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Brian Williams Equates Elite U.S. Military With Terrorist Bombers --8/11/2006


1. Brian Williams Equates Elite U.S. Military With Terrorist Bombers
While ostensibly trying to praise elite U.S. soldiers, seamen and civilian first responders, on Thursday's Hardball on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams seemed to equate them with terrorist suicide bombers: "The willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too." Referring to those caught in the new plot to bring down airliners leaving Britain, Chris Matthews noted how they lived for years amongst Westerners and yet "having gotten to know us, they want to kill themselves to hurt us. Isn't that an even deeper conundrum here than the chemicals being used in these attacks?" Williams, live from near Heathrow Airport, responded: "And that, Chris, that last aspect, the willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too. They're called Army Rangers and Navy Seals and the Special Forces folks and the first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out. So we have players like that on our team." AUDIO&VIDEO

2. ABC's Reminder: Unlike Nazis, al-Qaeda Unbeaten After 5 Years
In a seeming shot at the Bush administration's priorities and competence, on Thursday's World News with Charles Gibson on ABC, Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism chief in the Clinton White House who left and then denounced the Bush White House, asserted the plot against airplanes uncovered in Britain shows al-Qaeda is still going after five years while the U.S. "eliminated" Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in four years. Anchor Charles Gibson asked Clarke about how President Bush blamed "Islamic fascists," but the leader of the plot "has links to al-Qaeda. So is this al-Qaeda?" Clarke, now an ABC News consultant, replied by proposing that "what today's plot reminds us is that five years after 9/11, the United States has not eliminated al-Qaeda. We eliminated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in under four years, but five years into this war against al-Qaeda, they're out there still plotting major attacks against the United States."

3. What Did Bush Know, When Did He Know It, Why Did He Withhold It?
On Thursday's Today, NBC's Kevin Corke wondered how long the administration knew about the averted bombing plot and why they would withhold that information, asking: "If the administration has known about this potential plot what was the hold up in getting the word out, especially domestically?....It does beg the question how long ago did they know of this and why are we just hearing about it right now?" Either this is a case of the media being overly-skeptical or just being clueless. Clearly the administration wouldn't want to release any information before any arrests were made so as not to tip off any suspects in the U.S. or Britain.

4. Small World: New CBS Political Director Just Married Ex-DNC Exec
TVNewser broke the news that acting CNN political director Molly Levinson has been named the new political director at CBS News. But the site did not note that she's newly married to Joshua Wachs, a recent executive of the Democratic National Committee. The New York Times noted in its Weddings & Celebrations pages back on July 9: "The bridegroom, 34, was until February 2005 the chief operating officer of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. This month he is to become the vice president for community relations for the National Basketball Association in New York."

5. Maher on Leno: 'Ethnic Cleansing' at the Border, Bush an 'Idiot'
Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show, HBO talk show host Bill Maher made his usual cracks about conservative haters and how the world is ruined by religion. Maher assessed Bush: "So I'm not for wiretapping, but I understand that this is the tool this idiot has picked to fight the war." MRC intern Chadd Clark did the transcribing of the August 8 show, and took special notice to this crack on immigration: "Half of the Republicans are, you know, pro-business when immigration, illegal immigration is good for business, and half of them are for ethnic cleansing, so it's really tough...[laughter] Bush is in the pro-business side. That's what explains a lot of what he does. He's always for business. That's why he was for the Arabs taking over the ports. Remember that?"


Brian Williams Equates Elite U.S. Military
With Terrorist Bombers

While ostensibly trying to praise elite U.S. soldiers, seamen and civilian first responders, on Thursday's Hardball on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams seemed to equate them with terrorist suicide bombers: "The willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too." Referring to those caught in the new plot to bring down airliners leaving Britain, Chris Matthews noted how they lived for years amongst Westerners and yet


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"having gotten to know us, they want to kill themselves to hurt us. Isn't that an even deeper conundrum here than the chemicals being used in these attacks?" Williams, live from near Heathrow Airport, responded: "And that, Chris, that last aspect, the willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too. They're called Army Rangers and Navy Seals and the Special Forces folks and the first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out. So we have players like that on our team."

No, our soldiers and seamen may be willing to kill enemy operatives and bravely willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save others, but they do not commit suicide by blowing themselves up in order to murder innocent civilians.

It's hard to believe Williams buys what he said, so I'll chalk it up to a bungled attempt to praise members of the American military for the bravery they display in being willing to die to protect others -- not that Williams really thinks they are the same as terrorists who mass murder innocents through suicide bombings. His reference to how "first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out," also raises doubt about his soldier-terrorist comparison since first responders certainly aren't known for killing.

[UPDATE: In a blog posting, Brian Williams maintained that his comments on Hardball were "aggressively misunderstood." See the August 14 CyberAlert for full details.]

Mark Finkelstein, a blogger on the MRC's NewsBusters, learned on Free Republic about the Williams comment and posted an item Thursday night on NewsBusters -- for which I supplied audio/video. That will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, but in the meantime, to watch the Real or Windows Media video, or MP3 audio, go to: newsbusters.org

The exchange from the interview at the top of the live 7pm EDT edition of the August 10 Hardball, with Matthews outside the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (probably really in the parking lot for NBC-owned WRC-TV which is next door), and Williams standing outside near Heathrow Airport close to London:

Chris Matthews: "In our first edition of Hardball tonight we had a Senator on, former Senator John Edwards on, who said that once these people in the east, in the Islamic world, get to know us personally, understand our character -- our good character as he said -- they wouldn't hate us so much, they wouldn't want to commit suicide to hurt us. But here we have maybe 25, 24 people who've lived in London and England and the free world for all these years that become citizens, subjects of the Crown, and yet, after having gotten to know us, they want to kill themselves to hurt us. Isn't that an even deeper conundrum here than the chemicals being used in these attacks?"
Williams: "And that, Chris, that last aspect, the willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too. They're called Army Rangers and Navy Seals and the Special Forces folks and the first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out. So we have players like that on our team.
"But to the center of your question, it goes to ideology. Can you reverse the clock here? We now know this is the conflict of our generation. Who would have thought it would take this shape? Who would have thought it would be against an enemy we can't always see? And who would have thought the new target would be a stainless steel tube flying, as you put it, at 39,000 feet full of innocent people?"

ABC's Reminder: Unlike Nazis, al-Qaeda
Unbeaten After 5 Years

In a seeming shot at the Bush administration's priorities and competence, on Thursday's World News with Charles Gibson on ABC, Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism chief in the Clinton White House who left and then denounced the Bush White House, asserted the plot against airplanes uncovered in Britain shows al-Qaeda is still going after five years while the U.S. "eliminated" Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in four years.

Anchor Charles Gibson asked Clarke about how President Bush blamed "Islamic fascists," but the leader of the plot "has links to al-Qaeda. So is this al-Qaeda?" Clarke, now an ABC News consultant, replied by proposing that "what today's plot reminds us is that five years after 9/11, the United States has not eliminated al-Qaeda. We eliminated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in under four years, but five years into this war against al-Qaeda, they're out there still plotting major attacks against the United States."

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down the exchange on the August 10 World News with Charles Gibson:

Charles Gibson: "Richard, the President called them 'Islamic fascists,' but Brian [Ross] pointed out that the alleged mastermind of all this has links to al-Qaeda. So is this al-Qaeda?"
Richard Clarke: "Charlie, it's al-Qaeda or a variation of al-Qaeda. And what today's plot reminds us is that five years after 9/11, the United States has not eliminated al-Qaeda. We eliminated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in under four years, but five years into this war against al-Qaeda, they're out there still plotting major attacks against the United States."

Clarke's 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, generated a ton of media publicity for his attacks on President Bush and the administration's reaction to 9/11: www.amazon.com

What Did Bush Know, When Did He Know
It, Why Did He Withhold It?

On Thursday's Today, NBC's Kevin Corke wondered how long the administration knew about the averted bombing plot and why they would withhold that information, asking: "If the administration has known about this potential plot what was the hold up in getting the word out, especially domestically?....It does beg the question how long ago did they know of this and why are we just hearing about it right now?" Either this is a case of the media being overly-skeptical or just being clueless. Clearly the administration wouldn't want to release any information before any arrests were made so as not to tip off any suspects in the U.S. or Britain.

[This item, by Geoff Dickens, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following is the full exchange between NBC's Ann Curry and Corke, in Crawford, Texas, during the 9am half hour of the August 10 Today:

Ann Curry: "And British Prime Minister Tony Blair briefed the President overnight about this plot. Well NBC's Kevin Corke is in Crawford, Texas at the President's ranch this morning. Kevin, good morning. Any word from the President?"
Kevin Corke: "Ann, good morning to you. The President was thoroughly briefed overnight though not directly by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. We've sort have been getting conflicting reports. The White House is saying it was a thorough briefing. British authorities saying Blair reaching out but certainly the two gentlemen have spoken several times over the last several days. We know that at this hour President Bush has just landed in Marine One, in fact he has now boarded Air Force One en route to a trip to, to Wisconsin. The President this morning, Ann, is not expected to make comment on the latest development, the uncovering of that alleged terror plot, however he could make comments later today but we did hear from White House press secretary Tony Snow when he said, among other things he said, 'look this was a serious threat to our country and the UK and we will continue to evaluate the nature of the threat and adjust our measures.' It is fairly common, Ann, for the President to receive a daily briefing which will include an intelligence briefing, a national security briefing and a Homeland Security briefing. That was certainly the case this week, in particular on Tuesday. And you may recall on Sunday, President Bush, in fact the White House released a photo of President Bush along with National Security adviser Stephen Hadley having a video teleconference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two gentlemen, as you pointed out, had been in constant contact throughout this ongoing investigation, Ann."
Curry: "But Kevin it's really interesting to notice that Scotland Yard is reporting that they have been or telling the press that they actually have been investigating for several months this, this plot to blow up these airlines and it's interesting to wonder, you know, to ask how long have U.S. authorities known and how long has the President known and it sounds as though we're gonna have to wait before we really get an indication about that."
Corke: "Yeah well said because a lot of people here are going to be asking the question, not only today but in the days to come, if, if the administration has known about this potential plot what was the hold up in getting the word out, especially domestically? Now right now they're saying, Ann, that there's no expectation that there will be domestic arrests related to this particular terror plot but still it does beg the question how long ago did they know of this and why are we just hearing about it right now?"

Small World: New CBS Political Director
Just Married Ex-DNC Exec

TVNewser broke the news that acting CNN political director Molly Levinson has been named the new political director at CBS News. But the site did not note that she's newly married to Joshua Wachs, a recent executive of the Democratic National Committee. The New York Times noted in its Weddings & Celebrations pages back on July 9: "The bridegroom, 34, was until February 2005 the chief operating officer of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. This month he is to become the vice president for community relations for the National Basketball Association in New York."

TVNewser's item with a picture of Levinson: www.mediabistro.com

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The love story revolved around CNN coverage of the Democrats, the New York Times recounted:

In October 2003, Ms. Levinson, then a producer for "NewsNight with Aaron Brown" on CNN, had arrived in Phoenix to help arrange a debate between the Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination. There she met Jenny Backus, a Democratic political strategist who was then CNN's liaison to the Democratic National Committee. Ms. Backus told her she wanted to introduce her to her best friend, Josh Wachs, then the chief operating officer of the organization. But Ms. Levinson declined.

In May 2004, Ms. Levinson ran into Ms. Backus at the annual radio and television correspondents dinner in Washington. After an effusive exchange of greetings, Ms. Backus turned to a man standing nearby and said, "Josh Wachs, meet Molly Levinson."

Still nothing happened. But in June, Ms. Levinson moved from New York to Washington for a job in CNN's political unit. She sent out a mass e-mail message to her entire address book, announcing her new address.

Once again, Ms. Backus sprang into action, e-mailing both Mr. Wachs and Ms. Levinson, cajoling them, "You both have actually met before, but now you should do it for real." And the message added, "You both now live in the same building."

END of Excerpt

For the New York Times article in full: www.nytimes.com

What followed was a dessert date, and then down the line, marriage. Levinson succeeds longtime CBS political vet Dotty Lynch, who had a more direct link to the Democrats -- she was a pollster for the DNC and Mondale-Ferraro in the 1980s. For her background: www.mrc.org

Maher on Leno: 'Ethnic Cleansing' at
the Border, Bush an 'Idiot'

Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show, HBO talk show host Bill Maher made his usual cracks about conservative haters and how the world is ruined by religion. Maher assessed Bush: "So I'm not for wiretapping, but I understand that this is the tool this idiot has picked to fight the war." MRC intern Chadd Clark did the transcribing of the August 8 show, and took special notice to this crack on immigration: "Half of the Republicans are, you know, pro-business when immigration, illegal immigration is good for business, and half of them are for ethnic cleansing, so it's really tough...[laughter] Bush is in the pro-business side. That's what explains a lot of what he does. He's always for business. That's why he was for the Arabs taking over the ports. Remember that?"

Maybe he should have considered spacing out the no-Arabs-at-the-ports thing, and not put it right after the "ethnic cleansing" crack.

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Earlier, Maher joked about Mel Gibson and how you should get a "designated Nazi" if you're going to get drunk and hate Jews, which led right into Maher's predictable anti-religion lecture:
"I'm not a big fan of religion, and I -- Mel Gibson, a very religious guy. And I think there is a line between the certitude and arrogance that religion gives to people because when you think you are a hundred million percent sure you know what happens after you die, which you can never be, I think there's a line between that and 'I own Malibu.' And, you think this may not affect people's lives, but I'll give you an example '€" stem cell research, which could help a lot of people who are really alive. But, we can't have stem cell research in America because George Bush and people like that who are very religious are so sure that they know exactly when life begins. It is the moment that the sperm hits the hoo-ha. They are sure there is a third person in that room. Before a man can light a cigarette, there is a third person in that room."

Finally, a predictable attack on Bush as an "idiot" for his terrorist-surveillance program:
"I'm not really with Bush on wiretapping. I just understand this idiot does not know how to fight the War on Terror. He doesn't choose the same tools to fight that I would. I certainly wouldn't have attacked the wrong country, and started torturing people, and made the whole world against us, and turned homeland security into just another pork barrel project. Do you realize that since 9/11, the same amount of weapons that got through the airport security before 9/11 get through now. The exact same amount. 22 percent of knives, whatever it is, 48 percent of guns, 38 percent of black, round, bowling ball bombs with a lit fuse with the word Acme on the side....So I'm not for wiretapping, but I understand that this is the tool this idiot has picked to fight the war, okay. And maybe, as far as phone conversations go, we should just accept the fact that we don't have privacy just the way we do with e-mail."

-- Brent Baker