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 CyberAlert Weekend Edition

The 1,297th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
Friday June 14, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 96)

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Rather Adopted Liberal Environmentalist "Rollback" Spin; CNN's Brown Insisted He Was Just "Asking Questions"; Jennings Spiked Patriotic Song?; Goldberg on Rooney's Bias Admission

1) The broadcast networks followed the liberal script Thursday night in characterizing how the Bush administration's new rules on power plant emissions, especially CBS. Dan Rather twice referred to a "rollback" of clean air regulations. But at least NBC's Tom Brokaw properly attributed to "environmental groups" the spin Rather treated as fact. CBS's John Roberts called it a "give back to an industry that pledged more than $4 million" to Bush and Republicans, but in highlighting how a state attorney general planned to sue, he failed to identify him as a liberal Democrat.

2) CNN's Aaron Brown defended how he opened Monday's NewsNight, claiming he was just "asking questions" about why Jose Padilla/ Abdullah al Muhajir was not being granted the rights normally afforded to a U.S. citizen. But Brown failed to address the point made in Tuesday's CyberAlert, that his bias came in how he put a higher priority on the suspected terrorist's civil rights concerns than on what he stands accused of working to commit.

3) Country singer Toby Keith accused ABC's Peter Jennings of booting him from an ABC 4th of July special, to be hosted by Jennings, because Jennings objected to the lyrics of Keith's song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who interviewed Keith about the matter, repeatedly described Keith's song as "controversial."

4) Picking up on the non-reaction to Andy Rooney's admission of liberal bias and how Dan Rather is "transparently liberal," Bernard Goldberg recalled in a Wall Street Journal op-ed how CBS News people condemned him for daring to suggest any liberal bias.

5) As read by members of it, Letterman's "Top Ten Responsibilities of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard)."


The broadcast networks followed the liberal script Thursday night in characterizing how the Bush administration's new rules on power plant emissions, especially CBS. Dan Rather twice referred to a "rollback," asserting that "President Bush today approved a rollback in clean air regulations" and promised that John Roberts would report "on the impact of this rollback." But at least NBC's Tom Brokaw properly attributed the spin Rather treated as fact: "Environmental groups and some Democrats were furious about the decision of the administration, calling the move a huge rollback of the Clean Air Act."

     CBS's Roberts used the "rollback" verbiage at the start of his story, but least attributed it: "Critics charge the plan is the most dramatic rollback of the Clean Air Act in history, a give back to an industry that pledged more than $4 million to President Bush and Republicans in recent years." Roberts aired soundbites of Bush and the EPA's Christine Whitman as well as of a liberal environmentalist, but also highlighted a disgruntled former EPA staffer: "Eric Schaeffer, who left the EPA this year over differences with the White House, says the whole idea is disgraceful." Roberts, who attributed the Bush policy move to political motivation, concluded by noting, without identifying him as a liberal Democrat, that New York's Attorney General plans to sue to "stop the White House from gutting the Clean Air Act."

     On ABC's World News Tonight on June 13 anchor Peter Jennings read this short item which avoided the substance and followed the liberal line about a payoff to supporters: "The Environmental Protection Agency proposes changing air pollution rules to make it easier for energy companies to expand coal-burning power plants. It is a victory for utilities who successfully lobbied the Bush administration hard to weaken clear air standards."

     Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw announced: "The Bush administration said today it is relaxing air pollution rules for utilities when their plants are expanded. The power industry had complained the rules, which require them to install equipment to control smog and soot, were complicated and expensive. Environmental groups and some Democrats were furious about the decision of the administration, calling the move a huge rollback of the Clean Air Act. And New York state's Attorney General announced late today he will be suing the Bush administration to try to reverse that decision."

     Only cable viewers got any real idea of the substance of the problem the Bush administration was trying to fix.

     On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Carl Cameron explained, leading into a soundbite from Tom Daschle: "Industry under current rules must install costly pollution controls when they modernize or expand, so a lot of them don't. The Bush administration argues that easing pollution rules will provide an incentive to modernize, which will improve energy efficiency and cut pollution. The nation's top Democrat is not buying it."

     Cameron also clued viewers in to the hyped-up, over the top vitriol of some liberal Democrats as he played this soundbite from New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli who basically accused the Bush team of murder: "Listen to me carefully. People's lives will be lost because of what was decided today. Young people and the elderly will get asthma, lakes will be destroyed, forests will be destroyed."

     Earlier, on CNN's Inside Politics, John King gave the views of liberal environmentalists and then outlined how the White House is "making the case that what it is doing here is simply going back to what the rule was in the earliest days of the Clinton administration. It's a very technical issue, Candy. It's called 'new source review' -- one of those labels only Washington could put on something. But the White House is saying is the Clinton administration went too far and over-interpreted the rules, so that if a coal producing plant already in place wanted to make technological improvements, it would then automatically have to put in as well very expensive anti-pollution controls. The White House says that ends up being counterproductive. That most plants won't do even the most basic repairs because they would turn out to be so costly. And the administration says because of that, some coal plants are putting out more pollution, more emissions, than they would if they could make these simple repairs."

     King also suggested a White House motivation not as sexy to the networks as a payoff to donors. He told anchor Candy Crowley: "It is also, Candy, a reminder, as Democrats say, Mr. Bush is doing this because of states like West Virginia and states like Pennsylvania. Had tiny West Virginia gone Democratic last time, as it had for so many years, Al Gore would be President, not George W. Bush."

     Back to the June 13 CBS Evening News polemic in the guise of a news story, Rather set it up: "President Bush today approved a rollback in clean air regulations that would have required utilities to improve pollution controls when they boost production. CBS's John Roberts reports on the impact of this rollback -- environmental and political."

     Roberts began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants will get a pass under the new rules, but today the Bush administration argued the move would ultimately encourage emissions reductions."
     Christie Whitman, EPA Administrator: "Our reforms are designed to remove unintended obstacles to investment in newer, cleaner, more efficient production processes."
     Roberts: "Environmental groups didn't see it that way, complaining the new regulations will allow many of the nation's most polluting power plants to install new equipment and increase output without doing a thing to curb emissions."
     Phil Clapp, National Environmental Trust: "The proposal is actually much worse than anyone expected. Essentially what it does is say to the utility industry, 'You will never have to clean up your oldest and dirtiest power plants."
     Roberts: "Critics charge the plan is the most dramatic rollback of the Clean Air Act in history, a give back to an industry that pledged more than $4 million to President Bush and Republicans in recent years."

     As Roberts spoke, viewers saw a chart on screen with campaign contributions for 2000 and 2002 listed under "Utility Contributions." Those listed: Southern Company, Dominion, Cinergy, Duke, American Electric and Edison Electric for a total of $4,198,916.

     Roberts noted: "Not so, said President Bush today."
     George W. Bush: "They're absolutely wrong. This administration is committed to clean air, and we're gonna work vigorously to achieve clean air."
     Roberts countered: "The President has proposed to reduce pollution on a national level, but local communities could still get hurt. The oldest and dirtiest plants could continue to operate without changes by buying pollution credits from newer, cleaner-burning plants. Eric Schaeffer, who left the EPA this year over differences with the White House, says the whole idea is disgraceful."
     Eric Schaeffer, former EPA official: "My question is where is the EPA? I mean, we don't have an EPA anymore. We just have the White House and the energy lobby."
     Roberts concluded: "Almost as soon as the new regulations were rolled out, the state of New York -- which lies in the fallout zone from older Midwestern power plants, announced it was going to court to, as the state's attorney general put it, 'stop the White House from gutting the Clean Air Act.'"

     For the EPA's view of its new ruling, see "EPA Announces Steps to Increase Energy Efficiency, Encourage Emissions Reductions," at: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/headline_061302.htm


CNN's Aaron Brown on Tuesday night defended how he opened Monday's NewsNight, claiming he was just "asking questions" about why Jose Padilla/Abdulla al Muhajir was not being granted the rights normally afforded to a U.S. citizen. But Brown failed to address the point made in Tuesday's CyberAlert, that his bias came in how he put a higher priority on the suspected terrorist's civil rights concerns than on what he stands accused of working to commit.

     As recounted in the June 11 CyberAlert, before telling viewers anything about what the government says the man planned, Brown opened the June 10 NewsNight on Monday night by lamenting the guy's plight: "An American citizen, Abdullah al Muhajir, is being held in a military brig with no access to a lawyer, none of the other rights afforded to a citizen, because the government says he is part of a terrorist plot to detonate a dirty bomb." After insisting he's not "interested in seeing a bunch of terrorists running around the country blowing up buildings and killing lots of people while they are out on bail," Brown put his personal views ahead of the story as he explained how he's "not especially interested in seeing the government deny citizens their most basic protection against governmental abuse."

     Brown went to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, who gave equal weight to complaints of "defense lawyers" as to the mass murder plot: "Well, here the Bush administration is touting the detention of this American al-Qaeda as having thwarted a potentially deadly terrorist attack, but many defense attorneys are asking the same question that you're asking. Were basic American rights trampled in the process?"

     For a full rundown of how Brown began the June 10 NewsNight:

     The next night, June 11, Brown opened his 10pm EDT show: "Good evening again. I'm Aaron Brown. I suppose I knew we were destined to do this bit of business tonight about this time last night. There's been quite a spirited e-mail discussion today about the case of Jose Padilla, the American being held in a military brig, who the government alleges was part of a plot to explode a dirty bomb in the United States.
     "There was both praise and condemnation, and I was uncomfortable with both. For one, I didn't say the government was wrong. In this space yesterday I said I'm not sure, but denying an American, any American the most basic rights is extraordinary. Indeed, as best I can tell, it's only happened one other time, and that it might be necessary and right, I said, is just one more reason to hate what happened to all of us on the 11th of September. The blame, it seemed to me, was fairly placed on the terrorists.
     "Without doing what my favorite boss accuses me of sometimes doing, excessive hand-wringing, how can we not ask questions about this matter? Here you have a man denied a lawyer, a formal charge, the presumption of innocence, something absolutely antithetical to American life -- how can we avoid asking questions about the law in this case? What kind of reporters would we be? And I don't honestly believe even the most critical viewer, if he took a step back, would want us to stop asking these questions -- not taking a stand, not saying this is right and that is wrong, but asking questions...."

     Brown had wondered: "How can we avoid asking questions about the law in this case? What kind of reporters would we be?"

     Well, reporters normally let those they question respond. In this case, Brown did not. He led his show by posing questions from the agenda of those with a particular point of view and thus gave them a level of credibility not afforded to those in support of the federal government's classification of Padilla as an enemy combatant.


Patriotic lyrics not appropriate for the 4th of July? Country singer Toby Keith has accused ABC's Peter Jennings of booting him from a planned three-hour prime time ABC special, to be hosted by Jennings on July 4, because Jennings objected to the lyrics of Keith's song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." The song is also known as "The Angry American."

     While ABC maintains Keith's appearance was never finalized, on Thursday afternoon Keith told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who repeatedly described Keith's song as "controversial," that it definitely was. Keith related how a month after they had a signed contract, ABC people told Keith's manager that "Mr. Jennings didn't like the lyric content, said this wasn't going to be on his show."

     The lyrics in question:
"This big dog will fight/
"When you rattle his cage/
"And you'll be sorry that you messed with/
"The U.S. of A./
"'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/
"It's the American way."

     This is hardly some obscure song that hasn't proved its appeal. "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" is now #12 on Billboard's "Hot Country Singles & Tracks," up from #17 last week. It's been on the "Top 20" chart for five weeks. For the latest:

CNN featured country singer Toby Keith who says he was dropped from ABC's 4th of July special because Peter Jennings objected to his song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

     ABC's decision came to light in a June 13 USA Today story run on the front page of the "Life" section." An excerpt from the story, "Singer Toby Keith speaks out on ABC censorship," by Brian Mansfield:

Toby Keith says the producer of an ABC 4th of July TV special rescinded an offer to have the country singer perform his current hit after the show's host, World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings, heard the song and vetoed it. The single, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American), is an outpouring of grief, anger and frustration Keith wrote in the wake of Sept. 11 and the earlier death of his father. The controversial, patriotic song tells of a veteran who lost his eye in a combat training mission and also features a number of confrontational verses.

"I find it interesting that he's not from the U.S.," Keith says of Jennings, who is Canadian. "I bet Dan Rather'd let me do it on his special."

ABC News spokeswoman Cathie Levine downplays the controversy and says that Keith's camp overstates the reasons he's not going to be on the show.

"They talked to him, but they talked to a lot of people," Levine says. "There were a lot of factors in play," among them a travel conflict, since Keith already had booked a show in Provo, Utah, that night. "The whole production is still in the planning stages."... 

[Keith:] "It was a song I was inspired to write because I lost (my father) six months before 9/11. Nobody wrote an angry American song, and this was one. It was the way everybody felt when they saw those two buildings fall."

     END of Excerpt

     For the entire story: 

     CNN's Wolf Blitzer set up an "exclusive" June 13 interview segment with Keith: "Keith had been invited to perform on an ABC 4th of July special until Jennings reportedly heard his new hit single, 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.' The controversial song is about military veteran who was injured in a training mission. But at its core, it's a reflection of American anger over the September 11th attacks."

     Wolf relayed ABC's retort to Keith's claims: "Contacted by CNN, ABC tried to downplay the controversy. The network issued statement saying quote, 'While we have cast a wide net searching for performers and considered adding Toby Keith to the line-up, unfortunately, a number of factors, including logistical ones, prevented us from booking him.'"

     Keith appeared via satellite from Norman, Oklahoma and Blitzer asked him to pick up his guitar "and sing a few bars for us, the controversial lyrics, if you don't mind."

     Sans any of his usual band accompaniment, Keith sang the "controversial" lyrics: "Justice will be served and the battle will rage. This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage. And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. because we'll put a boot in your ass. It's the American way. Hey, Uncle Sam puts your name at the top of his list, and the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist. And the eagle will fly, and it's going to be hell. You hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell, and it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you. All brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue."

     Blitzer prompted Keith: "Now, tell us what the uproar is about. What happened? Walk us through your invitation to appear on this ABC 4th of the July special."
     Keith explained: "Well, first of all, Wolf, I'd like to say that we didn't take any interviews today on this at all until they released a statement saying we weren't really confirmed in the show, to begin with, which that made me mad. I want to clear that right up. May 16, they had -- they said 'We got to have you on the show. We want you opening it. This song's great. It's hot. America loves this song. It speaks, after all the sorrows taken and set in on us, that we're still allowed to be angry.'...
     "But we confirmed -- they said, 'We got to have written confirmation May 16th.' My manager, T.K. Kimbrell faxed it to them. They said, 'Great. He's going to represent our country show.' And in the 11th hour of things, after the production got in the later stages, it -- we were nixed from the show."
     Blitzer: "Why were you told you were nixed from the show?"
     Keith: "Lyric content. Now they're saying it's because...They just said -- all I heard was -- all I heard was that it came down from Mr. Jennings that lyrical content wasn't -- would not be performed -- because of the lyric content, this song will not be performed on that show."

     Blitzer wondered: "Well, you know what they're just suggesting, that their 4th of July special is going to be a very uplifting, patriotic, happy event and that the lyrics of your song are, as yourself -- you yourself acknowledge, they're angry over what happened September 11. When did that whole issue come to the fore? Was it ever discussed with you on a substantive level?"
     Keith: "No, they came to us. We didn't, we got every TV show in the world we can play this song. I mean, at our level, our publicity people can go and get anybody they want. At this level here, it's not that way. They came in search of us...."

     Blitzer suggested editing the song to drop the "controversial" parts: "Let me ask you this, Toby. Was there ever any discussion of eliminating some of the verses from the song and just using, let's say, some of the less controversial part of it?"

     Keith replied that the idea never came up and he wouldn't have done it if it had.

     Keith repeated his disagreement with ABC's version of events: 
"We had the plane booked. I was in Salt Lake area for the 4th of July celebration that night, and this was in Montana. It was a piece of cake, and it was something that they came and sought us to do and came to find us to do it to get their show. We asked who all was going to be on the show. They said Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos. And we said, 'Hey,' you know, 'those are the kind of caliber acts we want to be associated with.' And we agreed to do it. And then the last, 11th hour, we got nixed. And I don't like the fact that they're -- that they're trying to push this back now and say that we never were confirmed. That's the part that made me angry, but."
     Blitzer pressed: "What makes you say, though, that Peter Jennings, personally, who was going to anchor -- is going to host this special on the 4th of the July -- what makes you say that he personally vetoed your participating?"
     Keith: "That's what I was told. Mr. Jennings -- the people who booked us on the show and was in -- that booked the talent, I guess, that had contacted us and had what my manager said practically begged us to be on the show. He bothered me with it several days in a row over phone calls. I said, 'What day is it?' He said, 'the 4th of July.' And when you can do network television as an artist on 4th of July with something like this, it's big. And I said, 'Absolutely. Let's do it. Whatever we got to do, let's do it." They said, 'Let's get it on.' And in the last hour, they said, 'You're not going to be doing it.' And I said, 'How come?' And they said Mr. Jennings didn't like the lyric content, said this wasn't going to be on his show."

     CNN's Web page for Wolf Blitzer Reports:

     Keith's Web page: http://www.tobykeith.com/home_page.shtml

     See and hear Keith sing his "controversial" lyrics. By late Friday morning EDT, the MRC's Mez Djouadi will post a RealPlayer clip of a bit of Keith on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports. Go to the MRC home page: http://www.mrc.org

     My bet: Keith did have a deal with ABC, but his tight schedule, which required him to fly off to Salt Lake City by a certain time, gave ABC a convenient excuse to dump him once Jennings heard the song and didn't like it.


An update. For the June 12 Wall Street Journal, Bernard Goldberg penned a column about Andy Rooney's admission, on the June 5 Larry King Live on CNN, that the networks do have a liberal bias. As recounted in the June 7 CyberAlert, Rooney conceded that Bernard Goldberg is on target about liberal media bias. "I thought he made some very good points," Rooney told King. Rooney admitted he has "a liberal bias" since "I'm consistently liberal in my opinions," adding that he considers Dan Rather to be "transparently liberal." For more:

     The June 12 Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed by Goldberg, titled: "Ever Notice Liberal Bias?"

     Goldberg recalled that Rooney was talking about "the same Dan Rather who was all over me like a hound on a hare, as he might put it, when I wrote in 1996, on this very page, that 'The old argument that the networks and other 'media elites' have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore.' I was a correspondent at CBS News at the time and the op-ed started the TV version of World War III. I was taken off the air for several months; there was even talk that CBS News might fire me for uttering such blasphemy.
     "Several of my colleagues went public with their displeasure. Bob Schieffer told the Washington Post that for me to say there was liberal bias at the networks was 'a wacky charge.' Andrew Heyward, the President of CBS News, also spoke to the Post, calling me a 'misguided missile.'
     "But now we have Andy Rooney, a very big name in the world of television news, publicly saying that Bias was filled with 'some very true things' -- and it's like a tree falling in the forest. The silence, as they say, is deafening. Here's Mr. Rooney saying what right-wingers have been yelling about for years -- that Dan Rather is 'transparently liberal' (even I never said that!) -- and not a peep outside the Internet."

     To read's Goldberg's op-ed piece in full:


From the June 13 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Responsibilities of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard)," as read by ten of its members. The unit is stationed at Ft. Myer in Arlington, Virginia and is best-known for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Late Show Web page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow

10. After helicopter takes off from the south lawn, straightening up any patio furniture that blew over
(Private First Class, Brandon Dunnaback)

9. Settling disputes between the second and the fourth infantry
(Private First Class, Joshua Brooks)

8. Saluting like crazy
(Specialist, Braulio Ramirez)

7. Enforcing dress code at Army dances
(Specialist, Johnny Thieken)

6. If the Commander-in-Chief has a daughter in the Girl Scouts, we buy lots of cookies
(Sergeant, Clay Burns)

5. To look really good in our uniforms
(Private First Class, Kenneth Dyer)

4. Providing the President's daily 21-gun wake-up call
(Second Lieutenant, Allison Pappas)

3. The ongoing struggle to put an end to guys tying sweaters around their shoulders
(Specialist, Andre Bonner)

2. When Tony Blair is in town, making sure the White House has plenty of scones
(Private First Class, Kyle Knapp)

1. Safeguarding each and every divine secret of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
(Private First Class, Jacob Muehlstein)

 -- Brent Baker


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