Walters Asks Castro’s Opinion of Bush’s Iraq Policy; Jennings Not Upset ABC Skipped Bush Speech, Concedes Bias; NBC Uses Sniper Shootings to Hype Moore’s Anti-Gun Movie; Bernard Goldberg Tells Donahue He’s “Delusional” on Media Bias
1) Cuba has “very high literacy” and “you have brought great health to your country,” Barbara Walters effused to Fidel Castro in a preview on Thursday’s World News Tonight of her interview with the dictator set to air on 20/20 tonight. Walters also treated Castro’s view of Bush’s Iraq policy as relevant. Walters sought confirmation: “You oppose an attack against Iraq, yes?”
2) Asked if he wished ABC had covered Bush’s Iraq speech live in prime time, on Wednesday’s Daily Show on Comedy Central Peter Jennings replied: “Not particularly.” He noted that entertainment show ratings play a role and he echoed the views of opponents of Bush’s Iraq policy, insisting the public is “very anxious....I think they're still uncertain about what it is the President's goals are, what will we do on day three?” As for liberal bias, Jennings maintained that “when I started in this racket, to go off and save the world and tell the truth was a liberal instinct.”
3) NBC this week has taken advantage of the sniper shootings to help publicize left-wing film maker Michael Moore’s anti-gun movie. On Thursday, CNBC’s Brian Williams wondered: “As a sniper spreads fear...the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States?" Williams praised Moore’s prescience. On Tuesday’s Today, Katie Couric trumpeted Moore’s insights: “He looks at how easy guns are to buy and how often they are used in violent crime....A reality brought home again this week by the unsolved deadly shootings in the Washington, DC, area.”
4) Phil Donahue went on a lengthy harangue on his MSNBC show Thursday night about how conservatives control the media and suppress liberal views because journalists have “white male Republican boardroom attitudes.” To which Bernard Goldberg retorted that Donahue thinks that “because you’re delusional on this matter.”
Cuba has “very high literacy” and “you have brought great health to your country,” Barbara Walters effused to Fidel Castro in a preview on Thursday’s World News Tonight of her interview with the dictator set to air on 20/20 tonight.
How many people go to Cuba to take advantage of the “great” health care system?
While she did ask about Cuba “sabotaging” the U.S.’s anti-terrorism efforts and freedom of the press, in the segment highlighted on the October 10 World News Tonight Walters also treated Castro’s view of Bush’s Iraq policy as relevant. Walters sought confirmation: “President Castro, you oppose an attack against Iraq, yes?” And Walters wondered: “In your view, is Saddam Hussein a good leader for the people of Iraq?”
One dictator grading another.
Anchor Peter Jennings set up the preview, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: “There is going to be an unusual collection of Americans in Cuba this week, some of them the key figures in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 40 years ago. Tomorrow night we’ll have a report on what we learned from newly-declassified documents. Tonight an exclusive interview with the man who was the leader of Cuba then and now -- Fidel Castro. Barbara Walters last interviewed him in 1977. He remembers the night very well.”
ABC began the interview excerpt by showing the dictator and Walters trying to charm each other. Fidel Castro, through a translator: “You don’t look like 25 years have passed. You look exactly the same.”
Walters: “You are saying this so I will not ask tough questions.”
Castro: “No, of course not.”
Walters: “I want to talk about relations between our country today. The U.S. has called Cuba a terrorist state. The U.S. State Department says that your government has deliberately tried to sabotage the U.S.’s anti-terrorist efforts by providing false leads, and they have stated that Cuba is developing biological weapons.”
Castro: “The only thing I can tell about that -- this is very straight words -- is that all that, all those accusations are absolute lies. We are willing to invite the international scientific community to come here and take a look at whatever they, at those places where hypothetically we’re conducting such research.”
Walters: “President Castro, you oppose an attack against Iraq, yes?”
Castro: “I am not the only one.”
Walters: “In your view, is Saddam Hussein a good leader for the people of Iraq?”
Castro: “Almost on the eve of an announced war, I wonder what sense does it make for me to play the judge, initial my views about this in one sense or another one. I think I would be pouring oil on the flame.”
Walters: “It is true that you have very high literacy, you have brought great health to your country. However, you still do not have freedom of the press. You do not have -- your newspapers, your radio, television -- everything is controlled.”
Castro: “I think that the Americans are coming to understand better that there are more important problems in the world than definitions of freedom of the press. Barbara, have you ever seen a demonstration in Cuba that has been suppressed with tear gas?”
Walters: “Do you allow demonstrations at all? Do you allow them?”
Castro: “Here we don’t have them.”
Walters: “But do you allow them if someone wanted to?”
Castro: “Why do we need to prevent anything that doesn’t happen at all?”
Walters: “You wouldn’t let it!”
A longer version of the interview will air on the October 11 20/20.
Castro’s decision to grant his only U.S. television interview to Walters caused CBS and NBC to cancel broadcasts from Cuba. CBS had planned to have Dan Rather interview the despot and NBC had planned to broadcast Today from the island today centered around Matt Lauer’s interview with Castro.
Asked if he wished ABC had covered President Bush’s speech live in prime time on Monday night, on Wednesday’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central Jennings replied: “Not particularly.” Jennings explained that “we play a game with the White House all the time, or they play a game with us. They want the time on the network, they just don’t want to ask us for it.”
Jennings conceded that entertainment show ratings play a role: “I think on any network it is probably easier to get a news program on the air, including a political speech by the President or a presidential speech, if the ratings are not so good. If the entertainment program -- I know NBC has found this in the past -- if the entertainment program is really good and has a huge audience you're reluctant to give it away to something for which there may be a smaller audience. Those are the laws of business.”
Showing the pervasiveness of the idea that there is a liberal media bias, even Stewart raised the problem with Jennings who conceded that liberal crusading motivated journalists since “when I started in this racket, to go off and save the world and tell the truth was a liberal instinct.”
Echoing the views of liberal opponents of Bush’s Iraq policy, Jennings asserted that after spending a few days in California and elsewhere in the country lately, he’s found: “People are very concerned. People are very anxious. People clearly don't want the United States to go if we go alone. I think they're still uncertain about what it is the President's goals are, what will we do on day three?”
MRC analyst Brian Boyd transcribed the exchanges on the October 9 show about carrying Bush’s speech and whether there is a liberal bias.
Stewart: “Talk to me about the frustrations though. Did you want to cover the President’s speech on Iraq live at 8 o'clock on ABC when he gave the speech in Cincinnati?”
Jennings: “Not particularly [audience laughter], which is not quite as sincere as I meant to be. We play a game with the White House all the time, or they play a game with us. They want the time on the network, they just don’t want to ask us for it.”
Stewart: “Now, why wouldn’t they want to ask you for it?”
Jennings: “Because they don’t want to be seen for asking for it, for something that may not deem to be a news making story. They wanted the time yesterday and got it from a lot of people because the President is clearly trying to raise the level of support for his position on Iraq. If they thought it was a truly earth breaking thing they needed to tell the country at large, they would have asked us, we would have given them the time, absolutely. If they ask, we give it to them.”
Stewart: “Have you ever, has there ever been a time where they’ve asked and you’ve said 'oh boy, I just don’t think there’s anything here’?”
Jennings, seemingly joking: “Often.”
Stewart: “Is that true?”
Jennings: “But, it’s something we say to ourselves.”
Stewart: “Who does make the decisions when something like that comes down the pike? Do you get in a room with Walt Disney and, I don’t know who the big cheese is over there.”
Jennings: “I have to tell you, I learned a long time ago you can do anything you want, no mouse jokes.”
Stewart: “No mouse jokes.”
Later, Stewart raised liberal media bias: “How do you think the press is handling the Republican presidency? Do you think there’s a liberal bias? That’s, the big accusation is that the major press, the media elite so to speak, has a liberal slant. Do you think that is an actual problem or do you think that’s a perception?
Jennings acknowledged: “I think sometimes it’s a problem, and I think there are, I think there are more conservatives and more conservative views being part of the public dialogue today than there were 10 or 15 years ago. You know when I started in this racket, to go off and save the world and tell the truth was a liberal instinct.”
Jennings: “And there were not enough conservative voices on the air. Now I think there are more, after the fact that you’re on here now shows we need more. And so it is a little bit [audience laughs] I shouldn’t even try to play his game should I?”
NBC this week has taken advantage of the sniper shootings in the Washington, DC to help publicize left-wing film maker Michael Moore’s anti-gun movie, Bowling for Columbine, featuring him on both CNBC’s The News with Brian Williams and NBC’s Today. In both appearances the NBC interviewers let him spout at length with little, if any, challenge. Both shows tried to buck up Moore’s credibility by touting how he’s a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
(A few weeks ago, Moore was the featured guest for most of the hour on MSNBC’s Donahue, giving Moore an NBC network appearance
On Thursday night, CNBC’s Brian Williams wondered: “As a sniper spreads fear in the suburbs of Washington, the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States?"
Williams didn’t react when Moore claimed that “since the Reagan era,” the NRA has “really been a front for a right wing agenda.” Williams also praised Moore’s prescience: "Let's talk about your sense of timing. The last time...you were on this broadcast, you were promoting a book that was about to come out at the time called Stupid White Man....And we've seen enough guys let out of big Fortune 500 firms to now know you were right. It's almost perverse that you've picked another issue, here it is our lead story again tonight, a person or persons with a rifle driving around Washington. What does that say?"
More like what does it say about Williams that he is so impressed with a liberal advocate’s point of view.
Tuesday morning on Today, Katie Couric trumpeted Moore’s insights: “He looks at how easy guns are to buy and how often they are used in violent crime, and questions ordinary citizens, corporate leaders, even the National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston about the troubling realities. A reality brought home again this week by the unsolved deadly shootings in the Washington, DC, area.”
While Couric did note he is a left-winger that some will dismiss, she also prompted him with softballs: "Tell me about your thesis going into this, Michael, and, and if it was borne out, as a result of the work you did." And: “So why do you think Canada has such a better track record” on gun control “than the United States?"
She did point out that “people who don't like you and your ilk would say, 'Well, why doesn't this guy just move to Canada?'" To which Moore urged: "Maybe we should aspire to be more Canadian-like."
Some more detail about the two promotional segments this week for Moore’s political movie:
> During the October 10 News with Brian Williams on CNBC, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Williams teased before ad breaks: "And later on, whatever happened to the gun debate in the United States? Tonight, the documentary film maker who took on GM turns his attention to guns, when the news continues."
And: "Later, as a sniper spreads fear in the, in the suburbs of Washington, the question: Whatever happened to the gun control debate in the United States? The News continues after this."
And a third one: "When we come back, less than three weeks from election day in this country, will the sniper attacks outside Washington reignite the debate over gun control in the United States? The News continues after this."
Still not done. Leading into the second half hour: "Tonight, is gun control about to make a late appearance on the 2002 campaign trail because of the sniper targeting innocent civilians in Capitol Hill's home district? Tonight, how the tragedy that is all over television has the potential to blow up into a political hot button."
Finally, getting to the actual segment, Williams announced: “Beneath the dome that marks the geographic center of Washington, D.C., they talk policy and law. Outside in the suburbs, the people in and around Washington are talking about one thing -- the sniper randomly killing citizens, seven of them so far. The question tonight: When does this sniper story, the issue of guns and their availability, collide with policy, especially with an election three weeks off? We begin our special look at this tonight with NBC News correspondent Pat Dawson."
Lawson’s piece looked at how politicians of both parties are staying away from the gun control issue in this campaign. But not NBC. Williams teased again: "When we come back, we'll look at the issue that a popular American populist has taken up now in his next film, when the News continues."
To begin the interview Williams played a clip of the movie showing Michael Moore opening an account at a bank that gives a free rifle to its new customers. Williams observed: "Makes you wonder what ever happened to toasters. That is film maker Michael Moore in an edited clip of his latest film, Bowling for Columbine...It's a documentary that provides a sometimes humorous, sometimes rather horrifying look at America's gun culture. It was the talk of this year's Cannes Film Festival and opens in theaters across this country tomorrow. Michael Moore -- producer, director, and, we should mention, long-time member of the NRA -- is with us tonight from Los Angeles.”
After some joking about the bank giving away rifles, Williams wondered: “Well, how do you square the gun issue as an NRA member yourself? You grew up with guns around as a kid. I assume you shot with your dad. And now seeing as a, an author, documentarian, kind of a social critic what they have done in this country."
Moore: "My dad actually wasn't a hunter. I went hunting with the neighborhood kids. We went bird hunting and pheasant hunting out in the field, and when I was in Boy Scouts, I won the NRA marksman award. So, you know, but back then, the NRA was a gun safety organization. Its purpose was to promote, you know, sportsmanship and hunting and things like that. Since the Reagan era, it's really been a front for a right wing agenda, and that's, you know the sad, sad thing in terms of what that's become."
Williams prompted: "So these days when you hear Charlton Heston at a rally, when you see the literature of the NRA or their operating head Wayne LaPierre on a television appearance, that message, you're saying, is not the one you signed up for, not the one you grew up with?"
Moore: "That's right. It's chilling, actually, when you listen to them...”
Williams did semi-challenge Moore: "And yet there's that bromide that everyone uses to counter gun control, and that is if you're really intent on doing something bad, on killing someone with a gun, if you really wanna do something, you're gonna find a way to do it."
Moore: "That's true except you don't want to make it easy for the psychopaths...”
Williams heralded Moore’s prescience: "Let's talk about your sense of timing. The last time, I recall, you were on this broadcast, you were promoting a book that was about to come out at the time called Stupid White Man, and you said in your remarks on the broadcast, you know, 'Just you wait, this'll be the new trend in America.' And we've seen enough guys let out of big Fortune 500 firms to now know you were right. It's almost perverse that you've picked another issue, here it is our lead story again tonight, a person or persons with a rifle driving around Washington. What does that say?"
Williams moved to another of Moore’s favorite topics: “When you first came to public consciousness with Roger and Me, it was in sticking up for, quote, 'the little guy.' That was in your beloved state of Michigan. Do you think the need to stick up for the little guy today even after the Wall Street boom and people generally, they tell us, doing better, do you think the need is as acute today as it was then?"
> Today, October 8. Couric’s questions after the intro quoted above, and portions of some of Moore’s answers, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- "I have to ask you first of all, what up with this title, 'Bowling for Columbine?'"
Moore: "The title comes from the fact that the, the two kids that did the shooting that day didn't want to miss their first hour class, so they went to their bowling class and bowled two or three games of bowling, and then went on to the other all-American sport of shooting guns."
-- Couric: "Now what, what prompted your interest, Michael, in doing a whole documentary on this? Because I thought it was fascinating that you are a member of the, a card-carrying member of the NRA. Is that right? You won a marksmanship award in high school."
-- "You're somebody who says he really likes and enjoy guns. Well, I don't know if enjoy is right but you use them or you've used them in the past."
Moore: "....this culture of violence that we live in and what is, what are the underlying causes of this, because we're the only country that does this. You know, we're the only, we have 11,000 murders, gun murders, a year. Canada has 165. Britain has 68. Japan, 39. They have 120 million people in Japan."
Couric: “And there, there are a lot of guns in Canada, too, right?"
-- Couric: "So, so why do you think Canada has such a better track record than the United States?"
-- "You partially blame the media and you praise enlightened politicians in Canada."
Moore: "Yeah. Yeah, basically, I think that's it. I think there's a Canadian ethic that says, I mean, the way they live in their society, they believe that they're all Canadians and they're all in the same boat. If one of them gets sick, they should get a doctor. We should pay for that. If one of us loses our job, if we're Canadians, you know, we should help them out. Our ethic in America is, 'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Every man for himself. Me, me, me, me, me.' And, and it's, it's just, I think it helps to, you know, create this, this climate where people then become violent toward each other."
-- "People who don't like you and your ilk would say, 'Well, why doesn't this guy just move to Canada?'"
Moore: "Or why don't we stay here and make this a better country? Maybe we should aspire to be more Canadian-like."
-- Couric: "Tell me about your thesis going into this, Michael, and, and if it was borne out, as a result of the work you did."
-- "At one point you take two of the boys from Columbine to K-Mart and, and, to protest the selling of bullets similar, or like the ones that they were wounded by....Tell me what happened when you did that."
-- "Throughout the film I know you emphasize how, how easy it is to get guns in this country. And we're gonna, and, how, how American is the, the right to bear arms. We're gonna take a quick look at a clip and then talk some more."
-- "You also interview Charlton Heston?...How did that go?"
Moore: "Not well. He got up and walked out on me and, and I was at his house, so he just left me in his house. I didn't know what to do. He in this interview he says that he believes the problem with America is our mixed ethnicity, and I was very stunned to hear him go down this, this kind of racial road. He said, 'You know, this country was founded by these wise, old dead white guys,' and I think he said the same thing on your show here last month."
-- Couric: "A lot of people watching this are going to say, 'Why should we watch this?' Granted, Time magazine called it, 'rambunctious, disturbing and often hilarious.' But people, they also describe you as 'the lefty perp of 'Roger and Me.' But might, people might say, 'Listen, this guy has such a strong left-wing point of view. You know, he's not even open to arguments.'"
I’m not sure Canadians would want this guy. Then again, maybe we could trade him with Peter Jennings.
MSNBC finally booked an interesting, non-leftist guest for Donahue and he realized Phil Donahue is “delusional.” The live guest via satellite on Thursday’s show: Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News reporter who last year penned Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.
Wrapping up a lengthy harangue about how the media have “white male Republican boardroom attitudes,” and therefore ignore unions and downplay peace marches, Donahue summed up how conservatives control the news media: “The conservatives have a hold on our national megaphone, and they use it very effectively, and they’ve so battered the liberals that everybody’s going out of their way to be a conservative. That’s my, that’s my view.”
To which Goldberg retorted: “Well, that’s because you’re delusional on this matter.”
The October 10 segment began with Donahue listing the many conservatives in the media. Goldberg pointed out how all he listed are commentators and suggested to Donahue: “The only people I think at this late date who don't think there's a liberal bias in the news are people who are even further to the left than the media elites are.”
Goldberg soon reiterated his point: “Here’s the problem. People like you -- and I don’t mean people like you in a bad way -- but people like you don’t even understand what liberal bias is about because-”
Donahue: “It’s so internalized that we don’t even know we have it.”
Goldberg: “That’s right.”
Donahue launched into his standard rant: “And I’ll tell you something else, I’ll tell you something else, Bernie. The boardroom mentality of the issue of big media is so internalized by mainstream reporters and I accept your point about internalizing this. And I’m asking some of the reporters with whom you worked to be brave enough to understand that they internalize boardroom attitudes, too -- white male Republican boardroom attitudes. It’s there. It definitely is. We bow and scrape to Jack Welch. We do no such thing to the leaders of the AFL-CIO. We hardly even cover unions. The peace march last Sunday in Central Park drew at the most conservative estimate, now make the organizers angry for using the, wait a minute, 10,000 people, 10,000. There were probably 20,000 there. Page three, New York Times. I’m telling you, you know, if, if the-”
An astonished Goldberg jumped in: “Let me ask you this, Phil. Are you suggesting, are you suggesting there’s a conservative bias in the news?”
Donahue confirmed: “I certainly am. I am suggesting-”
Goldberg: “All right, then let’s jump right ahead. Let us assume that you’re right and I’m wrong. You’ve been right about many, many things, and I’ve been wrong about many, many things. So I wrote this book called Bias, I got it all wrong, I meant no harm, no malice-”
Donahue: “And it flew out of the store.”
Goldberg challenged Donahue to dismiss those who see a liberal bias: “But you know what, you know what? Then dismiss me. Tell me to take this microphone off and go home. But what are you gonna do about the millions and millions of Americans who think I’m right and you’re wrong. I’ll give you some choices. And I’d love to ask this question of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings. But I’ll ask you. You’re another media heavyweight. Do you think all those people are stupid? Do you think all those people are right wing media haters?”
After a bit of crosstalk, Goldberg offered another option: “Well, let me give you a third choice.”
Donahue: “Go ahead.”
Goldberg: “Do you think they’re all delusional and they’re just zombies walking around and the real right wing nuts are pulling the strings? There aren’t that many options. Which one do you think it is?”
Donahue: “I think, I think that the effort to demonize liberals has been so successful-”
Goldberg: “Not in the news, it hasn’t.”
Donahue: “Tax and spend, tax and spend-”
Goldberg: “Not in the news, it hasn’t.”
Liberals don’t advocate taxing and spending?
Donahue elaborated, but his characterization of the liberal stereotype didn’t sound that far from the reality of how liberals, at least as personified by Donahue, really do behave:
“Liberals are wimps, liberals don’t want to defend America, liberals are atheists, liberals don’t want God in the Pledge of Allegiance! This drumbeat from the Christian Right and the loudness and the focus -- God, and, you know, my hat’s off to them, they have exploited our democracy in more clever ways than the liberals ever thought about. But they’ve done such a great job of doing that that everybody’s walking around afraid to even suggest that maybe we oughtn’t to have two million people in jail, never discuss that. We don’t ever discuss, the conservatives have a hold on our national megaphone, and they use it very effectively, and they’ve so battered the liberals that everybody’s going out of their way to be a conservative. That’s my, that’s my view.”
Goldberg suggested: “Well, that’s because you’re delusional on this matter.”
Donahue, nodding in mock appreciation: “Well, thank you, thank you.”
Goldberg: “I mean, don’t take it personally. I mean that in a nice way, but I think you’re delusional.”
Indeed Donahue is “delusional” if he thinks the mainstream national news media are biased to the right.
But no more delusional than the MSNBC executives who have the very left-wing Donahue touted as “fiercely independent.” Going into an ad break after Goldberg’s appearance, the MSNBC announcer
promised that “the fiercely independent Phil Donahue will be right back.”
When did he arrive?
-- Brent Baker
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