CBS: Bush's WMD Intel Skewing "Potentially Worse than Watergate" --6/10/2003
2. NYT Writer Questions if Bush Can "Honorably" Remain President
3. "Friend of Bill" Rick Kaplan the New Senior VP of ABC News
4. "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," Media "Thwarted" the Truth
CBS suggests WMD-gate and says it "could be worse than Watergate." The three broadcast network evening shows led on Monday night with charges that the Bush administration exaggerated what intelligence reports said about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the CBS Evening News went so far as to analogize the situation to Watergate.
John Roberts ominously warned: "If the intelligence was shaded or manipulated, it could be a significant scandal for the Bush White House, potentially worse than Watergate, says one man who remembers that era well." Nixon-era White House counsel John Dean then argued: "If Bush has deliberately turned to the intelligence agencies and told them what he wants rather than what they were giving him, I think he's in deep trouble."
Peter Jennings opened the June 9 World News Tonight on ABC: "We begin tonight with the war and justification. For months before it attacked Iraq the Bush administration said that Saddam Hussein's regime and its weapons of mass destruction posed a direct and imminent threat to U.S. national security. The administration was adamant and stated its case as fact. Today, we have learned more from the Pentagon's own intelligence unit and we find that they were far less certain."
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw led his newscast: "It's now been two months since the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and still no sign of him or his weapons of mass destruction. The absence of those weapons so far is getting most of the attention. Critics in this country and also in Great Britain are asking whether the threat was hyped or made up altogether to justify the war. For his part, President Bush today emphatically, again, insisted Baghdad did have a WMD program, but Democrats are asking for a full congressional review."
Andrea Mitchell cited a case in which an October CIA report said only that Iraq will "probably" have nuclear arms in decade, with them getting them in a year the "worst case" scenario, but President Bush spoke only of the latter most dire prediction. Mitchell concluded: "How could this happen? Defense and intelligence official say the President and his war cabinet wanted to make the case for war and ignored qualifying statements from the CIA. And top CIA officials didn't try to talk them out of it."
Now more on the CBS Evening News story. Dan Rather began the June 9 newscast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
That didn't stop the media during Watergate.
Since President Bush is either a "liar" or "corrupt" or just plain "incompetent" now that his reasons for war with Iraq have all been found to be untrue, the "ethicist" columnist for the New York Times wondered Friday night on CNN whether Bush can "honorably" continue to serve in office.
During an appearance on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown, Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times Magazine, charged: "I think this is the big ethical story of the week -- is many people are asserting that the President is a liar, that the President lied about -- in order to get our country into a war. That's a serious story."
When Brown suggested that "one should have evidence" that Bush lied "before one makes that argument," Cohen snidely retorted: "Do you mean, before one drags the country into a war?"
Brown also raised the possibility the Bush administration just made a mistake. Cohen then contended: "The alternatives then are corrupt or incompetent. And that if you are so wrong about all three causes, then I wonder if you can honorably hold -- continue to hold your office. It's an important thing. Many people died."
But not as many as the New York Times editorials and "news analysis" pieces by R.W. "Johnny" Apple predicted.
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd checked the transcript against the tape of the June 6 NewsNight and here is how the discussion proceeded after they talked about William Bulger continuing to serve as President of the University of Massachusetts when he refuses to help the FBI locate his fugitive brother, and the Martha Stewart matter:
Brown: "There's an interesting right or wrong, I'm not sure exactly where it centers, in this whole debate and discussion over weapons of mass destruction and what the government may have known, may have sort of known, but made it sound like maybe they knew more, all of that. What do you see there?"
For Cohen's latest weekly column: www.nytimes.com
[Web Update: On February 17, 2004, MSNBC named Rick Kaplan as its new President, replacing Erik Sorenson. For the Washington Post story on the announcement:
A day after airing the Barbara Walters interview with Hilary Clinton, which was little more than an hour-long infomercial for her new book, ABC News announced that they have re-hired Rick Kaplan, the Friend of Bill who ran CNN from 1997 to 2000 as President of CNN/USA after spending 18 years as a top producer with ABC News.
Kaplan will assume the title of Senior Vice President, the number two slot under ABC News President David Westin, Lisa de Moraes reported in the June 10 Washington Post. She explained: "He will have day-to-day responsibility for Nightline, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, the weekend editions of World News Tonight, plus World News Now, World News This Morning and ABC News's political unit, which is revving up for the 2004 election cycle." Plus, de Moraes relayed, "in August, Kaplan will assume responsibility for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, once a successor for Paul Slavin," Executive Producer of the show, "has been picked."
(Slavin, de Moraes noted, "will work side-by-side with Kaplan. Senior veep Phyllis McGrady will continue to oversee Good Morning America, PrimeTime Thursday and 20/20. And all three will report to ABC News President David Westin.")
Kaplan actually re-joined ABC News in February, as the February 20 CyberAlert noted in picking up on a DrudgeReport item. de Moraes observed: "The job solidifies the relationship ABC News had reforged with Kaplan in February, when he was retained to help the division in its coverage of the impending war with Iraq."
While serving as President of CNN, Kaplan played golf with President Clinton, stayed overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom and participated in a mock debate session with Al Gore. When he was Executive Producer of Nightline in 1992 he advised presidential candidate Bill Clinton on how to handle the Gennifer Flowers revelation and later as Executive Producer of World News Tonight he blocked anti-Clinton stories from getting onto that newscast.
With George Stephanopoulos, ABC News now has two prominent staffers with ties to the Clintons.
For a photo of Kaplan: www.news.harvard.edu
Now, as lifted from the November 19, 2002 CyberAlert, the rundown of Kaplan's liberal political activities over the years while serving as a network news executive. This is divided into two parts: a) Rick Kaplan's close ties to President Bill Clinton; and b) Kaplan's activities on behalf of Clinton while at ABC News.
A) Rick Kaplan's close ties to President Bill Clinton:
# From the April 11, 2000 CyberAlert:
CNN President Rick Kaplan, who stayed overnight in Clinton's White House while at ABC News, spent another night there with his daughter last Thursday night after the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, USA Today disclosed. But Kaplan doesn't see anything wrong with it.
In his "Inside TV" column for April 10, USA Today's Peter Johnson revealed:
CNN president Rick Kaplan, who took some heat when he worked at ABC News for staying overnight at the White House during President Clinton's first term, spent another night there Thursday -- after Clinton roasted ABC News over "Leogate."
"No, I do not feel embarrassed, ashamed or compromised in any way, shape or form," Kaplan said Friday, after sleeping in the Queen's Room while daughter Alexis, 21, slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Generally speaking, it's an ethical no-no for journalists to get too cozy with people they cover. But Kaplan, a former Nightline, PrimeTime Live and World News Tonight producer, said Clinton's gesture won't affect CNN's coverage of him.
"Everyone has relationships," Kaplan said. "We met each other before either of us knew we'd amount to anything. He doesn't expect anything from me, and I don't expect anything from him."
Kaplan, a Clinton friend for 30 years, said the president gave Alexis an "amazing" 2 '-hour White House tour. "It was extremely nice of him to do it. In the waning months of his presidency, I felt, 'What the heck?'"
END of Excerpt and of April 11, 2001 CyberAlert item
(Back in 1994 Knight-Ridder's Marc Gunther noted in a profile story that ran in the February 8, 1994 Detroit News: "Kaplan and Clinton have known each other since the late 1970s, and last year the ABC producer played golf with the President and spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom....")
# From the December 5, 2000 CyberAlert, a couple of months after Kaplan left CNN:
Was former CNN President Rick Kaplan involved in advising the Gore campaign while he was still running the cable news network? Did he have special behind-the-scenes access because of his close personal connection to Bill Clinton? Those questions are raised by an intriguing sentence in the November 20 Newsweek.
In early September Kaplan was let go by CNN, but back in March he was still President of CNN/USA. Keep that in mind as you read this paragraph from Newsweek's massive "The Inside Story" treatise on the campaign. This appeared about 30 pages into the series of articles which listed Eleanor Clift as the reporter with Gore, on page 65 in "Spring Fever" section: "Yet even after Gore had sewn up the nomination, he kept on robotically attacking Bradley in primaries that were, for all intents and purposes, meaningless. At a rehearsal for a California debate on March 1, former CNN President Rick Kaplan joked, 'Let's do the debate now.' Gore's sparring partner, Tom Downey, intoned, 'I'm going to kick you're a--.' Without missing a beat or cracking a smile, Gore mechanically launched into his standard rap, attacking Bradley's health care plan."
END of December 5, 2000 CyberAlert item
Were Kaplan and Clift advising or observing? We'll probably never know because journalists didn't and don't care about a journalist advising a liberal candidate or President.
# See the June 14, 1999 CyberAlert for how, during a commencement address Kaplan delivered while President of CNN, he complained that Ken Starr is "putting obsession ahead of the best interests of the nation" while Bill Clinton has had "extraordinary" achievements. For a lengthy excerpt of his speech: www.mediaresearch.org
A two-hour CNN special on campaign finance was produced by CNN President Rick Kaplan, who U.S. News reported had demanded that CNN staffers "limit the use of the word 'scandal' in reporting on Clinton's campaign fundraising woes."
I wondered: "Can you do a two-hour show on Clinton's 1996 fundraising and not use the word 'scandal'?" A rhetoric question, or so I thought. But incredibly enough the answer is -- yes!
The October 7 show titled "Democracy for Sale" wandered well beyond Clinton to examine Republicans and to argue for campaign finance reform, but summarizing charges against Clinton took up a significant portion of the show. Nonetheless, the phrase "Clinton scandal" was never uttered.... Details: www.mediaresearch.org
# From the August 6, 1997 CyberAlert, details on how in February 1992, while at ABC News, he advised Clinton on how to respond to the Gennifer Flowers story:
Shortly after he took over World News Tonight, this is how Knight-Ridder's Marc Gunther opened a profile story that ran in the February 8, 1994 Detroit News: "When ABC News installed Rick Kaplan as Executive Producer of World News Tonight, the network put an FOB -- friend of Bill, President Clinton, that is -- in charge of America's most watched evening newscast. "Kaplan and Clinton have know each other since the late 1970s, and last year the ABC producer played golf with the President and spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.... "But conservative media critics [that's the MRC] say Kaplan went beyond friendship during the 1992 campaign when he operated as an occasional and informal adviser to Clinton, while working as Executive Producer of Prime Time Live."
From the March, 1997 MediaWatch, an excerpt from the Revolving Door column detailing how Kaplan crossed the line during the 1992 campaign:
Clinton's Slumber Party
The names of several media executives were sprinkled among the 831 names made public of overnight White House guests in Clinton's first term: CNN founder Ted Turner, CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, and Rick Kaplan, a long-time ABC News executive recently in charge of specials in ABC's entertainment division....
Kurtz noted that Kaplan was the Executive Producer of World News Tonight when he "stayed at the White House with his wife in the summer of 1993." So, is there anything wrong with accepting an invitation from Clinton, whom Kaplan calls a longtime "friend"? Not as long as you keep it secret, Kaplan suggested in the March 3 Electronic Media: "It's nobody's business." Kurtz summarized Kaplan's view: "Kaplan said his visit did not create an appearance problem because it was never made public until now. He said his ties to Clinton had no impact on his work." He assured Kurtz: "The idea that you could suddenly decide to gild the lily or twist the news, it's a non-starter."
Kaplan is more than just a one-night guest. While Executive Producer of Prime Time Live in 1992 he provided Clinton campaign strategy when the Gennifer Flowers story broke. "Clinton called Kaplan for advice," Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Rosenstiel recounted in his campaign book Strange Bedfellows. On the way to the airport, Clinton made another call to Kaplan and the "night ended for Kaplan at 4am, when Clinton called one last time."
Two months later as Clinton's campaign floundered in New York, aides suggested an appearance on the Don Imus show. "The appearance was clinched," CNN producer Matthew Saal recalled in the January 1993 Washington Monthly, "when Rick Kaplan...called the radio show host to see if he could get the pair together. The answer was yes."
END MediaWatch Excerpt
In the overnight calls after the Flowers story broke, Gunther noted that Rosenstiel quoted Kaplan as telling Clinton: "Do the toughest interview you can. If you want to prove your credibility, you don't want to do it on Good Morning America or the Today show. And you don't won't get ratings in the morning. You have to go for the largest audience." After Clinton decided to go on 60 Minutes, during the 4am call, Rosenstiel learned, Kaplan advised Clinton to face down a famous name like Mike Wallace or Morley Safer. Voters "are going to remember that you stood up to Mike Wallace." [The Clinton's went on with Steve Kroft.]
Of course, if Kaplan were acting as a newsman and not a political adviser he would have used his friendship to get Clinton to appear on an ABC show.
END Excerpt from August 6, 1997 CyberAlert
# For extensive and illuminating excerpts from a January 1998 Vanity Fair profile which detailed how Kaplan once hired Hillary Clinton; how he not only advised Clinton about how to counter Gennifer Flowers, but had earlier counseled Clinton on how to recover from his too-long 1988 convention speech; how he had been a political operative for a liberal presidential candidate before jumping to journalism; how he made calls to console Hillary Clinton after Vince Foster's death and to Web Hubbell after he resigned; how he killed a Whitewater piece from ABC's World News Tonight, discouraged reporters and producers from pursuing the topic and only ran an in-depth look one night in 1994 because Nightline was about to grab it; and how he slurred conservative media critics who see liberal bias, specifically Reed Irvine and MRC President Brent Bozell, as "liars." Go to: www.mediaresearch.org
That's quite a piece about a political activist in the guise of a news man.
And here are a few of the most interesting excerpts from the January, 1998 Vanity Fair profile of Kaplan written by David Margolick:
-- Clinton Cries on Kaplan's Shoulder/Kaplan Hired Hillary:
-- Helped Clinton Play Media to Overcome Flowers:
-- Donaldson Says Kaplan's Pro-Clinton Bias Showed:
-- Kaplan Called Hillary the Night Foster Died:
-- Stopped Whitewater Stories from Airing on WNT (at the time Kaplan was Executive Producer of the show):
END of Vanity Fair Excerpts
One wonders if Kaplan had a hand in softening up the Walters-Hillary interview, or if Walters managed that on her own. Either way, don't be surprised to soon see stories on ABC about the groundswell of support for a Hillary presidential bid.
Today, the fourth installment of "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," quotes drawn from actor Sean Penn's 4,000-plus word ad which filled a full page of the May 30 New York Times.
As noted in the June 4 CyberAlert, it's impossible to sum up Penn's diatribe, so I'll defer to Tony Snow, who in his end of the show "Final Thoughts" on the June 1 Fox News Sunday, offered this apt description of the screed: "It throbs with loopy desperation, as if he were trying to persuade authorities that aliens from Alpha Centauri had instructed him to scale a TV tower, put on a hat made of foil and await lightning. You know the old theory that a chimp, given enough time in front of a typewriter, would pound out the Gettysburg Address? Well, this is a simian rough draft."
For more of Snow's take and for the first installment of "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," culled from the first three paragraphs of his diatribe headlined "KILROY'S STILL HERE," see the June 4 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
Now, the fourth installment of "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," lifted from the tenth, eleventh and twelve paragraphs, picking up as he continues his account of his trip to Baghdad:
In short, we deserve the government we allow, and none more than those of us who have experienced economic and personal privilege. In Iraq, I made no expert assertions and came to no absolute conclusions. Prior to, during, and since visiting Iraq, I have consulted over 100 experts in our Middle Eastern affairs, military and civilian, with a primary focus on U.N. weapons inspection capabilities. These consultations measurably increased my doubt at the factuality or the wisdom of the Administration's assertions and proposed remedies. I spoke at length with wary war correspondents whose repeated attempts to bring deeper understanding to the American public were consistently thwarted by editorial staffs, networks, and superiors, both Iraqi and American.
While in Baghdad, I visited a Pediatric hospital, schools, people on the streets, Iraqi officials, their Christian Deputy Prime Minister Aziz, and Minister of Health Mubarek. I met with humanitarian aides, U.N. officials, the local director of UNICEF (a Dutchman), and an 8-year-old Iraqi boy who had been maimed by a cruise missile in Basra while his older brother perished in the Clinton administration bombings of 1998.
I returned to the United States with a view to be digested, something I would have to be very careful and thoughtful in sharing publicly, and discerning in acceptance of a venue to do so. I waited out the first series of rabid attacks on my character, profession, intelligence, experience, agenda, ego, effectiveness, and patriotism. I chose to appear on Larry King's show, followed by an interview on The Active Opposition, a World Link TV political show hosted by my friend, Peter Coyote. This had been the extent of my public commentary on this issue in the United States, when on March 20, 2003, our President ordered our military into war with Iraq.
END of Excerpt
For a PDF of the ad, go to Penn's Web site: www.seanpenn.com
For picture of Penn and a rundown of his movie roles, check the Internet Movie Database's page on him: us.imdb.com
Geraldo Rivera is scheduled to appear tonight/early Wednesday morning on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly.
-- Brent Baker