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CBS & ABC Stories Blame Conservatives for Mistreatment of Miers --10/28/2005


1. CBS & ABC Stories Blame Conservatives for Mistreatment of Miers
From Dallas, Harriet Miers' hometown, Lee Cowan relayed on Thursday's CBS Evening News that "at a Dallas diner this morning, her withdrawal served up a lot of disappointment" where patrons were upset "that conservatives, even here in her home state, weren't willing to give her a chance." Cowan went outside and leaned into a taxi to ask the driver: "What happened?" The cabbie replied: "I think the far right, they had been itching for a big battle for years." ABC's World News Tonight also framed a report around blaming conservatives for the supposed mistreatment of Miers, as Linda Douglass opened a piece: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her." After a clip of Senator Harry Reid scolding the "the radical right wing of the Republican Party," Douglass relayed pro and con soundbites before she concluded with how "Senator [Lindsey] Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up'" -- meaning a non-conservative. George Stephanopoulos listed some potential nominees before warning: "Both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up."

2. Gibson Baffled Why Conservatives Upset by Miers' Abortion Formula
On ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday, co-host Charles Gibson seemed mystified why a pro-life group would be disturbed by Harriet Miers' formulation that the abortion debate is between those who would "criminalize abortions" verus "guarantee the freedom of the individual woman's right to choose." Gibson thought that such liberal language was perfectly neutral: "That sounds to me, when I read it, as if she's setting out alternatives and not taking a stand."

3. CNN's Toobin Tags Potential Nominees as "Very Conservative"
Less than an hour after the announcement Thursday morning that Harriet Miers had withdrawn her nomination for the Supreme Court, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was on the air attaching enhanced ideological labels on three potential new nominees while touting one conservatives don't like. By phone at 9:55am, Toobin labeled Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Michael Luttig as "very conservative" before trumpeting how Alberto Gonzales has "some moderation in his history" and is "a lot more politically appealing candidate." On Owen, he described her, with an emphasis on the word "very," as "very conservative, frequently dissenting, because a conservative court was not conservative enough for her" and he derided Brown as "even more conservative than Priscilla Owen."

4. Woodward Points Out Wilson Found Evidence of Iraq-Niger Deal
Much to Senator Chris Dodd's consternation on Thursday's Larry King Live on CNN, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, pointed out a fact rarely mentioned by the mainstream media -- that "most of the analysts at the CIA said that [Joseph] Wilson's findings, when he went to Niger, supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq" for uranium. When Dodd started to counter Woodward, Woodward asserted that "Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact." Woodward revealed that he had the report "in his pocket"and when King asked why, Woodward answered: "Yes I do because I knew I might be challenged." When King went to an ad break two minutes later, the camera pulled back to show everyone at the table. Woodward then slid forward across the table to Dodd what looked like a few 8-and-half-by-11 sheets of paper with a post-it on top. Dodd ignored it.

5. Coulter Hits Lauer on Respect for Fitzgerald vs Impugning Starr
Conservative author and columnist Ann Coulter, on Thursday's Today, nailed Matt Lauer on the media's double-standard in respectful treatment of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald compared to Ken Starr, whom the media regularly impugned. When Lauer gave Fitzgerald the leeway Starr never received, contending "it's hard to attack this prosecutor at this particular moment wouldn't you agree?", Coulter fired back: "It was hard to attack Ken Starr! He was a boy scout!" In a blog entry, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens also pointed out Today's graphic bias. During the Coulter segment, Today ran this doubly-damning headline: "Leak Investigation: Dirty Politics or Broken Laws?"


CBS & ABC Stories Blame Conservatives
for Mistreatment of Miers

People who know Harriet Miers in Dallas, Lee Cowan reported on Thursday's CBS Evening News, think she "deserved better than this" and he quickly moved to highlight those mad at conservatives, or as one cab driver charged, the "far right." Cowan relayed that "at a Dallas diner this morning, her withdrawal served up a lot of disappointment" where patrons were upset "that conservatives, even here in her home state, weren't willing to give her a chance." Cowan went outside and leaned into a taxi to ask the driver: "What happened?" The cabbie replied: "I think the far right, they had been itching for a big battle for years." Cowan did pass along a defense of conservatives: "Dallas talk show host Mark Davis though says local conservatives are actually just trying to watch out for the President's legacy."

Over on ABC's World News Tonight, following a lead story from Terry Moran, Linda Douglass opened a piece: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her." After a clip of Senator Harry Reid scolding the "the radical right wing of the Republican Party," Douglass picked up on how Senator Arlen Specter "said the groups drowned her and the President out." Following bites from Senator Sam Brownback and Rush Limbaugh, she returned to the anti-conservative prism from which she began, setting up a slam from Senator Ted Kennedy by relating how Democrats say "if he chooses an ideological conservative, he will appear to be the tool of outside groups," and she concluded with how "Senator [Lindsey] Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up'" -- meaning a non-conservative. Pivoting from Douglass, anchor Bob Woodruff turned to George Stephanopoulos and inquired: "Does he [Bush] have to nominate a conservative to satisfy the base of his party or a moderate who would be acceptable enough to Democrats to avoid a long and prolonged fight?" Stephanopoulos listed some potential nominees before warning: "Both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up."

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

The October 27 CBS Evening News led with a story from John Roberts on the Miers withdrawal, followed by Lee Cowan from Dallas with reaction from those in her home town. Picking up after an opening soundbite from a disappointed high school friend:

Lee Cowan: "Loyalty in the Lone Star state runs pretty deep. At a Dallas diner this morning, her withdrawal served up a lot of disappointment. It's not just that Miers didn't get to become only the second Texan to sit on the high court, it's that conservatives, even here in her home state, weren't willing to give her a chance."
Glenn Moore, with "Dallas Republican" identifier on screen: "I don't think that the people got to hear exactly what her position was on various and sundry things and she never had a hearing, you know."
Man on radio in cab: "We didn't believe President Bush."
Cowan: "Cabbie Gerald Colgrove had bigger issues: The President he voted for twice has taken a lot of home town hits lately, the most recent being Texas Republican Tom DeLay's criminal indictment. But the Miers nomination stung particularly hard."
Gerald Colgrove, taxi driver: "When you've got more yelling and screaming coming out of his supporters than coming from his detractors, I think that says a lot right there."
Cowan, leaning into taxi window: "What happened? Why do you think it fell apart?"
Colgrove sitting in taxi with Cowan beside cab: "I think the far right, they had been itching for a big battle for years."
Cowan: "And this was it?"
Colgrove: "I think this is what they've been waiting for."
Mark Davis on WBAP Radio: "Well, Harriet is gone."
Cowan: "Dallas talk show host Mark Davis though says local conservatives are actually just trying to watch out for the President's legacy."
Davis: "A lot of people are saying, 'wow, this is an embarrassment for the President' and it is. It was a bad pick. It was a bad pick, but I'll tell you, into this void can rush an opportunity for him to name someone who defines him."
Cowan concluded: "That she fell on her sword for the good of the country, as she says, didn't surprise any of her friends. But still, around here, there's a sense that the home team lost a big one. Lee Cowan, CBS News, Dallas."



The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a transcript of two of ABC's four October 27 World News Tonight reports on Miers. The newscast began with Terry Moran, and after the Douglass piece and q and a with Stephanopoulos recited below, Barbara Walters checked in with how Justice Sandra O'Connor again urged the President to pick a woman to replace her.

Bob Woodruff: "This is a significant defeat for a President who faces a number of challenges at the moment. It has been nearly 40 years since a Supreme Court nominee has withdrawn their name from consideration by the Senate. ABC's Linda Douglass has been following this fight from Capitol Hill."
Linda Douglass: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her."
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader, on the Senate floor: "The radical right wing of the Republican Party drove this woman's nomination right out of town."
Douglass: "The Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee said the groups drowned her and the President out."
Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, on the Senate floor: "There was a decisive imbalance in the public forum with the case for Ms. Miers not heard because of the heavy decibel level against her."
Douglass: "Republican Senators who publicly criticized Miers believe the President has now gotten the message that his supporters expect him to pick an established conservative judge. Many conservatives say it is time for a confrontation over abortion, gay marriage and school prayer."
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Senate Judiciary Committee): "This is something the President campaigned on. People walked for him. And it's going to be a tough discussion and debate. But it shouldn't be one of 'Hide the Ball.' We should have the debate."
Audio of Rush Limbaugh from his show: "It's time for the President to start picking fights with his real enemies: the Democrats and the left in this country. And that's what this opportunity affords."
Douglass: "Democrats lectured the President as well, saying if he chooses an ideological conservative, he will appear to be the tool of outside groups."
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Senate Judiciary Committee), on Senate floor: "If the President were willing to stand up to the extremists in his party, a realistic compromise could easily have been found on this issue."
Douglass: "The prospect of a raging battle in the Senate makes some Republicans uneasy."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Senate Judiciary Committee): "The American public is sick of us fighting all the time about everything. I think it's bad politics. And eventually this behavior is going to destroy the judiciary."
Douglass: "Now, Senator Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up.' But, Bob, both sides are bracing for him to do just that."

Woodruff: "Which raises the, Linda Douglass, on Capitol Hill, thank you. Which raises the question: What does the President do next? Does he have to nominate a conservative to satisfy the base of his party or a moderate who would be acceptable enough to Democrats to avoid a long and prolonged fight. ABC's George Stephanopoulos joins us now to talk about this political calculus. Now, the President miscalculated the first time around. Does he change his strategy completely now?"
George Stephanopoulos, at anchor desk with Woodruff: "A little bit. Last time around, the President wanted a woman who united conservatives and divided Democrats. This time, I think it is more important that he please those conservatives, a little less important that he picks a woman. That's the sense I got from the White House today. And, frankly, I don't think they care what the Democrats think right now. But bottom line, everyone I spoke to today agrees this person has to be a federal judge with a proven track record on constitutional issues."
Woodruff: "They can find something out about here. So, if, with men then on the list this time around, who are the favorites?"
Stephanopoulos: "It's a wide-open list right now. Four possibilities: Michael Luttig from the federal court of appeals in Virginia, Samuel Alito from New Jersey, Karen Williams out of South Carolina, and, finally, Priscilla Owen of Texas. But I have to say, Bob, both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up."
Woodruff: "All right. They want to avoid a fight in that sense. George Stephanopoulos, thank you."

Gibson Baffled Why Conservatives Upset
by Miers' Abortion Formula

On ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday, co-host Charles Gibson seemed mystified why a pro-life group would be disturbed by Harriet Miers' formulation that the abortion debate is between those who would "criminalize abortions" verus "guarantee the freedom of the individual woman's right to choose." Gibson thought that such liberal language was perfectly neutral: "That sounds to me, when I read it, as if she's setting out alternatives and not taking a stand."

His guest, Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright, told Gibson that someone who was genuinely pro-life would have framed the debate very differently: "Those who believe in the sanctity of human life speak in terms like that, respect for unborn children, respect for life. And so by her phrasing of criminalizing abortion as contrasted to freedom, that does speak to a philosophy that's a bit troubling."

ABC was hosting the conservative Wright because on Wednesday the CWA had called for Harriet Miers to withdraw as a nominee for the Supreme Court, something Miers did a little later on Thursday morning. But Gibson's questions showed him to be flummoxed by a conservative approach to both the Court and the issue of abortion.

[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted late Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Gibson began the 7:07am EDT interview, as transcribed by the MRC's Brian Boyd, by focusing on "new troubles for President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers. The group Concerned Women for America, one of the nation's largest organizations of conservative women, is now urging the President to withdraw Miers' nomination. So the question is, will other influential Christian conservative groups join the fight against her? Wendy Wright is Executive Vice President of Concerned Women for America and joins us this morning from Washington.
"Wendy, I know that part of your decision to urge the President to withdraw this nomination is based on the fact that a 1993 speech that Harriet Miers gave has now been given rather wide publicity. And I know the quote that you call in question, and I want to put it up on the screen. 'Debate continues,' this is what she said in 1993, 'Debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual woman's right to decide.' That sounds to me, when I read it, as if she's setting out alternatives and not taking a stand. Do you see it differently?"
Wright told him that CWA wanted to support President Bush, but that these statements by Miers made such support impossible.
Gibson was still baffled: "But you take that quote as saying that she thinks that there ought to be an individual woman's right to decide? I mean, as I say I see this as sort of laying out alternatives as opposed to taking a stand?"
Wright explained that Miers in her speech had framed the debate in exactly the terms preferred by liberal pro-abortion groups: "Those who believe in the sanctity of human life speak in terms like that, respect for unborn children, respect for life. And so by her phrasing of criminalizing abortion as contrasted to freedom, that does speak to a philosophy that's a bit troubling."
Gibson then asked about a different part of her speech, where Miers declared that abortion rights were a matter of "self-determination." He insisted: "But in this speech, she comes out for self-determination. She believes people ought to have a right to decide for themselves. She doesn't want the courts to legislate, which is what I always believed conservatives wanted."

The issue with abortion, of course, is that the Court has made it impossible for the people, acting through their elected representatives, to regulate abortion. And the Court decision that elevated abortion to a constitutional right, Roe v. Wade, is regarded by many conservatives as one of the most outrageous examples of the courts "legislating from the bench."

Gibson's final question to Wright painted conservatives as ideologically greedy: "You made reference to the fact that four years before that speech she checked the box on a questionnaire saying she did want to support, she did not want, I'm sorry, I'm getting confused, that she wanted to support a ban to abortions. That's not enough for you?"
Wright countered: "You have to look at both words and deeds. And, unfortunately, she seems to just reflect the opinion of the crowd that she's speaking to at the moment."

Less than two hours later, Miers withdrew her nomination.

CNN's Toobin Tags Potential Nominees
as "Very Conservative"

Less than an hour after the announcement Thursday morning that Harriet Miers had withdrawn her nomination for the Supreme Court, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was on the air attaching enhanced ideological labels on three potential new nominees while touting one conservatives don't like. By phone at 9:55am, Toobin labeled Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Michael Luttig as "very conservative" before trumpeting how Alberto Gonzales has "some moderation in his history" and is "a lot more politically appealing candidate." On Owen, he described her, with an emphasis on the word "very," as "very conservative, frequently dissenting, because a conservative court was not conservative enough for her" and he derided Brown as "even more conservative than Priscilla Owen."

The MRC's Megan McCormack late Thursday morning posted, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog, an item about Toobin's labeling. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org

American Morning co-host Miles O'Brien set up Toobin on the October 27 show: "And Jeff, as we've been saying, Harriet Miers' job now is to, to go through the short list and pick her successor as nominee. Let's go through the short list that you have. Of course, we don't know precisely the names that she has in front of her, but it's safe to say the three or so names we have right here are among them. Let's go through it. First of all, Priscilla Owen. Tell me about her."
Jeffrey Toobin, on phone: "Priscilla Owen was recently confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She formerly served on the Texas Supreme Court with Alberto Gonzales. A very conservative, frequently dissenting, because a conservative court was not conservative enough for her. Her nomination was held up for over a year in the Senate, because the Democrats were filibustering her, and in the compromise engineered by the so-called 'Gang of 14,' to avoid having the Senate melt down over the issue, her nomination was pushed through. So she's barely been a federal judge for more than a few weeks. I don't think she's issued any opinions yet, but she's certainly a, one possibility."
O'Brien: "Number two on your list, Janice Rogers Brown."
Toobin: "Janice Rogers Brown, a young-ish, African-American woman, was the other person confirmed as part of the deal on filibusters. She comes from the California Supreme Court. If anything, even more conservative than Priscilla Owen. Very outspoken in a series of speeches. Has compared, has compared the New Deal to socialism, very, you know, outspoken, very popular with, with the base of the party. The third person on, on my list, Michael Luttig, was, has been a federal appeals court judge for more than a decade now with, appointed by the first President Bush, I believe. He was a Justice Department official who shepherded Clarence Thomas' nomination through the, through the, through his tumultuous process. He was, now I have to admit some confusion here. He was either the best man at John Roberts' wedding or John Roberts was the best man at his wedding. But suffice it to say, they're close friends. Again, very conservative, not quite as outspoken as the other two. As, as Jeff [Greenfield] said earlier, those three would be very pleasing to the base of the party, the people who rebelled over Harriet Miers. The fourth name on the list is Alberto Gonzales, who would, of course, be the first Hispanic justice, but he is someone who has some moderation in his history. When he was on the Texas Supreme Court, he issued some opinions that suggested he was sympathetic to abortion rights for women and affirmative action. He would get some of the same protests from the base of the party, but the qualifications issue, which so much dogged Harriet Miers, would be less of an issue with Gonzales, because he, after all, has been a judge on the Texas Supreme Court, has been Attorney General."
O'Brien: "Well, let me ask you this, Jeff Toobin. Do qualifications, does a thick resume inoculate you against that ideological fight which lies ahead? It seems to me the ideologues are going to be upset with Gonzales, regardless."
Toobin: "I think that's right, but the question is, are, would they be upset enough to get 51 votes against him? And, and I think Alberto Gonzales is a lot more politically appealing candidate. You know, if, President Bush naming the first Hispanic to the court, an ethnic group that the Republican Party is ardently courting. That, that would be a big deal, and, and I think to see him sabotaged by his own party, if that's what would happen, is something that I think some people in that party will think twice about. But, I mean, as this episode has illustrated, the right wants this seat really badly and they'll fight to get it."

Woodward Points Out Wilson Found Evidence
of Iraq-Niger Deal

Much to Senator Chris Dodd's consternation on Thursday's Larry King Live on CNN, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, pointed out a fact rarely mentioned by the mainstream media -- that "most of the analysts at the CIA said that [Joseph] Wilson's findings, when he went to Niger, supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq" for uranium. When Dodd started to counter Woodward, Woodward asserted that "Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact." Woodward revealed that he had the report "in his pocket"and when King asked why, Woodward answered: "Yes I do because I knew I might be challenged." When King went to an ad break two minutes later, the camera pulled back to show everyone at the table. Woodward then slid forward across the table to Dodd what looked like a few 8-and-half-by-11 sheets of paper with a post-it on top. Dodd ignored it, but in the second before CNN went to black, Senator Lindsey Graham, sitting beside Dodd, picked them up.

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org where it is accompanied by a still shot from a fraction of a second after the papers are released from Woodward's hand along with a video excerpt of the handoff, in both RealPlayer and Windows Media formats. To post a comment, see the picture or watch the video, go to: newsbusters.org ]

From CNN's October 27 Larry King Live, picking up after Dodd compared Joe Wilson with the security guard who discovered the Watergate burglary:

Woodward: "There's some factual problems here. When Wilson went to Niger before all this blew up, in fact, before there was a war, he came back and reported, and Michael [Isikoff] and others who've read the Senate Intelligence Committee on this, know his report was very ambiguous. In fact, most of the analysts at the CIA said that Wilson's findings, when he went to Niger, supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq. Now, no, that's [reacting to agitation across table from Senator Chris Dodd] -- I mean, the Democrats, the Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact. And you know, there are other facts and there's speculation."
Senator Chris Dodd: "That report didn't go into all of that. The report was about other issues. I mean, you've got to remember, the move in this town-"
Woodward, over Dodd: "I know, but it did. I got it in my pocket. I'll read it if you want."
Dodd. "I know. You remember the mood here was to sell this. We now know, because it was false. The information was false. And to suggest that there weren't weapons of mass destruction on the nuclear weapon there, was going to be a major blow to that argument. It's a very important issue."
King: "You walk around with this in your pocket?"
Woodward seemingly joked: "Yes, yes, I do because I knew I might be challenged."
Michael Isikoff of Newsweek: "We don't know exactly what Joe Wilson said when he came back because he didn't actually write a written report. It was an oral debriefing. So you have CIA analysts who might have interpreted it in different ways..."

Isikoff went on to agree with Dodd as he maintained that the evidence shows "they really were out to get Wilson."

After Isikoff finished his answer, viewers saw the events described above in which Woodward slid the papers over to Dodd, who ignored them.

Coulter Hits Lauer on Respect for Fitzgerald
vs Impugning Starr

Conservative author and columnist Ann Coulter, on Thursday's Today, nailed Matt Lauer on the media's double-standard in respectful treatment of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald compared to Ken Starr, whom the media regularly impugned. When Lauer gave Fitzgerald the leeway Starr never received, contending "it's hard to attack this prosecutor at this particular moment wouldn't you agree?", Coulter fired back: "It was hard to attack Ken Starr! He was a boy scout!" In a blog entry, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens also pointed out Today's graphic bias. During the Coulter segment, Today ran this doubly-damning headline: "Leak Investigation: Dirty Politics or Broken Laws?"

For the NewsBusters.org posting on this exchange between Coulter and Lauer, with a still shot showing the text NBC put at the bottom of the screen: newsbusters.org

Geoffrey provided this rundown from the 7am half hour of the October 27 Today:

Lauer: "We know the President has gone on the record. He said to me that he thinks the special prosecutor in this case is handling the investigation in an extremely dignified manner. So if indictments do come down how do Republicans react? Can some of them say this was all a sham?"

After catching up on a few points to Lauer's previous questions Coulter answered Lauer's Fitzgerald query:
"And by the way I do not think Republicans will do what Democrats did, we certainly haven't so far, and that is start attacking the prosecutor before we know what the charges are."

Lauer gave Fitzgerald the leeway Starr never received: "It's hard to attack this prosecutor at this particular moment wouldn't you agree?"
Coulter fired back: "It was hard to attack Ken Starr! He was a boy scout!"

-- Brent Baker