Snipers an "Army Veteran" & "Jamaican Teenager," Not a Muslim Terrorist & Illegal Alien; More Interest in Gulf War Service Than Nation of Islam; Reuters: Military Created a Killer?; Brokaw Links Sniper Weapon to Bush Campaign; Simultaneous Exclusives With Same Man on CNN & MSNBC; Jennings Highlights 200 Anti-Bush Protestors; Turner Opposes Bush on Iraq; Dan Rather Laments "Whopping Deficit"
1) The two sniper suspects were a Muslim tied to the Nation of Islam and an illegal alien, but not to the networks on Thursday night. Instead, the networks labeled John Allen Muhammad a "Gulf War veteran" and only implied indirectly that John Lee Malvo was not a U.S. citizen. ABC's Peter Jennings dubbed Muhammad as "an American. He was born in Louisiana" and noted only how John Lee Malvo is "from Jamaica." NBC's Tom Brokaw cited "the arrest early this morning of a 41-year-old army veteran and a Jamaican teenager." CNN's Aaron Brown asked: "The question of who they are. The army veteran and the teenager." Colleague Kathleen Koch identified Muhammad as "a Gulf War army veteran."
2) When a guest on CNBC's The News with Brian Williams had the temerity to raise how Muhammad belonged to the "bigoted" Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan who "has called white people devils and has criticized the United States" and suggested that "this kind of rhetoric can label regular Americans as legitimate targets for violence," Williams wanted to know: "Let me ask you how much you factor in Gulf War experience in this kind of thing?"
3) In a Pentagon hallway on Thursday a Reuters reporter asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if the U.S. military "felt responsible for creating the alleged killer," FNC's Brit Hume recounted. And during the regular briefing a reporter wondered if Muhammad's military record gave "a black eye" to the army. The
headline over a Reuters story on Thursday: "Sniper Suspect Was Gulf War Vet, Control Freak."
4) The sniper murders-George W. Bush connection. NBC's Tom Brokaw made the time to read an item linking the sniper case to Bush as Brokaw recalled how the owner of the company which made the gun used by the sniper was a fundraiser for Bush's presidential campaign.
5) Simultaneous exclusives. At just past 8:30pm EDT on Thursday night CNN viewers heard Connie Chung introduce "an exclusive" interview with John Muhammad's cousin, Ed Holiday. But if you flipped over to MSNBC at the same moment, you would have seen Phil Donahue talking with Holiday as an on-screen graphic claimed: "MSNBC Exclusive."
6) Peter Jennings found airtime to highlight and show video of a mere 200 anti-Bush protestors outside Bush's ranch. Jennings generously referred to how "they say they wanted the President to focus on issues affecting the poor and the working class," but their signs were a bit more mean-spirited.
7) Add CNN founder Ted Turner to the list of those opposed to President Bush's anti-Saddam Hussein policy. U.S. News quoted this sarcastic remark from Turner: "I love it when we attack countries that are smaller than us."
8) Dan Rather practically hyperventilated on Thursday night over how in a "stunning reversal of fortune" the federal government has gone from a $127 billion surplus last year to "a whopping" $159 billion deficit this year. But this year's deficit is hardly anything extraordinary since it's lower than the annual deficits in the early to mid-1990s.
The two suspects arrested as the Washington, DC area snipers were a Muslim tied to the Nation of Islam and an illegal alien juvenile, but that's not how the networks on Thursday night described the two suspected of terrorism.
Instead, the networks either avoided offering a description of either man or labeled John Allen Mohammad a "Gulf War veteran" and only implied that his sidekick, John Lee Malvo, was not a U.S. citizen by calling him "a Jamaican," a "Jamaica native" or referred to how he's "from Jamaica."
None detailed how, as syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin explained on FNC's Hannity & Colmes, Malvo and his mother jumped ship in Miami and moved to Washington State where they were arrested in December of 2001, held for a month, but instead of being deported, were allowed to stay when John Lee Malvo was released on his own recognizance. A story in Friday's Washington Post outlined the basic facts of his illegal journey and release by the INS:
For Malkin's column:
Muhammad's affiliation with the Nation of Islam only came up, if it did, as a passing reference deep into the newscasts.
None of the broadcast network shows, nor CNN from what I saw, ever explored a religious motive behind the shootings (CBS's Vince Gonzales specifically noted that "authorities say religion was not a motive" for Muhammad), or suggested an INS foul-up allowed it to occur by failing to deport
Avoiding his religious affiliation and tie to a specific militant and hateful group, the Nation of Islam, is not something the networks would likely have done if the sniper suspect had turned out to be a white southerner who belonged to the Christian Coalition.
And recall how quick the media were in 1995 to attribute the Oklahoma City bombing to the anti-government attitudes fostered by right-wing talk radio.
On Thursday night, ABC's Peter Jennings, for instance, identified John Muhammad simply as "an American. He was born in Louisiana" and noted only how John Lee Malvo is "from Jamaica." NBC's Tom Brokaw cited "the arrest early this morning of a 41-year-old army veteran and a Jamaican teenager." On Connie Chung Tonight CNN's Chung announced: "The two men are 41-year-old Gulf War veteran John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Jamaican citizen John Lee
PBS NewsHour full-in anchor Ray Suarez also typified the flavor of the night as he opened the October 24 show by refraining from referring to the religion of one or the illegal status of the other, but found time to note Muhammad's U.S. army service: "Police arrested two people today in the Washington area sniper case. It was widely reported that investigators believe the two are the culprits in the serial shootings. They were identified as a 41-year-old, John Muhammad, an army veteran, and a 17-year-old, John
A brief rundown of how the two suspects were described on Thursday night, October 24, on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened by avoiding anything about religion or illegal status: "Good evening everyone. The police in Maryland say tonight that the two men who have terrorized the Washington suburbs are behind bars. Their names are John Allen Muhammad, who is 42-years-old, and John Lee Malvo who is 17 and may be Muhammad's stepson." (Everyone else reported that Malvo is not a stepson.)
Referring to a fingerprint found at an Alabama murder, Pierre Thomas made a passive reference to Malvo's illegal history: "A fingerprint on a magazine found near the Alabama crime scene, matched a 17 year old boy, John Lee Malvo. Malvo, from Jamaica, had once been charged by the INS with being in the U.S. illegally."
Jennings set up another story: "So who are these two suspects? A little more. John Muhammad is an American. He was born in Louisiana. John Lee Malvo, who Muhammad often referred to as his son apparently, is, as you heard in that piece, from Jamaica. It was by all accounts a strange relationship. And John Muhammad was, by all accounts, a bitter man."
Reporter Neil Karlinksy then stressed how "John Muhammad spent 15 years in the military. He served in the Gulf War and earned title of expert marksman before being honorable discharged from Fort Lewis in 1994."
Karlinsky added: "Recently, the two lived like nomads. They spent time at this homeless shelter north of Seattle. Muhammad became associated with the Nation of Islam. A former business partner remembers Muhammad's temper."
Felix Strozier, former business partner: "Just sometime he would just get upset. Sometime I didn't want to be around him."
Karlinksy: "Some people had even stronger suspicions. Relatives in Louisiana watched the shooting spree unfold and wondered."
Sheila Tezano, former sister-in-law: "I was thinking that it could be him and praying that it wasn't him."
Memo to Tezano: Thanks for the tip, not.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's top of the show tease didn't mention Muhammad's religion, but he found Muslimism relevant to another terrorist incident: "Caught napping. Tonight the extraordinary inside story of the sniper bust, the car turned into a mobile sniper's nest, the missed chances for an arrest along the way, the suspect's sordid past and how their own phone calls and alert citizens finally broke the case open. Also tonight: Terror in Moscow. Muslim Chechen gunmen holding a theater audience hostage threaten a massacre of hundreds."
Jim Stewart only indirectly suggested Malvo was an illegal: "Task force detectives soon traced that partial print to 17-year-old John Lee Malvo whose fingerprints were on file with the INS because of a previous deportation to his native Jamaica."
From Tacoma, reporter Vince Gonzales highlighted Muhammad's military record but dismissed a religious motivation: "The gunfire failed to tip off neighbors to the darker side of the man they knew as a Gulf War veteran who was honorably discharged in 1994. At one time he was stationed at Fort Lewis near Tacoma where military sniper tactics are studied, but he was apparently not trained as a sniper, though he earned an expert marksmanship badge. About the same time he joined the army Muhammad converted to Islam, but authorities say religion was not a motive."
-- CNN NewsNight. During "The Whip" at the beginning of the program, Jeanne Meserve noted: "John Lee Malvo's Jamaican heritage may have helped investigators piece together some of the clues that cracked this case."
Anchor Aaron Brown asked: "The question of who they are. The army veteran and the teenager."
Reporter Kathleen Koch's description of the duo: "Apprehended: 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad, a Gulf War army veteran and a 17-year-old John Lee
Reporter Kelli Arena cited an "incident" that caused Malvo to have fingerprints on file with the INS: "A fingerprint lifted from a gun magazine. That fingerprint is run through databases and matches prints which the immigration service had on file for John Lee Malvo from a December 2001 incident in Washington State."
Only in a lengthy profile of Muhammad about 40 minutes into the show did Brown get to the Nation of Islam: "John Lee Muhammad has led a varied life. He served in the army in the Gulf War, but the Pentagon says he was trained as a combat engineer and a machinist, not a sniper. And long before he changed his name friends say he became involved in causes. He helped provide security for the Million Man March in Washington in '95 according to one friend, not long after converting to Islam."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's opening teaser: "Tonight, the arrest. The manhunt for the Washington area sniper appears to be over. A former army soldier and a teenager are in jail."
Brokaw opened the show, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, by emphasizing Muhammad's army record and ignoring Malvo's illegal status: "Good evening. Tonight in the Washington, D.C., area, life begins again after three weeks of death, fear, rage, and 24/7 reminders that a sniper was on the loose, killing at random and taunting police, terrifying parents and kids, blowing holes in the economy. And with the arrest early this morning of a 41-year-old army veteran and a Jamaican teenager, the recovery of an assault rifle, a tripod and a scope, and now a ballistics match, one of the most intense and complicated manhunts in American history is coming to an end."
David Bloom also avoided Muhammad's Islamic beliefs and just called Malvo "Jamaican-born.": "Authorities say they still can't pinpoint a motive for the killing spree. Muhammad, court-martialed from the Louisiana National Guard in 1982 for striking a non-commissioned officer and with a history of domestic violence. And Malvo, the Jamaican-born 17 year old..."
Only deep in a subsequent piece by Joe Johns, which put a higher priority on Muhammad's military record, did NBC viewers learn of Muhammad's Nation of Islam membership:
"Tom, the emerging picture of the suspects tonight, a volatile, controlling, older man who liked to wear military fatigues and a teenager who followed his lead. Shielded by dark glass and headed to arraignment, John Allen Muhammad, a Gulf War vet once stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, served ten years in the army, seven in the National Guard, earned an expert marksman's badge but was not trained as a sniper. He also struck an officer which got him court-martialed and busted in rank. Some say he was an angry army man."
Johnny Campbell, former co-worker of John Allen Muhammad: "I did hear him say once or twice about the way the government would send us over there and use us as guinea pigs and bring us back. He was kind of upset at the government."
Johns: "Malvo, who was born in Jamaica and Muhammad, a native of Louisiana, may have pretended to have family ties."
Johns: "For the past ten years, Muhammad has worshiped with the Nation of Islam, and published reports say he was a security guard at Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. Muhammad attended a mosque in Seattle, NBC News has been told. The Nation of Islam tonight did not return our calls."
When a guest on CNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Thursday night had the temerity to raise how Muhammad belonged to the "bigoted" Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan who "has called white people devils and has criticized the United States" and suggested that "this kind of rhetoric can label regular Americans as legitimate targets for violence when you have someone who is a festering ball of anger," Williams wanted to know: "Let me ask you how much you factor in Gulf War experience in this kind of thing?"
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught this exchange from the October 24 show:
Brian Levin, California State University professor of criminal justice/former NYC police officer: "This fellow is a sociopath. He was probably a sociopath for some time. That's someone who knows right from wrong but gets a sense of power. And unfortunately, when you put into that the hatefulness of the Nation of Islam, which is a bigoted, extreme theology. It is not the same thing as Islam. Louis Farrakhan has called white people devils and has criticized the United States. This kind of rhetoric can label regular Americans as legitimate targets for violence when you have someone who is a festering ball of anger."
Williams: "And that would include targets and now the dead in Washington of mixed races?"
Levin: "That's exactly right because these people who don't follow this extreme form of theology which says that the real black people came here on space ships and that white men are the devils and all that kind of stuff. This rhetoric has an effect, especially when you have it on someone who is unstable, not a psychologically disordered person, but someone who certainly has a behavioral disorder, that can have an effect. And this kind of rhetoric labels regular Americans as legitimate targets for violence."
Williams: "Let me ask you how much you factor in Gulf War experience in this kind of thing?"
Levin defended military service: "Look, the vast majority of people who went to war, like my father, were very peaceful people. But for some who believe they've played by the rules their entire life, they did everything they were supposed to do, and at the end of the game, they didn't rack up the points they have, they thought they would, rather opt out of the game. And a group like Nation of Islam, for instance, is one such group, which wants a separate society for African-Americans, and that's dangerous. Nation of Islam rhetoric is, in many ways, as bad as the Ku Klux Klan. What's so interesting, though, is they've been relatively peaceful in their membership up until now."
In a Pentagon hallway on Thursday a Reuters reporter asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if the U.S. military "felt responsible for creating the alleged killer," FNC's Brit Hume recounted on his show Thursday night. And during the regular briefing a reporter wondered if Muhammad's military record gave "a black eye" to the army.
Hume reported in the "Grapevine" segment on the October 24 Special Report with Brit Hume:
"At the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was stopped in the hallway by a reporter from Reuters, the wire service which famously refuses to use the word terrorist except in quotes. The reporter asked Rumsfeld in light of the detention of ex-Army Sergeant John Muhammad in the sniper case if the U.S. military, quote, 'felt responsible for creating the alleged killer.' Rumsfeld replied, quote, 'You have got to be kidding.' The reporter said he was not. Rumsfeld said he and the military certainly did not feel responsible. At the daily briefing later, this exchange ensued:"
Voice of female reporter: "Could you put that in perspective in terms of it's not necessarily a black eye for the military or anything like that?"
General Richard Myers, Joint Chiefs Chairman: "Personally, I think that's ludicrous to think this is a black eye on the military. We have, what, between active duty and reserves today, over 2.2 million serving. They turn over at some rates so there's, you know, there's tens of millions out there who have served."
The headline over a Reuters story on Thursday: "Sniper Suspect Was Gulf War Vet, Control Freak." Since that story was from Tacoma, it wasn't written by the reporter who accosted Rumsfeld, but it certainly reflected a Reuters kind of attitude.
HERE for the story online on Yahoo.
The sniper murders-George W. Bush connection. NBC's Tom Brokaw may not have considered John Allen Muhammad's work for the Nation of Islam newsworthy (see item #1 above in which Brokaw identified him only as "a 41-year-old army veteran" though another reporter did later mention the Nation of Islam connection), but
Brokaw made the time to read an item linking the sniper case to Bush's presidential campaign.
Brokaw announced on the October 24 NBC Nightly News: "The President of Bushmaster Firearms was the source of some controversy in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election. Richard Dyke was finance chairman for the state of Maine for George W. Bush's campaign back in 1999. He resigned after reporters pressed him on his company's use of loopholes to sidestep the 1994 federal ban on assault rifles. And in his words, 'because he didn't want the anti-gun people making an issue out of it all.'"
Guess that didn't work for NBC on Thursday.
Brokaw's linking of the murder spree to Bush occurred right after reporter Jim Avila used the sniper case to let gun control advocates sound-off: "Long guns are often sold person-to-person through newspaper classified ads legally with no background checks or gun dealer license required. Gun control groups say it's a dangerous loophole."
Thom Mannard, National Campaign to Close Newspaper Loophole: "I have the cash to pay for those guns, I walk off with the guns without any type of background check being done. Often times there is no record of sale."
Avila: "The civilian M-16 -- cheap, effective, and lethal -- sold legally at a rate of nearly 100 a day at gun dealers and in the classifieds across America."
Simultaneous exclusives. At just past 8:30pm EDT on Thursday night CNN viewers heard Connie Chung introduce "an exclusive" interview with John Muhammad's cousin, Ed Holiday. But if you flipped over to MSNBC at the same moment, you would have seen Phil Donahue talking with Holiday as an on-screen graphic claimed: "MSNBC Exclusive."
Susan Candiotti conducted CNN's interview live from Baton Rouge. Holiday described Muhammad as "a real kind, nice guy" and Malvo as "well mannered."
I wouldn't want to be around someone Holiday considers mean or poorly behaved.
It doesn't take much to arouse Peter Jennings' interest -- if you're left-wingers protesting Bush. Jennings on Thursday night found the time to highlight and show video of a mere 200 anti-Bush protestors.
Jennings reported on the October 24 World News Tonight: "More than 200 people demonstrated outside the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas today. They say they wanted the President to focus on issues affecting the poor and the working class and they were escorted away by police."
From the video, it was barely 200. Amongst the signs held up by these average Americans:
"President Bush & VP Cheney: People's Need, Not Corporate Greed."
"Wanted: [Bush/Cheney photo] "For Corporate Greed"
Looked more anti-Bush/Cheney than pro-poor.
Add CNN founder, and current AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman, Ted Turner to the list of those opposed to President Bush's anti-Saddam Hussein policy.
The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed this is an October 28 U.S. News & World Report profile of Turner, who has lost any control over CNN, by Betsy Streisand:
"As a result of AOL's woes, the Turner Foundation, which grants up to $50 million annually for save-the-planet-style ventures, has had to lay off more than half its employees and stop financing new projects. Turner also has had to slow down delivery of his $1 billion gift to the United Nations and has fewer resources to devote to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation he started with former Sen. Sam Nunn to reduce nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction. (Turner, a Civil War buff, opposes a unilateral war with Iraq, or as he likes to put it: 'I love it when we attack countries that are smaller than us.')"
Dan Rather practically hyperventilated on Thursday night over how in a "stunning reversal of fortune" the federal government has gone from a $127 billion surplus last year to "a whopping" $159 billion deficit this year. But this year's deficit is hardly anything extraordinary since it's lower than the annual deficits in the early to mid-1990s.
Rather warned on the October 24 CBS Evening News: "In news about the U.S. economy tonight, it is stunning reversal of fortune. The Bush administration confirmed today that the federal budget deficit for the fiscal year just ended was $159 billion. The year before the government ran a $127 billion surplus. This is a whopping budget deficit. It's the first budget deficit in five years."
On CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Williams delivered the same numbers, but in a calmer manner, though he called it a "neck-snapping transition." In his end of the show preview of tomorrow's headlines, Williams noted: "Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bush administration announced the government will run a $159 billion deficit this past fiscal year. Compare that to the surplus the year before of $127 billion, a neck-snapping transition in government payments."
But a check of annual deficit numbers on the Congressional Budget Office Web site shows this year's $159 billion deficit is smaller than ones just a decade ago:
1991: $261 billion
Those numbers are online at:
-- Brent Baker
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