Rick “RATS Ad” Berke Promoted by
New York Times; More on Rather’s Insinuation that Ashcroft Selfishly Protected Himself; Miller & Walters Praised Regulation
1) Rick Berke, the New York Times reporter whose gullibility the Gore campaign exploited in 2000 to write a story about the supposedly subliminal word “RATS” in an anti-Gore TV ad, has been promoted to Washington editor. Berke conceded on PBS to how a Gore campaign operative had pointed out to him the “RATS”
lettering. That wasn’t the only time Berke has reported through a liberal prism in which he assumes conservatives are distasteful.
2) More Dan Rather from Friday: “When the Attorney General heard a threat, it was decided that, immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on a security front...What some people are asking...and some of the people include the relatives of victims of September 11th. What they're asking is that, okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and, therefore, could not make their own decisions about their security.”
3) ABC’s John Miller contended that the Enron case shows the need “for tough government regulations of these corporations.” Barbara Walters noted: “And the government helped to catch them.” To which John Stossel retorted: “The private sector dropped the stock. That's what really caught them. When government loses money, they don't go to jail. They don't get hauled up and punished for it, they just get more money.”
Rick Berke, the New York Times reporter whose gullibility the Gore campaign exploited in September of 2000 to write a story about the supposedly subliminal word “RATS” in an anti-Gore TV ad, has been promoted to Washington editor, the number two slot in the Washington bureau. He replaces John Broder who is taking over the Los Angeles bureau.
Just after his story ran Berke conceded on PBS to how a Gore campaign operative had pointed out to him the “RATS” lettering in the ad in which that letter sequence was visible on screen as the word “bureaucrats” went by.
That wasn’t the only time Berke has reported through a liberal prism in which he assumes conservatives are distasteful. Earlier this year he eagerly highlighted how "Gray Davis is just salivating at the opportunity to paint" the "very conservative" California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon "as anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-gun control, anti-everything, which just doesn’t sit well with the California electorate." He also suggested U.S. troops in Afghanistan could become another Vietnam. In January he waited until the fourth paragraph of a story headlined, “Poll Finds Enron's Taint Clings More to G.O.P. Than Democrats,” to get around to how it found 82 percent approval for President Bush.
Last year he described former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, at best a moderate, as “a pretty respected conservative” who told him “I’m worried that the party is becoming too narrow."
Back in 1992 he assured CNN’s Larry King that the media are not biased in any way. On the October 16, 1992 Larry King Live he maintained: “I don’t think there is [a bias] at all. I think anyone who accuses the press of bias is acting in desperation, I think. I think the press has been much more aggressive and fair, in being, in going after both sides, and looking, than ever before."
For the May 24 announcement in the New York Times about Berke’s promotion:
Berke’s September 12, 2000 front page piece, headlined “Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad,” set off a firestorm of network hyperventilation.
As recounted in the September 13, 2000 CyberAlert, the “RATS” complaint by Gore elevated to news status by the New York Times topped ABC, CNN and MSNBC that night and earned full pieces on CBS and NBC. ABC seriously claimed that Gore was “taken aback” by it. CNN declared it “an effort to deceive the voters.” For details:
At the same time, FNC’s Brit Hume pointed out that FNC had humorously freeze-framed the appearance of the word “rats” in the ad more than two weeks earlier, but the New York Times only decided to make it front page news when the Gore campaign called them. For details:
FNC’s Tony Snow suggested: “Berke had no idea he had been fooled into touting a stale story about an ad scheduled to go off the air the day his piece appeared. Gore operatives thus transformed the Times into a purveyor of all the news that's fit to reprint.” Details:
Berke’s September 12, 2000 piece is still online, with a picture of the frame in question:
A few days after it ran, as noted in the September 18, 2000 CyberAlert, Berke revealed how the Gore campaign had led him around by the nose. On PBS’s Washington Week in Review of September 15 he conceded he was more than spoon-fed the story by the Gore team as he was so slow on the up take “it took me several viewings” of the ad played in slow motion by a Gore operative “to notice the RAT” frame of it. But, a female editor supposedly noticed it at regular speed.
Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Berke: “I have to ask you about your role in this Rick because you, you personally have come under attack from other news organizations, and certainly by the Republicans, as having been a tool of the Gore campaign in this.”
In defending himself Berke indicted himself as to how much he relied on a Gore operative: “Well, let me tell you how it came about. The Gore people called me last week and they said we want you to view this tape of a commercial. We don’t want to tell you anything more about it. Judge for yourself. So they showed it to me, I’m looking at it, I don’t notice anything unusual about it. Then they slow it down and I still don’t notice it [points finger at head]. It takes me a while sometimes, you know, go figure. It took me several viewings to notice the 'RAT.’
“And then, they were, 'isn’t this incredible?’ and I said 'well wait a minute, I don’t know what we’re going to do with this.’ So what I did is, I started calling around, calling experts, saying is this unusual and they said yes it is. And I also showed it to people at my office. I showed it to one editor and I said 'look, there’s something unusual about this commercial.’ She picked it up immediately at a regular speed. She said 'my gosh, there’s RATS there.’ So I simply wrote the story in a dispassionate way, giving all sides, and let people judge what they will about it.”
More about some other examples of liberal bias from
-- Helms the “extremist.” In an August 2, 1997 New York Times story, Berke asserted: “When Republicans gained control of the Senate after the 1994 elections, sweeping him into the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Helms appeared determined to live up to his reputation, developed by years in the minority, as an extremist, an obstructionist, an isolationist.”
-- Though John Danforth averaged only a 61 percent conservative rating and a 29 percent rating from a liberal group, Berke maintained in 2001: “Former Senator Jack Danforth, who’s a pretty respected conservative, told me 'I’m worried that the party is becoming too narrow.’” Details:
-- In January of this year the New York Times featured this headline over a top of the front page story by Berke on a poll which found 82 percent approval for the President: “Poll Finds Enron's Taint Clings More to G.O.P. Than Democrats.”
In fact, as James Taranto noted in his “Best of the Web” column on OpinionJournal.com: “Only a 45% plurality think Enron executives ‘had closer ties’ with Republicans than with Democrats (10% said Democrats, 10% said ‘both equal’ and 34% had no opinion).” As Mickey Kaus pointed out in a Slate.com piece cited by Taranto: “It would also be significant if the poll showed that this closeness substantially tainted Republicans -- as in the headline the Times' crusading editors gave to the piece...But there's not much evidence to support the ‘taint’ headline either -- since...the Republican ‘favorables’ actually climbed more than the Democrats' numbers.” Specifically, Kaus uncovered a finding not cited in the New York Times story by Berke and Janet Elder: A “large gain (46% to 58%) in the ‘favorable’ rating of the GOP, beating a smaller (53% to 58%) gain for the Democrats.” Details:
-- Earlier this year Berke raised the Vietnam analogy about Afghanistan. On PBS’s Washington Week he asserted: "Not long ago, we were practically declaring victory. How did we suddenly end up with troops on the ground, and are we stuck there? Is this, dare I mention, Vietnam?" Details:
-- This past spring Berke eagerly highlighted how "Gray Davis is just salivating at the opportunity to paint" the "very conservative" California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon "as anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-gun control, anti-everything, which just doesn’t sit well with the California electorate." Details:
As reported in Friday’s CyberAlert, Dan Rather not only refused to apologize to Attorney General John Ashcroft for insinuating on Wednesday’s Imus in the Morning that Ashcroft used private aircraft last year because he knew terrorists might hijack a commercial flight, he lashed out at Ashcroft for daring to question Rather’s claim: “It probably would be better for him to spend a little less time trying to, you know, sully up my reputation in some way, cover his own backside, and a little more time in let’s get this thing straight.”
Rather smarmily blasted Ashcroft: “At the same time he’s cutting back the anti-terrorism budget, he’s arranging for a private plane to fly himself around. That doesn’t look particularly good.”
Wednesday on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning Rather passed along the vile claim that the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft was “inexplicably” using private aircraft last year proves he feared a terrorist hijacking. An hour later, NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski informed Imus that Ashcroft’s private plane use had nothing to do with terrorism and was prompted by personal threats on his life.
Rather had demanded: “There are important questions that need to be asked, but again, until recently, I would say, until the last week, nobody was asking 'em,” Rather intoned. Rather asserted that “just before September 11th” Ashcroft “started inexplicably taking private aircraft to places where normally the Attorney General wouldn't take private aircraft, you know, government planes. Well, that would indicate that somebody somewhere was getting pretty worried, but if you're going to share that with the Attorney General, you know, why wasn't it shared with the public at large?”
After having clearly insinuated that Ashcroft had inside information about potential hijackings and acted to protect himself while showing no regard for others, on Friday morning Rather tried to re-write what he said as he made the very same suggestion all over again: “I never said that the Attorney General was warned specifically about 9/11 threats and, therefore, covered his own security. I did point out the following, that in the summer before September 11th, the Attorney General, for whatever reason, and I assume rightfully, decided that it wasn't safe for him to ride the airlines and, therefore, he laid on -- in an unprecedented thing to do, but let's assume that it was necessary -- private aircraft that fly him around wherever he went.”
Rather repeated his charge: "Now, in other words, when the Attorney General heard a threat, it was decided that, immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on a security front. Now, I'm okay with that. Now, what some people are asking, and this is what I reported on your program, and some of the people include the relatives of victims of September 11th. What they're asking is that, okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and, therefore, could not make their own decisions about their security.”
For a full rundown of what Rather said on May 22, check the May 23
For What Imus said about Rather on May 23 and a preliminary rundown of Rather’s second appearance of the week on May 24:
Friday’s CyberAlert only relayed some of Rather’s wackiness from Friday morning. Picking up from where my transcription left off, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down huge chunks of what Rather spewed by phone during the 8am half hour of the May 24 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC. This transcript includes material already quoted in the May 24 CyberAlert, but I’ve left it in so it’s easier to follow along, to the extent it’s possible to follow Rather’s logic:
Imus: "Anyway, so what's the deal now with Ashcroft? What happened here?"
Dan Rather: "Well, I'm not quite sure what happened, I-man. I did not hear the program the other morning after I was on it -- I went to work. But as best I can figure out, let me make a couple points. First of all, this is not about the Attorney General or me. What it's about is how best to defend and protect our country. What it's about is we have, you know, three thousand people killed on September 11th. It's about them, those who were wounded, the families of the victims, and it's about our country, what was done to our country. That's the framework of what this is about, and I think it's very important to keep that in mind.
"Number two, neither the Attorney General nor anyone representing him has called me with any complaints. I hear that they have complaints about something I said on your program the other morning, and you know, when you asked me if I wanted to come back on today, first of all, it's always a pleasure for me to be with you and, you know, I always like to talk to you, but I want to make it explicitly clear because it's true that, you know, nobody I know of says that the Attorney General had any prior knowledge of any, you know, of any plan to kamikaze planes into the World Trade Center. I haven't said that, I don't know of any even reasonably serious person who's said it.
"Now, I guess it's point number four, on your program, despite what some people try to convince folks that I said, I never said that the Attorney General was warned specifically about 9/11 threats and, therefore, covered his own security. I did point out the following, that in the summer before September 11th, the Attorney General, for whatever reason, and I assume rightfully, decided that it wasn't safe for him to ride the airlines and, therefore, he laid on -- in an unprecedented thing to do, but let's assume that it was necessary -- private aircraft that fly him around wherever he went at, I think, sixteen hundred dollars an hour."
Rather: "Now, in other words, when the Attorney General heard a threat, it was decided that, immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on a security front. Now, I'm okay with that. Now, what some people are asking, and this is what I reported on your program, and some of the people include the relatives of victims of September 11th. What they're asking is that, okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and, therefore, could not make their own decisions about their security. And on your program I raised what I thought and believe now to be a legitimate question about looking ahead if the threats in the air are serious enough for the Attorney General to say, 'Look, I don't think I better fly airlines,' isn't it reasonable to say, you know, in the future, looking ahead, maybe when we have threats against the flying public, that they should be told or at the very least the airlines should be told and the pilots should be told....
“Look, I respect the Attorney General. I respected him and liked him before he came into his office and I like and respect him now. I would just gently suggest that, and I do say this gently, that it's probably better or maybe it would be better for him to spend a little less time trying to, you know, sully up my reputation in some way, cover his own backside, and a little more time and let's get this thing straight, I mean, let's do what we can to defend the country. Now that's where I am, that's where I stand, and I can't stand in any other place."
Imus: "Well, here's what I was told, and have been told, is that the, well, one Jim Miklaszewski at NBC News and then others, was that the reason that the Attorney General started taking private aircraft had nothing to do with him being, thinking that commercial airliners weren't safe for either him or the public, but because of apparently persistent death threats and other threats to him personally, and that it was recommended by his security people and others that he not travel on commercial airliners, that it had, that there was no, that he had no information that he could have passed along to either you, me, the pilots, the public or anybody else about commercial airliners being any more unsafe than they generally are, so I think that's where the issue is. It isn't, I don't think anybody is suggesting that, that you implied that he had some prior knowledge of September 11th."
Rather: "Alright, well let me, I take your point and let me address it. While I don't think that's where they've done most of their attacking, but let's take that point. First of all, about Jim, you know, you said he's an NBC guy, he's a good guy. I know because I noticed he called you very quickly; he didn't call me to say, 'You know, Dan, I think you may be off on this a little bit.' But let's set that aside for a minute. He's a good guy and he's got to get along with Brokaw and Russet and those guys, and I understand that.
“Let's set that aside. Here's what, at the time, the Attorney General, there's a difference between what they said at the time the Attorney General got this threat and what they're saying now. Now double check, this is Jim Stewart, maybe the best reporter in Washington, certainly a strong one. Now, when the story about the Attorney General taking the private planes first came out last July, the Justice Department said the decision not to take commercial flights was made because of, quote, 'a threat assessment,' unquote, by the FBI. Nothing at that time about any specific threat to the person of the Attorney General, and when the Attorney General was asked about it at that time, his answer was frankly kind of confused and confusing. Now anyone listening right now may have ample evidence that everyone can be kind of poorly spoken at any given time, but what I'm getting at is this: When the Attorney General and Justice Department don't come out and say, clearly and unambiguously, that this is because of a specific threat to the person of Mr. Ashcroft, that they make -- at the time, remember, after 9/11 they changed some -- but rather make vague pronouncements about threat assessments -- maybe vague for good reasons, who knows? -- then I don't think reporters can be blamed in light of what's happened since for asking, 'Well, wait a minute, was the threat assessment of a piece with similar warnings we've learned about concerning commercial airliner hijackings or not?'
"Now, final point, the way to get at this is the way that Senator Lieberman and Senator John McCain have suggested, and a lot of Democrats and Republicans, let's take this thing out of the political arena as much as possible. Let's have an independent investigation. Not to nail anybody, but about how we can do it better....
“But the larger picture is there were a lot things in the air last year we now know, a lot of things bubbling up through the FBI, through the Justice Department about threats to the public at large. Now, in the middle of that, in the middle of that, we have the Attorney General suddenly taking, you know, his own private aircraft, and I come back to if they thought that was necessary at the time, fine, but when there are threats, let us say for the moment, for the moment at least, separate threats to the public, and this is the point, they didn't take the same attitude toward the threats to the public, and that's why some people say, 'Listen, my wife wouldn't have taken that flight on 9/11 if the government had said, "Listen, we have some information out there that maybe that somebody's going to try to hijack an airliner,"' and it turns out they had a lot of information on that."...
Rather soon continued: "I'm somewhat surprised that if the Attorney General's people, you know, the Attorney General's people have been, you know, he's had some of his publicity agents call around newspapers trying to plant some negative stories and, you know, that goes with the territory I guess, but I really--"
Imus: "Tell me about it."
Rather: "I had thought he was bigger than that and I continue to think he's bigger than that and I think he may have a word with somebody about it because I come back to this point: All of this is directed toward trying to defend the country and how can we do it better? His job, he carries a heavy responsibility, is to see what procedures in the FBI need to be improved and go about improving them, not spend his time trying to touch up some reporter he thinks has said the wrong thing -- in, you know, in this case, me. I don't think the wrong thing was said, but you know, people will have to make their own judgments about it. I will come back to this, and this is the point, the most important point for me. I never said that he had any knowledge that anybody is going to crash an airplane into, you know, the World Trade Center or anything like it. I do think this, you know-"
Imus: "Or that it was unsafe to fly on commercial airliners and so, as a result, he was going to take private aircraft."
Imus: "So I think that's the point. It's not whether he knew that they were going to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or not. It's whether, I think the issue is whether he thought and he had some sort of information suggesting that it was unsafe to fly on commercial airliners and so that was why he was going to start taking a private jet."
Rather: "But he hasn't said, nor has anybody ever said, that during the summer and before 9/11 that he didn't hear any reports about the public being unsafe flying on jetliners."
Imus: "No, he hasn't. He just said it was a threat alert and he was vague about that."
Rather: "Look, this is what he said, then why is he resisting having an independent, non-partisan group look into this as McCain, Lieberman and others have suggested? Now, it has been raised by Al Hunt in The Wall Street Journal and some others, that suggest in at least that one reason that the Attorney General doesn't want an independent investigation of any of this stuff is that, unfortunately for us and for the country, that anti-terrorism was not a priority for the Justice Department before 9/11. Neither the Justice Department nor the Treasury Department, which according to Al Hunt sought to gut money laundering regulations, none of them had anti-terrorism as a priority. In fact, before 9/11, the Attorney General had sought to cut back the counterterrorism budget against the advice of his own law enforcement people. The FBI wanted more agents -- this is before 9/11 -- the FBI wanted more agents to look into, you know, counterterrorism work. The Attorney General was cutting back all of those budgets before 9/11. Now, you can say, 'Well, he was making a good judgment, and you know, now we're looking in hindsight,' but on his list of priorities, terrorism was not a priority, but at the same time he's cutting back the counter-terrorism budget, he's arranging for private aircraft, which I will point out again, none of his predecessors didn't fly these private planes most of the time. Janet Reno and others flew, you know, regular commercial airliners, as most cabinet members most of the time do. Now, at the same time he's cutting back the counter-terrorism budget, he's arranging for a private plane to fly himself around. That doesn't look particularly good. There may have been good reasons for it. I've said that if he says there was a good reason for it, it had nothing to do with this other, I accept that for the moment, but let's have an independent commission that looks into all of this so in the future, we don't make the kind of mistakes that we made before 9/11."
Imus: "It sounds to me like the ball's in his court now, doesn't it?"
Rather: "Well yes, but he doesn't need to worry about me and, you know, he has bigger things to worry about."
Which is why he doesn’t need an irresponsible network news star hurling unsubstantiated allegations about him and then refusing to admit he went too far.
Some left-wing, anti-free enterprise rhetoric from John Miller and Barbara Walters at the end of Friday’s 20/20, but it was countered by John
After Stossel’s “Give Me a Break!” segment about how six states, including Texas, allow those in bankruptcy to keep their homes, even the high-priced mansions owned by former Enron executives, this exchange occurred on the May 24 20/20:
Miller: “Well, when you look at these things -- like the Enron case, which is mentioned in your story -- you're always saying there should be totally free enterprise, limited regulation, doesn't a story like that cry out for tough government regulations of these corporations?”
Stossel: “Everybody's bashing capitalism over Enron. I think this is an example of how the market works. The fact that it's big news shows how seldom this happens. In a multi-trillion-dollar economy, you're going to have some bad companies. But they got caught. They're not doing it anymore.”
Walters: “And the government helped to catch them.”
Stossel: “Well, the private sector dropped the stock. That's what really caught them. When government loses money, they don't go to jail. They don't get hauled up and punished for it, they just get more money.”
Walters, exasperated, to Miller: “We can't win.”
Miller: “No. We can't win.”
Stossel may have won this battle, but those who see a need for less government regulation are losing the war on network news.
For a transcript of Stossel’s piece, check his Web page:
-- Brent Baker
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