Brown Skips Own Error, Scorns Bush's Clinton-Like Word Parsing --7/15/2003
2. NBC Reporter Fred Francis Rejects Vietnam Comparison
3. ABC's Gibson Sees Bush Team Breaking Promise Not to Parse Words
4. ABC Hires Liberal Pundit/Reporter Jake Tapper as a Correspondent
5. Nets Use Political Activists as Repeat "Victims" of Drug
On his first night back since falsely impugning President Bush, by highlighting an already-revealed fraudulent Web site report about how a CIA consultant claimed to have informed Bush, before his State of the Union address, about the falsity of the report about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa, CNN anchor Aaron Brown failed to offer a correction.
Instead, he lectured Bush about truthfulness and credibility: "The President campaigned for the job in part on the notion that he was the anti-Clinton, a man who said what he meant, meant what he said, no sentence parsing needed. Square that with today and critics who say you've got a bonanza for sentence parsers and at least the makings of a credibility gap."
Jeff Greenfield warned: "So, are there any long term consequences to these battles over words? Well, remember in Vietnam the controversy over how we got into that war grew as the body count did."
As recounted last week in CyberAlert, Brown led the Wednesday, July 9 NewsNight with attacks on the administration's credibility, but Brown stretched his own credibility by picking up on a rumor, "a story that's been circulating on the Web today that there was at some point a conversation between the President and a CIA consultant where the consultant directly told the President that this African uranium deal was bogus." Brown's raising of such an uncorroborated story befuddled CNN reporter David Ensor, who speaking slowly as he fumbled for words, told Brown: "I have no way to confirm that story and it is somewhat suspect I would say..."
Brown didn't cite his source, but he was quoting from a posting on CapitolHillBlue.com. But they, it turns out, retracted their one-source story at about 6pm EDT, four hours before Brown went on the air. CapitolHillBlue.com Publisher Doug Thompson discovered that his source, one Terrance Wilkinson, who identified himself as a CIA and FBI consultant, was a fraud.
For a full rundown on the Brown/Ensor exchange and an excerpt of CapitolHillBlue.com's correction, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Upon Brown's return on Monday night, he was much more interested in the credibility of others than in correcting his own error. Brown opened the July 14 NewsNight:
Following a report from Bob Franken, Brown set up a look from Jeff Greenfield at whether the Bush team is mimicking the word-parsing of the Clinton era: "The President campaigned for the job in part on the notion that he was the anti-Clinton, a man who said what he meant, meant what he said, no sentence parsing needed. Square that with today and critics who say you've got a bonanza for sentence parsers and at least the makings of a credibility gap. Here's CNN's Jeff Greenfield."
Greenfield began with a soundbite from Condoleezza Rice on Sunday's Late Edition: "It is 16 words and it has become an enormously overblown issue."
But we are stuck depending on the media to learn which reality is prevailing.
CNN's Jeff Greenfield may feel comfortable raising fears of another Vietnam, but NBC News reporter Fred Francis rejects the analogy. When columnist Clarence Page suggested, on Sunday's syndicated Chris Matthews Show, that "it sounds like deja vu all over again," meaning it's a Vietnam-like "police action," Francis fired back: "Don't equate this with Vietnam. This is not Vietnam, okay?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught the exchange in which Matthews and Page pushed fears of another Vietnam:
Francis soon countered: "Listen Clarence, this is not Viet, you're equating this with Vietnam. Don't equate this with Vietnam. This is not Vietnam, okay?"
Matching Aaron Brown's theme (see item #1 above), ABC's Charles Gibson on Monday morning contended that in Sunday interview show appearances Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld displayed "a parsing of words, something this administration once vowed it would never do."
ABC had some problems with their tape, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noted, so July 14 Good Morning America viewers heard no sound as they saw clips of Rice and Rumsfeld and then the sound picked up mid-sentence as Gibson talked in the taped piece: "...advisors, intensely doing damage control, while admitting these 16 words should never have made it into a State of the Union address."
Gibson's first question to Bayh left open the possibility that Bush was not venal: "Are we talking about semantics here or is there real substance to the mistake that the President made?"
Gibson's other questions to Bayh:
-- "But does the mistake rise that someone -- i.e. the director of the CIA -- should resign?"
-- "Condoleezza Rice, the President's National Security Advisor, said yesterday -- and I'm going to quote her once again -- she said, 'It's ludicrous to suggest that the U.S. went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa,' but the administration was making a major case that he could soon have nuclear weapons, so is there an allegation here, in any way, that this was not just a mistake, but an actual manipulation of evidence?"
-- "Your party has an awful lot of presidential candidates out of there. Is this going to become a partisan issue?"
As if it hasn't already, fueled by an excited media.
Barely a month after FOB Rick Kaplan re-joined ABC News from CNN as Executive Vice President, ABC has hired Jake Tapper, a liberal pundit and a political reporter for the liberal Salon.com Web magazine, as a Washington correspondent. In 2001, Tapper penned Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency, a book which publisher Little Brown promoted as delivering an assessment of George W. Bush as "a brilliant schmoozer and deft liar with the intellectual inquisitiveness of the average fern."
To be fair, Tapper's book was supposedly also pretty tough on Al Gore, but Tapper is no independent centrist. He works for a very liberal publication, Salon, and over the years has served as liberal panelist on shows including CNN's Late Edition and a Saturday night CNN show, the name of which now escapes me, back in 2001.
The MRC's Liz Swasey alerted me to how Hotline quoted a July 14 ABC press release touting the hiring of Tapper, who will be based in Washington, DC. ABC News President David Westin gushed: "Jake has distinguished himself with thoughtful reporting and important political journalism throughout his career. We are very pleased to have someone of his proven talent join ABC News."
On the Kaplan front, the June 10 CyberAlert conveyed: A day after airing the Barbara Walters interview with Hilary Clinton, which was little more than an hour-long infomercial for her new book, ABC News announced that they have re-hired Rick Kaplan, the Friend of Bill who ran CNN from 1997 to 2000 as President of CNN/USA after spending 18 years as a top producer with ABC News. When he was Executive Producer of Nightline in 1992 he advised presidential candidate Bill Clinton on how to handle the Gennifer Flowers revelation and later as Executive Producer of World News Tonight he blocked anti-Clinton stories from getting onto that newscast. Now he's the Senior Vice President of ABC News, the number two slot. See: www.mediaresearch.org
For Amazon's page: www.amazon.com
-- The Accidental President: How 413 Lawyers, 9 Supreme Court Justices, and 5,963,110 Floridians (Give or Take a Few) Landed George W. Bush in the White House by David A. Kaplan (Hardcover)
-- Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election by Jeffrey Toobin (Hardcover)
-- Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000 by Alan M. Dershowitz (Hardcover)
-- The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton by Joe Conason, Gene Lyons (Hardcover)
Barnes & Noble, however, found cross-interest with Bill O'Reilly in their "People who bought this book also bought" list otherwise made up of liberal books:
-- Corruption of American Politics: What Went Wrong and Why (Elizabeth Drew)
-- Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! (Michael Moore)
-- The No Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America (Bill O'Reilly)
-- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Barbara Ehrenreich, Arlie Hochschild, Kay Shara) (Editor)
Back in 2001, National Review's Rich Lowry reviewed Tapper's tome. An excerpt:
If it isn't newsy revelations every other page, you might suppose, it must be Tapper's freewheeling "gonzo journalism" that justifies his 500 pages. But his style is a tame thing, with no manic creativity or keyboard-rattling anger. His method boils down to five essential elements (follow them and perhaps you too can write for Salon): 1) don't write that people are "excited" or "angry"; write that they are "jazzed" or "pissed"; 2) use the word "bull****" liberally; 3) use lots of chapter headings with the F-word in them; 4) employ a two-word putdown, rendered as a full sentence -- "But whatever" -- for any spin or argument you find wanting; and 5) affect a world-weary, pox-on-all-their-houses detachment.
A 500-page book should have something to say. Tapper's only insight is that both the Gore and Bush teams are liars and hypocrites. To his credit, he nails both sides rather effectively. He doesn't buy the Gore "count-every-vote" mantra. The Gore team only wanted to pursue "undervotes" -- punchcard ballots with no presidential vote recorded -- in four selected Democratic counties....
END of Excerpt
That's online at: www.nationalreview.com
Tapper will need to expand his vocabulary for ABC News.
Amazon has posted about 40 pages of Tapper's book: www.amazon.com
[Web Update: Tapper once toiled as the Press Secretary for a liberal Democratic Congresswoman, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister recalled. See July 16 CyberAlert.]
Prompted by recent CyberAlert items on how CBS and ABC showcased, two years apart, the same supposed victim of high prescription costs in need of a new federal entitlement, and how NBC portrayed as an average elderly woman a lady who was really an AARP activist, Marc Morano of the MRC's CNSNews.com tracked down two of the women and got a comment from NBC News.
One of the women in question admitted she "probably" should have been better identified, but another, Pat Roussos, lashed out at the CyberAlert story on her: "I got [the MRC report] off the Internet. I don't think it was fair at all."
A spokeswoman for NBC News claimed: "We were unaware of [Roussos'] position in the state chapter (AARP)."
An excerpt from Morano's July 14 story, "Networks Blamed for Using Political Activists as Repeat 'Victims'"
An elderly political activist who was repeatedly portrayed by CBS News as a typical victim of the high cost of prescription drugs, now admits the network "probably" should have disclosed her lobbying interests during her numerous on-air appearances.
Viola Quirion, who favors the Medicare reforms that would provide elderly Americans like herself with a federally subsidized prescription drug plan, might not be considered a typical senior citizen to many people -- given her extensive political lobbying background, which includes advocating on behalf of the Alliance for Retired Persons.
But that's the way she was portrayed by CBS News on at least three occasions since 1999 -- most recently in May of this year.
When asked by CNSNews.com whether CBS News should have identified her as a political activist for reasons of fairness and accuracy, Quirion responded: "Well, probably."
Quirion has testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Alliance for Retired Americans. The group's stated goal is to "ensure social and economic justice" by "enroll[ing] and mobiliz[ing] retired union members and other senior and community activists into a nationwide grassroots movement advocating a progressive political and social agenda."
Quirion, who is a member of the Maine Council of Senior Citizens, also participated in the state of Maine's successful legal defense of its drug price control plan. Yet, CBS News never revealed any of Quirion's background when using her as a source in its news stories.
But Quirion maintains that her appearances on CBS News were benign.
"I just got interviewed and answered their questions and that's it," she explained....
In June, the Media Research Center (MRC), the parent organization of CNSNews.com, exposed the practice of network news programs recycling senior citizen activists for health care policy debates. The MRC revealed that both the CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight featured senior citizen Eva Baer-Schenkein in two separate broadcasts, two years apart, complaining about different ailments and why the Republican prescription drug plan was inadequate.
For that CyberAlert story, with pictures of Baer-Schenkein on ABC and CBS: www.mrc.org
....CBS News appears to have repeatedly failed to reveal the backgrounds of its interview subjects, according to a new study conducted by the website, www.RatherBiased.com. The network featured the same seven elderly women 23 times during its coverage of the prescription drug subsidy debate without disclosing the political activist backgrounds of the women, the study alleged.
"Out of the 40 million people who are currently on Medicare, CBS News decided to turn to the same seven people on over 23 occasions," said Matthew W. Sheffield, co-director of RatherBiased.com....
CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told CNSNews.com that the network would "check it out," referring to the network's repeated use of the same senior citizen activists. However after several days of phone calls and e-mails, Genelius failed to respond to questions for this article.
Another senior citizen activist prominently featured on network newscasts is Pat Roussos, an AARP "Connecticut Community Coordinator" who "oversees the state's 72 chapters" according to an AARP Newsletter.
NBC correspondent Norah O'Donnell featured Roussos in a June 23, 2003 segment of NBC Nightly News. O'Donnell made reference to "... 77-year-old Pat Roussos of Connecticut, who suffers from arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure." O'Donnell went on to mention that Roussos' "out-of-pocket drug costs now are as much as $6,500 a year."
The MRC was quick to criticize NBC News for being "sneaky" in not identifying Roussos and her activist affiliation. The MRC called Roussos "part of a political lobbying campaign by a liberal group, the AARP, which consistently pushes for ever bigger government and more spending."
For the CyberAlert item on Roussos: www.mrc.org
But Roussos fired back at the Media Research Center and defended NBC News for not identifying her as an AARP official.
"I got [the MRC report] off the Internet. I don't think it was fair at all. I think it was a tempest in a teapot," Roussos told CNSNews.com.
Roussos said despite her political affiliations, she has the same challenges that other American senior citizens face.
"I wasn't a ringer...I don't get paid [by AARP], I am a volunteer ...I am a typical victim," Roussos explained. "[AARP] give[s] you a title instead of paying you. That's the way it goes," she added.
Roussos is also unconcerned about how the network newscasts presented her background to viewers.
"Whatever they want to do is okay with me," she said. The networks chose her over millions of other retirees, Roussos said, because she could articulate the prescription drug issue.
"I think the reason I get the [news] coverage I get is I don't stumble over things and I have a pretty clear idea of what I think, so I don't think it's particularly favoritism as far as AARP goes," Roussos explained. "We also have 35 million members so it's natural to look to [AARP] for people to react," she added.
But [Tim] Graham of the MRC believes the network news broadcasts need to reform the way they present "victims" to the viewing public.
"Viewers believe these victims are utterly apolitical, average Joes and Josephines, with no connections to the lobbyists pushing for more government programs," Graham said.
But "the networks clearly contact the lobbyists who shop them the victims," Graham alleged.
Repeated attempts to obtain comment from NBC News spokeswoman Barbara Levin were unsuccessful prior to the publication of this story. Upon its publication, however, Levin emailed CNSNews.com, acknowledging that the article raised "a good point."
"We were unaware of [Roussos'] position in the state chapter (AARP). However, she was selected because her income illustrated the topic of the story," Levin wrote....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.cnsnews.com
# Things to avoid or to tune in, depending on your degree of tolerance for those who disdain conservatives: Bill Maher is scheduled to appear Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show and, at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT, most PBS stations will carry the debut broadcast of Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill.
Likely much more interesting, now former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is scheduled to appear Thursday night on CBS's Late Show.
-- Brent Baker