Media Must React to Criticism; Why Another Book About Reagan?; WTC "Had to Be Destroyed"; Jennings Defended His 9/11 Coverage
1) Katie Couricís first question to Lou Cannon on Monday
morningís Today show: "Do we need another book about Ronald
2) Referring to the World Trade Center towers, Norman
Mailer declared: "Everything wrong with America led to the point
where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be
destroyed." He wondered: "What if those perpetrators were right
and we were not? We have long ago lost the capability to take a calm look
at the enormity of our enemy's position."
3) Canadian Peter Jennings is baffled as to why anyone
would be upset that heís not a U.S. citizen: "I'm very curious to
know why any of our backgrounds are an issue for people.í" He also
defended his Sept. 11 questioning of President Bushís location.
4) Citing the MRCís documentation of ABC News President
David Westinís remarks about the Pentagon, Fred Barnes observed in the
Weekly Standard that "the scrutiny the national press now gets from
media critics, watchdog groups, press websites, and astute journalistic
observers" is providing "a makeshift kind of accountability that
didn't exist until recently. Large media organizations once haughtily
ignored conservative criticism. Now they have to take it into account and
react." And who is the "scourge of liberal bias"?
5) Tonight on CBSís JAG, part two of the two-parter
"ripped from todayís headlines," about a U.S. Navy plane which
was forced to land in China.
>>> Latest NQ now online. The
November 26 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRCís bi-weekly
compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the
liberal media, is now up on the MRCís Web site thanks to Mez Djouadi and
Kristina Sewell. Amongst the quote headings: "Up Side of Taliban
Thugocracy"; "Scolding American Hypocrisy"; "Americans
Are Terrorists, Too"; "Persecuting Clinton Allowed 9/11";
"Haunted By Vietnam Analogies" and "Whining About
Watchdogs." Go to: http://archive.mrc.org/notablequotables/2001/nq20011126.html
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version, go
Couricís first question to Lou Cannon on Monday morning: "Do we
need another book about Ronald Reagan?" Cannon, a former Washington
Post reporter and a Reagan biographer, appeared to plug his new book,
"Ronald Reagan, The Presidential Portfolio: History as Told through
the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that this
was Couricís first question to Cannon during the November 26 Today show
interview: "I can't think of any one more qualified to write another
book about Ronald Reagan. The question is, do we need another book about
Ronald Reagan, Lou?"
leftist novelist, this time Norman Mailer, has rationalized the September
11 terrorist attacks. Mondayís CyberAlert recounted recent comments from
Gore Vidal, but on his show Monday night on FNC Brit Hume reminded me of
earlier pronouncements from Mailer first recounted by the New Republic
last week and later highlighted by OpinionJournal.comís "Best of
the Web" column. (For Vidalís rant, refer back to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011126.asp#3)
For its "Idiocy Watch" column, the
November 26 New Republic relayed what Mailer said at the Cross Border
Festival in the Amsterdam on October 29 as reported by the Dutch
newspaper, NRC Handelsblad. The New Republic noted that "because
these comments were translated from English to Dutch, then back to
English, they may vary from the
Referring to the World Trade Center towers,
Mailer declared: "Everything wrong
with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel,
which consequently had to be destroyed." And he wondered: "What
if those perpetrators were right and we were not? We have long ago lost
the capability to take a calm look at the enormity of our enemy's
Mailerís comments, as quoted at: http://www.tnr.com/112601/notebook112601.html
-- "The WTC was not just an architectural
monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn't work there, for it
said to all those people: 'If you can't work up here, boy, you're out of
it.' That's why I'm sure that if those towers had been destroyed without
loss of life a lot of people would have cheered. Everything wrong with
America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel,
which consequently had to be destroyed."
-- "And then came the next shock. We had
to realize that the people that did this were brilliant. It showed that
the ego we could hold up until September 10 was inadequate."
-- "Americans can't admit that you need
courage to do such a thing. For that might be misunderstood. The key thing
is that we in America are convinced that it was blind, mad fanatics who
didn't know what they were doing. But what if those perpetrators were
right and we were not? We have long ago lost the capability to
take a calm look at the enormity of our enemy's position."
The New Republic commented: "Again the
confusion of right with enormity. In what sense, though, are thousands of
innocent and incinerated people Ďwrongí? And does Norman Mailer really
believe that the perpetrators may have been Ďrightí? Nothing in his
long career of stupid and indecent extenuations of other people's pain
rules out the possibility that he believes it. But the fearless American
writer should not sneak around to the far corners of the world to express
his bold views. He should make his dissent at home, where it matters, and
where it can get his name into a lot of newspapers that the people who
lunch at the Four Seasons can read."
in the November 20 CyberAlert, in moderating a November 18 TV panel
program on the local ABC affiliate, the Dallas Morning News reported that
Peter Jennings had the tables turned on him as he was hit with complaints
about his September 11 on-air remarks. Since the affiliate, WFAA-TV,
posted a RealPlayer file of the one-hour special, weíve now had the
opportunity to transcribe that portion of the show in which Jennings
seemed befuddled that anyone could have objected to his demanding to know
the location of President Bush just hours after the terrorist attacks.
The day after Ed Barkís Dallas Morning News
story ran, he followed up with another one recounting his interview with
Jennings in which Jennings couldnít understand why anyone would be
concerned that the anchor of a major U.S. networkís prime newscast is
not a U.S. citizen:
hasn't become an American citizen is considered highly unpatriotic by
some. Mr. Jennings, who was born 63 years ago in Toronto, didn't bristle
when this was broached. ĎWhen passions are very high, there are a
variety of interpretations around the country of what patriotism is,í he
said. ĎI am Canadian. And if anybody asks me about it, it's a personal
matter. It has a lot to do with my family and my family's history and my
kids. But I'm very curious to know why any of our backgrounds are an issue
For an excerpt from his November 19 story
about how Jennings was confronted during the WFAA-TV special, as well as a
RealPlayer clip of World News Tonight showing a Dallas man telling
Jennings, "Nobody likes you," go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011120.asp#1
On Monday, MRC analyst Patrick Gregory
transcribed a portion of the November 18 WFAA-TV special, "Covering
Terrorism: Critiquing the Media."
Leading back into the show following an ad
break, Dallas viewers heard and saw this from Jennings on September 11:
"I donít mean to say this in melodramatic terms, but where is the
President of the United States? I know we donít know where he is, but
pretty soon the country needs to know where he is."
Jennings was surprised by the choice of clips:
"Well unbeknownst to me, at that particular moment, WFAA rolled a
piece of tape from the first day of the broadcast when the President was
traveling from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska and finally back to
Washington, to which a number of people took objection, that I had
questioned where the President was, and should I or should I not. And
apparently, one of, I didnít realize this until just a moment ago, wrote
a nasty letter about me to the paper, which I accept as a learning
experience. Go ahead."
Craig Stanbaugh, in the audience: "Iím the father of six in Arlington,
Texas. I work here in Dallas as an accountant. I took issue that
statement, Mr. Jennings, in that a time-"
"Can you call me Peter? Iím going to call you Craig."
"Ok. Peter, at a time when the American public was so horrified, and
scared of what was going on 9/11, and they were seeking from the national
media who were following at that time the best source to find out whether
or not their homes were safe, their family, whether their city or state
was going to be attacked. Sometimes its almost looking for a sense of
comfort, to know what things are going on."
"You clearly thought I had done something wrong, what was it?"
"I found it rather disconcerting that you would, I would say
questioned the actions of the administration as to not returning to
Washington, DC immediately and or not allowing the public to know where
they are at that particular time."
"So you thought that I was, wanted to sort of expose where the
President was and know where the President was and was making him
Stanbaugh: "No not make him vulnerable
but to question his actions and whether or not they were proper actions in
leading this country.
"Ok, very good question, and if I may Iíll come back to it, but in
fairness in other words you believe it was not the moment to question the
Presidentís decision making?"
"Correct, I donít believe that was the particular format to raise
that question and to instill doubt or fear into the mind of the American
Jennings asked the panelists for their
reactions, conceding to WBAP Radio talk show host Mark Davis: "The
truth of the matter is I did say Ďsome Presidents do this well, and some
donít do it well,í and itís absolutely essential to the American
people that a President do it well. I made no further judgment."
suggested: "But in so saying, the supposition seems to be that maybe
this guy is on the way to not doing it well. But otherwise why bring it
"Alright, but would that be the supposition of all or some"
"Some, a big some."
addressed the charge: "Let me just try to answer your question
fairly. Indeed, we had an almost constant dialogue with the White House at
that time. We knew that the secret service had moved in over the
President, as it does in a case like this, with enormous influence,
enormous pressure, and that he did, then go, Iíd forgotten where he was
at that given moment, he then went as you know from Florida to Nebraska.
We had a reporter with him all the time. He finally came back to
Washington, and I say finally because there was tremendous pressure in the
political establishment, as well as in I would agree in the journalistic
establishment, to have the President at home base to lead the nation. And
the implication of at least my question or observation at that time was
that, it was in no way intended to question his actions, because quite
frankly we didnít know what he was doing, we only knew basically where
he was going. Iím not sure thatíll satisfy you, but it was certainly
not meant to question him, but to question the process and point out how
important it was for all of us in the country to see the President, to see
him standing up and leading the nation. One manís opinion."
As noted in the October 1 CyberAlert in
explaining why the MRC published a Media Reality Check correcting claims
about what Jennings stated on September 11: "All else being equal, we
would have done something on his demands to see and hear immediately from
Bush and how they illustrated the way the networks have turned the
presidency into the empathizer in chief, putting his public appearance and
words ahead of him making important decisions at closed meetings."
For that explanation in full and a link to the
Media Reality Check, refer back to the November 27 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011001.asp#4
To view the WFAA-TV special in full via
RealPlayer, go to:
The above-quoted segment occurred a bit more
than 37 minutes into the show.
of Peter Jennings, Fred Barnes opened his cover story in the latest Weekly
Standard, "The Press in Time of War," by noting: "Peter
Jennings, the ABC News anchor, ventured outside New York last week to
discover the mood of the country. In Dallas, a man told him bluntly:
ĎNobody likes you.í The man added that the press's reporting is
unpatriotic and isn't helping the nation recover from the attacks of
Barnes, however, contended that with notable
exceptions: "The press has been more in sync with the American people
since September 11 than at any time in decades. And its coverage, from a
professional standpoint, has rarely been better. In the two or three weeks
immediately after the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, both print and broadcast coverage was dazzling. The stories were
fact-filled, fair, balanced, poignant, comprehensive, and politically
neutral. There were even murmurs of patriotism, not exactly a staple of
the liberal media....In short, what we've seen at times over the past nine
weeks is the American press transformed."
Citing as an example the MRCís documentation
of ABC News President David Westinís reluctance to say the Pentagon
wasnít a "legitimate" target, Barnes observed that "the
scrutiny the national press now gets from media critics, watchdog groups,
press websites, and astute journalistic observers" is providing
"a makeshift kind of accountability that didn't exist until
In researching his piece, last week Barnes,
Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard, stopped by the Media Research
Center to access our video archive of terrorism coverage and such notable
events as Dan Ratherís appearance on the Late Show.
Below is an excerpt from his piece in the
December 3 edition of the magazine, which was ostensibly a review of two
books, including one that looks quite intriguing, "Bias: A CBS
Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News," by Bernard
Goldberg. Itís published by Regnery, but I donít believe itís out in
bookstores quite yet. Amazon.com has it listed as available
Near the end of the piece Barnes tagged me as
"the scourge of liberal bias." The excerpt:
....There are, of course, exceptions to a changed press, dinosaurs bent
on covering the war as antagonistically as possible. One is the New York
Times. Its war coverage has been grimly defeatist and its chief Washington
correspondent, R.W. Apple Jr., has fixated on supposed similarities
between American interventions in Afghanistan and Vietnam....Another
offender is ABC. Its obsession was Taliban claims about civilian deaths
from American bombing. ABC accepted them as credible and played them up.
Predictably the claims turned out to be false. ABC even frowned on the
president's effort to have American kids send a dollar to Afghan children.
There have also been episodes of klutzy and hysterical reporting.
Gloria Borger's questioning of Vice President Dick Cheney on "60
Minutes," for example, drifted into the ridiculous when she asked him
to discuss the secret site where he goes when the president is in the
White House. "What do they do when they take you away?" she
asked. "Do they come in and get you...[and] where do you go?"
Cheney answered gently that such information "needs to be
Still, the big question about journalism is whether September 11 marks
a turning point -- indeed, whether the press is permanently chastened,
changed, different. For a generation now, the type of reporting practiced
first in Washington and then nationwide has been adversarial, cynical, and
highly negative. Reporters themselves have been so ideological that
liberal bias became a dominant trait of journalism, as Bernard Goldberg
engagingly points out in the about-to-be-released "Bias: A CBS
Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News."...
[R]emarkable things have occurred. Famous journalists have been
transformed in ways that should thrill conservatives who complain about
liberal bias. The most striking changes involve CBS anchor Dan Rather,
liberal television journalist Geraldo Rivera, CNN chief Walter Isaacson,
and columnist Tom Friedman of the New York Times.
Rather's appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" a
week after the terrorist attacks was quite touching. A mention of the
firefighters at the World Trade Center reduced him to tears. He broke up
again while reciting a stanza of "America the Beautiful" and
declared: "You know, it's just one American, wherever [the president]
wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll make the call."
But what Rather said later, after the bombing started, was more
significant. Following two days of bombing, he ended the "CBS Evening
News" with a patriotic peroration. "Our thoughts and our love
are with our warrior men and women," he said. "We know that some
may come back in flag-draped caskets, but we reluctantly and sadly accept
that as a reality of a war forced upon us." How often have we heard
anything like that on network news?....
And then there's Walter Isaacson. Freshly installed as the head of CNN,
Isaacson faced various problems. It wasn't just dealing with CNN's
reputation as the "Clinton News Network," though that has caused
ratings trouble. The bigger problem was the source of that reputation: the
content of CNN's programs. One CNN official admitted the cable network had
"underserved" conservatives, which is putting it mildly. But
faced with a war to cover, Isaacson took an extraordinary step that Ted
Turner, were he still in charge, surely would not have. He sent a memo to
correspondents, instructing them to remind viewers of the attacks that
prompted America to go to war in the first place. The message between the
lines was "Don't sound anti-American." Despite lapses, CNN's
coverage has improved....
The effect of September 11 was traumatic and mind-altering. But there
are other reasons, too, for the change in journalism. The nature of the
story -- a war with many facets, foreign and domestic -- requires more
fact-based reporting and less commentary. Then, too, for television,
ratings matter. This no doubt has played a role in CNN's coverage.
One significant factor gets little notice: the scrutiny the national
press now gets from media critics, watchdog groups, press websites, and
astute journalistic observers like Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic and
Brit Hume of Fox News Channel. Many of these are conservative, and they're
constantly on alert for liberal or leftist excesses. When they find them,
they let the whole world, or at least elite opinion-makers, know. The
result is a makeshift kind of accountability that didn't exist until
recently. Large media organizations once haughtily ignored conservative
criticism. Now they have to take it into account and react.
The case of David Westin, the president of ABC News, is a good example.
On October 23, Westin spoke to a class at Columbia University's Graduate
School of Journalism. Asked if the Pentagon were a legitimate target for
attack by America's enemies, he said, "I actually don't have an
opinion on that...as a journalist I feel strongly that's something I
should not be taking a position on." The comment drew no criticism
from the students, which may tell you something about them.
But four days later, the Westin speech was shown on C-SPAN, where Brent
Baker of the Media Research Center caught it at 2 A.M. Baker put excerpts
in the daily "CyberAlert" he writes for MRC's website. Rummaging
through the Internet, Brit Hume spotted the item and mentioned it on
"Special Report" that evening on Fox. Two days later, the New
York Post picked it up and the next day so did the Drudge Report. That
alerted Rush Limbaugh, who devoted an hour or more to it on his radio
show. With Limbaugh's show still in progress, Baker got a call from ABC. A
reply would be e-mailed to him soon for posting on the MRC website. It was
a total capitulation. "I was wrong," Westin wrote. "Under
any interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely
The impact this may have on ABC's coverage is uncertain. It hasn't
affected what's become a hardy perennial at the network: obsessive
emphasis on collateral damage caused by American bombing. Despite
relatively few civilian deaths in Afghanistan, ABC has concentrated on the
subject far more than NBC or CBS. But then it did the same thing during
the Gulf War a decade ago.
At the New York Times, R.W. Apple, too, is grinding an old ax. Back in
1991, he wrote, "For all of President Bush's passionate insistence to
the contrary, the war in the Persian Gulf has more than a few similarities
to the war in Vietnam, in the sort of problems that it poses if not in the
probable outcome." Trying to make a new situation fit an old story,
he was wrong about the Gulf War -- and he's wrong again about the war in
Afghanistan, for precisely the same reason....
[Y]ou'd never have guessed from "Bias" (written months before
September11) that Dan Rather would emerge as the war on terrorism's
leading media supporter. Nonetheless, Goldberg tells an engrossing story
about his twenty-eight years at CBS, his clash with Rather over liberal
bias, and his take on liberal news coverage in general. He was a
top-flight correspondent and Rather favorite until February 1996, when he
wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about liberal bias, particularly
at CBS. "You can talk freely about many things when you work for the
big network news operations, but liberal bias is not one of them,"
Goldberg notes. After the article, his career at CBS was stymied and he
left the network in 2000. Goldberg tells plenty of CBS tales out of school
(Rather's down-home quips are scripted, he observes, and CBS News boss
Andrew Heyward privately agreed about liberal bias). In the end, he's
pessimistic about erasing bias. "They continue to slant the news and
then deny they're doing it," Goldberg says. "They just don't
Even so, Dan Rather's metamorphosis seems real, if perhaps temporary.
The scourge of liberal bias, Brent Baker of the Media Research Center, is
persuaded. "He's not the Rather of the past," he says. In fact,
Baker has kind words for most of CBS's war coverage and NBC's too.
"There's not much to complain about thematically from a conservative
point of view," Baker says. "Certainly the tone of coverage has
changed. They're eliminating the spin. They're not trying to impute
political motives to everything Bush does or says." All that, just
since September 11. If it lasts, people may learn to like the press as
much as they like, well, Donald Rumsfeld.
END of Excerpt
To read the article by Barnes in full, go to:
Iím proud of my new title, "Scourge of
Liberal Bias." Maybe Iíll add it to my business cards.
on CBSís JAG, part two of the two-parter "ripped from todayís
headlines," about a U.S. Navy plane which was forced to land in
The summary of tonightís plot as listed on
the showís Web page:
defends a Naval lieutenant who claims he disobeyed orders and bombed a
U.S. Navy spy plane held hostage by the Chinese because he believed it was
the right thing to do, in the conclusion of a two-part episode.
Sturgis go head to head at the lieutenant's court-martial as Harm tries to
keep him out of Leavenworth, where he could be sentenced to 25 years for
JAG, a show about attorneys in the Navyís
Judge Advocate Corps, airs at 8pm EST/PST, 7pm CST/MST on CBS. The
programís Web page: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jag/
-- Brent Baker, aka, "the scourge of liberal