No Prescription Drug Plan = Death for Seniors; Sen. Robert Torricelli (?-NJ); NBC Linked Bush to Hoover;
Early Show Ratings Up Post-Gumbel?; Geraldo "Smashed" Into a Bridge
1) A new prescription drug entitlement program or death. "No deal on drugs. The last hope for a Medicare prescription benefit goes down to defeat in the Senate," NBC's Tom Brokaw lamented. In the subsequent story an elderly women, who has given up bingo, charged: "This is an issue of life and death." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas ominously warned: "Prescription drugs. The Senate kills a plan to help senior citizens afford them. Americans are putting their lives at risk to save money on medicine."
2) Senator Robert Torricelli, (?-NJ). On Wednesday morning NBC's Today took a few seconds to note how the Senate ethics committee "severely" admonished the New Jersey Democrat, but news reader Hoda Kotbe didn't bother to identify his party affiliation.
3) On Tuesday night, after failing to note his party affiliation on two previous occasions, NBC's Tom Brokaw finally let his viewers know that James Traficant represented Ohio as a Democrat.
4) Though Presidents since Herbert Hoover have used the phrase, the "economy is fundamentally sound," NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert linked the wording uttered in recent days by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to how Herbert Hoover made the assurance just after the 1929 stock market crash. Williams recalled that in 1929 it meant "we're heading to Hell."
5) The ratings for CBS's The Early Show without Bryant Gumbel now are higher than with him last summer. During a segment this week with co-host Harry Smith, when a guest asserted that the people of South Carolina know what "is" means, Smith recoiled: "Oh my goodness." And FNC's Fox & Friends, the Los Angeles Times asserted, has an "occasionally nasty format."
6) The night before the night Geraldo Rivera spent broadcasting from the site of the freed miners in Pennsylvania, he "smashed" his sailboat into a bridge in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and damaged it, the Boston Herald revealed.
7) Letterman's "Top Ten Perks of Being Osama Bin Laden's Son."
A new federal entitlement program is the only thing standing between a healthy retirement and death, ABC and NBC contended Tuesday and Wednesday night in bemoaning how Senate Republicans and Democrats failed to pass a new spending program to transfer money from taxpayers to the wealthiest income group.
"No deal on drugs. The last hope for a Medicare prescription benefit goes down to defeat in the Senate," NBC's Tom Brokaw lamented. In the subsequent Wednesday night story an elderly women, who has given up bingo, called the failure to have others pay her bills "criminal" as she also charged: "This is an issue of life and death."
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased Wednesday's World News Tonight with this ominous warning: "Prescription drugs. The Senate kills a plan to help senior citizens afford them. Americans are putting their lives at risk to save money on medicine."
The night before, ABC's Linda Douglass found another victim for whom "drug bills eat up her entire Social Security check. She has little money for anything else." Over on NBC on Tuesday night Andrea Mitchell also found victims to highlight, a couple who "had to go back to work, three part-time jobs between the two of them, to pay monthly prescription bills of up to $1,500."
While the network reporters were keying off how both parties were failing to deliver on a promise made during the 2000 campaign, what happened to the news media as an independent watchdog looking out for those with less political influence -- in this case taxpayers? And for network journalists usually so upset by how tax cuts deprive the government of needed revenue, why no concern about the fiscal irresponsibility of expanding an already out of control entitlement program so even more are on the public dole? But that's probably the goal of liberals and the media.
And, of course, at no time did any of the stories touch on any other potential negative impacts of such a new program, such as the reduction in pharmaceutical research as a result of the government becoming the sole determiner of prescription drug prices.
(CBS has avoided the parade of victims this week, but that's only because they delivered their liberal crusading last week. Back on July 23 Dan Rather bemoaned "the badly fading chances that President Bush and Congress will deliver on their promises and give any kind of help to seniors." While each party blames the other, Bob Schieffer charged, seniors "just get the shaft." More:
Now a rundown of ABC and NBC on Tuesday, July 30, and Wednesday, July 31:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the Wednesday night, July 31 story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"On Capitol Hill today, the Senate rejected another plan that helps senior citizens afford prescription drugs. This means it's almost certain there will be no prescription drug plan before the fall elections. This is a major election issue. We're going to take a closer look tonight at the crippling cost of prescription drugs. Drugs are not covered by Medicare, and there are consequences. A new study in the journal Health Affairs finds that seniors are dangerously cutting corners to save money. Twenty-two percent of them said that in the past year, they either did not fill a prescription or skipped doses because of the cost."
Jackie Judd opened the subsequent piece by highlighting a victim: "Daris Galloway of Austin, Texas, kept a secret from her doctor and her family. She suffers from a variety of ailments. When her monthly prescription drug bill topped $200, she stopped buying the most expensive prescription, which controlled a digestive problem."
Galloway charged: "When you get to be 74, 79 years old, you hate to think that you have to depend on your children to come and buy your medicine for you."
The night before, on Tuesday July 30, Vargas announced: "On Capitol Hill tonight, Congress is debating a last-ditch effort to help senior citizens afford the rising cost of prescription drugs. Drug costs are not covered by the Medicare program, and this is a major issue for older Americans. But it appears this latest attempt to help is falling apart. ABC's Linda Douglass joins us tonight. Linda, what's the update?"
Douglass explained: "Well, this will be the Senate's final attempt to pass a prescription drug benefit before the August recess. And when Congress comes back this fall, there will be very little time to reach a compromise, so seniors may once again be left empty-handed. As she watched the debate, Frieda Moss' hopes for prescription drug coverage faded once again."
Frieda Moss: "You're up, thinking, 'Ahh, I think this time it's going to pass.' And then it doesn't pass. So then you go into a depression and you feel low."
Douglass poured on the sad story: "Frieda spends $500 a month on medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart trouble. The drug bills eat up her entire Social Security check. She has little money for anything else."
Moss: "So I'm constantly dipping into savings in order to make ends meet."
Douglass rued: "Frieda and millions of others like her may just have to wait, as one proposal after another goes down to defeat in Congress."
Senator John Breaux (D-LA): "What we will have given seniors once again is a bucket of excuses. They can't take those excuses to a drugstore and buy one prescription."
Douglass: "The plan before the Senate today is aimed at the sickest and poorest seniors -- drug coverage for individuals with incomes up to $17,720, discounts for other seniors, full coverage for drug bills over $3300 a year. Price tag, $400 billion over 10 years. Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other for failing to pass a plan. The voters may see it differently."
Bill Novelli, AARP: "We think what's going to happen is that voters are going to hold both parties responsible."
Douglass concluded: "And both parties are still very far apart. The Democrats want a plan that is administered by the government. Republicans want to use private insurance. And, Elizabeth, so far there is no agreement in sight."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced the bad news at the top of the July 31 broadcast: "No deal on drugs. The last hope for a Medicare prescription benefit goes down to defeat in the Senate."
Brokaw introduced the story a few minutes later: "NBC News In Depth tonight, older Americans counting on Congress to finally pass a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients are disappointed again. Senate Democrats could not muster enough votes for a compromise plan. The issue is now dead for this year. In Depth tonight, here's NBC's Lisa Myers."
Myers began her piece with an anecdotal victim: "Rosemary Cola takes 19 pills a day for serious chronic conditions, including diabetes. Her husband Jim takes 11. They had hoped that after years of political promises they'd finally get help soon with drug costs of almost $1,000 a month. So today after the Senate rejected a last-ditch compromise and all but gave up for the year, the Colas were furious."
Cola charged: "To me, I'm very angry about it. It's criminal. It's not even, and it's unfair. Don't they see this is not a frivolous issue? This is an issue of life and death."
Later in the story viewers heard this from a screaming Ted Kennedy on the floor of the Senate: "The men and women that brought the country out of the depression, served and built he nation to the great nation that it is, and they need prescription drugs and we are rattling around out here wondering how we can take political advantage."
Myers assured viewers: "Colas says she's given up everything she can: The hairdresser, bingo, a summer vacation and is getting desperate."
Colas: "I always saved a little bit for a rainy day, but it's pouring. I'm not being theatrical, I'm telling you the truth. It's pouring."
Myers concluded: "Some members of both parties vow to keep talking. But today most of the rhetoric was aimed squarely at the November election and which party would really deliver for seniors -- next year."
"Deliver" = creating a new government handout to solve a perceived problem.
The night before, Andrea Mitchell worried about the fading hopes for the new spending: "The Senate showdown, a huge issue for seniors with skyrocketing prescription drug bills, most likely the last chance this year to pass even a scaled-back prescription drug benefit for the poorest elderly."
Senator John Breaux: (D-LA): "What we will have given seniors once again is a bucket of excuses. But they can't take those excuses to a drugstore and buy one prescription."
Senator Don Nickles: (R-OK): "I think the Democrats are in a frantic panic, trying to say, 'Well, let's just pass something.'"
Mitchell soon found a victim only a new government program can help: "The compromise plan would be a big help for Ray and Gailie Andrews of Chicago. Seventy-three years old, they had to go back to work, three part-time jobs between the two of them to pay monthly prescription bills of up to $1,500. Now they're getting free samples from a sympathetic doctor, but still may have to sell their home."
Gailie Andrews: "You can't believe how frustrating it is when you've been, been told that there are no middle-income families that need help with their medication as you're watching your savings dwindle away."
Mitchell: "As Democrats scramble to avoid defeat, both sides face an uproar from a powerful voting bloc, 35 million seniors on Medicare."
William Novelli, AARP: "The Congress promised that they would do this, and, and so did President Bush. And so if this doesn't happen, I think there's going to be an awful lot of disappointed voters out there."
Mitchell concluded: "If Democratic supporters can't find the votes by tomorrow, both parties will be facing angry voters this fall and blaming each other."
A fury fueled by a media eager to make people even more dependent on government instead of looking to free market solutions.
Senator Robert Torricelli, (?-NJ). On Wednesday morning NBC's Today took a few seconds to note how the Senate ethics committee "severely" admonished the New Jersey Democrat for not reporting improper gifts, but news reader Hoda Kotbe, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, didn't bother to identify his party affiliation.
During the 7am news update she announced: "The Senate Ethics Committee severely admonished New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli for taking gifts from a businessman he helped. Last night Torricelli apologized for what he called, 'lapses of judgment.'"
Now that James Traficant is no longer a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Brokaw finally decided to let his viewers know that he served as a Democrat.
In a July 18 story lasting more than two minutes, Brokaw and reporter Joe Johns avoided even once listing the Democratic Party affiliation of Congressman Traficant whom a House committee voted to expel after his convictions for fraud and bribery. See the July 19 CyberAlert for details:
Back in April, following Traficant's corruption conviction in federal court, Brokaw managed to twice inform viewers that Traficant is from Ohio, but not his party affiliation. Brokaw announced on the April 11 NBC Nightly News:
"Back here, in Ohio tonight, the verdict is guilty on all counts for long-time Congressman James Traficant of Ohio. A federal jury has convicted him of bribery and racketeering. Traficant served as his own lawyer at trial and he could get up to 60 years in prison when he's sentenced in June."
But on Tuesday night this week, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Brokaw decided to list Traficant's party. Brokaw's July 30 NBC Nightly News item:
"Less than a week after being expelled from Congress, James Traficant is in jail tonight. The Ohio Democrat was sentenced to eight years and fined $150,000 on corruption charges. The judge gave him more jail time than prosecutors requested because in her words, 'Traficant undermined respect for the government.' He said he intends to run for re-election from his prison cell, and he does expect to win."
Traficant will be making that race as an independent, so Brokaw's reticence to offer a party affiliation will no longer matter.
Insisting the "economy is fundamentally sound" is a common phrase employed at times when politicians fear the public perceives economic gloom. But though several Presidents since Herbert Hoover have used the phrase, NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert linked the wording uttered in recent days by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to how Hoover made the assurance just after the 1929 stock market crash.
Tuesday night on CNBC Brian Williams highlighted how Hoover said "the economy is fundamentally sound," a quote Williams characterized as meaning "we're heading for hell," and how George W. Bush earlier that day insisted: "The fundamentals of our economy are sound."
During Sunday's Meet the Press, Russert cited how the Financial Times charged that "'the ghost of Herbert Hoover is
back to haunt Wall Street. As the stock market was plunging in September 1929, the 31st President of the U.S. was reassuring the
American people, 'the economy is fundamentally sound.' President George W. Bush said the same thing this week, but, just as in 1929, nobody seems to be listening.'"
But as a CyberAlert reader alerted me, the "fundamentally sound" verbiage has been used by every recent President.
The full Williams and Russert quotes. On the July
30 edition of CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, the anchor of the same name queried historian Robert Dallek:
"I'm going to put two quotes on the screen and ask you if this was an honest mistake on the part of the White House or if the speech writers had no sense of history. The first quote is, 'The economy is fundamentally sound.' Herbert Hoover, 1929, a quote that just meant we're heading for hell. And here is George W. Bush today, 'The fundamentals of our economy are sound.' Is this an honest mistake by White House speech writers who must know the difference or similarities in this case?"
On the July 28 Meet the Press, Russert told New York Times columnist William Safire: "History is replete with Presidents trying to deal with perceptions of bad economies. This was in the Financial Times last week, 'The ghost of Herbert Hoover is back to haunt Wall Street. As the stock market was plunging in September 1929, the 31st President of the U.S. was reassuring the American people, 'the economy is fundamentally sound.' President George W. Bush said the same thing this week, but, just as in 1929, nobody seems to be listening.'"
But as Dr. Andrew W. Barrett of the Department of Political Science at Marquette University in Milwaukee pointed out to me, every recent President has used the phrase:
-- President Eisenhower on January 10, 1957 during his State of the Union address: "Our economy is strong, expanding and fundamentally sound."
-- President Kennedy on December 14, 1962 at the Economic Club of New York: "The economic health of this nation has been and is now fundamentally sound."
-- President Reagan on January 15, 1988 during remarks to reporters on the nation's economy: "The fundamentals in the United States economy remain sound."
Barrett added that three other Presidents made similar comments: Carter on December 21, 1977, Ford on May 29, 1975 and the first President Bush on April 18, 1991.
So why the sudden comparison now to Hoover?
Bryant Gumbel's departure doesn't seem to be hurting CBS's The Early Show in the ratings too much. A Los Angeles Times story reported on Wednesday that despite a parade of substitute co-hosts, the program's ratings are "up slightly from last summer."
Meanwhile, this week's co-host, Harry Smith, had an interesting interview segment with Ken Starr. Smith assumed Starr had won his case against Bill Clinton and when a guest asserted that the people of South Carolina know what "is" means, Smith recoiled: "Oh my goodness."
Amongst others who have replaced Gumbel for a week or two: Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville, Tom Bergeron of the Hollywood Squares, Josh Binswanger of the History Channel, CBS White House correspondent John Roberts and Saturday Early Show co-host Russ Mitchell.
In a July 31 story on the predicament CBS faces in trying to figure out how to attract more viewers to its morning effort, reporter Elizabeth Jensen described FNC's Fox & Friends as having an "occasionally nasty format." Jensen relayed:
"Still, each month -- or even each year -- that CBS fails to come up with a winning combination leaves it more vulnerable
to the competition. In the last year, Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends, with an irreverent, occasionally nasty format
akin to radio's 'morning zoo,' has more than doubled its audience, attracting about 723,000 viewers on average each morning in July. CNN has had more modest success starting a more traditional morning program; American Morning With Paula Zahn averaged about 441,000 viewers in July. CBS' program drew 2.32 million viewers on average for the first three weeks of July, up slightly from last summer."
For the entire story:
This is the first time since Gumbel departed CBS that I've seen any ratings reported for the broadcast network morning shows and while The Early Show's ratings may be up from last summer, I'm pretty sure the 2.32 million viewers figure is down from post September 11th ratings of earlier this year when I think it was attracting about 2.7 million viewers. So, while people may not miss Gumbel, the merry-go-round of co-hosts may be hurting.
On Tuesday's The Early Show, the MRC's Brian Boyd observed, Smith may have revealed his liberal stripes when he didn't realize that a guest's point was that Ken Starr lost his battle with Bill Clinton and recoiled at the guest's recollection of Clinton's "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" defense.
Smith set up a July 30 segment: "Ken Starr became a household name while investigating former President Bill Clinton. Now the one-time special prosecutor is on a very different legal mission representing a South Carolina man who's trying to overturn that state's ban on tattooing. Starr is in Washington this morning, his client, Ron White, is in Columbia, South Carolina, along with Jake Knotts, a state senator who supports the current ban."
Smith asked Knotts: "Jake Knotts, you describe yourself as, as conservative as they come, did you ever think you would be going head to head with Judge Starr?"
Knotts joked: "Well, it's a privilege Judge to be here with you. I never thought about that, but I hope you do as good a job on tattooing representation in the Supreme Court as you did on Bill Clinton."
Smith missed how Knotts meant that he hoped Starr would lose his case just as he lost the battle with Clinton, but Smith assumed the big bad Starr had beaten Clinton as he replied: "You're going to lose your case there, you're going to lose your case, Jake."
Knotts quipped: "We do know what 'is' is in South Carolina."
To which Smith reacted: "Oh my goodness."
For a rundown of Smith's liberal pontificating as co-host of CBS This Morning in the early to mid-'90s, go to:
The night before the night Geraldo Rivera spent broadcasting from the site of the freed miners in Pennsylvania, he "smashed" his sailboat into a bridge in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and damaged it, the Boston Herald revealed in a story highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews
An excerpt from the "Inside Track" item in the July 30 Boston Herald:
...Cape Cod marine cops are hot on the trail of Fox-TV investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera after he smashed his 70-foot yacht into a bridge abutment in oh-so-swish Oyster Harbors over the weekend....
"You break anything in this town, and you have insurance, we're going to aggressively go after you," said Barnstable highway supervisor Neil Andres, who was all tied up in knots over the mishap at the town's Oyster Harbors drawbridge....
But a spokesgal for the hard-hitting newsman said he didn't hit the bridge all that hard.
"It's a dumb story," said Jo-Ann Conte. "He had clearance to go through the bridge but it was a little bit of a tight fit. His boat got a little 4-by-4-inch scrape that's being compounded even as we speak."
According to one of Andres' bridge tenders, Geraldo was attempting to make his way through the drawbridge, the mini-span that connects Little Island to Grand Island Friday night, when the boat went off-course and hit the bridge supports....
Although the bridge tender couldn't identify the skipper, a local yachtsman told officials it was the oft-shirtless sailor who once hosted a high-seas show on the Travel Channel....
The old salts at Nauticus Marina -- aka wandering seaman Bill Koch's boatyard -- confirmed that Rivera and his 70-foot ketch Voyager tied up there overnight Friday and he made his way back to his home port of Marion on Saturday.
Andres said the town was inspecting the bridge yesterday to see if it needs repairs. "Any damage above $500 is supposed to be reported to the marine police," he said....
END of Excerpt
For the item in its entirety:
From the July 30 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top
Ten Perks of Being Osama Bin Laden's Son." Late Show Web page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow//
10. Sometimes lets you work the camera for his videotaped rants
9. Touching moment when he teaches you how to torture an infidel
8. As busy as he is, Osama always makes time for Jihad Father and Son Day
7. Drop the old man's name at Kandahar TGI Friday's and you're looking at complimentary popcorn shrimp
6. Always asked to be celebrity judge at wet burqa contests
5. Has a surprisingly good collection of early 70's Dylan records
4. Fast-track membership process at the Tora Bora Country Club
3. Would be great for picking up babes if you were allowed to talk to babes
2. You are one United States airstrike away from running the damn business
1. At butcher shop, you always get the tastiest cut of goat
Every Late Show "Top Ten" list is online at:
I've recently heard that some people think I feature Letterman's "Top Ten" lists in order to somehow illustrate his bias. While I assume virtually all have discerned that I run these in an effort to feature text-oriented humor related to political events or the news media, for those confused, let me make it clear that the "Top Ten" lists are quoted purely for humor value -- a way to add a lighthearted closing to CyberAlerts on some days. --
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