Bin Laden = Ashcroft; MRC's Falwell Coverup?; ABC Promoted Amnesty International Critique; Katie Couric Gushed Over Jim Jeffords
1) New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis thinks
"certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are
sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft." Lewis
also made clear he doesn't let reality get in the way of his utopian
vision for a socialist Britain: "The health service doesn't work. I'm
still for it. But it doesn't work."
2) Newsweek's Jonathan Alter excoriated the Media
Research Center for not condemning a post-September 11 remark by Jerry
Falwell, but Alter missed a fundamental point: The MRC reviews the news
media, not comments by religious and political figures.
3) Getting to what's really important. On Monday's
Good Morning America, from Afghanistan reporter Dan Harris made sure
viewers were aware "that according to Amnesty International, at
least, parading prisoners of war in front of the media is a violation of
the Geneva Conventions."
4) Liberal Senator Jim Jeffords was warmly embraced by
Katie Couric, who dubbed him "a maverick" and raved that he
"is the personification of one man, one vote, and his story a classic
of American politics." Couric gushed: "Jeffords is a man at
peace with himself, enjoying work on his Vermont farm, splitting logs,
saving a few pennies with some inventive repair work on a
5) West Wing star Richard Schiff recalled that he'd only
previously seen the District of Columbia "through tear gas" and,
referring to the show's liberal "President Bartlet," asserted
that he encounters many who "kind of wish that Bartlet was in the
White House at times."
6) Cokie Roberts on NBC's Tonight Show tonight. Peter
Jennings on Letterman on Friday. The plot of this week's The Agency on
CBS: A reporter's story will lead to the death of a CIA informant.
Elaboration/Clarification: The December 17 CyberAlert cited how, unlike
NBC and MSNBC, ABC's Peter Jennings on December 13 avoided derogatory
language in reporting on President Bush's decision to have the U.S.
withdraw from the ABM treaty, but the CyberAlert failed to point out how
Jennings referred to the Soviet Union in the present tense:
"President Bush formally notified the Soviet Union today the U.S.
will withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so the U.S. can
proceed with building a missile defense system. Mr. Bush said today it was
part of the war against terrorists. The Russians say it's a mistake
because it disrupts long-standing arms control agreements."
New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis revealed that his "big
conclusion" about life is that Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft both
represent how "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in
people who are sure they are right." Lewis, whom the Times described
as "the newspaper's most consistently liberal voice in recent
years," equated the two men in an interview published on Sunday, the
day after his final column ran.
Lewis, a Times reporter for many years before
becoming a columnist in the late 1960s, also expressed disappointment in
the failure of socialism in Britain, but made clear he doesn't let
reality get in the way of his utopian vision: "You know, the health
service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
The December 16 Week in Review section
featured a parting interview with Lewis. The introduction: "At the
age of 74, after 50 years at The New York Times, Anthony Lewis has
retired. His last Op-Ed column appeared yesterday. Ethan Bronner, an
editor at The Times, asked Mr. Lewis, the newspaper's most consistently
liberal voice in recent years, to reflect on his career."
Bronner's first question: "What have
been the large themes of your columns?"
Lewis replied: "I've dealt with concrete
things, usually quite obsessively, because particular issues seem to be
dominant in my mind: Vietnam, while that was going on, South African
apartheid, and then the Middle East."
Bronner's second question: "Have you
drawn any big conclusion?"
Lewis answered: "Maybe it's a twin
conclusion. One is that certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in
people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft.
And secondly that for this country at least, given the kind of
obstreperous, populous, diverse country we are, law is the absolute
essential. And when governments short-cut the law, it's extremely
As James Taranto suggested in his "Best
of the Web" column on Monday (www.opinionjournal.com/best),
"imagine if a right-wing commentator had similarly likened Ashcroft's
predecessor, Janet Reno, with, say, Stalin."
A bit later, readers came across this
exchange. Question: "Have you changed your view on socialism?"
Lewis maintained: "I can remember when the Labor government was
elected in 1945 in Britain. It was one of those defining events. I was
coming out of a lecture hall at Harvard. There were still a lot of troops
abroad and all that. The election was announced and it was a Labor
landslide, which was an extraordinary surprise. And here was a headline on
a newspaper that somebody was hawking outside this lecture hall. And I
thought, Well, this is great. Socialism is really going to have a chance.
Democratic socialism is going to have a chance. Well it just turned out to
be more difficult and the resources weren't there. You know, the health
service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
A great illustration of the cliche of living
in an ivory tower.
To read the entire interview, those registered
with the New York Times online can go to:
In his December 15 column, his final one,
Lewis also equated Islamic and Christian fundamentalism: "No one can
miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11. Islamic fundamentalism,
rejecting the rational processes of modernity, menaces the peace and
security of many societies. But the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism
is not to be found in Islam alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America,
believing that the Bible's story of creation is the literal truth,
question not only Darwin but the scientific method that has made
contemporary civilization possible."
OpinionJournal.com's Taranto commented:
"Now, we have no brief for Christian fundamentalism, but give us a
break. There's a world of difference between hijacking airplanes,
destroying skyscrapers and murdering thousands on the one hand, and
'questioning Darwin' on the other. (Besides, to question is the
essence of the scientific method.)"
Jonathan Alter excoriated the Media Research Center for not condemning a
post-September 11 remark by Jerry Falwell, but Alter missed a fundamental
point: The MRC reviews the news media, not comments by religious and
Alter recalled how the MRC's Notable
Quotables cited quotes by him, David Broder, Susan Sontag and Bill Maher,
yet skipped Falwell. But at the top of every NQ the MRC describes itself
as "a bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes
humorous, quotes in the liberal media" -- not in the religious media.
Alter began his December 14 online piece for
MSNBC, to which the MRC's Ken Shepherd and Rich Noyes alerted me:
"He's back. Three months after the Rev. Jerry Falwell said on Pat
Robertson's show 'The 700 Club' that liberals 'helped this
[September 11] happen' and that 'the enemies of America give us
probably what we deserve,' Falwell has mailed out a new fund-raising
pitch for the Jerry Falwell Ministries..."
A bit later in his article, Alter complained:
"Some on the right have actively protected Falwell. For example, the
Media Research Center, run by longtime conservative activist L. Brent
Bozell, published a newsletter chronicling what it called 'The Good, the
Bad and the Ugly' in media commentary about September 11. Washington
Post columnist David Broder was in the 'Bad' category for criticizing
missile defense in the wake of September 11, as was I for saying on MSNBC
that we should retaliate but not 'go on too much of a war footing.'
Susan Sontag and Bill Maher were in the 'Ugly' category for their
now-famous comments that the hijackers were not 'cowardly.'
"And Falwell and Robertson? Well, somehow
their comments were considered neither bad nor ugly. They simply weren't
included in this conservative 'media criticism' at all."
Jesse Jackson, many left-wing professors and
some far-left politicians also made some pretty stupid comments, but we
didn't quote them either because they are not in the mainstream media.
And, unlike Sontag, are not part of New York's literary community given
a forum in an establishment magazine or, unlike Maher, do not host a
broadcast network show dealing with politics. The 700 Club doesn't
pretend to be an unbiased news show so the MRC does not monitor it, just
as we never quoted what Jackson said on his old CNN show since we were
able to differentiate it from the rest of the CNN schedule.
But I'm sure this is obvious to everyone but
To read all the quotes in the MRC's special
October 1 four-page edition of Notable Quotables titled, "Terrorist
Attack on America. Media Coverage: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,"
go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/notablequotables/2001/nq20011001.asp
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF of the hard
copy version, go to:
To read Alter's December 14 MSNBC piece in
full, go to:
to what's really important. On Monday's Good Morning America, from
Afghanistan reporter Dan Harris made sure viewers were aware "that
according to Amnesty International, at least, parading prisoners of war in
front of the media is a violation of the Geneva Conventions."
Harris's observation came at the end of a
December 17 story about how "this morning, the Afghans paraded their
Al-Qaeda prisoners in front of the international media. The prisoners
looked weak, defeated, many had trouble walking from their injuries. Some
sat with their heads bowed, others refused to show their face."
Harris ended his piece, the MRC's Jessica
Anderson noticed, by pointing out: "It may be worth noting that
according to Amnesty International, at least, parading prisoners of war in
front of the media is a violation of the Geneva Conventions."
As if, compared to Taliban atrocities, that
even rates. And what Afghan government with any power now ever agreed to
abide by the Geneva Conventions?
Today provided an approving forum for liberal Senator Jim Jeffords, who
gave Democrats control of the Senate, to pitch his new book. Katie Couric
raved that "Jim Jeffords is the personification of one man, one vote,
and his story a classic of American politics."
Though neither Bush or Jeffords changed their
viewpoints, Couric claimed that "Jeffords found himself increasingly
at odds with the GOP on Capitol Hill and the White House over issues
ranging from education, to the environment, to the size of the tax cut,
all of which forced him to examine his core beliefs."
Couric soon gushed: "Today, Jeffords is a
man at peace with himself, enjoying work on his Vermont farm, splitting
logs, saving a few pennies with some inventive repair work on a
Interviewing Jeffords, Couric tagged him a
"maverick" and avoided any tough questions about his motivation
or whether he has responsibility for the current gridlock which is
preventing bills from getting passed. Instead, she prompted him to expound
on how Republicans don't want to spend enough on education and portrayed
those he betrayed as the ingrates for giving him the "cold
Couric set up the 8am half hour segment on
December 17: "Last May, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords bolted from the
GOP and became an Independent, a move which handed control of the Senate
to the Democrats and shocked political Washington."
Senator Jim Jeffords: "I've never been more
firm in my convictions and feelings that I did the right thing."
Couric: "Jim Jeffords is the personification
of one man, one vote, and his story a classic of American politics. What
Jim Jeffords did simply was turn Washington on its ear. In the months
following President Bush's inauguration in January, the 67-year-old
Jeffords found himself increasingly at odds with the GOP on Capitol Hill
and the White House over issues ranging from education, to the
environment, to the size of the tax cut, all of which forced him to
examine his core beliefs."
Unidentified Reporter: "Have you made up
your mind, Senator?"
Couric: "Jeffords knew and agonized that a
political switch at this time in his career would affect not only him, but
Republican colleagues, and his staff and family."
Elizabeth Jeffords, his wife: "There wasn't
anybody in your corner, not anybody, and I think for you and I, the
tension was palpable in the office and in our relationship. It was just
everything was so tense."
Couric: "But flying to Vermont in May,
Jeffords knew he'd made the right decision, but he also knew he had to
tell his constituents why. He called it the biggest speech of his
Jeffords: "In order to best represent my
state of Vermont, my own conscience, and principles I have stood for my
whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an
Couric, over video of Jeffords leaning over a
wheelbarrow: "For the GOP, what had been unthinkable was now real.
Jim Jeffords' stunning announcement had rocked Washington. Today, Jeffords
is a man at peace with himself, enjoying work on his Vermont farm,
splitting logs, saving a few pennies with some inventive repair work on a
Jeffords: "Good as new."
Couric: "And doing some retail
Jeffords: "Hi. How are you? I'm Jim Jeffords."
Couric: "But the switch is never far from
Jeffords at the University of Vermont, September
4, 2001: "I was not elected to be something I am not, and this is no
surprise to Vermonters, because independence is the Vermont way."
Couric: "Artist Richard Schmid had this to
say about Jeffords' countenance as he painted his portrait recently:"
Richard Schmid: "You know, I like to paint
people who have lived a little bit, as I have. Their face is much more
interesting, you know, all that pain over the years."
Couric: "To which Jeffords responded
Jeffords: "Well, it's one thing to have
pain, it's another thing to create pain, and I think I've done both."
Couric: "Senator Jeffords has written the
story of his saga in a new book titled, My Declaration of
-- "How tough a decision was this in
retrospect?" (Answer: "Really rough, so many people were hurt by
-- "But having said that, you have no
regrets?" ("None whatsoever.")
-- "You've always been considered a bit
of a maverick. I don't think, as P.J. O'Rourke said, you're going to
get your nose pierced anytime soon, which he mentioned earlier in this
program, but you've always been sort of an independent thinker. Had you
ever considered leaving your party prior to last spring?"
-- "The two things that really pushed you
over the edge though, this time, funding for special education: you
didn't think the Republicans were going to fight hard enough for that.
And the President's tax cut. Those were really the two things that were
working in concert that made you say 'I'm out of here,' right?"
("Absolutely. Need money for education...")
-- "You also, recently, working with the
Democrats on the education bill, you did not get funding for the
Individuals with Disabilities Act which you care so deeply about and as a
result you've announced that despite your switch to independent you're
going to vote against the bill. So how frustrated are you? Do you feel
like it was all for naught in a way?"
Jeffords: "In a way...The conservatives have
this bent against federal funds for education but we need those
Couric: "In favor of bloc grants by the
Jeffords: "-or nothing. Let the states and
local governments fund it, that's the way it should be. They should fund
the education. And we can't in the modern day world."
-- "On a personal level, Senator, what
kind of impact has this had on your relationships with your Republican
colleagues? For example, you appeared on this show a few years ago with a
group called The Singing Senators, I think responsible for a number of
major hits, including Elvira, at least when it came to our show. And, a
lot of these folks, I mean they gave you the cold shoulder, particularly
Trent Lott, who circulated a memo saying that you had 'staged a coup of
one, subverting the will of Americans who had voted for a Republican
-- "And you really mucked things up for
-- "What is your relationship like with
him [Lott] now?" ("Getting better...")
-- "Any political reprisals by
Republicans on Capitol Hill or by the White House itself?" ("Not
CBS's 60 Minutes ran a piece on Jeffords on
Sunday night. For more about that, refer back to the December 17
week on Today, West Wing star Richard Schiff recalled that he'd only
previously seen the District of Columbia "through tear gas and with
riot police everywhere" and, referring to the show's liberal
"President Bartlet" played by Martin Sheen, asserted that he
encounters many who "kind of wish that Bartlet was in the White House
at times and that the virtual White House was the real White House."
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught the December
12 interview segment tied to the West Wing cast taping TV ads to promote
Washington, DC tourism.
When Katie Couric inquired as to "how you
all got involved in this project," Schiff, who plays White House
Communications Director "Toby Zeigler," replied: "We were
just asked to participate in it. Happily, certainly I happily volunteered
to do it for them. And the rest of the cast, I think, did too. And, you
know, for me, the city has been great to us. It's a beautiful, beautiful
city which I never knew. The only time I had been there in my life before
I started working on The West Wing was in a demonstration about 30 years
ago. And I'd only seen the city through tear gas and with riot police
everywhere. So I had no idea what a beautiful, beautiful city it is and it
truly is. And the people there have been great to us. It's an inspiring
place to be actually."
Couric later jokingly asked: "Are you
afraid that tourists coming to the White House might go to the White House
thinking they're going to see President Bartlet instead of President
Schiff insisted: "Well, we get a lot of
comments about how they, how people kind of wish that Bartlet was in the
White House at times and that the virtual White House was the real White
The West Wing airs Wednesday nights at 9pm
ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT on NBC.
noteworthy appearances this week on the late night talk shows by TV
reporters and a media-related plot on a prime time show. Since CyberAlert
readership is sure to decline as Christmas approaches, though a couple of
these events will not air for a few days, I thought I'd put out this
information in advance.
-- ABC's Cokie Roberts is scheduled to be a
guest tonight, Tuesday December 18, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
-- ABC's Peter Jennings is scheduled to make
a rare late night appearance on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman on
Friday night, December 21.
-- The plot of Thursday's (December 20) The
Agency, a show on CBS about the CIA, as outlined on the program's Web
"A[n] ambitious journalist plans to run a
career-making story about one of the Agency's great Cold War successes,
which will expose and therefore cost the life of a now retired Russian
general who risked his life to help Director Pierce and the CIA. The
journalist refuses to kill the story, and Director Pierce and his team
must do everything they can to protect the Russian, even if it means
putting another life in jeopardy."
The Web page for The Agency, which airs at
10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT:
And, don't forget about She Says: Women in
News on PBS tonight, December 18. As detailed in the December 17
CyberAlert: On the PBS show to air Tuesday night, ABC's Carole Simpson
reveals she doesn't think network news is liberal enough as she will
bemoan how the elimination of the "American Agenda" segment on
the weekday World News Tonight means "it's kind of a depressing time
right now. I don't think we are fulfilling what I always thought was our
historic role, which was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the
afflicted." For more, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011217.asp
> I anticipate the "Best Notable
Quotables of 2001: The Fourteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst
Reporting," as judged by over 40 media observers, will be posted
today on the MRC home page. I'll send an e-mail as soon as it is up. --
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