ABC Defends "Kerry's Distinguished War Record," CBS Skips Topic --4/22/2004
2. Stahl Regrets Not Trusting Saddam on WMD as She Did on al-Qaeda
3. Greenspan Upbeat on Economy, CBS & NBC Note It, But ABC Downbeat
4. Brokaw Reads Short Item on Corruption in UN's "Oil for Food"
5. Dallas Morning News Urges Journalists to Admit Liberal Bias
A lot more skeptical of Bush than Kerry on Vietnam-era service. Back on February 10, when the White House, in reaction to Terry McAuliffe's uncorroborated claim that George W. Bush was "AWOL" from the National Guard in the early 1970s, released his military records, the networks stressed how they only "raise more questions." But with Kerry, the networks ignored for a week questions raised last week in the Boston Globe about whether he deserved one of his Purple Hearts, and then prompted by Kerry's release of his records finally got to the story on Wednesday, but were satisfied with the records despite the lack of documentation for his first Purple Heart.
"We'll take 'A Closer Look' tonight at John Kerry's distinguished war record," ABC anchor Charles Gibson promised Wednesday night in stating as fact a claim that is in dispute. Gibson then shifted the burden to Kerry's critics: "His opponents are trying hard to use it against him."
In the subsequent story, Dan Harris spent less time on questions about Kerry's war time service than on gushing over his record. The entirety of Harris on questions about Kerry's record: "Some conservatives and fellow veterans have asked questions about the seriousness of the injuries for which Kerry received his first purple heart." But Harris soon effused: "One wonders why the campaign didn't release" the records "long ago. They show an officer who got glowing reviews from superiors. Quote, 'Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.'..."
In contrast, on the February 10 World News Tonight, Terry Moran insisted the records Bush released "do not prove" his service "and no witnesses have ever come forward to say they saw Mr. Bush performing military service in Alabama."
Moran challenged the White House's case: "The White House insists this matter is now closed. But given those gaps in the record, given the absence of any witnesses who could fill in those gaps and corroborate the President's recollection, and, Peter, given the fact that it is a campaign season, as you note, and there are plenty of Democrats who are only too happy to stoke this, the issue is not going to go away."
Back to Wednesday of this week, CNN and NBC aired stories, but not the CBS Evening News which continued to ignore the subject. (On February 10, Dan Rather asserted: "The White House did release some of what it called newly discovered documents today. But as CBS's John Roberts reports, it did not put the issue to rest.")
(On Thursday morning, the three broadcast network morning shows all ran stories on the release of the Kerry records, but not any guest interview segments as they did for the media-fueled Bush controversy.)
Excerpts from the Wednesday night, April 21, stories on NBC and CNN, followed by a full rundown of ABC's piece:
-- NBC Nightly News. Kelly O'Donnell began with how Kerry was greeted in Louisiana, earlier in the day, by veterans and hsi campaign plans to have veterans at every campaign stop from now on. She then noted how the tactic began as the "campaign comes under criticism for its sluggish pace releasing Kerry's military records as promised Sunday on Meet the Press."
Since the records were not put out on Monday, the Bush campaign "pounced" and that "fueled some critics who question the circumstances of one of Kerry's three Purple Hearts, awarded for battle injury. A third such honor allowed him to leave Vietnam."
O'Donnell explained: "Tonight, posted on Kerry's Web site, 150 pages of Navy records. Documents that support two Purple Hearts, showing Kerry was hit by shrapnel in February 1969 and again in March 1969. But the same paperwork does not appear for an earlier honor. The campaign says it only has a medic's 'treatment record' from December 1968, indicating Kerry was injured by shrapnel. The Web site does show documents for Kerry's bronze and silver stars."
She then moved on to new TV ads produced by both campaigns.
"But," she cautioned, "regarding his first Purple Heart, Kerry's military records don't specify his injuries or how he was wounded. One of his former commanding officers told the Boston Globe, he had questioned whether Kerry's boat had taken enemy fire. The campaign showed CNN what it called a 'sick call treatment record' from Kerry's personal files, describing a shrapnel wound to his left arm."
Wallace added: "The documents are filled with praise. One superior saying, 'in combat' Kerry 'was unsurpassed.'..."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. As noted above, anchor Charles Gibson plugged the upcoming segment: "We'll take 'A Closer Look' tonight at John Kerry's distinguished war record. His opponents are trying hard to use it against him."
Gibson introduced the subsequent story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In the presidential race today, Senator John Kerry launched a huge new advertising campaign. Many voters still do not know much about the likely Democratic nominee. The new ads are meant to fill in the blanks by introducing him and outlining his policies. Kerry also released military records today detailing his service during the Vietnam War. That service is a source of pride for Kerry, but it also has become the subject of controversy. Here's ABC's Dan Harris with tonight's 'Closer Look.'"
Harris began: "Arriving in New Orleans today, John Kerry, as often happens, was greeted by a group of veterans. Kerry's record as a decorated Vietnam Navy lieutenant is at the core of his candidacy."
With a picture of Kerry in uniform on the right side of the screen and on the left text changing with a big picture of Bronze Star, Harris asserted: "Now, Kerry is releasing hundreds of pages of documents. But one wonders why the campaign didn't release them long ago. They show an officer who got glowing reviews from superiors. Quote, 'Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.' Kerry earned a Bronze Star for saving a Green Beret knocked overboard in a river during a firefight. Quote, 'His arm bleeding and in pain and with disregard for his personal safety, he pulled the man aboard.' When Kerry was honorably discharged, his superior wrote, 'The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service.'
For the records posted on the Kerry campaign Web site: www.johnkerry.com
"Kerry faces questions over Purple Heart," announced the headline over the April 14 Boston Globe story by Michael Kranish which generated some cable attention at the time, but none from the broadcast networks. An excerpt from the top:
WASHINGTON -- John F. Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam, distinguished by Silver and Bronze stars and the close-range killing of an enemy fighter, is highlighted in his campaign ads and cheered on the trail. Even the campaign of President Bush, who did not see combat, hasn't tried to make an issue of his opponent's service record.
But as the presidential campaign heats up, some Vietnam veterans are using the Internet and talk radio to question the Democratic candidate's military record. They complain that Kerry's three Purple Hearts were for minor wounds and that he left Vietnam more than six months ahead of schedule under regulations permitting thrice-wounded soldiers to depart early.
A review by the Globe of Kerry's war record in preparation for a forthcoming book, "John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography," found that the young Navy officer acted heroically under fire, in one case saving the life of an Army lieutenant. But the examination also found that Kerry's commanding officer at the time questioned Kerry's first Purple Heart, which he earned for a wound received just two weeks after arriving in Vietnam.
"He had a little scratch on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel," recalled Kerry's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Grant Hibbard. "People in the office were saying, `I don't think we got any fire,' and there is a guy holding a little piece of shrapnel in his palm." Hibbard said he couldn't be certain whether Kerry actually came under fire on Dec. 2, 1968, the date in question and that is why he said he asked Kerry questions about the matter.
But Kerry persisted and, to his own "chagrin," Hibbard said, he dropped the matter. "I do remember some questions, some correspondence about it," Hibbard said. "I finally said, `OK, if that's what happened . . . do whatever you want.' After that, I don't know what happened. Obviously, he got it, I don't know how."
Kerry declined to talk to the Globe about the issue during the preparation of the Kerry biography. But his press secretary, Michael Meehan, noted that the Navy concluded that Kerry deserved the Purple Heart....
END of Excerpt
For the Globe story in full: www.boston.com
Previous CyberAlert items about coverage of Bush and the "AWOL" charge:
-- February 5 CyberAlert. "New questions have arisen about President Bush's military service record," Dan Rather declared on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, although the "questions" are not "new" since they were raised and dismissed in 1999 and 2000. CBS and NBC on Wednesday night picked up on DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe's unsubstantiated "AWOL" charge, and how the John Kerry campaign is fueling the allegations, but ignored how in 1992 Kerry himself took to the Senate floor to denounce those critical of Bill Clinton's efforts to avoid military service during the Vietnam era. Matching a theme of many cable news channel segments this week, both networks portrayed the attacks on Bush's personal military record of 30 years ago as a legitimate retort to questions about Kerry's professional policy positions on national security issues. See: www.mediaresearch.org
February 16 CyberAlert, four items:
# The White House's Friday afternoon release of additional records about President Bush's National Guard years didn't quiet the media which simply found more "unanswered questions" and complained about the late Friday timing. NBC's John Seigenthaler asserted: "Some political observers wonder whether the release of these new documents could raise more questions about the President's credibility." ABC's Geoff Morrell maintained that the document release "does not answer the fundamental question that has been dogging Mr. Bush: Did he report for duty in the Alabama National Guard between May and October 1972?" Peter Jennings whined to Terry Moran: "Terry, I have to note first that it comes very late on a Friday evening." CNN's Suzanne Malveaux recalled: "Document dumps like this one, of course, were so common in the Clinton administration..."
# CNN's Bill Schneider on Friday night awarded Democrats for their hounding of President Bush on AWOL charges, trumpeting how "the Democrats now have standing to play the military card and make it the 'Political Play of the Week.'" Schneider argued: "The issue may work this time not just because the Democrats have a war hero but because the Republicans have a war, an increasingly unpopular war and a President with a growing credibility problem coming out of that war."
# On Friday morning, as they had done on Thursday night, network stories and interview segments continued to feature book author James Moore and former Texas National Guard Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett, without bothering to note how Moore's book has a definite anti-Bush agenda on the Iraq war, how a Friday Boston Globe story undermined Burkett's claim that he witnessed efforts to "cleanse" Bush's National Guard records and how Burkett is a member of a left-wing group, Veterans for Peace, and last year wrote a disgruntled screed blaming George W. Bush for his health problems.
For those four CyberAlert articles: www.mediaresearch.org
Still left unexplored by the media, how on Sunday's Meet the Press Kerry conceded he was inaccurate in claiming that U.S. troops in Vietnam regularly committed "atrocities," though he stood by the claim that certain atrocities and inhumane practices were carried out.
On the April 18 Meet the Press, Tim Russert played a clip from Kerry's April 18, 1971 appearance on the show. Kerry had asserted: "There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals."
Back live, Russert challenged Kerry: "You committed atrocities?"
For the full transcript of the show, as posted by MSNBC.com: www.msnbc.msn.com
Lesley Stahl regrets doubting the honesty of Saddam Hussein and his minions on weapons of mass destruction, but not on having no ties to al-Qaeda, she asserted in a Wednesday night address she gave in Virginia Beach. Citing two 60 Minutes stories which cast doubt on Iraq's claim to have gotten rid of weapons of mass destruction, she described the pieces as "journalistic mistakes," according to a story in Thursday's Virginian-Pilot highlighted by Romenesko (www.poynter.org).
"Reporter regrets Iraq stories," read the headline over the April 22 story by reporter Kate Wiltrout about Stahl's comments to the Virginia Beach Forum, co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center Forum. An excerpt:
Lesley Stahl has had her share of journalistic triumphs in the 14 years she has traveled the world interviewing newsmakers for "60 Minutes."
But Wednesday night, the CBS news correspondent and "60 Minutes" co-editor also talked about work she's less proud of: two pre-Iraq war reports casting doubt on Saddam Hussein's claim to have rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
"I look on those two stories as mistakes, journalistic mistakes," Stahl told a crowd of about 1,000 gathered in the Princess Anne High School auditorium. "I made them, and I regret it."
Stahl described a trip to Iraq in October 2001, where she interviewed Iraqi officials, military leaders and scientists. They told her that Saddam had no ties to Osama bin Laden, that their secular Muslim country was just as much his enemy as the United States.
Stahl said she believed that.
They also told her that the country had gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction -- the continued possession of such weapons was later cited by President Bush as justification for a pre-emptive war.
Stahl didn't buy the Iraqis' claims. Her instincts, she said, told her they were lying. "I didn't believe anything the Iraqis were telling me about weapons of mass destruction," Stahl said. "Nobody believed their denials."...
George W. Bush reminds her of an earlier occupant of the White House. "I'm hearing echoes, not of his father's presidency, but of Ronald Reagan's," Stahl said.
Both convinced the nation they were "staying the course" even as they changed their positions, she said, citing Reagan's six tax hikes despite a pledge not to and now Bush's emphasis that the U.N. help out in Iraq.
Stahl said come November, Bush might be haunted by last year's appearance in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier, when he declared the end of major combat in Iraq. But it's way too soon to predict who will win the election, Stahl said....
Stahl fended off a question about for whom she would vote for president.
"You do know that news reporters have their opinions surgically removed," Stahl said. "I don't go there."
END of Excerpt
I'll assume that last line was sarcastic.
For the article in full: home.hamptonroads.com
Dour ABC. CBS's Anthony Mason on Wednesday night relayed how Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan told a congressional committee that "the economy is vigorous and robust" and NBC's Tom Brokaw reported how Greenspan maintained "the economic recovery now has good momentum and that employers will have no choice but to hire more workers soon." But ABC anchor Charles Gibson led his short item on a downbeat note: "At a congressional hearing today, a caution about interest rates."
ABC, CBS and NBC all ran short items Wednesday night about what Greenspan told the Joint Economic Committee:
-- CBS Evening News. Anthony Mason to Dan Rather: "Dan, the economy is vigorous and robust. That's what Alan Greenspan told Congress today. Fed watchers say the Chairman is gently getting us ready for a rate hike. The betting is it may come as early as August. Mortgage rates have already begun moving north..."
-- NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw: "The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, said today that the economic recovery now has good momentum and that employers will have no choice but to hire more workers soon. He also signaled that interest rates will have to rise at some point, although he did not say when."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson emphasized the negative: "At a congressional hearing today, a caution about interest rates. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the days of historically low interest rates are coming to an end. He said the economy is improving and that interest rates must rise at some point to keep inflation at bay."
Update on coverage of corruption in the UN's "Oil for Food" program with Iraq. As detailed in the April 21 CyberAlert, on Tuesday night ABC's World News Tonight ran a full story on the subject. Wednesday's Good Morning America, however, did not carry the Brian Ross story or touch on the subject and CBS ignored it in both the morning and evening on Wednesday.
NBC's Tom Brokaw, however, read a short item about it on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News:
CNN's Paula Zahn Now, I also noticed, did a segment on Wednesday night.
The April 21 CyberAlert recounted how Tuesday's World News Tonight explored an issue largely ignored by the broadcast media and barely touched in print, though FNC has devoted some attention to it: UN corruption in its "Food for Oil" program with Iraq in which Saddam Hussein allegedly kept much of the money for himself instead of using it to buy food for his people. With congressional hearings upcoming, this may soon get some widespread attention, but ABC's Brian Ross was first out of the box on it on a broadcast network as he reported how "U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABC News that at least three senior UN officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime to overlook the theft." See: www.mediaresearch.org
An editorial in a major newspaper earlier this week contended that "it's time that we in the Fourth Estate admit that liberal media bias isn't a figment of Rush Limbaugh's imagination." Texas Media Watch highlighted the editorial which appeared in Monday's Dallas Morning News.
An excerpt from the April 19 editorial, "Unvarnished Truth?: Perception of bias undermines media":
A recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that the public believes the news media are politically biased. So what else is new? Several things, actually, all of which bode ill for both journalism and democracy.
When the Pew Center did the same survey in 1987, a solid majority believed that election coverage was free of bias. Today, only 38 percent do -- including the usually high number of conservative skeptics but now, notably, more liberals than ever. Fewer Americans of whatever political stripe trust the media to give them political news straight....
It's time that we in the Fourth Estate admit that liberal media bias isn't a figment of Rush Limbaugh's imagination. Studies by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Knight Foundation have shown that, on average, journalists are much more politically and culturally liberal and secular than their readers.
Given such a wide disparity in worldview, it's unsurprising that readers and viewers -- that is to say, customers -- find our products to be a less reliable guide to political and cultural reality than we do. We must do a better job of providing balanced coverage and analysis....
END of Excerpt
For a rundown of several surveys on what political views the public sees in the media, check this section of the MRC's "Media Bias Basics" page: www.mediaresearch.org
# Janeane Garofalo is scheduled to appear tonight, Thursday, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
-- Brent Baker