Jennings Questions Bush Commitment to Beating al-Qaeda, Suggests Could be "Embarrassed" by Taliban Deaths; NY Times's Embarrassing Correction on Cheney; McGovernite at CNBC; NBC: Tribute to American Taliban Over U.S. Soldiers
1) ABC's Peter Jennings on Monday night conveyed the kind of snide haughtiness toward Bush which has earned him the enmity of conservative viewers. He stressed how "President Bush has refused to approve a covert operation to go after a chemical weapons facility" run by al
Qaeda, sneeringly noting: "The administration has said it will go after al Qaeda wherever and whenever. What's the story on this?" Next, after a story on "accusations that American allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers," Jennings proposed: "There is some potential for the administration to be embarrassed at least."
2) The New York Times on remarks made by Vice President Cheney: "He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline." A Times correction a week later: "Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline."
3) McGovernite business-sense at CNBC? The New York Post reported last week that "CNBC, looking to shake things up in the ratings war, has signed news consultant Jeff Gralnick to a three-month contract to help beef up the cable network's reporting staff." In 1971 Gralnick toiled for Senator George McGovern.
4) NBC's Today has yet to feature a segment with Toby Keith, singer of the #1 country hit, the
pro-U.S. song Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue, but on Monday it showcased Steve Earle and his yet-to-be-released tribute, John Walker's Blues. How the New York Post described Earle's song: "The lyrics describe the United States as 'the land of the infidel'" and "the song says when Lindh dies, he will 'rise up to the sky like Jesus.'"
online: August 19 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. Most of the quote headings:
"Time's Hype About Clinton Plan...Promoted As Real News"; "Senate Inaction Could Kill Seniors"; "Shameful Thwarting of Big
Gov't"; "President George W. Hoover?"; "Pushing Bogus Cheney Charges"; "Continuing Anti-Tax Cut Crusade"; "'Warmongering' Tops the Charts" and "Liberal Bias Denied...And Admitted." To read all of the quotes:
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
ABC's Peter Jennings returned from vacation Monday night, just in time to convey the kind of snide haughtiness toward the Bush administration which has previously earned him the enmity of conservatives.
He opened the August 19 World News Tonight by stressing how "President Bush has refused to approve a covert operation to go after a chemical weapons facility" run by al-Qaeda in Northern Iraq. He then snidely noted: "The administration has said it will go after al Qaeda wherever and whenever. What's the story on this?"
(Imagine how more reasonable that first sentence would have sounded if Jennings had simply said Bush "had decided a covert operation is not worth the risk to U.S. operatives.")
Next, following a story on "accusations that American allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers," Jennings proposed: "So as this story unfolds, almost in stages, there is some potential for the administration to be embarrassed at least."
Jennings teased at the top of the broadcast: "On World News Tonight this Monday, an ABC News exclusive: Why did the President cancel a military operation in Northern Iraq where he believed al Qaeda was experimenting with poison gas. A mass grave in Afghanistan. Is it the sign of atrocity and did Americans know what their ally was doing?"
Jennings then opened the show with a brief look at the CNN video of al Qaeda killing the dog, video he noted was made before September 11th, which he contrasted with a newer piece of news on the anti-terrorism front:
"But here is something much more recent: ABC News has learned that President Bush has refused to approve a covert operation to go after a chemical weapons facility in a part of Northern Iraq that is not controlled by Saddam Hussein, but by several Kurdish groups. Our Pentagon correspondent John McWethy has learned about this. John, the administration has said it will go after al Qaeda wherever and whenever. What's the story on this?"
McWethy explained how several weeks ago the CIA and Pentagon planned an operation to go after a "budding chemical weapons laboratory" run by a small group of al-Qaeda in Northern Iraq. They have used toxic gas and chemicals, mainly Ricin, to kill farm animals and one human. McWethy concluded: "As U.S. surveillance intensified officials concluded the operation was so small and crude that in the final analysis it was not worth risking Americans lives to go after it and definitely not worth the outcry that might follow any U.S. operation inside Iraq."
An outcry ABC surely would have fueled.
On Monday night, the ABCNews.com home page (abcnews.go.com/) also described the story in terms of Bush having "refused" to take action: "Too Risky. U.S. forces were so worried about a chemical weapons lab testing the ricin poison as a terror tool in Northern Iraq, they wanted to destroy the facility in a covert attack. President Bush refused." That linked to:
Back to World News Tonight, Jennings set up what he and ABC considered the second most newsworthy story of the day: "The Pentagon is investigating allegations of a massacre in Afghanistan. Newsweek magazine reports on accusations that America allies are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers."
John Miller outlined how Physicians for Responsibility, which he described as an "independent group," has charged that Taliban soldiers were left in shipping containers, with no air or water, so they would die. Miller cited a case of soldiers who had
surrendered to Dostum (sp?), emphasizing how he was a U.S. ally, as if the U.S. had much choice in the situation. Following a clip of Dr. Jennifer Leaning of the group, Miller relayed the group's claim that Afghan President Karzai and the U.S. are "turning a blind eye" to the atrocity.
Miller, sitting at the anchor desk, told Jennings: "Today the United Nations refused to comment on a report that a confidential UN document recommended delaying a investigation into the deaths because of the quote 'political sensitivities' of the case. Of course, the sensitive question for the U.S. military Peter is going to be what did they know at the time this was happening, when did they know it and what did they do with that information?"
Jennings suggested: "So as this story unfolds, almost in stages, there is some potential for the administration to be embarrassed at least?"
Miller warned: "Well, what the doctors told us is there are wider paved-over areas and if those are dug up and contain more bodies, even hundreds of bodies, and it turns out U.S. forces were in the area when that was going on it does have that potential to be very embarrassing."
For a picture of Miller, who now co-hosts 20/20:
ABC's eagerness to link the U.S. to civilian deaths in Afghanistan isn't new. Last November, we titled an MRC Study, "ABC's War: U.S. Military vs. Afghan Civilians; World News Tonight Showed Afghan Civilian Deaths More Than CBS and NBC Combined." To read that Media Reality Check compiled by the MRC's Rich Noyes:
The New York Times is so hostile to the Bush administration that it inserts false facts into stories meant to discredit their assertions about the economy, though at least in one case its maneuver was so egregious that it ran a correction -- although not until a week later.
An August 8 story included this sentence about remarks made by Vice President Cheney: "He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline."
A week later, the Times acknowledged in an August 15 correction: "Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline."
In first highlighting the correction, Mickey Kaus noted in his "Kausfiles" page for Slate.com, the offensive clause was "one of those short snarky asides, now familiar to NYT readers, that are designed to put the Bushies in their place."
Kaus reasonably suggested, in his analysis I learned about from Greg Pierce's Washington Times "Inside Politics" column
(http://www.washtimes.com/national/inpolitics.htm), that though the story carried the bylines of reporters Evelyn Nieves and Elisabeth Bumiller, they probably did not write the inaccurate statement:
"Why does this read like the type of interstitial zinger ('Take that, Cheney!') that would actually not have been written by either Nieves or Bumiller, but would have been stuck in by an otherwise-frustrated editor (who was then very proud of himself for doing it)?."
Kaus wondered: "If a NYT editor, or reporter, is so blinded by scorn of the Administration that he or she automatically believes these false things are true, what else do they automatically believe is true?"
Kausfiles is online at:
Now, a fuller take on the original story and the correction. The August 8 story began:
"In a rare public appearance, Vice President Dick Cheney today defended the administration's stewardship of the faltering economy and vowed to punish corporate misconduct.
"'When there is corporate fraud, the American people can be certain that the government will fully investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible,' Mr. Cheney told the Commonwealth Club of California...."
Several paragraphs later, readers saw: "The vice president's speech, billed as a talk on the economy and national security, sounded at times like an address a chief executive might give to shareholders. On the economy, he said that it was now 'clear from the data' that 'the nation had slid into a full-blown recession' by the time he and President Bush took office, 'with the economy contracting throughout the first, second and third quarters of 2001.' He credited the administration's tax cuts with helping the country to 'climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,' although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continued its decline."
To read the entire story:
The "Corrections" section in the August 15 paper, a Thursday exactly a week later, stated:
"An article on Aug. 8 about speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney defending the administration's stewardship of the economy referred incorrectly to the 2001 recession and to the direction of the stock market on Aug. 7. Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline."
For that and the other corrections for August 15:
CNBC goes to left to find a consultant to improve its ratings -- all the way left to a man who once toiled for George McGovern. The New York Post reported last week that "CNBC, looking to shake things up in the ratings war, has signed news consultant Jeff Gralnick to a three-month contract to help beef up the cable network's reporting staff."
New York Post reporter Dan Cox noted: "Gralnick, who was hired by interim executive producer David Friend, has helped supplement news staffs at CNNfn, ABC, CBS and NBC." Gralnick, who is now Chairman of E-splosion Consulting, "has been in broadcast news for more than 43 years," Cox observed, adding: "He spent 24 years at ABC News as an executive and ultimately executive producer. He oversaw development and launch of
But Gralnick, who ran ABC's election coverage from 1980 through 1992, served as Press Secretary in 1971 to South Dakota Senator George McGovern, a then-future Democratic presidential candidate.
A 1993 item in the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter about how Gralnick had jumped from ABC to become Executive Producer of NBC Nightly News, recounted his career. For 12 years before working for McGovern in 1971, "Gralnick was a producer and Vietnam reporter for CBS News. Following his McGovern stint, Gralnick joined ABC News, rising to Executive Producer of World News Tonight by 1979. In 1985, Gralnick became Vice President and Executive Produer for special events. He's overseen all ABC election coverage since 1980."
In 1996 Gralnick returned to ABC to start a new all news channel, an effort soon aborted, so he went on to oversee ABC's 1996 campaign coverage. When Lou Dobbs left CNN's Moneyline a few years ago, Gralnick came in to produce it for CNN.
For the sake of CNBC's viewers who are investors, let's hope Gralnick has a better understanding of their concerns than did his old boss when he hit the real world. In a March 1, 1990 Washington Post story about McGovern owning a hotel in Connecticut, his first-ever business venture, McGovern lamented:
"I wish I'd done this before I'd run for President. It would've given me insight into the anxiety any independent businessman or farmer must have....Now I've had to meet a payroll every week. I've got to pay the bank every month....I've got to pay the state of Connecticut taxes....It gives you a whole new perspective on what other people worry about."
McGovern figured that out about 18 years too late.
NBC's Today has yet to feature a segment with Toby Keith, singer of the #1 country hit, the pro-U.S. song "Courtesy of the Red White & Blue" which honors American soldiers, but on Monday it showcased Steve Earle and his yet-to-be-released tribute to the American Taliban, "John Walker's Blues." Matt Lauer interviewed him and allowed him to sing the song in its entirety.
| In a July 21 story, "Twisted Ballad Honors
Tali-rat," the New York Post's Aly Sujo described Earle's song:
"American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh is glorified and called Jesus-like in a country-rock song to be released soon by maverick singer-songwriter Steve Earle.
"The controversial ballad called 'John Walker's Blues' is backed by the chanting of Arabic prayers and praises Allah.
"Earle's lyrics describe the United States as 'the land of the infidel.' Those fighting Osama bin Laden's declared jihad against the United States and Jews are said to have hearts 'pure and strong.' The song says when Lindh dies, he will 'rise up to the sky like Jesus.'"
yet to feature Toby Keith's #1 Courtesy of the Red White
& Blue, but on Monday it showcased Steve Earle's yet
to be released John Walker's Blues
Far from being embarrassed by the song, Today, after having ignored Keith's song, which he has been singing for months and which has been out for a month on a number 1 album, the show was proud of its "get," plastering "Today Exclusive" in the top corner of the screen.
Earle admitted he's not a big star: "I don't get played on that many mainstream radio stations any way and I haven't in a long time and I've made that choice. I get played more on public radio stations than I do anyplace else." He rationalized his pro-Lindh stance: "I felt like, that we needed a target because we couldn't get Osama Bin Laden and, and I saw a lot of that hate being directed at this kid."
Lauer was far from hostile to Earle, wondering if he was "surprised" by criticism of the song for being "anti-American" and asking softball questions like: "So why did you feel you wanted to write this song in the first place? What was it about the story of John Walker Lindh that captured your attention?" And, noting that "comparing" Lindh to Jesus "has gotten the attention of some people. What do you think about that?"
It isn't as if Today hasn't had an opportunity to showcase Keith, who had a natural news hook in his dispute with Peter Jennings over why he was cut from ABC's Independence Day special on which he planned to sing Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. In late July he was in New York City to promote the album, "Unleashed," on which the song is featured.
On July 24 he appeared on FNC's Fox & Friends as well as on NBC's cable channel where he was featured at 6:30am EDT on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning. For more about those appearances:
The CyberAlert linked above also provides links to where you can hear an audio clip of Keith's song or an excerpt of the video for it. For all the background on the Jennings/Keith matter, 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, refer back to the June 14
(Neither ABC's Good Morning America, no surprise given how he has called Jennings a liar, nor CBS's Early Show have brought Keith aboard.)
Keith's album, "Unleashed," is holding at number 1 on Billboard's "Country Album" chart:
But on Monday, August 19, Today was more excited about a song that will not be released on CD until late-September.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed how Today kept plugging the upcoming segment which aired in the relatively prominent 7:30am half hour. (Recall that Today didn't put Ann Coulter on until the lowest-rated half hour, 9:30am.)
Substitute co-host Campbell Brown announced at the top of the show: "And John Walker Lindh is back in the news but this time it's with a twist. The so-called American Taliban is the subject of a song called John Walker's Blues by country star Steve Earle and in it Earle imagines the world from Walker's point-of-view. And now some are calling Earle anti-American and even calling for a boycott of the album. In a Today exclusive Steve Earle will be here in our next half-hour to sing the song for the first time in public and respond to the criticism."
Later she noted: "Coming up in our next half-hour what was American Taliban John Walker Lindh thinking?"
Lauer touted: "In a Today exclusive we'll hear from country music star Steve Earle who tries to answer that question. Do the lyrics to his song John Walker's Blues make him anti-American? After your local news."
Lauer at the top of the 7:30am half hour: "Coming up in this half-hour country singer Steve Earle has ignited a firestorm of criticism and controversy with a song called John Walker's Blues, which some charge seeks to justify even glorify the actions of American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. In a Today exclusive Earle is here to sing that song for us and respond to the criticism for the first time."
Lauer set up the actual segment: "Country music star and Grammy nominee Steve Earle has a new album coming out called Jerusalem and one song on it has kicked up a storm of controversy. John Walker's Blues, which has yet to be released, is written from American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh's point-of-view. Critics have called Earle anti-American and gone as far as to call for a ban of the album. Steve Earle good morning, nice to have you here."
Steve Earle: "It's good to be here."
Lauer: "This doesn't even come out 'til the end of September this album Jerusalem, right? So, so someone gets a hold of a copy of this song John Walker's Blues. Are you surprised word on this has spread as quickly as it has?"
Earle: "Well I'm certainly surprised that it's spread two months before the record came out. I was on vacation and then we started hearing that a local talk radio show guy in Nashville, Steve Gill, got a hold of a copy of it from a journalist who had written a piece for the New York Post and he was looking for comments and it sort of went from there."
Lauer: "So why did you feel you wanted to write this song in the first place? What was it about the story of John Walker Lindh that captured your attention?"
Earle: "I have a 20 year-old son."
Lauer helpfully noted: "And John Walker Lindh is 20 years-old too."
Earle: "He's 20 years-old. It's really that simple and, and it was the, you know I didn't, I didn't think anybody else was gonna write this song. And it was just 20 year-olds aren't done yet. And I believed a lot of stuff when I was 20 years-old with all my heart that I don't believe any more. And I felt like, that we needed a target because we couldn't get Osama Bin Laden and, and I saw a lot of that hate being directed at this kid."
Lauer: "Do, in your lyrics, in your opinion, you'll sing the song for us in a few minutes, in your opinion are the lyrics supportive of John Walker Lindh?"
Earle: "They're actually not. They're an attempt to get inside his head and sing the song from his viewpoint. And of course I'm speculating there because we've had very, very little access to John Walker Lindh. The only things that came out of John Walker Lindh's mouth that are in the song, you know, I saw on television just like everybody else did. And they are in the song. And a lot of the song is, is what I learned about Islam and, and this revelation of how ignorant we are all about Islam in this country, just from the research that I did trying to make the song work."
Lauer: "When you hear comments in the New York Post, quote, 'Twisted ballad honors Tali-rat.', 'American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh glorified and called Jesus-like.' Steve Gill, the guy you mentioned in Nashville says, quote, 'The song celebrates and glorifies a traitor of this country' and he goes on to say 'Steve Earle runs the risk of becoming the Jane Fonda of the war on terrorism by embracing John Walker and his Tali-buddies.'"
Earle: "Just don't hold your breath on the aerobics tapes."
Lauer: "Surprise you the comments? They are very strong, they're calling for a ban of the album."
Who is calling for a "ban"?
Earle: "Not really. I mean, this, this is one song on a record that's, that's, that's a pretty, admittedly a pretty political record. I mean my last record was a lot of chick songs. But the world's changed a lot since then and, and so I'm writing about things that, that are going on around me and I'm assuming characters and singing with their voices. And I've done that before. This is my 11th album and I've always done that."
Lauer: "Why don't you sing it for us and we'll talk on the other side. This is John Walker's Blues."
Playing his guitar, Earle sang the song with these lyrics:
I'm just an American boy raised on MTV
And I've seen all them kids in soda pop ads
And none of 'em looked like me
So I started lookin' around for a light out of the dim
And the first thing I heard that made sense was the word
Of Mohammed, peace be upon him
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
There is no God but God
If my daddy could see me now - chains around my feet
Well he don't understand that sometimes a man's gotta fight for what he believes
And I believe God is great, all praise due to him
And if I should die, I'll rise up to the sky
Just like Jesus, peace be upon him
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
There is no God but God
We came to fight the jihad and our hearts were pure and strong
And when death filled the air, we all offered up prayers
And prepared for our martyrdom
But Allah has some other plan, some secret not revealed
Now they're dragging me back with my head in a sack
To the land of the infidel
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
Lauer picked up he interview: "Steve Earle. Let me read, if you will, some lyrics from the song, 'If my daddy could see me now -- chains around my feet, you don't understand that sometimes a man has to fight for what he believes and I believe God is great all praise due to him and if I should die I'll rise up in the sky, just like Jesus, peace be upon him.' Comparing or, or even mentioning Jesus in this song has gotten the attention of some people. What do you think about that?"
Earle: "Well Matt. But, but that comes back to, where that line came from was my own ignorance of Islam and, and doing the research for it just trying to learn the Arabic words in the chorus and all that. I went on Islam.com and what I found was, that, something I didn't know was every time a Muslim say the name Jesus he says, 'peace be upon him,' because Jesus was recognized as, as the last prophet before Mohammed. And I never knew that and I don't think you could find one in 10,000 Americans that knew that. And that's why it's in the song."
What are the chances that many Muslims really do that?
Lauer: "And when you say, 'Now they're dragging me back with my head in a sack to the land of the infidel,' what do you say to people who, who are going to hear that when it comes out in September and say, 'I don't, I don't want to hear this song I think it should be boycotted, it should be banned on radio stations?'"
Earle: "Well I think it's-"
Lauer: "I mean it's freedom of speech for you to write it and say it."
Lauer: "Is it their right to say boycott it as well?"
Earle: "Well sure it is. And, and I don't get played on that many mainstream radio stations any way and I haven't in a long time and I've made that choice. I get played more on public radio stations than I do anyplace else. Occasionally I get played on commercial radio stations with the odd record, I make a lot of different kinds of records. But it, for me it's, it's a matter of when you assume a character you have to know as much as you can about that character and try to get in that voice. And I've always done it. There's been a, I've written about more despicable characters and in the voice of more despicable characters than John Walker Lindh."
Lauer wrapped up: "The song is called John Walker's Blues. The album is called Jerusalem, out at the end of September. Steve Earle, thanks for your time."
Steve Earle's Web page:
And Toby Keith's:
Keith's lyrics probably embarrass the Today producers while they are proud to highlight something which draws attention to how Americans are intolerant haters. --
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