2. CBS Political Analyst: McCain Critics are Conservative 'Crazies'
3. 'Critics' (and NYT) Bush 'Squandered Country's Moral Authority'
4. Clinton-Friendly Reporter: Test of Fairness 'Is the Work Itself'
Unlike the Wednesday CBS and NBC evening newscasts, ABC's World News highlighted a favorable development in Iraqi political progress as anchor Charles Gibson gave 20 seconds to: "Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country's government that has been so often criticized. Iraq's parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces."
A month ago, on January 14, Gibson was also the only broadcast network evening newscast anchor to cite how "Iraqi lawmakers have put their differences aside and agreed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take government jobs. It's a key benchmark sought by the United States."
The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night both found time to report on how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates broke his arm in a fall on ice and how, for the first time, a Beagle (named "Uno") won "Best in Show" at the Westminster Dog Show. Gibson, who broadcast from Philadelphia, the site of the dog show, managed to note the development in Iraq as well as Uno's win.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The January 15 CyberAlert item recounted:
Just as ABC's World News was ahead of CBS and NBC in October and November with news of improving conditions and decreased violence in Iraq, on Monday night ABC alerted weekday viewers to a positive development on the political front over the weekend. Gibson introduced a January 14 World News story from Hilary Brown in Baghdad:
Overseas next, a significant political breakthrough in Iraq. Security has been improved there, but critics have wondered when political progress would come. Well, now Iraqi lawmakers have put their differences aside and agreed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take government jobs. It's a key benchmark sought by the United States. ABC's Hillary Brown reports...
For that CyberAlert article in full: www.mediaresearch.org
Media interest in Iraq has declined as conditions have improved. The February 4 CyberAlert item by the MRC's Rich Noyes, "As U.S. Troops Succeed, Media Retreat from Iraq War Story," reported:
...over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.
Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease....
For that rundown in full: www.mrc.org
On Wednesday's Early Show on CBS, co-host Harry Smith discussed the Potomac Primaries with Democratic strategist Dee Dee Myers and Republican CBS political analyst Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush White House Communications Director, who said of John McCain's conservative critics: "The more that we see kind of the crazies like Ann Coulter out attacking John McCain, the better Republicans feel about their chances in the general election." This attack upon conservatives critical of McCain, who include Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and others, was prompted by Harry Smith asking about Mike Huckabee's continued support in the race: "Nicolle, let's talk about the Republicans, because McCain, he said himself a week ago, now I'm the frontrunner. This lingering Huckabee thing. Huckabee got a lot of votes in Virginia. These conservatives they're -- they're still -- they're not happy. They're not happy about this guy." Wallace responded: "And, you know what, Republicans are beginning to say that's okay." Smith accepted that assessment: "Oh, okay."
On last Thursday's CBS Evening News, Wallace discounted those troubled by McCain -- whom she called "ABM Voters: Anybody But McCain" -- as "a smaller sliver of the party than we give them credit for being." For more on that story, see the February 8 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Here is the full transcript of the February 13 segment:
HARRY SMITH: Now on to the results of yesterday's primaries. Joining us, Republican strategist and CBS News Political Analyst Nicolle Wallace, and Democratic strategist Dee Dee Myers. Morning to you both.
Steven Lee Myers' so-called "news analysis," "Trial's Focus To Suit Bush" on Tuesday's front page of the New York Times could have more accurately been labeled "one reporter's anti-war opinion." He asserted: "Mr. Bush never sounds surer of himself than when the subject is Sept. 11, even when his critics argue that he has squandered the country's moral authority, violated American and international law, and led the United States into the foolhardy distraction of Iraq."
[This item, by the MRC's Clay Waters, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
Note the strangely precise criticism Myers cited from unnamed "critics.":
Mr. Bush never sounds surer of himself than when the subject is Sept. 11, even when his critics argue that he has squandered the country's moral authority, violated American and international law, and led the United States into the foolhardy distraction of Iraq.
"Six and a half years ago, our country faced the worst attack in our history," Mr. Bush said late last week, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I understood immediately that we would have to act boldly to protect the American people. So we've gone on the offense against these extremists. We're staying on the offense, and we will not relent until we bring them to justice."
The 9/11 candidate, Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, may have dropped his bid for the White House. But the 9/11 presidency is far from over....
Only a year ago, Iraq appeared to have deflated the president's popularity and eroded his standing even among Republicans and the Pentagon's generals. But Mr. Bush now appears to have laid a foundation to keep more than 130,000 American troops on the ground in a mission he has justified as part of a broader fight against terrorism, despite an overwhelming groundswell against an unpopular conflict. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates on Monday essentially endorsed a "pause" in further troop withdrawals once those troops sent in last year as part of a temporary buildup go home.
END of Excerpt
For the February 12 "news analysis" in full: www.nytimes.com
Tuesday's story read much like Myers' "White House Memo" from August 27, which also put words in the mouths of unnamed "critics" in order to forward his own opinions about Iraq, like this:
For details, see this August 27 TimesWatch item: www.timeswatch.org
Former Washington Post reporter John Harris, now editor-in-chief of the political newspaper The Politico, engaged in an interesting blog debate Tuesday with his Politico colleagues Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei about whether or not journalists lose their impartiality by voting. Harris insisted that having opinions or voting "does not compromise me as a journalist," and that the key requirement is "self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone's commitment to fairness."
"As to whether I and other reporters and editors really are fair, the only test of that is the work itself," Harris insisted.
Over the years, MRC has caught numerous instances in which Harris has seemingly tilted in ways pleasing to either Bill or Hillary Clinton. Back in February 1999, Harris suggested the Wall Street Journal was behaving as a partisan in reporting the on-the-record charges of a woman who said Bill Clinton raped her two decades earlier. "I think we need to be highly skeptical of the story," Harris announced on PBS's Washington Week in Review. The next day, Harris's Washington Post joined the Journal in reporting Broaddrick's story. See: www.mrc.org
A couple of years later, Harris profiled Hillary Clinton for the Washington Post magazine. The theme of the piece was captured in its subtitle: "For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her." In case you wondered, "they" referred to the conservatives. See: www.mrc.org
Then in 2005, Harris theorized that it was Republicans' small-minded pursuit of the Lewinsky scandal that left the nation vulnerable on 9/11: "I think that's the great tragedy of Bill Clinton's record on terrorism, that he understood the threat of Islamic terrorism generally, Osama bin Laden specifically, and yet he was not able to infuse his own government or the country at large with that sense of urgency." See: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Here's how Harris defined a reporters' burden to be objective in his Tuesday evening blog item:
I did not vote in either of Virginia's primaries today, though I have been following both the Republican and Democratic contests closely and the Old Dominion's open primary laws would have allowed me to vote in either primary with no obligation to register by party.
But my reasons had nothing to do with staying monkishly detached from the election or pretending to myself or others that I have no opinion about the candidates. I have plenty of opinions (though by temperament I tend to wear them pretty loosely).
The reason I did not vote is that if I did my name would be on public record showing which primary I voted in. I don't need the hassle of giving people reasons to question or make assumptions about my views or the motives informing my work.
I will certainly be voting in the general election, as I have in every presidential race since 1984. I like politics, and I like the feeling of participation as a citizen that voting provides.
What's more, coming to a conclusion about whom I support and expressing that in the voting booth does not compromise me as a journalist.
My belief is that being a journalist for an ideologically neutral publication like Politico, or the Washington Post, where I used to work, does not mean having no opinions. It means exercising self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone's commitment to fairness.
As to whether I and other reporters and editors really are fair, the only test of that is the work itself....
END of Excerpt
Now, a few of the Notable Quotables that the MRC has collected from Harris over the years, complete with their original headlines:
# This Story Stinks (Right, Boss?)
Moderator Ken Bode: "[Did] the White House say anything about this [accusations Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick] today?" Washington Post reporter John Harris: "They said it comes -- consider the source. It comes from a very partisan source, the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I think we have to say, in fairness, there have been lots of stories over many years about President Clinton and his personal background. This does not fit the pattern or seem to be consistent with that behavior in any way. So I think we need to be highly skeptical of the story." -- Washington Post reporter John Harris, February 19, 1999 Washington Week in Review. The next morning the Post put its own story about Broaddrick on its front page.
"Two and a half years ago in your inaugural, you said you wanted to help the nation 'repair the breach' and this morning, you called again for greater cooperation in Washington. But it seems apparent that for many people you personally remain a polarizing and divisive figure in national politics. I was wondering if you've ever reflected on why, as Mrs. Clinton I think has sometimes noted, throughout your career you've always seemed to generate such antagonism in your opponents and do you assign any responsibility to yourself for what this morning you described as the rancorous mood in Washington today?" -- Washington Post White House reporter John Harris to President Clinton at a June 25, 1999 press conference.
"A supportive spouse, surprisingly accepting colleagues, and a mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her." -- Subhead of Washington Post reporter John Harris's profile, "The Liberation of Hillary," the cover story for the Post's Sunday magazine, January 27, 2002. "They" referred to Clinton's conservative critics.
Host Bob Schieffer: "I have always wondered: Do you think that had it not been for Monica Lewinsky and the scandal that was swirling around Bill Clinton, that we as Americans would have recognized earlier what a threat that Osama bin Laden posed? Because every time that Clinton would take action, when he'd fire the missiles at what was supposed to be the terror training camp, people asked, '€˜Is this wagging the dog? Is this something to divert us from talking about Monica Lewinsky?'"
Washington Post reporter John Harris: "I think that's the great tragedy of Bill Clinton's record on terrorism, that he understood the threat of Islamic terrorism generally, Osama bin Laden specifically, and yet he was not able to infuse his own government or the country at large with that sense of urgency." -- Exchange on CBS's Face the Nation June 12, 2005, where Harris was promoting his new biography of Bill Clinton.
-- Brent Baker