on Thursday
night Dan Rather couched statements by the U.S. as "the official
version" and then gave equal weight to how "Taliban officials
say U.S. attacks have killed more than 200 people."
2) ABC devoted a story Thursday night to supposed
atrocities committed by the U.S. against civilians as ABC's Bob Woodruff
highlighted the claims of two men who had just fled Afghanistan. He
reported that "the Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians
have died in the bombings." They "believe"?
3) The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offered an odd
juxtaposition of the choice facing the networks when asked not to run raw
al-Qaeda video: "On the one hand, you don't want to hand the White
House a propaganda victory by imposing a blackout on the other side."
The "other side" to just the Bush administration?
4) Not a conspiracy, but. Nina Burleigh wondered
"whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have died in New York for the
royal family of Saud, or oil, or both." She suggested President Bush
is only going after terrorism because of "how Big Oil might benefit
from a cleanup of terrorists and other anti-American elements in the
Central Asia region."
5) Last Sunday on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney apologized for
belittling President Bush as "not too smart" for saying
terrorist "harbors won't be safe" when Afghanistan is
"landlocked." Rooney wasn't too smart as he didn't
comprehend Bush's meaning of "harbor" as a safe haven. Rooney
reported in his mea culpa that "the producer of 60 Minutes thought I
was wrong, but he never refuses to let me make a fool of myself if I
insist, and I insisted."
6) On 60 Minutes Mike Wallace prompted former UN weapons
inspector Richard Butler to denounce President Bush for his "dreadful
decision" to not have the U.S. sign onto a biological weapons
7) After citing a New York Times editorial which denounced
the Bush tax cut plan as "ineffective, irresponsible, and a
regressive tax cut," NBC's Soledad O'Brien added: "Other
critics have said that it overwhelmingly favors the rich."
8) Peter Jennings nicely noted on Thursday night that
President Reagan has now surpassed John Adams to become the oldest
President who has ever lived.
9) Number of seconds between the time President Bush
turned from the podium at the end of his press conference to when CBS
began Survivor: Africa, was...
Taliban has no less credibility to Dan Rather than does the U.S.
Department of Defense? Introducing two CBS Evening News stories on
Thursday night Rather couched statements by the U.S. as "the official
version" and then gave equal weight to what "Taliban officials
Rather set up the first story: "On this
fifth day and night of airstrikes in Afghanistan, U.S. pilots may have had
fewer targets to choose from -- it looks that way -- but as CBS News
national security correspondent David Martin reports, the official version
is they hit those targets harder than ever."
Martin provided no information casting doubt
on "the official version."
Moving on to the situation inside Afghanistan,
Rather introduced the next field report: "On the ground in
Afghanistan Taliban officials say U.S. attacks have killed more than 200
people including, they say, many civilians. Those claims cannot be
confirmed, but from behind the northern lines of the anti-Taliban
alliance, which calls itself the United Front, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer
can confirm the intensity of the air campaign."
devoted much of a story Thursday night to supposed atrocities committed by
the U.S. against Afghani civilians. ABC's Bob Woodruff highlighted the
claims of two men who had just fled Afghanistan as he reported that
"the Taliban believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the
bombings." They "believe"? That imputes a level of genuine
belief beyond just a propaganda point.
From Chaman, Pakistan, just over the border
from Afghanistan, Woodruff began his dispatch: "At this chaotic
border crossing today, new arrivals, refugees from Kandahar. They say
after a few days of bombs falling outside the city, now they are hitting
the city center. 'Today a bomb exploded on a house,' this man says.
Eight women and their children died on the spot. Two other men told us
that same story. There are other stories too. 'I saw civilians die,'
he says. 'Yes, this morning I saw 20 or 25 killed myself.' The Taliban
believes more than a hundred civilians have died in the bombings, but
there's no way to verify any of it."
Then why report such an uncorroborated
NBC's Tom Aspell at least allowed Secretary
of Defense Don Rumsfeld to react to the Taliban claim. Aspell reported
that "the Taliban claims more than 200 civilians killed since the
raids began Sunday; 140 in the last 24 hours alone. Claims impossible to
verify, regarded with skepticism at the Pentagon."
NBC then played a clip of Rumsfeld: "I think
everyone in this country knows that the United States of America does not
target civilians. We have not, we do not."
executives, who all agreed to review al-Qaeda tapes before airing any
future clips, seem a lot more sensible than the Washington Post's Howard
Kurtz or ABC's Ted Koppel.
In an online article on Thursday, Kurtz
offered an odd juxtaposition of the choice facing the networks: "On
the one hand, you don't want to hand the White House a propaganda victory
by imposing a blackout on the other side." It's a Bush
"propaganda victory" and not a concern that involves all
Americans? The "other side"? That makes al-Qaeda no different in
relation to Bush than Democrats who want a bigger prescription drug plan.
On Nightline, Koppel emphasized the
ineffectiveness of a U.S. blackout: "Those videotapes are satellited
all over the world, including here, by an Arabic television station and
they are all over the Internet already." But taking the videos off
U.S. airwaves would make them less prevalent and harder to access.
Kurtz opened his Thursday morning-posted
online "Media Notes" column with the supposed conundrum facing
the TV networks. An excerpt:
The journalistic decisions are getting tougher.
You're a network news boss. Condi Rice is on the phone. She wonders if,
just possibly, you might consider doing the administration a favor: Stop
running those Osama bin Laden videos, live and unedited.
There's a possibility the terrorist leader might be sending out coded
messages to his followers.
Could you look at these tapes first, and maybe just run excerpts?
You think about it. On the one hand, you don't want to hand the White
House a propaganda victory by imposing a blackout on the other side.
But what if there are coded messages? (Of course, how would you know?)
You don't want to play into a murderer's hands. Although bin Laden could
certainly get his message out through al-Jazeera television, the popular
Arabic service (which is making as much as $20,000 a minute for hawking
the Osama diatribes to the western media).
What to do? This is why you're paid the big bucks.
Fortunately, that wasn't a difficult choice
for network executives. As Kurtz noted: "For ABC's David Westin,
CBS's Andrew Heyward, NBC's Neal Shapiro, CNN's Walter Isaacson and Fox's
Roger Ailes, it wasn't hard to agree that reviewing the videotapes first,
rather than rushing them on the air unseen, might be the prudent course of
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that the
night before, October 10, Koppel set up a Nightline story:
White House is worried about coded messages buried in Osama bin Laden's
videotaped diatribes and that we may, inadvertently, pass those messages
on to covert cells watching our programs here in the United States, but
those videotapes are satellited all over the world, including here, by an
Arabic television station and they are all over the Internet already.
They're easily accessible, in other words, even if they never appear on
ABC or Fox or CNN."
beaut from Nina Burleigh, the former Time magazine reporter who proclaimed
in a 1998 New York Observer article: "I would be happy to give him
[Bill Clinton] a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I
think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads
on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs."
Writing for the left-wing TomPaine.com Web
site, Burleigh wondered "whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have
died in New York for the royal family of Saud, or oil, or both." She
suggested President Bush is only going after terrorism because of
"how Big Oil might benefit from a cleanup of terrorists and other
anti-American elements in the Central Asia region." After reviewing
the business ties of Bush's father and his buddies to oil-rich nations
in the region, Burleigh ominously warned: "It doesn't add up to a
conspiracy theory. But it does mean there is a significant MONEY subtext
that the American public ought to know about."
So, Bush created the terrorism just so he'd
have the opportunity to clean up the region for his father's financial
benefit? A financial windfall Burleigh made sure readers realized would
benefit the current President Bush through inheritance.
And if the oil industry does have an interest
in eliminating terrorism how's that bad? It would be just one more point
of pressure to bring upon Arab nations with oil to get them to cooperate
in fighting terrorism. Burleigh referred to the "fossil-fueled future
outlined recently by Vice President Cheney," but the President wants
to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by drilling in the U.S., a policy
opposed by Burleigh's liberal friends, an inconvenient fact she ignored
in building her grand pseudo-conspiracy.
Below is an excerpt from Burleigh's October
11 diatribe, brought to my attention by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/).
"Missing the Oil Story" announced the headline over Burleigh's
Recently I attended one of those legendary Washington dinner parties,
attended by British cosmopolites and Americans in the know. A few courses
in, people were gossiping about the Bush family's close and enduring
friendship with the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, dean of the
diplomatic corps in Washington. By the end of the evening, everyone was
talking about how the unfolding events were going to affect the flow of
oil out of Central Asia.
I left wondering whether 6,000 Americans might prove to have died in
New York for the royal family of Saud, or oil, or both. But I didn't have
much more than insider dinner gossip to go on....
A quick Nexis search brought up a raft of interesting leads that would
keep me busy for 10 years if the economics of this war was my beat. But
only two articles in the American media since September 11 have tried to
describe how Big Oil might benefit from a cleanup of terrorists and other
anti-American elements in the Central Asia region. One was by James
Ridgeway of the Village Voice. The other was by a Hearst writer based in
Paris and it was picked up only in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In other words, only the Left is connecting the dots of what the
Russians have called "The Great Game" -- how oil underneath the
'stans' fits into the new world order. Here's just a small slice of what
ought to provoke deeper research by American reporters with resources and
Start with father Bush. The former president and ex-CIA director is not
unemployed these days. He's been globetrotting as a member of Washington's
Carlyle Group, a $12 billion private equity firm which employs a motorcade
of former ranking Republicans, including Frank Carlucci, Jim Baker and
Richard Darman. George Bush senior and colleagues open doors overseas for
The Carlyle Group's "access capitalists."
Bush specializes in Asia and has been in and out of Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait (countries that revere him thanks to the Gulf War) often on
business since his presidency. Baker, the pin-striped midwife of 'Election
2000' was working his network in the 'stans' before the ink was dry on
Clinton's first inaugural address....
The Carlyle connection means that George Bush Senior is on the payroll
from private interests that have defense business before the government,
while his son is president. Hmmm. As Charles Lewis of the Washington-based
Center for Public Integrity, has put it, "in a really peculiar way,
George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his own
administration's decisions, through his father's investments. And that to
me is a jaw-dropper."
Why can we assume that global businessmen like Bush Senior and Jim
Baker care about who runs Afghanistan and NOT just because it's home base
for lethal anti-Americans? Because it also happens to be situated in the
middle of that perennial vital national interest -- a region with abundant
oil. By 2050, Central Asia will account for more than 80 percent of our
It's assumed we need unimpeded access in the 'stans' for our
geologists, construction workers and pipelines if we are going to realize
the conservation-free, fossil-fueled future outlined recently by Vice
President Cheney. A number of pipeline projects to carry Central Asia's
resources west are already under way or have been proposed. They would go
through Russia, through the Caucasus or via Turkey and Iran. Each route
will be within easy reach of the Taliban's thugs and could be made much
safer by an American vanquishment of Muslim terrorism....
So many business deals, so much oil, all those big players with
powerful connections to the Bush administration. It doesn't add up to a
conspiracy theory. But it does mean there is a significant MONEY subtext
that the American public ought to know about as "Operation Enduring
Freedom" blasts new holes where pipelines might someday be buried.
To read all of Burleigh's screed, or to hear
her read it via RealAudio, go to: http://www.tompaine.com/news/2001/10/11/index.html
CyberAlert last Friday reported he would do, on this past Sunday's 60
Minutes Andy Rooney apologized for denigrating President Bush as "not
too smart" for saying terrorist "harbors won't be safe"
when Afghanistan is "landlocked, it doesn't have a harbor." Of
course, Rooney was the one who wasn't too smart as he didn't
comprehend Bush's meaning of "harbor" as a safe haven.
Rooney reported during his October 7 mea culpa
that "the producer of 60 Minutes thought I was wrong, but he never
refuses to let me make a fool of myself if I insist, and I insisted."
File that under don't let facts get in the way of airing a personal
attack on the President during wartime.
For a full rundown of Rooney's September 23
off-base commentary, refer back to the September 28 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010928.asp#3
On the October 7 programs Rooney showed how
the pile of letters castigating him for his anti-Bush diatribe was much
bigger than letters from those in favor. He then read from some of the
-- "If he
really thought Bush meant 'seaports,' Andy must think 'wildlife preserves'
are breakfast jams."
you didn't know the meaning of 'Safe Harbor' you probably think that the
'Underground Railroad' had tracks."
After conceding Bush was "speaking
metaphorically," Rooney concluded: "The producer of 60 Minutes
thought I was wrong, but he never refuses to let me make a fool of myself
if I insist, and I insisted. Look, George W. Bush, he's your President and
he's my President. I feel bad about what I said and I apologize for saying
it. Please, don't harbor a grudge."
on Sunday's two-hour 60 Minutes, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Mike
Wallace prompted former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler to bash
President Bush for his "dreadful decision" to not have the U.S.
sign onto a biological weapons convention, as if words on paper would
The MRC's Brian Boyd tracked down this
October 7 exchange between Wallace and Butler:
Wallace: "Richard Butler says it's
imperative for the U.S. to lead the world in banning biological weapons.
He says President Bush had that chance and missed it this past summer when
nations around the world agreed to strengthen the biological weapons
convention that was signed back in 1972."
Butler: "European Union, Canada, Japan all accepted the protocol.
George Bush, President Bush did not, why?"
"It was a dreadful decision, it was completely wrong."
"The Bush administration pulled out because they said they feared
opening up military installations and private pharmaceutical companies to
"That's a lousy reason. One country, it was 178 to 1 to walk away
from a treaty that says it is the norm that civilized society should not
have biological weapons."
"Would you imagine that today were he given the opportunity-"
"I think they might change their mind under present
"And Ambassador Butler insists that anyone who would build a
biological weapon should be tried as a war criminal."
"We need a global consensus that says to make biological weapons is a
crime against humanity, why, because they have no other purpose but to
destroy human life."
using a New York Times editorial as her authority to criticize the Bush
tax cut plan, quoting the editorial as calling it an "ineffective,
irresponsible, and a regressive tax cut," NBC's Soledad O'Brien
added: "Other critics have said that it overwhelmingly favors the
O'Brien relayed the liberal attacks during
an interview on last Saturday's Today with Secretary of Labor Elaine
Chao, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed this week.
O'Brien argued on the October 6 Today:
"I want to ask you briefly about the tax cut portion of what the
President has proposed. The New York Times says that this plan, and I'm
quoting now is 'ineffective, irresponsible, and a regressive tax cut.' Not
exactly a vote of confidence."
"Well did you expect anything else from the New York Times?"
"Other critics have said that it overwhelmingly favors the rich, it's
not going to help the people that have lost their jobs."
"That's absolutely not true. I think we are now in a state of war,
our country needs to come together...."
To some in the media, "come
together" means uniting to oppose any tax cutting.
Jennings nicely noted on Thursday night that President Reagan is now the
oldest President who has ever lived. He squeezed in this short item on the
October 11 World News Tonight:
Reagan is 90 years and 270 days old today. That makes him the oldest U.S.
President who's ever lived, passing John Adams in longevity."
of time from when President Bush turned from the podium at the end of his
press conference on Thursday night at about 8:47pm EDT to when CBS began
Survivor: Africa -- a mere one minute and 25 seconds.
And that was even after CBS mistakenly fed to
EDT/CDT affiliates the MDT/PDT start of the CBS Evening News and then as
planned ran a promo for CSI. When Bush finished, Dan Rather offered about
a 40-second review before signing off.
But, CBS News did return to the air at the end
of the EDT/CDT prime time, at 10:50 EDT/9:50 CDT, following Survivor and
CSI, for an eight-minute update anchored by Rather.
Due to the press conference, CBS decided to
dump the 10pm EDT/9pm CDT scheduled The Agency so that local news and the
Late Show could air on time. ABC filled the hour to 9pm EDT/8pm CDT with
ABC News and followed with on time airings of Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire and the Peter Jennings special about Muslims. Even though NBC
dumped one 30-minute sit-com in the EDT/CDT feed, local news and the
Tonight Show started 20 minutes late. -- Brent Baker
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