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The 1,324th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday August 8, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 123)

 
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Reminder About Iraq Going Nuclear; "Firestorm" Over Bush's Vacation?; Raines Extolled Clinton for "the Greatest Prosperity in Human History"; NYT's "Bushophobia"; Keith's "Warmongering Lyrics"

1) CBS's David Martin reminded viewers on Wednesday night that though the CIA now says "Iraq is still several years away from having a nuclear weapon," that's the same thing the agency said back in 1990 "and it was badly mistaken."

2) With Brian Williams on vacation, fill-in CNBC anchor Forrest Sawyer devoted a Tuesday night segment to the supposed "firestorm" and "controversy" over President Bush's vacation. Sawyer declared: "Some feel a month away from Washington is too long for an American President these days, especially with the economy sagging and the nation at war."

3) Asked to predict history's judgment of Bill Clinton, New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines didn't mention any of his scandalous behavior. Instead, Raines extolled Clinton's "huge political vision," and his "holding onto the principles of social justice." Raines also effused about Clinton "presiding over the greatest prosperity in human history."

4) A piece in this week's Weekly Standard laid out how a comparison of Bush coverage on the front page of the New York Times and Washington Post shows the Times "striving to present a consistent anti-Bush narrative -- even at the cost of informing the public."

5) Toby Keith wrote "warmongering lyrics" in which he's "advocating terror" in a song that may "push people toward intolerance," Justin Ewers of U.S. News & World Report contended in a Q & A with Keith. Keith ridiculed Peter Jennings: "Jennings wanted to join hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' In his sterile environment at his news desk, he didn't realize I'd struck a common chord with America."


  1

A timely reminder. Both NBC and CBS on Wednesday night played a soundbite of Vice President Dick Cheney asserting that if Saddam Hussein is "left to his own devices, it's the judgment of many of us that in the not too distant future he will acquire nuclear weapons." But CBS's David Martin reminded viewers that though the CIA now says "Iraq is still several years away from having a nuclear weapon," that's the same thing the agency said back in 1990 "and it was badly mistaken."

     Following the Cheney clip, on the August 7 CBS Evening News, Martin explained: "The CIA estimates Iraq is still several years away from having a nuclear weapon, but that's what it said back in 1990 and it was badly mistaken. We now know that had it not been for the Gulf War Saddam was only a year away from going nuclear. The 9-11 attacks convinced the Bush administration that is a mistake the U.S. cannot afford to make again."

2

With Brian Williams on vacation, fill-in CNBC anchor Forrest Sawyer devoted a Tuesday night segment to the supposed "controversy" over President Bush's vacation. On the August 6 News with Brian Williams, Sawyer declared: "Some feel a month away from Washington is too long for an American President these days, especially with the economy sagging and the nation at war."

     Without acknowledging how any "firestorm" over Bush's vacation is media-created, Sawyer asked Newsweek's Martha Brant: "Here we have this President who is in the grand tradition of the presidency taking a typical vacation, and yet there is this firestorm around him. How did that happen?" Brant blamed Bush: "I think it was because the first time he went, Forrest, he went after only six months of being in office, and because there's a perception that he doesn't work that hard."

     But not all Presidents are as lazy. Doris Kearns Goodwin assured Sawyer: "I think Clinton hated to be away from work."

     Sawyer plugged the upcoming segment caught by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Now, White House aides are calling it a working vacation, but some feel a month away from Washington is too long for an American president these days, especially with the economy sagging and the nation at war. We'll be taking a closer look at that issue in our next half hour."

     And before another commercial break: "And when we come back, the President's summer retreat. He's out of Washington, but the administration is quick to say he's still on the job. Is a month in Texas too long to stay away? We'll be joined by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and by Newsweek's White House correspondent Martha Brant to ask that question."

     Sawyer finally set up the actual segment: "Well, it's a tradition that's as old as the presidency itself. It is the presidential vacation. George Washington took much of every summer off during his time in office. Of course, that was in the days before air-conditioning. And in the past 200 years, the 'First Vacation' has been shortened rather considerably. Yet as President Bush arrives at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, tonight, his home base for much of the next month, some are saying that a month is much too long for the President to be away from Washington. In a moment, we'll be joined by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Newsweek White House correspondent Martha Brant to talk about that. But we begin with a closer look at the controversy from NBC's Joe Johns."

     Johns looked at the record of past Presidents, noting about Clinton: "Sometimes politics plays a role in where a President vacations. In 1996 Bill Clinton passed up his usual vacation spot, Martha's Vineyard, and went instead to Wyoming, reportedly to raise his political profile in the West. Perhaps more at home on the range than in Washington, the current President has used humor to deflect questions about his working vacations to his beloved Texas ranch."
     George W. Bush: "It's important for a president never to become isolated in the seat of power. As great and influential as that city is, sometimes a president just has to get out of Crawford, Texas."
     Johns concluded: "The White House argues that wherever the President goes, he is always on the job, and that when all of the time he spends on official business at the ranch and elsewhere is taken into consideration, he'll end up with just about two weeks free time."

     Sawyer wondered: "Martha, just explain it for me. Why does the President want to go to the middle of Texas in August?"

     Turning to Goodwin, Sawyer portrayed Bush as within the normal range: "Doris, put this in perspective. So everybody is now talking about this President's vacation. But as you look back over the long string of Presidents we've had, is his month away from Washington unusual?"

     After Goodwin defended the need of Presidents to go on vacation, Sawyer wondered what all the fuss is about, a fuss self-generated by the media: "So there you are, Martha. Here we have this President who is in the grand tradition of the presidency taking a typical vacation, and yet there is this firestorm around him. How did that happen?"
     Brant blamed Bush: "Well, I think it was because the first time he went, Forrest, he went after only six months of being in office, and because there's a perception that he doesn't work that hard. Now, his fans say it's because he delegates and he's just expedient in his decisions, but as Doris pointed out, he needs, presidents need vacations, and this President needs down time. They've tried to schedule two hours into his day, especially on foreign trips, for naps and for exercise. And it is visible when he doesn't get it. He gets very cranky. So he's entitled to his vacation. I'm not quite sure why they're being so defensive, but I think it's because originally he got criticism because it was only after six months that he went the first time."
     Sawyer suggested: "That's kind of interesting. So there's perception out there, you're saying, and because they're trying to protect against the perception, in a way they're almost reinforcing it."

     Sawyer recalled: "How about Reagan, Doris? I was thinking about him. I think he just sort of said, to heck with you guys. I'm going to do what I want to do."

     Finally, Sawyer brought up Bill Clinton: "I bet you there's one President who really didn't much care for vacations. Clinton, right?"
     Goodwin confirmed: "I think Clinton hated to be away from work so that even when he was there trying to relax and be with social people -- he liked jogging and doing that -- but I think he missed the energy of the work. And unlike some of these other Presidents, he didn't have a place to go back to. So he truly was in one place or another, and he didn't get that kind of roots and tradition that would come for FDR by going to Hyde Park or George Bush Sr. going to Kennebunkport, so it's different. I don't think he got the same sustenance from it."

     We know he found his sustenance elsewhere.

3

Immoral and/or scandalous behavior will not be part of history's judgment of Bill Clinton, New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines seemed to suggest on PBS's Charlie Rose show. In the interview aired Tuesday night, when asked how history would judge Clinton, Raines only cited positives, extolling his "huge political vision," role "in modernizing the Democratic Party around a set of economic ideas" and "holding onto the principles of social justice."

     Plus, moments after hailing how aggressively his paper's business section has pursued the Enron case, which indicates that a significant portion of the '90s boom was fraudulent, Raines effused about Clinton "presiding over the greatest prosperity in human history."

     As if Clinton's policies caused it and he didn't have the luck of timing or the benefit of a GOP Congress in 1995 halting his most economically destructive policies -- such as the health care plan so admired by Raines.


New York Times chief Howell Raines hailed Clinton's "huge political vision" and credited him with "the greatest prosperity in human history"

     On the August 6 PBS program Raines emphasized how as editor of the editorial page, a post he held until last year, he championed Clinton's most left-wing policy goal: "We were all out supporters of his medical reform plan and it's worth remembering that there are 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance and we're going to be paying for the children of those families for the rest of this century unless this society comes to grips with the issue of medical care."

     Rose soon wondered about Bill Clinton: "What will be the judgment of history about him?"
     Raines gushed: "Huge political talent. Huge political vision and I suspect -- none of us, I can't predict who's going to win the next election, much less what history is going to say about anyone. But I think President Clinton's role in modernizing the Democratic Party around a set of economic ideas and also holding onto the principles of social justice. And presiding over the greatest prosperity in human history. Those would seem to me to have to be central to his legacy."

     Since historians, a profession dominated by liberals, make these assessments of Presidents, Raines could well end up being accurate about how historians will judge Clinton.

     Raines has a long history of promoting liberalism and denigrating conservatives. Raines, who was a White House reporter during the Reagan years, complained in Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, that "reporting on President Reagan's success in making life harder for citizens who were not born rich, white, and healthy -- saddened me." During a November 17, 1993 interview about his book on Charlie Rose's PBS show, he whined: "The Reagan years oppressed me because of the callousness and the greed and the hard-hearted attitude toward people who have very little in this society."

     For more and a RealPlayer clip of his comments on Rose's show, refer to the May 22, 2001 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010522.asp#3

     On the wacky side, a few months ago Ken Auletta disclosed, in a New Yorker profile of Raines, how "a portrait" that Raines "once drew of Monica Lewinsky" hangs on columnist Maureen Dowd's "office wall." Auletta also recounted how in picking Raines for the top slot Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. knew Raines and he shared liberal views. For details:  http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020612.asp#4

4

Raines in action. A piece in this week's Weekly Standard laid out how a comparison of Bush coverage on the front page of the New York Times and Washington Post shows the Times "striving to present a consistent anti-Bush narrative -- even at the cost of informing the public."

     An excerpt from the August 12 Weekly Standard of the article titled, "Bushophobia on West 43rd Street: The New York Times's daily rant," by Erin Sheley, an intern for the magazine:

....Writing in the New York Sun on July 19, Andrew Sullivan cited...the Times's reporting of one of its own polls. Although the survey had found that 70 percent of respondents approved of President Bush's job performance, and 80 percent agreed that he "shared their moral values," the Times's headline declared: "Poll Finds Concerns that Bush is Overly Influenced by Business" (July 18). Sullivan contrasted this with the Washington Post's headline on its own similar findings: "Poll Shows Bush's Ratings Weathering Business Scandals" (July 17). It's as if the Times, tired of waiting for the nation to turn against the president, had decided simply to write the news it wanted to see.

A more extensive comparison of the Times's front-page coverage with that of the Post shows the former striving to present a consistent anti-Bush narrative -- even at the cost of informing the public. Consider the two papers' handling of the president's unveiling of his homeland security strategy. The Post's story, "President to Detail Security Strategy" (July 17), laid out the contents and objectives of Bush's proposal. The Times's piece the next day said almost nothing about the substance of the strategy and concentrated instead on criticisms of it. Under the headline "Yeas and Nays for Bush's Security Wish List," the Times devoted 7 of 15 paragraphs to comments from spokesmen for the ACLU and think tanks who fear that the plan threatens civil liberties -- an idea the Post never touched on....

Often, the bias operates by the simple omission of nuance. In late June, for example, both papers asked Democratic and Republican political strategists how the WorldCom disaster would affect the president. For the Times, the story turned out to be that Bush was in peril; for the Post, that Bush was resilient, though he might face trouble in the fall. The Times piece opened with "President Bush and the Republicans struggling" against "what strategists in both parties say could be a shift in the way voters view business and the economy" (June 28). The Post's lead had the strategists agreeing that WorldCom was "unlikely by itself to be particularly injurious to Bush," although "a public disenchantment could stick to the Bush administration and Republicans in November" (June 28).

In other pieces, the editorializing is obvious, as in the Times's coverage of Bush's optimistic comments on the stock market. While the Post's lead simply stated that Bush "tried to calm investors' fears" by predicting higher stock prices (July 23), the Times gasped, "In a highly unusual violation of the unwritten rule against presidential pronouncements of how markets will act, President Bush today predicted that as stocks become a better value 'you'll see the market go back up'" (July 22). Both papers reported Bush's defense of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, but the Times placed this in the second paragraph framed by the speculation that Bush had "intended to quiet some Republican leaders who are urging the administration to begin thinking about candidates who could replace Mr. O'Neill." In the Post, Bush's statements about O'Neill came at the end of the article, after a more extensive discussion of the president's comments on the stock market.

Or take what ought to have been a routine story about Bush's visit with the troops at Fort Drum, New York, on July 19, where he spoke on counterterrorism and the International Criminal Court. The Times's David Sanger interrupted his reporting to muse, "Mr. Bush was visibly relieved today to be back in a welcoming military setting after two weeks of questions about his handling of the corporate scandals that have rocked Wall Street and dominated talk in Washington." Later Sanger observed, "The cheers that followed him around this military base...seemed more like the kind of reception he routinely received in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks." The Post interviewed a soldier, who called the president "a big motivation," and provided three paragraphs of quotations from his speech. The Times quoted three sentences.

Even the Times's slanted reporting of that July opinion poll was no one-time lapse. On June 28, in stories on growing public concern about Bush and the economy, both the Times and the Post discussed a poll by the Pew Research Center. The Post said Pew "found that Bush still has enviable public support of 70 percent but only a third of Americans believe that the President is 'doing all he can' on the economy." The Times said that "Mr. Bush's approval rating for his handling of the economy had slipped to 53 percent from 60 percent in January," but neglected to report the president's overall approval figure, which the Post characterized as "gravity defying." Once again, the Times told only half the story -- the half that served its political ends.

     END of Excerpt

     To read the entire piece:
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/544cdhin.asp

5

Country singer Toby Keith wrote "warmongering lyrics" in which he's "advocating terror" in a song that may "push people toward intolerance," Justin Ewers of U.S. News & World Report contended in a "People" section Q & A with Keith.

     Asked about being dropped from ABC's Independence Day prime time special, Keith ridiculed Peter Jennings: "Jennings wanted to join hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' In his sterile environment at his news desk, he didn't realize I'd struck a common chord with America."

     A "common chord" which U.S. News found as frightening as did Jennings.

     Ewers introduced the third-of-a-page interview in the August 12 edition of the magazine: "When country musician Toby Keith's new album Unleashed debuted at No. 1 on the pop and country charts last week, he had the hit 9/11 tribute song 'Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)' to thank. But its warmongering lyrics-like 'We'll put a boot in your ass / It's the American way' -- may have gotten Keith, 41, axed from ABC's Fourth of July special. The network says it was 'logistics,' but the singer says Peter Jennings disapproved."

     The first question listed: "Some critics say you're advocating terror in response to terror."
     Keith replied: "I've read stuff that says I'm out of touch, that by us going over there and killing the Taliban we're terrorizing those people. But I feel that if you don't exterminate that network, it's just going to happen again."

     Ewers' next contention: "Do you worry that 'Angry American' may push people toward intolerance?"
     Keith responded: "Listen, I don't know how music affects anybody. I wrote the song for the military. I wrote it because I was angry."

     Asked why "ABC dropped you?" Keith mocked Jennings as out of touch: "Jennings wanted to join hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' In his sterile environment at his news desk, he didn't realize I'd struck a common chord with America. There's a reason that without me their show ended up finishing like 66th in the ratings that week. That's real hard to do when you're a network with a three-hour time slot on a day everybody's at home."

     The U.S. News piece is online at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020812/misc/12keith.peo.htm

     For all the background on this subject, the lyrics to the song which led Jennings to boot Keith from his show and a RealPlayer clip of Keith singing the song for CNN's Wolf Blitzer:  http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020614.asp#3

     For how poorly the Jennings special did in the ratings: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020723.asp#5

     The July 26 CyberAlert recounted how in promoting his new album, Vanished, which features the song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, Keith fired away at ABC and Peter Jennings for "lying" about why he did not appear on ABC's Independence Day special. And a Washington Post reporter denounced the song for containing the "meanest" lyrics, complaining: "The song traffics in vivid, simple shades of black and white, good and evil." More:  http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020726.asp#9

     That item also features links to where you can hear an audio clip of the song more than a few journalists find so repulsive. -- Brent Baker

 


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