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ABC Tags Roberts "Very Conservative," Zahn Frets Woman Not Picked --7/20/2005


1. ABC Tags Roberts "Very Conservative," Zahn Frets Woman Not Picked
Post-announcement coverage of President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court was largely laudatory, with a focus on his intellect, expertise and likeability, but there was also quite a bit of concern about his position on Roe v Wade. A few other comments worth noting: ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Ted Koppel described him as not just conservative, but as "very conservative." NBC's Brian Williams called Roberts "a kind of 'bedrock conservative,' not what is called a 'movement conservative.'" Later, Williams wanted know if in his pick Bush "is being true to the legacy" Sandra Day O'Connor "will leave upon her retirement," as if that's a standard which should be applied. CNN's Paula Zahn declared that she had "one question I'm going to pose... for all the women watching in our audience tonight who were hoping the President would listen to his wife, Laura Bush, who said on a trip from Africa that she was hoping that Sandra Day O'Connor would be replaced by another woman. Why didn't the President listen to the First Lady?!" And as Zahn read an anti-Roberts statement from NARAL, CNN's chiron read, "ANTI-ABORTION GROUP: ROBERTS 'UNSUITABLE CHOICE' FOR THE COURT."

2. Network Reporters Focus on How Announcement Distracts from Rove
Before the White House on Tuesday night revealed the name of President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, network correspondents focused on how the announcement would distract from the Rove controversy -- an argument which could be made whenever Bush picked a nominee, which he had to do at some point. CBS's Gloria Borger asserted: "There is another agenda here, and that is changing the subject." ABC's George Stephanopoulos touted a "big bonus for the White House, we've been talking about this all day long. Not one word in the political world about the controversy that is drowning the White House, Karl Rove and the leak investigation." On the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory stressed how "tonight's announcement will also allow a White House engulfed by the CIA leak investigation, Brian, to change the subject." with audio

3. In Obit on Westmoreland, CBS News Skips His Lawsuit Against Them
CBS on Tuesday night managed to deliver a full story, on the passing of General William Westmoreland, without mentioning how in the early 1980s, as the Washington Post described in its obituary, "he filed a $120 million libel lawsuit" against CBS News for a CBS Reports documentary which "charged that Westmoreland directed a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress and alter critical intelligence on the enemy.'" In what was a precursor to last year's "memogate," the Post obit noted that in settling the lawsuit "CBS acknowledged that the documentary had been seriously flawed." NBC and ABC raised the lawsuit.

4. Flip-Flop Flap Used to Raise Jenna's Alcohol Use and to Mock Bush
Flip-flop flap tapped for some cheap Bush-bashing. An un-bylined Tuesday AP dispatch, about the controversy over how several members of the championship women's lacrosse team at Northwestern University wore flip-flops when posing last week for a photo with President Bush at the White House, gratuitously included this paragraph: "In 2001, Bush's daughter Jenna, then 19, wore black flip-flops in court, along with pink capri pants and a sleeveless black shirt, when she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol." CBS's Early Show brought on David Zinczenko, the Editor of Mens Health magazine, to discuss whether the women committed a faux pas, but he felt compelled to mock Bush: "I think it's totally inappropriate. But here's the thing, I don't even think President Bush noticed. I mean, he didn't even notice when Karl Rove was, you know, crossing his fingers while talking about a CIA leak. He certainly didn't notice this."


ABC Tags Roberts "Very Conservative,"
Zahn Frets Woman Not Picked

Post-announcement coverage of President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court was largely laudatory, with a focus on his intellect, expertise and likeability, but there was also quite a bit of concern about his position on Roe v Wade. A few other comments worth noting: ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Ted Koppel described him as not just conservative, but as "very conservative." NBC's Brian Williams called Roberts "a kind of 'bedrock conservative,' not what is called a 'movement conservative.'" Later, Williams wanted know if in his pick Bush "is being true to the legacy" Sandra Day O'Connor "will leave upon her retirement," as if that's a standard which should be applied. CNN's Paula Zahn declared that she had "one question I'm going to pose... for all the women watching in our audience tonight who were hoping the President would listen to his wife, Laura Bush, who said on a trip from Africa that she was hoping that Sandra Day O'Connor would be replaced by another woman. Why didn't the President listen to the First Lady?!" And as Zahn read an anti-Roberts statement from NARAL, CNN's chiron read, "ANTI-ABORTION GROUP: ROBERTS 'UNSUITABLE CHOICE' FOR THE COURT."

# ABC's labeling. George Stephanopoulos during ABC's 7:48pm EDT special report: "His conservative base will say they got what they wanted here. This is a very conservative man with a strong paper trail that proves it."

Later, Ted Koppel opened Nightline: "If there is any surprise about the President's nominee for the Supreme Court, it is that he is male, and he's white."
Bush: "He has the qualities Americans expect in a judge."
Koppel: "He's young."
Senator Charles Schumer: "He's only had two years, where he's been a judge."
Koppel: "He's very conservative."
Senator Patrick Leahy: "We need to consider this nomination as thoroughly and carefully as the American people deserve."
Koppel: "He's highly-regarded."
Unidentified male voice: "It's hard to come up with a name that has more respect attached to it than John Roberts."


# Brian Williams on NBC and MSNBC:

-- During NBC's 7:48pm EDT special report also shown on MSNBC, Williams provided this confusing description of Roberts: "He has always been called a kind of 'bedrock conservative,' not what is called a 'movement conservative,' one of the more modern-day conservative movement members in the city of Washington."

-- At about 9:20pm EDT on MSNBC, after the Bush/Roberts joint appearance, Williams proposed to law professor Jonathan Turley:
"And, Jonathan, remember that he's replacing, of course, Sandra Day O'Connor, the ultimate swing vote, the '5' behind so many 5-4 decisions. Is this being true, and I know there's many ways with a 50-year-old man we can't, it's not answerable yet, but do you think, in theory, this is being true to the legacy she will leave upon her retirement?"
Turley rejected Williams' premise: "Oh, no, I mean, I think he is clearly a nominee who's meant to change direction. I mean, as you know, we've had decades of a court divided 5-4. There is now dozens of major cases and doctrines that are held by a single vote. That vote was often Sandra Day O'Connor's. Now, John Roberts is very unlikely to take the same positions. He is much more consistent, and I don't see anything in his background to suggest that he's anything but consistent. He's a very nice man, he's a very brilliant attorney, but he is at base a very consistent and predictable conservative vote. And so we're looking at doctrines changing in areas from abortion to environmental law to employment discrimination, prisoner rights. It really covers the entire legal landscape. It's quite breath-taking how many doctrines could change with this one vote."

Williams soon warned: "And, Tim Russert, so it comes back to this. That was kind of an alarm, an early warning by Professor Turley, just so no one is under any misconceptions that a whole lot of standing law could change with this changed vote because he's measurably more conservative than Sandra Day O'Connor, so is his opinion..."


# CNN's Paula Zahn Now, before the 9pm EDT announcement, but after the White House revealed the name.

At about 8:14pm EDT, Zahn rued to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin: "And I have one question I'm going to pose on the other side for all the women watching in our audience tonight who were hoping the President would listen to his wife, Laura Bush, who said on a trip from Africa that she was hoping that Sandra Day O'Connor would be replaced by another woman. Why didn't the President listen to the First Lady?!"

After the ad break she didn't repeat her question, but instead read a reaction from a pro-abortion group, though for over a minute, the MRC's Rich Noyes noticed, CNN's on-screen text reversed the group's agenda: "ANTI-ABORTION GROUP: ROBERTS 'UNSUITABLE CHOICE' FOR THE COURT."

Zahn brought aboard Suzanne Malveaux from the White House lawn, and announced: "All right, well, it hasn't taken long, Suzanne, even as we are speaking, for NARAL Pro-Choice America to come out and declare John G. Roberts an unsuitable choice for Supreme Court justice. Let me quickly read this to you and maybe you can expand on this. Quote, 'Americans deserve a nominee who respects this country's culture of freedom and personal responsibility, and who understands the profound effect his decisions have on our everyday lives.' They go on to report their extreme disappointment and obviously saying that what they expect is a battle over Roe V. Wade, pointing out that 65 percent of the American public actually support Roe. What else can you tell us about what they're anticipating on this front?"

Network Reporters Focus on How Announcement Distracts from Rove

Before the White House on Tuesday night revealed the name of President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, network correspondents focused on how the announcement would distract from the Rove controversy -- an argument which could be made whenever Bush picked a nominee, which he had to do at some point. CBS's Gloria Borger asserted: "There is another agenda here, and that is changing the subject." ABC's George Stephanopoulos touted a "big bonus for the White House, we've been talking about this all day long. Not one word in the political world about the controversy that is drowning the White House, Karl Rove and the leak investigation." On the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory stressed how "tonight's announcement will also allow a White House engulfed by the CIA leak investigation, Brian, to change the subject."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked down these quotes from the July 19 evening newscasts aired at 6:30 and 7pm EDT:

# CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts: "Joining us now from Washington is our CBS News national political correspondent, Gloria Borger. And Gloria, let's talk a little bit about the timing of the President's announcement. The fact that he is doing it in prime time, the first time we can ascertain since at the very least Ronald Reagan did it. And the fact that many people think he moved it up a week."
Borger: "Well, first of all, this really is a break with tradition. I think the President wants to go before the American public and gives him something they can approve of, John. That's why there's been so much talk about a woman today because a majority of Americans say that they would like a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. But there is another agenda here, and that is changing the subject. They may have moved this up a week because this administration has been talking about little else than a leak investigation that may involve a top White House aide, Karl Rove, and they would like to change the subject and talk about the Supreme Court."


# ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson: "So why does the President name his choice now? Why on national television in prime time? We turn to our political analyst and host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. George, there is drama in this. There is theater in this. Is there purpose in all of that?"
Stephanopoulos, in Manhattan with Gibson: "Oh, absolutely, Charlie. The President knows this is going to be one of the biggest battles of his presidency, most consequential battles of his presidency. He wants to set the terms. He wants to introduce the country to a living, breathing person, not a set of position papers. He wants to deny Democrats a chance to respond. He's going at 9:00. And most of all, Charlie, big bonus for the White House, we've been talking about this all day long. Not one word in the political world about the controversy that is drowning the White House, Karl Rove and the leak investigation."
Gibson: "It gets that off the front pages."
Stephanopoulos: "No question about it."


# NBC Nightly News. David Gregory concluded from the White House: "Tonight, White House officials say the President is acting so quickly to ensure that his nominee will be in place on the court by October when the court term begins, but tonight's announcement will also allow a White House engulfed by the CIA leak investigation, Brian, to change the subject."

Brian Williams soon raised the assessment with Tim Russert: "Now, David Gregory mentioned the Karl Rove factor in all this. What does he have to do with the naming of a Supreme Court nominee?"
Russert: "I think Karl Rove's enjoying this day, one of the few in the last week or so. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said, 'Isn't it interesting, the timing?' And, Brian, every Republican I talked to today in Washington said, 'Thank God they're changing the subject. We'd much prefer to fight over the Supreme Court than watch Karl Rove be talked about in the press with a CIA investigation.'"
Listen to MP3 audio clip
Text of clip + audio archive

# Later, on MSNBC's 8pm Countdown, Keith Olbermann proposed: "Let's talk first about the timing of this. Is there hard and fast evidence that this was 'Wag the Dog'? Was this announcement pushed up? Was the decision made any more quickly just to try to eclipse the Karl Rove story?"
Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank endorsed Olbermann's take: "Oh, there's no doubt about it. It has been reported in conservative, liberal and down-the-middle publications, people close to the White House saying that this was indeed, they were gonna wait until the end of the month, it was only pushed up maybe ten days, two weeks, but they clearly wanted to bump Karl Rove out of the headlines and out of the top of your broadcast. And I believe they've succeeded."

In Obit on Westmoreland, CBS News Skips
His Lawsuit Against Them

CBS on Tuesday night managed to deliver a full story, on the passing of General William Westmoreland, without mentioning how in the early 1980s, as the Washington Post described in its obituary, "he filed a $120 million libel lawsuit" against CBS News for a CBS Reports documentary which "charged that Westmoreland directed a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress and alter critical intelligence on the enemy.'" In what was a precursor to last year's "memogate," the Post obit noted that in settling the lawsuit "CBS acknowledged that the documentary had been seriously flawed." NBC and ABC raised the lawsuit.

On the July 19 NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams noted: "He filed a famous lawsuit against CBS in 1982 over a documentary. It was settled out of court."

ABC anchor Charles Gibson provided a bit more detail, recalling on World News Tonight: "In 1982, CBS News ran a documentary accusing General Westmoreland of trying to make it look like the U.S. had been winning the war by deceiving President Johnson and the country about the true strength of the enemy. Westmoreland sued for libel. The case was eventually settled, with CBS declaring it did not believe the General was disloyal in performing his duties."

The July 19 Washington Post obituary by Patricia Sullivan explained:
"In 1982, enraged by a CBS news documentary 'The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,' he filed a $120 million libel lawsuit. The 90-minute program charged that Westmoreland directed a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress and alter critical intelligence on the enemy' by understating enemy strength in 1967 and 1968 in order to deceive Americans into believing the war was being won.
"The highly publicized lawsuit was funded by one of the country's richest men and financier of right-wing causes, Richard Mellon Scaife. But after four months, it was settled out of court, and CBS acknowledged that the documentary had been seriously flawed."

But the CBS Evening News didn't mention any of that. Anchor John Roberts introduced the July 19 story: "A man who found himself in the eye of one of this country's fiercest political storms, retired U.S. Army General William Westmoreland, has died, 30 years after the end of the war that cemented his place in history: Vietnam. Westmoreland was 91. David Martin now looks back on his life and career."

Martin began: "If one soldier can embody the complex tragedy of Vietnam, it is William Westmoreland, the picture-perfect general who went from hero to goat in the eyes of many."
Unidentified male protester: "You killed Vietnamese children!"
Martin: "Beginning in 1964, Westmoreland engineered the escalation of the war by requesting more American troops. His strategy was to fight a war of attrition: Kill enemy troops faster than the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese could replace them."
General William Westmoreland, U.S. Army: "The longer he holds out, the weaker he will get. This is, in fact, happening, but he does not yet apparently realize this."
Martin: "But over the Tet New Year holiday of 1968, the Viet Cong launched attacks throughout South Vietnam, even stormed the American embassy in Saigon, undermining Westmoreland's claims of progress."
Westmoreland: "The enemy very deceitfully has taken advantage of the Tet truce in order to create maximum consternation."
Martin: "He requested still more troops, but President Lyndon Johnson said no, and Westmoreland was soon replaced. He complained LBJ had handcuffed him by refusing to expand the ground war into enemy sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, although it by no means follows the U.S. could have won if Westmoreland had been given a free hand. His role will remain as controversial as the war itself. But without question, he was a patriotic soldier who did whatever his country asked of him. He will be buried where his career began, at West Point. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon."

Flip-Flop Flap Used to Raise Jenna's
Alcohol Use and to Mock Bush

Flip-flop flap tapped for some cheap Bush-bashing. An un-bylined Tuesday AP dispatch, about the controversy over how several members of the championship women's lacrosse team at Northwestern University wore flip-flops when posing last week for a photo with President Bush at the White House, gratuitously included this paragraph: "In 2001, Bush's daughter Jenna, then 19, wore black flip-flops in court, along with pink capri pants and a sleeveless black shirt, when she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol." CBS's Early Show brought on David Zinczenko, the Editor of Mens Health magazine, to discuss whether the women committed a faux pas, but he felt compelled to mock Bush: "I think it's totally inappropriate. But here's the thing, I don't even think President Bush noticed. I mean, he didn't even notice when Karl Rove was, you know, crossing his fingers while talking about a CIA leak. He certainly didn't notice this."

Clay Waters, of the MRC's TimesWatch.org page, alerted us to the July 19 AP dispatch, "Athletes Spark White House Flip-Flop Flap." An excerpt from the un-bylined article which carried a Chicago dateline:

There's a flip-flop controversy at the White House, and this one has nothing to do with President Bush and John Kerry.

A photo of Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team, taken during the athletes' visit to the White House last week, shows four of the nine women in the front row wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts.

The choice of footwear has prompted a mini-controversy -- a flip-flop flap, if you will.

A front-page story in the Chicago Tribune included the headline "YOU WORE FLIP-FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?!" inspired by an e-mail sent to player Kate Darmody from her older brother after he saw the photo on the team's Web site.

Family members of other players expressed similar dismay, insisting the summer footwear staple was too casual for a visit with the President....

The women have defended their attire, arguing they wore a dressier version of the casual sandal.

"Nobody was wearing old beach flip-flops," said Josephs, who wore a $16 brown pair with rhinestones....

In 2001, Bush's daughter Jenna, then 19, wore black flip-flops in court, along with pink capri pants and a sleeveless black shirt, when she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol....

END of Excerpt

For the AP story in full: news.yahoo.com

Tuesday's Early Show devoted an 8am half hour segment to the subject, with editors from Glamour and Men's Health magazine as in-studio guests. After the woman from Glamour castigated the young ladies, Hannah Storm, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, turned to David Zinczenko, Editor of Mens Health magazine: "Alright, what do you think, David?"
He replied: "I agree. I think it's totally inappropriate. But here's the thing, I don't even think President Bush noticed. I mean, he didn't even notice when Karl Rove was, you know, crossing his fingers while talking about a CIA leak. He certainly didn't notice this."
Storm cut off his off-topic rant: "Alright, we are staying completely away from politics. We are focused on fashion here."

The lacrosse team's Web site: nusports.collegesports.com

The July 15 Chicago Tribune story which put the controversy in motion, with a picture on the left side: www.chicagotribune.com

Direct link to the picture of the young ladies posing with Bush: www.chicagotribune.com

-- Brent Baker