Appearance Alert!
MRC Research Director Rich Noyes on Fox Business Network at 5:55 p.m. ET

ABC Blames Fear of Conservatives for Blocking Pro-Inclusion Ad --12/3/2004


1. ABC Blames Fear of Conservatives for Blocking Pro-Inclusion Ad
The left-wing United Church of Christ (UCC) put out a press release complaining about how their ad denigrating other churches, which showed bouncers, in front of a church, turning away a gay couple, a Hispanic man, a black woman and a guy in a wheelchair, was rejected by the three biggest broadcast networks, and ABC jumped to the church's defense without, of course, mentioning the church's ideology while repeatedly referring to "Christian conservatives." Peter Jennings seem befuddled by why anyone would oppose the ad: "Why do the major networks refuse to run an ad by a church that welcomes gays and lesbians?" Jennings described the UCC in the most benign terms: "It affirms the belief that Christians did not always have to agree in order to live together in communion." Dean Harris asserted that "both church leaders and First Amendment lawyers say they suspect what's motivating the networks here is fear of Christian conservatives." A professor then ominously warned about "the power of the right in America to chill and deter free speech." In the morning on Thursday, Diane Sawyer cued up a UCC representative to explain the ad's purpose while an exasperated Sawyer challenged an opponent's position.

2. Couric: Criticism of Annan "Payback" for Him Opposing Iraq War?
Prompted by Senator Norm Coleman's call for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign over the swindling of the UN Food for Oil program with Iraq, the broadcast networks on Wednesday night and Thursday morning finally touched on a building scandal long covered by FNC. But interviewing Coleman on Thursday's Today, Katie Couric treated him as the one with a position in need of defense. She told him: "It's been reported that three thousand UN staff members signed an email saying the accusations against the United Nations were quote, 'made without full knowledge of the facts.'" And she suggested a nefarious motivation: "Is your call for...Secretary General's resignation politically motivated in any way and is this payback for the fact that Kofi Annan criticized the war in Iraq before the election?"

3. CNN's Schneider Sees Vietnam-Like "Backlash" at GOP Over Iraq
More than six weeks before President Bush will be inaugurated for his second term, CNN's Bill Schneider recalled Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam in warning Bush could face a "backlash" over Iraq just as Johnson did over Vietnam. Schneider reminded viewers how "escalation was disastrous in Vietnam," charged that "it looms as a serious political danger for President Bush and for his party" and, he predicted, "it could manifest itself in the midterm election with a backlash against the Republican Party, and of course it could manifest itself in 2008." Schneider helpfully recalled: "Being re-elected, even by a handsome majority, as Lyndon Johnson found out after 1964, doesn't prevent a serious backlash from setting in that he faced over Vietnam."

4. Williams Insists Nightly News "Mirrors the Country it Covers"
The morning of his debut as the permanent anchor of the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams insisted on Today that, thanks to Tom Brokaw, the newscast "skews to middle America. It calls balls and strikes right down the middle" and the program "mirrors the country it covers."


ABC Blames Fear of Conservatives for
Blocking Pro-Inclusion Ad

The left-wing United Church of Christ (UCC) put out a press release complaining about how their ad denigrating other churches, which showed bouncers, in front of a church, turning away a gay couple, a Hispanic man, a black woman and a guy in a wheelchair, was rejected by the three biggest broadcast networks, and ABC jumped to the church's defense without, of course, mentioning the church's ideology while repeatedly referring to "Christian conservatives." Peter Jennings seem befuddled by why anyone would oppose the ad: "Why do the major networks refuse to run an ad by a church that welcomes gays and lesbians?" Jennings described the UCC in the most benign terms: "It affirms the belief that Christians did not always have to agree in order to live together in communion. And the church very publicly yesterday asked why the major television networks won't run an ad in which the church makes the point that everyone is welcome."

Dean Harris asserted that "both church leaders and First Amendment lawyers say they suspect what's motivating the networks here is fear of Christian conservatives." A professor then ominously warned about "the power of the right in America to chill and deter free speech."

Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer In the morning on Thursday, Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer cued up a UCC representative to explain the ad's purpose while an exasperated Sawyer challenged an opponent's position: "A lot of people have argued that Jesus himself included women in a shocking way, he associated with prostitutes at the time -- it was a shocking idea. What's wrong with this ad?"

Some cable shows on Thursday picked up on the controversy, including MSNBC's Hardball and FNC's Hannity & Colmes. A Thursday Washington Post story spun in favor of the UCC: "CBS, NBC Turn Down United Church of Christ's Ad Touting Its Inclusiveness." For the December 2 Post story: www.washingtonpost.com

ABC won't air it either, but will run it on its ABC Family cable channel, and Fox and a bunch of cable channels have accepted it.

The networks regularly reject ads they deem "too controversial," and many conservatives would agree that they should carry the UCC ad as well as others ads on public policy matters, but the bias from ABC News comes in considering the rejection of this anti-conservative ad to be so newsworthy and blaming "Christian conservatives," not the networks, for suppressing free speech.

ABC The TV ad opens with a scene of bouncers, white men with buzz cuts and wearing black T-shirts, standing in front of church steps with a rope line as they say, "No, step aside please" to two apparently gay white men, allow a white family to pass, say "no way, not you" to a Hispanic man, say "I don't think so" to Hispanic woman and "no" to guy in wheelchair as they hold up their hands in front of him. Then, over upbeat music, this text on screen: "Jesus didn't turn people away," followed by "Neither do we." An announcer over happy shots of people of various races and sexual orientations: "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

To view the ad and the UCC's press releases about it: www.stillspeaking.com

As taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, Jennings introduced the December 2 World News Tonight story:
"We're going to take 'A Closer Look' this evening at what appears to be another battle in the culture wars. The United Church of Christ was founded in 1957 as the union of several different Christian traditions. It affirms the belief that Christians did not always have to agree in order to live together in communion. And the church very publicly yesterday asked why the major television networks won't run an ad in which the church makes the point that everyone is welcome. We asked ABC's Dan Harris to look further."
Bouncer in ad: "No. Step aside, please."
ABC's Dan Harris Dan Harris: "In the ad, bouncers man a velvet rope outside an unnamed church."
Bouncer: "Not you."
Harris: "Turning away gays, a Latino, a black girl and a handicapped man."
Clip of ad: "The United Church of Christ, no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."
Harris: "The President of the church says he's just trying to extend an extravagant welcome to those who feel excluded elsewhere."
Professor John Thomas, President of the United Church of Christ: "We're simply offering a basic message: Jesus never turned anyone away. Neither do we."
Harris: "But all three major networks are refusing to run the ad. ABC, as a matter of policy, doesn't air religious ads. NBC, in a letter to the church, called the ad 'too controversial.' And CBS told the church, 'Because the commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples' and because the President recently came out in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, 'this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the networks.' The head of the church points out that the spot makes no mention of gay marriage. Both church leaders and First Amendment lawyers say they suspect what's motivating the networks here is fear of Christian conservatives."
Professor Peter Rubin, Georgetown University Law Center: "I think that the power of the right in America to chill and deter free speech is as effective as governmental censorship."
Harris: "It is true that many Christian conservatives find the ad offensive. They say it falsely implies that they turn people away from their churches. Further, they say it sends a message that homosexuality, which they consider a sin, should be accepted."
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "The church is made up by sinners saved by grace, not sinners who obstinately say I'm going to continue in my sin because I love it."
Harris concluded with another warning: "There is some debate among Christian conservatives about whether the networks should ban the ad. As one leading evangelical said, 'If they restrict them today, they'll restrict us tomorrow.' Dan Harris, ABC News, New York."

In the morning, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, GMA devoted a 7:30am half hour segment to the subject. Diane Sawyer announced: "Let's tackle now a commercial that is sparking major controversy. It's for the United Church of Christ, and the television networks are refusing to run it. The ad briefly shows a gay couple -- and you're going to take a close look at this at the top and you'll see it there -- and NBC and CBS say they've rejected the ad because of a long-standing policy of not running commercials that take sides on controversial issues. ABC has a policy of not running religious ads, so it's a bit different. But right now, we'll begin by taking a look at the ad."

After running the entire ad, Sawyer continued: "Now, the ad, by the way, has been accepted for broadcast by a number of cable channels. Joining us now from Washington, the Reverend Robert Chase, director of communications for the United Church of Christ, which put the ad on the air, and from Louisville, Kentucky, the Reverend R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who does object to this ad big time. Let's begin with you, if I can, Reverend Chase. What's the point of doing this ad? What are you trying to get done?"
Rev. Chase: "Well, this ad grows out of a two-year effort, Diane, within our church...and what we're trying to say is you're welcome here, no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey."
Sawyer: "So you're trying to recruit the people who have not been coming to church. Let's go to you Doctor Mohler, because what is wrong with that? A lot of people have argued that Jesus himself included women in a shocking way, he associated with prostitutes at the time -- it was a shocking idea. What's wrong with this ad?"
Dr. Albert Mohler: "Well, in the first place, it's a piece of masterful propaganda, but it's a diabolical misrepresentation of Christianity, and Jesus Christ did indeed come to seek and to save the lost, but as he said to the woman caught in adultery, 'go and sin no more.' He did not invite persons to stay in a sinful lifestyle. Rather, he came to save us from our sins and to make us what we otherwise could not be, and that is victorious over all the sins that entrap us. Homosexuality is just one of those, but certainly the one addressed in this commercial."
Sawyer: "Well, first of all, let me just say this, are you saying that you don't want gays in your church?"
Dr. Mohler: "No, our church is made up, like every true church, of sinners saved by grace, but we are not to be left in our sin, but are to come out of what the Scripture clearly identifies as sin. The apostle Paul spoke to the church at Corinth listing things, including homosexuality, and said 'such were some of you.' We're all sinners, but we cannot remain in our sin and we can't just bless a lifestyle by saying 'we accept it' when the Scripture clearly condemns it as sin."
Sawyer: "Reverend Chase?"
Rev. Chase: "Clearly allegorical" since no churches have bouncers.
Sawyer: "Doctor Mohler, didn't Jesus reserve his worst anger for the money-changers? Are money-changers also not welcome in the church?"
Dr. Mohler: "Well, they would not be welcome to remain as money-changers any more than Jesus would just bless any kind of sin...." Homosexuals welcome, but to hear word of God.
Sawyer: "Reverend Chase, surprised that the networks turned this down? That is to say, NBC and CBS, and ABC, I believe, is going to run the ad on the family channel."
Rev. Chase: Yes, ad ran last Spring in six test markets.

Couric: Criticism of Annan "Payback"
for Him Opposing Iraq War?

NBC's Katie Couric & Senator Norm Coleman Prompted by Senator Norm Coleman's call for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign over the swindling of the UN Oil for Food program with Iraq, the broadcast networks on Wednesday night and Thursday morning finally touched on a building scandal long covered by FNC. But interviewing Coleman on Thursday's Today, Katie Couric treated him as the one with a position in need of defense. She told him: "It's been reported that three thousand UN staff members signed an email saying the accusations against the United Nations were quote, 'made without full knowledge of the facts.'" And she suggested a nefarious motivation: "Is your call for...Secretary General's resignation politically motivated in any way and is this payback for the fact that Kofi Annan criticized the war in Iraq before the election?" FoxNews.com posted a piece, by the MRC's Tim Graham, about the lack of interest, in the scandal, by the broadcast networks.

# The MRC's Geoff Dickens took down Couric's questions, on the December 2 Today, to Republican Senator Norm Coleman, who appeared from St. Paul. She set up the session: "On Close Up this morning United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan under fire. Republican Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota is calling on him to resign because of what he calls widespread corruption in the UN-monitored oil for food program in Iraq. Senator Coleman good morning to you."

Couric's mostly antagonistic questions:

-- "Why do you think it's necessary or why have or why do you feel it's been necessary for you to come forward and call for Kofi Annan's resignation?"

-- "And in fact in your editorial in the Wall Street Journal Senator you mention quote, 'bribes, kickbacks and under-the-table payments that took place under the UN's collective nose.' As head of the Senate committee investigating the scandal what, specifically, did you find that, that Kofi Annan or other officials at the UN did or didn't do that has prompted you to call for his resignation?"

-- "But Senator Coleman isn't the key word you use, 'accuse?' Kofi Annan did appoint Paul Volker the former chairman of the Federal Reserve to investigate this. Why not wait until Paul Volker has completed his investigation?"

-- "I know that you've said that you believe because Saddam Hussein wasn't carefully monitored in terms of what he was doing with this oil for food program money that he was never held accountable by the United Nations that he remained financially strong and powerful and that the United States had no choice but to invade Iraq. Are you indirectly blaming Kofi Annan and the United Nations for the war in Iraq?"
Coleman: Read Dulfer's report, Hussein strengthened, some nations benefitted from abuse, UN Security Council never would have acted.

-- "Senator Coleman why isn't the White House and the State Department supporting your call for this resignation?"
Coleman: They are supporting getting to bottom of this, but need UN for Iraqi election.

-- "At the same, at the same time Senator it's been reported that three thousand UN staff members signed an email saying the accusations against the United Nations were quote, 'made without full knowledge of the facts.' What's your response to that?"
Coleman: No one disputes billions ripped off, question is how high up did fraud go in UN.

-- "Senator we only have a few seconds left but at least one Washington official said this administration has been reluctant to defend Kofi Annan because there is some quote, 'irritation with Annan over Iraq.' Is your call for the Secretary's, Secretary General's resignation politically motivated in any way and is this payback for the fact that Kofi Annan criticized the war in Iraq before the election?"
Coleman: "Absolutely not."


# FoxNews.com has posted an analysis piece by the MRC's Tim Graham, "Oil-for-Food Blackout," which documented the lack of interest, by the broadcast networks, in the scandal. To read it online, on the "Fox Fan" page: www.foxnews.com

A reprint of the December 2 article:

The national media usually presents themselves as dedicated debunkers of every item of political pomposity, ready to milk the ratings out of exposing every sacred cow. But that has never been true of its coverage of the U.N., which represents for liberals the deeply idealistic notion of a harmonic convergence of governments, united to saving the world for humanitarian ends. Some news media may attempt to force the unfolding reality that the U.N. is deeply corrupt, but that would not include America's liberal media elite.

In April, September and November, investigative reports revealed an increasingly massive scandal, involving billions of dollars (now estimated at over $20 billion), Saddam Hussein was able to steal from under the nose of the U.N. officials managing the Oil-for-Food program. This might seem like a big news story in an election year in which John Kerry's stump speech constantly pounded on the need for greater multilateralism and greater American deference to the wishes of the U.N. bureaucracy. So how many stories did the Big Three networks air from January 1 to November 2? NBC was the leader, with three stories. ABC had one, on April 21, the day the U.N. announced its own internal probe into the scandal. CBS did not air one story.

Despite nine ongoing probes, the network watchdogs barked after anti-Bush angles. ABC, CBS, and NBC combined for more than 75 stories on George W. Bush's National Guard service, more than 50 stories on "skyrocketing" gasoline prices, and hundreds on prison abuse at Abu Ghraib. After liberal media stars denounced American allies as "the coalition of the bribed," where were they on the U.N.'s bribery scam?

Unfortunately, that same pattern continued after the election, even as Congress spoke out and held hearings. On November 30, CBS did its first story, a strange report which began with Dan Rather introducing the Oil-for-Food fiasco as an "alleged scandal." Is Dan trying to say that Saddam bilking the U.N. for billions should be seen as an acceptable method of international business?

Some news outlets, from the Wall Street Journal to Fox News, have taken the story more seriously and dug in deeply. But they have been dismissed by other journalists as partisan, eager to make trouble for the U.N. Shouldn't so-called hard-bitten journalistic debunkers who revere the ideal of a functional U.N. be the most outraged by a corrupt bureaucracy that mocks the ideal?

END of Reprint

CNN's Schneider Sees Vietnam-Like "Backlash"
at GOP Over Iraq

CNN's Bill Schneider More than six weeks before President Bush will be inaugurated for his second term, CNN's Bill Schneider recalled Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam in warning Bush could face a "backlash" over Iraq just as Johnson did over Vietnam. Schneider reminded viewers how "escalation was disastrous in Vietnam," charged that "it looms as a serious political danger for President Bush and for his party" and, he predicted, "it could manifest itself in the midterm election with a backlash against the Republican Party, and of course it could manifest itself in 2008." Schneider helpfully recalled: "Being re-elected, even by a handsome majority, as Lyndon Johnson found out after 1964, doesn't prevent a serious backlash from setting in that he faced over Vietnam."

Schneider's comments, caught by the MRC's Ken Shepherd, came at the end of a Tuesday piece on Inside Politics about the implications of rising casualties in Iraq and of more troops going in. Anchor Judy Woodruff introduced the December 2 analysis: "Now we turn back to Iraq politics at a time when U.S. troop strength and casualties are on the rise. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider considers the fallout for President Bush in the days ahead and in the November election."

Schneider began: "More U.S. troops in Iraq, at least through the January 30th election, at a time when the insurgency in Iraq is becoming more dangerous. The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq increased sharply in November, matching April for the highest monthly total this year. It looks like 'escalation,' a scary word from the Vietnam era. Could it have political consequences?"
President George W. Bush: "We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to be -- stay in place for four more years."
Schneider: "Whether or not the presidential vote amounted to an endorsement of President Bush's Iraq policy is a matter of debate."
Tony Fabrizio, Republican strategist: "You know, you have 53 or 54 percent that approve of the decision to go into Iraq. And the President garnering well over 90 percent of those people supporting that decision."
Schneider: "Researchers at the University of California have found that casualties in Iraq took away from President Bush's support."
Edward Miguel, University of California-Berkeley: "Our research shows that in states where people were really paying a human cost for the war in Iraq, where there are war dead, war casualties, war injuries, he lost support."
Schneider: "As a result of news reports like this."
Unidentified local female TV reporter in story for her station: "Monroe is the quintessential small town, the kind of place where just last Thursday a local Marine coming homemade front-page news. Today, another Monroe Marine is also making front-page news, but this time his coming home is a different kind of story."
Schneider: "The California researchers found were it not for nearly 9,000 U.S. dead and wounded in Iraq, President Bush would have won approximately 2 percentage points more of the popular vote, carrying several additional states. In states that suffered high casualties, the idea of the war collided with the reality."
Unidentified male reporter for KTWO: "Another flag presented to another mother for another fallen Wyoming hero."
Schneider: "Iraq may have been politically costly for Bush, but not costly enough to defeat him."
Miguel: "Our statistical model suggests he won the election despite Iraq, not because of it."
Schneider: "A Republican researcher puts it this way:"
Fabrizio: "I think that even people who supported the President's position in Iraq have reservations about what will happen in Iraq."

The taped piece over, Schneider told Woodruff on set: "Escalation was disastrous in Vietnam. It looms as a serious political danger for President Bush and for his party."
Woodruff asked: "And quickly, Bill, how could that manifest itself, I mean, he's re-elected now?"
Schneider warned: "He is re-elected. It could manifest itself in the midterm election with a backlash against the Republican Party, and of course it could manifest itself in 2008. Being re-elected, even by a handsome majority, as Lyndon Johnson found out after 1964, doesn't prevent a serious backlash from setting in that he faced over Vietnam."
Woodruff: "Bill Schneider, thank you very much."

Williams Insists Nightly News "Mirrors
the Country it Covers"

Lester Holt & NBC's Brian Williams The morning of his debut as the permanent anchor of the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams insisted on Today that, thanks to Tom Brokaw, the newscast "skews to middle America. It calls balls and strikes right down the middle" and the program "mirrors the country it covers."

An exchange during an interview, conducted by Lester Holt, taped at the NBC Nightly News set and played back during the 7:30am half hour of Thursday's Today:

Holt: "But is it same show that Tom walked into 21 years ago?"
Williams: "I'd like to think so. Tom has made it the most popular in America and I think because it kind of skews to middle America. It calls balls and strikes right down the middle. I think it's probably the best half hour recitation, look back at the events of the day. I think it mirrors the country it covers."

Don't mirrors invert reality, so left is on the right and right is on the left?


-- Brent Baker