2. In Morning: ABC, CBS, NBC Air No Reid Stories, Five Foley Items
3. CNN Devotes 18 Minutes to Foley, 35 Seconds to Harry Reid Scandal
4. Sound of Silence: Media Caught Flat-footed by Shrinking Deficit
5. NBC's Today Ignores Pro-Life Impact of Baby ('Fetus') Photos
6. Rosie: Couric Joined Her and Clintons Backstage with Streisand
The ABC and NBC evening newscasts on Thursday ran full stories on the testimony, before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, from Kirk Fordham, former Congressman Mark Foley's Chief of Staff. But ABC had no time for anything about a late Wednesday AP disclosure of how "Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years." The NBC Nightly News at least, after two minutes on Foley, managed to squeeze in 30 seconds about Senator Reid, but only a very benign description of the matter.
George Stephanopoulos touted how "ABC News has learned that behind closed doors, Fordham told the ethics committee that he warned Speaker Hastert's office, about Congressman Foley's inappropriate behavior with pages, more than three years ago." NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams elevated Foley to the top of his newscast by teasing: "Who knew what and when in the Foley scandal involving teenage congressional pages? Foley's former Chief of Staff testifies that he raised red flags many times." Following a story from Chip Reid, Williams asked: "What's behind this increased scrutiny for the top man for the Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid?" NBC's Reid explained how the AP reported "he may have violated Senate ethics rules by not reporting some of the intermediate steps along the way" in a land deal and Senator "Reid says it's all perfectly legal" and "he says if technical changes, as he calls them, need to be made, he will do so."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An excerpt from the start of the October 11 Associated Press story, "AP Exclusive: Reid Got $1M in Land Sale," by John Solomon and Kathleen Hennessey of the wire service's Washington, DC bureau:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.
In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.
The Nevada Democrat's deal was engineered by Jay Brown, a longtime friend and former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations. He's never been charged with wrongdoing -- except for a 1981 federal securities complaint that was settled out of court....
END of Excerpt
For the AP story in full: apnews.myway.com
Thursday's CBS Evening News skipped Reid and limited coverage of the Foley fallout to a short item read by anchor Katie Couric about Fordham's testimony.
The two October 12 broadcast network evening newscast stories on Foley, and NBC's brief look at Reid:
# ABC's World News. Charles Gibson: "Next, we're going to turn to the investigation of former Congressman Mark Foley and whether the top leadership of the House of Representatives knew of his inappropriate messages to teenage congressional pages. Today, the House ethics committee questioned Foley's former Chief of Staff who says he did tell Republican House leadership years ago that there were signs of trouble. Our Chief Washington Correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, is joining us. George."
George Stephanopoulos, from DC: "Charlie, his name is Kirk Fordham. He spent more than four hours before the committee. And his testimony was not what Speaker Hastert's office wanted to hear. Today's star witness wasn't talking when he left the ethics committee, but his lawyer was."
Williams, after lead coverage of the crash of plane into a building in Manhattan: "Now we change gears to the congressional page scandal and some key testimony today before the House ethics committee. Kirk Fordham was Chief of Staff for now former Congressman Mark Foley. Today he testified under oath for five hours. NBC's Chip Reid is with us tonight from Washington with that. Chip, good evening."
Chip Reid, from Capitol Hill: "Good evening, Brian. The testimony is being conducted in secret, but NBC News has learned much of what Fordham told the committee. Outside his Washington home this morning, Kirk Fordham, former Chief of Staff to Mark Foley, had little to say."
Thursday's morning shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC stayed true to Democratic partisan form. No one covered the Associated Press investigative report on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's inaccurate disclosure forms as he turned a $400,000 Las Vegas land deal into a $1.1 million bonanza (see item #1 above for an excerpt of the AP's article). But there were five items on the Mark Foley scandal, almost at the end of its second week: an anchor brief on ABC, two anchor briefs on NBC, an anchor brief on CBS along with a full story from CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
MRC's Mike Rule transcribed the CBS story, which aired eleven minutes into the first hour of The Early Show:
Rene Syler: "A key player in the Mark Foley Congressional Page Scandal appears before the House Ethics Committee today. CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is live with more on that. Hi Sharyl."
Sharyl Attkisson: "Good morning, Rene. Kirk Fordham, the one time Chief of Staff for former Congressman Mark Foley, will tell what he knows behind closed doors today later on Capitol Hill. Fordham's already publicly said he notified Republican leaders years ago about Foley's inappropriate conduct with young House Pages. That's at odds with top Republicans who insist they only recently learned about overtly sexual internet exchanges between Foley and male former pages. On Wednesday, the House Ethics subcommittee looking into the whole matter heard from the Republican page supervisor, and then the page supervisor for Democrat members. Workers also wheeled in a locked storage cabinet. The scandal continues to chase House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans on the campaign trail. Democrats have suggested there's been a cover-up. Wednesday President Bush gave Hastert words of support."
This is especially egregious coming from CBS. While "Speaker Pelosi" is marching around saying she will "drain the swamp" of the corrupt Republican Congress, CBS only finds it newsworthy when the real-estate deals are Republican. The night before Katie Couric brought her perky glam to the CBS set, CBS reporter Armen Keteyian filed an investigative piece on how some fairly unknown Republican Congressmen from California (Ken Calvert, Gary Miller) were making little real-estate deals around highway earmarks Congress was funding. (Jeff Flake wore the anti-earmark white hat in the story.) The online version of Keteyian's Labor Day piece: www.cbsnews.com
Thursday's American Morning on CNN demonstrated the stark difference between how the media focuses on a Republican scandal, versus one involving a powerful Democrat. The CNN program devoted 18 minutes to investigating the Mark Foley scandal and only 35 seconds to the details of a questionable land deal involving Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (see item #1 above for details). Despite the recent revelations that Reid earned $1.1 million on a Las Vegas property that he hadn't owned for three years, and despite the fact that he recently hung up on an AP reporter who dared ask him about it, American Morning, which airs from 6 to 10am EDT, only broadcast two brief anchor reads on the subject. In contrast, the program produced five full reports and one anchor read on the scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley and congressional pages.
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
This is how guest anchor Betty Nguyen reported the Reid story at 7:14am EDT on the October 12 program:
Nguyen: "Well, a Senate Democrat is now under scrutiny this morning for a land sale. Property deeds show Democratic leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a land sale and there are questions about how he reported it. It happened in his home state of Nevada. Reid says he did nothing wrong. The Senate Ethics Committee is reviewing the case."
A second report followed an hour later: "Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is denying any wrongdoing. Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a land sale in his home state of Nevada. But there are questions about how he reported it. The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into this land deal."
Note the distinct lack of interest in those comments. There's no mention of whether a controversy involving the top Democrat in the Senate will hurt the party so close to the midterm elections. And nothing is made of whether this could negatively effect Democrats that Reid campaigns for. By contrast, the stories on Foley, in addition to being more frequent in number and time, also included more colorful phrasing. Take this exchange between Nguyen and reporter Dana Bash during the 7am hour. The two were discussing presidential support for House Speaker Dennis Hastert:
Bash: "But the key here is the President is going to try to send a signal to fellow Republicans that the speaker is not radioactive. But the truth of the matter is, this appearance, this fund raiser today, is going to be in Chicago, Betty. It's Dennis Hastert's home town, home area where he's got a lot of reservoir of, of friends there. What you're not seeing around the country right now is the speaker traveling to fund-raise and to meet publicly with his Republican colleagues. That is something that was planned before the Mark Foley scandal broke. But right now, a lot of his colleagues are simply saying, if you come here, Mr. Speaker, you're going to give me unwanted headlines, I'm going to get unwanted questions about Mark Foley, so, thanks, but no thanks.' Betty."
If the investigation of Reid continues, will CNN breathlessly discuss the "radioactive" Democrat? It seems unlikely.
And while Nguyen simply noted that Harry Reid denied any wrongdoing, she seemed more interested in the details of the Foley case. This is how she introduced a piece that aired at 8:08am:
Finally, at 7:50am, Bob Franken reported from Indiana on how voters in a competitive congressional district saw the Foley scandal. Note how the men and women respond when asked about the case:
Franken: "Fact is, many of the diners at Ryan's Restaurant, here, have already heard enough talk about Foley."
There's something ironic about voters complaining of "Foley-gate" overkill on a day when CNN devotes almost 20 minutes to that same subject. And it should also be pointed out, this is in the wake of the big three networks, over 12 days, airing 150 stories on the controversy. See the MRC's Media Reality Check, "Foley Feeding Frenzy: Nets Air 150+ Stories: ABC, CBS, NBC Sound Like Perpetual Motion Machine Manufacturing 'Foley Fallout' Against GOP," online at: www.mediaresearch.org
Oops. Back in 2004, then-ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran argued President Bush's tax cuts were building debt, not prosperity: "Most experts say that making those tax cuts permanent would cause gigantic deficits virtually as far as the eye can see." Early last year, CBS's Bob Schieffer suggested it would be impossible for the federal budget deficit to be cut in half before 2009 without raising taxes: "The government has just got to find some money to finance these programs."
For more on Moran's take: www.mrc.org
Well, the tax cuts haven't been repealed, and there have been no big new tax increases. But Wednesday the White House announced that final tallies for the federal government's fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, the budget deficit had shrunk from $413 billion two years ago to $248 billion. The federal government collected $2.407 trillion in taxes in FY2006, $122 billion more than originally forecast back in February.
Memo to the media: Tax revenues increased because of strong economic activity, not an increase in tax rates (as liberal pundits claimed was necessary).
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On Wednesday night, ABC and CBS skipped this good economic and budget news. NBC's Brian Williams held himself to a 30-second story that aired 22 minutes into Wednesday's Nightly News: "The federal government today released its official budget figures for the fiscal year just ended, and the good news is the deficit fell to its lowest point in four years. It's also the bad news, $248 billion higher tax receipts from corporations and individuals helped the bottom line this year. The problem is next year the deficit is expected to rise again, and long term, the budget will be strained by the retirement of those 78 million American Baby Boomers."
What Williams did not say is that the Boomers' retirement will "strain" the budget because of the array of liberally-inspired social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that tax American workers to pay ever-increasing benefits to (mostly) non-workers. And Williams did not repeat his allegation from July that the deficit success was obtained by cooking the budgetary books: www.mrc.org
The good budget news flies in the face of what liberal journalists have been telling viewers for the last couple of years. Last month, ABC's George Stephanopoulos got in the face of conservative Stephen Laffey, who was challenging liberal Senator Lincoln Chafee in the Republican primary. Stephanopoulos told Laffey that his "No taxes" pledge was irresponsible: "I mean, if the deficit continued to grow, it's not responsible to say you're never going to raise taxes....Ronald Reagan also increased taxes....So it's, 'Read my lips,' you're never going to vote to raise taxes?" For more on that interview: www.mrc.org
Back in May on Face the Nation, CBS's Bob Schieffer fretted that "the ballooning deficit" was being obscured because of "silly issues" like making English the official language of the United States. At the time, the deficit was tens of billions of dollars lower than it was in 2005. For a transcript of Schieffer's commentary: www.mrc.org
Last October, NPR's Nina Totenberg ridiculed the idea of tax cuts given the government's fiscal "mess." She told the other journalists gathered for the Inside Washington roundtable that Democrats could easily use the issue of tax cuts to defeat Republicans: "One of the other things is you say, 'Look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States, the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars,' or something like that." See: www.mrc.org
The most glaringly wrong prediction came from CBS's Bob Schieffer on the February 8, 2005 Early Show. Co-host Hannah Storm asked Schieffer whether he thought President Bush could keep his 2004 campaign promise to halve the deficit from its predicted $520 billion within the next four years: "I want to ask you about the deficit because the President has pledged to cut the deficit in half by the time he leaves office in 2009. Is he going to be able to realistically achieve that goal without raising taxes?"
Schieffer said no. "I frankly don't think so. I think in the end this President will raise taxes before his term is out, just like Ronald Reagan raised taxes after he enacted those enormous tax cuts at the beginning of his program. The government has just got to find some money to finance these programs."
For the CyberAlert item at the time: www.mrc.org
Thursday's Early Show was silent on the new and improved budget numbers.
Schieffer made that prediction six months before Hurricane Katrina unexpectedly added to the federal government's expenses, yet the Bush administration was able to beat the target by two years, without a major tax increase. Once again, journalists have failed to appreciate the power of lower tax rates to stimulate economic growth, which not only adds to the wealth of the private sector, but ends up returning more revenue to liberals' cherished government.
In running some amazing microscopy photos of a developing baby, NBC's Today show, probably inadvertently, undercut the arguments of their friends on the pro-abortion side. On Thursday's Today, co-hosts Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer oohed and ahhed as they ran dramatic photos of a 24 week old fetus with Vieira even calling it a "child," something the abortion-on-demand types are loath to do. Interestingly, neither Lauer or Vieira even mentioned the word "abortion" during the entire segment.
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday, with some screen shots of the images which will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org ]
The following is a full transcript of the Ron Mott segment and ensuing discussion that took place in the 7:30am half hour of the October 12th Today show. First, some segment teasers:
# Al Roker: "Also ahead some dramatic pictures from a groundbreaking book. This is the hand of an 11-week-old fetus."
# Meredith Vieira: "Then a journey inside the human body. Dramatic images of a child developing inside its mother's womb. This is actually a fetus at 24 weeks. We'll have more from the photographer who's been compared to Da Vinci."
# The subsequent segment:
Matt Lauer: "Everyone loves baby pictures and a new book is filled with them but this kind of picture is different. It shows developing fetuses in stunning photographs like you have never seen before. We get more now on this from NBC's Ron Mott."
Ron Mott: "Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words. These are almost indescribable. Sure you could mention their infinite texture, their seductive curves, their intriguing finesse, their utter uniqueness, they're stunning detail but it's when you learn what they are that the words stop."
On Thursday's The View on ABC, lead quad-host Rosie O'Donnell disclosed that Barbra Streisand invited her backstage following the Bush-bashing singer's concert the night before, and she was joined in the special access by Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. How cozy.
[This item was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
O'Donnell opened the October 12 program, aired live at 11am EDT, by giddily singing: "I saw Barbra! Again last night!" She added in a near whisper: "She was fantastic!" O'Donnell soon proceeded to excitedly recount how all week she's been attending Streisand's New York City concerts, which she didn't mention feature Streisand mocking and attacking President Bush, and finally got to go backstage on Wednesday night:
In the next segment, ABC put up a huge picture of O'Donnell with Streisand. O'Donnell jumped up, put her hands over her chest as she sighed and then ran back to the photo and pretended to hug Streisand.
-- Brent Baker