2. CNN Gives Air Time to Anti-Bush Ad Bought in One Small Market
3. CBS's Reagan Movie Will Amplify Foibles, Downplay Successes
Corrections: The October 21 CyberAlert stated: "Boykin's supposedly outrageous comments were first reported, months after he said them, on last Thursday's NBC Nightly News." Actually, the remarks by Lt. General Jerry Boykin were first reported a day earlier, on last Wednesday's Nightly News. The same item also once mistakenly spelled "Satan" as "Stan." Another item also had a typo, quoting ABC's Robin Roberts as asking about "why health care coasts are skyrocketing." That would be "costs."
The broadcast networks on Tuesday night, especially ABC and CBS, framed the Senate vote against partial-birth abortion around the agenda and terminology of abortion proponents, while all but ABC, which did so only vaguely, avoided describing the procedure, and none showed drawings of it -- all in stark contrast to how FNC approached the subject. Though the late afternoon vote led on ABC, CBS and NBC, and full stories on it were near the top of CNBC's The News with Brian Williams and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, on CNN's NewsNight Aaron Brown allocated only a couple of sentences to it late in his hour.
AGENDA: The broadcast networks saw the vote as a threat "abortion rights" and a "restriction" on women, not as a victory for the rights of the unborn or for the expansion of protections for human life. Peter Jennings' tease made it sound as if all abortions had been outlawed: "On World News Tonight, the Senate votes today on abortion. It's the first federal ban on abortion in 30 years and it's headed for the courts." Jennings soon portrayed the vote as "the first federal ban on abortion since the right to abortion was conferred by the Supreme Court in Roe versus Wade 30 years ago."
Dan Rather teased his program: "Abortion rights take a historic hit from Congress. What do women face? And will the new restrictions hold up in court?" Rather promised that reporter Elizabeth Kaledin would look "beyond the politics and rhetoric to the medical impact this law could have," but she nonetheless echoed the liberal political agenda as she painted the vote as dangerous to women's health. She warned that one doctor said that "combining the words 'never' and 'late-term abortions' could easily jeopardize a woman's health and tie her doctor's hands." Kaledin charged: "By outlawing even one option, no matter how rarely used, ethicists believe Congress is treading on dangerous ground." And, without citing any women in favor, she highlighted a woman who is "outraged the government is prying into the most personal and painful decision a woman can make."
TERMINOLOGY: In addition to adopting the favorable "abortion rights" phraseology, the network anchors and reporters resisted using the term "partial-birth abortion." Jennings and Rather outright refused to utter the words. Jennings asserted: "The Senate has voted today to ban a certain abortion procedure which is most often used late in a pregnancy." Rather similarly announced: "Congress tonight gave final approval to legislation making it a crime for doctors to perform certain types of late-term abortions."
NBC's Tom Brokaw kept his distance from the phrase, though he at least mouthed the term as he teased at the top of the October 21 NBC Nightly News: "The Senate joins the House and votes to outlaw so-called partial-birth abortion, the first federal ban in the long struggle over Roe v Wade." Brokaw distanced himself a second time as he introduced the lead story: "It is what some are calling 'partial-birth abortions.' Others call it 'late term.'" (CNN's Brown echoed Brokaw, referring to "the medical procedure known by abortion opponents as partial-birth abortion.")
ABC's Linda Douglass eventually arrived at the dreaded term: "It is a hard-won victory for opponents of abortion rights who fought for eight years to ban what they call 'partial-birth abortion.'"
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCEDURE: CBS and NBC failed to describe or show what a partial-birth abortion is, while ABC offered a vague description. CBS reporter Elizabeth Kaledin provided this uninformative description: "The procedure generally performed between the 18th and 24th weeks of a pregnancy."
NBC's Chip Reid made sure viewers understood that partial-birth opponents found the procedure ghastly, but he did not show any drawings of it or describe it. Over a wide shot of Senator Rick Santorum on the Senate floor next to an easel featuring a drawing of a fetus in a uterus, but an image too small to make out any detail, Reid noted, as Santorum could be heard saying "they place a vacuum pump," that "in a debate filled with graphic words and pictures, proponents of a ban on so-called partial birth abortion argued that however one feels about abortion generally, this particular late term procedure should never be allowed." Reid then played this soundbite from Senator John Ensign of Nevada: "This procedure is so grotesque that when it is described it makes people shudder."
No one watching NBC Nightly News or CNBC's The News with Brian Williams had to shudder since Reid provided none of the gruesome details.
ABC's Linda Douglass at least gave a bit of a clue as to what occurs: "The law would ban a procedure used after the third month of pregnancy that involves partially delivering a fetus and puncturing its skull."
(The angle taken by CNN's Aaron Brown matched the broadcast networks. He offered this brief item on NewsNight: "The Senate voted to ban the medical procedure known by abortion opponents as partial-birth abortion. This type of abortion is relatively infrequent. Though, like most of the abortion debate, there is little agreement on that as well, we suppose. It is almost always done late in a pregnancy. The measure's drawing fire, it contains no exception for when the mother's life is in danger. It will certainly end up in court after the President signs it.")
THE FNC DIFFERENCE: FNC's Brit Hume and Major Garrett, on Special Report with Brit Hume, appeared to be in a parallel universe from their broadcast network colleagues. They readily uttered the term "partial-birth abortion," avoided the "abortion rights" phrase as they preferred to describe those against the Senate vote as "opponents," and Garrett provided both a detailed description of the procedure and showed drawings of it.
Hume announced: "The Senate has voted to ban partial-birth abortion." He elaborated: "The Senate voted overwhelmingly today for a bill that would outlaw that abortion procedure in which the fetus is partially-delivered before a doctor punctures its skull. The House has already approved the bill and President Bush has promised to sign it. But the battle is not over. Opponents claim the ban is simply the first step in an effort to ban abortion altogether. They vow to take it to court."
Over a series of shots of black and white drawings of various stages of the procedure, FNC reporter Major Garrett began his story: "Partial-birth abortion, the subject of numerous congressional hearings, occurs in the second or third trimester. A physician pulls the fetus from the womb by its feet, punctures the base of the skull and inserts a tube into the wound. The brains are then sucked out and the skull collapses. The Senate Majority Leader, the only physician in the Senate, told Fox the procedure is dangerous and medically indefensible."
Though ABC's Linda Douglass had asserted that "the new law makes no exception for the mother's health," and CNN's Brown made a similar claim, Garrett proceeded to report: "The ban allows the procedure under one condition: If it's necessary to save the life of the mother due to a complication arising only from the pregnancy. Senate opponents said partial-birth abortions are rare and usually performed when there are fetal abnormalities."
Garrett then played a clip of Senator Jeff Sessions pointing out how the AMA says partial-birth abortions are not medically necessary before Garrett noted how opponents claim the bill threatens access to all abortion. To back that up, FNC ran a soundbite from Senator Dianne Feinstein warning of the return of back ally abortions and higher mortality for women.
Garrett concluded by using a term rarely heard on TV, "pro-abortion groups," as he noted how "pro-abortion groups promise to challenge the federal ban at the Supreme Court."
ABC & CBS RUNDOWN. Below are full transcripts for the Tuesday night, October 21 ABC and CBS stories, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened his broadcast: "Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the process of life and the prospect of death. Today, in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has acted to keep a comatose woman alive against the wishes of her husband and the courts, and we'll get to that in a minute. The Senate has voted today to ban a certain abortion procedure which is most often used late in a pregnancy, and President Bush has said that he will sign the legislation. Both cases are undoubtedly headed back to the courts, but it is still something of a landmark day. We begin in Washington with the first federal ban on abortion since the right to abortion was conferred by the Supreme Court in Roe versus Wade 30 years ago. Here's ABC's Linda Douglass."
Douglass began, over a wide-shot of Santorum next to the poster of a fetus, but not close enough to make out any detail: "It is a hard-won victory for opponents of abortion rights who fought for eight years to ban what they call 'partial birth abortion.'"
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather led his program: "Good evening. It is one of the biggest developments in the battle over abortion rights since the Supreme Court's landmark ruling supporting a woman's right to choose 30 years ago. Congress tonight gave final approval to legislation making it a crime for doctors to perform certain types of late-term abortions, legislation President Bush says he will sign into law. CBS's Elizabeth Kaledin looks tonight beyond the politics and rhetoric to the medical impact this law could have."
Kaledin began her Evening News story which, I just noticed, was re-played Wednesday morning on CBS's The Early Show: "The Senate's only physician set the tone."
So, just who are the three independent experts cited by Kaledin? Blumenthal, whom CBS identified on screen simply as with "Johns Hopkins University," is on the Board of Directors of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. See: www.rhtp.org
Its home page shows it has a political agenda. Under a home page request to "Support These Campaigns," the page features a graphic link to something called, "No New Money for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs." See: www.rhtp.org
That group's page: www.nonewmoney.org
[Web Update: Blumenthal has also been affiliated
with Planned Parenthood, a group politically active in opposing a ban on
partial-birth abortions. In a May 16 Now with Bill Moyers story about the
supposed conspiratorial "assault" on abortion rights, PBS's Brenda
Breslauer identified Blumenthal as the former Medical Director of a Maryland
Planned Parenthood chapter." See the May 20 CyberAlert for more on that
story featuring Blumenthal: www.mediaresearch.org
Earlier this month, National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez documented how Audrey Eisen, CBS's poster woman for the necessity of partial-birth abortion and whom CBS said had one, really didn't. An excerpt from an October 2 posting by Lopez:
....Most jarring and most prominent was a Gannett News Service story by Pamela Brogan (a reporter who is a repeat offender) that appeared on Sunday.
Audrey Eisen, the story tells us, was a caring mother (okay, they didn't actually use that word, "mother"). It begins, "After suffering through infertility and miscarriages, Audrey Eisen got pregnant again last year only to learn that her fetus had a chromosomal defect and would die before birth or live only a few weeks in severe pain."
Eisen "made what she called 'a deeply moral personal decision' and got an abortion in her 16th week."
The news story continues, "That option might not be available to other women facing the same dilemma under legislation Congress is expected to pass this year."
Sorry, but that's just not true.
The article asserts that the current congressional ban on the road to the White House would prohibit Ms. Eisen's abortion, (which the reporter later admits was a "dilatation and evacuation" abortion); the assertion requires having not read the bill. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 clearly defines partial-birth abortion as an abortion in which:
It's actually sort of fitting that the pro-choicers have the "so-called partial-birth abortion" macro on their computers, because it is very clearly "infanticide," as the late Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it. As the bill clearly defines it, partial-birth abortion is when a baby is partially delivered but whose head is punctured before the birth is complete; partial-birth abortions happen in the 20th-26th weeks of pregnancy, not in the sixteenth. That was not Ms. Eisen's abortion. Eisen had a D&E abortion (illustrated here). Look here for a visual of a partial-birth abortion.
END of Excerpt
For Lopez's piece, with the links to the two pages cited in her last sentence: www.nationalreview.com
And for a bio of George Annas: www.meta-library.net
For the points skipped by the broadcast networks, see a National Right to Life Committee press release with many links to back up documentation: www.nrlc.org
And for the NRLC's partial-birth abortion facts page: www.nrlc.org
Oh, since we've come this far, how about one more thing? Here's how Tom Brokaw, in San Francisco, opened Tuesday's NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. In the already emotional debate over abortion, this is the issue that takes the passions on both sides to new levels. It is what some are calling 'partial-birth abortions.' Others call it 'late term.' Today those who have campaigned long and hard against the procedure, won a major victory in the Senate. But even with President Bush's expected signature, the battle may not be over."
Yes, those "against abortion rights" must face a court challenge and ongoing media hostility.
Did CNN lower its standards so it could show a clip of an anti-Bush TV ad over "leakgate," an ad which few people would otherwise see since the DNC only bought time for it in one small market? Ten years ago, CNN's Brooks Jackson promised to never give air time to ads with buys below $50,000, but on Monday, Inside Politics played the Bush-bashing ad with a buy of a piddling $20,000 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Back in 1993, the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, we complained in our MediaWatch newsletter about how Jackson ran fact checks which hammered some TV ads opposed to Clinton's health care plan while he ignored ads in favor of the Clinton plan. The November 1993 MediaWatch recounted his explanation to us:
Jackson has since departed CNN, and apparently his standard left with him.
The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught this item from Monday's Inside Politics which began over an on-screen graphic resembling a newspaper headline: "DEMOCRATIC AD HAMMERS BUSH OVER CIA LEAK."
Judy Woodruff: "The Democratic Party is running a new TV ad criticizing President Bush over the alleged White House leak involving a CIA operative."
CBS's upcoming The Reagans mini-series starring James Brolin, aka Mr. Barbra Streisand, as Ronald Reagan, looks to be so slanted against Reagan from the left that even the New York Times has taken notice. In an October 21 story, Times reporter Jim Rutenberg revealed: "As snippets about the television movie circulate in Washington and Los Angeles, friends and relatives of the ailing Mr. Reagan are expressing growing concern that this deconstruction of his presidency is shot through a liberal lens, exaggerating his foibles and giving short shrift to his accomplishments."
Specifically, the two-parter which is scheduled to air on November 16 and 18, ignores the Reaganomics economic boom and recovery from Carter's malaise, claims Reagan provided the FBI with the names of communists in Hollywood, insists that he got the idea for SDI from a 1940 movie and, in a portrayal even liberal biographer Lou Cannon labeled as "unfair," paints Reagan as a mean-spirited lout on AIDS funding as he charges of AIDS victims: "They that live in sin shall die in sin."
In an OpinionJournal.com posting, John Fund recounted the liberal and Democratic connections of the man who approved the production, CBS President Les Moonves.
An excerpt from the October 21 New York Times story:
....That the part of Mr. Reagan is played by James Brolin, who is married to the conservative b'te noire Barbra Streisand and who makes no secret of his own liberal politics, only intensifies their [Reagan's friends and relatives] fears.
"I fully expect this mini-series will be largely unfavorable to my dad," Michael Reagan, a radio talk-show host who reaches two million people each week, wrote recently in a column posted on various Web sites. He added, "Hollywood has been hijacked by the liberal left."
Marlin Fitzwater, who was the White House press secretary for two of Mr. Reagan's eight years in office, asked rhetorically in an interview: "Does it show he had the longest and strongest recovery in postwar history? That the economy, stimulated by the tax cuts, was creating something like 200,000 jobs a month, for years?"...
"The Reagans," according to the final version of the script obtained by The New York Times, does give Mr. Reagan most of the credit for ending the cold war and paints him as an exceptionally gifted politician and a moral man who stuck to his beliefs, often against his advisers' urgings.
But there is no mention of the economic recovery or the creation of wealth during his administration, key accomplishments to his supporters. Nor does it show him delivering the nation from the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years, as his supporters say he did.
The details the producers do choose to stress -- like Mr. Reagan's moments of forgetfulness, his supposed opinions on AIDS and gays, his laissez-faire handling of his staff members -- often carry a disapproving tone.
Nancy Reagan, who is played by Judy Davis, does not get light treatment either. While the script portrays Mrs. Reagan as a loyal and protective wife, it also shows her as a control addict, who set the president's schedule based on her astrologer's advice and who had significant influence over White House personnel and policy decisions.
CBS officials and the filmmakers said the mini-series would ultimately be judged as fair when it is shown on Nov. 16 and 18. They said they were simply trying to tell a historically accurate story that included the good along with the ugly, all from respected biographies and other source material. "This was very important for me, to document everything and give a very fair point of view," said Leslie Moonves, the CBS chairman.
The film's producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan -- who have done a number of successful made-for-television movies including those about Judy Garland and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis -- said no major event was depicted without at least two confirming sources, though they said they took dramatic liberty in some spots....
There are a number of admiring scenes, including those showing Mr. Reagan rebuffing his advisers to push ahead with negotiations with the Soviets and others depicting him as a devoted husband. And the movie accepts his assertion that he knew nothing of the illegal diversion of funds to the contras fighting in Nicaragua.
"The Reagans" takes sides on plenty of issues and incidents that are vigorously contested by biographers, and some that are historically questionable. In one early scene Mr. Reagan's talent agent, Lew Wasserman, tells him that his anti-Communist activism is hurting his career. "People know you're an informer for the blacklist," Mr. Wasserman says. Mr. Reagan replies, "I've never called anybody a Commie who wasn't a Commie."
Mr. Reagan was long suspected of supplying names to the Hollywood blacklist but denied it. F.B.I. records show he cooperated with agents investigating communism in Hollywood, but historians disagree about whether his assistance was of any real significance.
The script also accuses Mr. Reagan not only of showing no interest in addressing the AIDS crisis, but of asserting that the patients of AIDS essentially deserved their disease. During a scene in which his wife pleads with him to help people battling AIDS, Mr. Reagan says resolutely, "They that live in sin shall die in sin" and refuses to discuss the issue further.
Lou Cannon, who has written several biographies about Mr. Reagan, said such a portrayal was unfair. "Reagan is not intolerant," he said. "He was a bit asleep at the switch, but that's not fair to have him say something that Patrick Buchanan would say."
Elizabeth Egloff, a playwright who wrote the final version of the script, acknowledged there was no evidence such a conversation took place. But, she said, "we know he ducked the issue over and over again, and we know she was the one who got him to deal with it."...
Another likely controversial moment in the television movie comes in a scene that implies strongly that President Reagan's inspiration for the Star Wars space-based system was a 1940 movie in which he starred, "Murder in the Air." Some experts have said that the film may have influenced Mr. Reagan's decision to sign off on the program. Others have dismissed such claims as overemphasized by liberals....
Mr. Zadan and Mr. Meron, acknowledge their liberal politics, as do the stars of the television movie, Mr. Brolin and Ms. Davis. But Mr. Meron, said: "This is not a vendetta, this is not revenge. It is about telling a good story in our honest sort of way. We all believe it's a story that should be told."
Nonetheless some involved in the making of "The Reagans" said in interviews that they were girding for a considerable outcry from some of Mr. Reagan's more die-hard supporters.
"With the climate that has been in America since Sept. 11, it appears, from the outside anyway, to not be quite as open a society as it used to be," Ms. Davis said during an interview at her hotel in Montreal. "By open, I mean as free in terms of a critical atmosphere, and that sort of ugly specter of patriotism."
She added, "If this film can help create a bit more questioning in the public about the direction America has been going in since the 1970's, I guess then I think it will be doing a service."...
END of Excerpt
For the New York Times article in full, with a picture of Brolin on the set looking remarkably like Ronald Reagan: www.nytimes.com
In a "Political Diary" entry Tuesday on OpinionJournal.com, John Fund expanded on the liberal and Democratic politics of CBS President Les Moonves:
....You'd think CBS would be a little more careful in its Reagan-bashing. The man who green-lighted the Reagan project, CBS Chairman Les Moonves, is already somewhat exposed on the issue of liberal bias.
He allowed himself to be seen sitting next to Hillary Clinton at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. Last year, he was ridiculed by David Letterman on his own network for a four-day junket to Cuba with other media moguls. During the trip he hobnobbed with Fidel Castro and he returned with the dictator's autograph on a cigar box.
Mr. Moonves' last project also did not end well. "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" created a stir earlier this year when it drew ominous parallels between a society that allowed a Hitler to rise to power and the reaction of the Bush administration after 9/11. "It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who (sic) ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole nation into war. I can't think of a better time to examine this history than now," producer Ed Gernon told TV Guide before the biography aired.
"When an entire country becomes afraid for their sovereignty, for their safety," he added, "they will embrace ideas and strategies and positions that they might not embrace otherwise." Mr. Gernon was fired from the project for tipping the movie's hand so blatantly, but the controversial elements of the script were left in.
Now that CBS' anti-Reagan bias has been revealed, the network will understandably resist calls for last-minute editing and changes in the Reagan biography. That's appropriate. Let the audience see the movie's alternate conceptualization of reality and judge for itself.
Mr. Reagan courageously opposed a 1978 anti-gay ballot initiative in California. No one who knows could imagine him condemning AIDS sufferers in the way the movie portrays him doing. Airing projects that rewrite history is just one of many reasons that the flight of audiences from network television continues apace.
END of Excerpt
For Fund's take in full: opinionjournal.com
For a bio and picture of James Brolin, check his page on the Internet Movie Database Web site: us.imdb.com
For Judy Davis: us.imdb.com
For a rundown on producer Neil Meron's previous projects, but sans a picture: us.imdb.com
And the same for producer Craig Zedan: us.imdb.com
Finally, for the American Repertory Theater's bio of screenwriter Elizabeth Egloff: www.amrep.org
# On TV Tonight: Howard Dean will be the subject of an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes II and NBC's Tonight Show will re-run the program from a couple of weeks ago on which Dean was a guest. Barbara Bush should be the guest on CNN's Larry King Live.
-- Brent Baker