CBS and ABC Decry TV Chain for Running Anti-Kerry Documentary --10/11/2004
2. Washington Post All Wrong on "Almost All Wrong" Headline
The chutzpah of CBS and ABC. On Sunday night, both decried how the Sinclair Broadcast Group has told its owned and operated televisions stations to run an anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal. On the CBS Evening News, reporter Kelly Cobiella noted how "Sinclair has given the lion's share of its political contributions to Republican candidates. This year, the company's CEO wrote out the largest personal check allowed by law to President Bush's re-election campaign." ABC anchor Terry Moran stressed how "Democrats decry this move as a political smear and yellow journalism" before Geoff Morrell relayed how "Sinclair's owners have donated $58,000 to re-elect President Bush."
The stories failed to inform viewers how ABC and CBS have given free air time to the anti-Bush screed from Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 911, or how the corporate chieftains at both networks are Democrats and/or large donors to Democrats, including the Kerry presidential campaign. To say nothing of CBS using forged documents for a prime time hit piece aimed at destroying President Bush's credibility.
On June 27, before a re-run of a laudatory profile of Michael Moore, CBS's 60 Minutes promoted Fahrenheit 9/11 by airing a nearly minute-long excerpt of one of its most disparaging sequences about President Bush, showing him sitting in the classroom for seven minutes on September 11, 2001.
A few days earlier, ABC's Good Morning America spent about seven minutes showcasing Fahrenheit 9/11's highlights of how after President Bush was informed a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, he stayed in front of elementary school kids for another seven minutes. "Was valuable time wasted?" asked Charlie Gibson at the top of the June 22 show. Diane Sawyer imparted great meaning to the time passage: "It was seven minutes in the life of a President, seven minutes in the history of the nation, it's seven minutes a lot of people are using as a kind of Rorschach test."
On the money and party affiliation side for Disney, owner of ABC, and Viacom, owner of CBS: Disney CEO Michael Eisner is a long-time generous donor to Democratic candidates and in March former Senator George Mitchell, the very partisan Senate Majority Leader when Democrats held the body in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was elected Chairman of the Board of the Walt Disney Company. For more about Mitchell's ascension: www.mediaresearch.org
New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein added: "In the past six years, Mr. Redstone has given $50,000 to Democratic campaigns and party committees, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. He gave the maximum $2,000 to Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign and supported Vice President Gore's 2000 presidential bid as well."
Despite the efforts of the ABC and CBS reporters to play up the power of Sinclair, its stations have a fraction of the audience of the ABC or CBS networks which reach every home and so a minute or two on CBS or ABC has more impact than a lengthier segment on stations 76 percent of Americans can't watch and most in the remaining 24 percent do not.
ABC's Geoff Morrell warned that through Sinclair the documentary "could be seen by nearly a quarter of all U.S. households." CBS anchor Mika Brzezinski referred to Sinclair as "the nation's largest television group owners." Cobiella described Sinclair as "a company with the power to reach a quarter of American TV viewers. Sinclair owns 62 local television stations across the country, including affiliates of Fox, ABC, WB, UPN and three CBS stations, in a number of states still up for grabs in the presidential race."
In fact, as Cobiella alluded to, Sinclair is mainly made up of little-watched WB and UPN affiliates, as well as some stations so small they don't even have any network affiliation, and their few affiliations with ABC and CBS are limited to a few small markets. Their largest CBS affiliate is in Sacramento, the 19th largest market, and their largest ABC affiliate, on channel 30, is in an even smaller market, St. Louis. For a list of Sinclair's owned or operated stations (they manage many stations owned by others): www.sbgi.net
Nonetheless, World News Tonight anchor Terry Moran treated Sinclair's programming as big news, announcing on the October 10 World News Tonight/Sunday: "A major broadcasting company, with access to more than 60 television stations, is stirring controversy this weekend with its plan to pre-empt regular programming in order to show a film attacking John Kerry. Democrats decry this move as a political smear and yellow journalism."
CBS Evening News anchor Mika Brzezinski intoned Sunday night: "In a move likely to heat up discussion of the intersection of media and politics one of the nation's largest television group owners will announce shortly it's urging its stations to air a controversial film about the Democratic candidate for President."
Kelly Cobiella began: "It's called 'Stolen Honor,' a 42-minute film that asserts John Kerry's Vietnam war protests actually prolonged the war. Fellow Vietnam veteran and longtime Kerry critic Carlton Sherwood produced it, and claims Pennsylvania war veterans paid for it."
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday first reported Sinclair's programming decision. The Baltimore Sun's version of that story: www.baltimoresun.com
CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday promoted Michael Moore's Bush-bashing movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, by airing a nearly minute-long excerpt of one of its most disparaging sequences about President Bush, showing him sitting in the classroom for seven minutes on 9-11. Setting up a re-run of a 2003 profile of Moore, 60 Minutes ran a 55 second excerpt from Moore's new movie, complete with Moore's derogatory narration: "Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read My Pet Goat with the children. Nearly seven minutes past with nobody doing anything."
CBS's focus on that sequence matched what ABC did for Moore last week. The June 23 CyberAlert recounted: ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday spent about seven minutes showcasing how Michael Moore's Bush-bashing movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, highlights how after President Bush was informed a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, he stayed in front of elementary school kids for another seven minutes. "Was valuable time wasted?" asked Charlie Gibson at the top of the June 22 show. Diane Sawyer imparted great meaning to the time passage: "It was seven minutes in the life of a President, seven minutes in the history of the nation, it's seven minutes a lot of people are using as a kind of Rorschach test." Following a taped piece by Jake Tapper on the seven minutes showcased by Moore, complete with a clock on screen, George Stephanopoulos told Sawyer that Moore's use of the incident to denigrate and mock Bush was "not fair," but he maintained that "those seven minutes are painful to watch." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Introducing the third segment on Sunday's 60 Minutes, Bob Simon asked: "What will be the biggest summer blockbuster? Too early to say, but we can easily predict the most controversial film. It's called Fahrenheit 9/11. It's the latest movie by professional provocateur Michael Moore and it's a take-no-prisoners indictment of the Bush administration. It won the top award at this Spring's Cannes Film Festival but ran into trouble in the States when the Walt Disney Company refused to release it. It opened this weekend, putting Moore's blistering commentary about President Bush in theaters across the country."
CBS then aired a clip of the movie, with Michael Moore narrating his film, over video of a limo pulling up to a school: "When informed of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, where terrorists had struck just eight years prior, Mr. Bush decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity. [Bush walking into classroom, Bush sitting in classroom] When the second plane hit the tower [plodding piano music starts over video of Card walking up to Bush] his Chief-of-Staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush 'the nation is under attack.' [slow piano music continues over video of Bush in chair] Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read My Pet Goat with the children. [elapsed time video with time on screen: "9:05," "9:07," "9:09"] Nearly seven minutes past with nobody doing anything [video of Ari Fleischer with "9:11" on screen, back to Bush with "9:12" on screen]."
Back on camera, Simon set up the re-run: "Michael Moore's last film, Bowling for Columbine, won an Oscar for 'Best Documentary.' As we reported last year, Moore's success makes many uncomfortable in these patriotic times, because his films suggest that America is taking a wrong turn. Bowling for Columbine poses a question: Why do so many Americans kill each other with guns?"
For 60 Minutes' online version of the Moore profile re-aired on June 27: www.cbsnews.com
"U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons" declared a top of the front page headline in last Thursday's Washington Post. The subhead: "Report on Iraq Contradicts Bush Administration Claims." But, as a cryptic correction noted the next day, the quote, attributed in the fifth paragraph of the story to the CIA's chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, was actually uttered in January by Duelfer's predecessor, David Kay. On Sunday, Post Ombudsman David Getler offered no further enlightenment for what he called a "whopper of a mistake" as he conceded that "a correction that appeared Friday didn't explain how it happened, as is customary." Getler noted only: "There is no room here to do so but it boils down to a transcription mistake, by a normally excellent and careful reporter, that wasn't caught."
The October 7 article carried the bylines of Dana Priest and Walter Pincus. Their fifth paragraph: "'We were almost all wrong' on Iraq, Duelfer told a Senate panel yesterday."
For Getler's Sunday column, which devoted a paragraph to the "whopper" of a mistake: www.washingtonpost.com
Saturday's Washington Times carried a story about the incident, "Post gets it all wrong in Page One headline." The October 9 story by Joyce Howard Price quoted the MRC's Tim Graham, who quipped: "I thought The Washington Post was a newspaper, not a history book." For the Washington Times story in full: www.washingtontimes.com
-- Brent Baker