Appearance Alert!
MRC's Brent Bozell talks about media bias on FNC's The Kelly File, 9:30pm ET/PT Thursday

CBS Airs One-Sided Anti-Rove Story; CNN Sees "Smear" of Wilson --7/15/2005


1. CBS Airs One-Sided Anti-Rove Story; CNN Sees "Smear" of Wilson
All three network evening newscasts last night carried stories on the Rove controversy, but CBS's report from John Roberts was by far the most one-sided. Anchor Bob Schieffer began by touting how "an expanding chorus of Democrats demanded today that presidential strategist Karl Rove be fired," and Roberts included soundbites from ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, Democratic congressman Rush Holt and MoveOn.org protesters chanting "Karl Rove has got to go," but not a single soundbite from a Rove defender. Meanwhile, Wilson appeared on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports on Thursday. Blitzer began his exchange with Wilson by describing questions about Wilson's veracity as an "effort to smear" him, but did at least ask Wilson to answer some of those questions.

2. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann: President Bush "Needs to Banish Rove"
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has been on vacation this week, but to judge by a Web log entry he posted on Monday, he'd be at the forefront of the media's campaign to get Karl Rove. In his only posting of the week, Olbermann railed that in having a background conversation with Time's Matt Cooper, which did not result in the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame being published, "Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib," and he advocated that President Bush "needs to banish Rove -- and loudly."

3. USA Today: Ill Jennings' Keeps "Fingerprints All Over" ABC News
Just a coincidence? Thursday's USA Today carried a progress report on ABC anchor Peter Jennings, who despite his treatment for lung cancer remains "quite heavily involved" in the editorial decisions that go into World News Tonight. The executive producer told USA Today's Peter Johnson that Jennings' "fingerprints are all over each broadcast." Sure enough, Wednesday's World News Tonight was the only broadcast evening newscast to devote an entire story to allegations of what fill-in anchor Charles Gibson called the "abusive and degrading treatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay."

4. Chicago Tribune Touts "Bold" Plea for a Chief Justice O'Connor
The Chicago Tribune's Supreme Court correspondent may be pretty dismayed today. In an article published yesterday, Jan Crawford Greenburg touted the "bold suggestion" from four liberal women Senators, including two Republicans, beseeching Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to stay on the Supreme Court as Chief Justice if William Rehnquist would retire. But last night, Rehnquist tried to end the media's rampant speculation of the last several weeks by stating that he intended to remain as Chief Justice "as long as my health permits."


CBS Airs One-Sided Anti-Rove Story; CNN
Sees "Smear" of Wilson

All three network evening newscasts last night carried stories on the Rove controversy, but CBS's report from John Roberts was by far the most one-sided. Anchor Bob Schieffer began by touting how "an expanding chorus of Democrats demanded today that presidential strategist Karl Rove be fired," and Roberts included soundbites from ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, Democratic congressman Rush Holt and MoveOn.org protesters chanting "Karl Rove has got to go," but not a single soundbite from a Rove defender.

Meanwhile, Wilson appeared for a live interview on CNN's 5pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports on Thursday. Unlike NBC's Jamie Gangel, whose interview with Wilson for Thursday's Today failed to press Wilson about his own credibility issues, Blitzer did confront Wilson with the contradictions between what Wilson has said about who arranged for his 2002 fact-finding trip to Niger and what a bipartisan group of Senators concluded about who arranged the trip and what Wilson actually found in Niger.

But Blitzer began his exchange with Wilson by painting all who have questioned Wilson's veracity as engaging in an "effort to smear" him. Blitzer asked Wilson about an RNC research paper that outlined the discrepancies with his story, then painted the RNC effort as illegitimate:
"We're joined here in Washington by Ambassador Joe Wilson. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to CNN....You saw this RNC, Republican National Committee, briefing paper that has been released today: '€˜Joe Wilson's top worst inaccuracies and misstatements.' Basically, they accuse you of lying on a bunch of various issues related to this case. We're going to go through some of them. But what do you make of the, the effort to smear you right now?"

Wilson replied that "it strikes me that it's typical of a Rove-type operation. 'Slime and defend' is what it's been called in the past."

Blitzer then moved on to questioning Wilson about the details of what he has said about his trip to Niger and how it contradicts what a Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded, a line of inquiry that NBC completely avoided when it hosted Wilson on Thursday's Today show and let him rant against Karl Rove and the White House's "conspiracy" and "web of lies."

For more on that, see yesterday's CyberAlert: www.mrc.org


Thursday's evenings newscasts all picked up on Wilson's press conference (alongside New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer), but on ABC's World News Tonight, reporter Jake Tapper also included a soundbite from Republican Senator Kit Bond, who was shown saying "Joe Wilson has perpetrated one of the great hoaxes in all of political time."

Tapper also acknowledged that Wilson's public criticism of the Bush administration's pre-war statements on Iraq, which put Wilson and eventually his wife into the spotlight, has been contested. After showing Wilson's press conference charge that "The smear campaign launched from the West Wing of the White House is just unsupportable," Tapper explained the background:
"Rove's attempt to discredit Wilson is now his defense, that he was cautioning the news media not to trust Wilson's information. In fact, Wilson's conclusion that there was no evidence Iraq had tried to obtain uranium was rejected by many in the CIA."

Contrast Tapper's approach with that of Roberts on the CBS Evening News. MRC's Brad Wilmouth caught how Roberts exclusively used soundbites from Rove critics, including two from Wilson himself, and omitted any suggestion that Wilson himself has a credibility problem.

Anchor Bob Schieffer introduced the report, which came after an update on the London terrorist bombing investigation: "An expanding chorus of Democrats demanded today that presidential strategist Karl Rove be fired for outing a secret CIA agent after her husband had criticized administration policy on Iraq. Rove remained silent, but his lawyer argues he has done nothing wrong. And the President, who steered clear of offering Rove any support yesterday, seemed to show a little today. John Roberts now with the latest on that from the White House."
Roberts began by showing video of Bush and Rove walking to a helicopter:
"In Washington, where body language is as important as words, it was a solid vote of confidence. The President and Karl Rove strolling side by side on the south lawn this morning. But the waves and smiles aside, the controversy is spreading. On Capitol Hill this afternoon, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose wife was outed as a CIA operative, said Rove should be gone from the White House."
Joseph Wilson, former Ambassador: "Irrespective of whether a law has been violated, it's very clear to me that the ethical standards to which we should hold our senior public servants has been violated."
Roberts: "And Democratic lawmakers have taken up the charge. The Senate Minority Leader today introduced a measure to 'prohibit Federal employees who disclose classified information from holding a security clearance.' House Democrats are floating the idea of hearings and want the White House to turn over all materials related to the CIA leak to congressional committees."
From a congressional briefing room, Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey protested: "How could something like this happen? And how can we make sure that it doesn't happen again?"
CBS then showed a clip of MoveOn.org demonstrators in front of the White House chanting: "Karl Rove has got to go!"
Roberts suggested Republicans were trying to change the subject: "Republicans are attempting to spin this as a partisan smear campaign, and pointed to this afternoon protest organized by the liberal MoveOn.org as proof of that. Rove supporters believe if they can make him appear the victim of partisan attacks, he'll likely survive. Joe Wilson too claims to be the victim of a smear campaign to turn attention off Rove and onto him."
Then a second soundbite from Wilson: "This is not a fight between Joe Wilson and the Republican Party. This is a question of whether the national security of our country was violated."
Roberts concluded by predicting that the focus on Rove will hurt the President: "Republican sources say President Bush believes that this will all blow over. But they are worried about new polls that show the President's numbers on honesty and straightforwardness way down. And the dustup over Karl Rove certainly can't help."

Over on NBC, David Gregory used no soundbites as he stood on the White House lawn and ran through the day's developments in an exchange with anchor Brian Williams. Gregory raised the issue of whether anyone publicizing Plame's name might not be guilty of anything, but said his sources told him that Plame was, in fact, an agent whose identity the CIA wished to conceal:
"And one final note tonight on the criminal investigation. Some have suggested that the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, she's the agent, the CIA officer at the heart of all of this, may not have been a crime in the end because she was not detailed overseas. But government officials say tonight, Brian, that she was indeed operating under official cover when the leak occurred."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann: President Bush
"Needs to Banish Rove"

Keith Olbermann MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has been on vacation this week, but to judge by a Web log entry he posted on Monday, he'd be at the forefront of the media's campaign to get Karl Rove. In his only posting of the week, Olbermann railed that in having a background conversation with Time's Matt Cooper, which did not result in the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame being published, "Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib," and he advocated that President Bush "needs to banish Rove -- and loudly."

Olbermann's thesis: Plame was so crucial to the war on terrorism, Rove's role in blowing her cover (Olbermann is presuming a lot here) amounts to sabotaging America's War on Terror.

MRC's Brad Wilmouth alerted me to Olbermann's screed a couple of days ago, but I'm just getting to it now. Even though it's four days old, Olbermann's fulminations are still so over-the-top that it's still worth noting as an extreme example of the media's desire to punish Rove even though the special prosecutor looking into the leak has not actually accused Rove (or anyone else in the White House) of any wrongdoing.

An excerpt of the posting, posted less than a day after Newsweek's story about Matt Cooper's naming of Rove in an e-mail to his bureau chief:

SECURED UNDISCLOSED LOCATION -- Karl Rove is a liability in the war on terror.

Rove -- Newsweek's new article quotes the very emails -- told a Time reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to investigate of the Niger uranium claim was at the behest of Wilson's CIA wife.

To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country's spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction -- for political gain.

Politics first, counter-terrorism second -- it's as simple as that.

In his story guidance' to Matthew Cooper of Time, Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib. He destroyed an intelligence asset like Valerie Plame merely to deflect criticism of a politician. We have all the damned politicians, of every stripe, that we need. The best of them isn't worth half a Valerie Plame. And if the particular politician for whom Rove was deflecting, President Bush, is more than just all hat and no cattle on terrorism, he needs to banish Rove -- and loudly....

Any time I've criticized the current administration here or on the air, I've gotten the same idiotic emails from the same idiotic people who've never been touched by terrorism. They brand me a liberal who doesn't understand that terrorists want the next unattended bag to be filled with WMD. Their position is incredible on its face; in the light of the confirmation of the Karl Rove revelation it would assume the quality of farce, were it not so deadly serious....

End of excerpt.

For Olbermann's "Bloggerman" Web log on MSNBC's Web site, go to: www.msnbc.msn.com

Right now, his rant against Rove is still his most recent posting, so until Olbermann returns from his "undisclosed location" vacation spot, it should be pretty easy to find. And once Olbermann returns, you can probably expect that he'll have something to say about how Rove single-handedly destroyed America on his 8pm EDT Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

USA Today: Ill Jennings' Keeps "Fingerprints
All Over" ABC News

Just a coincidence? Thursday's USA Today carried a progress report on ABC anchor Peter Jennings, who despite his treatment for lung cancer remains "quite heavily involved" in the editorial decisions that go into World News Tonight, according to one of Jennings' main substitutes, Good Morning America's Charles Gibson, and the Executive Producer of World News Tonight told USA Today's Peter Johnson that Jennings' "fingerprints are all over each broadcast."

Sure enough, the previous night's World News Tonight, anchored by Gibson, was the only broadcast evening newscast to devote an entire story to allegations of what Gibson called the "abusive and degrading treatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay."

Before he became ill, Jennings had shown uncommon interest in the Guantanamo story. Back on the April 22, 2004 World News Tonight, he showed a sympathy for the plight of those incarcerated at the prison camp as he reported on his own visit to the facility:
"The biggest health issue here is mental," Jennings reported at the time. "Isolation and uncertainty have led to numerous attempted suicides. And at any time of the day or night, the detainees may be interrogated, a subject of enormous controversy in itself. There is no thought here of rehabilitation. Some of these men may be here for years, and as of now, they have no appeal."

For more on that story, see the April 23, 2004 CyberAlert. www.mrc.org

Now back to the present. Gibson introduced Wednesday's story on a report released by the military detailing the interrogation tactics used to question Mohommed al-Qahtani, who is suspected of being a terrorist who tried and failed to participate as the 20th hijacker on September 11, 2001, the same detainee featured in a Time magazine cover story about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.

MRC's Brad Wilmouth transcribed Gibson's introduction and the full report by Jonathan Karl:
"From terror overseas to the treatment of terror suspects by the U.S. In Washington, military investigators released a report confirming instances of abusive and degrading treatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The investigators told a Senate committee most of the interrogation techniques had been authorized. Here's ABC's Jonathan Karl."
Karl began: "The report details how the military tried to break the will of one of its most dangerous prisoners -- Mohammed al-Qahtani, a would-be 9/11 hijacker. For eight months, Qahtani told interrogators nothing. That's when they turned to more aggressive tactics. He was tied to a leash and forced 'to perform a series of dog tricks,' 'forced to wear a bra and had a thong placed on his head' during interrogation, and forced to stand naked with females present. Interrogators taunted Qahtani. They told him 'his mother and sister were whores,' called him a homosexual and forced him 'to dance with a male interrogator.' The chief investigator, an Air Force general, told a Senate hearing all of this was authorized under military rules. He acknowledged the interrogations were degrading and abusive, but-"
Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt, Senior Investigating Officer: "I do not, however, consider this treatment to have crossed the threshold of being inhumane."
Karl: "Several senators were not convinced."
Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "They may be al-Qaeda, they may be Taliban, they may be the worst people in the world. And I'm sure that some of them are. But there are certain basic rules and international agreements that the United States has agreed to, that we will observe."
Karl: "The top military commander for Guantanamo argued tough interrogations yielded valuable information."
General Bantz Craddock, U.S. Southern Command: "We have and we are today still getting information that is relevant, that it is actionable."
Karl: "The report recommended a reprimand for the official in charge of Guantanamo at the time, but the military rejected that suggestion because most of the interrogation techniques were legal. Jonathan Karl, ABC News, Washington."

A few hours later, Thursday morning's USA Today detailed how Jennings remains very much a participant in the editorial choices made by those at ABC News. Here's an excerpt of Peter Johnson's "Media Mix" item headlined "For Jennings, news doesn't take time off," with the subheadline: "Gibson says cancer hasn't slowed anchor."

ABC Good Morning America anchor Charles Gibson was waiting for a cab on a street in Manhattan recently when a familiar voice in a car asked whether he wanted a ride across town.

Sure, he told Peter Jennings. He guessed that the World News Tonight anchor was on a medical mission for treatment of his lung cancer.

"I'm always on a medical mission," replied Jennings, who has been absent since April 5, when he told World News viewers that he would begin chemotherapy.

Jennings, 67, has not returned to the air since then. And aside from surprising staffers at ABC News headquarters in New York a few weeks ago, thinner but in good spirits, he has stayed out of sight, refused interview requests and not talked publicly about his illness.

That has prompted a steady flow of inquiries from a wide variety of people -- the second-place World News Tonight draws 9 million viewers a night -- who are curious about how the veteran anchor is doing.

"Everybody asks me," says Gibson, 63, who has been filling in for Jennings along with 20/20 anchor Elizabeth Vargas. "Chemotherapy is a long slog, and there's not much you can say that is new. 'Today was a good day. Yesterday was a bad day.' That doesn't really help, so we've been sparing in what we've said."

But Gibson says Jennings "was quite heavily involved" in last week's coverage of the terrorist bombings in London, which Gibson anchored. Jennings spent 15 years reporting from London for ABC. "It's his turf," Gibson says.

On Friday's [July 8] World News Tonight, Jennings told viewers, via Gibson, that the bombings showed that "we are all Londoners... and once again, we are stronger for it. I recognize that eloquent, stoic determination never to give up, as Winston Churchill said during the war. I have been in London and other British cities when they've been attacked with unrestrained violence. The perpetrators have always been the losers."

World News chief Jon Banner says Jennings may not be visible to viewers, but his fingerprints are all over each broadcast.

"He participates regularly in our 9 a.m. editorial meeting, and I hear from him, usually multiple times, throughout the day," Banner says. "When he thinks we've done well, he lets us know. And when the broadcast isn't up to his standards, we hear that, too. He's home and watching."...

END of excerpt.

To read all of Johnson's story, go to: www.usatoday.com

Chicago Tribune Touts "Bold" Plea for
a Chief Justice O'Connor

The Chicago Tribune's Supreme Court correspondent may be pretty dismayed today. In an article published yesterday, Jan Crawford Greenburg touted the "bold suggestion" from four liberal women Senators, including two Republicans, beseeching Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to stay on the Supreme Court as Chief Justice if William Rehnquist would retire. But last night, Rehnquist tried to end the media's rampant speculation of the last several weeks by stating that he intended to remain as Chief Justice "as long as my health permits."

Hours before Rehnquist's statement, the MRC's Brent Baker, who is currently visiting Chicago, noticed Greenburg's story in the July 14 Tribune, touting the supposed benefits of replacing the conservative Chief Justice with the less conservative O'Connor. Greenburg argued that "moderate" Republican Senators like Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins might rebel if President Bush nominates as Justice someone who is "a staunch conservative who does not share her [O'Connor's] views supporting abortion rights, affirmative action and greater constitutional protections for homosexuals."

Such language perpetuates the idea that the Court is supposed to act as a policymaking body where the Justices vote to impose their views on society, rather than as an judicial body that merely acts to reconcile policies enacted by the legislative and executive branches with the original intent of the Constitution.

An excerpt of Greenburg's July 14 story:

In the weeks before the Supreme Court concluded its term for the summer, a group of women senators, Republicans and Democrats, came together with a bold suggestion for President Bush.

They, like the White House, were expecting ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist to announce his retirement at the end of June. To fill the vacancy, they would urge Bush to nominate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female chief justice of the United States.

"Nominating Justice O'Connor to be chief justice will demonstrate leadership that unites Americans around the shared values of liberty, the rule of law, and the preservation of our constitutional freedoms," wrote Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Maine Republicans, in an undated letter to Bush.

The letter was never sent. O'Connor took Washington by surprise with her own retirement, and Rehnquist remains on the bench. He has not disclosed his plans, or his physical condition, although he was hospitalized Tuesday night with a fever and is undergoing tests.

But the letter's message highlights how the senators -- in particular the Republican moderates, led by Collins and Snowe -- could complicate Bush's effort to replace O'Connor if he chooses a staunch conservative who does not share her views supporting abortion rights, affirmative action and greater constitutional protections for homosexuals.

Although Senate Democrats have implored the White House to consult with them and have not ruled out the prospect of filibustering a nominee they consider too extreme, the stance of Republican moderates could be perhaps even more influential....

END of excerpt.

For Greenburg's entire story, go to:

www.chicagotribune.com

-- Rich Noyes