ABC Exploits Kids and Crying Mom to Push Higher Health Spending --9/21/2007
2. ABC Again Refuses to Cover Hsu; CBS and NBC Offer Brief Updates
3. On MSNBC's Hardball, Laura Ingraham Knocks Out Chris Matthews
4. Covering Ground Zero Story, Only NBC Notices Iran's Terror Ties
5. Olbermann Derides 'Pissy Juvenile Blast,' Sees 'Military Junta'
CBS, and especially ABC, on Thursday night portrayed the debate over increasing federal spending on health insurance for children as an effort to help kids only the cold-hearted could oppose, a framing aided by scenes of cute toddlers, a crying mother and little emphasis on how those well above poverty would qualify. ABC anchor Charles Gibson overlooked the proposed expansion, to those in families who have or can afford private insurance, as he cited "a bill providing health insurance to millions of kids whose parents cannot afford private coverage."
Reporter Martha Raddatz found a poor mother to exploit, beginning her story: "Susan Dick depends on the so-called SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] program for her two sons, both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance, too high for Medicaid." Raddatz briefly noted Bush's fear many would move from private insurance to the government program and then, leading into a soundbite from liberal Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she hailed how "the expansion has bipartisan support across the country, including from many Republicans..." Capping her story, Raddatz featured a crying mother who sympathetically fretted: "If my boys don't have health insurance, it makes it very hard when you're a parent to know that they're sick and you have to get them to the doctor." Raddatz coldly concluded: "But the President made it very clear today, Charlie, he will veto this bill in its present form." CBS anchor Katie Couric also painted Bush as opposed to helping kids: "President Bush opened a news conference today by attacking a proposed expansion of a health care program for low-income children."
Unlike Raddatz, Jim Axelrod at least noted how "Bush wants a $5 billion increase in SCHIP funding over five years, 20 percent more than now" while "Congress wants to boost it $35 billion." In stark contrast to CBS's much more slanted August 1 story on SCHIP, Axelrod explained how Bush "says Democrats want to make millions more eligible who aren't poor," but Axelrod also brought out the usual "even Republicans" argument to paint conservatives as out of sync: "Even Republicans like Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley are calling on President Bush to compromise."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An August 2 CyberAlert article, "CBS Hails 'Landmark' and 'Historic' Federal Control of Health," recounted CBS's earlier use of kids to push for a major hike in federal spending and control:
The [August 1] CBS Evening News trumpeted two liberal efforts to expand government power, leading by heralding "landmark legislation" to have the FDA regulate cigarettes followed by a story slanted in favor of, as reporter Thalia Assuras described it, an "historic expansion of health care coverage for children" of the "working poor." Assuras, however, ignored such inconvenient facts as how a family of four with an income as high as $82,600 could get on the taxpayers' dole...
Couric introduced a look at "getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it." Assuras touted how a proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) "boosts funding by $50 billion over five years, almost doubling the number of uninsured kids covered from the current six million children to about 11 million." Sinking to the all too common media technique of exploiting a victim to push a liberal policy, Assuras cited "children like seven-year-old Pilar Edwards whose ear ache was so severe her mother brought her to this mobile medical clinic where she could get help even though Pilar is uninsured." Assuras did pass along how critics contend "the legislation is a slippery slope toward a universal health care plan," but against two negative soundbites, viewers heard from four advocates as Assuras concluded with a Senator's charge that "it would be a travesty if the President vetoed this legislation," followed by these final words from Assuras: "With kids caught in the middle." More like taxpayers.
For the entire August 2 CyberAlert item: www.mrc.org
That posting included an excerpt from a Heritage Foundation report which noted: "Under the bill, eligibility for government coverage would be extended to families with incomes up to 400 percent above the federal poverty level (FPL) -- $82,600 for a family of four -- hardly considered low-income by any reasonable standard. The House policy is transparently absurd: 89 percent of all children between 300 percent and 400 percent of the FPL are enrolled in private health insurance." See: www.heritage.org
On Wednesday, Heritage released a new analysis, "SCHIP and 'Crowd-Out': The High Cost of Expanding Eligibility," in which Paul L. Winfree and Greg D'Angelo reported:
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide transcripts of the September 20 ABC and CBS stories:
# ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: In Washington, a major battle has erupted between President Bush and Democrats over health care for children. At issue is a bill providing health insurance to millions of kids whose parents cannot afford private coverage. Democrats and some Republicans propose a program far more extensive than the President says he'll accept. Here's ABC's Martha Raddatz.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Susan Dick depends on the so-called SCHIP program for her two sons, both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance, too high for Medicaid.
KATIE COURIC: President Bush opened a news conference today by attacking a proposed expansion of a health care program for low-income children. He promised to veto Democratic legislation that would sharply increase the number of children who would qualify. Jim Axelrod has more.
CHRISTINE BRASSI, MOTHER: 5:30 this morning, she woke up with a fever.
CBS and NBC on Thursday night aired brief updates on how the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint against Norman Hsu, the captured fugitive Democratic/Hillary Clinton campaign donor, for bilking $60 million from investors -- but ABC was once again absent on the story. ABC's World News hasn't uttered Hsu's name since its one and only story the Friday night of Labor Day weekend while Thursday's mention was the fifth for NBC and fourth for CBS. (Coverage details below.) On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams read this very short item: "Norman Hsu, that Democratic fundraiser indicted today by federal prosecutors -- accusations of a massive Ponzi scheme. Hsu funneled a lot of money to Senator Clinton's campaign."
Over on the September 20 CBS Evening News, Katie Couric relayed a bit more expansively: "Serious new charges tonight against Norman Hsu, the so-called fugitive fundraiser who evaded authorities for 15 years before surrendering last month. Federal prosecutors are now accusing him of bilking investors out of $60 million and using some of it to make illegal donations to political campaigns, most notably, Hillary Clinton's. Senator Clinton has promised to return $850,000 donated by Hsu."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An excerpt from a September 21 Washington Post article, "Hsu Broke Election Laws, FBI Charges: Reimbursements, Threats Allegedly Used in Fundraising," by Matthew Mosk:
Prominent Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu violated federal election laws by reimbursing several donors for the political checks they wrote, and extracted campaign donations from others by threatening to cut their ties with a highly lucrative Ponzi scheme he oversaw, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department yesterday.
A federal fraud case that the U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District unsealed against Hsu suggests for the first time why he in a short period of time became one of the nation's most prolific bundlers of campaign funds. He passed $850,000 from multiple donors to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), a Democratic presidential candidate, and tens of thousands of dollars to other Democrats.
The 16-page complaint, signed by an FBI agent, says that Hsu "pressured victims" into making the contributions "in an effort to raise his public profile and thereby convince more victims to invest in his fraudulent investment scheme." That scheme defrauded people across the United States of more than $60 million, it says.
At a news conference in New York, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said that although the scheme's overall purpose was to support a "lavish lifestyle," Hsu gave money to political candidates in an apparent attempt "to purchase a place on the celebrity campaign circuit," the Associated Press reported.
Neither Hsu, his attorneys or a publicist he has hired replied directly to the government's allegations. Spokesman Robert Emmers said only that Hsu is eager, first, to dispense with the legal entanglements stemming from Hsu's 15-year-old guilty plea to theft charges in California that arose from a similar investment scheme.
Hsu was apprehended at a hospital in Colorado last week after he fled a warrant demanding that he serve a prison sentence from that conviction. Yesterday, he was returned to California under guard...
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
So far, including Thursday night September 20, the ABC and CBS evening newscasts have each run one full story on the Hsu scandal while NBC has aired two. CBS and NBC have aired three additional 20-second or so anchor-briefs. In sum, over the past three-plus weeks, that's two full stories on NBC, plus three brief updates; one full story and three brief items on CBS; and just one full story on ABC which hasn't mentioned Hsu on World News since Friday, August 31. The rundown:
# NBC Nightly News featured a full story, by Lisa Myers, on Thursday, August 30. See the August 31 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
# ABC and CBS caught up with full stories the next night, Friday, August 31. Check the September 4 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
# A week later, on Friday, September 7, CBS and NBC aired brief items on how Hsu was captured in Colorado after failing to appear for a bail hearing in California. For more, go to the September 10 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
# On Tuesday, September 11, the news that the Clinton campaign decided to refund the largest amount ever, $850,000 solicited by Hsu, led CBS's Katie Couric to give the development barely 20 seconds -- about half the time she devoted to the death of "Alex the Parrot" -- and NBC allocated 25 seconds, but only after a three-minute piece framed around how Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 image "stirs angry resentment." See the September 12 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
# Last Thursday, September 13, NBC Nightly News uniquely ran a full story on Hsu's court appearance following his capture in Colorado. Andrea Mitchell highlighted "new accusations" of "$73 million in alleged Ponzi schemes in California and New York," then asked: "So how did Clinton not know Hsu had been a fugitive for 15 years?" Check the September 14 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Sticking and moving like a prize fighter, talk show host and author Laura Ingraham, outnumbered in a three against one fight, took out not only Hardball host Chris Matthews but his colleague David Shuster and NBC News political director Chuck Todd, as well. On Thursday night's Hardball, Ingraham took Matthews to task for his outrageous claims about the Iraq war being about oil as she threw his past bias in his face: "What? What? Chris are, were you the one, the other night, correct me if I'm wrong, who said that we should hang Exxon and Mobil signs at, at Arlington National Cemetery?" Then Ingraham slapped down Matthews over his pessimistic view on the war: "Chris, I'm different from [where] you are on this. I actually have hope that goodness will prevail."
Ingraham, however, didn't pull any punches when it came to Shuster or Todd. The Power to the People author not only called Todd out on his "conventional wisdom" about the GOP presidential candidates, but after a typically slanted report from Shuster, Ingraham sarcastically noted: "First of all let me say my life is not complete without a David Shuster report on President Bush because those reports are always completely unbiased and completely just objective...So I love those. I love those."
[This item by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following is a blow-by-blow account of the exchanges as they occurred on the September 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
# ROUND 1:
Chris Matthews: "Laura, did the President find the sweet spot today by going after Moveon.org, in other words, this war is hard to sell but is it easier for him to trash Moveon.org in its ad making fun of Petraeus?"
# ROUND 2:
Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, talking about the anti-David Petraeus Moveon.org ad: "What's been interesting, though, with this is that all the Republican presidentials jumped on this and used this as a way of ducking of having to actually deal with the policy debate last week."
# ROUND 3:
Ingraham on Iraq: "Chris, I'm different from [where] you are on this. I actually have hope that goodness will prevail."
To read more about the Hardball segment Ingraham was referring to, in which Matthews suggested Exxon and Mobil signs should be placed over Arlington Cemetery, see the September 18 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
To see some of the biased David Shuster reports Ingraham referred to, check: www.mrc.org
For more on Laura Ingraham and her new book, Power to the People, visit: www.lauraingraham.com
On Thursday's morning shows and Wednesday's evening newscasts, CBS and ABC discussed a possible visit to Ground Zero by Iran's President and, at the same time, ignored Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's connections to terror and also his statements about wiping out Israel. On Good Morning America, Chris Cuomo briefly mentioned the upcoming U.S. trip and only cited construction at New York's Ground Zero and "security concerns" as reasons to deny the man a visit. On CBS's Early Show, reporter Russ Mitchell filed a similarly bland report. Neither mentioned that the Iranian leader in 2005 called for Israel to be wiped from the map or how Iran is a state supporter of terrorism.
CNN.com posting on Ahmadinejad's record: www.cnn.com
Only on NBC's Today did Ahmadinejad's extreme statements and actions warrant a reference. Reporter Andrea Mitchell labeled the attempted visit to Ground Zero a "PR stunt" and pointedly observed, "[Bush] administration officials called it appalling. Presidential candidates condemned the visit and one 9/11 widow said it's like letting Osama Bin Laden visit Ground Zero."
With a series of anchor briefs, Wednesday night's news broadcasts featured a similar pattern. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams proclaimed that the request had been rejected because of security and the fact that "Iran is, as the U.S. said today, among the world's leading sponsors of terrorism." However, ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson provided no reason at all. In a news brief, he simply asserted, "[Ahmadinejad] told New York police he'd like to visit Ground Zero. The New York City police department has said no." CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric didn't cover the subject at all. [CBS did on Thursday night and highlighted Ahmadinejad's support for terrorism.]
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A round up of the coverage on the evening of September 19 and morning of September 20:
# ABC's Good Morning America, Chris Cuomo: "Iran's president can all but cross a visit to New York's Ground Zero off his to-do list. Police say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not welcome at the site next week when he is in New York for a United Nations conference. The reason? Construction and security concerns. But the president says he intends to go anyway. And in that case, Secret Service officers will protect him."
# CBS's The Early Show, Russ Mitchell: "New Yorkers are sending a message to the president of Iran, 'forget about it.' This morning's papers tell the story. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, New York police said no because the site is under construction. Ahmadinejad will be in New York next week to address the U.N."
# NBC's Today, Ann Curry: "New York City officials are denying a request by Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay a wreath at Ground Zero next week. NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has the details now."
# ABC's World News, Charles Gibson: "The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is coming to New York next week, attending the United Nations General Assembly. He told New York police he'd like to visit Ground Zero. The New York City police department has said no."
# NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams: "What do you do when Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, asks to visit ground zero in New York during his visit to the gathering at the UN next week? Well, if you're the NYPD and the Secret Service, who are, after all, responsible for the security of the man in the tan jacket while he's visiting, you consider it and then you turn down the request as they did late today. They cite his security and the fact that Iran is, as the U.S. said today, among the world's leading sponsors of terrorism."
On Thursdays's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his latest "Special Comment" to attack President Bush's "pissy juvenile blast" criticism of the MoveOn.org "General Betray Us" ad during the day's news conference, accusing him of "hypocrisy" for not criticizing what Olbermann called the Republican "hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and the lying about Lieutenant John Kerry." Olbermann characterized Bush as "un-American" and "dictatorial," accusing him of "pimping" General David Petraeus and of making the General into a "political hack" at the risk of moving America's government toward a "military junta." Olbermann: "It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a military junta. Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous and stupid transgression as a call to further politicize our military."
Olbermann opened his September 20 "Special Comment" reviewing the President's news conference from earlier in the day and declared that "the annual Republican witch-hunting season is under way." He then criticized Bush for calling the Democratic party the "Democrat party," and brought up Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss' 2002 ad that has been much criticized by liberals, calling it an "advertising mugging" of former Democratic Senator Max Cleland, and referred to the "swift-boating" of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted late Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Olbermann also threw in a conspiracy theory as he charged that President Bush used a planted question so he could end his news conference with an attack on MoveOn.org with no follow-up: "But most importantly, making that the last question -- a plant -- so that there was no chance at a follow-up? And so nobody could point out, as Chris Matthews did so incisively a week ago tonight, that you were the one who inappropriately interjected General Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place! Deliberately, premeditatedly, and virtually without precedent, you shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman, and now you're complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?"
The Countdown host soon showed a clip of an RNC ad from the 2006 election that invoked images of terrorism and implied that Bush was hypocritical for not criticizing the ad: "That one was okay, Mr. Bush? Terrorizing your own people in the hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you. The Republican hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and the lying about Lieutenant John Kerry, those met with your approval? But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore, it is you who reduced him from four-star hero to political hack, that merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television? Your hypocrisy is so vast, sir, that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq, you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000."
Olbermann soon accused Bush of being "dictatorial" and of hiding behind General Petraeus' "skirts" and behind the "skirts of the planted last question." Olbermann: "But, Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General's skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of 'the planted last question' at a news conference to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond. That, sir, is not only un-American. It is dictatorial."
After accusing Bush of "pimping" General Petraeus, Olbermann concluded his rant by bringing up the prospect of America's government becoming a "military junta." Olbermann: "You did it again today, sir, and you need to know how history will judge that line you just crossed. It is a line, thankfully only the first of a series of lines, that makes the military political, and the political military. It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a military junta. Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous and stupid transgression as a call to further politicize our military."
Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's "Special Comment" from the Thursday, September 20 Countdown on MSNBC:
Finally tonight, as promised, a "Special Comment" on Mr. Bush's smear today of MoveOn.org and, in a larger context, his smear of criticism of his own political front men. The President behaving a little bit more than usual, like we'd all interrupted him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR, stepped before the press conference microphone and, after side-stepping most of the substantive issues, like the Israeli raid on Syria, in condescending and infuriating fashion, produced a big wow political finish that indicates certainly that, if it was not already, the annual Republican witch-hunting season is under way.
"I thought the ad was disgusting. I felt the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."
First off, it's "Democrat-ic" party, sir. You keep pretending you're not a politician, so stop using words your party made up. Show a little respect.
Secondly, you could say this seriously after the advertising/mugging of Senator Max Cleland? After the swift-boating of John Kerry?
But most importantly, making that the last question -- a plant -- so that there was no chance at a follow-up?
And so nobody could point out, as Chris Matthews did so incisively a week ago tonight, that you were the one who inappropriately interjected General Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place!
Deliberately, premeditatedly, and virtually without precedent, you shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman, and now you're complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?
Eleven months ago, the President's own party, the Republican National Committee, introduced this very different kind of advertisement, just 19 days before the midterm elections. Bin Laden and Zawahiri's rumored quote of six years ago about having bought "suitcase bombs," all set against a ticking clock, and finally a blinding explosion and the dire announcement: "These are the stakes. Vote November 7th."
But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore, it is you who reduced him from four-star hero to political hack, that merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television? Your hypocrisy is so vast, sir, that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq, you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.
The line between the military and the civilian government is not to be crossed. When Douglas MacArthur attempted to make policy for the United States in Korea half a century ago, President Truman moved quickly to fire him, even though Truman knew it meant his own political suicide, and the deification of a general who history suggests had begun to lose his mind.
When George McClellan tried to make policy for the Union in the Civil War, President Lincoln finally fired his chief general, even though he knew McClellan could galvanize political opposition, as he did, when McClellan ran as Lincoln's presidential opponent in 1864, and nearly defeated our greatest President.
Even when the conduit flowed the other way and Senator Joseph McCarthy tried to smear the Army because it would not defer the service of one of McCarthy's staff aides, the entire civilian and Defense Department structures, after four years of fearful servitude, rose up against McCarthy and said "enough" and buried him.
The list is not endless, but it is instructive. Air Force General LeMay, who broke with Kennedy over the Cuban Missile Crisis and was retired. Army General Edwin Anderson Walker, who started passing out John Birch Society leaflets to his soldiers and was fired. Marine General Smedley Butler, who revealed to Congress the makings of a plot to remove FDR as President and, for merely being approached by the plotters, was phased out of the military hierarchy. These careers were ended because the line between the military and the civilian is not to be crossed!
Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man. And he obviously should have refused that order and resigned rather than ruin his military career. The upshot is, and contrary it is to the MoveOn advertisement, he betrayed himself more than he did us.
But there has been in his actions a sort of reflexive courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time of crisis. That the man does not understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops, is not so much his fault as it is your good, exploitable, fortune.
But, Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General's skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of 'the planted last question' at a news conference to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond. That, sir, is not only un-American. It is dictatorial.
And in pimping General David Petraeus, sir, in violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.
You did it again today, sir, and you need to know how history will judge that line you just crossed. It is a line, thankfully only the first of a series of lines, that makes the military political, and the political military. It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a military junta. Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous and stupid transgression as a call to further politicize our military. Good night and good luck.
-- Brent Baker