CNN Defended Taliban Propaganda; CNN Context Policy Condemned; Koppel Mocked Flag Lapel Pins; Ailes Explained Rivera Hiring
1) CNN's Nic Robertson, who went on the Taliban's tour
of U.S.-caused atrocities inside Afghanistan, admitted that the Taliban
"set the agenda." When pressed about how he had relayed the
Taliban claim of 92 killed in one village, Robertson conceded it's
"impossible to verify a figure of 92," but then he proceeded to
try to substantiate the allegation as plausible, asserting that "the
numbers could be believable."
2) Former CNN reporter Peter Arnett dismissed as
"ill-advised" the new CNN guidelines for anchors to remind
viewers of how the U.S. was responding to an attack which killed over
5,000. Ex-CBSer Daniel Schorr condemned the policy for kowtowing to
government as he argued civilians killed by the U.S. had nothing to do
with terrorism, but Fox's Brit Hume called it "entirely proper
advice and...needed advice to American journalists in general."
3) The Taliban and Pentagon deserve equal skepticism?
NPR's Susan Feeney charged that the Taliban and the Pentagon both offer
only "semi-controlled information." ABC's Ted Koppel snidely
rebuked those at other networks who wear lapel pins: "I don't
believe that I'm being a particularly patriotic American by slapping a
little flag in my lapel and then saying anything that is said by any
member of the U.S. government."
4) Viewer complaints about FNC hiring Geraldo Rivera
prompted Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to draft a reply in which he promised
Rivera's hiring does not contradict the Fox News Channel's commitment
"to fair and balanced news." Ailes asserted that Rivera
"has been changed by the events of September 11th."
5) Headline contrasts from Sunday newspapers. Will
Republicans or Democrats fare better in 2002? The Northern Alliance:
"Reluctant" or about to strike?
6) CBS can't win. The Emmy awards were bumped twice and
then last night football overtime meant no 60 Minutes for most of the
country. The punch line to Ellen's best joke during the Emmy telecast:
"...a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"
>>> Now online: "The MRC's Top
6 October Outrages for Most Biased War Coverage." In a press release
distributed last week for the MRC by Creative Response Concepts, based
upon quotes collated by the MRC's Liz Swasey, the MRC highlighted the
six most obnoxious media quotes from war coverage during October. Those
cited in the quotes which have all been previously listed in CyberAlerts:
Loren Jenkins of NPR, CBS's Allen Pizzey, NBC's Ann Curry, ABC's Dan
Harris and ABC's Michele Norris. To read all of the quotes cited, access
the press release by going to: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/press/news/2001/pr20011031.html
Nic Robertson, who last week went on the Taliban's tour of supposedly
U.S.-caused atrocities inside Afghanistan, admitted to Howard Kurtz that
the Taliban "set the agenda." When Kurtz raised how Robertson
had relayed the Taliban claim of 92 killed in one village, Robertson
conceded it's "impossible to verify a figure of 92," but then
he proceeded to try to substantiate the allegation as plausible, asserting
that "the numbers could be believable."
Robertson's defense of his reporting came
during an edition of CNN's Reliable Sources aired live at 9:30am EST on
Sunday morning. Kurtz queried: "When you are going into Afghanistan
for a few days for a guided tour, if you will, to what extent do you
become, however unwillingly, part of the Taliban propaganda effort?"
From Quetta, Pakistan, Robertson admitted:
"I think when a journalist goes into Afghanistan, any journalist,
they want to be as independent and objective as possible and that's what
you strive to be inside Afghanistan. Now, the Taliban do put restrictions
on, they do limit the places we can go to, and they do set the agenda. But
it is possible to try and break away from that. On the third day of the
visit we were able to go out unescorted and talked to people quite freely.
So that's what we are trying to do, that's the objective of our mission,
not fulfill whatever idea it is they have for us to do. It's for us to
report what we want to report."
Kurtz followed up by citing what Robertson
chose to highlight:
"When you reported the other day from a village north of Kandahar,
you said the following, that you saw mud houses turned to rubble,
fragments of what appeared to be bombs and missiles, family belongings
strewn around. You also interviewed a local mullah who said that 92 people
had been killed. Did you have any way of knowing whether that estimate was
true or wildly inflated?"
defended his reporting: "Impossible to verify a figure of 92 or
indeed who the 92 people were. Fifteen houses inside that village -- we
were told that there was 15, would perhaps, and normally in Afghanistan
each house would accommodate may be anywhere between, sort of, 8 and 15
people. So the numbers are believable. Certainly, the village was
substantially destroyed. I mean it is, obviously, unusual in an air
bombardment of any site where all the members of a village or a building
to be killed. But the numbers could be believable. In that context, the
village was substantially destroyed. There could have been that number of
people living there. Who was killed? We don't know."
If he was there and doesn't really know,
then what exactly did he add to the body of knowledge of CNN viewers?
The November 2 CyberAlert quoted from
Robertson's November 1 story in which he pegged the number killed at 92
before he asserted: "The Taliban say this was a civilian village, and
certainly, when we looked around it, there was a lot of evidence that
civilians had lived there. There were boxes of soap powder, children's
shoes, women's clothing, a lot of domestic accouterments, clocks smashed
on the floor, radios."
For more, refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011102.asp#1
ABC's Dan Harris had conceded on the October
30 World News Tonight that the Taliban invited him into their territory
because of the "rising civilian casualties" which they see as
"an enormous public relations boon to them."
Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday praised it, in the preceding days media
veterans Daniel Schorr, Peter Arnett and Tom DeFrank condemned the new CNN
policy, stated by Chairman Walter Isaacson, that "we must redouble
our efforts to make sure we do not seem to be simply reporting from their
[Taliban] vantage or perspective. We must talk about how the Taliban are
using civilian shields and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists
responsible for killing close to 5,000 innocent people."
Appearing at an October 31 Brookings
Institution forum, "The Role of the Press in Wartime," former
CNN reporter Peter Arnett, best-known for relaying Iraqi propaganda from
Baghdad, castigated the new CNN policy: "It is ill-advised."
At the same forum shown by C-SPAN on Saturday
night, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, a veteran of CBS News,
launched into a lengthy treatise criticizing the CNN policy:
reflects a kind of defensiveness already displayed in the reaction to
Condoleezza Rice's warning to not use all this propaganda, not only
because it might contain coded messages, which is really rather silly, but
also because it conveyed propaganda and might affect the American people
adversely. Once we begin to see that the government will try to involve
the press in playing a positive role in whatever it is that the government
wants to transmit, we are in trouble if the press is willing to accept
take this new thing of Walter Isaacson, under pressure not to appear to be
favoring the other side, of saying 'look, the Taliban will take you and
show you where a civilian building was destroyed by American bombs' and
you stand in front of that and it's enough to say 'we're showing you
where the Taliban says we may show you' and make it clear that you're
not showing those things which can't be shown which may be barracks and
God knows what else. All the reporter can be expected to do is to say,
'for whatever it's worth, I show this to you.' But then for Judy
Woodruff to get on in obeying this new order as she did, and say 'and
let us remind you that these people are responsible for killing 5,000
Americans.' Who are these people? The people who live in that building
are responsible for things? If so, what is the relevance of that other
than that the administration says people must be reminded all the time
that if you see destruction going on there, think of the destruction that
they visited upon us whether or not that is really relevant to what
they're doing there."
Sunday morning, on CNN's Reliable Sources
live at 9:30am EST, New York Daily News reporter Tom DeFrank expressed his
disappointment: "Walter's a good guy, I know him from the old news
magazine wars and I think he was trying to say something responsible. I'm
a little troubled by it because it seems to suggest that he is telling his
reporters what to print, what to write, what to say, what to tell readers
or listeners to think and I saw, I thought that was little bit over the
top. On the other hand, anything where executives say that networks think
a harder about what you do, what you say, what you write, is not a bad
Minutes later, during the roundtable portion
of Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume praised CNN's policy:
proper advice and, I think, needed advice to American journalists in
general, CNN perhaps in particular. Take the example this week of the
Taliban's guided tour of alleged scenes of civilian casualties. Some news
organizations, CNN and ABC News in particular, according to the New York
Times, were taken along basically for free, $30 visa fees. Other news
organizations -- NBC, CBS -- were not invited at all. Fox News, an effort
was made to charge us a couple thousand dollars. We didn't go. Very
prominent play for the stories that were generated by the Taliban's guided
tour on CNN and ABC News. So you can see that Walter Isaacson had a reason
to make sure that some disclaimer was issued that we're not simply trying
to represent this murderous group that is harboring terrorists.
is an interesting question. Does anybody remember a previous war, with the
possible exception of Iraq, in which American journalists would go behind
enemy lines, escorted, guided, hosted by the enemy, to see what the enemy
wanted seen and give it relatively straight-faced coverage? I can't
remember anything like that. I think it's remarkable."
Yes it is.
For excerpts from the Howard Kurtz story on
the new CNN policy as well as an example of Judy Woodruff following it, go
Taliban and Pentagon deserve equal skepticism? The Senior Editor of
NPR's Morning Edition, Susan Feeney, charged on CNN that the Taliban and
the Pentagon are equally non-forthcoming as both offer only
"semi-controlled information." A few days earlier, ABC's Ted
Koppel snidely rebuked those at other networks who wear lapel pins as he
asserted: "I don't believe that I'm being a particularly
patriotic American by slapping a little flag in my lapel and then saying
anything that is said by any member of the U.S. government."
Sunday morning on CNN's Reliable Sources
Feeney, formerly with the Dallas Morning News, defended reporters who went
on the Taliban tour: "Well, you can't blame journalists for taking
whatever information they can get in this environment. It's sort of we've
this semi-controlled reporting that's coming out of Afghanistan and not to
be too snide, but you can balance it against the semi-controlled
information you have sitting at the Pentagon everyday. And I think it's
fair to say we're not getting very much out of either side."
Kurtz pressed: "So you're saying both sides in effect are engaged in
a propaganda war?"
confirmed: "Absolutely in trying to get only their information out.
As for the press, to me it's a little ironic in the sense that we're both
accused of being not patriotic enough by the Pentagon and too patriotic in
some quarters that were saying too 'rah, rah United States,' and I
can't figure out how you balance that for anybody's approval."
Last Wednesday, at the Brookings Institution
forum broadcast by C-SPAN on Saturday night which was quoted in item #2
above, ABC's Ted Koppel condescendingly remarked:
don't believe that I'm being a particularly patriotic American by
slapping a little flag in my lapel and then saying anything that is said
by any member of the U.S. government is going to get on without comment
and anything that is said by someone from [raises fingers to make quote
signs] 'the enemy' is immediately going to be put through a meat
grinder of analysis. Our job is to put it all through the meat grinder of
ABC News has banned on-air staffers from
wearing American flag lapel pins, but it doesn't sound as if Koppel
would wear one if he were allowed.
One wishes ABC followed Koppel's policy and
made Dan Harris, who went on the Taliban tour of U.S.-caused death and
destruction, put Taliban claims "through the meat grinder of
CEO Roger Ailes received some negative e-mails from viewers last week
after he announced the signing of Geraldo Rivera as a war correspondent,
prompting Ailes to respond in a letter to viewers, published in FNC's
weekly e-mail newsletter, the Balance Sheet. Ailes promised that
Rivera's hiring does not contradict the Fox News Channel's commitment
"to fair and balanced news."
Pursuing Rivera is nothing new for Ailes, who
is cartoonishly portrayed by those on the left as a right-wing partisan
hack building a channel to serve GOP interests. His interest in Rivera
shows he puts a high priority on landing personalities who will attract
viewers no matter what their ideology. Ailes brought Rivera to CNBC in the
first place when he ran that channel and in 1997 he reportedly offered
Rivera a showcase role in prime time on the new Fox News Channel as well
as on the Fox broadcast network if he would leave CNBC, an offer which NBC
countered by promising Rivera prime time specials on NBC, appearances on
Today and his own CNBC news show, the since-canceled Upfront Tonight.
As Lisa de Moraes reported in the November 2
"The new deal reunites Rivera with Fox News Channel President Roger
Ailes, who was President of CNBC when Rivera began working there in '94.
Ailes subsequently tried to bring Rivera to FNC in '97; that resulted
instead in Rivera's lucrative deal with NBC News."
From the November 2 The Balance Sheet e-mail
newsletter from FNC, the Ailes reply to those who complained about Rivera
you for your letters. Geraldo Rivera has had a long and controversial
career and I disagree with many of the things he has said in his life.
However, I don't hire only people who agree with me. Geraldo is being
hired as a war correspondent. He has been in action in Bosnia and covered
the drug wars in South America. He is fearless and has a record of doing
exemplary work on issues such as mental health, drugs, and war, just to
name a few.
"Geraldo, by his own admission, has made
mistakes in his career. But at his core, he is a solid journalist.
Frankly, he could have made millions of dollars more by staying in his
safe NBC contract, but he elected to go in harms way to cover the biggest
story of our time. He, like many of us, has been changed by the events of
September 11th. That doesn't mean we will all agree on every issue, but it
does mean that Fox News Channel is truly committed to fair and balanced
news. I have great confidence in the American people to make up their own
minds if they hear all the facts.
"I'm not sure if I will be able to convince
people whose minds are made up, but while very opinionated, you strike me
as viewers who may be open to at least a wait-and-see attitude. I
appreciate your opinions. Please keep watching the Fox News Channel even
if you don't agree with all 168 hours a week. We do our best, we are
making a difference, and we are #1."
It would be nice if other network news chiefs
took viewer concerns as seriously.
In her Friday story, de Moraes outlined why
Rivera decided to leave CNBC in two weeks and how he's taking a big cut
in his $6 million annual pay. An excerpt:
....On Nov. 17, the day after his last appearance on CNBC's
"Rivera Live," he will be dispatched to the Afghanistan region,
where he'll join FNC's other recent hiring coup, former CNN correspondent
Steve Harrigan, in providing live reports.
Rivera was four years into a six-year pact with NBC News that paid him
about $6 million per year to host the CNBC prime-time talker, host
quarterly prime-time NBC News specials on the broadcast network and appear
regularly on the "Today" show....
Rivera said he's leaving because he's sick of being told he can't leave
his anchor desk, like when he recently pitched that his next NBC
prime-time special be on why Muslims hate America.
"They said I couldn't leave the country because of the
program," Rivera said. "It was a constant irritant; I want to go
where the story is and they'd say,
'What's the domestic angle?'
"It got to the point after September 11 where I couldn't bear it
anymore," said Rivera, who says that 15 parents of children at his
kids' elementary school were killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
"I've always seen myself, certainly in the last four or five, six
years, as a newsman first and a talk show host second," he said. Rivera told The TV Column he's taking "a
significant pay cut" to move to FNC....
On his CNBC show last night, Rivera told viewers he was leaving NBC and
heading to the We Report, You Decide Network because "I'm not the
same guy I was before the maniacs tried to tear our hearts out.
"I'm feeling more patriotic than at any time in my life. Itching
for justice -- or maybe just revenge."
END of Excerpt
I'd predict you'll eventually see Geraldo
in FNC's prime time. How could they resist a prime time of
ratings-getters Bill O'Reilly, Hannity & Colmes, plus Geraldo?
contrasts from Sunday newspapers.
-- Will Republicans or Democrats fare better
November 4 Washington Times headline:
"Prolonged War, Recession May Hurt Republicans in '02"
Washington Post headline the same day:
"Democrats May Carry Tuesday, But Lose It Next Year"
-- The Northern Alliance:
"Reluctant" or about to pounce?
New York Times front page on November 4:
"Afghan Rebels Seem a Reluctant Force So Far"
Washington Post front page the same day:
"Afghan Rebels Plan Assault on Kabul"
can't win and Ellen's one good joke. CBS had to twice postpone the
Emmy awards, first because they were scheduled for the Sunday after the
terrorist attacks and then a second time when they fell on the same Sunday
the U.S. launched its bombing.
Then last night, further eating into CBS
revenues, CBS was unable to air the highly profitable 60 Minutes in the
eastern and central time zones because the Chicago-Cleveland NFL game went
into overtime. With a hard start for the Emmy Awards telecast at 8pm
EST/7pm CST, CBS barely squeezed in the Andy Rooney segment at 7:50pm EST/
6:50pm CST, and so had no time for any of the regular pieces.
The joke I liked best from Emmy host Ellen
DeGeneres: "I feel like I'm in a unique position as host because,
think about it, what would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in
a suit surrounded by Jews?"
A nice in their face spirit. -- Brent Baker
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