Jennings Bitter Toward Bush Peace Plan; “Hardliners” Won?;
WSJ’s Front Page Polemic; Couric Defended Her “Airhead” Insult of Reagan; CNN’s “Damage Control” in Israel; Chung’s Anchor Idea
1) Peter Jennings displayed more than a bit of bitterness towards Bush’s peace plan. On Monday he rued: “If this sounds like Mr. Bush has come down squarely on Israel's side in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, that is how it looks in the Middle East.”
The next night he claimed the plan was making “waves, particularly the idea that has been out there since yesterday that Palestinians must somehow get rid of Yasser Arafat before the United States would support an independent Palestinian state.”
2) Inside baseball fears of liberals over the substance. The first concern Tuesday night for CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts in his interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell: If President Bush’s “blunt call for Yasser Arafat’s removal amounts to a victory for administration hardliners.”
3) The Wall Street Journal’s front page news story about Bush’s peace plan read like an analysis from a Saudi newspaper. In their very first sentence reporters Carla Anne Robbins and Jeanne Cummings worried about how the plan “risks angering moderate Arabs he will need along the way and could inflame the region further.” Their second sentence referred to “Bush’s surprisingly harsh speech” and lamented how his demands will make it “difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinians to achieve” statehood.
4) Katie Couric argued Wednesday morning with author Ann Coulter who accurately quoted Couric as having opened Today in 1999 by trumpeting: “The Gipper was an airhead. That's one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan...” Couric took umbrage: “I'm just curious why you took it so out of context?”
But Couric didn’t interview the author, Edmund Morris, until two days later. Couric insisted that Today opened with the “airhead” insult just once. In fact, they did it two days in a row.
5) During what the AP described as “a damage-control visit to Israel,” CNN executive Eason Jordan conceded that “CNN erred in giving more programming time to the family of a Palestinian suicide bomber than to his Israeli victims.” But the Wall Street Journal suggested CNN’s efforts “to make amends with Israeli viewers has more to do with its competition with Fox News than any misgivings about its Middle East coverage, industry sources say.”
6) Connie Chung’s recommendation to replace Peter Jennings or Dan Rather: Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show.
7) Now online, the new Media Reality Check, “Burying the Liberal Label on Network News; MRC Study: On Evening News Broadcasts, Conservative Tag Used Four Times More than Liberal Label.” Links to the study, methodology employed and a list of previous MRC studies documenting the media’s predilection to tag conservatives more often than liberals.
Correction. The June 25 CyberAlert Special stated that a new Media Reality Check study by the MRC “confirms Bernard Goldberg's contention in his book that conservatives are labeled
more often than conservatives.” Obviously, as the subsequent material and headline above made clear (“On Evening News Broadcasts, Conservative Tag Used Four Times More than Liberal Label”), that sentence should have read, “that conservatives are labeled more often than liberals.”
There’s little doubt that Peter Jennings is disturbed by how President Bush’s peace plan announced on Monday puts more demands on the perpetrators of terrorism, the Palestinians, than on its victims, the people of Israel. You could certainly hear more than a hint of bitterness in how he introduced stories on Monday and Tuesday night.
Check out how Jennings opened the June 24 World News Tonight, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin tonight with what the President has decided should be done to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In short, the President said today the Palestinians should get rid of their leader Yasser Arafat, get a new political and economic system, a new constitution, a new security service. And when the Palestinians have done that, the Bush administration will support a provisional Palestinian state. If this sounds like Mr. Bush has come down squarely on Israel's side in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, that is how it looks in the Middle East and in Washington."
The next night, June 25, Jennings delivered a warning after mocking how Bush demanded the Palestinians “somehow get rid of” Yasser Arafat: “The President’s peace plan, or latest peace plan, for the Middle East continues to make waves, particularly the idea that has been out there since yesterday that Palestinians must somehow get rid of Yasser Arafat before the United States would support an independent Palestinian state. The Secretary General of the United Nations today said that could backfire because, he said, if the Palestinian people were to replace Mr. Arafat the U.S. might be even unhappier with his successor.”
Compare Jennings’ Monday open to how NBC’s Tom Brokaw set up the same story on the same day’s NBC Nightly News:
“President Bush has made his toughest and most detailed speech yet on the Middle East, outlining what he believes must be done to achieve long-term peace. To the Palestinians he said, 'Get rid of Yasser Arafat and get yourself a new constitution.' To the Israelis he said, 'Eventually you must leave the territory that
you've occupied since the 1967 war -- the West Bank and Gaza Strip.' Those two conditions alone make the President's road to peace a long and arduous journey. His remarks came after more than a week of intense debate within his inner circle and after a series of especially deadly suicide attacks and a very aggressive
Inside baseball fears of liberals over the substance. The first concern Tuesday night for CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts in his interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell: If President Bush’s “blunt call for Yasser Arafat’s removal amounts to a victory for administration hardliners.”
Roberts set up the pre-taped June 25 session: “A short time ago I discussed this new Mideast policy with Secretary of State Colin Powell. I asked the Secretary if President Bush’s blunt call for Yasser Arafat’s removal amounts to a victory for administration hardliners.”
Liberals often complain about the conservative agenda of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, but a front page story on Tuesday demonstrated how liberals control the news pages. The lead story in the June 25 edition about Bush’s peace plan for the Middle East read more like a Saudi Arabian press release than a balanced and neutral news story.
In their very first sentence Wall Street Journal Washington bureau reporters Carla Anne Robbins and Jeanne Cummings worried about how the plan supposedly “risks angering moderate Arabs he will need along the way and could inflame the region further.” In their second sentence the reporting duo referred to “Bush’s surprisingly harsh speech” and how his demands will make it “difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinians to achieve” statehood.
Here are the first two sentences of the June 25 news story:
“President Bush’s thinly veiled call for Yasser Arafat’s ouster changes the ground rules for the search for a Middle East peace, but risks angering moderate Arabs he will need along the way and could inflame the region further.
“Mr. Bush’s surprisingly harsh speech conditioned U.S. support for even an interim Palestinian state on a newly elected leadership 'not compromised by terror’ and many other demands, making his dangling promise of full statehood within three years difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinians to achieve.”
Now contrast that with the comparatively dispassionate and even-handed way New York Times reporters Elisabeth Bumiller and David E. Sanger led their June 24 front page story:
“President Bush told the Palestinian people today that they must replace Yasir Arafat as their leader before the United States will support an independent Palestinian state.
“Removal of Mr. Arafat was only one of several major changes that Mr. Bush demanded of the Palestinians in a blunt speech delivered in the Rose Garden this afternoon. He also called for an end to Palestinian terrorism, and for free elections and economic reforms to end corruption....
When you’re more slanted than the New York Times, you should realize you’re biased.
Katie Couric got into a spat this morning (Wednesday, June 26) on Today with author Ann Coulter who accurately quoted Couric as having opened Today one morning back in 1999: “Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead. That's one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan that's drawing a tremendous amount of interest and fire today, Monday, September the 27th, 1999."
Couric took umbrage at how Coulter, author of the new book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, had suggested that “I'm a Ronald Reagan basher" when, Couric maintained, she was very tough on the author of the “airhead” characterization, Edmund Morris. Couric demanded: "You used me as an example of liberal bias against Ronald Reagan. And I'm just curious why you took it so out of context?"
Couric failed to note that she didn’t interview Morris until two days after she opened with the “airhead” insult. That aired on Monday, September 27, 1999. Morris didn’t appear on Today until Wednesday, September 29. For a full rundown of the interview:
Of course, Couric’s bias came in choosing that most derisive characterization as the one to herald at the top of the show, especially when she dropped the word Morris had preceded it with: “apparent.” And, as Coulter explained, Morris wrote that he soon realized that Reagan was far from an airhead.
When Coulter contended that Today had trumpeted the “airhead” charge on three different mornings, Couric countered: "No it was just one day and we'll get the transcripts for you.”
In fact, as reported in the September 29, 1999 CyberAlert, Today opened with the “airhead” terminology on two different mornings. First, Couric used it on Monday, September 27, 1999 as quoted at the top of this item. Second, here’s how Matt Lauer began the broadcast the next day: “Good morning. For the first time President Bush is responding to the controversial new biography of Ronald Reagan. And in particular the author's assertion that Reagan was a great President but an airhead."
George H.W. Bush: "And it's brutal and grossly unfair and untrue.”
Lauer: “And Mr. Bush has more to say today, Tuesday, September 28th, 1999.”
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down the exchange from today’s Today, June 26, which Today did not air until the 9:30am half hour, a very unusual time for a serious subject. Today followed Coulter with a segment on cooking fish.
Couric set up the interview: "She's been called everything from a 'pundit-extraordinaire,' to 'a right-wing tele-bimbo,' but one thing Ann Coulter has not been called is understated. In her latest book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, the controversial author takes on big media, big government and most of all liberals. Ann Coulter, good morning nice to see you."
After asking Coulter "What are some of the big liberal lies that are out there in your estimation?", Couric got to herself: "I think I do have to bring up a section of the book where you talk specifically about me and this is not where you call me the 'Eva Braun of liberalism,' which I'll ask you about."
Couric: "'The affable,' oh thanks that makes me feel so much better. But you talk about the, the media bias against Ronald Reagan and you use a quote in open from the Today show where we say, 'An airhead, Ronald Reagan is an airhead.' And we're quoting Edmund Morris. But frankly in the book you make it sound as if I was saying that rather than Edmund Morris. And I guess one of your problems is with, even using that, is that he said he was an, 'apparent airhead,' and we failed to say, 'apparent airhead.' And during the course of the interview with Edmund Morris I really conducted an extremely challenging interview with him because he did eviscerate Ronald Reagan in his book. It was a very, very unflattering portrayal. The Reagans were very unhappy with it, conservatives were very unhappy with it. Afterwards Edmund Morris was unhappy with the interview and Nancy Reagan called to thank me for my line of questioning. So I'm just wondering how that jibes with your contention that somehow I'm a Ronald Reagan basher?"
Coulter: "Well I didn't call you a 'Ronald Reagan basher,' I said, which is true that the Today show-"
Couric: "Well you used me as an example of liberal bias against Ronald Reagan. And I'm just curious why you took it so out of context?"
Coulter: "Well I don't think I did, you're taking it out of context."
Couric: "No, I'm not."
Coulter: "What I said was, which is true, that the Today show opened, I believe it was three days in a row, with the announcement: 'Ronald Reagan was an airhead, that's the conclusion of this new book by Edmund Morris.' When Edmund Morris came on for that interview with you he described that as a grossly unfair characterization of his points-"
Couric: "Well we should also point out-"
Coulter: "His entire book was contradicting that. So when the author himself and George Bush, the Vice President was interviewed about this, all say that, that was a grossly unfair characterization..."
Couric as both talk over each other: "Right and-"
Coulter: "...well then whose characterization was it?"
Couric: "And that's in, that's-"
Coulter: "It wasn't Edmund Morris's he certainly denies it."
Couric: "Well actually he backpedaled considerably. If you had read the book by Edmund Morris-"
Coulter: "I did."
Couric: "...you would have seen that he was extremely critical of Ronald Reagan in the book."
Coulter: "No, I didn't like the book but he didn't call him an airhead. The Today show called him an airhead."
Couric: "He called him, 'an apparent airhead,' he did call him, 'an apparent airhead,' I have the quote right here if you would like me to read it?"
Coulter: "No, I've, I've read the quote and it's in my book."
Couric: "He said that, 'Young Kim Timmons-'"
Coulter: "I don't think we are going to resolve this."
Couric: "'...she of the blue-eyes and enchanting grace played occasional hooky from the White House speechwriting department to help me build a chronology and I was about hire a full-time assistant. Yet the magic of Geneva had faded. Dutch remained a mystery to me and worse still, dare I entertain such heresy in the hushed and reverent precincts of his office, an apparent airhead.' So these are Edmund Morris's words. But-"
Coulter: "But was also in his words, though, when he came on your show was that, that was a grossly unfair characterization and then that was at the beginning of the book, he said he described him as 'an apparent airhead' on a very first meeting and that the entire course of the rest of his book was contradicting that. So for the Today show to be opening three days in a row, 'Ronald Reagan was an airhead,' I'm sorry that's dishonest."
Couric: "It, it, it was one day. And also just for your information it was one day."
Coulter correctly pointed out: "No, you said it one day, Matt Lauer said it another day."
Couric falsely claimed: "No it was just one day and we'll get the transcripts for you. But anyway he also said, Edmund Morris, 'Beyond amazement I was distressed by the relentless banality not to say incoherence of the President's reprise in interviews.' So he did make these, he didn't really switch in the book. But we don't want to get too mired in this."
Coulter: "Yes, by the way my book is not, not only solely not about this quote it is not solely about the Today show."
But there’s certainly enough material so it could have been.
If you pick up Coulter’s book, which is published by Crown, you’ll see quite a few familiar quotes which were, like the Couric and Lauer quotes above, first exposed in MRC publications, mainly CyberAlerts and Notable
Coulter’s acknowledgments page offers this credit:
“Novenas should be said to Brent Bozell and the Media Research Center, who have been on the case long before I was.”
To see the book’s cover or to order it online:
Today has posted an excerpt from her book:
Update: NBC’s Today used the "airhead" term four times to describe Ronald Reagan. As Mickey Kaus noted in a July 8 "Kausfiles" posting on Slate.com, via a Nexis search he found the term employed "two days, three times (plus once on Later Today)." Today opened with it twice, as CyberAlert documented, but also employed the term two other times that week. Kaus explained: "Couric said it on Sept. 27, 1999. The next day, as charged, Lauer opened the show by talking about ‘the author's assertion that Reagan was a great President but an airhead.’ NBC's Jamie Gangel repeated the ‘airhead’ charge without the ‘apparent’ later that day in a Today interview with ex-President George H.W. Bush. The winner: Coulter on points. She was closer to the truth than Couric, who picked this particular fact fight and was wrong."
For the Kaus piece: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2067592 ]
During what the AP described as “a damage-control visit to Israel,” CNN executive Eason Jordan conceded that “CNN erred in giving more programming time to the family of a Palestinian suicide bomber than to his Israeli victims and tried to rectify the mistake,” the AP’s Steve Weizman relayed in a June 24 dispatch.
Last week Jordan, addressing concerns about how CNN suggested moral equivalence between the families of suicide murderers and their victims by showcasing both sets of families, distributed a memo to CNN’s staff ordering them to adjust their news judgment.
Jim Romenesko's MediaNews
posted the entirety of the memo:
To: CNN Staff
From: Eason Jordan
Just as we exercise utmost restraint and caution in how we report
on and televise al-Qaeda statements, CNN henceforth will not televise or report on the statements of suicide bombers or their
families unless there seemingly is an extraordinarily compelling reason to do so, in which case advance approval must be obtained
from Rick Davis, Chris Cramer, Rena Golden, or me.
END of Reprint
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, however, that “the widely reported efforts by news broadcaster CNN to make amends with Israeli viewers has more to do with its competition with Fox News than any misgivings about its Middle East coverage, industry sources say.”
Jordan’s trip to Israel followed threats from Israeli cable and satellite service operators that they would pull off CNN because of what they perceive as the network’s anti-Israel bias, a perception heightened last week when Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted CNN founder Ted Turner as charging that “both sides” -- meaning Palestinians and Israelis -- “are involved in terrorism." CNN acted quickly to distance itself from Turner as the network filled the screen with the text of CNN’s statement separating itself from him: “Ted Turner's views are his own and they do not in any way reflect the views of CNN."
For more about what Turner said, how CNN highlighted his “clarifying” comments and to see the “Ted Who?” screen shot:
An excerpt from the June 24 AP dispatch from Jerusalem by Steve
....CNN's coverage of recent suicide bombings has provoked anger in Israel and led a local cable company to start carrying CNN's chief U.S. competitor, Fox News Channel...
Interviewed on Israel Television, Eason Jordan, CNN's President of
newsgathering, said his company strives for fairness....
Told that a recent CNN interview with the family of a Palestinian
suicide bomber received more prominence than one with a relative of his victims, 1-year-old Sinai Keinan and her grandmother,
Jordan said: "That was a mistake, it should never have happened and I think we subsequently rectified that problem by airing
extensively the interview with the Keinan family."
CNN is airing a series of heavily promoted half-hour specials on
Israeli victims of Palestinian terror attacks and Jordan says he has issued a directive ordering staff to "go to extremes" to avoid any impression the company sees moral equivalence between terror
victims and their attackers....
Jordan said there was no link between CNN's fresh programming and the possibility that it could lose local markets to Fox.
Israeli criticism intensified last week when Turner was quoted
seeming to equate suicide bombings and Israel's military response....
Jordan said the company was taking criticism from both sides, with Palestinian officials he met on Saturday accusing CNN of serving Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon....
END of Excerpt
For the entire AP story:
An excerpt of the June 25 Wall Street Journal story, “With a Fox on Its Tail, CNN Makes Amends With Israelis,” by Dow Jones reporter David Rosenberg:
....[I]ndustry executives and observers say that behind the political brouhaha in Israel are some hard-headed business calculations.
Among them is the ratings competition in the U.S. between CNN, a unit of AOL Time Warner (AOL), and Fox, a unit of News Corp. (NWS). The other is hard-pressed Israeli cable and satellite broadcasters seeking better financial terms from CNN.
With a population of just 6.5 million, Israel is a tiny market by CNN standards. Nevertheless Eason Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, met with every imaginable local media outlet while in Israel and held a highly publicized meeting with Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin Sunday night....
CNN was widely seen as seeking to pacify Israelis but Andrew Tyndall, whose New York-based Tyndall Report monitors television news, said the network is more concerned about its image among millions of conservative Christian viewers in the
"They can live without six million people there (in Israel). It comes in the context of more than two years of Fox's competitive claims against CNN, about CNN's ideological inflection," said Tyndall....
Back in Israel, broadcasters have been using the alleged public outcry as bargaining chips in long-running talks with CNN on improving financial terms, said industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity....
The three Israeli cable companies, which include publicly traded Matav-Cable Systems Media Ltd. (MATV) and YES, have been in talks about introducing Fox since last October to their offerings, which
besides CNN also include the BBC and Sky News. YES added Fox News to its offerings last Thursday....
But the cable companies may not be in a strong position to bargain, ironically because CNN is so popular among Israeli viewers....
END of Excerpt
To read the article in full:
No matter what you think of CNN, you’ve got to have some sympathy for a guy whose job it is to clean up the messes created by Ted Turner’s motor mouth.
Connie Chung’s recommendation to replace Peter Jennings or Dan Rather as anchors: Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show.
On the premiere of her new CNN interview show/gabfest at 8pm EDT, repeated at 8pm PDT, this exchange occurred with Stewart, the MRC’s Ken Shepherd observed after he was forced to endure the entire hour-long program:
Chung: "What I'm really curious about is have you been asked to take the place of Rather or Brokaw-"
Stewart: "Are you serious?"
Chung: "I mean Jennings, Brokaw is out of the picture."
Stewart: "Listen, I barely get asked to take the place of Yaakov Smirnoff like I'm not, you know, I would never get asked to take, those people are, listen, uh, uh, journalists-"
Chung: "No, but you're very good at anchoring, I'm telling you, you really are. You do it very well."
Stewart: "Yes, three years ago I learned how to read and that has made a huge difference for me. To have everything spelled out phonetically has been an enormous help. People with wonderful journalistic credentials and credibility are a brilliant asset to this. I think that for our show it's more about how decisions get made and things get presented and that's where we cull our humor from for the most part."
Now online, the Media Reality Check study by Rich Noyes reprinted in the June 25 CyberAlert Special, “Burying the Liberal Label on Network News; MRC Study: On Evening News Broadcasts, Conservative Tag Used Four Times More than Liberal Label.”
At the time the e-mail was sent early Tuesday morning the study had not yet been posted. But the MRC’s Mez Djouadi has put it up along with a press release about it, a page about the methodology employed and a page listing previous MRC studies documenting labeling disparities.
The table with the key findings of the study which looked at the use of “conservative” or “liberal” labels by network anchors or reporters on ABC, CBS and NBC evening news programs from January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2001:
Labels on Broadcast Network News
| 96 labels (21%)
| 365 labels (79%)
| 64 labels (18%)
| 289 labels (82%)
| 87 labels (20%)
| 338 labels (80%)
| 247 (20%)
| 992 (80%)
The direct links:
-- The Media Reality Check study itself with the full rundown of all the findings:
-- For the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
-- The press release announcing the study results:
-- “How MRC Conducted Its Labeling Study,” in which Rich Noyes explains how he conducted the study and how he eliminated irrelevant uses of the search terms in order to only count ideological labels applied by reporters or anchors:
-- A rundown of past MRC studies documenting the media predilection to label conservatives more often than liberals:
-- The Media Reality Check study confirms Bernard Goldberg’s contention in his book that conservatives are labeled more often than liberals, an observation which Stanford University linguist Geoffrey Nunberg challenged in a late March NPR commentary which liberals embraced and that CNN’s Jeff Greenfield highlighted on Inside Politics in mid-April. For a link to Nunberg’s commentary and a transcript of Greenfield’s piece:
> Scheduled to appear Wednesday night, June 26, on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman: NBC anchor Tom Brokaw.
-- Brent Baker
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