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CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday November 7, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 176) |
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Confused Criticism of Rumsfeld; Couric Obsessed with Military "Sexism"; NPR Retraction; MRC in NY Times; "We Don’t Want to Know"

1) ABC’s Dan Harris asserted "there is a lot of confusion" at the Pentagon over the location and aid provided to anti-Taliban leader Hamid Karzai, but Harris was more confusing than Donald Rumsfeld. Harris declared: "We spoke to Karzai by satellite phone tonight from his family home in Pakistan." Harris soon played a soundbite of Rumsfeld saying Karzai had been "extracted from Afghanistan." Harris let Karzai counter: "No, I am in Afghanistan."

2) On the one year anniversary of the 2000 election, ABC’s Good Morning America let Bob Woodward marvel at the most "extraordinary event in all of this," Al Gore's "statesmanlike" concession speech: "Not only did the Supreme Court make Bush President, Al Gore did." Charles Gibson expressed surprise that the Supreme Court "does not seem to have suffered anything in loss of prestige and the country accepted it, moved on."

3) Katie Couric tried to get two female military commanders and an FBI official to admit that they’d faced "sexism." When a Navy Commander denied anybody had given her a "hard time about being a woman," Couric challenged her credibility: "Would you answer that question honestly if it were the case?"

4) Reacting to controversy over the NPR foreign editor being quoted saying NPR would reveal the location of a U.S. commando unit, NPR issued a retraction: "Loren Jenkins neither believes nor intended to suggest that NPR would engage in reporting that would put in peril the lives of U.S. military personnel."

5) Reminded of President Reagan’s "trust but verify" motto, on Monday morning Bryant Gumbel retorted in horror: "Oh, not that again!"

6) The November 7 New York Times credited the MRC as the source of the research behind "critiques" of network coverage espoused by conservative analysts. The paper asked Peter Jennings about the MRC’s study documenting his show’s excessive concentration on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The Times reporters related his reaction: "Mr. Jennings disputed accusations of bias but said he did not have time to investigate the critics' claims."

7) Noting how reporters say "it's the public's need to know about our ground forces being in there," on the Tonight Show Dennis Miller led the audience in a reprimanding journalists: "We don’t want to know!" Miller also called for oil drilling in Alaska and praised President Bush for ending "the ‘70s porno guitar of the Clinton administration."


  1

ABC’s Dan Harris asserted on Tuesday night that "there is a lot of confusion" at the Pentagon over the location and aid provided to anti-Taliban leader Hamid Karzai, but anyone who watched Harris’s World News Tonight story should have been confused -- by Harris, who didn’t seem to realize that he provided two contradictory locations for Karzai.

     Harris played clips of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at his daily briefing and showed how they did not match what Karzai told Harris by satellite phone. Up front, Harris declared: "We spoke to Karzai by satellite phone tonight from his family home in Pakistan." Seconds later, however, Harris played an audio clip of Karzai disagreeing with Rumsfeld’s assertion that he had been "extracted" from Afghanistan: "No, I am in Afghanistan."

     Opening the November 6 World News Tonight piece Harris, from Quetta, Pakistan, explained how, with support from the CIA, Karzai had gone into Southern Afghanistan in order to turn local tribal chiefs against the Taliban. Over video of himself holding a phone, Harris noted: "We spoke to Karzai by satellite phone tonight from his family home in Pakistan."

     Harris then maintained: "Karzai says his men fought a fierce battle with the Taliban in Oruzgan province Thursday and that he has the support of many civilians in the area. Beyond that, there is a lot of confusion. Disagreement, for example, about how much support the U.S. is giving Karzai."
     Donald Rumsfeld at the DOD briefing: "We have, I know, delivered ammunition and some supplies to him."
     Audio of Karzai on the satellite phone, with words on screen: "We have not had any food supplies at all. We were sleeping in cold, our people were in bare feet, our people were without jackets. They are still all like that."
     Harris: "There’s also disagreement about where Karzai is. The Pentagon says on Sunday U.S. forces evacuated him to neighboring Pakistan."
     Rumsfeld: "At his request, he was extracted from Afghanistan with a small number of his senior supporters and fighters."
     Karzai audio: "No I am in Afghanistan. That’s all I can tell you. I stayed on in Afghanistan. I’m here with my men."
     Without clearing up his own contradiction, Harris concluded: "There is no disagreement, however, about the importance of Karzai’s mission, called pivotal to the success of the war."

2

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on Monday found that registered voters would now vote for George W. Bush over Al Gore by an almost a 2-to-1 margin, 61 to 35 percent, but instead of focusing on that affirmation of Bush’s presidency, or even mentioning it, on the one year anniversary of the election day ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday allowed Bob Woodward to marvel at the most "extraordinary event in all of this," Al Gore's "concession speech." Woodward asserted: "In a sense, not only did the Supreme Court make Bush President, Al Gore did."

     GMA’s Charles Gibson expressed surprise that given how five Supreme Court justices had made Bush the President, the Court "does not seem to have suffered anything in loss of prestige and the country accepted it."

     GMA began its anniversary retrospective, caught in the 7am half hour by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, with a review from Terry Moran of events a year earlier. He concluded his report: "The bottom line, Charlie, thanks to five members of the U.S. Supreme Court, George W. Bush is President of the United States and as we speak, he's addressing world leaders via satellite in Warsaw."

     Gibson then set up his November 6 interview with Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward: "Yes, Terry Moran, thank you very much. Five Justices of the Supreme Court with him, four against him, and on that narrow margin he won the election."

     Gibson’s first question: "It is extraordinary when you think back that that was a year ago that we began all that. It seems not that long ago, but it's amazing how quickly the country moved on from that."
     Woodward immediately praised Gore: "Well, it is and if you go back and look at the TV and press reporting, the extraordinary event in all of this was Gore's concession speech, when Gore actually got up and said, 'Not only do I concede, but I accept the finality of it,' meaning that he was going to accept cold the Supreme Court decision against him. If you read that speech or looked at a video of it, you would say you couldn't write a better speech totally giving away the presidency to Bush and saying that it's over."
     Gibson followed up by wondering how the Supreme Court came through unscathed: "He did that, but there were howls of protest from many people, books written, you know about them, saying that this was a political decision by the Supreme Court, not a legal decision, and yet the Supreme Court does not seem to have suffered anything in loss of prestige and the country accepted it, moved on."
     Woodward credited Gore with protecting the Court from itself: "Well, among some academics and critics, the Supreme Court has been damaged, but people accepted it because Gore accepted it. In, again, that speech, he got up there and mocked himself and said, 'It's time for me to go.' In a sense, it's almost prescient what he said about anyone who looks at this election dispute to suggest that there is weakness is American democracy does not understand this country; totally put himself behind Bush. In a sense, not only did the Supreme Court make Bush President, Al Gore did."

     A bit later, after Gibson pointed out how interest in electoral reform has waned in Florida, Woodward again returned to his theme: "Does that mean the right result was reached or that somebody's not going to recount all of those votes and come to a different conclusion? No, but again, I don't mean to be overly repetitive, but it was the Gore speech and concession which was so graceful and statesmanlike, no one had anything to hang their hat on. Now if Gore had taken the opposite tack and said, 'Oh no, we're going to fight this or we're going to do something,' then you would have had a different attitude in the country."

     Gibson wrapped up by wondering how different the war on terrorism would be if Gore were President, prompting Woodward to acknowledge the U.S. then would not have veterans of the Persian Gulf War directing it, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld.

3

Katie Couric’s obsession on Tuesday morning: "Sexism" in the military and the FBI. The November 6 Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, devoted the entire 8am half hour after the news update to a "Women of the War" segment with Couric interviewing three women in leadership roles in the war on terrorism.

     Via satellite, one by one, she asked each of the women, whom she dubbed "shining examples" of how women "can do great things," about their jobs, challenges in carrying out their missions and for any advice they might have for young girls. Then she asked all three about sexism they’ve encountered.

     She started with Major General Martha Rainville, who commands the Vermont National Guard: "General Rainville, as much as we would like to think it’s not sexism is still alive and well in many quarters. Do you encounter much of it in your job?"
     Rainville maintained "I've been very fortunate I think through the course of my career. I mean obviously human nature is human nature. People have to get used to change and having women in non-traditional fields throughout my career, anyway, has meant change. Sometimes you just have to give them the opportunity also to get to know you. To understand that you are focused on the mission. That you are there to do a job and you're a professional. And most times things will work out."

     Couric moved on to Kathleen McChesney, the Assistant Director of the FBI who runs the Quantico training academy: "How about you, do you face much sexism on the job?"
     McChesney: "No, I don't. We have a large number of women who have all kinds of roles in the FBI. It's a fabulous place to work for a man or a woman."

     Finally, Couric pressed Bess Harrahill, Commander of the Navy hospital ship Comfort: "Anybody in the Navy give you a hard time about being a woman?"
     Harrahill: "Not at all, no. I've had a lot of good opportunities and learned from every job I've been in."
     Couric had doubts: "Would you answer that question honestly if it were the case?"
     Harrahill: "I'd do the best I could."

     An empty well for a disappointed Couric.

4

It’s amazing how a little exposure for publicly untenable "journalist first, American second" positions causes media executives to recant. First, David Westin retracted his refusal to say the Pentagon was not a "legitimate" terrorist target. Now, NPR has withdrawn on behalf of Loren Jenkins, NPR’s senior foreign editor, his insistence that NPR would report the location of a secret U.S. commando unit.

     As detailed in the October 13 CyberAlert, asked by a Chicago Tribune columnist whether National Public Radio correspondents "would report the presence of an American commando unit" presumably unknown to the enemy in a "northern Pakistan village," Jenkins responded: "You report it" since "I don't represent the government. I represent history, information, what happened." Jenkins also contended that "in one form or another," the military "never tell you the truth."

     His comments were quoted in an October 12 column by Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune which Jim Romenesko had highlighted on his MediaNews page: http://www.poynter.org/medianews.

     For an excerpt from Johnson’s column, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011013.asp#5

     The October 12 Johnson column is still up:
http://chicagotribune.com/features/chi-0110120007oct12.column?coll=chi%2Dleisure%2Dnav

     On Tuesday, November 6, Bruce Drake, Vice President of NPR News and Information, released this statement as carried on the U.S. Newswire’s Web site:
     "Over the past several weeks, a number of journalists have reprised a newspaper story suggesting that NPR and its foreign editor, Loren Jenkins, sees it as our business to reveal secret whereabouts of U.S. covert forces in Afghanistan. Loren Jenkins neither believes nor intended to suggest that NPR would engage in reporting that would put in peril the lives of U.S. military personnel. NPR reporters, producers and editors always take into account whether our reporting might put lives in danger, or pose an unacceptable security risk. NPR would never knowingly compromise the security or safety of American military or national security operations by reporting information that would endanger them. The entire editorial team at NPR operates by this standard, and our reporting on the terrorism story and its aftermath reflects our careful editorial practices in this regard."

     The statement is online at:
http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/Current_Releases/1106-122.html

     NPR’s recision followed the appearance in various newspapers this week of a column by Jeff Jacoby, "Journalism's 'neutrality fetish,’" which highlighted the Jenkins policy of "journalist first, American second." To read Jacoby’s column, go to: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/301/oped/Journalism_s_neutrality_fetish_+.shtml

     On the Westin front, an op-ed by Dorothy Rabinowitz in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal showcased his initial remarks and backpedaling from them. Titled, "Neutral in the Newsroom: The media have trouble grasping that we're at war," it’s online at: http://www.opinionjournal.com/medialog/?id=95001426

5

Reminded of President Reagan’s "trust but verify" motto, on Monday morning Bryant Gumbel retorted in horror: "Oh, not that again!"

     Gumbel’s feelings broke through during an interview on Monday’s Early Show with Edmond Pope, the man convicted of spying by the Russians and the author of a new book about his ordeal, Torpedoed.

     Gumbel asked Pope to assess Russia’s commitment to the war on terrorism. Pope replied: "We cannot totally trust them. We absolutely must work with them and I applaud what we’re doing right now in this war to fight terrorism."
     Gumbel wondered: "How are you going to work with them if you don’t trust them?"
     Pope: "You trust and then verify."
     Prompting Pope to start laughing, Gumbel responded with disbelief at the adoption of Reagan’s slogan: "Oh, not that again! Not that again. Serious?"
     Pope: "I’m serious."

6

The November 7 New York Times credited the MRC as the source of the information behind the "critiques" of television network coverage of the war espoused by conservative analysts. Reporters Jim Rutenberg and Bill Carter also asked Peter Jennings for comment on the MRC’s study about how his show dedicated more time to civilian casualties in Afghanistan than did the CBS and NBC evening shows combined. His defense? The Times reporters related: "Mr. Jennings disputed accusations of bias but said he did not have time to investigate the critics' claims."

     The story, titled "Network Coverage a Target of Fire From Conservatives," began:
     "As television news networks cover the war, they are increasingly coming under criticism from conservatives who say they exhibit a lack of patriotism or are overly negative toward the government.
     "Although the networks say the criticism is not affecting their coverage, they are having to sort through basic issues like whether patriotism can coexist with objectivity and how to raise tough questions about the policies of an administration that is receiving overwhelming popular support.
     "Much of the criticism comes from a group of conservative media voices and outlets, including Rush Limbaugh's radio talk show, The New York Post's editorial page, The Drudge Report and some commentators on the Fox News Channel. Much of the information for their critiques has been assembled by a conservative media watchdog organization called the Media Research Center, which hires full-time monitors to watch the network newscasts."

     The article also cited the MRC’s new study: "Yesterday, the Media Research Center released a report that said World News Tonight With Peter Jennings had shown far more reports about claimed civilian deaths in Afghanistan than had NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw or CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.
     "‘ABC knows that the despotic Taliban are using both real and phony instances of U.S. errors to undermine our war against terror,’ the report said. ‘But, at least so far, its correspondents have reserved most of their skepticism for America.’
     "In an interview, Mr. Jennings disputed accusations of bias but said he did not have time to investigate the critics' claims."

     The Times reporting duo talked to the study author, Rich Noyes, who led them through how the MRC started the ball rolling on the remarks by David Westin: "Mr. Noyes said that the other conservative news outlets often fed off reports from his group. For instance, the group was the first to report Mr. Westin's comments to the journalism students, in an e-mail report it sends out to its supporters. From there, the item was picked up by the editorial page of The Post, on Oct. 31. That day, it appeared on The Drudge Report on the Internet and on Mr. Limbaugh's radio show.
     "Mr. Noyes said Mr. Westin was wise to apologize. ‘It defused the story,’ Mr. Noyes said. ‘ABC wanted us to add the apology to our original report, and we did that.’"

     To read the study completed by Noyes about ABC coverage of civilian casualties, go to the HTML version which also features matching RealPlayer video clips: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/20011105.asp

     To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/pdf/fax1105.pdf

     To read the whole New York Times article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/07/politics/07MEDI.html

     That link does require registration, but it’s free. It’s worth accessing the story just to read the bizarre quote from Erik Sorenson, the President of MSNBC, complaining about the "patriotism police."

     You can also read the article the old-fashioned way: By picking up an actual copy of the newspaper. The story appears on page B-2, at least it does in the Washington edition.

7

"We don’t want to know!" That’s how Dennis Miller led the audience in a rebuke of journalists at the conclusion of his appearance on Tuesday’s Tonight Show on NBC. Miller, host of a comedy/interview show in HBO and presently a commentator on ABC’s Monday Night Football, recalled how reporters "always say that during this war it's the public's need to know about our ground forces being in there." He rejected the notion: "I'm sitting at home and I'm always exasperating. And you never have the chance to say it, I don't think many of us have a chance to say it and I want to say it to you tonight. We don't want to know! Okay? They're young boys, it's scary enough leave 'em alone!"

     Miller’s shot at the media followed an interview in which the usually left-leaning comedian, with a dose of libertarianism, urged that drilling for oil be allowed in the Alaska refuge and, to audience applause, praised President Bush’s handling of the war. The Saturday Night Live veteran and sometime movie actor remarked: "So you know the difference between Clinton and Bush to me is that Bush somehow has managed to turn off the 'wocka-wocka' ‘70s porno guitar of the Clinton administration. You know? Clinton looked presidential but he acted like a kid. Bush looks like a kid but so far he acts presidential and I like that about him."

     MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down some of what Miller espoused during his November 6 interview with Jay Leno to plug his new book.

     Miller contended: "You know what this country needs is a jolt. Look we are fighting with these people over there, they're our worst enemies. They live to kill us. I mean and we've got Alaska sitting up there and we bought it for dirt cheap, it's loaded with oil and yet we don't go in because there's like five caribou in there, you know? Screw the caribou! I don't give a shit [bleeped out] about the caribou! I say you run a pipe in there and suck it dry. The caribou can wait!"
     Leno: "You eat the caribou."
     Miller: "Exactly. Did you ever see the caribou? They're up there, they can't believe the deal they've got, you know? They walk around and go, 'why don't they come in here, 'cuz we're here!' They're looking at each other, 'we're caribou, what are they thinking?! Where do they find their oil? Oh off their enemies.' Oh great. You know it just doesn't make any sense to me. I like Bush is doing so far."
     Leno: "You're happy with Bush."
     Miller: "Yeah I think Bush has, listen I don't think he's a-"

     Applause from the Burbank audience interrupted Miller, but he soon continued: "I don't think he's a great man but how many great men come along in life? Great men are defined by the circumstances they're presented and I think he's doing a nice job. So you know the difference between Clinton and Bush to me is that Bush somehow has managed to turn off the 'wocka-wocka' ‘70s porno guitar of the Clinton administration. You know? Clinton looked presidential but he acted like a kid. Bush looks like a kid but so far he acts presidential and I like that about him. And I like the fact that he's hired- [interrupted again by applause] "-says he's gonna spend $13 billion on education, God knows we need it. If you think about it only one of the three 'r's actually starts with 'r.' And then we've got."

     Miller moved on to Vice President Cheney: "I like the way Bush has hired Cheney because I think Cheney is the guy you ought to watch for. You don't ever see Cheney any more since this hit the fan. Because he's in the bunker pushing buttons ending enemies' lives, you know? That's a tough guy. Cheney's thinking, 'Listen I got a bad ticker, I'd like nothing more than to take a couple of you punks with me.' You know Cheney's, Cheney's like Sanford and Son. He's walking through three heart attacks a day. He just doesn't care. That heart skips more than Richard Simmons on his way to an N'Sync concert."

     As his appearance neared its end, Miller announced: "You know if there's one thing that I want to say before I leave here Jay, I know we gotta wrap up. If the working press is listening out there, you always say that during this war it's the public's need to know about our ground forces being in there and stuff like that. They always put it on us. And I'm sitting at home and I'm always exasperating. And you never have the chance to say it, I don't think many of us have a chance to say it and I want to say it to you tonight. ‘We don't want to know!’ Okay? They're young boys, it's scary enough leave 'em alone! Everybody say it, 'We don't want to know!'"
     Leno: "Yeah!"
     Miller, with audience joining in unison: "‘We don't want to know!’"

     Miller, in a message to the Washington press corps, lectured: "Okay there ya go! Now next time you think that. No it's not for us, it's for you and your cocktail chatter at parties in D.C.! But we don't want to know! Leave our boys alone over there! Alright?!"

     That prompted loud applause from the NBC audience.

     Couldn’t have said it better myself. -- Brent Baker


 

 


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