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ABC & WPost Skip How Poll Finds Majority Support for Surveillance --3/7/2006


1. ABC & WPost Skip How Poll Finds Majority Support for Surveillance
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday 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. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas relayed how "65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war," before George Stephanopoulos outlined how the public is "all over the map" on what to do in Iraq. The Post story, and ABC, however, did note that the public is also sour on Democrats. Sounding exasperated, Vargas cued up Stephanopoulos: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?" The ABC duo also ignored Bush's approval level of 41 percent, seven points higher than the "all-time low" for Bush last week in a CBS News poll which was much-touted by the networks. That 41 percent number, however, 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. Nonetheless, on Tuesday's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asserted that "President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new career low."

2. Orwellian AP: Anti-Free Speech Lawsuit a "Free-Speech Challenge"
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.

3. Clooney's Speech: ABC Backs with Clips Instead of Fact-Checking
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). ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed George Clooney on Monday's Good Morning America, but 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."


ABC & WPost Skip How Poll Finds Majority
Support for Surveillance

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

ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas relayed how "65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war," before George Stephanopoulos outlined how the public is "all over the map" on what to do in Iraq. The Post story, and ABC, however, did note that the public is also sour on Democrats. Sounding exasperated, Vargas cued up Stephanopoulos: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?" The ABC duo also ignored Bush's approval level of 41 percent, seven points higher than the "all-time low" for Bush last week in a CBS News poll which was much-touted by the networks.

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

For the MRC's March 2 Media Reality Check by Tim Graham, "TV Tries to Sink Bush With Weighted Poll: Liberal Networks Show Their Bias By Pouncing on CBS Poll Based on a Skewed Anti-Bush Sample," go to: 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:
"President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new career low. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the President's overall performance rating now stands at 41 percent. Most Americans do not believe he has a clear plan to resolve the conflict in Iraq and thinks civil war is likely."

(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

That February 27 CBS News poll also determined, that by 51 to 47 percent, most "approve of Bush authorizing wiretaps to fight terrorism."

[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."
Stephanopoulos, in Washington, with the White House in the background and the numbers displayed on screen: "That's exactly right, Elizabeth. They are all over the map. About half the public [52 percent] wants a withdrawal of American troops. But they're split. Fewer than one in five say bring the troops home right now [17 percent]. About a third [35 percent] say bring them home gradually over time. Another third says have the troop levels stay exactly the same [34 percent]. And then you've got about ten percent, actually 11 percent, of the country says increase troops now. So you've got a chaotic situation in Iraq which has left the public confused."
Vargas: "The President's aggressive defense, however, of the ports deal has not only proved ineffective, George, but it's kind of backfiring against foreign management of any kind involved in the ports."
Stephanopoulos: "It sure is Elizabeth. You've got now 70 percent of the country against this Dubai ports deal. But 70 percent of them against any foreign management of our ports. So what's happened here is this whole story has taught people something they didn't know, that foreigners manage many of our ports. And they don't like it one bit."
Vargas, sounding exasperated: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?"
Stephanopoulos: "Not so far. In fact, they're going in the wrong direction, for Democrats. Back in January, you asked who do you trust to handle the nation's problems? Americans said Democrats, 51 to 37. Today, that is down to 42 to 40. And you know that goes back to Iraq too. They don't think Democrats have an answer to Iraq and they're sour on both parties."
Vargas: "Alright. George Stephanopoulos in Washington, thanks so much for that analysis."

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."
George W. Bush: "I don't think there's any problem we can't tackle."
Yellin: "But the new poll shows Americans aren't sharing the good vibes. On Iraq, the issue that may define the presidency more than any other, 80 percent of Americans believe a civil war is likely in Iraq. And a record high 65 percent say the President does not have a clear plan to resolve the conflict there. At the same time, 70 percent think Democrats don't have a solution to the problems in Iraq, either.
"On the domestic front, more than half of Americans also disapprove of the President's handling of the Medicare prescription drug plan. An overwhelming 70 percent oppose the deal that would allow a United Arab Emirates company to operate six U.S. ports.
"Mr. Bush's strong suit continues to be the war on terrorism. Fifty-two percent say he's doing well, but that's not as high as many Republicans would like so there's speculation about how much influence the White House will have in the upcoming congressional elections."
Stu Rothenberg: "This is a President who is weak on Capitol Hill, weak with his own party, weak with the country as a whole. If you call that a lame duck, he's a lame duck."
Yellin concluded: "And on Hurricane Katrina, 63 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way the President responded to the storm. That's nine points higher than his disapproval two weeks after the hurricane hit. The President visits the Gulf Coast tomorrow."

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?

Contributed 50%,
Has not: 48%


# 19. (HALF SAMPLE) Do you think the United States is or is not making significant progress in establishing a democratic government in Iraq?

Is making significant progress: 49%
Is not making significant progress: 48%


# 22. As you may know, starting in 2001 the FBI was given additional authority in areas like surveillance, wiretaps and obtaining records in terrorism investigations. Supporters said this was necessary to fight terrorism. Opponents said it went too far in compromising privacy rights. Do you think this additional FBI authority should or should not be continued?

Yes, should: 62%
No, should not: 37%


# 23. On another subject: as you may know, the National Security Agency has been investigating people suspected of involvement with terrorism by 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. Would you consider this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval as an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

Acceptable: 54%
Unacceptable: 46%

Orwellian AP: Anti-Free Speech Lawsuit
a "Free-Speech Challenge"

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 Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays."
"Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and their professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances."

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

Clooney's Speech: ABC Backs with Clips
Instead of Fact-Checking

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