Bush Trip Skipped; Gumbel and Couric Advocated on Behalf of Texas Murderers; Did Bush "Let Down" Majority on Stem Cell Research?
1) NBC, which made a big deal last week about how Bush has
spent 42 percent of his presidency on vacation, on Tuesday night ignored
his trip to Colorado. CBS gave it a sentence. ABC anchor Charles Gibson
showed video of "another photo-op out in nature" as he added
that Bush would speak at a certain hotel "despite an NAACP boycott of
the hotel chain alleging discrimination."
2) Bryant Gumbel on Monday morning insulted the prosecutor
in a Texas death penalty case, repeatedly cutting him off as he tried to
tell what the defendant did to deserve the punishment and later mocking
the prosecutor’s voice. After the interview, Gumbel blurted: "Real
hard to see why it was a fair trial." Earlier, Gumbel had demanded of
the murderer’s parents: "How big a factor do you think was race in
your son’s sentence?"
3) At the same time Gumbel was railing against the death
penalty for Napoleon Beazley on CBS, Today’s Katie Couric was helping
out another Texas murderer. As NBC producers showed the address on screen
of the defense fund for Andrea Yates, the woman who killed her five kids,
Couric read it aloud. But unlike Gumbel’s advocacy, Couric’s generated
a Washington Post story.
4) Bush’s decision on embryonic stem cell research
funding disappointed Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter: "I didn’t think
it was a good decision because I think in these sorts of things you do go
with what the scientists say."
5) On Saturday’s Today, David Bloom wondered about
embryonic stem cell research funding: "How quickly might we see these
promised miracle cures?" Soledad O’Brien noted that 70 percent of
the public support the research, and then asked Geraldine Ferraro if
President Bush "has let those people down?" Actually, most
approved of Bush’s decision and of those who disapproved most thought
Bush’s decision was "not strict enough."
networks made a big deal about President Bush’s lengthy vacation, but
when he left his Texas ranch on Tuesday for events in Colorado the NBC
Nightly News didn’t mention it and the CBS Evening News gave it a
sentence in an unrelated story. On ABC’s World News Tonight anchor
Charles Gibson showed a few seconds of video of "another photo-op out
in nature" as he added that Bush would speak at a certain hotel
"despite an NAACP boycott of the hotel chain alleging
Contrast NBC’s ignoring of Bush’s
trip off his ranch with how last Monday, August 6, from Crawford, Texas
NBC reporter David Gregory informed Nightly News viewers: "The
Washington Post has actually crunched some of the numbers on their Web
site today, calculating that in fact the President has spent enough days
between vacation or traveling to vacation spots, including his folks’
place up in Kennepunkport, to account for 42 percent of his young
presidency so far. The White House bristles at the numbers being counted
that way. They say look, this is his home out here, it’s his base of
operations, he’s even going to take some trips from here to promote his
fall agenda, so it’s not all play out here."
But when Bush took one of those trips, NBC
didn’t consider it newsworthy. (And, as noted previously in CyberAlert,
the 42 percent calculation by the Washington Post was not for "so
far," but for where Bush would stand in early September.)
Back to this week, in a Tuesday, August 14 CBS
Evening News piece on fires in the West, over video of Bush sawing off a
tree limb, reporter Jerry Bowen noted: "The President was in Colorado
today demonstrating how reducing fuel can lessen the threat to national
Over on ABC’s World News Tonight, anchor
Charles Gibson took a couple of shots at Bush over the same tree branch
removing video: "President Bush had another photo-op out in nature
today. He traveled from his Texas ranch to Colorado and Rocky Mountain
National Park where he helped clear brush and build trails. Later, he’s
going to speak at the Adams Mark Hotel in Denver, despite an NAACP boycott
of the hotel chain alleging discrimination."
Gumbel on Monday morning insulted and made fun of the prosecutor in a
Texas death penalty case, repeatedly cutting him off as he tried to tell
CBS viewers what the defendant did to deserve the penalty. "We can't
recall all the facts of the case," Gumbel told the prosecutor even
though in two segments Gumbel had yet to offer any more details than
saying the case involved "killing the father of a prominent federal
judge during a car jacking back in 1994."
After the 7am half hour interview, Gumbel
showed his disgust with the death penalty in the case as he tossed his
glasses on the desk and declared: "Real hard to see why it was a fair
trial." Several minutes later, after an unrelated segment, Gumbel
mocked the prosecutor’s monotone southern drawl and he tried to
impersonate his voice in thanking a CBS reporter at the end of her stock
market update: "Thank you for those facts, Ms. McGinnis."
Up front Gumbel had revealed his bias as he
set up the segments by stating: "Even in Texas, where executions are
frighteningly common, the case of Napoleon Beazley has attracted special
attention." After noting how he was convicted of killing a man during
a car jacking, Gumbel added: "Beazley was only 17 at the time and an
honor student with no criminal record."
Before getting to the prosecutor, Gumbel
interviewed the murderer’s parents. Without any prompting from them, out
of the blue Gumbel pushed his agenda on them: "How big a factor do
you think was race in your son’s sentence?"
Since CBS and Gumbel wouldn’t allow viewers
to learn what Beazley did, here’s how the crime was described in a
Dallas Morning News story by Ed Timms posted on August 14:
"According to authorities, Mr. Beazley set
out to steal a luxury car in April 1994. He and two friends spotted a 1987
Mercedes-Benz driven by Tyler resident John Luttig, who was returning from
Dallas with his wife, Bobbie Luttig.
"After the Luttigs arrived home, authorities
said, Mr. Beazley and his two friends, brothers Cedric and Donald Coleman,
tried to steal the car at gunpoint.
"‘Beazley fired one round from his pistol,
hitting Mr. Luttig in the side of the head, leaving him alive, but
stunned.... Beazley next ran around the car where Mrs. Luttig was getting
out of the vehicle and fired at her at very close range,’ a statement
from Texas Attorney General John Cornyn's office recounted. ‘Although he
missed her, she fell to the ground. Beazley then returned to Mr. Luttig,
raised his gun, took careful aim, and fired point blank into Mr. Luttig's
Gumbel set up the August 13 Early Show segments
brought to my attention by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
"Even in Texas, where executions are
frighteningly common, the case of Napoleon Beazley has attracted special
attention. Beazley is scheduled to die in two days for killing the father
of a prominent federal judge during a car jacking back in 1994. Beazley
was only 17 at the time and an honor student with no criminal record.
Although prosecutors have called Beazley a ruthless killer, human rights
groups and even the DA from his hometown have pleaded for mercy."
Gumbel then talked with Beazley’s parents,
Rena and Ireland, from Houston. He asked when they last spoke to their
son, about his state of mind and if he doesn’t deny the charge, why
doesn’t he deserve this fate? Ireland Beazley answered that the trial
was unfair and because of his age at the time of the crime, 17.
Then, without either parent having raised
race, Gumbel decided he had to do it himself: "How big a factor do
you think was race in your son’s sentence?" The father replied:
"It was very much so. I think having that all white jury was a factor
there and mostly the jurors not being jury of his peers, things like that
I feel like was very instrumental in him getting the death penalty."
Gumbel moved on to another issue raised by
defense attorneys: "What about the involvement of John Luttig's son,
Jay Michael Luttig, who is a fairly prominent federal judge?"
Ireland Beazley: "Yeah, yes sir, I think it
played an important part in that, too. You know, he orchestrated the
courtroom the way he wanted it orchestrated to get what he wanted
Gumbel: "Because of that do you think
Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from considering your son's fate
because Judge Luttig played such a role in his confirmation process?"
Beazley: "I'm afraid I don't know much about
the details about what you are talking about there, Bryant."
(In fact, Thomas, as well as Justices Souter
and Scalia, recused themselves from a Monday Supreme Court ruling which by
a 3-3 vote fell a vote short of delaying the execution.)
Gumbel proceeded to ask the parents what they
"realistically" expect from the parole board and if they have
anything to say to the prosecutor.
Gumbel then moved on to Jack Skeen, the
District Attorney of Smith County. Gumbel demanded: "Why do you feel
so strongly that this death sentence should be carried out?"
Skeen replied that Beazley deserved the
penalty because of the facts of case in which Beazley and two
co-defendants drove around, while armed, looking for a car to car jack.
Gumbel jumped in: "No, I understand. So it was premeditated is what
you're telling me."
Skeen picked up from where he was interrupted,
recounting how Beazley followed Luttig to his home, took a gun to the
garage, jerked Lutting out of his car, shot him in the head, fired two
shots at Mrs. Luttig. Over Gumbel yelling "Mr. Skeen, Mr. Skeen,"
a discerning viewer could make out Skane saying "and then came back
around and shot Mr. Luttig at point blank range. So it’s important to
Gumbel cut him off: "Mr. Skeen, Mr. Skeen,
I understand but we can't recall all the facts of the case. Let me ask you
Skeen paid Gumbel back, cutting him off and
continuing: "Mr. Gumbel, if I could just explain that what is
important about the facts of the case is that the facts of the case are
what form the main basis for the death penalty and the death penalty was
sought by the prosecutors in the case."
Gumbel lectured: "I understand that but we
don't need, we don't have the time to recall all the facts of the case,
sir. Let me ask you isn't it uncommon for a first time offender to be
Skeen maintained there’s nothing uncommon
given the facts of what the defendant did -- pre-meditated execution in
front of the victim’s wife combined with the defendant’s future danger
to the community.
A disgusted Gumbel frowned and he ended the
segment: "Jack Skeen, thank you, it’s 14 past, let’s check the
Mark McEwen soon wrapped up his weather
report: "It's starting to rain, I'm coming inside." Gumbel used
McEwen’s terminology to take a shot at Skeen: "Yeah, come on
inside, it's been raining in here for about the last five minutes. [Tosses
glasses on desk, turns to Jane Clayson] Real hard to see why it was a fair
trial, right? Up next, an update on Steve Fossett’s high-flying journey
around the world. We’re back in a moment after this."
But Gumbel wasn’t done insulting Skeen.
Several minutes later, after the interview about Fossett's attempt to
circle the earth and the "CBS Marketwatch" report from Susan
McGinnis, Gumbel impersonated Skeen’s monotone southern drawl:
"Thank you for those facts, Ms. McGinnis."
Jane Clayson played along: "Back to you, Mr.
Gumbel: "Yeah, what a, what a beauty."
++ This afternoon the MRC’s Andy Szul will
post, on the MRC home page, a RealPlayer clip of Gumbel’s encounter with
Gumbel wasn’t the only morning show host on Monday to be using their
position for a bit of advocacy on behalf of a Texas murderer. At almost
the same time Gumbel was railing against the death penalty for Napoleon
Beazley on CBS, Today Executive Producer Jonathan Wald allowed Katie
Couric to urge NBC viewers to donate to the defense fund for Andrea Yates,
the Houston-area woman who killed her five kids. As NBC producers showed
the defense fund address on-screen, Couric read it aloud.
But unlike Gumbel’s advocacy, Couric’s
generated a story in Tuesday’s Washington Post.
The August 13 Today ran a taped piece by Jim
Cummins in which he showed clips of his interview with the mother of
Andrea Yates, Karin Kennedy, and Andrea’s brother, Andrew Kennedy. After
allowing Karin to plead her daughter’s case, complain about how tough it
is not to be able to touch her daughter and insist Andrea was concerned
about each kid getting their own casket, Cummins turned to the pain and
cost to the family: "The funerals for her grandchildren, the same
year Karin buried her own husband."
Karin Kennedy: "Six people since March, you
know? I just got through paying for my husband's expensive funeral."
Cummins: "Now she's facing huge legal costs
to defend her daughter."
Karin Kennedy: "Since my husband died, I
don't have the income like I used to have, but I'm spending part of what
would have been Andrea's inheritance."
Cummins: "The family has established a
defense fund for Andrea Yates."
Andrew Kennedy, brother of Andrea: "Well, I
mean, the prosecution has unlimited funds. And in a case like this, we're
talking about, you know, the general expenses of a half million, a million
dollars. We're just, we don't have that kind of funds."
Cummins: "Her family insists Andrea Yates is
the victim of postpartum depression and psychosis."
Karin Kennedy: "With Andrea it just seemed
that with each pregnancy it got worse. You don't hear much about people
saying that they're depressed, or they're psychotic or something. You used
to be ashamed. You know, nobody would believe it if somebody had something
like that. And I think it's going to have to come out now, so that people
can get help too."
Cummins concluded: "But for her own
daughter, the help comes too late. For Today, Jim Cummins, NBC News,
Back to Couric live, over a matching
full-screen graphic listing the address, Couric helpfully informed
viewers: "Contributions to the legal defense fund can be made to
Andrea Pia Yates Defense Fund, Horizon Capitol Bank, One City Center 1021
Main Street, Houston, Texas, 77002. Any money left over from Andrea's
defense will be given to women's charities dealing with postpartum
depression and psychosis."
In Tuesday’s Washington Post, TV reporter
Lisa de Moraes picked up on Couric’s tip, under the headline:
"Katie Couric, Reporter or Advocate?"
Too bad we don’t see that headline for any
of the standard liberal advocacy practiced regularly by many network
An excerpt from the August 14 de Moraes piece
in which NBC News executives denied Today did anything wrong:
Katie Couric doesn't need to leave the Today show and join the
talk-show circuit to do on-air advocacy work on controversial subjects, a
la Oprah or Rosie. She's already doing it on Today.
Yesterday morning, for instance, at the end of a taped interview with
the mother and brother of confessed child murderer Andrea Yates, Couric
told viewers where to send contributions to the Texas woman's defense
fund; the address also appeared onscreen....
Couric gave the detailed information about the defense fund -- which
was set up late last week -- right after Yates's mother and brother told
NBC News correspondent Jim Cummins that they need help paying the legal
Still, Today spokeswoman Allison Gollust insisted yesterday afternoon
that the producers were not worried that inclusion of the defense fund
address before the murder case is adjudicated might have given viewers the
impression that Couric and/or NBC News subscribe to the idea that Yates
was indeed suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis when she
drowned her five children, one at a time, in a bathtub on June 20.
Nor are they worried that having Couric tell her 6 million viewers this
information might lead them to believe that Couric and/or NBC News believe
Yates's actions were defensible if she suffered postpartum depression at
"I don't see how it would suggest that NBC is agreeing or somehow
supporting" the defense, Gollust said. Today has posted addresses for
defense funds before, she said, although when asked if any had been given
before a ruling in the case, she said she did not know....
"This is a story that has generated a tremendous amount of
interest from our viewers. We thought it was information that might be
useful to them," she said.
But yesterday afternoon, after the Today segment had rerun twice on
MSNBC, NBC News decided to remove the defense fund information before it
ran two additional times. "When we realized it might send the wrong
message, we didn't include it in the piece," Gollust told The TV
Column late yesterday....
Gollust says that running details of the Andrea Pia Yates Defense Fund
was not a condition of getting the interview for Today, and the decision
to include the information was made by show executive producer Jonathan
Wald, who's been in the post for just three months....
To read the entire story, go to:
Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter to the list of reporters who disagree with
Bush’s decision on embryonic stem cell research -- not disagreeing from
the right, but naturally from the left for not going far enough.
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught Alter’s
opinion as expressed on Monday’s Imus in the Morning radio show
simulcast on MSNBC:
"I didn’t think it was a good decision
because I think in these sorts of things you do go with what the
scientists say within, you know, certain parameters. And you have a
situation now where the White House, people like Karen Hughes, are getting
out there and saying the scientists are all happy about this, excited
about the research possibilities, and yeah, you can find a couple of them
who are but the bulk of scientific opinion is this is going to tie our
hands and make it harder to get cures to the bedside.
"So substantively I didn’t think it was a
great decision but I think it worked for him politically at least in the
short term and it made him seem more thoughtful. You saw that the word
‘thoughtful’ was at the top of all their talking points. Every one of
their spinners got out and said ‘thoughtful, thoughtful, thoughtful,’
and it was kind of thoughtful and helpful to him in that sense because,
you know, he has this reputation as Incurious George who cut the amount of
time that he reviewed death penalty cases from half an hour to 15 minutes
because he didn’t want to know the details in Texas and I think they
sensed that that was, that perception was hurting them and they wanted him
to look really thoughtful and he did."
At least he looked more "thoughtful"
than Alter in this analysis.
Saturday’s Today, co-host David Bloom furthered the misconception that
embryonic stem cell research will immediately lead to cures for current
sufferers of many diseases, as he wondered: "How quickly might we see
these promised miracle cures if you will?" Later, co-host Soledad
O’Brien noted that 70 percent of the public support the research, and
then asked Geraldine Ferraro if President Bush "has let those people
Bloom, at least, also posed some questions
from the right about the moral line Catholic bishops say Bush had crossed
and if Bush had broken a campaign promise.
During the August 11 show’s first hour, MRC
analyst Ken Shepherd observed, Bloom made these inquiries to HHS secretary
-- "Mr. Secretary, for people who might be
suffering from diabetes or Parkinson's disease, who believe that stem cell
research offers the hope for promising treatments, would you tell them
this morning that the President's decision will speed up or slow down that
-- "Secretary Thompson, the biggest surprise
in the President's announcement was his contention that there are enough
existing stem cell lines that new human embryos do not need to be created
or destroyed. A lot of scientists are skeptical of that claim. How
confident are you that that's true?"
-- "Secretary Thompson, you're Catholic.
Yesterday the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the President's
decision, 'morally unacceptable.' If your parish priest says to you,
‘how can you sanction the destruction of human life,’ what will you
-- "Secretary Thompson, what are you saying
to some of your fellow conservatives who are saying, 'look no matter how
you spin this, the President made a campaign promise and just like his dad
on taxes, he broke it?'"
An hour later, Today brought aboard 1984
Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro to discuss the subject. Unlike,
Bloom, O'Brien posed no questions from the right as she worried that Bush
has "let down" the majority of Americans: "Some polls show
that some 70 percent of Americans support stem cell research. Do you think
in some way the President has let those people down?"
Actually, as a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll
found, 60 percent approved of Bush’s decision to allow federal funding
for research on cells already removed from embryos, while 34 percent
disapproved. And of those displeased, Tuesday’s USA Today reported, the
majority, 56 percent, disapproved because Bush’s decision was "not
Only 36 percent of those who disapproved
shared the media’s view that the decision was "too strict."