2. ABC Features Soldiers in Iraq Lashing Out at Army and Rumsfeld
3. ABC Treats Levin & Kennedy Attacks on Iraq Policy as Fresh News
4. Couric's Questions Take More Time Than GOP Guest Has to Answer
5. Brokaw Highlights David Kay's Assurance He'll Find Proof of WMD
6. "No Outrage" by White Women Over Profiling Incenses Gumbel
7. ABC's New Reporter Was Press Secretary to a Liberal Democrat
Hurricanes for Bush, or more like Bush for Hurricanes. Hurricane Claudette managed to do what all of the President's spinners could not: Knock "Credibility-Gate" out of the lead spot on all of the Tuesday morning and evening broadcast newscasts.
For the first time in at least a week, all three broadcast network morning and evening shows led on July 15 with something other than the "controversy" over 16 words in President Bush's State of the Union address about Iraq seeking uranium.
Now that Claudette has passed, it's back to Bush's 16 words in his State of the Union. The White House should be praying for a heavy hurricane season.
Hurricane Claudette only bought Bush a few minutes of a reprieve on Tuesday's World News Tonight. Right after teasing Claudette news, anchor Peter Jennings previewed other upcoming stories: "In Iraq, American soldiers lash out at the Bush administration, angry and confused about their mission. On Capitol Hill, the Democrats lash out at the President. He's accused of lying about the case for war and mismanaging the economy."
ABC reporter Jeffrey Kofman, in a piece which re-ran on Wednesday's Good Morning America, highlighted griping from soldiers in Fallujah, Iraq: "The soldiers from Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, can't understand why the Pentagon won't let them go home." One specifically castigated the Secretary of Defense: "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation." Another complained: "I used to want to help these people, and now I don't really care about them anymore."
But over on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw in Iraq passed along how soldiers "feel like prisoners of peace" and one charged that "morale sucks," yet Brokaw managed to feature a soldier with a bit more respect for his command structure and reason for his presence. Brokaw observed: "Although no one yet knows when the road to Baghdad will lead home, Sergeant Weaver is certain that it was worth the ride." Army Sergeant Charles Weaver, over video of the Saddam statue being toppled, contended: "I believe everybody's entitled to their basic rights from freedom, you know, from anything and I think that's why I'm here."
Jennings introduced the July 15 World News Tonight story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In Iraq today, the U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, said American troops would remain in the country until Iraq has a new Constitution. He did not say when that would happen. This is getting very frustrating for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Just last week, the men and women of the Third Infantry Division were told by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld they were going home, and they have been very outspoken today about someone changing their mind. They were talking to ABC's Jeffrey Kofman in Fallujah."
Kofman began: "The soldiers from Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, can't understand why the Pentagon won't let them go home. They feel betrayed. If Donald Rumsfeld were sitting here at this table with us, what would you say to him?"
Immediately after relaying the anger of U.S. soldiers in Iraq (see item #2 above), ABC's World News Tonight ran through a litany of attacks on the Bush administration by liberal Democrats. "There was a lot of anger today on Capitol Hill," Peter Jennings asserted before explaining: "Many Democrats, most of whom supported the President in taking the country to war, now say that they feel betrayed."
But Senator Carl Levin who was featured in the subsequent story by Linda Douglass, fought against going to war in the months before it began as did Ted Kennedy, another Senator whose views Douglass showcased. How is the two Senators saying again what they've been saying for months suddenly fresh news?
Douglass also spoke to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who did vote for the Iraq resolution, cuing her up with this question: "Do you feel, though, that you were misled?"
Douglass checked in, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well, Peter, it's no longer just that flap over the sale of a nuclear weapons, the alleged sale. Many senior Democrats now say they are beginning to question all of the reasons for going to war. Senator Carl Levin is the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee."
How about the manipulation of post-war news coverage?
NBC's Today on Tuesday brought aboard Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Senator Richard Shelby to separately discuss the evidence for going to war against Iraq, but while Kennedy got plenty of time to say what he wanted, partially because he just kept talking, Shelby received a third of the time, in part because Katie Couric took more time posing questions to him than he used to answer them.
Couric challenged Shelby with lengthy questions in which she laid out the attacks on the Bush administration, including taking nearly a minute to read from a hostile New York Times editorial. But with Kennedy, she tossed up softballs, such as: "What is the most upsetting thing to you about the way this whole episode has unfolded?" And: "Senator Kennedy let me get back, if I could though, for a minute to the charges or allegations that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion against Iraq. What, in your view, should be done about that?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens timed the July 15 session and discovered:
-- Total time of Katie Couric's questions to Ted Kennedy: 47 seconds
-- Total time of Ted Kennedy's responses: 3 minutes, 41 seconds
-- Total time of Couric's questions to Richard Shelby: 1 minute, 53 seconds
-- Total time of Richard Shelby's responses: 1 minute, 32 seconds
Couric set up the segment: "On Monday the President defended U.S. intelligence and he said the U.S. made the right decision to go to war against Iraq. Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Republican Senator Richard Shelby is former Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Gentlemen, good morning. Senator Kennedy let me, let me start with you if I could."
Couric's 12 second "question" to Kennedy, more like a cuing up: "In the past week we've seen a, a firestorm erupt over this assertion that President Bush made during the State of the Union address. What is the most upsetting thing to you about the way this whole episode has unfolded?"
Kennedy consumed 1:34 with his response.
Couric's second question took 8 seconds: "Why do you think the administration has been reluctant to go to NATO or the United Nations to form a more international coalition in Iraq right now?"
Kennedy took 53 seconds to respond.
Couric used 13 seconds for her third inquiry: "Senator Kennedy let me get back, if I could though, for a minute to the charges or allegations that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion against Iraq. What, in your view, should be done about that?"
Kennedy's reply consumed 38 seconds before Couric took a second to try to interject, "But in closing Senator," before Kennedy carried on for another 13 seconds.
For her fourth question, Couric used 13 seconds: "We only have a few seconds left unfortunately but how do you get to the bottom of this, Senator Kennedy, without politicizing it too much? Obviously the Democratic presidential hopefuls have seized upon this, this episode and are using it to their political advantage."
Kennedy took 21 seconds to answer.
Couric moved to Shelby, starting with a 30-second challenge: "Now let's turn to Senator Richard Shelby. Senator Shelby I guess the basic question is why did the President include this assertion about Niger in his State of the Union address when CIA Director George Tenet advised the White House to drop the reference when the President gave a speech in Cincinnati, in October, which was a few months before the State of the Union in January 28. And when Secretary of State Colin Powell felt so uncomfortable with the information he didn't even use it during his presentation to the United Nations. Can you understand why this has raised some eyebrows?"
Shelby took barely longer to respond as his answer lasted 38 seconds.
Couric used 17 seconds for her second inquiry: "But Senator Shelby, this, but, but the CIA, George Tenet did tell the, the White House not to use it in October. Is it George, but, but is it, is it his fault or the White House's fault if they kept in, in January after he had already warned them that it was inaccurate information?"
In this instance Shelby used less time to respond, just 14 seconds.
Couric went on for nearly a full minute -- 52 seconds -- in her third question, one in the form of a lecture: "Let me ask you about an editorial entitled 'Uranium Quicksand' in the New York Times today. It says, 'the British made us do it defense,' because as you know the administration is citing British intelligence as the reason for including this in the State of the Union address. 'The British made us do it defense might by more compelling if London had a better track record when it came to assessing Iraq's unconventional weapons programs. In fact, parts of the British dossier on Iraq's arms that was published with great fanfare in February were lifted verbatim from unsubstantiated internet sources. Prime Minister Tony Blair's warning, last September that frontline Iraqi military forces could launch chemical or biological weapons on short notice proved to be embarrassingly misinformed once the war in Iraq began.' What do you think about the White House's actions in terms of basically saying the British, that British intelligence justify the inclusion of this assertion in the State of the Union address?"
After all of that, Shelby dispensed with her concern in a mere 20 seconds.
Couric took 18 seconds for her fourth and last inquiry, not counting the time for the Bush clip she played: "There are new questions now about the second accusation President Bush made about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons in this year's State of the Union address. Let's listen and then we'll discuss it. [George W. Bush clip] Now if these tubes, Senator Shelby, were not part of a nuclear weapons program the intelligence turns out to, to be dubious. Is this a pattern of deception by the Bush administration in your view?"
Shelby's answer lasted a succinct 20 seconds.
In an unusual media take for recent weeks, NBC Nightly News on Tuesday highlighted how former UN arms inspector David Kay, now working for the U.S. in Iraq, told Tom Brokaw that he is confident that within six months he'll have "a substantial body of evidence" to prove Saddam Hussein had a weapons of mass destruction program.
Brokaw, who is in Iraq, talked to Kay, a former consultant to NBC News, as the two stood in a warehouse packed with boxes of documents inspectors are now reviewing. Brokaw reported: "Kay, a cautious professional who is well-aware of the political pressure, is confident he can make the case against Saddam Hussein on WMD."
That would disappoint a lot of liberals and journalists.
White women just aren't upset enough, by potential profiling of terrorists by airport security, to satisfy Bryant Gumbel. In the premiere of his new PBS show on Tuesday night, Flashpoints USA, Gumbel went over to a crowd of people at the airport near Detroit and asked them their feelings about profiling at airports. When a 5'9" blonde said she agreed with it, Gumbel wondered: "Would you agree with it if they were singling out 5'9" blondes?" And when a second woman backed the policy, Gumbel became incensed: "Again, no outrage."
He finally got to a black woman who agreed with him.
The premiere of Flashpoints USA dealt with profiling and security at airports with a series of taped pieces narrated by Gwen Ifill and interviews conducted by Gumbel taped at Detroit's airport, all interspersed with the results of poll questions.
To end the taped and edited program, Gumbel went over to a crowd watching the taping. Here's how it went as Gumbel held out a microphone:
Blonde white woman: "I tend to agree with it. Unfortunately a lot of our, some of our, unfriendly people come from foreign soil so I think that we have to, since 9-11, be a little bit more careful and so."
The topic for the next quarterly installment of the PBS show: "Can you believe the media?"
Ifill previewed it by sharing the results of this poll question: "Is the news media accurate in its reporting?" Yes replied 54 percent, no said 45 percent.
Tune in on September 16 for Gumbel's take.
Update. Jake Tapper, the reporter for the liberal Salon.com whom ABC has hired as a Washington correspondent, once toiled as the Press Secretary for a liberal Democratic Congresswoman, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, the Philadelphia Inquirer recalled on Tuesday.
The July 15 CyberAlert had reported: 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, 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." For more about Tapper's book: www.mediaresearch.org
Homeboy Jake Tapper, who served as press secretary to then-U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D., Pa.) in 1993-94, yesterday was named a Washington-based correspondent for ABC News.
Tapper, 34, a 1987 grad of Akiba Hebrew Academy, most recently covered politics as national correspondent for Salon.com. Though he has an extensive print background, his TV experience is limited.
"I'm not worried, but I do recognize I have a challenge in front of me," says Tapper, who will start out reporting on weekends. "The people in this building include the likes of Ted Koppel - giants in the business. But ABC has a history of hiring print people," such as John McWethy and Bob Woodruff.
Tapper was the correspondent for a six-month series of news specials on VH1 last year. In '01, he co-hosted CNN's news-talk show Take Five, and subbed for hosts on such programs as Crossfire and The Spin Room.
END of Excerpt
For Shister's entire column, mainly dealing with other topics: www.philly.com
Tapper's press work for her couldn't keep her in office for long. After one term, Margolies-Mezvinsky lost her re-election bid in 1994.
For a while after her loss, Margolies-Mezvinsky served as head of the Women's Campaign Fund which, AP noted at the time, helps "female candidates who favor abortion rights."
-- Brent Baker