What Jennings Really Said; Bill Maher Launched a Screed Against Missile Defense & Tagged Americans as "Cowards" for Using Missiles
1) Media Reality Check. "September 11, 2001: What Did
Jennings Say? ABC Anchor Never Insulted Bush During Crisis Coverage, But
Did Label His Day Trip ĎA Little Strange.í"
2) Jennings on why some hate America. What he actually
said over video of celebrating Palestinians.
3) ABCís Bill Maher used the tragedies as a hook to
launch into a liberal screed against missile defense, drug laws and all
religions. And he denigrated Americans and the U.S. military as
"cowards" for launching missiles instead of invading on the
ground: "We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2000
miles away, thatís cowardly."
4) A lengthy RealPlayer clip of Dan Ratherís emotional
appearance with David Letterman is now up on the Late Show Web page.
the September 11 terrorist attacks the Media Research Center has received
quite a few complaints about what Peter Jennings said during the hours
after the tragic incidents. The quotes cited, however, fit into one of
three categories: never uttered, distorted or taken out context. We will
not compound the erroneous claims by repeating them here.
One assertion, that before President Bush
spoke in the early afternoon, Jennings said that the country looks to the
President during tragedies to be reassuring to the nation and "some
Presidents do it well, some Presidents donít," is accurate. But
thatís a reasonable point which hardly justified much of the venom
against Jennings, especially since after each appearance by Bush during
the day Jennings praised his performance.
Below is the text from a Media reality Check
distributed by fax this afternoon, titled, "September 11, 2001: What
Did Jennings Say? ABC Anchor Never Insulted Bush During Crisis Coverage,
But Did Label His Day Trip ĎA Little Strange.í" The MRCís Rich
Noyes wrote it after scanning through all 17 hours of Peter Jennings in
the hours after the terrorist attacks. MRC analyst Ken Shepherd helped
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF of the Media
Reality Check, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/pdf/fax0919.pdf
Now the text of the September 19 Media Reality
Check. (Note: All times approximate and are EDT):
Amid the horrible pictures and beyond-belief carnage last Tuesday, some
ABC viewers thought they heard Peter Jennings take a couple of cheap shots
at President Bush, and they let us know about it. Jennings was on the air
for 17 hours, from shortly after 9:00 am EDT through 2:00 am the next day.
Media Research Center analysts reviewed tapes of the entire awful day, and
found no insults or disrespectful comments by the ABC anchor, although he
did fret about why the President had not returned to Washington in the
middle of the day.
-- 9:30 am: After the President made a statement in Florida, Jennings
described him as "clearly shaken," and summarized him as having
said "the two things which a President must say at a moment like
this: terrorism will not stand...and God bless the victims and their
-- 12:36 pm: "I donít mean to say this in melodramatic terms,
but where is the President of the United States?" Jennings wondered
aloud when he realized that Air Force One should have already landed
outside Washington, DC. "Pretty soon the country needs to know where
-- 12:50 pm: Learning that Bush had been diverted to Barksdale Air
Force Base in Louisiana, Jennings remarked, "None of us should be
surprised at whatís happening. First of all, the Secret Service is a
huge, powerful, authoritative organization which takes the Presidentís
safety...with deep and profound seriousness." On the other hand,
"the President and his response to this is also part of the
psychological package because the country looks to the President on
occasions like this to be reassuring to the nation. Some Presidents do it
well, some Presidents donít."
-- 12:57 pm: Traveling with the President, ABCís Ann Compton reported
on Secret Service fears for his safety. Jennings said soon the country
will "expect him to be back in Washington, to send not just a message
to those of us in the nation who look to the President for some sense of
political and national stability, but also to the other parts of the world
where these enemies of the United States, of whom weíve talked quite a
lot about today, at the moment must surely think they have the United
States on the run, to some extent....The President needs to be on
-- 1:15 pm: After the taped statement that the President made in
Louisiana was played, Jennings reacted positively: "The President
could not have spoken more accurately in that final remark -- here a great
nation is being tested -- and the President reassures the nation and
anybody else in the world who will hear this, that the nation will pass
the test." He then praised America: "I recognize that itís one
manís opinion...[but] I think what people in most parts of the world
believe, that as horrible as this is for the United States and its
citizens, the United States continues to be unquestionably the leadership
of the world and the example in the world of freedom and democracy."
-- 2:25 pm: "Whereís Mr. Bush?" Jennings asked Claire
Shipman in Washington, DC. She reported that while "he wants to come
back home, his security team does not feel it is safe right now."
Learning that the President would be taken to a secret, secure location,
Jennings admitted that "[we] donít know where the President is
going to go next. Seems a little bit strange."
-- 3:35 pm: "What are you doing in Nebraska?" he asked
Compton after Bush arrived at the Strategic Air Command. ABCís George
Stephanopoulos explained the President would have all of his capabilities
in the secure bunker.
-- 5:05 pm: With the President en route to Washington, Jennings said
"the Secret Service can be accused, can be accused on occasion, of
overreacting and having its way, and even bullying on occasion, but it
always -- this particularly true in the wake of the assassination of
President Kennedy -- always says to the public and those people who wish
to resist, ĎWell, what would you have us do? Do you remember President
Kennedyís assassination, the attempt on President Ford?í And so, in
some respects, itís hard to fault them for moving the President around
the country today, even if you were inclined to do so, because the degree
of uncertainty that has existed in much of the country as well as overseas
today has been very, very intense."
-- 6:55 pm: As Bushís helicopter landed on the White House lawn,
Jennings sympathetically offered that "thereís nothing that this
President, this new and young President, could ever have imagined was
going to occur on his watch which would test his leadership qualities so,
and he is going -- and how he responds, how he accommodates the
countryís frustration, how he accommodates the countryís anxiety and
anger, and how he responds or finds a way to respond and -- as we have
said many times -- to whom, will mark George Bush however it goes, one way
or the other."
-- 8:30 pm: Before the Presidentís Oval Office address, Jennings
recounted, "I think most of you know that the President has been on
something of a strange journey, today.... ABCís Ann Compton was with him
all day and told, talked all day about the struggle between the security
and the political apparatus whether the President would get back to
Washington. Well, the President is back in Washington now and there has
been no time in his presidency, and there may never be a time like this
again, when it has been so important what he says to the country because I
think we all know at moments like this the country looks to the President
of the United States for understanding, for, for knitting the country
together. And some Presidents do it brilliantly and some do not."
-- 8:37 pm: After the speech, Jennings factually reviewed its major
points with Stephanopoulos, then added: "And then I thought, by the
way also, if I may add, that this President particularly, who feels so
strongly about his Christianity, felt it a good time to say, to quote
those lines from Psalm 23, ĎEven though I walk,í or, ĎYea though I
walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil because God is with
me.í And that will just sit so appropriately, I believe, in the minds
and the sentiments of many Americans tonight."
-- 9:25 pm: Claire Shipman related that complaints about Bushís
absence from Washington were coming from Capitol Hill. She told Jennings
"there was a little bit of grumbling in Washington, some members of
Congress frustrated that they werenít hearing from the President, that
the President wasnít back in Washington, but the leadership says that
they absolutely understand why the President was traveling around the
-- 9:45 pm: Interviewing New York Governor George Pataki, Jennings
remarked: "You said yourself you talked to President Bush and to Vice
President Cheney. Weíd gotten the impression that, for a while today,
Mr. Cheney was the only person left in the White House."
-- 11:50 pm: "Itís been an extraordinary day for the
President," Jennings declared before a story by Compton about the
security envelope that surrounded Bush for most of the day. Compton told
him: "For the President, it was also an unusual day. We havenít
seen this man tested by fire, and we saw George Bush take the full brunt
of everything today." Of the Presidentís Oval Office speech,
Jennings said that although "he and his staff didnít have an
enormous amount of time to work on it, it seems, in large measure, to have
satisfied people all over the nation tonight in terms of what he actually
-- 1:45 am: Nearing the end of his 17-hour day, Jennings again reviewed
the major points of the Presidentís speech to the nation: "Whatever
peopleís individual appraisal of the political record of George W. Bush,
it is pretty clear, I think, from what weíre getting around the country
today, that the President hit the mark, that where America looked out and
saw the face of evil, this attack, with total indifference to who was
involved -- innocent civilians in every case, the heart of the military
establishment in one case, innocent passengers, the vast bulk of whom were
civilians, on board commercial aircraft today -- the President said the
world could look then at the United States and see the best of democracy
END Reprint of Media Reality Check
CyberAlert bonus: What Peter Jennings said during ABC News live coverage,
at about 12:30pm EDT on September 11, over video of celebrating
Palestinians. This is the passage which generated some erroneous claims
about how Jennings had supposedly justified the terrorist attacks.
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory tracked down what
Jennings really said and took it all down. Read it and judge for yourself.
I think youíll find that while he reflected moral equivalence in saying
both Israelis and Palestinians each see the other as guilty of terrorism,
as if the Palestinian claim is just as valid, he did not justify the
attack on the U.S.
Jennings at about 12:30pm EDT:
"Now that's the Palestinian President,
Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat who as I
think everybody who watches the news or reads the news these days
understands is in a very very bitter war with the Israelis, and in which
terrorism has been a factor. Palestinians see what the Israelis do to them
as terrorism, and certainly the Israelis and much of the world see the
Palestinian and other suicide bombers who've attacked inside Israel to be
terrorism of the most gruesome order. No question about that, and so we
should not be surprised as on previous circumstances, to see Chairman
Arafat, expressing his condolences, but other Palestinians, who believe
the United States is responsible for what Israel is doing to the
Palestinians or at least complicit and is certainly supplying the
Israeli's arms will be happy to see this attack on the United States
today. So take a look at a scene from Jerusalem not too long ago in which
there is some celebration, that the powerful United States has been
harmed, has been seen to be vulnerable, has been hurt I suppose in the
broadest sense of the word.
"And the people who go off to do this sort
of thing both in the Middle East tonight must remember that a vast
majority, of the, vast majority of the population of the Middle East now,
in all countries is under 21, much of it under 15, certainly under 17, and
the kind of intensity and intention if one presumes this is terrorism, one
[inaudible] this terrorism has come, had its genesis or had its roots
somewhere in the Middle East, or at least in people who are opposed, have,
are just filled, brimming with anger at the United States, and we are now
becoming more experienced with the notion that there are young men for the
most part, who are prepared to blow themselves up along with everybody
else in terms, if they can be, if they can be a service to the cause and
they believe, they believe as do some people believe about Islam, that
they will, by sacrificing themselves gone to another place.
"It's an unfair comment on Islam in some
respects, but it is certainly a motivating factor that the hatred of the
United States, and the hatred of the United States as a patron of Israel,
whether you're from Afghanistan, or whether you're from Iran, Iraq, or
inside the Palestinian territories is so intense at some levels, and has
become more intense in recent months, that nobody will be, very many
people will not be surprised at this attack today though like everybody
else will be amazed at the magnitude and success of it."
the deference to the victims and healing efforts shown by the CBS and NBC
late night shows, ABCís Bill Maher, on Monday nightís Politically
Incorrect, used the tragedy as a hook to launch into a liberal screed
against missile defense, drug laws and all religions. He also denigrated
Americans and members of the U.S. military as "cowards" for
launching missiles instead of invading on the ground: "We have been
the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 miles away, thatís
The vicious criticism of the U.S. military
prompted FedEx to pull its ads from the show.
After telling viewers that one of four guest
chairs would remain empty for the week in honor of Barbara Olson, who was
killed on the plane which hit the Pentagon as she was flying to Los
Angeles to, among other things, tape an appearance on Politically
Incorrect, Maher launched into this diatribe:
"We need to let our government know we can't
afford a lot of things we used to be able to afford, like a missile shield
that will never work for any enemy that doesnít exist. We canít afford
to be fighting wrong and silly wars: the Cold War, the drug war, the
culture wars -- busting television producers at the airport for taking
funny mushrooms to Las Vegas while the terrorist-looking guys with the
knives get right on. We have to outgrow childish and antiquated stuff real
Maher kept firing at missile defense:
"They [the government] have believed in a religion, if you will --
which I think is the root cause of this whole problem -- but thereís
lots of religions, and one them is that a missile shield in space is going
to protect us, which is ridiculous. Thatís, you know, we left the front
door open and we, you know, we guarded the roof."
Does anyone think that if these thugs had a
nuclear missile they wouldnít launch it at the U.S.?
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted that Maher
denounced religion as the core cause of the tragedies: "Religion is
extremist. Itís extreme to believe in things that your rational mind
knows are not true. I mean, they want to know whatís on this black box
from these flights. Iíll tell you what it is. Itís a guy in Arabic
going, ĎGod is great,í at the moment of the impact. Thatís what on
the black box -- save your trouble, you donít have to find it."
Panelist Dinesh DíSouza challenged Maher:
"But you said religion is believing what you know isnít true. Do
you know that God does not exist?"
Maher replied: "I believe God exists, but
they believe, as we believe, a lot of stupid Muslim tricks and a stupid
Christian tricks, okay? They believe a lot of things, and itís such a
fundamental belief, that if the other guy doesnít agree with you, heís
got to go, and weíre guilty of the same thing."
DíSouza later argued: "Bill, thereís
another piece of political correctness I want to mention, and although I
think Bush has been doing a great job, one of the themes that we hear
constantly is that the people who did this are cowards."
Maher: "Not true."
DíSouza: "Not true. Look at what they
Maher: "Weíre the cowards."
DíSouza: "First of all, you have a whole
bunch of guys who are willing to give their life. None of Ďem backed
out. All of Ďem slammed themselves into pieces of concrete."
DíSouza: "These are warriors."
DíSouza: "And we have to realize that the
principles of our way of life are in conflict with people in the world,
and so, I mean, Iím all for understanding the sociological causes of
this, but we should not blame the victim. Americans shouldnít blame
themselves because other people want to bomb them."
Maher then charged: "But also, we have been
the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 miles away, thatís
cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you
want about it, not cowardly -- youíre right."
Arianna Huffington, who once pretended to be a
conservative, immediately claimed that Americans are just as guilty of
killing the innocent: "Absolutely, Dinesh that is such an important
point. When you talk about the American idea and the American way of life,
all, you know, worth dying for. But let us not forget how many innocent
civilians we killed when we bombed Yugoslavia to rubble because we did not
want to have a single American soldier die, and now we have over 5,000
innocent civilians die because we were cowardly when it came to our
military personnel, and that goes across the board -- to Iraq many parts
of the country where we bombed innocent civilians."
(Maher did sneak in one actually politically
incorrect comment: "Political correctness, in my view, was always
about pretending that certain things were when they werenít, and we
pretended, for example, that the next terrorist could just as easily be
Swedish. Thatís political correctness. Well, we canít afford that
anymore, can we, folks? I mean, the people who hate us arenít Swedish;
theyíre not even North Korean. The people who hate us are the ones who
blew up those planes and the ones who do it next time, and it could be
even worse, theyíre going to be from the same group, so donít we have
to change our ways and put political correctness out to pasture?")
FedEx has pulled its ads from Politically
Incorrect, the Houston Chronicle reported on Wednesday. CyberAlert reader
Lara Mahaney alerted me to how in the September 19 Houston Chronicle Mike
"Federal Express ordered its ads removed
from the ABC late-night series Politically Incorrect on Tuesday after the
show's host referred to recent U.S. military actions as Ďcowardly.í
"After receiving complaints from around the
country, including Houston, Federal Express reviewed Monday's edition of
the show and decided to act, company spokesperson Carla Richards said.
"Richards said she did not know how many
complaints the company received, but that they were of sufficient quantity
to merit the actions the company took.
"ĎThe (30-second) ad that runs during that
show has been pulled for the indefinite future,í Richards said."
To read the entire Houston Chronicle story, go
Itís gratifying to learn of such a reaction
from a U.S. corporation to such an outrageous comment.
[Web Update: On the Wednesday night, Septembr
19, Politically Incorrect, host Bill Maher began with this statement:
"I have to address Monday's show. And I
should clarify a few things that were said.You know, this show has always
been off the cuff. That's the beauty of it. It also causes problems,
because you say things which you need to explain more. But you know, these
are sensitive times, and I should've been more clear when, in a discussion
of how we have in the past conducted our war on terrorism, I said: 'We
have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away.' And
the problem there is the word 'We.' I think. It's indistinct, and I
should've been more clear.
"So let me be very clear now. In no way was
I ever intending, because I never think this way, to say that the men and
women who defend our nation in uniform are anything but courageous and
valiant. And I apologize to anyone who took it the wrong way, sincerely.
And I'll get to that. But my criticism was for the politicians mostly,
who, fearing public opinion, have not allowed the military to do the job
which they are absolutely ready, willing and able to do. And now that they
can, I have no doubt they will do what they have always done and get the
"A lot of people now think that patriotism
means just marching in lockstep and shutting up.
And I'm sorry, but, you know, when the same terrorists who committed this
heinous crime against our country a week ago, those same people, when they
blew up two of our embassies in Africa three years ago -- I know it's
Africa, and I know that's a long way away, but that was still -- hundreds
of people died, and embassies are American soil.
"And our political response was to blow up a
pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, from far away. And I am not
unpatriotic to question how our government has handled this situation in
the past. Patriotism does not involve shutting up, it involves speaking
feel dirty after reading Maherís political screed about missile defense,
religion and how we Americans are the real "cowards," remind
yourself of Dan Ratherís very contrasting appearance the same night on
CBSís Late Show with David Letterman.
As detailed in the September 18 CyberAlert,
Dan Rather praised President Bush as "Giuliani-esque" for
saying, "Osama: Dead or alive." Later on Mondayís Late Show he
volunteered for the war effort: "George Bush is the President. He
makes the decisions and...wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me
where." An emotional Rather broke down twice as he recalled the
heroic work of the firefighters and recited a stanza from "America
the Beautiful." For more extensive quotes and a brief video clip, go
The Late Show has now posted an extensive
excerpt of Ratherís appearance, maybe even all of it, in RealPlayer
format. Go to: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/dave_tv/index.shtml
Tonight on the Late Show: ABC News reporter
John Miller. NBCís Tonight Show will have Arnold Schwarzenegger.