ABC's This Week Finds New Way to Pose Liberal Question; “Afford” a War & “Bush Tax Cut?”; Reporters Whine About Tough Job Since 9/11; “Sock” Jeb Bush; Jennings Denies Bias; Shriver Hits Campaign Trail; Walters Tired of Ragging on Clinton
1) The new gimmick on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Having someone outside of Washington, DC pose a liberal question. On Sunday's inaugural broadcast that opportunity went to a Lexington, Kentucky newspaper editor who told Condoleezza Rice that “four ordinary” readers came to her office and asked: “How we can stop the President from forcing us into Iraq?” The editor wanted to know: “What should I tell them?” How about it's improper for a journalist to offer political strategy?
2) NBC's Tim Russert came up with a new reason to rescind the tax cut, asking Senator Hillary Clinton on Meet the Press: “Can we afford a war in Afghanistan or in Iraq and the Bush tax cut?”
3) PBS's Washington Week made time on Friday night for reporters to whine about how tough their jobs have become since 9/11. Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly recalled the oppression of Ari Fleischer saying “if you’re not with us, then you’re with them.” She and Rick Berke of the New York Times complained about being misperceived as “unpatriotic.” The Post's Juliet Eilperin found the lack of dissent confounding: “I think it’s difficult when there’s less dissent in the country....”
4) “Democrats are right to sock him with it,” NPR's Nina Totenberg proclaimed of Florida Governor Jeb Bush as she agreed with Democrats that he, and not the local Democratic officials who control the two counties with voting problems, are to blame for the mess.
5) Confronted by CNN's Larry King with the charge that he's biased and “pro-Arab” in his reporting, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that's “silly” and proceeded to contend that he just believes that “Arabs are people.” He added: “I'm anti-prejudice, I'm anti-bias.”
6) Dan Rather got in some trouble for attending a political fundraiser for his daughter, but NBC News approved of Maria Shriver campaigning for her brother, a liberal Democratic congressional candidate. Shriver's appearances on NBC News prove she does not confine her political advocacy to the campaign trail.
7) Barbara Walters scolded a colleague on The View for daring to ask the audience on Friday whether they would let their daughters be an intern in Bill Clinton's office. “So unfair, that's so unfair,” Walters chided, urging Joy Behar: “Let it go already.”
The only thing really different about the new This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC: The gimmick of setting up satellite time so a newspaper editor outside of Washington, DC can pose a liberal question to a guest. Stephanopoulos boasted, as he introduced the single question, that this illustrated how his show would provide “fresh perspectives from beyond Washington.”
On Sunday's inaugural broadcast that opportunity to pose a question went to Amanda Bennett, Editor of a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky who told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that “four ordinary middle-aged readers showed up unexpectedly in my office, sat down and their question to me was: 'How we can stop the President from forcing us into Iraq?'” Bennett wanted to know: “What should I tell them?'”
As a supposedly impartial editor of a newspaper chronicling the news in a fair and balanced manner, Bennett should have told the four to get out of her office, explaining that their question was an insult to her journalistic integrity since it is not the role of a journalist to advise people on how best to advance a particular political interest.
But maybe the four locals know something about the newspaper and Bennett that I don't and so saw it as a logical place to seek guidance on political strategy.
Nearing the end of the September 15 interview with Rice, Stephanopoulos set up the beyond the Beltway moment:
“We're going to try something new here on the program. We want to bring in regularly fresh perspectives from beyond Washington. And today, our guest questioner comes from Lexington, Kentucky. Her name is Amanda Bennett and she's the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Good morning Mrs. Bennett. What's your question for Dr. Rice?”
Bennett, via satellite: “Good morning. Dr. Rice, as you know, Kentucky is the home of Fort Campbell which has already lost a dozen soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom, so people in Kentucky are probably pretty well aware of the cost of the war on terror. Just the other day, just completely unexpected, four ordinary middle-aged readers showed up unexpectedly in my office, sat down and their question to me was: 'How we can stop the President from forcing us into Iraq?' What should I tell them?'”
Rice began her answer: “I think you should tell them that the President appreciates the sacrifice of the people at Fort Campbell....” Rice proceeded to assure Bennett that the use of force is not taken lightly.
If four people can just walk into Bennett's office and force her into political activism, maybe the Lexington Herald-Leader should look into getting better security.
Tim Russert getting ahead of the Democratic spin or maybe suggesting a spin they should advance? On Sunday's Meet the Press, noting how war is shaping up in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russert pushed Senator Hillary Clinton to stand by her statement of a year earlier that the Bush tax cut should be rescinded.
Russert prompted Clinton on the September 15 program: “Can we afford a war in Afghanistan or in Iraq and the Bush tax cut? Back in 2001 on this program you said we should repeal the Bush tax cut. Do you believe that is now necessary in order to have the money to fight wars?”
Senator Clinton: “The administration has a failed economic policy. Their answer to everything are tax cuts and clearly we're on the brink of perhaps having to support some kind of miliary action in Iraq. We have continuing homeland security needs that are not being met. I do not understand how we can, with a straight face, not go back and take a hard look at getting an economic policy and a budget that will support our domestic initiatives as well as these new national security requirements.”
Russert pressed for a more explicit agreement with his personal view, less asking about than surmising from what she said: “Repeal or postpone the tax cut.”
Clinton: “I don't see any alternative....”
You can probably count on this soon becoming a liberal talking point, but remember that you first heard it from the Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief of NBC News.
Naturally, Russert moved on to another subject and never suggested to Clinton that any spending cuts, or postponement of gargantuan spending boondoggles like prescription drug coverage, might be necessary to pay for a war in Iraq.
Russert's obsession with the tax cut is nothing new:
-- In a span of just over five minutes, eight times on the Labor Day weekend edition of Meet the Press Russert urged that the Bush tax cuts, most of which haven’t even happened yet, be rescinded: “Would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut?....Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?....How did they squander it? With the tax cut?....As part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?....You did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it’s gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut.” For details:
-- The MRC's Rich Noyes documented Russert's tilt in a Media Reality Check back on July 30. “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.” To read it:
-- For more on the January 6 Meet the Press cited in the Media Reality Check, see the January 7 CyberAlert which recounted how Russert unrelentingly tried (14 times) to get Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to concede the tax cut must be rescinded. Russert recalled how after Reagan’s tax cut led to deficits he "revisited the entire situation because he saw that record deficits were going to be created, and he had what was called a mid-course correction." Go to:
-- For more about Russert's June 9 show, see the June 11 CyberAlert. It recounted how he blamed the tax cut for the growing deficit, while breezing over soaring spending unrelated to the war on terrorism, as he pressed both Democratic Senator Kent Conrad and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels to rescind part or all of it. Go to:
PBS's Washington Week made time on Friday night for some in the Washington press corps to whine about how tough their jobs have become since the terrorist attacks.
“It was a bit awkward for the media because we certainly did not want to seem unpatriotic,” Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly assured viewers before ominously recalling how “there were times when people like the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer or Attorney General John Ashcroft absolutely said if you’re not with us, then you’re with them.” How repressive. She's still haunted by one comment by Fleischer from nearly a year ago?
Rick Berke, Washington Editor of the New York Times, similarly insisted that though “we’re sometimes accused of being unpatriotic, of leaking information,” the “reality is we’re trying to do our jobs.”
Connolly's colleague at the Post, Juliet Eilperin, found the lack of dissent confounding: “I think it’s difficult when there’s less dissent in the country....at a period when politicians are unwilling to criticize the President or certain people, what’s your role as a reporter? Do you seek out a tiny minority and court them and encourage them to speak out? Or do you simply reflect the fact that there’s someone who will tell you off the record, 'I’m too scared to say anything because I know it might cost me my re-election’?”
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth took down the exchange which occurred at the end of the second half hour of the special hour-long September 13 edition of Washington Week, a half hour not carried by all PBS affiliates but shown by the one from which it originated, WETA-TV in Arlington, Virginia.
Moderator Gwen Ifill prompted the discussion: “How have our jobs changed in this past year? Has it become more complicated? Has is become more clear the way it has for the President, for instance?”
Ceci Connolly, Washington Post: “Well, I think it’s become complicated for several reasons, Gwen. First is that many of us as reporters are dealing with subjects that perhaps we haven’t dived into in the past. Think about Anthrax. How many reporters knew anything about Anthrax? Or al-Qaeda, for that matter. Or so many of the complexities that have suddenly been thrust upon all of us. I also think that especially through last fall, it was a bit awkward for the media because we certainly did not want to seem unpatriotic -- and there were times when people like the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer or Attorney General John Ashcroft absolutely said if you’re not with us, then you’re with them. So it’s been, I think, many in the press have also had to find their way through these 12 months.”
Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post: “And I think it’s difficult when there’s less dissent in the country. Now I think we’re seeing more of it, but at a period when politicians are unwilling to criticize the President or certain people, what’s your role as a reporter? Do you seek out a tiny minority and court them and encourage them to speak out? Or do you simply reflect the fact that there’s someone who will tell you off the record, 'I’m too scared to say anything because I know it might cost me my reelection’?”
Alexis Simendinger, National Journal: “There was a period of time, too, when we did reporting and you would hear back from readers or viewers that they were concerned that the media were revealing secrets that would put the nation at risk when, in fact, it could have been the FBI who was participating in the story that described the whatever office space that they were putting aside for some emergency situation. And it was interesting for the public, too, to watch them wrestle with what we do every day and they expect us to do every day, and then their feeling of, of insecurity about what we were doing.”
Michel Martin, ABC News: “I had that experience just this week in doing, in reporting a piece about the international opposition, or at least skepticism, toward the Bush administration’s policy. And I can tell you that I got a lot of people saying, 'We don’t care what they think, you know, President Bush is the President of the United States, not the President of France, we don’t care.’ And that shouldn’t deter us from asking the question, but everyone doesn’t want to hear the answer.”
Rick Berke, New York Times: “It added a whole new seriousness to what we do. I mean, we’re all Americans, we’re trying hard to tell the public what’s going on. And it’s hard penetrating the White House. It’s hard finding out what’s going on at the Pentagon, even with all these fights about war. And then we’re sometimes accused of being unpatriotic, of leaking information when the reality is we’re trying to do our jobs.”
Ifill: “It’s a tough job, but we’ve got the best people in this room to do it.”
Those actually battling the terrorism have a job that's a bit harder than sitting around writing or talking about it.
Put NPR reporter Nina Totenberg on the side of Democrats who blame Governor Jeb Bush for the latest Florida election fiasco and not the local Democratic political officials in the two overwhelming Democratic counties -- Broward and Miami-Dade -- that as in 2000, are unable to count the ballots of their voters.
On Inside Washington over the weekend, she asserted:
“Both sides are blaming each other. The Democratic large counties where they have these problems are blaming, and the entire Democratic Party is blaming Governor Bush and he's blaming the county executives. But the fact of the matter is that voting is for a governor what snow removal is for a mayor. And if he couldn't do it last time, he had to do it this time. And he didn't do it and I suspect that he'll be re-elected, but the Democrats are right to sock him with it.”
Confronted by CNN's Larry King with the charge that he's biased and “pro-Arab” in his reporting, ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that's “silly” and proceeded to contend that he just believes that “Arabs are people.” He added: “I'm anti-prejudice, I'm anti-bias in a very strong way.”
Jennings seemed to mean “anti-bias” as in not being prejudiced against any race or ethnicity, not as in denying political bias.
The exchange, in which King cited the President of the Media Research Center by name, occurred about 40 minutes in Friday's Larry King Live on CNN. Jennings was the sole guest on the September 13 show.
King wondered: “How do you react, by the way before we take the next call, to some of the controversy that surrounds you. And I know Brent Bozell, a columnist, has criticized you as being, kind of, pro-Arab. And I've heard this for years.”
Jennings talked over King, insisting: “I think it's silly, but-”
King: “Where do you think that comes from?”
Jennings suggested it's just because he treats Arabs just as he does others: “Well, I lived in the Middle-East for a long time and I covered the Arab world for a long time and, you know, I believe Arabs are people. I mean, I'm anti-prejudice, I'm anti-bias in a very strong way and I go out of my way -- as, by the way, as I must tell you the President did so brilliantly on 9/11 -- to speak volumes to the bigots in the country. I think one of the real challenges we have at the moment is racial profiling. I think it's inevitable in some respects, but it's very hard on, it's very hard on people who are as loyal and dedicated to this country as anybody else. So I think those kind of things, ah.” [waves hand and shakes head]
King: “Roll off you?”
Jennings: “No, they don't. Criticism should never roll off you I don't think. That would make you, I don't think any of us are immune to criticism and we get it in my trade, we get criticized all the time.”
Indeed, and often for good reason by the MRC.
For examples of Jennings' pro-Arab and anti-Israel bias, see a page about “Peter Jennings and the Palestinians” collated earlier this year by the MRC's Tim Jones, who wrote: “Peter Jennings has demonstrated a pro-Palestinian bias in Middle East coverage for years. How many years? The award-winning HBO documentary One Day in September focused on the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. The documentary included on-scene reports from Jennings, then an ABC correspondent. According to Tom Shales, The Washington Post's television critic, Jennings never used the word 'terrorist' in any of the clips, referring to the Palestinian gunmen as 'guerillas,' and on one occasion, 'commandos.'”
The Jennings page features links to CyberAlerts documenting Jennings' slant. Amongst the summaries of the linked articles:
-- April 22, 2002: ABC covered pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C. but Jennings ignored a pro-Israeli rally held six days earlier.
-- April 16, 2002: Jennings' pro-Palestinian stance illustrated by a one-day comparison of ABC, CBS and NBC coverage from Israel and the West Bank.
-- April 12, 2002: Jennings neglected to mention that a Saudi Arabian telethon was providing money for the families of homicide bombers, something widely reported by other media.
-- April 5, 2002: Examining some of the Palestinian connections from Jennings' years in the Middle East.
-- April 3, 2002: All of the previous day's dozen casualties were Palestinians, Jennings noted. Did not mention that one death was a homicide bomber -- the seventh in as many days -- who accidentally detonated his bomb and killed himself before he could murder Israeli civilians.
-- March 29, 2002: Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, Jennings interviewed the leader of Hezbollah, who denied that Hezbollah was a terrorist organization. Jennings noted that Hezbollah was an important political player in Lebanon and mentioned both the U.S. Marine barracks bombing and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Beirut in 1983 but did not point out that Hezbollah was responsible for the attacks.
-- December 5, 2001: Hamas is a terrorist group to every anchor but Jennings.
-- December 5, 2001: Jennings described retaliation to terror bombings as Israel being "on the attack again.
For direct links to all of these articles:
NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver helped raise money for a liberal Democratic congressional candidate and greeted voters last Tuesday at voting locations in order to urge them to vote for him. The candidate: Her brother, Mark Shriver, an ultimately unsuccessful candidate in Maryland's 8th congressional district.
He lost the very close September 10 Democratic primary in the district covering western Montgomery County and a smidgen of Prince George's County. The winner, Chris Van Hollen, now faces the incumbent, liberal Republican Connie Morella.
A September 12 Roll Call story, which I saw cited by Greg Pierce in his “Inside Politics” column for the Washington Times
( http://www.washtimes.com/national/inpolitics.htm ), reported her campaign activities and how NBC News justified it as ethical.
An excerpt from Roll Call's “Heard on the Hill” column by Ed Henry:
Among the celebrities pressing the flesh on behalf of Mark Shriver (D) in the final days of his House campaign was none other than his sister, Maria Shriver, the NBC News correspondent.
While blood is thicker than water, Hill staffers were still a bit surprised to run into the journalist at a Metro station in the D.C. suburbs, getting involved in one of the most hotly contested Congressional races in the nation.
The Dateline NBC star was urging people to get out and vote for the candidate, who narrowly lost his battle with Chris Van Hollen (D) for the right to face Rep. Connie Morella ®-Md.). Shriver, the niece of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), has also helped raise money for her brother.
After all, CBS News anchor Dan Rather caught a heap of criticism last year after speaking at a Democratic fundraiser that was hosted by his daughter, who was considering a run for local office in Texas.
Dateline spokeswoman Caryn Mautner told HOH that NBC News does indeed have rules against their journalists working on political campaigns, but Shriver got a waiver.
"This is a very special case, and we made an exception for a family member," said Mautner.
Mautner said the deal was based on the condition that Shriver could not cover the race for NBC in any way....
END of Excerpt
For the “Heard on the Hill” column in Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill which is published on Mondays and Thursdays:
Shriver hardly limits her political advocacy to the campaign trail:
-- Back during the 1992 Republican convention, for instance, she prompted AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser: "You place the responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely at the feet of the Reagan administration. Do you believe that they're responsible for that?"
-- Fast forward to 2000. Shriver to Republican platform committee chairman Tommy Thompson, during MSNBC's coverage of the GOP convention: "You said you ended up with a more conservative platform than you originally drafted. How disappointed are you?"
-- Filling-in as cohost of Today, Maria Shriver whined “we can't get anywhere” on gun control because “the NRA keeps stopping anything that would give us any progress.” She blamed the NRA for preventing compromise, without which “people will continue to be killed.” Details:
-- Maria Shriver cheered on the liberal crusade of Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, whom she dubbed “incredible.” On Today Shriver eagerly relayed Edelman’s statistics without any skepticism, urged Edelman to criticize Clinton from the left and prompted her to tell viewers how they can assist her crusade.
Plugging the March 24, 2000 appearance, Shriver gushed to co-host Matt Lauer:
"Also Matt, the Children's Defense Fund will release its annual report today. And the figures in it are shocking and disturbing. They say one in five American children live in poverty. 13.5 million kids in this country are poor. Marian Wright Edelman, the incredible head of that organization will be here to tell us today what can be done about it. And she firmly believes that mothers, in particular, across the country can get involved in this fight and should get involved because everybody's children are all of our children." Details:
-- Jumping back to a 1998 Today fill-in gig, Shriver gushed over Hillary Clinton’s niceness as “a people person,” and failed to pose a single question from the right as Shriver interviewed Clinton on a bus. Amongst Shriver's questions:
# “Do you feel physically, emotionally, spiritually different when you get out of Washington, get on the road?”
# “You and I spoke right at the beginning of this second term. Now, with two years left, is it something you look forward to? Do you get out there and say 'I want to keep going out, I want to meet people, I have more stuff I want to do,’ or do you look and go 'Oh, my God, two more years!’?”
# “I’ve talked to several people and they came up and said 'She’s so different than I thought she would be. She’s so much more of a people person. She’s funny, she’s nice.’ Do you think that, like, people don’t get you? I mean you get out there and people see a different side of you.” For more:
-- And a classic moment, from March of 2000, involving Shriver. Live on MSNBC an angry John McCain, on the way to deliver his concession speech, lashed out at her, responding to a shouted question by demanding: “Please get out of here.” To view the incident via RealPlayer:
ABC's Barbara Walters scolded a colleague on The View, her daytime talk show, for daring to ask the audience on Friday whether they would let their daughters be an intern in Bill Clinton's office. “So unfair, that's so unfair,” Walters chided, urging Joy Behar: “Let it go already.”
(Back in May it was Behar who had complained when ABC bleeped her when she said “thank you Jesus.” For details:
On the September 13 edition of the show starring Meredith Viera, Star Jones, Lisa Ling, Behar and, on some days, Walters, Viera observed: “It was reported in the Daily News that Bill Clinton has hired some helping hands himself, he's hired some interns. No problem. He scouted all these colleges. He found plenty of students eager to assume the position -- and they didn't mind doing a little work too.”
After Jones repudiated Viera's joking “assume the position” line, Behar inquired: “I want to ask the audience: Clap if you would have your daughter be an in intern for Bill Clinton.”
Over light audience applause Barbara Walters raised her voice: “I think that's so unfair. That's so unfair.”
Walters, after the applause had ended: “Because the man [is? inaudible] the President. He does need people to work in that office and come on, I mean, [waving her hand] let it go already.”
Behar, making light of how Walters does not want to upset anyone she may want to try to land for an interview, quipped: “Barbara, you're not interviewing Monica Lewinsky anymore, so forget about it.”
Walters: “No, but I might want to interview Bill Clinton!”
Behar, pointing to the audience which had applauded, soon noted: “You see, people, they wouldn't mind it.”
Walters wondered to Behar: “Why would you mind it?”
Behar asserted: “Because he's a lech.”
Walters admonished: “Oh, Joy.”
Behar: “I liked him as a President, but he's a
I'll trust Behar's judgment on the latter. -- Brent Baker
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