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The 1,892nd CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
11:30am EST, Wednesday January 12, 2005 (Vol. Ten; No. 6)
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1. NBC's Engel Admits He Rarely Reports on Heroics of U.S. Soldiers
NBC's Richard Engel conceded on Tuesday's Today that he rarely gets to report on the heroics of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but he did this one time because those heroics saved him. Recounting how the Army unit with whom he was traveling came under attack, Engel noted how a soldier "actually stepped right in front of me protecting me with his body and started to return fire at the insurgents. And I just remember thinking that this is one of the small acts of heroism, I think you can say, that I so rarely get a chance to see and even less frequently report about." Apparently, it's only news to Engel when it involves himself.

2. Today Repeatedly Hypes Book Which Says Abraham Lincoln Was Gay NBC's Today spent much of Tuesday's show incessantly plugging an upcoming story about a book by a gay advocate which claims that President Abraham Lincoln was gay. Katie Couric, for instance, contrasted Lincoln's image of honesty with the new charge: "He's famous, of course, as 'Honest Abe,' but was former President Abraham Lincoln not completely honest when it came to his sexuality?" Ann Curry set up the eventual story: "Now to an interesting question that has surfaced about one of this country's most revered Presidents nearly 150 years later. Was Abraham Lincoln gay?" That story included those who don't buy the idea, but also featured gay activist Larry Kramer who used the opportunity to trash modern Republicans: "Hateful people who hate us, who belong to his party will leave us alone now for awhile out of deference to their founder who is one of us now more than he is one of them." Earlier, Curry, to guffaws from the rest of the Today cast, had mistakenly asserted that the new book "claims that President Clinton may have been gay."

3. USA Today Story Frets Democrats Don't "Fight Back" in Campaigns Democrats "don't have the stomach" to "assail the character" of Republicans and so fail to "fight back" when under attack? So maintained USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence in a January 10 "news analysis" piece, "Character issue puts Dems on the defensive." The article was illustrated by two photos meant to paint Democrats as victims of inaccurate attacks. One showed two people in "Flip" and "Flop" outfits. The caption, "Stamping an image: Republican protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July play off John Kerry's reputation as a 'flip-flopper.' By the time Kerry's campaign responded, the image had taken hold."

4. NPR: Rumsfeld Aims to Kill "Alien Artists and Hollywood Actors"
If you listen to a commercial radio station as you make your way home from work, you're quite unlikely to hear a news commentary suggesting, say, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chose to stage a military practice exercise in New Orleans because many "foreign artists" and "Hollywood actors" were in town. You may not be surprised, however, to learn that this past Friday, National Public Radio aired just such a segment.

5. Letterman's "Top Ten Proposed Changes at CBS News"
Letterman's "Top Ten Proposed Changes at CBS News."


 

NBC's Engel Admits He Rarely Reports
on Heroics of U.S. Soldiers

     NBC's Richard Engel conceded on Tuesday's Today that he rarely gets to report on the heroics of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but he did this one time because those heroics saved him. Recounting how the Army unit with whom he was traveling came under attack, Engel noted how a soldier "actually stepped right in front of me protecting me with his body and started to return fire at the insurgents. And I just remember thinking that this is one of the small acts of heroism, I think you can say, that I so rarely get a chance to see and even less frequently report about." Apparently, it's only news to Engel when it involves himself.

     The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught Engel's personal story which Engel recited during the 7am half hour news update on the January 11 Today. News reader Ann Curry set up Engel: "Today, two separate bombings in Iraq killed at least 13 Iraqis south of Baghdad and Tikrit. A U.S. convoy just missed getting hit but on Monday a convoy was hit. And NBC's Richard Engel was in the middle of it. He's in Mosul this morning with more on this story. Richard, good morning, I'm glad to see you well."
     Engel, at an indoor location in Mosul, explained: "Thank you very much Ann, good morning. So often we report about these attacks on what seemed to be anonymous convoys this time as you said we were right in the middle of it and got to see how the soldiers react when they're faced with these truly life and death situations. Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division set out at noon in a convoy of Striker Fighting Vehicles."

     Over footage of troops in vehicles, Engel recounted: "But as we approached a mosque under construction we were attacked. The roadside bomb targeted a pickup truck nestled in our convoy [video of truck on fire]. In it were Iraqi national guards. It was only a few feet from the vehicle carrying our NBC News team. U.S. soldiers and medics rushed in to help the Iraqis. [matching video] But during the rescue another attack from the mosque." [video of shots being fired from mosque]
     Engel, running on a road with smoke rising behind him from the mosque: "We had been on a mission to deliver heaters to schools but our convoy was hit by a roadside bomb then we were attacked with small arms fire. U.S. troops have spread out through the area and are trying to catch the insurgents. [video switches to Engel laying on ground as he talks] There is still a lot of fire coming at us some of it's exploding in the car that was hit by an improvised explosive device. They are, U.S. troops are retaliating, trying to fight off what they think could be an intense ambush. Four Iraqi guards were killed, two others remain hospitalized. For our news team cameraman Kevin Burke and audio technician Martin Francis it was a close look sometimes too close at how these daily attacks unfold."

     Back live indoors, Engel concluded: "Ann, one of the things I'll remember most about this experience was as I was standing there obviously unarmed, feeling very exposed wearing a bright blue flak jacket was there was a soldier standing next to me. I didn't know him I hadn't even noticed him before. And suddenly as the gunshots were coming at us he came over to me and said, 'It's gonna be okay, don't worry.' And he actually stepped right in front of me protecting me with his body and started to return fire at the insurgents. And I just remember thinking that this is one of the small acts of heroism, I think you can say, that I so rarely get a chance to see and even less frequently report about. Ann."
     Curry: "And small acts of heroism that certainly must exist every single day there in that region by U.S. troops. Thank you so much. NBC's Richard Engel this morning reporting from Mosul."

     Nice that NBC finally observed one of those "acts of heroism" which take place "every single day" in Iraq.

 

Today Repeatedly Hypes Book Which Says
Abraham Lincoln Was Gay

     NBC's Today spent much of Tuesday's show incessantly plugging an upcoming story about a book by a gay advocate which claims that President Abraham Lincoln was gay. Katie Couric, for instance, contrasted Lincoln's image of honesty with the new charge: "He's famous, of course, as 'Honest Abe,' but was former President Abraham Lincoln not completely honest when it came to his sexuality?" Ann Curry set up the eventual story: "Now to an interesting question that has surfaced about one of this country's most revered Presidents nearly 150 years later. Was Abraham Lincoln gay?" That story included those who don't buy the idea, but also featured gay activist Larry Kramer who used the opportunity to trash modern Republicans: "Hateful people who hate us, who belong to his party will leave us alone now for awhile out of deference to their founder who is one of us now more than he is one of them."

     Earlier, in delivering the eighth plug for the segment, and so maybe growing tired of it, Curry, to guffaws from the rest of the Today cast, had mistakenly asserted that the new book "claims that President Clinton may have been gay."

     The NBC story aired on Today, by Bob Faw, featured a shot of what inspired it: A review of the book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by the late C.A. Tripp, in Sunday's New York Times "Book Review" section. For that review, with a photo of Tripp: www.nytimes.com

     The cover of this week's Weekly Standard (January 17 issue) dismissed the book as "dishonest." Inside, Philip Nobile decided: "The Gay Lincoln Theory fails any historical test. 'Useful history' is always a dubious kind of scholarship. But in its attempt to be useful for gays today, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln reaches far beyond the merely dubious. The book is a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized..." For the review in full: www.weeklystandard.com

     Back to Tuesday's Today, the MRC's Geoff Dickens took down the program's series of teases for the story which eventually ran at about 9:45am:

     -- 7:30am, Katie Couric: "And still ahead was Honest Abe hiding a big secret? A new book is making a very shocking claim about former President Lincoln, that he was actually gay. We'll have much more a little bit later including the impact that this might have on politics today."

     -- Later in the half hour, Couric: "Still ahead we'll tell you about new speculation that former President Abraham Lincoln was gay."

     -- 8am, Couric: "And later a new book claims Honest Abe Lincoln was hiding a big secret."

     -- 8:25am, Couric: "And coming up in our next half hour was former President Lincoln gay? We're gonna find out what one author thinks but first your local news."

     -- 8:30am, Couric outside with Lester Holt: "Coming up: He's famous, of course, as 'Honest Abe,' but was former President Abraham Lincoln not completely honest when it came to his sexuality? We're going to tell you about a shocking new book that speculates about a particular relationship Abraham Lincoln had with a gentleman."

     -- 9am, Couric: "Plus we're going to be talking with the author of a new book that claims one past President may have led an alternative lifestyle."
     Al Roker, mimicking a Seinfeld line: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
     Couric: "Exactly!"
    
     -- A bit later, Couric: "And still to come this morning on Today."
     Holt: "Was Abraham Lincoln actually gay? We'll open the book on the latest controversy."

     -- 9:30am, entire Today crew on the couch:
     Curry: "Also ahead a controversial new book is out today that may be trying to re-write American history. In it sex researcher C.A. Tripp is, claims that President Clinton may have been gay."
     Couric: "No, no, no, Lincoln."
     Al Roker: "President Lincoln."
     Curry: "Lincoln, President Lincoln!"
     [Laughter]
     Roker: "Wow!"
     Curry: "Never have a woman come back from, I am so jet lagged!"
     Roker: "Wow!"
     Curry: "President Lincoln may have been gay."
     Couric: "Hillary's on the phone for you."
     Curry: "So sorry. Mr. Clinton I'm so sorry, purely mistaken, not being able to-"
     Roker: "And suddenly we're not sure about Ulysses S. Grant either."

     -- At the end of the first 9:30am half hour segment, Al Roker: "And coming up next a new political scandal? Who was Abraham Lincoln sleeping with? Ooh. We'll find out."

     Finally, at about 9:45am, Today got to their much-plugged story. Ann Curry announced: "Now to an interesting question that has surfaced about one of this country's most revered Presidents nearly 150 years later. Was Abraham Lincoln gay? Here's NBC's Bob Faw."

     Faw, over video of the Lincoln Memorial: "Majestic, revered, Abraham Lincoln was also gay or so argues a new book by the late sex researcher, C.A. Tripp, himself gay."
     Jean Baker, Goucher College: "He's able to see things that perhaps straight historians couldn't or wouldn't, perhaps."
     Faw: "Goucher College historian Jean Baker, who wrote the book's introduction, admits that Tripp's evidence is inferential. Example: Three documents written in Lincoln's time noting that when Mrs. Lincoln was away Lincoln shared his White House bed with his military guard Captain David Derrickson."
     Baker: "One must say that there is no other President who has ever been found in bed with one of the guards. One of the, I suppose in our century, the Secret Service and wearing his nightshirt."
     Faw: "Evidence: For four years Lincoln not only shared a bed in Springfield, Illinois with handsome store owner Joshua Speed, his letters to Speed gush."
     Baker: "And he signs this letter, 'Yours forever.' That, that I think is quite compelling."
     [still shot of pictures of two men with "Dear Speed" and "Yours forever, A. Lincoln" on screen]
     Faw: "But other historians say it is not compelling at all, that flowery language was customary back then and that men sleeping together is not quite what it seems."
     Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian: "Sharing a bed at that time was an absolutely common practice at a time when private quarters were really a rare luxury."
     Faw, over shot of New York Times Book Review headline, "was Lincoln Gay?": "The book isn't just getting attention it's also energizing the gay rights movement."
     Larry Kramer, Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University: "Hateful people who hate us, who belong to his party will leave us alone now for awhile out of deference to their founder who is one of us now more than he is one of them."
     Faw: "Historians agree the debate sheds new light on Lincoln's complex personality."
     Baker: "It helps me understand how this package emerges that is A. Lincoln, our greatest President."
     Faw: "Because of what Lincoln did, not who he was."
     Goodwin: "What ever one thinks about Lincoln's sexuality it should have absolutely no effect on his place in history."
     Faw: "19th century history with a new perspective from the 21st. For Today, Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington."

     Amazon's page for The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln published by the Free Press: www.amazon.com

 

USA Today Story Frets Democrats Don't
"Fight Back" in Campaigns

     Democrats "don't have the stomach" to "assail the character" of Republicans and so fail to "fight back" when under attack? So maintained USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence in a January 10 "news analysis" piece, "Character issue puts Dems on the defensive." The subhead: "Party's presidential candidates have not found a way to turn attacks around on GOP, which some say must be done to have a chance in '08."

     The article, on page 8A, was illustrated by two photos meant to paint Democrats as victims of inaccurate attacks. One showed two people in "Flip" and "Flop" outfits. The caption, "Stamping an image: Republican protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July play off John Kerry's reputation as a 'flip-flopper.' By the time Kerry's campaign responded, the image had taken hold."

     The second photo was a still shot of the TV ad with video of a sail-boarding John Kerry changing directions with "Support" and "Oppose" on opposite sides of the screen under the "Iraq War" heading. The caption, "Ad makes a splash: The Republicans used an ad showing John Kerry windsurfing to contend that he was always shifting his positions."

     An excerpt from the top of Lawrence's story:

Imagine a Democratic presidential candidate and his allies assailing the character of the Republican nominee in ads and speeches every day for eight months.

Having trouble? That's because Democrats generally don't have the stomach or the discipline to do it. Often they don't even effectively fight back when under attack themselves.

But with George W. Bush's second inauguration next week, Democrats are pondering their choices in a Feb. 12 election for party chairman and rethinking what might be called their character problem.

Democrats "as a group are uneasy" about attacking and defending on character, says Harold Ickes, a former Clinton aide who heads the Media Fund, a political ad organization. "But they damn well better get the stomach," he adds, because "we've seen way too many of our candidates taken down on issues of character."

In the past five presidential races, the only Democrat to win was the one who avoided the draft and admitted on TV to "causing pain" in his marriage. The other three nominees were military veterans with solid marriages and public records. Yet their opponents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush managed to brand them as unpatriotic (Michael Dukakis, the "card-carrying" member of the ACLU), untruthful (Al Gore, the "serial exaggerator") and unprincipled and weak (Kerry, the "flip-flopper" who couldn't be trusted to keep the nation safe). All are variations on a theme: These men have character flaws that disqualify them for the White House.

"We were caught off-guard by this perennial Republican attack-dog mentality," says Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a potential 2008 presidential candidate, reflecting on 2004. "We've got to find ways to develop our own."...

     END of Excerpt

     Reacting to Lawrence's theme, James Taranto on his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com, called it "the most laughably partisan piece of reporting we've seen since the election." Taranto commented in his January 11 column:
     "It seems Jill Lawrence was in Bhutan all last year when the Democrats were busy calling President Bush a liar, a moron, a coward, a military deserter, a puppet of Dick Cheney and the Jews, and another Hitler. What are they going to say if they 'get the stomach' to wage character attacks -- that he's the original Hitler?
     "This is the sort of thing that drives conservatives crazy, but it actually illustrates why the liberal media are the Republicans' secret weapon. The Democrats are the victim of their own con game. They put out the most outrageous spin, which reporters like Lawrence dutifully regurgitate, and then Dems believe it because, hey, the 'objective' media have reported it! It's as if Communist Party functionaries actually believed what was 'reported' in the old Pravda."

     For Taranto's daily reports: www.opinionjournal.com

     For Lawrence's USA Today article in full: www.usatoday.com

 

NPR: Rumsfeld Aims to Kill "Alien Artists
and Hollywood Actors"

     If you listen to a commercial radio station as you make your way home from work, you're quite unlikely to hear a news commentary suggesting, say, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chose to stage a military practice exercise in New Orleans because many "foreign artists" and "Hollywood actors" were in town. You may not be surprised, however, to learn that this past Friday, National Public Radio aired just such a segment.

     [Tom Johnson, who monitors NPR for the MRC, filed this item for CyberAlert.]

     Andrei Codrescu, a longtime commentator for NPR's afternoon drive-time program, All Things Considered, is one of that network's loosest cannons. On an ATC broadcast less than a week before Christmas 1995, Codrescu opined that "the evaporation of four million" Christians who believe in the doctrine of the Rapture "would leave the world an instantly better place."

     That may forever stand as Codrescu's most offensive utterance, but last Friday's goofy blast at Rumsfeld and the U.S. military certainly is worthy of note. Codrescu, a professor of literature at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, is a part-time resident of New Orleans, a city which recently "came under attack by military helicopters, armed rivercraft, and super-soldiers. I nearly had a heart attack...The choppers flew low enough to look like they were going to take out the Huey Long Bridge, then vanished, just like that." The activity, it transpired, was "a major military exercise on how to fight urban guerrilla war."

     Why, Codrescu wondered, did the exercise take place in the Crescent City? "Because," he asserted, "the brass in the Pentagon think that New Orleans is the closest to a foreign city we have here in the U.S., that in fact [it] resembles Beirut or Tehran a lot more than it does Cleveland or Phoenix. Good choice, boys. The only trouble is that our buildings are old and fragile and bound to collapse from just the vibrations of war machines." He added, "I'm convinced that all of us were screaming when we were being used for target practice, but the newspaper only heard a few complaints. Well, duh. When people are screaming, they aren't writing letters to public officials. That comes later."

     Codrescu shifted into a higher polemical gear as his commentary neared its end: "The large number of foreign artists who live here may partly account for the Army's display of might. Maybe it [wasn't] only an exercise, but actual urban warfare, and maybe we're all dead. Lately, also, New Orleans has been invaded by Hollywood, and the city's being turned into the biggest [film] set east of the Rockies. There are movie stars everywhere you look, most of them still upset that Bush won. Just think about the kind of high-value target we have suddenly become. Rumsfeld's army can kill two enemy birds with one stone: alien artists and Hollywood actors. I'm sure that we are dead."

     This wasn't Codrescu's first Pentagon-bashing effort. For a CyberAlert item that deals in part with a September 1, 2004 ATC commentary in which Codrescu likened Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to a werewolf, see: www.mrc.org

     For Codrescu on the Rapture, remarks that were first runner-up for Quote of the Year in The Best Notable Quotables of 1996, see: www.mediaresearch.org

     For Codrescu's NPR bio, with a photo of him, see: www.npr.org

 

Letterman's "Top Ten Proposed Changes
at CBS News"

     From the January 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Proposed Changes at CBS News." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Stories must be corroborated by at least two really strong hunches.

9. "Evening News" pre-show staff cocktail hour is cancelled until further notice.

8. Reduce "60 Minutes" to more manageable 15-20 minutes.

7. Change division name from "CBS News" to "CBS News-ish"

6. If anchor says anything inaccurate, earpiece delivers an electric shock.

5. Conclude each story with comical "Boing" sound effect.

4. Instead of boring Middle East reports, more Powerball drawings.

3. To play it safe, every "exclusive" story will be about how tasty pecan pie is.

2. Not sure how, but make CBS News more like "C.S.I."

1. Use beer, cash and hookers to lure Tom Brokaw out of retirement.


     #10 would make a nice improvement to the accuracy of CBS News and I'd enjoy seeing #6 a few times.


-- Brent Baker

 


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