ABC’s Snooty Summit Story; CNN’s John King Raised “Accelerating” Tax Cuts; Reporter Dreamed of Bush Copying Clinton; Sawyer: Spend More, Just Not on Summit; “CEO President...Aligned with Corporate Greed”; Kurtz Rebuked Colleague on Labeling
1) Stories on Bush’s economic forum all relayed criticisms of it as a publicity stunt, but ABC’s Terry Moran delivered the snottiest story. To emphasize Bush’s lack of involvement, he showed a series of three clips of Bush walking out of panel sessions and he gratuitously asserted: “Mr. Bush was hob knobbing at the forum with, among others, Charles Schwab, who made $353 million cashing in stock options before the price of his company shares plummeted.”
2) Instead of just pressing Democrats Dick Gephardt and Hillary Clinton from the left about rescinding the tax cuts, CNN’s John King did something very unusual. On Tuesday’s Inside Politics he provided balance as he questioned Mitch Daniels and Paul O’Neill from the right about “accelerating” the tax cuts.
3) Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly dreamed of President Bush copying former President Clinton. Tuesday night on FNC she dreamed: “Just imagine if President Bush had done this and had unemployed Enron workers there. And maybe some retirees who have lost their 401(k) accounts and have to go back to work. And really did, you know, as Bill Clinton would say, 'felt their pain.'”
4) Seconds after ABC’s Diane Sawyer demanded of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that the government spend more to save private companies -- “Are you prepared to do what it takes to bail out the airline industry?" -- she suddenly became concerned about spending, asking how much the economic summit is “costing?"
5) On Tuesday’s Early Show, CBS’s Jane Clayson made the usual media assumption that Bush, “as a CEO President,” must “convince the public” that he “is not aligned with the corporate greed.” But a USA Today/CNN poll done by Gallup in late July discovered that
“an overwhelming 72 percent thought the experience Bush and Cheney had as corporate executives was a good thing.”
6) Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz scolded one of his Post colleagues for labeling conservatives but not liberals in a Sunday profile of Cornel West: “That's a problem. I think reporters need to be more careful about this sort of one-sided labeling.”
Stories on President Bush’s economic forum in Waco, Texas legitimately relayed liberal criticisms of it for featuring no critics of his policies and being little more than a publicity gimmick, but ABC, CBS and NBC all ignored conservative concerns about Bush’s lack of policy initiatives. And of the stories on the three broadcast networks, ABC’s Terry Moran delivered the snottiest.
On Tuesday’s World News Tonight Moran ridiculed how Bush popped in on different sessions for short periods. Leading into three video clips of Bush getting up and walking out of the room, Moran noted: “The forum was designed to showcase Mr. Bush as a man who listens to the people, but the hectic schedule -- the President dropped into four different sessions in the morning for only about 20 minutes each -- meant he had little time for any kind of extended give and take.”
Moran also gratuitously asserted: “Mr. Bush was hob knobbing at the forum with, among others, Charles Schwab, who made $353 million cashing in stock options before the price of his company shares plummeted.”
Over on the NBC Nightly News, reporter Kelly O’Donnell refrained from such a shot as she played a soundbite of Charles Schwab being critical of Wall Street: “It's outrageous in my view what goes on in Wall Street on a consistent basis.”
Unlike ABC’s Moran or CBS’s Bill Plante, O’Donnell also took time to briefly relate some of the policies suggested: “An administration trying to signal it is engaged. Among the ideas floated: Increased deductions for investment losses, raise amounts investors can contribute in retirement accounts and encourage Wall Street to make the markets more candid.”
Substitute ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas introduced Moran’s August 13 story: “In Texas today, President Bush held a widely-publicized forum about all the economic trouble. He met with various people in Waco, which is near his vacation home. The President is under increasing political pressure about the economy. ABC’s Terry Moran joins us. Good evening, Terry.”
Moran began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: “Good evening, Elizabeth. The White House has brought 240 people here from across the country to discuss the troubled state of the nation’s economy and to help the President send a simple message about it: 'I care.’ The forum was designed to showcase Mr. Bush as a man who listens to the people, but the hectic schedule -- the President dropped into four different sessions in the morning for only about 20 minutes each -- meant he had little time for any kind of extended give and take.”
George W. Bush clip #1, talking over someone on a panel: “I got to go? Yes, excuse me a minute.”
Bush clip #2: “I’ve got to bounce to another seminar, but I do appreciate you coming.”
Bush clip #3: “I promise you I will listen to what has been said here even though I wasn’t here.”
Moran: “What Mr. Bush did hear when he paused for a while in the sessions was very supportive.”
Van Eure, restaurant owner: “I’m just honored to be sitting beside one of my heroes.”
Moran lamented: “And what the President did not hear was a whisper of criticism, disagreement, or debate about his policies. Administration officials at the forum, who included Vice President Cheney, painted a fairly rosy picture of the economy.”
Paul O’Neill: “I think we are on a path that will bring us out the end of the year with real growth rates in the range of three percent, maybe even as much as three-and-a-half percent.”
Moran: “But one theme ran through many sessions. The collapse in confidence in corporate America, triggered by recent scandals and outlandish pay packages.”
Bush: “Excessive executive pay sends confusing signals.”
Moran admonished: “But in what may be just a sign of the times, Mr. Bush was hob knobbing at the forum with, among others, Charles Schwab, who made $353 million cashing in stock options before the price of his company shares plummeted.”
Moran concluded: “The only new economic policy announced here is one that’s likely to start a fight with congressional Democrats. The President said he would not spend more than $5 billion in homeland security money passed by Congress because, Elizabeth, he said it is larded with pork barrel spending at a time when fiscal restraint is needed.”
Balanced questioning on tax cuts. Filling in for Judy Woodruff as anchor of CNN’s Inside Politics, John King managed to provide something Woodruff probably would not have if she had been around after President Bush’s economic summit: Balanced questions on tax cuts.
Instead of following the usual media line and pressing both Republicans and Democrats to rescind the tax cuts, he came at Democrats from the left and Republicans from the right. King asked House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Senator Hillary Clinton about “repealing” the tax cuts, but he also pressed both OMB Director Mitch Daniels and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill about “accelerating” the tax cut rollout.
In the sequence of his guest interviews, his tax cut-related questions posed on the August 13 Inside Politics:
-- King to Mitch Daniels: “Should a strong growth policy also include accelerating the President's tax cut? It was a ten-year tax cut passed last year, but much of those cuts actually don't take effect until the far out years, not in the first, second or third year. Should those be accelerated, in your view?”
Daniels: “Many people believe they should. That's not part of the President's proposal at this time...”
-- King to Dick Gephardt about Gephardt’s idea for a Bush summit with Democrats: “You've been listening as Mitch Daniels makes his case. The President says no to a summit. He says it is not necessary. If you came to such a summit, what would you put
on the table? What is the Democratic plan? Should we repeal the Bush tax cut? Slow down its implementation?”
Gephardt: “Well John, I think we all need to come to such a meeting if it could be held with open minds...”
King followed up on tax cuts: “You're the House Democratic leader, a leading Democrat in Washington, a potential candidate for President yourself. Dick Gephardt could step forward and say I believe this should be part of any new economic policy, and if you did that, would you include in there, Dick Gephardt, personally, a repeal or a slowdown of the Bush tax cut?”
Gephardt: “Well, again, John, I think we make a mistake if we
announce ahead of such a possible meeting what are our bottom lines or what we think ought to be done...”
-- King to Hillary Clinton: “What is the Democratic alternative? This administration says the Democrats were blaming us for deficits, blaming us for the sluggish economy or certainly the anxiety among the American people. What would the Democrats do differently and for starters would you scale back the Bush tax cut passed last year?”
Clinton: “Well, John, I would. I think we had a good formula.”
-- King to Paul O’Neill: “One thing the President said today is that all of the recommendations to come out of this forum would reach his desk. I want to ask you about a few of those and whether you see any realistic possibility of the President proposing, either later this year or early next year, things like accelerating the tax cuts.
“The ten-year tax cut, much of it takes effect in the out years, three, four, five more years from now. Some say, you want to grow the economy, move that up. Others say, increase the amount that Americans can put in their 401(k)s, in their IRAs, to
encourage more investment. Others say let Americans deduct their investment losses. It's been a tough year or two on Wall
Street; let Americans deduct that.
“All of those things might cause growth in the economy. They
would also cause strains and perhaps more deficits. How do you balance that?”
O’Neill: “The President did say that he wanted all the
recommendations to come to him. And so we'll put them all in a book for him and do pro-and-con analysis -- what does this mean
and what's good about it and what's bad about it -- and put it in front of him. And we'll see...”
For a picture and bio of John King:
King’s willingness to actually press guests about “accelerating” the tax cuts, in addition to pushing for the tax cuts to be rescinded or suspended, contrasts with NBC’s Tim Russert as documented in a July 30 Media Reality Check by the MRC’s Rich Noyes: “A Bias Blind Spot for Meet the Press Host;
One-Sided Questioning: Russert Pushed Both Friends and Foes of Bush Tax Cut to Suspend Its Benefits.”
As Noyes observed: “While making tax cutters defend their views, Russert doesn’t hit tax cut opponents with conservative arguments. Instead, he invites them to criticize the tax cut as he lobbies for its early demise.”
To read the Media Reality Check:
Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly regretted how President Bush didn’t make a “bold move” at his economic summit by copying Bill Clinton so he could have “felt” the “pain” of those hurt by corporate corruption. On FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume on Tuesday night she fantasized:
“Just imagine if President Bush had done this and had unemployed Enron workers there. And maybe some retirees who have lost their 401(k) accounts and have to go back to work. And really did, you know, as Bill Clinton would say, 'felt their pain.' That could have been surprising.”
During the panel segment of the August 13 show anchored by Jim Angle, Connolly proposed: “To me, strikes me as a classic inside the beltway kind of spat and what's the point again in leaving town to emphasize how in touch you are with real people. You know, in politics, sometimes the best thing is to do the unexpected. And just imagine if President Bush had done this and had unemployed Enron workers there. And maybe some retirees who have lost their 401(k) accounts and have to go back to work. And really did, you know, as Bill Clinton would say, 'felt their pain.' That could have been surprising. That would have been the bold sort of move that Treasury Secretary O'Neill, back in 1992, called for at Bill Clinton's economic summit.”
This isn’t the first time on TV that Connolly has hit Bush from the left for not caring enough about the downtrodden. After Bush’s State of the Union address in late January, she packed five liberal agenda issues into one sentence on the Fox broadcast network: "I have to say that part of what also struck me, aside from how frightening much in this speech was, were the things that were missing. Very little with respect to minorities, the uninsured, the homeless, the elderly, Enron workers who have lost their life savings."
For a picture of her and for how the Washington Post reprimanded her for once criticizing Al Gore, after ignoring her liberal shot at Bush:
Seconds after Diane Sawyer demanded of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that the government spend more to save private companies -- “Are you prepared to do what it takes to bail out the airline industry?" -- she suddenly became concerned about government spending, asking about how much the economic summit is “costing?"
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this sequence of questions on the August 13 Good Morning America from Sawyer to O’Neill:
-- "We have heard that the President is going to express some concern this morning down in Texas, and indeed, when you just look at the airline picture this morning -- US Airways, bankruptcy; United, said to be in trouble; American Airlines, laying off 7,000 people -- are you prepared to do what it takes to bail out the airline industry alone?"
-- "But in the near term, are you ready to supply the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to bail them out, if necessary?"
-- "As you know, Mr. Secretary, there's been a lot of criticism by the opposition of this conference being held down in Texas. They are calling it a PR shenanigan, among other things, as you're flying in half the Cabinet staff, security, which is expensive, that the President's going to drop in for about 20 minutes to each of these sessions and be home by two o'clock this afternoon. Is that the case and how much is this costing?"
Sawyer went on to ignore the pork-barrel spending in describing the bill Bush would soon announce he would veto: "Is the President going to say it's so bad that he's going to, for now, reject the $5.1 billion in terrorist assistance money the Congress has appropriated, which includes things like overtime for policemen?"
On Tuesday’s Early Show, CBS’s Jane Clayson made the usual media assumption that Bush, “as a CEO President,” must “convince the public” that he “is not aligned with the corporate greed.” But a USA Today/CNN poll done by Gallup in late July discovered that, as USA Today reported it, “an overwhelming 72 percent thought the experience Bush and Cheney had as corporate executives was a good thing.”
MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed this question from Clayson to White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey on the August 13 Early Show: “How difficult has it been, Mr. Lindsey, to convince the public that the President as a CEO President is not aligned with the corporate greed that we've been seeing in corporate America?"
A poll found it’s a lot easier for the public than the media.
In an August 7 “Money” section story, USA Today reporter Susan page relayed: “In a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken July 26-28, an overwhelming 72 percent thought the experience Bush and Cheney had as corporate executives was a good thing. But the public was evenly split 42%-42% on whether it was a good idea or a bad one for a President to have former corporate executives in key jobs.”
The headline for that story: “Corporate credentials weigh down Bush's team.” The subhead: “Former executives, once assets, become political baggage.”
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz rebuked one of his Post colleagues for labeling conservatives but not liberals in a Sunday profile of Cornel West, but he also rationalized the specific disparity before declaring: “This sort of imbalance does create the perception of unfairness.”
Reading Kurtz’s weekly “Media Backtalk” chat from Monday, I stumbled upon how CyberAlert had been channeled in a question posed to Kurtz.
The exchange in the August 12 session:
“Washington, D.C.: Why does The Post insist on slapping the 'conservative’ label on right-wing organizations and advocates, but rarely puts the 'liberal’ label on left-wingers? It happened again in Sunday's story on Cornel West. The National Review and Shelby Steele were both identified as 'conservative,’ while Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader and Al Sharpton weren't given any label at all. Is this forgetfulness or is there a double-standard?”
Kurtz replied: “That's a problem. I think reporters need to be more careful about this sort of one-sided labeling. You could argue that everyone knows where Jackson, Nader and Sharpton stand while Steele is less well known, but this sort of imbalance does create the perception of unfairness.”
For the text of the entire session:
Either on his or her own of via CyberAlert, the questioner had picked up on a disparity highlighted in the August 12
CyberAlert: In a 3,600 word profile of the far-left Cornel West, Washington Post reporter Lynne Duke managed to avoid even once using the term “liberal” as she applied no label Al Sharpton, Bill Bradley, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader or Lawrence Summers, but was quick to tag National Review as a “conservative journal,” Shelby Steele as “a black conservative scholar” and Martin Peretz as “a leading neoconservative.” She dubbed West a “radical,” but insisted he was “influenced” by the “conservatism of the church.”
For details and a link to the original Post story:
CyberAlert readers sometimes wonder what they can do to combat liberal media bias. Well, here’s an idea in action: Whenever reporters appear in online chat sessions confront them with a specific example of their bias or of bias by a colleague. They will either squirm out of it, or like Kurtz, stand up and acknowledge the problem.
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