2. ABC Again Worries Saddam Trial Will Prove "Embarrassing" to U.S.
3. Study Finds Networks Overwhelmingly Negative Toward Bush on Iraq
4. Why Is Essie Mae Washington-Williams Described as "Black"?
5. MRC Announces Winners of Annual Awards for Worst Reporting
6. "Top Ten Other Observations Made by Saddam Hussein's Daughter"
CBS on Wednesday night provided a forum for the Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, to complain about access to documents as reporter Randall Pinkston hyped his story: "For the first time, commission chairman Tom Kean is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented." Pinkston added: "Appointed by President Bush, Kean is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame."
Specifically, complaining about trouble getting to see "top-secret daily briefs, documents that may shed light on one of the most controversial assertions of the Bush administration." That was National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's assertion that "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."
Pinkston moved on to a 9/11 widow's complaint about a failure to connect the dots, but Pinkston's story presented pre-9/11 issues as if it were a simplistic world in which if people had been warned about threats to planes the terrorist attacks would have been avoided. In fact, it would have set off a panic and caused a myriad of problems economically. And he ignored how a concern of the Bush administration is that if the public learns there were reasons to believe planes were threatened people will assume that means 9/11 could have been prevented when, in fact, there were threats to all kinds of things and only in retrospect do we know which threat was real.
Pinkston did raise President Clinton's name -- but literally not until the very last word of his story.
Dan Rather set up the December 17 CBS Evening News piece: "The head of the independent commission investigating the 9-11 terror attacks in the United States is out with some strong accusations about what the panel is finding. The final report is due out officially in May. CBS's Randall Pinkston has tonight's story."
Pinkston's story began with video of Tom Kean walking down street with Pinkston as Kean maintained: "This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right."
The Web site for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: www.9-11commission.gov
ABC News is obsessed with the idea that any trial of Saddam Hussein will prove "embarrassing" to the United States for how it will reveal the U.S. government's aide to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s when the Reagan administration made a choice between two evils. In the latest incarnation of this theme, Nightline anchor Chris Bury introduced a Tuesday night story: "Saddam Hussein has not always been America's enemy, and as Nightline correspondent Deborah Amos reports, that might prove embarrassing in any trial."
Amos proceeded to quote an expert we warned: "We should not be surprised if Saddam Hussein mounts a defense that is, in essence, one based on blackmail: 'Wasn't I your sweetheart once upon a time?'"
On Sunday morning, barely an hour after Paul Bremer had announced the capture of Saddam Hussein, ABC's Terry Moran reminded viewers how "Secretary Rumsfeld was over in Baghdad meeting with Saddam Hussein years ago" and "there are allegations that the United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war. And all that could spill out in a big show trial." For more on ABC's approach on Sunday morning: www.mediaresearch.org
ABC doesn't seem to worry much about assistance to Hussein from France and Germany which continued until early this year.
Now, back to the December 16 Nightline watched by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson. After the Bury intro quoted above, Amos began her piece:
In picking up on the CyberAlert item about how ABC News has avoided reporting its poll finding of a jump in Bush's approval rating following the capture of Saddam Hussein, FNC's Brit Hume also noted a new study from another media analysis group which found that negative evaluations of President Bush in Iraq stories on the broadcast network evening newscasts have soared since May.
Hume reported in his "Grapevine" segment on the December 17 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:
Indeed, the December 17 CyberAlert relayed:
ABC's World News Tonight still hasn't reported how, in the wake of the capture of Saddam Hussein, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that President Bush's approval level overall rose four points with a ten point jump in approval for how he's handling the situation in Iraq, but on Tuesday night Dan Rather found a few seconds to relay how a new CBS News/New York Times poll discovered a six point hike in Bush's approval level....
As the December 16 CyberAlert noted, NBC showcased on Monday's NBC Nightly News its survey finding that after Hussein's capture Bush's approval rating jumped by six points while his margin over Howard Dean expanded from 12 to 21 points.
But though Monday's Washington Post featured the results of the ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted on Sunday afternoon and evening, Peter Jennings didn't utter a word about it on Monday night and he didn't catch up on Tuesday.
The only hint as to the good news for Bush in the ABC poll came in a small graphic on screen for a few seconds on Monday's Good Morning America as Claire Shipman tried to diminish the impact of catching Hussein. She highlighted how "ABC News has a new poll out today that shows most Americans don't believe Saddam's capture means the job is done there" as she warned that if "if the situation isn't stabilized," the capture of Hussein "is not going to seem decisive for this administration."
As she was saying that, GMA put up a picture of a bearded Hussein which filled three-fourths the screen with the left-hand fourth showing a graphic citing a single poll number from an "ABC News/Washington Post poll" on "President Bush's Approval Rating," listing it at 58 percent after Saddam's capture compared with 48 percent in mid-November. In fact, the numbers were for approval of how Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.
END of Excerpt of CyberAlert
For more and for how ABCNews.com covered the poll: www.mediaresearch.org
TV News Turned Sour on Bush After Iraq War Ended Study: President's Coverage Dipped Sharply After "Mission Accomplished" Event
WASHINGTON, DC -- Evaluations of President Bush on the network evening news shows dropped from 56 percent positive during the Iraq war to only 32 percent positive during the six months that followed the end of formal military activity, according to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). Coverage of Bush administration policies nose-dived from 49 percent positive to only 26 percent positive, a 3-to-1 negative ratio, during the same period.
These findings come from CMPA's study of 1,876 stories (54 hours, 36 minutes) on the Bush administration on ABC, CBS and NBC nightly news broadcasts from May 1st through October 31st. A previously released CMPA study examined network evening news coverage during the war....
Despite having given the most favorable coverage to the war, CBS was toughest on President Bush in its aftermath with 77 percent negative evaluations, followed by ABC with 67 percent negative and NBC with 62 percent negative comments....
END of Excerpt
For the press release in full: cmpa.com
A big difference in approaches by the MRC and the CMPA: We concentrate on what reporters and anchors say, assuming their statements are seen as more credible by the audience, while the CMPA gives equal weight to what is said in soundbites from politicians and experts.
That may explain why the CMPA found CBS the most negative while CyberAlert most often quotes derogatory stories on ABC: We find that ABC reporters, led by Peter Jennings, are more negative than CBS reporters.
Why is Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the daughter of a white father, the late Senator Strom Thurmond, and black mother, described as "black" or "African-American" in many media reports on Washington-Williams acknowledging her parentage? Isn't she just as white as she is black? And isn't labeling her black, in the midst of stories wondering how she dealt with her segregationist father, ironic in that it plays into historic prejudices that having some black heritage in your bloodline somehow taints you as black?
Admittedly, she was raised in a black household and was treated as black by society, but that doesn't mean she really is any more black than she is white, or any more Negro than Caucasian.
So, as some media outlets have done, she should be described as "mixed-race" or "bi-racial."
But on Wednesday night, December 17, after she held a press conference to publicly acknowledge her father was a 22-year-old Strom Thurmond who had a relationship with a 16-year-old maid in the Thurmond family home, the three broadcast networks, CNN and MSNBC all described her as "black" or "African-American":
-- Peter Jennings plugged a story on ABC's World News Tonight: "Senator Strom Thurmond's African-American daughter. She says that now she's told the world, she feels free."
-- Tom Brokaw set up a piece on the NBC Nightly News: "A well-publicized coming out for a woman who's had a story to tell for years, but chose not to tell it until today. She's black. And as she revealed to the world in a strong voice, proud voice, she's the secret daughter of a long-time Senator long associated with racial segregation."
Reporter Don Teague, however, described her differently: "Strom Thurmond managed to hide his mixed-race daughter from most of the country for decades, but in South Carolina's black community it was one of the worst kept secrets ever."
-- Wolf Blitzer, anchoring CNN's NewsNight, plugged the story: "Also ahead tonight in the program: Strom Thurmond's family secret. The segregationist's African-American daughter speaks out." And another plug: "Still ahead tonight on the program, living with the secret of who her father was for decades. A woman reveals the secret as the African-American daughter of a very famous segregationist."
(On Monday's NewsNight, regular anchor Aaron Brown described her the same way: "Also coming up tonight, Strom Thurmond's love child -- never imagined I'd say that -- an African-American woman born nearly 80 years ago.")
-- Dan Rather, on the CBS Evening News, plugged an upcoming excerpt from an interview with Washington-Williams: "The black daughter of segregationist Strom Thurmomd. Why didn't she tell him off? You'll hear her answer in a CBS exclusive interview."
Later in the show, however, Rather stated: "He was a hardline segregationist. She is his mixed-race daughter..."
And in setting up the segment, he offered a third take on how to label her racially: "We have more tonight on the story about America and race, a story that was a secret for many years, the story of the late Senator Strom Thurmond's bi-racial daughter."
But, in the subsequent 60 Minutes II interview with her aired Wednesday night, she was back to being all black. Rather announced at the top of the December 17 show in previewing the interview: "Until now, she had kept her secret for more than six decades. She is the black daughter of Senator Strom Thurmond..."
At the start of his piece: "For decades, in South Carolina politics, the name 'Essie Mae' has been whispered in connection with the state's longtime Senator. Was it possible that Strom Thurmond, one of this country's most powerful senators, a man who had filibustered against the civil rights bill and run for President as a segregationist, was it possible he had fathered a black daughter? Now, we know it is true. Essie Mae Washington-Williams is his daughter, and she steps into history as yet another symbol of this country's complicated relationship with race."
For the Web version of the 60 Minutes II interview: www.cbsnews.com
When the CBS Evening News led with Washington-Williams' story last Saturday, anchor Russ Mitchell described her as "mixed-race." He opened the December 13 broadcast: "We begin tonight with a story that speaks to the legacy of segregation in America and possibly of hypocrisy in the highest of places. Next week, a 78-year-old California woman is expected to break her lifelong silence and publicly disclose that she is the out-of-wedlock mixed-race child of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, once one of the country's leading segregationists."
CBS's story was prompted by a report in Sunday's Washington Post. But while reporter Marilyn Thompson referred in her lead to Washington-Williams as the "illegitimate mixed-race daughter of former U.S. Senator James Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.)," the Post's sub-headline, under "Woman Claims Thurmond as Father," declared: "Proof Is Forthcoming, Black Retiree Says."
-- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann labeled her as "African-American" on Tuesday night and Wednesday night, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed.
On Tuesday's Countdown: "At just about 11am Eastern tomorrow, an elderly woman will step before microphones in Columbia, South Carolina. Her public presence will confirm one of politics' oldest and wildest rumors. She will also invoke not just the nightmares of the segregated South and before them those of slavery, she will also invoke their hypocrisies. Our third story on the Countdown, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the African-American daughter of the one-time segregationist candidate for President, Senator Strom Thurmond."
On Wednesday's Countdown: "This morning, a 78-year-old woman who, for the whole of her life, has been complying with her own father's wish that she deny she was his child, stopped doing so. It is a story compelling on the simplest of human levels, but when the father's name and the mother's race are introduced into it, it becomes almost a microcosm of America in the 20th century. NBC's Don Teague tonight introducing us to the African-American daughter of Strom Thurmond."
-- ABC's Charles Gibson on Tuesday's Good Morning America tagged her as African-American: "We are going to turn next to a family saga that is sending out shockwaves. This morning, the family of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, who died in June at the age of 100, is acknowledging the claims of an African-American woman."
-- FNC's Brit Hume described her as "mixed-race." On Tuesday night, he announced: "The family of the late Senator Strom Thurmond has acknowledged the claim of a Los Angeles woman that Thurmond was her father. Seventy-eight year old Essie Mae Washington-Williams, says she is the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter fathered by him when he was 22."
The results are in for the "Best Notable Quotables of 2003, the Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." A panel of 46 leading media observers judged five to eight quotes in each of 17 award categories for the MRC.
We've been working over the past several days to tabulate the votes and squeeze as many quotes as we could into the eight-page hard copy version. It went off to the printer on Monday night. A press release announcing the results went out on Wednesday and the issue is now featured on the MRC's home page where it is posted along with RealPlayer clips for many of the quotes uttered on television. Go to: www.mediaresearch.org
The judges, who gave generously of their time:
- Lee Anderson, Editorial Page Editor, Chattanooga Free Press
For links to Web pages for the judges: www.mediaresearch.org
To find out who won in each category, for now you'll have to go online. Keeping with tradition, during the last week of December CyberAlert will feature all the quotes, starting with the winners and then running through the first runners-up followed by the second runners-up and the third runners-up.
But I will give you one winner: Charles Pierce of the Boston Globe won the "Quote of the Year" for this observation: "If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."
From the December 17 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other Observations Made by Saddam Hussein's Daughter." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. "Once you get to know him, he's really nice until he kills you"
9. "The real crime is he's not getting a penny from being on those playing cards"
8. "If anyone wants a giant portrait of Saddam, I've got a garage full of them"
7. "When Uday and Qusay hear about this, they're gonna lose it"
6. "My dad isn't as screwed as the New York Giants"
5. "Compared to the Jacksons, my family is not so odd"
4. "That 'Lord of the Rings' crap is an absolute nerd-fest"
3. "Oprah's nuts if she doesn't appear on the Super Bowl of Love"
2. "While in Tikrit, try the Iraqi kabob at Ernies. Thank me later"
1. "That wasn't Saddam -- that was Nick Nolte"
#5 may not be that off base.
-- Brent Baker