Taliban Want Another Media Tour; Non-Fed Assumed Incompetent; Reuters' "Holy War"; Russert Cautioned Colleagues; Westin Coverage
1) ABC's Linda Douglass assumed federal bag screeners
would be more competent than better-paid private screeners. After noting a
proposed compromise which would have private companies perform screening
at smaller airports, Douglass warned: "Many I've talked to here on
Capitol Hill say then a terrorist could slip through that smaller airport,
re-board at the big airport."
2) ABC's Dan Harris admitted that the Taliban-directed
tour "posed some serious journalistic challenges," but they
didn't impede him as he repeated the same stories he had told the week
before about civilian deaths caused by the U.S. and how Taliban officials
claim the bombing is making them stronger. "The Taliban were
apparently satisfied with the results of their media tour." No wonder
"there's already talk of more trips this week."
3) Reuters won't allow its staff to use the terms
"terrorist" or "terrorism" to describe the September
11 incidents, but the wire service has no problem referring to how
Pakistanis were joining the Taliban to "wage holy war against the
4) "Don't trust anything you see on TV and be weary
of some of the things you read," a New York Times photographer
advised from Pakistan. He asserted: "We covered a pro-Taliban
demonstration last week attended by maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated
there were 50,000."
5) NBC's Tim Russert proclaim that while "we are
journalists...we are also Americans." He advised his colleagues that
"we must always reject any attempt to suggest a moral equivalency
between the United States of America and the terrorists."
6) Geraldo Rivera explained that "I'm not the same
guy I was before the maniacs tried to tear our hearts out." He's
leaving CNBC for FNC so he can "report all aspects of America's do
or die fight against terror."
7) The David Westin story, which the MRC put into play
last week, continues to generate coverage. On Fox News Sunday Tony Snow
highlighted Westin's quote and retraction. This week's just-published
editions of The Weekly Standard and New Republic also cited Westin's
comment with the Weekly Standard giving full credit to the MRC, as did the
New York Post, DrudgeReport.com, Rush Limbaugh, AP, New York Daily News
and Baltimore Sun.
staffers hardly put in a stellar performance when they allowed the
terrorist hijackers legal access to the U.S. and then did nothing to
remove them when they violated their visas, but the media seem obsessed
with the idea that federal bag checkers at airports will make flying safer
and that the private handling of such duties is unworkable.
On Monday night, for instance, ABC's Linda
Douglass mentioned a proposed compromise which would have bag screening
handled by federal agents at large airports and have private companies
perform the duty at smaller airports. But she quickly assumed the private
system would be incompetent, insisting: "Many I've talked to here
on Capitol Hill say then a terrorist could slip through that smaller
airport, re-board at the big airport."
There's no doubt that the current system of
rent a cops from overseas is untenable, but that does not mean, as much of
the media seem to assume, that they could not be replaced by
better-trained and higher-paid private security personnel accountable to a
set standard and reviewed by a federal agency.
After a World News Tonight story on how
O'Hare airport security personnel let a man get through with knives,
anchor Peter Jennings turned to Douglass: "We want to go up to
Capitol Hill at the moment because, in fact, in the Congress nothing has
been done since the September 11th to improve aviation security. Linda
Douglass, tell us why not."
explained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Peter, there
is simply an ideological standoff here. The Senate, led by the Democrats,
passed a bill that would make all of the airport screeners federal law
enforcement officers, but the House, led by Republicans, doesn't want
more federal workers, so they passed a bill that would give the President
the discretion to make them private workers. They are very far apart on
this, and they're just starting to negotiate this week."
asked: "So how do they break the impasse, do you think?"
answered by assuming federal workers would be more competent: "Well,
there is some talk of a compromise in which you'd have federal workers
at the big airports, private workers at the smaller airports, but many
I've talked to here on Capitol Hill say then a terrorist could slip
through that smaller airport, re-board at the big airport. So there's a
lot to talk about here. They're not close at all."
"But, in a phrase, will they get it resolved?"
"They have to get it resolved. The public cares about this one.
There's huge pressure on them. It's not clear how they're going to
do it, but they have to do it."
Pakistan from his Taliban tour, ABC's Dan Harris admitted on Good
Morning America that the Taliban-directed trip "posed some serious
journalistic challenges" as "the 26 journalists on the tour knew
exactly why we had been invited: The Taliban wanted us to tell the world
about innocent people being killed by U.S. bombs."
But even has he conceded that "getting at
the truth" was "exceedingly difficult," and even now that
he was safely out of their territory, Harris proceeded to fulfill the
Taliban goals as he repeated the same stories he had told the week before
about civilian deaths caused by the U.S. and how Taliban officials claim
the bombing is making them stronger.
Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson
set up the November 5 segment caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Foreign aid workers say U.S. carpet bombing has wounded up to 300
Taliban troops in the past week. The Taliban claims the number is much
smaller. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Taliban isn't even a
real government anymore, but it still controls most of the country. ABC's
Dan Harris was invited, as you may know, into Afghanistan last week as a
guest of the Taliban. It was really a dangerous journey, to some extent,
behind enemy lines and as a guest of the enemy, a tricky assignment for a
journalist to keep balance in all of that. Dan is joining us live this
morning from Quetta, Pakistan. Dan, good morning."
"Hi, Charlie. This trip provided a rare and extraordinary glimpse
behind enemy lines, but as you acknowledge, it also posed some serious
journalistic challenges. The 26 journalists on the tour knew exactly why
we had been invited: The Taliban wanted us to tell the world about
innocent people being killed by U.S. bombs. A pickup truck full of
soldiers led our caravan around to site after site. At each location we
saw piles of rubble and curious citizens eager to talk.
angry at America and Pakistan,' said this man. 'They're not eradicating
the government, just hurting civilians.'
at the truth, however, was exceedingly difficult. While it's clear some
civilians have died, many of the reporters were suspicious that the
Taliban were exaggerating the casualty figures and we had no way to
confirm their numbers. Perhaps the most wrenching instance was the village
of Chokar Karez, which we reached after a long drive in the desert. A U.S.
attack had leveled it. Locals estimated 50 people were killed.
was able to escape,' said this eyewitness, a local shepherd. 'They were
rubble, we found household items and farming equipment, but the Pentagon
insisted this was a Taliban encampment.
were learning firsthand about how difficult it is to ascertain the truth
during war, we were also learning some powerful cultural lessons, first
and foremost that the Afghans don't hate us. Laughing and staring, they
surrounded our car at this gas station and mobbed our camera downtown.
Hospitality even to living, breathing representatives of the enemy is a
major part of the Afghan philosophy....But this hospitality is a
double-edged sword. Afghans also use it to justify harboring Osama bin
Laden, a man who helped them fight the Russians, a man everyone we spoke
with called a freedom fighter."
Taliban spokesman: "We have no treaty to hand over such a Muslim to
foreigners, especially to Americans, who are presently killing our
"While traveling in the region over the weekend, U.S. Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said four weeks of bombing had severely
diminished the Taliban's ability to govern Afghanistan. The Taliban
officials we spoke with said just the opposite.
strikes have made us stronger,' said this military commander. 'Even those
who were opposed to the Taliban before are now supporting us.' He said
morale among his troops is high and he reminded the world that Taliban
soldiers are different than most people: They would rather die for a cause
concluded: "The Taliban were apparently satisfied with the results of
their media tour. There's already talk of more trips this week to either
Kabul or Kandahar."
You'd think Harris might be concerned about
why the enemy was so satisfied with his reporting.
won't allow its staff to use the terms "terrorist" or
"terrorism," outside of a quotation, to describe the September
11 incidents, but as James Taranto highlighted in his "Best of the
Web" column for OpinionJournal.com, the wire service has no problem
describing "the war against America as a 'holy' one."
Taranto quoted from a Reuters dispatch by
Sayed Salahuddin and Anton Ferreira, which carried a double byline of
"Kabul/Washington." The second paragraph of the November 5
campaign now in its fifth week, a hard-line Pakistani Islamic party said
on Monday that thousands of pro-Taliban fighters had crossed into
Afghanistan, armed with rocket launchers and swords, to wage holy war
against the United States."
To read the entire Reuters story, go to: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011105/ts/attack_dc_664.html
To refresh your memory on the Reuters refusal
to use the word "terrorism," refer back to the September 25
CyberAlert which reported: There were no "terrorist attacks" on
September 11, just "attacks" according to Reuters since the wire
service decided that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom
fighter." Following this decree, one Reuters story gave life to
inanimate objects as a reporter asserted that "two hijacked planes
attacked the twin towers." On Monday night FNC's panel decried the
values-neutral approach. Go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010925.asp#1
trust the media, at least not CNN. Says who? A new York Times photographer
in Pakistan. Catching up with an item caught last week by Jim
Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/),
on a Web page for sports photographers Vincent Laforet advised:
"Don't trust anything you see on TV and be weary of some of the
things you read." (Probably meant "wary.) The Times photographer
revealed: "We covered a pro-Taliban demonstration last week attended
by maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated there were 50,000."
In a lengthy recounting of his travails about
photographing in Pakistan, Laforet wrote:
of the media, I have but one thing to tell you. Don't trust anything you
see on TV and be weary of some of the things you read. I witnessed how
sensationalistic the media can be during the Florida recount. It's even
worse here. We covered a pro-Taliban demonstration last week attended by
maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated there were 50,000. The BBC estimated
40,000. We're continually hearing of "violent clashes with
police" when the TV stations report on non-violent demonstrations we
To read his dispatch in full, illustrated by
some of his photos, go to this address and scroll down to the second
Since he offered no date, it's hard to
correlate his statement with what CNN actually reported that day.
wake of ABC News President David Westin's initial refusal to offer an
opinion on whether the Pentagon was a "legitimate" terrorist
target, it was reassuring to hear another network news executive, NBC's
Tim Russert, proclaim that while "we are journalists...we are also
Americans" and so "we must always reject any attempt to suggest
a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the
Russert's comments, quoted on November 1 by
USA Today "Inside TV" columnist Peter Johnson, were made back on
October 26, three days after Westin spoke at Columbia University, but the
night before Westin's remarks were run by C-SPAN. In addition to serving
as moderator of Meet the Press, Russert is Vice President of NBC News.
Johnson relayed Russert's advice to his
journalistic colleagues: "'In times of war, the media should lower
our voices, modulate our tone. Yes, we are journalists, but we are also
Americans,' Russert said in a speech Friday to the Congressional Medal
of Honor Society. Russert said that as the war on terrorism unfolds, the
media and the government 'will have serious disagreements over what is
fair, timely or relevant -- or even what should be defined as a threat to
national security. But we should not and will not report anything which
puts our troops at risk, and we must always reject any attempt to suggest
a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the
cited a National Journal article last week that said that 'for wartime
journalists it's essential to avoid the blind patriotism that can grow
from righteous indignation, and the blind distrust of government that's a
natural reaction to the stepped-up secrecy and propaganda.'
are at war, and all of us must come together as never before,' Russert
said. 'Simply put: There are those who want to destroy us, our people --
men, women and children -- our institutions, our way of life, our freedom.
This presents some interesting issues for the media.'"
And Russert is
handling them better than ABC's Westin.
have changed so much that now even Geraldo Rivera seems reasonable. The
Fox News Web site has posted Rivera's explanation for why he decided to
leave CNBC for FNC, as he outlined on last Thursday's Rivera Live on
CNBC. To read this online, go to: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,37942,00.html
The transcript as posted (ellipses as they
appear in the transcript, I'm not cutting anything out):
events of September 11th changed America forever. I said that on September
12th, and everything that's happened since then, over the long, last six
weeks has only confirmed that melancholy truth. And by altering our state
of mind, if not our way of life, the attacks have also changed us as
individuals. I'm not the same guy I was before the maniacs tried to tear
our hearts out. In some ways, the change has been uncomfortable; I'm
more edgy now, more serious. But in most ways, I like what I'm
feeling...I'm more aware of the limits of life, how short and precious
it is. Spending time with my kids has never been as important...and I'm
feeling more patriotic than at any time in my life, itching for justice,
or maybe just revenge. And this catharsis I've gone through has caused
me to reassess what I do for a living.
than seven years, it's been my honor to host this show. I'm very proud
of it, and of the fact that for most of that time, you've made this the
highest rated program on the network. Now it's time for me to leave.
I'm a reporter, and this fight against terror is the biggest story of
our times. And as much as I love this job, I can't stay anchored to this
desk any longer. So I'm leaving in two weeks, the 16th of November will
be my last program and I'll save my thank yous for then. After that,
next time you'll see me, I'll be working as a correspondent for
another network. In that capacity, I hope to be able to report all aspects
of America's do or die fight against terror. Hope to see you tomorrow.
God Bless America."
David Westin story, which the MRC put into play last week, continues to
generate coverage. On Fox News Sunday Tony Snow highlighted Westin's
quote and retraction. This week's just-published editions of The Weekly
Standard and New Republic also cited Westin's remark with the Weekly
Standard giving full credit to the MRC, as did the New York Post,
DrudgeReport.com, Rush Limbaugh, AP, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun
Plus, over the weekend, Westin's comment was
raised on both FNC's Fox Newswatch and CNN's Reliable Sources.
For a full rundown of how David Westin
proclaimed he had "no opinion" on whether the Pentagon was a
"legitimate" target, a statement caught by the MRC and first
reported in the October 29 CyberAlert, which then led to a big controversy
when highlighted in an October 31 New York Post editorial that led to a
DrudgeReport.com story and a discussion by Rush Limbaugh, all of which
caused Westin to concede "I was wrong," go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011031_extra.asp
That CyberAlert Extra also features a
RealPlayer excerpt of Westin's original remarks.
News coverage since the first day of
-- AP's David Bauder related in a piece
distributed the afternoon of October 31: "The vice president of the
Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog organization, was watching
C-SPAN Saturday and sent an e-mail to hundreds of contacts about Westin's
remarks. 'This is an example to us of somebody at a very high level of
the news media following a policy of journalist first, American second,'
said Brent Baker, the Media Research Center official who saw Westin."
(Those "hundreds of contacts" would
be the thousands of CyberAlert subscribers.)
For Bauder's dispatch in full, go to: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011031/en/attacks_abc_1.html
-- FNC's Brit Hume on the October 31 Special
Report with Brit Hume: "ABC News President David Westin, facing
criticism for saying that he had no opinion on whether the Pentagon was a
legitimate target for a terrorist attack, has now reversed himself. Westin
made the original comments in an answer to a question at Columbia
Journalism School last week. In an e-mail to the Media Research Center,
which first noted his remarks, he said, 'upon reflection, I realize that
my answer did not address the specifics of September 11. Under any
interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely
without justification. I apologize for any harm that my misstatement may
-- In a November 1 New York Daily News story
on the controversy, reporter Richard Huff noted the MRC's role:
"Westin told the students it was fine to have an opinion on the issue
in his private life, but that as a journalist, he felt strongly it was
something he should not take a stand on. That led to the conservative
Media Research Center, an organization that has focused on ABC's coverage
since Sept. 11, slamming him for being a journalist first and an American
For the complete story, go to:
-- Baltimore Sun television reporter David
Folkenflik relayed in a November 2 story: "Late Wednesday, ABC News
President David Westin apologized for earlier saying that he had 'no
position' on whether the Pentagon was an appropriate target for
hijackers. He made his remarks last month to a group of Columbia
University graduate students. His comments were broadcast on C-SPAN,
picked up by Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, and
then given broader play by the New York Post and the Drudge Report."
For this article in its entirety, go to:
-- Tony Snow announced on Fox News Sunday:
"ABC News President David Westin argued this week that he couldn't
say whether terrorists were within their legitimate rights to strike the
Pentagon. Quote, 'The way I conceive my job, running a news
organization, and the way I would like all the journalists at ABC News to
perceive it, is that our job is to determine what is, not what ought to
be.' Several days later he apologized and conceded that his journalistic
standards do permit him to concede that mass murder is bad."
-- The November 12 New Republic features the
Westin quote in its "Idiocy Watch" feature within its up front
-- The latest Weekly Standard has devoted its
back page "Not a Parody" feature entirely to Westin with not
one, but two, credit lines to the MRC. Under the headline "Media
Leadership in Our Time," the November 12 edition of the magazine ran
Westin's initial remarks in full followed by the complete text of his
retraction. To view an image of this page, go to: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/455xizuu.asp
And speaking of the MRC in the news, as many
of you may have seen, on Monday night's Special Report with Brit Hume on
FNC he reported the MRC's new study on how ABC's World News Tonight
devoted more than twice as much time to civilian casualties in Afghanistan
during October than did the CBS and NBC evening shows combined.
To read the study by the MRC's Rich Noyes,
as published Monday in a Media Reality Check and distributed yesterday
afternoon in a CyberAlert Special, go to the HTML version which also
features matching RealPlayer video clips: http://archive.mrc.org/realitycheck/2001/Fax20011105.asp
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/pdf/fax1105.pdf
Remember, you read it all here first. -- Brent Baker
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