ABC Leads with Vague Claim of "Opportunity Lost" to Avoid War --11/6/2003
2. In "Liberal Cocoon,"
NY Times Foresaw Democratic Wins in KY & MS
3. NBC Avoids "Partial-Birth" Term, Worries About "Slippery Slope"
4. Moonves Admits Right's Pressure, Says He Found Movie Too Biased
5. CBS Decision a "Soviet-Style Chill" & Proof of No Liberal Bias
6. "Top Ten Inaccuracies in the CBS Miniseries 'The Reagans'"
An opportunity to avoid war lost by the Bush administration or an opportunity taken advantage of by ABC News to push its anti-war agenda? ABC led Wednesday night with "an ABC News investigation" of what Peter Jennings characterized as "what appears to be an opportunity lost" to work with "a man who was in the process of trying to broker a deal that might have avoided war with Iraq."
Brian Ross proceeded to recount how in the weeks before the war a Lebanese businessman forwarded an offer from Saddam Hussein's intelligence chief to allow U.S. agents to travel freely around Iraq to confirm Iraq's disarmament and to turn over an al-Qaeda terrorist living in Iraq. The offer never made it as high as the Deputy Secretary level, and, in a point skipped by ABC's very vague story, did not include Hussein's removal from power. But Ross mocked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's claim that there was no way to avoid war: "Ten days later the war began as U.S. officials said there was no other option."
After Kate Snow relayed how the White House and Pentagon said Hussein had 12 years to comply with UN resolutions and didn't need to use "questionable channels," Ross retorted: "Well, Peter, it still leaves unanswered questions now being raised in Congress of whether the U.S. did push hard enough to avoid war."
With the words "Peace Opportunity" on screen, Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, an ABC exclusive: The man who says he could have made a deal to avoid war with Iraq. In the back channels, at the highest level."
Jennings opened the November 5 broadcast: "We begin tonight with an ABC News investigation of what appears to be an opportunity lost. This is about a man who was in the process of trying to broker a deal that might have avoided war with Iraq. He was the middle man between Saddam Hussein's chief of intelligence and senior advisers to the Pentagon, including the man sometimes called 'the architect of the war' who has confirmed the story. The invasion of Iraq is history now, but this report from ABC's Brian Ross fills in the details of the debate that continues."
Ross recounted how Imad Hage, a "prominent Lebanese-American businessman," said he secretly met with Iraqi intelligence officials just days after Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out the U.S. case for war at the United Nations in February. Hage told ABC that he was approached by an Iraqi intelligence official six weeks before the war.
Hage insisted: "Based on my meeting with this man...I think an effort was there to avert war."
Ross explained that a week later, in mid-February, Hage went to Baghdad to meet with Hussein's intelligence chief, General Tahir Haboush, who would later be labeled the Jack of Diamonds in the deck of cards depicting the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Ross noted that he's still at large.
On February 20 Hage sent the offer, to allow for Iraq's disarmament to be confirmed by U.S. agents on the ground, to the Pentagon. Hage said he also offered to turn over a top al-Qaeda terrorist, Abdul Rahman Yasin, whom Haboush said had been in Iraqi custody since 1994.
Ross noted: "Ten days later the war began as U.S. officials said there was no other option."
Jennings then went to Kate Snow at the White House who passed along how Bush officials pointed out that Hussein had many chances over 12 years to avoid war. She also read this statement from the Pentagon: "Iraq and Saddam had ample opportunity through highly credible sources over a period of several years to take serious action to avoid war and had the means to use highly credible channels to do that -- nobody needed to use questionable channels to convey messages."
But that wasn't good enough for Ross. Jennings prompted him: "A final thought from you, Brian?" Ross shot back: "Well, Peter, it still leaves unanswered questions now being raised in Congress of whether the U.S. did push hard enough to avoid war."
ABC News.com has posted a rundown of its supposed scoop. While it is vague, it's a lot more detailed than what aired. For the article, "Thwarted Talks: Did the U.S. miss a chance to avoid war with Iraq?", see: abcnews.go.com
The "Liberal Cocoon" factor. New York Times readers must have been surprised to learn that the Republican gubernatorial candidates had won in Kentucky and Mississippi since, as the MRC's TimesWatch documented, over the summer they ran stories which clearly suggested the Democrats would win those contests.
An excerpt from a November 5 article by Clay Waters posted on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site:
Slate journalist Mickey Kaus has developed an explanation for why Democrats tend to disappoint on Election Day -- "liberal cocooning." Kaus explains: "The point is that reporters and editors at papers like the Times (either one!) are exquisitely sensitive to any sign that Democrats might win, but don't cultivate equivalent sensitivity when it comes to discerning signs Republicans might win. (Who wants to read that?) The result, in recent years, is the Liberal Cocoon, in which Democratic partisans are kept happy and hopeful until they are slaughtered every other November." Kaus' subject was an article in the L.A. Times, but his theory applies equally well to the paper's New York namesake.
For the Kaus piece: slate.msn.com
Back on August 13, the NYT's James Dao opened a story on the Kentucky governor's race with this pro-Democratic rah-rah: "Improbable as it sounds, the first major test of President Bush's vulnerability on the weak economy may come this November in a state that he won handily in 2000, where his favorable ratings are still high and where Republicans hold seven of eight Congressional seats. No one said Kentucky politics was predictable. With a tenacity that has surprised his opponent and some supporters, the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Ben Chandler, has attacked Mr. Bush's stewardship of the economy, contending that Republican policies have drained Kentucky of 56,000 jobs, aided the wealthy at the expense of the poor and helped drill a gaping hole in the state budget."
Dao continued the cheerleading: "If Mr. Chandler, considered the underdog, can ride voters' anxieties about unemployment to victory, it could give the Democrats momentum in their seemingly uphill quest to unseat the president, Democrats and political analysts assert....Still, Mr. Chandler's assault seems to have put [Republican candidate Ernie] Fletcher on the defensive. In campaign events, he acknowledges that Kentucky's economy is struggling and that job creation should be among the new governor's top priorities." The article's headline posed the election as a test for Bush: "Kentucky Race Is Test For Bush on Economy."
But as Michael Janofsky reports in Wednesday's editions, Bush aced the exam. For all the talk of the "tenacious" Democrat and the "defensive" Republican, the Republican candidate Ernie Fletcher won decisively (55%-45%) capturing the Kentucky statehouse for the Republican Party for the first time since 1967.
One can't help notice that suddenly the Kentucky election doesn't have quite such national significance for the Times. Back in August, when Democratic hopes were high, the Times painted it as a referendum on Bush. Now, after a Republican win, the Kentucky race morphs into a referendum on Kentucky's scandal-ridden Democratic governor, Paul Patton: "The Kentucky race was viewed largely as a referendum on the leadership of Mr. Patton, whose eight years in office became major campaign fodder for the number of investigations into corruption, the indictment of several administration officials and Mr. Patton's extramarital affair with a state contractor." (Janofsky does note the Kentucky win "gives Republicans at least a degree of momentum heading into a presidential election next November.")
David Rosenbaum wrote a similar long story on October 15 about the Mississippi governor's race, which pitted well-connected Republican Haley Barbour versus incumbent governor Ronnie Musgrove. Rosenbaum similarly positioned the incumbent Democrat Musgrove as the scrappy underdog in the race (never mind that Musgrove was governor and should have in theory had the natural advantage).
Rosenbaum noted: "With his money, national Republican connections, political savvy and personal charm, Haley Barbour looked to many people last winter like a sure bet to be elected governor of Mississippi this year. That was especially true because the Democratic incumbent whom he was challenging had presided over the weakest state economy in years in a region where President Bush is particularly popular and at a time when anti-incumbent sentiment seems to be increasing. But the handicappers underestimated Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. He raised nearly as much money as Mr. Barbour, conserved most of it for the last few weeks before the November election and proved to be a relentless campaigner. Now, although no polls have been published, the candidates and political experts agree that the race is extremely tight." The headline to Rosenbaum's story: "Mississippi Incumbent Surprises His G.O.P. Opponent."
The Times "cocooned" readership was probably surprised as well, when they woke up to find that Republican Haley Barbour won easily (53%-45% with 95 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning), becoming only the second Republican governor elected in Mississippi in modern times...
For Michael Janofsky's story on the Republican's big night: www.nytimes.com
END of Excerpt
For the latest on liberal bias in the New York Times, check: www.timeswatch.org
The term "partial-birth abortion" continues to instill fear in reporters, a fact reflected in a series of stories on Wednesday on various NBC News shows. In the morning, before President Bush signed a bill banning the procedure, Today's news reader, Ann Curry, kept citing "a late-term procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion." In the evening, CNBC anchor Campbell Brown used the same term while NBC anchor Tom Brokaw refused to utter the phrase as he referred to "the controversial procedure, late-term abortion" and how "in a setting that resembled a campaign rally, President Bush signed into law a bill banning that kind of abortion."
NBC reporter David Gregory soon asserted: "Strikingly, not one female lawmaker was on hand to congratulate the President on the law." On CNBC, Brown worried: "Are we heading now down the slippery slope where abortion may at some point be outlawed?"
-- Today, November 5. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught how Today distanced itself from the phrase:
# News reader Ann Curry: "Also in the news this morning today President Bush will sign a measure banning a late-term procedure that opponents call 'partial-birth abortion.' Abortion rights advocates will challenge the measure in court."
# Curry again: "A new round today in the legal fight over the procedure opponents call 'partial-birth abortion.' Today President Bush signs a measure banning the procedure but abortion rights groups are already challenging the ban in court."
# Norah O'Donnell in a subsequent story: "Good morning, Ann. And the President calls the procedure abhorrent and hopes that by becoming the first President to criminalize the late term abortion it will help build, quote, 'a culture of life in America.' Twice in the past decade Congress passed legislation that would ban a late-term abortion that opponents call 'partial-birth abortion.'"
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened his broadcast: "Good evening. It is one of the great flashpoints of American politics. And after today, it is sure to become one again in the presidential campaign of 2004: abortion. In this case, the controversial procedure, late-term abortion. Today, in a setting that resembled a campaign rally, President Bush signed into law a bill banning that kind of abortion. Almost immediately, a Midwestern federal judge partially blocked the law from taking effect. Here's NBC's David Gregory."
-- CNBC's The News with Brian Williams anchored by Campbell Brown. She teased the show, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The emotional fight over abortion. The President signs a controversial ban into law, but will it stand and what does it mean for a woman's right to choose?"
Plugging the upcoming segment, Brown announced: "And still ahead, President Bush gives abortion opponents the law they've wanted for years, but will it stand? We'll find out where a controversial ban goes from here."
Another plug: "And when we come back, the new law that's sure to ignite a whole new debate over abortion. President Bush signs a controversial ban that's already being challenged."
Brown set up the eventual story: "Some major news tonight concerning a controversial national debate. Today, President Bush signed legislation banning late-term abortion, or what the bill's supporters call 'partial-birth abortion.' And while abortion opponents are calling it a victory, the legal fight over the law is only just beginning."
David Gregory began, in a story aired on both CNBC and the NBC Nightly News: "Conservatives cheered as the President signed the ban into law today, a step both sides of the abortion debate predict will have a major impact. Strikingly, not one female lawmaker was on hand to congratulate the President on the law, which bans late-term abortions involving a partially born fetus. Mr. Bush called the procedure medically unnecessary and cruel because it involves the puncturing of a fetus' skull."
On CNBC, Campbell Brown turned to George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, and worried: "Let begin by asking what I think is the bottom-line question here: Are we heading now down the slippery slope where abortion may at some point be outlawed?"
The ultimate infringement on a constitutional right is not a concern to media folk when the subject is ever tighter gun control.
NBC wasn't alone Wednesday night in avoiding the "partial-birth" term. Dan Rather announced on the CBS Evening News:
Though he acknowledged a "lot of pressure from the right," CBS Chairman Les Moonves denied pressure from advertisers had anything to do with CBS shifting its mini-series, The Reagans, from CBS to Showtime. In an address Wednesday night at Yale University, he maintained that the movie was just too "biased" against the Reagans for CBS, but not for Showtime.
"We had promised the public that we would do a fair version of the Reagans' life," today's New Haven Register quoted Moonves as saying. "We would show the warts, but we would show the good stuff, too. Upon seeing the finished product, I felt the movie was quite biased against the Reagans. And it wasn't the movie I promised the public."
Does Moonves ever watch CBS News? He'd see a lot of bias there if he cared to check.
An excerpt from a story in the November 6 New Haven Register, "'Reagans' deemed too slanted for regular TV," by the paper's television editor, Joe Amarante:
....Moonves said he sent the film to sister company Showtime, a pay cable network, because "as a broadcast network, we feel it's a public trust. We have a news division. We do have to be fair in what we show, and a pay-cable network can be a little bit more biased in what they show. It can be an opinion piece. We can't do that."
On this rainy day in the Elm City, Moonves gave a brisk tour of the network business, one that commanded $2.2 billion in upfront ad sales this season for CBS alone. He spoke to a group of 60 or 70 students and faculty in a lecture room at Yale's Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
Moonves limited his comments on the media debacle to a portion of his talk that touched on movies, which only CBS of the six commercial networks does now on Sunday nights.
"Obviously there was a lot of pressure from the right before they had even seen the movie," he said, "-that it was 'the lefties in Hollywood' that were doing the slam on Reagan. And after we made the decision, the creative community is saying we buckled under to the right. So it was one of those decisions where, no matter which way we turned, it was the wrong decision."
Moonves said CBS will continue to do movies like this, but "The project didn't turn out like I would have liked. I would have liked to have a piece that showed the good and the bad, as well."
Moonves said it wasn't the first controversy over a CBS movie in the past two years.
"We have always liked to do shows that are controversial and thought-provoking. A year ago we did a miniseries about Hitler....We took a lot of grief for that. I was very proud of the movie. I thought the movie was provocative. At no point did it glorify Hitler."
Moonves said the network also took heat initially for the film "9/11," which was a stunning documentary that ended up winning praise and high ratings....
Moonves, whose appearance at Yale had been planned before the "Reagans" controversy, admitted that advertiser concerns sometimes cause programming to be changed. He mentioned a cannibalism scene in "C.S.I" that was cut after a sponsor objected. But he said sponsors had nothing to do with the miniseries decision.
END of Excerpt
If it didn't, it was only because he assured any who expressed concern that he had already decided to not air it.
For the article in full: newhavenregister.com
CBS's decision to dump its mini-series on the Reagans and shift it to Showtime, where it will air sometime next year, outraged some mainstream media watchers. The New York Times condemned CBS for caving in to a "Soviet-style chill" instilled by conservatives, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter denigrated the "unholy trinity" of the "Elephant Echo Chamber" and USA Today's television critic, Robert Bianco, even contended that CBS's decision proves the media are not liberal, though the Chicago Tribune revealed how a CBS executive conceded that "the liberal political views of most CBS executives blinded them" to how their version of Reagan would anger so many.
Wednesday morning on the Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, CBS's Harry Smith pressed Michael Reagan, as he mimicked using a TV remote control: "Why the vehemence, why the anger? I mean we live in a, hang on, we live in this multi-channel, digital universe of hundreds and hundreds of choices. All you have to do is go like this, if you don't like it, you just go like that."
Smith also gave air time to some whining from Barbra Streisand, asking Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson: "Barbra Streisand said today marks a sad day for artistic freedom. Do you think CBS allowed themselves to be bullied by this?"
(As noted in the November 5 CyberAlert, NBC's Mike Taibbi worried Tuesday night not about CBS's misdeeds with such a disrespectful movie, but about "which program and which network will be targeted next?" CBS's Jerry Bowen, after clips from two conservatives, turned to a bunch of those upset by CBS's decision, including Tom Daschle who accused conservatives of "intimidation" and James Brolin's manager, who charged: "We seem to be in a very oppressive era..." CNBC's Brian Williams painted conservatives as the bad guys, an intimidating force which suppressed the free speech of CBS and the artistic community. He characterized CBS's decision, following the conservative complaints, as "dangerous" and a reaction to "extortion." Williams lamented the supposed assault on free speech: "So is it hyperbolic to say, you know, when we give all these speeches about freedom in the United States, you can go ahead and stretch your artistic freedom, make a movie about whatever you wish as long as it doesn't cross a certain political or societal group?" See:
A New York Times editorial on Wednesday accused Reagan supporters of creating a "Soviet-style chill." The Times, with a sudden concern for communist-like oppression, whined: "His supporters credit him with forcing down the Iron Curtain, so it is odd that some of them have helped create the Soviet-style chill embedded in the idea that we, as a nation, will not allow critical portrayals of one of our own recent leaders." For the full editorial: www.nytimes.com
"Gutless CBS" read the headline over an online piece by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter who complained: "It's a big victory for the 'Elephant Echo Chamber,' the unholy trinity of conservative talk radio, conservative Internet sites and the Republican National Committee."
In a piece at the top of the "Life" section on Wednesday titled, "Cowardly CBS unfair to viewers, not 'Reagans,'" USA Today's Robert Bianco argued: "If nothing else, this act of creative sabotage should put to rest the idea that the media are liberal." But if the media were not so liberal, CBS would not have produced such a derogatory view of Ronald Reagan. It seems more logical to argue that CBS's cancellation is the exception which proves the rule.
Indeed, the Chicago Tribune's Vincent J. Schodolski, John Cook and Frank James reported on Wednesday: "A CBS executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the liberal political views of most CBS executives blinded them to the possibility that Reagan supporters might latch on to the movie as a political issue. 'I don't think most people saw it coming,' the executive said. 'It's part of the bubble that we live in.'"
A bubble that includes Bianco, Alter and the New York Times editorial page staff.
For Bianco's November 5 story: www.usatoday.com
Hallelujah! The Gipper is safe and the hated liberal media humbled. It's a big victory for the "Elephant Echo Chamber," the unholy trinity of conservative talk radio, conservative Internet sites and the Republican National Committee. The decision by CBS late yesterday not to air "The Reagans" meant, Matt Drudge exulted, "a tremendous night" for his team. BUT IF THIS IS, as Drudge says, "the beginning of a second media century, much more of a people-driven media" we should look a little harder at what that might entail. More gutless TV executives? Programming that caters to loud political partisans? Fictionalized treatment of historical figures that cannot be critical?....
It may well be the hit job described in leaked reports or, at a minimum, another stupid docu-drama that distorts the historical truth....
The other scenes that apparently stuck in the craw of the Reagan hero-worshippers and GOP political operatives who saw a way to rally their base were those that depicted tensions within the Reagan family and Nancy Reagan's controlling personality. Imagine! A docu-drama that actually reflects the headlines from the era! Anyone who was alive in the 1980s knows that the Reagan First Family was close to dysfunctional (as in, not speaking to each other for long periods) and that the First Lady plotted her husband's schedule with the help of an astrologer and fired his chief of staff. That's not spin; it's fact. As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up.
So now we're in a new media century. I shed no tears for "The Reagans," which will not make me rush out and subscribe to Showtime. Unless you count "The Missiles of October," there was no golden age of TV docu-dramas, which have always been the cheesiest meal on the media food chain. Primetime television is uncorruptible, because there has never been anything left to corrupt in the first place.
But I'm glad for the artistic and historical advice now booming through the elephant echo chamber. It's good to know that network docu-dramas are, forthwith, supposed to be "true," unless, of course, the truth is somehow "offensive" to the myth, then we'll take the myth, as long as the myth corresponds to the reigning politics of the moment.
One thing's for sure: When they make "The Bush Dynasty" docudrama, that "Mission Accomplished" banner won't be visible in the scene on the aircraft carrier.
END of Excerpt
For the entirety of Alter's rant: www.msnbc.com
From the November 5 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Inaccuracies in the CBS Miniseries 'The Reagans.'" Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. Not enough steamy sex between President and White House interns
9. It was about brother and sister accountants Carl and Linda Reagan of Syosset, New York
8. CBS' transparent attempt at self-promotion by having Bob Barker play Gorbachev
7. All that Matrix-style kung-fu
6. James Brolin kept breaking character to remind everyone to get an annual transmission checkup at Aamco
5. Wasn't "Reagany" enough
4. Yeah right, like America could really have a dumb President
3. Ron and Nancy's long debate over whether Letterman's too old to have a kid
2. Pretty sure the President didn't speak in that Snoop Dogg "Izzle" language
1. Nancy was never a Hooters girl
-- Brent Baker