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The 1,847th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
11:25am EDT, Wednesday October 27, 2004 (Vol. Nine; No. 210)
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1. Like with Forged Memos, CBS Plows Forward with Explosives Story
Following the same strategy employed when CBS News came under fire for the forged memos, on Tuesday night, while other news outlet backtracked from their initial Monday night reporting on how 377 tons of explosives went missing in Iraq under the watch of the U.S. Army, CBS plowed forward. With "Where Are They?" on screen, Dan Rather teased: "Senator Kerry blasts the President over those tons of missing explosives. And where are they?" Later, Rather declared: "Those missing explosives in Iraq are much more than a headline or a political wedge issue. They are very real, very powerful, and possibly in the hands of anti-American guerrillas or terrorists." CBS acknowledged the political damage the Monday hyping had done to the Bush campaign, though the network also revealed that the IAEA had blocked destruction of the very stockpile. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski provided a through rundown on the possibilities of what happened to the explosives while Tom Brokaw was on the defensive about what NBC reported Monday night, claiming the Bush campaign mischaracterized their story. CNN's Jamie McIntyre picked up on the proposition Hussein moved the explosives before the war. FNC's Brit Hume talked to Dana Lewis, who was embedded with the first troops on the scene.

2. CBS vs. CBS: Use of Missing Explosives in Attacks on Troops?
Assuming facts not in evidence. Tuesday morning on CBS's Early Show, Harry Smith argued that the explosives missing in Iraq have "been made into bombs that have targeted U.S. troops." But later, on the CBS Evening News, David Martin would only go as far as to relay, over video of an explosion, how "David Kay, who once headed the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, says after this bombing outside a mosque in Najaf, investigators found traces of the same kind of explosives."

3. ABC Applies Negative Descriptions of How Bush Court Would Rule
Putting the conservative position in a derogatory light. In a Tuesday Good Morning America look, in the wake of news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has cancer, at what a Bush or Kerry victory would mean for Supreme Court rulings, ABC's Claire Shipman employed unfavorable descriptions of conservative positions. She warned that a Bush win would lead to appointments in which "abortion rights could be further curtailed" while those named by Kerry "would likely try to ease abortion restrictions." Bush's nominees would also lead to "upending affirmative action totally."

4. GMA Pounds Bush from Left on Gays and God, Kerry Let Off Easy In another installment of his interview with President and Mrs. Bush, taped over the weekend at the Crawford ranch, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson on Tuesday displayed an aggressive liberal agenda. He pressed the President to disagree with the Republican platform on gay issues. Using the flu-shot controversy, he suggested the Food and Drug Administration is "too close to the drug companies." He even asked about the liberal Internet conspiracy theory about the bump in the back of Bush's suit jacket in the first debate, showed pictures, and asked: "What the hell was that on your back in the first debate?" But the oddest questions were about whether Bush thinks he's an instrument of God: "You said, 'freedom is a gift of the Almighty....And if you're the agent of freedom, or consider yourself so, in this, does that indicate in your mind that the Almighty is on our side in some way?" In her interviews with John Kerry on September 29 and 30, however, Diane Sawyer never asked Kerry about social issues, the Democratic platform, anything about Kerry's struggles with the Catholic bishops over his pro-abortion voting record, or conservative conspiracy theories rolling around the Internet.

5. West Wing Actor Takes Shot at Bush as "Cheerleader from Andover" A couple of cheap shots at President Bush last week from actor Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman on NBC's The West Wing, another episode of which will run tonight on NBC. On HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday night, Whitford denounced Bush as "the most disastrous environmental President in history" and, to hearty audience applause, asked: "How many times do you have to get shot in the ass in a rice paddy before you're more rough and tumble than a cheerleader from Andover?"


Correction: Item #5 in the October 26 CyberAlert referred to how Eleanor Clift "failed to realize that unlike anecdotes for small pox and anthrax, the flu vaccine..." She provided anecdotal evidence of media bias, but "anecdotes" should have read "antidotes."

 

Like with Forged Memos, CBS Plows Forward
with Explosives Story

     Following the same strategy employed when CBS News came under fire for the forged memos, on Tuesday night, while other news outlet backtracked from their initial Monday night reporting on how 377 tons of explosives went missing in Iraq under the watch of the U.S. Army, CBS plowed forward as if there were no doubts about the accuracy of their original claim that the explosives were at the storage facility when the U.S. troops arrived. With "Where Are They?" on screen, Dan Rather teased: "Senator Kerry blasts the President over those tons of missing explosives. And where are they?" Later, with "Missing Explosives" as the on screen header over a shot of missiles, Rather declared: "Those missing explosives in Iraq are much more than a headline or a political wedge issue. They are very real, very powerful, and possibly in the hands of anti-American guerrillas or terrorists."

     CBS certainly acknowledged the political damage of their Monday hyping of the story along with the New York Times and the rest of the media which followed their lead. After citing "the drag from a trifecta of troubling news about Iraq: The missing high explosives, and new reports today that the U.S. may need another 20,000 troops there to secure elections, and another $70 billion next year to pay for operations," John Roberts noted: "They had his campaign way off message today and losing in the headlines, and in danger of losing momentum at the worst possible time." In contrast, after running four soundbites from what CBS's Byron Pitts described as Kerry's "impassioned critique" of Bush policy, Pitts relayed, "said one [Kerry] aide today, 'The headlines this week are in our favor, and for now the wind is at our back.'"

     Thanks indeed to a lot of blowing by journalists.

     CBS's David Martin highlighted how the Army commander who first arrived at the storage site said "he 'would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps' he came across." But Martin also noted that Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. arms inspector for Iraq, asserted that "it's hard for me to get that worked up about it," since "Iraq is awash in hundreds of thousands of tons of explosives." Martin also added a fresh element to the story, revealing that "Duelfer also said UN weapons inspectors had recommended in 1995 that the high explosives be destroyed because of their potential use in a nuclear weapons program. Instead, the International Atomic Energy Agency ordered the explosives stored in sealed bunkers 30 miles south of Baghdad."

     So, the IAEA which gave the damaging story to CBS and the New York Times to use in a last-minute hit on President Bush, were responsible for the continued existence of the explosives.

     On the NBC Nightly News, Jim Miklaszewski, who on Monday night had put a damper on CBS's anti-Bush jihad by reporting that when the 101st Airborne had arrived at the Al Qaqaa compound, they "never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX," followed up with a detailed rundown about what is known about the explosives and who saw them last. He concluded by asking and answering: "Were the explosives at Al Qaqaa when U.S. troops arrived? It's not clear. But Pentagon officials say it's possible Saddam Hussein had the explosives moved and hidden before the war. Officials here say the Iraqi military was dispersing many of its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but there's apparently no hard intelligence to prove that's what happened to the high explosives at Al Qaqaa."

     Tom Brokaw was on the defensive as he pointed out that on Monday night "we reported that the 101st Airborne never found the nearly 380 tons of HMX and RDX explosives. We did not conclude the explosives were missing or had vanished, nor did we say they missed the explosives. We simply reported that the 101st did not find them." Brokaw countered the Bush campaign's spin: "For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived. That is possible, but that is not what we reported."

     On ABC's World News Tonight, Terry Moran highlighted how "the war in Iraq intruded into Mr. Bush's carefully scripted day as he ignored a shouted question about the tons of dangerous explosives that have disappeared in Iraq." Moran at least ran a soundbite of Dick Cheney charging: "But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad. John Kerry doesn't mention that. Nor does he mention the 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that our troops have captured and are destroying."

     Moran's colleague, Dean Reynolds cast no doubt about the claim as he passed along how "today and yesterday, Kerry exploited reports that several hundred tons of explosives in Iraq were reportedly left unattended by U.S. forces and may now be in the hands of terrorists."

     Later, on CNN's NewsNight, Jamie McIntyre started by pointing out how "the Pentagon acknowledges there was a window of about six weeks after the invasion of Iraq when it's possible the stockpile of high explosives could have been stolen from the sprawling Al-Qaqaa facility south of Baghdad." But McIntyre added, "Pentagon officials argue it's more likely the explosives were moved as part of the pre-war dispersal ordered by Saddam Hussein."

     FNC's Brit Hume brought aboard, from Moscow, FNC reporter Dana Lewis who, when still with NBC News, was embedded with the 101st Airborne which first arrived at the massive Al Qaqaa site. He recalled on Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume:
     "Well, Brit, I mean, you know, put it in context of what was going on at that moment. The fighting wasn't over. There was chaos everywhere on the roads, and we were with the 101st as it was pushing north to take the southern suburbs of Baghdad. And as we were driving up the road, I can remember seeing this amazing wall that just seemed to go on forever. This thing was about 10 feet tall, and it went on for at least a mile or two. I've never seen such a big compound in Iraq since I've been there for two years now. It was a tremendous compound. The 101st was ordered to go into the compound and spend the night there. They were not ordered to search that compound there. They simply used it as a pit stop so that they could then continue their mission on to Baghdad. In fact, I can tell you I was with the colonel of the strike brigade, the Second Brigade, Colonel Joe Anderson. He was frustrated they had to spend the night there because they wanted to get on to their mission in Baghdad."
     Hume: "So you got inside this facility. I suppose some members of the unit might have heard of the place. What did you see when you got in there?"
     Lewis: "Sure, they may have had information on what may have been in there because they generally had that kind of information. It was a tremendously large facility. You got in and saw all sorts of bunkers inside. And, Brit, because we spent 24 hours there, I had the chance to walk that facility and I took it. It was a long walk as we went from bunker to bunker, me and my cameraman. Most of the bunkers were locked at that point. You could not get inside. Some of them, though, appeared to have been hit by airstrikes, and we were told by some of the soldiers on the ground that they had been hit by bombs. So some of the concrete was split open and you could see munitions in a few of the bunkers. And then at one end of the facility I can remember seeing hangars full of rockets. I've never seen so many rockets in one place. It looked like that facility had also been bombed from the air, and most of those rockets were bent out of shape and inoperable."
     Hume, as FNC showed a close-up of the IEAA seal on one door: "Right. Now, we have seen pictures of these seals that the International Atomic Energy Agency and the weapons inspectors used to identify and to close off the bunkers where some of these heavy explosives were believed to have been kept. Did you see any of those seals on any of the facilities as you were walking through there?"
     Lewis: "I've had those seals described to me, and I can tell you that as we went from the bunkers, certainly there were wires and there were locks. But I don't recall ever seeing an IAEA stamp on any of them. It doesn't mean that there weren't any of them."


     Now, starting with CBS's excessive coverage, a full rundown of the Tuesday night, October 26, coverage on major newscasts as collated by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased: "Tonight, one week to go: President Bush accuses Senator Kerry of Monday morning quarterbacking about Iraq. Senator Kerry blasts the President over those tons of missing explosives. And where are they? America's chief weapons hunter tells CBS News they're not worth looking for anymore. We'll tell you why."

     Rather opened: "The candidates campaigned today in hotly contested Wisconsin, their stump speeches laced with new slashing attacks. CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts is traveling with President Bush and begins our coverage."

     Roberts began: "On what will likely be the last bus tour of his campaign, through western Wisconsin, President Bush was trying to keep the focus on what he'll do for the nation in a second term."
     George W. Bush: "My opponent believes the economy grows by growing the size of the federal government. I believe the economy grows by growing the size of the coffers of small businesses."

     On screen:
"Iraq: Troubling News"

     Roberts: "He was hoping to avoid the drag from a trifecta of troubling news about Iraq: The missing high explosives, and new reports today that the U.S. may need another 20,000 troops there to secure elections, and another $70 billion next year to pay for operations."
     Unidentified man shouting at Bush in rope line: "Mr. President, who's responsible for the weapons missing in Iraq?"
     Roberts: "President Bush ignored a shouted question on the explosives today, but the Vice President raced to suggest the weapons may have been gone long before U.S. troops got there."
     Dick Cheney, at campaign event: "But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad. John Kerry doesn't mention that."
     Roberts: "While aides tried to fend off the potential damage, President Bush tried to turn Iraq to his advantage and peel off some Democratic voters, charging John Kerry's policies would abandon the ideals of his Democratic forbears Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy."
     Bush: "Senator Kerry has turned his back on 'pay any price' and 'bear any burden.' He's replaced those commitments with 'wait and see' and 'cut and run.'"
     Roberts: "It's a message that plays well in rural America, where support for the military is high. The President today accused Kerry of the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking on Iraq and said, 'Agree with him or not, at least voters know where he stands.'"
     Bush: "Whether the polls are up or the polls are down, I am determined to win this war on terror, and I will always support the men and women of the United States military."
     Roberts: "But the new problems on Iraq were absolutely the last thing President Bush wanted to be dealing with in the closing days of this election. They had his campaign way off message today and losing in the headlines, and in danger of losing momentum at the worst possible time."

     Rather set up a second story: "Now to the Kerry campaign. CBS's Byron Pitts reports the Senator had a very focused message today, targeting what he sees as President Bush's failed handling of Iraq, Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden."
     Byron Pitts: "The Senator used today's headlines about missing explosives in Iraq to pound the President in his most blistering attack to date."
     John Kerry: "And what did the President have to say about the missing explosives? Not a word. Complete silence. Despite devastating evidence that his administration's failure here has put our troops and our citizens in greater danger, George Bush has not offered a single word of explanation."
     Pitts: "His 35-minute policy speech was one of his shortest, most impassioned critiques of the President ever on the stump."
     Kerry: "He didn't have enough troops on the ground to get the job done. He didn't have enough allies to get the job done. He failed to secure Iraq and to keep it from becoming what it is today, a haven for terrorists."
     Pitts: "When he wasn't savaging the President, Kerry took aim at the Vice President."
     Kerry: "Vice President Cheney called the Iraq war a remarkable success story. Ladies and gentlemen, they don't see it, they don't get it, and they can't fix it."
     Pitts: "John Kerry is hoping to make a dent in recent poll numbers suggesting that President Bush is still winning more support from voters on the issue of terrorism and the war in Iraq."

     CBS News/New York Times poll results on screen:
"A lot of confidence in handling terrorism"
Bush: 43 percent
Kerry: 30 percent

     Kerry: "The President diverted critical military and intelligence personnel from Afghanistan and from the hunt for Osama bin Laden."
     Pitts: "Senator Kerry's theme these last seven days, there's a problem in the White House, and he's the man to fix it. Said one aide today, 'The headlines this week are in our favor, and for now the wind is at our back.' But a lot can change in seven days. Byron Pitts, CBS News, Las Vegas."

     Rather again: "Of course, those missing explosives in Iraq are much more than a headline or a political wedge issue. They are very real, very powerful, and possibly in the hands of anti-American guerrillas or terrorists. So what, if anything, can or should the U.S. do about that now? CBS News's David Martin talked to the chief U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq and got a surprising answer."

     Martin explained: "350 tons of high explosives are missing from these bunkers, and the White House says the unit responsible for searching for weapons of mass destruction has been directed to find out what happened. But Charles Duelfer, the head of that unit, told CBS News this afternoon he has not received any orders to go looking for the missing explosives, and doesn't think he should. 'It's hard for me to get that worked up about it,' Duelfer said in a phone interview from Baghdad, adding that Iraq is awash in hundreds of thousands of tons of explosives. Duelfer also said UN weapons inspectors had recommended in 1995 that the high explosives be destroyed because of their potential use in a nuclear weapons program. Instead, the International Atomic Energy Agency ordered the explosives stored in sealed bunkers 30 miles south of Baghdad. The last time the IAEA verified the bunkers were still sealed was in March of last year, about a month before the first U.S. troops moved into the complex as they pushed toward Baghdad.
     Martin on camera: "Pentagon officials contend the explosives could have been spirited away by the Iraqis before U.S. troops ever got there. Other officials, including Duelfer, say it could have been looters in the chaos following the fall of Baghdad."

     With the text of the quotes on screen, Martin continued: "The commander of the first unit into the area told CBS he did not search it for explosives or secure it from looters. 'We were still in a fight,' he said. 'Our focus was killing bad guys.' He added he 'would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps' he came across. A special unit known as Task Force 75 finally searched the compound seven weeks later and found no sign of the explosives. So where did 350 tons of high explosives go? David Kay, who once headed the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, says after this bombing outside a mosque in Najaf, investigators found traces of the same kind of explosives. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon."


     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw, in a rain coat in Des Moines, announced up top: "On the national campaign trail again today, the fight was over Iraq, specifically that report that a large cache of some of Saddam Hussein's most dangerous weapons had disappeared. This is a complicated story. We're going to take you through it as best we can tonight. We're going to begin with what NBC News has learned and what is not known. Here's NBC's Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon."

     Miklaszewski explained, with each of his questions displayed on screen: "Military officials tell NBC News that on April 10, 2003, when the Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne entered the Al Qaqaa compound, they were not actively involved in searching for Iraqi weapons, including the nearly 380 tons of the high explosives HMX and RDX. NBC's Lai Ling Jew was with the 101st at Al Qaqaa."
     Lai Ling Jew, NBC News producer: "They used that stop as a staging area for what they thought was gonna be their launch into Baghdad."
     Miklaszewski: "The troops observed stockpiles of conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX. The complex, however, is so huge, with over 1000 buildings, it's not clear that troops saw the bunkers that might have held the high explosives. Do we know that the high explosives were ever at Al Qaqaa? Yes. In January 2003, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that nearly 380 tons of HMX and RDX were still there. Then, on March 15, only four days before the start of the war, IAEA inspectors returned to find the HMX, at least, still intact."
     Melissa Fleming, IAEA: "The seals on the doors at the bunkers were checked at many of the bunkers to see if they were still there and hadn't been tampered with, and that was the case."
     Miklaszewski: "The inspectors, however, did not verify that the RDX explosives were still in their bunkers. And when did the first troops from the U.S. military get there? Army officials say two weeks after the war started, April 4, troops from the Third Infantry arrived to find, quote, 'looters everywhere,' unquote, carrying out what they could on their backs. The troops also searched bunkers and found conventional weapons, but no high explosives. Six days later, the 101st troops arrived, but neither group was specifically searching for HMX or RDX. So when did U.S. weapon inspectors arrive at Al Qaqaa? On May 27, the Iraq survey group arrived to find the stockpiles of HMX and RDX were gone. That's a critical gap of some seven weeks after the last visit by U.S. troops. It's during that time, the Iraqi interim government suggests, in a letter to the IAEA, the high explosives were looted.
     "Were the explosives at Al Qaqaa when U.S. troops arrived? It's not clear. But Pentagon officials say it's possible Saddam Hussein had the explosives moved and hidden before the war. Officials here say the Iraqi military was dispersing many of its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but there's apparently no hard intelligence to prove that's what happened to the high explosives at Al Qaqaa. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon."

     A defensive Brokaw then noted: "And that brings us back to the report that we aired on this broadcast last night. This is one of those occasions when it's important to carefully examine what we did report and what we did not report. Last night, on this broadcast, we reported that the 101st Airborne never found the nearly 380 tons of HMX and RDX explosives. We did not conclude the explosives were missing or had vanished, nor did we say they missed the explosives. We simply reported that the 101st did not find them.
     "For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived. That is possible, but that is not what we reported. This back and forth has been going on all day long. I'm joined now by our correspondent covering the Bush campaign, NBC's David Gregory, traveling with the President here in Iowa. David?"

     David Gregory with a sore voice: "Tom, this story has become the subject of full-scale campaign warfare with White House officials scrutinizing media reports and accusing John Kerry of jumping to irresponsible conclusions about when these dangerous explosives went missing and who's to blame. Campaigning in Wisconsin today, it was clear this was a story the President didn't want to discuss [rope line video], ignoring a shouted question about the Iraqi explosives. But after the NBC News report last night, the Bush campaign launched into rapid response mode. In this email marked 'urgent info,' a campaign spokesman argued 'the weapons were not there when the military arrived, making John Kerry's latest ripped-from-the-headlines attack baseless and false.'
     "But by midday today, as the President was visiting a dairy farm in southwestern Wisconsin, aides were moderating their stance. The facts, they conceded, are not yet clear. The explosives could have been there and U.S. troops missed them, or they were gone."
     Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director: "Senator Kerry has no independent knowledge or information to suggest one thing or the other, and he doesn't seem to care much about the facts. He just cares about attacking President Bush."
     Gregory: "The Kerry campaign argues the White House is trying to muddy the issue to cover up its failure to secure explosives that may now have fallen into the wrong hands. The Senator, in Green Bay today."
     John Kerry: "Their failure to secure those explosives threatens American troops and the American people."
     Gregory: "And the campaign made a hurry-up attack ad on the subject."
     Kerry in ad: "In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives."
     Gregory concluded from Dubuque: "The fact that both sides pounced on this story tells you how sensitive both campaigns are about any last-minute revelations. As one prominent pollster says, in a race this close, even the slightest breeze could blow the outcome one way or the other."


     -- ABC's World News Tonight. From Las Vegas, Dean Reynolds checked in from the Kerry campaign: "Today and yesterday, Kerry exploited reports that several hundred tons of explosives in Iraq were reportedly left unattended by U.S. forces and may now be in the hands of terrorists."
     Kerry: "Despite devastating evidence that his administration's failure here has put our troops and our citizens in greater danger, George Bush has not offered a single word of explanation."
     Reynolds: "The Kerry campaign is gleefully seizing on such reports, confident they put the President on the defensive at the worst possible time for him. And Kerry, who for months was a punching bag for Republican one-liners, is lately more adept at turning the tables. Dick Cheney is now a handy target."
     Kerry: "Vice President Cheney called the Iraq war a remarkable success story. Ladies and gentlemen, they don't see it, they don't get it, and they can't fix it."

     From the trail with Bush, Terry Moran reported: "The war in Iraq intruded into Mr. Bush's carefully scripted day as he ignored a shouted question about the tons of dangerous explosives that have disappeared in Iraq."
     Unidentified heckler/reporter: "Mr. President, who's responsible for the weapons missing in Iraq? Mr. President?"
     Moran: "It was left to Vice President Cheney in Florida to offer this:"
     Dick Cheney clip #1: "But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad. John Kerry doesn't mention that. Nor does he mention the 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that our troops have captured and are destroying."
     Cheney clip #2: "The action of America's fighting men and women have made the world safer, and it's time for John Kerry to own up to that fact."


     -- CNN's NewsNight. Anchor Aaron Brown asserted the original story has neither ben proven or disproven: "The President said nothing directly about the missing explosives today. Indeed, despite a lot of fuming going on, on the campaign, on the radio and TV, all over the place, the central claim of the story itself that a huge cache of very powerful explosives was left unguarded and is likely in the hands of insurgents has not been shot down, nor we add has it been conclusively proven, the story from CNN's Jamie McIntyre."

     McIntyre checked in from the Pentagon: "The Pentagon acknowledges there was a window of about six weeks after the invasion of Iraq when it's possible the stockpile of high explosives could have been stolen from the sprawling Al-QaQaa facility south of Baghdad. But Pentagon officials argue it's more likely the explosives were moved as part of the pre-war dispersal ordered by Saddam Hussein. That would have come sometime after March 3, 2003, the last time the International Atomic Energy Agency checked that security seals placed on the bunkers were intact and before the war actually began March 20th.
     "On April 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad, troops from the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division reached the site. No weapons under IAEA seal were found but the soldiers were advancing on Baghdad and officials acknowledge they didn't conduct a thorough inspection.
     "Sometime in the next month, May, 2003, the IAEA says it relayed concerns to the U.S. government about the stockpile falling into the wrong hands. Finally, on May 27th, more than six weeks after the April visit, a special U.S. exploitation team looking for weapons of mass destruction searched all 32 bunkers and 87 buildings. Again, the stockpile was not found.
     "Pentagon officials admit the facility was not completely secured between April 10th and May 27 and that during that time insurgents could have looted the explosives. But officials scoff at the idea the large number of heavy trucks that would be required to transport the 380 tons of missing explosives could have been moved into and out of the facility unnoticed.
     "Aaron, what some critics in the Pentagon are having a hard time accepting is how, if these stockpiles had been moved out before the invasion, how the Pentagon wouldn't have known about it. After all, the Pentagon was using every means possible to monitor Iraqi troop movements, watching for the movement that could possibly indicate WMD being hidden, so how would they have not known? Now, the Pentagon says well they did see a lot of things moving in the days and weeks before the invasion but they just can't say any of it was this cache of high explosives."


     # For a thorough rundown of New York Times coverage on Monday and Tuesday, see this article by Clay Waters on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org

 

CBS vs. CBS: Use of Missing Explosives
in Attacks on Troops?

     Assuming facts not in evidence. Tuesday morning on CBS's Early Show, Harry Smith argued that the explosives missing in Iraq have "been made into bombs that have targeted U.S. troops." But later, on the CBS Evening News, David Martin would only go as far as to relay, over video of an explosion, how "David Kay, who once headed the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, says after this bombing outside a mosque in Najaf, investigators found traces of the same kind of explosives."

     Smith was more definitive about the use of the same "material." During the 8am news update on the October 26 Early Show, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed that Smith maintained:
     "Bush administration officials insist that a missing stockpile of explosives in Iraq is not that big a deal. Three hundred eighty tons of explosives were looted from a single site in the early days of the war, according to a report released yesterday. That material has been made into bombs that have targeted U.S. troops."

 

ABC Applies Negative Descriptions of
How Bush Court Would Rule

     Putting the conservative position in a derogatory light. In a Tuesday Good Morning America look, in the wake of news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has cancer, at what a Bush or Kerry victory would mean for Supreme Court rulings, ABC's Claire Shipman employed unfavorable descriptions of conservative positions. She warned that a Bush win would lead to appointments because of which "abortion rights could be further curtailed" while those named by Kerry "would likely try to ease abortion restrictions." Bush's nominees would lead to "upending affirmative action totally."

     How about a Bush win leading to an "expansion of the right to life and protections of the unborn" as well as to the "end of racist college admissions policies"?

     The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught the Shipman story which aired during the 8am news update on the October 26 Good Morning America, picking up with a soundbite from Nina Totenberg of NPR: "The next President will leave an enormous legacy on the law of the land in terms of who he appoints to the Supreme Court, and it will change all of our lives quite dramatically, or at least it could."
     Shipman: "Some of the key issues in the balance? If Bush wins the election and makes appointments, abortion rights could be further curtailed and it's possible Roe V. Wade could be overturned altogether. A Kerry-appointed court, on the other hand, would likely try to ease abortion restrictions. And Kerry-picked Justices could mean more separation of church and state, for example ending the use of vouchers for religious schools. Bush appointments could mean upending affirmative action totally; Kerry appointments might try to push the other way."

 

GMA Pounds Bush from Left on Gays and
God, Kerry Let Off Easy

     In another installment of his interview with President and Mrs. Bush, taped over the weekend at the Crawford ranch, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson on Tuesday displayed an aggressive liberal agenda. He pressed the President to disagree with the Republican platform on gay issues. Using the flu-shot controversy, he suggested the Food and Drug Administration is "too close to the drug companies." He even asked about the liberal Internet conspiracy theory about the bump in the back of Bush's suit jacket in the first debate, showed pictures, and asked: "What the hell was that on your back in the first debate?" But the oddest questions were about whether Bush thinks he's an instrument of God: "You said, 'freedom is a gift of the Almighty....And if you're the agent of freedom, or consider yourself so, in this, does that indicate in your mind that the Almighty is on our side in some way?"

     In her interviews with John Kerry on September 29 and 30, however, Diane Sawyer never asked Kerry about social issues, the Democratic platform, anything about Kerry's struggles with the Catholic bishops over his pro-abortion voting record, or conservative conspiracy theories rolling around the Internet.

     [The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]

     Gibson began the excerpt played back on the October 26 GMA, as taken down by the MRC's Jessica Anderson: "I want to ask you about one social issue, because you gave an answer that I thought was really interesting in the third debate. Bob Schieffer asked you if you thought homosexuals were born that way or became that way, and you said you didn't know."
     President Bush: "Right, I don't."
     Gibson: "So the possibility -- it's a nature-nurture argument -- so the possibility exists in your mind that it could be nature?"
     Bush: "Sure."
     Gibson: "And that they could be born that way. If that's the case, just for sake of argument, that's an unalterable characteristic for them. That's like being black or being a woman. So how can we deny them rights in any way to a civil union that would allow, give them the same economic rights or health rights or other things?"
     Bush: "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so."
     Gibson: "The Republican platform opposes it."
     Bush: "Well, I don't. I view the definition of marriage different from legal arrangements that enable people to have rights. And I strongly believe that marriage ought to be defined as between, a union between a man and a woman."
     Gibson: "So the Republican platform on that point, as far as you're concerned, is wrong?"
     Bush: "Right."
     Gibson asked Mrs. Bush who sat on a sofa beside the President: "How about the constitutional amendment on marriage?"
     Mrs. Bush: "Well, I think it gives the United States a chance to debate the issue. I think it's an issue people want to talk about, but with respect to everyone involved and with respect to people."
     Gibson: "Do you agree with him on the constitutional amendment?"
     Mrs. Bush: "I'm not really sure about it. I think it's important to have the debate."

     Did Gibson get the GOP platform right? In fact, the Republican platform, on page 85, does have a sentence which states: "We further believe that the legal recognition of and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has been historically called marriage." If you want to find the Republican platform (it's not easy), see: www.gopconvention.com

     From prodding Bush into disappointing the religious right on civil unions, Gibson then moved on to religious faith: "Let me ask you some questions about faith, which is a tough subject to talk about. You have called, at times, this battle against terrorism a 'crusade.'"
     Bush: "I said it once and probably shouldn't have used that word."
     Gibson: "Do you think God is involved in this conflict?"
     Bush: "I don't think this is a religious war. I think this is a war between evil people that are willing to kill on a mass scale, people that would like to end up with weapons of mass destruction and even kill more than they did in New York City."
     Gibson: "But you've used a phrase that interests me, which is, you said, 'freedom is a gift of the Almighty.'"
     Bush: "It is."
     Gibson: "And if you're the agent of freedom, or consider yourself so, in this, does that indicate in your mind that the Almighty is on our side in some way?"
     Bush held his ground: "Charlie, I think that you shouldn't try to read too much into what I'm saying. What I'm saying is a truth, and the truth is people yearn to be free, no matter who they are or what their religion is. Freedom is ingrained in people's souls. Freedom was not placed there by the United States. It was, in my judgment, it was placed there by something greater, the Almighty."
    
     It could be argued that Gibson gave credit to the President by recognizing him as "the agent of freedom" in the Middle East, something the media have not wanted to underline. But it could also be asked: Does Gibson believe that God is not on the side of human freedom? Could God possibly be on the side of al-Qaeda? Or Saddam Hussein? Or oppressors denying freedom around the world? More than anything, Gibson seemed to be channeling former NBC News reporter Bob Herbert, who complained in a column in Friday's New York Times:
     "The President may believe that freedom's on the march, and that freedom is God's gift to every man and woman in the world, and perhaps even that he is the vessel through which that gift is transmitted. But when he is crafting policy decisions that put people by the hundreds of thousands into harm's way, he needs to rely on more than the perceived good wishes of the Almighty. He needs to submit those policy decisions to a good hard reality check." See: www.nytimes.com

     From there, Gibson went on to the next question sure to frustrate Bush's Christian-right supporters: "Do we all worship the same God, Christian and Muslim?"
     Bush: "I think we do. We have different routes of getting to the Almighty."
     Gibson: "Does bin Laden? Does Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pray to the same God that you and I do?"
     Bush: "I think they pray to a false God, otherwise they wouldn't be killing innocent lives like they have been."
     Gibson: "Do Christians and non-Christians, do Muslims go to Heaven, in your mind?"
     Bush: "Yes, they do. We have different routes of getting there, but I want you to understand, I want your listeners to understand, I don't get to decide who goes to Heaven. The Almighty God decides who goes to Heaven, and I am on my personal walk."

     As Gibson probably knows, this drives conservative Christians crazy (the Gospel of John quotes Jesus as saying no one comes to Father except through Jesus), but perhaps the better question is: are the President's theories of salvation the most Earth-shattering issue in the days before the election?

     Gibson proceeded to make the flu issue political: "Let me turn to some health issues for a moment. The flu shots, did you have no clue that this was coming?"
     Bush: "I didn't."
     Gibson: "Is that a fault or failure of the FDA?"
     Bush: "No. I think the FDA actually did a good job of making sure that contaminated vaccine didn't come to the United States...."
     Gibson: "There were some hints to the FDA, early on, that there was a problem with Chiron's vaccine supply. Shouldn't you have known about that? Shouldn't we have known about that?...We also got caught by surprise that Vioxx is a drug on the market that may not be totally safe. Is the FDA, really I guess I'm asking, too close to the drug companies?"

     After trying and failing to get the President to talk about Cabinet changes in a potential second term, Gibson ended by showing pictures: "Final question: What the hell was that on your back in the first debate?"
     Bush joked: "Well, you know, Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett had rigged up a sound system."
     Gibson, laughing: "You're gettin' in trouble."
     Bush, laughing: "I don't know what that is. I mean, it is, it's, I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."
     Gibson: "It was the shirt?"
     Bush: "Yeah, absolutely."
     Gibson: "There was no sound system back there, there was no electrical signal."
     Bush: "Of course not. I mean, how does an electrical signal -- please explain to me how it works so that maybe if I were ever to debate again I could figure it out. I guess the assumption was is that if I were straying off course, they would, kind of like a hunting dog, they would punch a buzzer and I would jerk back into place. It's just absurd."

     In her interviews with John Kerry on September 29 and 30, however, GMA's Diane Sawyer never asked Kerry about social issues, the Democratic platform, anything about Kerry's struggles with the Catholic bishops over his pro-abortion voting record, or conservative conspiracy theories rolling around the Internet.

     The first day playback was almost all about Iraq, and the GOP's windsurfing ad. On the second day, Sawyer asked about war, tax cuts, his wife Teresa, whether Bush is smart, and why he didn't respond quicker to the Swift Vet ads. Instead of ending with mysterious coat wrinkles, Sawyer inquired about how proud his dad would be to see him now: "Before we left, we showed the Senator an old photo of a young man filled with promise and there over his shoulder, his late father, proud, smiling, looking on."
     Kerry: "Oh, my gosh. Yeah, that's my dad. Yep. That's very nice."
     Sawyer: "What would you most like to say to him at this point in your campaign?"
     Kerry: "That I'm following the spirit of telling the truth, and fighting, being true to who I am."
     Sawyer: "What would he say to you about how hard it is out there?"
     Kerry: "He knew. He was a pretty smart guy. I think he'd be very proud of the fact that I'm laying out a way to make the world safer, because he dedicated part of his life to that. So I think, I hope he's smiling."

     For previous items on earlier ABC excerpts of the interview, see the October 26 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

     And October 25 Media Reality Check: www.mediaresearch.org

 

West Wing Actor Takes Shot at Bush as
"Cheerleader from Andover"

     A couple of cheap shots at President Bush last week from actor Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman on NBC's The West Wing, an episode of which will run tonight on NBC. On HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday night, Whitford denounced Bush as "the most disastrous environmental President in history" and, to hearty audience applause, asked: "How many times do you have to get shot in the ass in a rice paddy before you're more rough and tumble than a cheerleader from Andover?"

     Referring to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Whitford demanded to know: "How can a guy who has a really good environmental program in the state go out and give a speech endorsing the most disastrous environmental President in history?"

     Later, referring to Kerry in Vietnam and Bush's prep school years, Whitford derogatorily opined: "How many times do you have to get shot in the ass in a rice patty before you're more rough and tumble than a cheerleader from Andover?"

     Not even John Kerry claims he was ever "shot" in Vietnam.

     HBO's Web site for Maher's 11pm EDT weekly program: www.hbo.com

     The Internet Movie Database's page for Whitford: imdb.com

     NBC's bio of him: www.nbc.com

     NBC's look at his West Wing character: www.nbc.com

     The second episode of the season airs tonight on NBC at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT.

-- Brent Baker

 


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