2. Orwellian AP: Anti-Free Speech Lawsuit a "Free-Speech Challenge"
3. Clooney's Speech: ABC Backs with Clips Instead of Fact-Checking
An ABC News/Washington Post poll, released late Monday afternoon, found majority support for a media bete noire, FBI and NSA wiretapping of people inside the United States in the war on terror, but those findings were ignored by the Washington Post as well as ABC's World News Tonight and Good Morning America. Instead, all stressed how 80 percent believe "civil war" is likely in Iraq. "Majority of Americans Believe Iraq Civil War is Likely," read the WashingtonPost.com headline over the 5:30pm EST story by Richard Morin, which appeared in near-identical form in Tuesday's hard copy. The subhead: "Washington Post-ABC News Poll Finds Sharp Decline in Optimism About Iraq War." The March 7 print story on page A3, got a new headline: "Majority in U.S. Fear Iraq Civil War; Poll Also Finds Growing Doubt About Bush."
The Post story: www.washingtonpost.com
For how CBS covered its own poll last week, see the February 28 CyberAlert item, "CBS Hypes Bush at 'All-Time Low'; Public Rejects Cheney Obsession," at: www.mediaresearch.org
That 41 percent number, the MRC's Rich Noyes noticed, is just one point lower than the 42 percent level in the last ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in January -- well within the three-point margin of error. (February 1 CyberAlert item on how ABC covered that poll: www.mrc.org )
Nonetheless, during the 8am news update on Tuesday's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asserted that "President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new career low." Her short item in full, which came an hour after a full story on the poll from Jessica Yellin, which is transcribed lower in this item:
(Among the network shows which highlighted the CBS poll was ABC's GMA where, on February 28, the MRC's Brian Boyd reminded me, Jessica Yellin relayed: "A new poll puts the President's approval rating at 34 percent, his lowest level since he took office." A week later, as quoted above, GMA's Robin Roberts cited 41 percent as "a new career low.")
ABC and the Post skipped that when asked about how after 9/11 the "FBI was given additional authority in areas like surveillance, wiretaps and obtaining records in terrorism investigations," 62 percent said they favor the power and as for the National Security Agency "secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so," 54 percent consider it "acceptable."
The CBS News poll released February 27 generated some blog interest over how it surveyed substantially more Democrats than Republicans. In this new ABC News/Washington Post survey, 28 percent self-identified as Republicans compared to 32 percent who called themselves Democrats, but only 22 percent described themselves as liberal with 33 percent identifying their ideology as conservative and 42 percent saying they were moderates. See questions 901 and 908a in the poll rundown posted by the Washington Post: www.washingtonpost.com
[This item was modified from a Monday night posting on the MRC's Web site, NewsBusters.org. See: newsbusters.org ]
ABC gave the poll about 1:45 on the March 6 World News Tonight. A transcript:
Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: "The U.S. said today that 2,300 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began. An ABC News/Washington Post poll out today suggested that Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation in Iraq. Eight in ten Americans [80 percent] believe a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis is likely. 65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war. Our chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, joins us. And George, it is striking that while many of those polled are unhappy with the situation in Iraq, they don't agree on any easy solutions."
Tuesday's Good Morning America highlighted the same findings, as tracked by the MRC's Brian Boyd, who provided this transcript:
Robin Roberts: "We begin with the President's slumping poll numbers. Disenchanted Americans are giving him low marks across the board, especially when it comes to Iraq. ABC's Jessica Yellin is at the White House with those details. Good morning, Jessica."
Yellinvchecked in: "Good morning, Robin. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a stunning percentage of Americans now believe civil war in Iraq is likely. It's one on a long list of issues on which Americans now say the President is failing to perform. President Bush insists he's feeling confident."
Some of the questions skipped by ABC's World News Tonight, Good Morning America and the Washington Post article:
# 13. Do you think the war with Iraq has or has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States?
Is making significant progress: 49%
Yes, should: 62%
Talk about Orwellian double-speak: The AP on Monday called the effort by some law professors to ban military recruitment on their campuses a "free-speech challenge" -- even though it was the law professors who wanted to ban the speech.
[The MRC's Rich Noyes posted this item Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. See: newsbusters.org
Here are the first two paragraphs of the March 6 AP story, as posted on CBSNews.com:
The AP might have done better by calling it a "right of free association" challenge. Either way, the forces of left-wing conformity lost this round.
For the CBSNews.com posting of the AP dispatch: www.cbsnews.com
This was a dramatically liberal year for Oscar, but the more political winners at Sunday night's Oscars didn't get pointed questions from the right. The news media's general feeling is to cheer movies for the "social good," and never imagine that the movies could be riddled with errors (Good Night and Good Luck), riddled with profanity (Crash), or just be assessed by critics as a lovably confusing in its conspiracy theorizing (Syriana).
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. See: newsbusters.org ]
ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed George Clooney on Monday's Good Morning America about his Oscar victory speech and asked benignly: "Was it a political speech, were you interjecting politics?" Clooney spoke diplomatically about a "portion" of America being on his side, and a portion were not. Clooney's claim that Hollywood was "out of touch" in all the good ways was underlined by ABC as they ran a clip of black actress Hattie McDaniel winning an Oscar for the 1939 film Gone With The Wind.
Then Sawyer asked: "Is it a little boy's dream fulfilled? Looking at it, holding it?" Clooney replied: "Getting an Oscar? You know the funny thing is I wasn't, I didn't want to be an actor when I was a little boy. I wanted to be in broadcasting. I wanted to be what my father did, either being on a talk show or being a newsman. And then I sort of realized as I tried reporting a couple of times that I only lacked talent and smarts. So I figured, I'll get into acting. That'll be better."
ABC didn't challenge Clooney's "smarts" by taking apart the factual (or were they merely rhetorical) particulars of his speech. Even when it could be read as insulting to the liberal news media. For example, Clooney claimed: "We were the first to shout about AIDS when it was just a whisper."
This was not a claim that would stand up to a newsman's scrutiny. The news media didn't whisper about AIDS. Newsweek (April 18) and Time (July 4) published AIDS cover stories in 1983. AIDS was a common news story in the 1980s, and it was presumed that Reagan was failing to do anything about it by reporters. How about Diane Sawyer's network? Consult Nexis. Here was ABC's "World News Tonight" on March 2, 1983, and reporter George Strait: "Unknown eighteen months ago, officials say AIDS has now become a national epidemic, claiming more than a thousand people and killing 418."
By June 20, 1983, ABC was already worrying there was too much panic and oppression against the AIDS sufferer, as anchorman Max Robinson (who would die of AIDS) reported: "Medical news now. An ABC News-Washington Post poll about the deadly disease AIDS shows eighty percent of those surveyed have heard of the Immune Deficiency Syndrome, according to polsters an extremely high level of awareness. Even more surprising although medical experts say only a few segments of the population are at risk, fully a third of those questioned say they worry AIDS could pose a threat to them or their families. Well to date, only some sixteen hundred Americans have contracted the disease, but as Ken Kashiwahara reports, it now seems fighting the fear of AIDS is as important as fighting the disease itself."
Mm-hmm. Some "whisper."
So when did Hollywood begin producing a glut of AIDS movies for theatres? I'm guessing the first wide-release AIDS movie was "Longtime Companion" -- in 1990. That's a little slow, especially when Oprah had predicted millions of heterosexuals would be dead from AIDS by then.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus's readers have noted to him that TV jumped on AIDS as a subject by 1985 with the drama "An Early Frost." For my money, this in no way excuses Clooney's factual sloppiness. In his speech, he was touting the Academy (of movies), not just Hollywood in general. And even so, Clooney's speech makes it sound like no one in America was talking out loud about AIDS in the 1980s except the sensitive artists, which is why the media comparisons are so embarrassing to him.
-- Brent Baker