2. ABC Cites 'Guns Versus Butter' Poll that Matches Media's Agenda
3. ABC Leaps to Defend the Laughter of Fun-Loving Hillary Clinton
4. Helen Thomas the 'Highlight' of Virginia Democratic Fundraiser
5. Sean Penn: 'Loons on Fox News are Broadcast There Every Day'
CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday night matched MSNBC in distorting the target of Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment as the 7pm EDT hour of The Situation Room devoted a full story to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attack on Limbaugh based on a Friday hit job on Limbaugh by the far-left Media Matters. "It's an angry new shot in the dispute over the war in Iraq," Blitzer asserted before reporting that Limbaugh had charged "that some veterans who are criticizing the war are, in his words, quote, 'phony soldiers.'" In fact, on his show Friday and Monday, Limbaugh made clear he was referring to those who claimed to be soldiers, but never served, a point mentioned by reporter Dana Bash, but only after Blitzer's framed the story by adopting as fact the spin of the left wing attack group.
Bash offered a favorable take on Reid's reasoning: "Harry Reid combined a biting attack on Limbaugh with a demand for an apology for what Democrats call an insulting rant against soldiers who joined Democrats in opposing the war." Though Bash noted that "Limbaugh insists he was only talking about one anti-war soldier, Jesse MacBeth recently convicted of falsely claiming to have served in Iraq," she proceeded to highlight how "Limbaugh's comments are burning up the liberal blogosphere. Watchdog group Media Matters, among the first to blast Limbaugh, says it doesn't buy his explanation." She next vaunted how "this new escalation of the Iraq debate has Democrats looking to turn the tables after the controversy of MoveOn.org's attack on the commanding General in Iraq." A strategy that will only work if the media play along. Bash did air a bit of Limbaugh's response to Reid: Laughter, followed by "he's got to be a nut!"
[This item was posted Monday night, with video, on the MRC's blog. The Real and Windows Media video, as well as MP3 audio, will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert. But to watch or listen in the meantime, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Limbaugh's comments on his Friday show: www.rushlimbaugh.com
And on his Monday show: www.rushlimbaugh.com
Frankly, I'm disappointed in Blitzer who is usually a better journalist who, if he really felt Reid's rant was newsworthy, could have at least set up the story by giving equal weight to Limbaugh's explanation for the intent of the "phony soldiers" remark as to the derisive spin pushed by political enemies of Limbaugh.
This wasn't the first time Blitzer's program showcased an effort to silence Limbaugh. The June 3, 2004 CyberAlert, "CNN's Blitzer Showcases Demand Armed Forces Radio Drop Limbaugh," reported on Blitzer's late afternoon show, then called Wolf Blitzer Reports:
CNN on Wednesday [June 2, 2004] elevated the calls, by a few left-wingers, to have the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) remove from its radio side its one hour a day of Rush Limbaugh, into a full-fledged "controversy" worthy of a full story on the 5pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports program. "Rush Limbaugh. Why critics say American troops in Iraq are a captive audience," Blitzer plugged the upcoming segment. Blitzer described as a "sort of interesting kind of story" the demand the government censor Limbaugh for "comparing the prisoner abuse scandal to what he suggested was fraternity hazing."
CNN reporter Tom Foreman acknowledged "it's a bit of tempest in a teapot," but that didn't inhibit CNN from devoting three-an-a-half minutes to it just past 5:30pm EDT. Foreman maintained that "this controversy over Rush Limbaugh's role in Iraq has been simmering for weeks and now it seems to be coming to a boil."
More like its been "simmering" amongst a very small group of liberal activists.
So what did Foreman cite as justification for making it a story on Wednesday: "The folks in charge of the military radio service responded today to an angry Senator." That Senator was liberal Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa....
For the June 3, 2004 CyberAlert article in full: www.mediaresearch.org
The Monday CyberAlert posting, "MSNBC Smears Limbaugh with 'Phony Soldiers' Distortion," recounted:
All day Friday, even after Rush Limbaugh corrected the misinformation, MSNBC promoted a story fed to them by the far-left Media Matters about how Rush Limbaugh had called military personnel who served in Iraq and oppose the war "phony soldiers." Limbaugh opened his noon EDT radio show on Friday by explaining how he was referring not to any real soldier but a phony one, notably Jesse MacBeth, who became a hero to the left when he recounted how his Army unit murdered innocent Iraqis. In fact, he hadn't even completed basic training.
Nonetheless, MSNBC headlined a 4pm EDT segment "'PHONY SOLDIERS' INSULT; Rush Limbaugh: U.S. Troops Who Oppose Iraq War are 'Phony.'" Anchor Tamron Hall asserted: "Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh never served in the armed forces, so when he made the following comments about Iraq War veterans who return home to oppose the war, it set off a firestorm of outrage." Hall ran a clip of Limbaugh saying it is Democrats who need to apologize for insulting the troops, but failed to relay Limbaugh's explanation of who he said was "phony." Pairing it with MoveOn's "General Betray Us" ad, retired Colonel Jack Jacobs called it "stupid talk" and suggested those in the military "would like people who don't know what they're talking about to just shut up."
At the top of the next hour, Chris Matthews teased Hardball: "Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says veterans who support withdrawing the troops are 'phony soldiers.' Those are his words." A guest charged Limbaugh "didn't go to Vietnam because he had a bump on his butt. So, I mean, this guy's a draft-dodger." Then at 8pm EDT, with "Limbaugh Bashes Vets for Withdrawal" on screen, and briefly "...Phony Soldiers..." over video of Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann teased Countdown: "Comedian Rush Limbaugh tries to back out of his quote: Servicemen protesting the war are quote, 'phony soldiers.'"
For the October 1 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org
Now, back to CNN and a transcript of the story which ran at about 7:28pm EDT during the third hour of the October 1 The Situation Room on CNN:
WOLF BLITZER: Tonight, a top Democrat is coming out guns blazing against conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. It's an angry new shot in the dispute over the war in Iraq and Limbaugh's charge that some veterans who are criticizing the war are, in his words, quote, "phony soldiers." Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching all of this unfold. Dana, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, he took this straight to the Senate floor today.
DANA BASH: He sure did and Senator Harry Reid is part of this controversy now that Rush Limbaugh calls a Democratic campaign to smear him. But Senator Reid made clear today that he was using this controversy to, in his words, to make clear that "neither party holds a patent on patriotism." The Senate Majority Leader took the floor and took, aim not across the aisle or at the President, but at a conservative radio host.
Text of Limbaugh's challenge to Reid: www.rushlimbaugh.com
Just over a week after ABC News exploited a crying mother to push an expansion of federal health insurance "for kids," a story which matched the media's overall emotion over facts reporting on the topic, on Monday's World News anchor Charles Gibson highlighted how "a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds opposition to more money for Iraq and support for more money for children's health insurance." Citing a "guns versus butter debate," Gibson noted how "fewer than three in ten Americans back the President's request for another $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while seven in ten Americans support the increased funding for children's health insurance that the President says he'll veto."
The Tuesday Washington Post put the two findings at the top of a graphic to illustrate "Advantage Democrats?" See: www.washingtonpost.com
For a rundown of the poll results in full: www.washingtonpost.com
[This item was posted late Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The September 21 CyberAlert item, "ABC Exploits Kids and Crying Mom to Push Higher Health Spending," recounted:
CBS, and especially ABC, on Thursday night portrayed the debate over increasing federal spending on health insurance for children as an effort to help kids only the cold-hearted could oppose, a framing aided by scenes of cute toddlers, a crying mother and little emphasis on how those well above poverty would qualify. ABC anchor Charles Gibson overlooked the proposed expansion, to those in families who have or can afford private insurance, as he cited "a bill providing health insurance to millions of kids whose parents cannot afford private coverage."
Reporter Martha Raddatz found a poor mother to exploit, beginning her story: "Susan Dick depends on the so-called SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] program for her two sons, both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance, too high for Medicaid." Raddatz briefly noted Bush's fear many would move from private insurance to the government program and then, leading into a soundbite from liberal Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she hailed how "the expansion has bipartisan support across the country, including from many Republicans..." Capping her story, Raddatz featured a crying mother who sympathetically fretted: "If my boys don't have health insurance, it makes it very hard when you're a parent to know that they're sick and you have to get them to the doctor." Raddatz coldly concluded: "But the President made it very clear today, Charlie, he will veto this bill in its present form."
CBS anchor Katie Couric also painted Bush as opposed to helping kids: "President Bush opened a news conference today by attacking a proposed expansion of a health care program for low-income children."
For the September 21 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org
On Monday's Good Morning America, ABC reporter Kate Snow rose to the defense of Hillary Clinton over complaints she's been seen manically giggling in many interviews. Referencing the mocking that the Democratic presidential candidate has taken on The Daily Show and other places, Snow asserted that Hillary Clinton is either "having a really good time out on the campaign trail, or she's the master of a shrewd political skill, disarming her critics with a gleam in her eye and a roar straight from the belly." So, the former First Lady is vibrant and fun-loving or brilliant in a good natured way? Those are the only two options?
During the segment, only Democratic operatives or Clinton campaign officials were asked to explain the candidate's recent outburst of giggles (except for a brief Daily Show clip). According to Snow, "Her inner circle insists her laugh is not calculated. It's natural." Clinton operative Capricia Marshall found Hillary's laughter to be "contagious." Democratic strategist Chris Lehane glowingly described the cackling as "smart and pretty adroit." What else would ABC and Kate Snow expect them to say?
Co-host Robin Roberts introduced the piece by sympathetically observing of Clinton: "It is not easy being the front-runner." An ABC graphic defensively read, "Laughing in Face of Critics: The Debate Over Clinton Chuckle" And despite the friendly nature of the piece, the GMA host and reporter seemed embarrassed to even be talking about it. Almost apologizing, Snow asserted, "Okay, maybe we are over analyzing a little bit here" and deemed the giggling to be a political weapon. After playing a clip of Clinton defending her laughter by saying that she had been slammed previously for not laughing enough, Roberts agreed. She added: "But she has a bit of a point there. When a lot of people were critical of her because she wasn't showing a sense of humor and then she does do that." Snow quickly interrupted to concur that "when you're a front-runner, you get it from everybody."
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
In contrast, even the New York Times managed to show some more skepticism than Snow. In a September 30 piece by Patrick Healy, the Times made the point that GMA dared not mention. The laughter can just come across as odd:
The weirdest moment was with Bob Schieffer on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" when Mr. Schieffer said to Mrs. Clinton, "You rolled out your new health care plan, something Republicans immediately said is going to lead to socialized medicine." She giggled, giggled some more, and then could not seem to stop giggling -- "Sorry, Bob," she said -- and finally unleashed the full Cackle.
The Schieffer moment seemed particularly calculated because Mrs. Clinton has most certainly not laughed in other settings when she has been accused of pursuing socialized medicine. She faced that accusation at a forum in Las Vegas this summer, for instance; she turned frosty and traded barbs with the audience member who made the assertion. It was clearly no laughing matter there.
END of Excerpt
For the entire September 30 New York Times story, go to: www.nytimes.com
ABC viewers probably should expect more of this type of reporting. After all, Good Morning America is the program that, in January, identified the battle between Clinton and Obama as "hot factor" versus "fluid poetry." See the January 19 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the October 1 segment, which aired at 7:43am:
Robin Roberts: "As we showed you earlier this morning, it is not easy being the front-runner. Saturday Night Live took some, well, liberty with Hillary Clinton and they're not the only ones. Now, Senator Clinton's getting some scrutiny because of her laugh. GMA weekend anchor Kate Snow has more on that. A lot of people are writing about this and talking about this."
ABC Graphic: "Laughing in Face of Critics: The Debate Over Clinton Chuckle"
Kate Snow: "A lot of people. We've been talking about it for weeks here, Robin. Depending on who you ask, Hillary Clinton is either having a really good time out on the campaign trail, or she's the master of a shrewd political skill, disarming her critics with a gleam in her eye and a roar straight from the belly. She's taking hits from all sides. At debates."
Former UPI White House correspondent and current Hearst columnist Helen Thomas was the "highlight" of a Sunday fundraiser, at a home in Clifton, Virginia, for Democratic Virginia State Senate candidate George Barker. Wrote contributor "snolan" of the liberal Virginia politics "Raising Kaine" blog: "Last night my good friend Kate took me to a Democratic fundraiser for George Barker who is running for State Senate in the 39th district. Becky and David Campbell hosted this event, and the highlight was a visit from Helen Thomas! Helen spoke briefly, and I think I heard her quoting Dick Goodwin (one of the best public policy writers ever), though I may have mis-heard her (the room and house were packed)."
For the blog post, with photos of Thomas: raisingkaine.com
Web site for the Democratic candidate Thomas came out to back: www.barkerforsenate.com
The 39th Senate district covers parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties: www.barkerforsenate.com
[This item is adapted from a Monday posting, by Ken Shepherd, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Well before becoming an opinion columnist for Hearst, Thomas racked up a record of biased coverage of U.S. Presidents. When she quit UPI in May 2000, the MRC's Tim Graham noted Thomas's most notable lines about the occupants of the Oval Office she had covered:
# Ronald Reagan. On December 30, 1988 Thomas recalled the Reagan era on the CBS show Nightwatch: "I think there's a question mark on the domestic policy: I think he left an uncaring society...a government that was not as concerned."
# In the July 1993 Good Housekeeping, Thomas elaborated: "All of us who covered the Reagan's agreed that President Reagan was personable and charming. But I'm not so certain he was nice. It's hard for me to think of anyone as nice when I hear him say '€˜The homeless are homeless because they want to be homeless.' To my mind, a President should care about all people, and he didn't, which is why I will always feel Reagan lacked soul."
# Jimmy Carter. In the same interview, Thomas stated: "In Plains, I saw Jimmy Carter as he really is -- a nice, decent man....in terms of compassionate contribution to society, he certainly has proven to be our best past President."
# The Kennedys. Thomas discussed the death of JFK Jr. on CNN's Reliable Sources last July 18: "Everything that happened to the First Family, they added a certain glamour everybody could tie into in some way. And I think that's what happened. We think of the family. We think of all of the tragedies and the glamour and the mischief and so forth all wrapped up into one, but mostly hope."
# Bill Clinton. Tom Brokaw declared, "Helen was always fair and never intimidated." But Thomas avoided asking about Juanita Broaddrick's rape charges in a press briefing the day The Wall Street Journal broke the story on February 19, 1999. Instead she asked Clinton what was learned "from your 13 month ordeal?"
Left-wing activist/actor Sean Penn rejected David Letterman's characterization that Hugo Chavez, the anti-U.S. President of Venezuela, is "nuts" and, asked about suppression of free expression, Penn used that as a hook to ridicule Fox News as run by "loons." Penn appeared on Monday's Late Show to promote his new movie, Into the Wild. Letterman noted Penn's visit with Chavez and related how he understands Chavez "is nuts" and "wacky." Penn retorted that "if people have oil under their ground they're called wacky"and asserted he's done "incredible things for the 80 percent of the people that are very poor there." When Letterman raised how Chavez is "talking about nationalizing the media," Penn defended Chavez for closing a television station before rejecting Letterman's premise: "The idea that, that there's no freedom of expression, I mean the loons on Fox News are broadcast there every day."
The Late Show with David Letterman Web site features streaming video of this exchange. On its "Big Show Highlights" page, click on "Hanging with Hugo Chavez" to play the video: www.cbs.com
[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Here's a transcript I made from the October 1 program:
DAVID LETTERMAN: To me, my impression of the guy, from what I hear and what I read and people tell me, is he's nuts, Hugo Chavez is wacky and kind of entertaining, but we ought to keep our eye on him. What was your impression of the guy?
The September 15, 2006 CyberAlert item with video, "Sean Penn: Bush Caused 'Enormous Damage to Mankind,' Fascism Too?" recounted:
Actor Sean Penn, in a taped Larry King Live interview aired Thursday night on CNN to promote his new movie, All the King's Men, in which he plays a Huey Long-like character, suggested President Bush may bring fascism to America, charged that Bush has "devastated our democracy," insisted Donald Rumsfeld and Bush have done "enormous damage" to "this country and mankind" and claimed the war on terrorism is meant to distract from reality.
Clearly referring to President Bush, a smirking Penn recalled: "Well, in 1932 Huey Long said something very interesting. It was, 'Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.'" Later, Penn fulminated about how "party clowns like Don Rumsfeld could be described as, as far as I'm concerned, except for the enormous damage he's done this country and mankind -- and our President -- and saw that they're getting out there and they're beating this drum, to drown out, as they did in 2002, to drown out other -- in that case it was Enron. Now we have another situation, so it's this war on terror, boom, boom, boom. Drown out the reality of what's really happening." Penn also argued: "No Democrat that doesn't have a plan to get our troops out of Iraq should be voted for."
For the September 15, 2006 CyberAlert, with video: www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker