Appearance Alert
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CBS and ABC Pounce on "Ethics Questions Dogging" Tom DeLay --4/7/2005


1. CBS and ABC Pounce on "Ethics Questions Dogging" Tom DeLay
Prompted by front page Washington Post and New York Times stories about the funding of trips House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took and that his PAC has relatives on its payroll, CBS and ABC pounced Wednesday night on how, as CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer put it, "ethics questions dogging House Republican leader Tom DeLay multiplied again today." Schieffer claimed "it is now just one thing after another with Tom DeLay." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted an "exclusive" from Brian Ross about whether DeLay "broke congressional rules when he took trips overseas" which "were financed by someone else." Ross zeroed in on a "lavish" 1997 trip to Saipan, a topic Ross covered in a 1999 20/20 story, so hardly fresh news. It would be easier to take Ross seriously if the night before he had not devoted a full story to condemning DeLay for awarding multiple doctors with the title of "Physician of the Year," little more than a silly fundraising gimmick. Unlike CBS and ABC, on Inside Politics CNN's Ed Henry relayed how Delay called the newspaper stories "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me." As for having relatives on a PAC's payroll, Major Garret noted on FNC that "several Democrats do it."

2. NBC/MSNBC Continue to Obsess Over the Supposed Snubbing of Carter
NBC continued to obsess Wednesday night and Thursday morning, as NBC reporters and anchors had on Wednesday's Today, over the supposed snubbing of former President Jimmy Carter who is not part of the official U.S. delegation to the Pope's funeral. On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams insisted from Rome that "the arrival here tonight of three U.S. Presidents has some asking why Jimmy Carter isn't a part of the official American delegation." On MSNBC's Countdown, fill-in host Alison Stewart declared: "Notably absent from the day's arrival of the U.S. delegation, former President Jimmy Carter." She fretted to Andrea Mitchell that "the Air Force One presidential club took off without the Nobel Peace Prize winner." On Thursday's Today, Matt Lauer raised the subject with Tim Russert who contended that "I'm not sure we'll ever know the true facts until the biographies come out." Two hours later on Today, Katie Couric pressed an Archbishop: "Were you surprised...that President Carter was not a part of the delegation given the fact that the Pope visited President Carter at the White House?"

3. NBC Relays View Pope "Affirmed Death" in Rejecting Use of Condoms
Immediately after bemoaning the exclusion of Jimmy Carter from the official U.S. delegation to the Pope's funeral (see item #2 above), NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams declared that "it is very clear to many in the Church that the next Pope will have to work hard to gain back the support of many Catholics who were put off by the policies" of the late John Paul II. Reporter Bob Faw noted how "traditionalists" were pleased with the late Pope, but he focused on complaints from representatives of two liberal groups, Catholics for Free Choice and Catholics Speak Out. After one woman claimed that "I feel marginalized in this Church, marginalized by it, by the late Pope," and another woman insisted that "this Pope didn't care to learn from the likes of women," Faw relayed how "her left-of-center Catholic group also complains that John Paul, rather than affirming life, actually affirmed death when he refused to permit the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS."

4. Gibson: Would American Crowds Be So Polite? They Were for Reagan
As he stood Wednesday amongst the orderly crowds in line in Rome to view the Pope's body, Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson marveled at the politeness of those in the lengthy line and then wondered "if American crowds would be so polite to one another?" Well, weren't they less than a year ago at the various memorials for the late President Ronald Reagan, from those who passed his casket in California at his library and later at the U.S. Capitol, as well as those who viewed his caisson on its way to the Capitol?


CBS and ABC Pounce on "Ethics Questions
Dogging" Tom DeLay

CBS's Bob Schieffer & Gloria Borger Prompted by front page Washington Post and New York Times stories about the funding of trips House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took and that his PAC has relatives on its payroll, CBS and ABC pounced Wednesday night on how, as CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer put it, "ethics questions dogging House Republican leader Tom DeLay multiplied again today." Schieffer claimed "it is now just one thing after another with Tom DeLay." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted an "exclusive" from Brian Ross about whether DeLay "broke congressional rules when he took trips overseas" which "were financed by someone else." Ross zeroed in on a "lavish" 1997 trip to Saipan, a topic Ross covered in a 1999 20/20 story, so hardly fresh news. It would be easier to take Ross seriously if the night before he had not devoted a full story to condemning DeLay for awarding multiple doctors with the title of "Physician of the Year," little more than a silly fundraising gimmick.

Unlike CBS and ABC, on Inside Politics CNN's Ed Henry relayed how Delay called the newspaper stories "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me." As for having relatives on a PAC's payroll, Major Garret noted on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume that "several Democrats do it," including California Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Howard Berman. Garrett also passed along how Delay's office pointed out that the payroll story was reported two years ago.

CBS Evening News "A 3rd DeLay Trip Under Scrutiny," read the April 6 Washington Post front page story. The subhead: "1997 Russia Visit Reportedly Backed by Business Interests." For the lengthy story by reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and James V. Grimaldi, go to: www.washingtonpost.com

The New York Times front page headline announced, "Political Groups Paid Two Relatives of House Leader; Over $500,000 Since 2001." For the regurgitated story by Philip Shenon, go to: www.nytimes.com

-- CBS Evening News, April 6. Bob Schieffer, from Washington, DC, reported, at one point over a montage of the newspaper stories: "Here on Capitol Hill, ethics questions dogging House Republican Leader Tom DeLay multiplied again today. Front-page stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post had new allegations of foreign trips paid for by lobbyists and also more than a half million dollars in salary paid to DeLay's wife and daughter by his political action and campaign committees. Gloria Borger is at the Capitol again tonight. Gloria, it is now just one thing after another with Tom DeLay. What's going to happen here?"
Borger checked in, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Well, at this point, Bob, House Republican leaders continue to publicly support Tom DeLay, but privately it's becoming a very different story. We spoke with one House senior Republican today, and he told us that if you were to take a secret poll inside that Republican Caucus, you would find an awful lot of disgruntled Republicans and a lot of Republicans who also believe that Tom DeLay's effectiveness is going to be diminished by these ethics charges."
Schieffer: "Well, now, we know there's a grand jury down in Texas that's investigating Tom DeLay. We don't know what's going to happen down there, but is he going to be able to hold his power now, do you think, or is this going to be too much?"
Borger: "Well, you know, privately, a lot of members are asking that very same question, Bob. There is the question also of what this ethics committee is going to do. And right now, nobody knows because they're deadlocked."


-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas trumpeted: "We have an ABC News investigation tonight that centers on one of the most powerful men in Congress -- the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay -- and whether he broke congressional rules when he took trips overseas. The trips were financed by someone else. The question is 'Why?' Our chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, has this exclusive report."

Ross went back eight years for a story: "Among the lavish overseas trips Congressman DeLay has accepted was one to the South Pacific to the island of Saipan. DeLay, his wife and daughter, and several aides all stayed free at this beachfront resort during the New Year's holiday in 1997. DeLay, who was the guest of honor at a New Year's Eve feast, did not declare this trip on congressional disclosure reports."
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, at the time: "This has been a wonderful trip."
Ross: "DeLay's trip was arranged by this Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, a former DeLay aide who took the Fifth Amendment in testimony before Congress.
Jack Abramoff, at a hearing: "I respectfully invoke the same privileges, sir."
Ross: "Abramoff is now under federal investigation for his lobbying activities, including, ABC News has learned, lobbying for Saipan. The DeLay trip to Saipan was part of an effort by Abramoff to stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweat shops and sex shops in the American territory. Abramoff was paid $1.36 million by Saipan officials and wrote in a memo, obtained by ABC News, that such congressional trips were, quote, 'one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill.' After touring one garment plant, DeLay praised Saipan at the New Year's Eve party attended by top factory owners."
DeLay: "You represent everything that is good about what we're trying to do in America."
Ross: "Later, one of the factory owners was recorded on hidden camera by a human rights group saying DeLay had promised to stop the reform laws."
Willie Tan, factory owner: "So Tom told me, 'Forget it, will you? No chance.'"
Ross: "The source of funding for at least three other DeLay free trips are also now coming under scrutiny. A 1997 trip to Moscow, the cost $57,000. A trip to London in Scotland in the year 2000 that cost $70,000. And a trip in 2001 to South Korea that cost $107,000."
Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21: "There appears to be a pattern here of foreign travel being improperly paid for, and that needs to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee."
Ross: "A spokesman for the lobbyist Abramoff confirms he arranged today's trip to Saipan and went with them, but says that's common practice in Washington. And as for Congressman DeLay, his office confirms he did not declare the trip for him and his family, but says he doesn't have to because trips paid for by a government are exempt. That's an explanation, Elizabeth, some critics say, raises more questions than it gives answers."
Vargas: "Mmm, all right, Brian Ross. I'm sure we'll stay tuned for more. Thank you."

The online version of the Ross story notes that he previously reported the sam Saipan story on 20/20. It doesn't offer a date, but I believe it aired in 1999. For the ABCNews.com version of the Ross story on Wednesday's World News Tonight: abcnews.go.com

As noted above, it would be easier to take Ross seriously if the night before he had not devoted a piece to condemning what amounts to little more than a silly fundraising gimmick. On the April 5 World News Tonight, Ross held DeLay culpable: "The Republicans came up with the idea of 'Physician of the Year' five years ago under the direction of Republican leader Tom DeLay."

Anchor Elizabeth Vargas had teased the story: "From the Republicans in Congress, hundreds of awards for 'Physician of the Year.' All it takes is a campaign contribution."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed how she later plugged the story: "When we come back, hundreds of doctors, all of them named 'Congressional Physicians of the Year.' What a campaign contribution buys."

Vargas introduced the eventual story: "We have an ABC News investigation tonight about the extent to which politicians will go to raise money. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are already fundraising for the next election, which is some 18 months way. And ABC's Brian Ross found that hundreds of doctors have been targeted for contributions with the promise of what appears to be a prestigious award."
Ross began: "The good news reached the Jamestown, New York, office of Doctor Rudolph Mueller, in a fax from a Congressman in Washington. Doctor Mueller had been named '2004 Physician of the Year.'"
Doctor Rudolph Mueller, congressional 'Physician Award Winner': "My secretary came running in and said, 'Doctor Rudy, look at what you've won: Your Physician of the Year award.' But by the time he came to Washington, Doctor Mueller knew there was a catch. To receive the award in person at a special workshop, he had to make a $1,250 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee."
Mueller: "That you can win awards because you send in money, I've never heard of such a thing."
Ross: "But to see how it works behind the scenes, Doctor Mueller sent in his check, and we brought him to Washington for the ceremony."
Unidentified man on hidden camera: "Go through there, do your photo op through that blue drape."
Ross narrating the hidden video of a National Republican Congressional Committee event: "It seems there were hundreds of 'Physicians of the Year,' all lined up one after another to get their picture taken with the Republican Congressman handing out a plaque -- $1,250 per physician, money that will be used for the 2006 congressional elections."
Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21: "It's the kind of scam that we've seen congressional investigations look at when they take place in the private sector. But here, since members of Congress are doing it, we're not going to see any investigation."
Ross: "The Republicans came up with the idea of 'Physician of the Year' five years ago under the direction of Republican leader Tom DeLay, who welcomed the physicians this year with a promise of new laws."
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, at the event: "-so that predatory personal injury lawyers can't clog our courts and drive doctors out of business with abusive lawsuits."
Ross: "Some of the other winners told Doctor Mueller he should use his 'Physician of the Year' award in marketing, that patients would be impressed. When we checked online, we found physicians across the country who had done just that, listing themselves as 'Congressional Physician of the Year.'"
Mueller: "To actually buy your award, and it's not from your peers or from your patients, it's really deceptive."
Ross: "A Republican congressional spokesman says there's nothing about the award to be ashamed of, that there are thousands of 'Physicians of the Year' across the country who are quite happy with their awards and that there'll be a new batch of them next year. Brian Ross, ABC News, New York."


-- CNN's Inside Politics, April 6, provided a retort from DeLay. Ed Henry reported:
"Tom DeLay launched a vigorous defense of himself in an exclusive off-camera interview with CNN today....[I]n this interview with CNN, basically Tom DeLay attacked the New York Times story about his wife and daughter being on the payroll of his political action committee. DeLay said this was basically, quote, 'just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me.' He did note correctly that there are other lawmakers who have relatives on their campaign payroll. He said there is nothing improper about that.
"As for the trip you [Judy Woodruff] mentioned, 1997 trip to Russia, DeLay insists -- his defense is that he thought a conservative think tank was footing the bill for this trip. That would be allowed under House rules. The story is alleging that it was actually bankrolled by some Russian business interests and lobbyists. That would be a clear violation of House rules and as you remember, last year Tom DeLay was admonished no less than three times for violating various House rules.
"So this would be yet another problem if this moves forward with some sort of investigation. DeLay, overall though, said about that trip -- he told CNN, quote, 'I can't. No member can be responsible for going into the bowels of researching what this organization, how it gets its money or how its funded. What's going on here is a concerted effort to twist the truth to make it look seedy and it's just not true.'"

NBC/MSNBC Continue to Obsess Over the
Supposed Snubbing of Carter

NBC's Brian Williams NBC continued to obsess Wednesday night and Thursday morning, as NBC reporters and anchors had on Wednesday's Today, over the supposed snubbing of former President Jimmy Carter who is not part of the official U.S. delegation to the Pope's funeral. On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams insisted from Rome that "the arrival here tonight of three U.S. Presidents has some asking why Jimmy Carter isn't a part of the official American delegation." On MSNBC's Countdown, fill-in host Alison Stewart declared: "Notably absent from the day's arrival of the U.S. delegation, former President Jimmy Carter." She fretted to Andrea Mitchell that "the Air Force One presidential club took off without the Nobel Peace Prize winner." On Thursday's Today, Matt Lauer raised the subject with Tim Russert who contended that "I'm not sure we'll ever know the true facts until the biographies come out." Two hours later on Today, Katie Couric pressed an Archbishop: "Were you surprised...that President Carter was not a part of the delegation given the fact that the Pope visited President Carter at the White House?"

The April 6 CyberAlert recounted: NBC's Today treated the lack of inclusion of former President Jimmy Carter, in the official U.S. delegation to Friday's funeral for the later Pope John Paul II, as an inexcusable snub by the Bush White House and the biggest news of Wednesday morning. Katie Couric insisted at the top of the show that with President Bush going to Rome with the First Lady and Condoleezza Rice, as well as his father and Bill Clinton, "the question some people are asking is where's President Carter in all this? Are the Bushes and the Carters the modern day version of the Hatfields and the McCoys? Andrea Mitchell soon fretted: "You have to wonder why the White House couldn't have asked the Vatican to permit one more person in the Basilica? Particularly a Nobel Laureate who actually worked on Third World issues with John Paul II. And it seems as though this snub may have had something to do with Carter's strong criticism of the President at last summer's Democratic convention." Matt Lauer wanted to know "why doesn't Secretary of State Rice step aside and say, 'you take my spot, you know, former President Carter?'" See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- NBC Nightly News, April 6, 2005. Brian Williams: "The arrival here tonight of three U.S. Presidents has some asking why Jimmy Carter isn't a part of the official American delegation. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has learned the White House initially told Carter it was a small group and that the other former presidents were not going. Then, President Clinton and the first President Bush decided to go after all, but the White House told Carter there wasn't room for him, so he stepped aside. The White House, however, insists it would have been happy to have President Carter join the delegation and tonight for himself, President Carter says there is no dissension between him and the White House about the Pope's funeral."

MSNBC's Alison Stewart -- MSNBC's Countdown, April 6. Alison Stewart teased: "The faithful descend upon Saint Peter's. Crowds crying and choreographed security. President Bush is there; Jimmy Carter is not. Was the ex-President snubbed by the White House?"

Stewart set up the subsequent segment: "Notably absent from the day's arrival of the U.S. delegation, former President Jimmy Carter. President Bush and the First Lady and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton comprised four of the five in the official U.S. delegation. The fifth, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But President Carter, who is the only U.S. President to have welcomed the pontiff to the White House, wanted to be there. Quote, 'After issuing a public statement of condolences last week, President Carter expressed to the White House a desire to attend the Pope's funeral,' Carter Center spokesperson Jon Moore said in a statement released today. But the former President, quote, 'was quite willing to withdraw his request when he was subsequently informed that the official delegation would be limited to just five people and there were others who were eager to attend,' end quote. So the Air Force One presidential club took off without the Nobel Peace Prize winner. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said simply, quote, 'We did reach out to him. It was his decision to make. We would have been happy for him to be part of the delegation,' end quote. But is this a big presidential diss? Joining me now, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell."

Stewart to Mitchell: "There seems to be a bit of conflicting accounts about exactly what transpired between the White House and former President Jimmy Carter. So did the White House snub Mr. Carter or did he say, 'Hey, I'll take a pass.'"
Andrea Mitchell: "I think it's more the former. Apparently, the White House did offer him an opportunity to go, and he was told that the former Presidents, the other former Presidents were not going and that it was only a very small group. Obviously, the President, the First Lady, Condoleezza Rice was also going. So they said that there wasn't really enough room. He then said that he would demur. There obviously is not a very good relationship between this President and former President Carter, who's been very critical of the Bush foreign policy. After that, then Bill Clinton decided to go, and also President Bush 41, as he's referred to. At that point, Jimmy Carter said, yeah, he wanted to go, too, if the other former Presidents were going, but it was too late. The White House said that all the seats were taken."
...
Stewart: "But still, a lot of people say the former President's absence is quite glaring-"
Mitchell: "It is."
Stewart: "-given his relationship with the Vatican and with this Pope. Explain to people why that is."
Mitchell: "Well, they did have a good relationship, and Jimmy Carter's issues have been very much the issues of the late Pope because they both worked so hard on poverty, on issues of AIDS, Third World development."
...
Mitchell: "But getting back to President Carter, President Carter and Pope John Paul II had a close relationship, an alliance on a lot of Third World Issues. And so, Jimmy Carter does feel very badly about not being able to go."


-- Today, April 7. The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this exchange in the middle of a Lauer/Russert session about the funeral and the significance of a U.S. President attending it:

Lauer: "Alright I don't want to take a lot of time on this. Can we put to rest this whole Carter controversy? The Carter Center released a statement saying that quote, 'There has been no dissension between President Carter and the White House concerning the Pope's funeral.' Is that the end of story?"
Russert: "Uh, put it down as a big misunderstanding Matt and I think both sides want to leave it at that. I'm not sure we'll ever know the true facts until the biographies come out."

Nonetheless, two hours later, at a it past 9am EDT, Katie Couric in Rome posed this question to Archbishop John Foley:
"Were you surprised, Archbishop Foley, that President Carter was not a part of the delegation given the fact that the Pope visited President Carter at the White House?"
Foley: "Well I don't know what to say there. I don't know the circumstances for that decision. I was there at the White House with the Holy Father and I remember being presented by the military aide and, who said to President Carter, 'Mr. President this is Monsignor Foley.' And the President said, 'Your Holiness this is Monsignor Foley.' And the Pope said, 'I know he's with me.' So it was, you know an indelible memory from that visit for me. The first time a Pope had ever been in the White House. For me it was a very historic occasion and I'll, I will never forget it."

NBC Relays View Pope "Affirmed Death"
in Rejecting Use of Condoms

Catholics for a Free Choice's Serra Sippel Immediately after bemoaning the exclusion of Jimmy Carter from the official U.S. delegation to the Pope's funeral (see item #2 above), NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams declared that "it is very clear to many in the Church that the next Pope will have to work hard to gain back the support of many Catholics who were put off by the policies" of the late John Paul II. Reporter Bob Faw noted how "traditionalists" were pleased with the late Pope, but he focused on complaints from representatives of two liberal groups, Catholics for Free Choice and Catholics Speak Out. After one woman claimed that "I feel marginalized in this Church, marginalized by it, by the late Pope," and another woman insisted that "this Pope didn't care to learn from the likes of women," Faw relayed how "her left-of-center Catholic group also complains that John Paul, rather than affirming life, actually affirmed death when he refused to permit the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS."

Brian Williams set up the April 6 NBC Nightly News story: "It is very clear to many in the Church that the next Pope will have to work hard to gain back the support of many Catholics who were put off by the policies of the very Pope that so many have come here to mourn. That story tonight from NBC's Bob Faw."
With "Church Divided" on screen over file footage of the Late Pope during communion, Faw began: "His was a papacy of triumph and bitter disappointment. Embraced by multitudes like college sophomore Henry Shay:"
Henry Shay: "In many ways, I think he reinvigorated the Church."
Faw: "John Paul also alienated others. Lifelong Catholic Serra Sippel was so angered by his teachings she quit going to mass."
Serra Sippel, Catholics for a Free Choice: "I am profoundly disappointed."
Faw: "She says she's outraged even now the Vatican didn't do more to stop sexual abuse by priests. Outraged, too, because the late Pope refused to ordain or even consider ordaining women as priests."
Sippel: "Especially as a woman, I feel marginalized in this Church, marginalized by it, by the late Pope."
Rea Howarth, Catholics Speak Out: "This Pope didn't care to learn from the likes of women."
Faw: "Her left-of-center Catholic group also complains that John Paul, rather than affirming life, actually affirmed death when he refused to permit the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS."
Howarth: "That teaching is death dealing."
Faw: "Criticism like that roiled his papacy, during which the shortage of priests grew, many practicing Catholics ignored his ban on contraceptives, and in the Third World, Catholicism lost ground to Pentacostals. But all that ferment fostered ironically by John Paul will, say traditionalists, ultimately benefit the church."
Ben Cote, student: "I think the Pope has encouraged that sort of love, that for all people, for human dignity, that does bring everyone in regardless of all these little hot-button issues."
Faw: "His, then, is a curious legacy. The Church and America divided and hopeful."
Sippel: "I do hope that the Church will change. I expect it to change -- maybe not in my lifetime, but eventually it will and I'll be here to go back to church."
Faw, over video of John Paul II holding his staff: "Long led by a shepherd whose staff was also a lightning rod. Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington."

Gibson: Would American Crowds Be So Polite?
They Were for Reagan

ABC's Charlie Gibson As he stood Wednesday amongst the orderly crowds in line in Rome to view the Pope's body, Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson marveled at the politeness of those in the lengthy line and then wondered "if American crowds would be so polite to one another?" Well, weren't they less than a year ago at the various memorials for the late President Ronald Reagan, from those who passed his casket in California at his library and later at the U.S. Capitol, as well as those who viewed his caisson on its way to the Capitol?

Just past 8:30am EDT on Wednesday, as he stood next to a line of people in Rome, Gibson observed and wondered: "So polite, as I say, and well taken care of. Over here you can see the huge supply of water, bottles being passed out to the crowd as they come through. They leave in an orderly fashion to use the bathroom and then are allowed back in. You wonder if American crowds would be so polite to one another?"

As the MRC's Jessica Barnes reminded me, U.S. crowds were quite polite and orderly for the Reagan events, including the caisson procession which we both attended.

-- Brent Baker