2. ABC News President Westin Concedes Iraq Coverage Too Negative
3. NBC Denounces NRA "Enemies List," Skips How Liberals Using It
4. "Top Ten Cool Things About Having a Bodybuilder as Governor"
CBS hyped as "new questions tonight," allegations it played at the top of Wednesday's 60 Minutes II, from former State Department intelligence bureau official Greg Thielmann, that Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council contained inaccurate and unsupportable claims about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons. But CBS was playing loose with the facts in putting self-promotional marketing ahead of accuracy.
"There are new questions tonight" about President Bush's "case for war," John Roberts insisted in a preview piece on the CBS Evening News. Roberts recalled how "long before his presentation to the UN, Colin Powell insisted Saddam was not a threat to the United States, only to the region," and, portraying it as a fresh development, asserted that "Thielmann goes even further than that now, saying it's unlikely Saddam was even an imminent threat to his neighbors."
Two problems with Roberts' claims which matched what Scott Pelley presented on the October 15 60 Minutes II:
# First, nothing CBS had from the disgruntled ex-staffer was really new in any significant way. And Roberts should know that since, as anchor of the July 9 CBS Evening News, he introduced a story which featured two soundbites from Thielmann undermining the idea that Iraq had a significant nuclear program: "As David Martin reports, a new voice in the debate raised still more questions." The Martin piece included this charge from Thielmann: "The principal reason that Americans did not understand the nature of the Iraqi threat, in my view, was the failure of senior administration officials to speak honestly about what the intelligence showed."
At the time, Thielmann was also featured on ABC, NBC and in the New York Times.
Plus, Thielmann made the same allegation, on the lack of an "imminent" threat, way back on June 13 when Bill Moyers interviewed him on PBS's Now. Thielmann told Moyers: "Our judgment was that Iraq had not reconstituted its nuclear weapons program in the sense that that's generally understood. And that it was a long way from posing an imminent security threat. It was not on the verge of acquiring enough fissile material to use in weapons. It was not, it did not have long range weapons of mass destruction that could pose even a threat to our allies in Europe or to the United States."
For the transcript of Thielmann's love-fest with Moyers: www.pbs.org
Indeed, as Roberts stated, on 60 Minutes II Pelley asked Thielmann: "Do you believe that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United State of America at the point we went to war?"
That's a slight up tick in Thielmann's direness, but the same basic claim.
# Second, contrary to Pelley's implication, Colin Powell never cited in his UN address any "imminent threat." For the text of that February 5 presentation: www.state.gov
Below, a bit more of the Roberts story, highlights from Pelley's piece relaying Theilmann's charges and then a rundown of the frequent quotations in the media of Theilmann's favorite soundbite about the administration's "faith-based" intelligence gathering.
-- CBS Evening News, October 15. John Roberts maintained: "As the President struggles to turn around public opinion, there are new questions tonight about his case for war. In an interview with Scott Pelley for tonight's 60 Minutes II, Colin Powell's former weapons expert says Powell's report to the Security Council last February on Saddam's weapons programs, was based on half truths."
-- 60 Minutes II. Scott Pelley opened the broadcast in front of a "The Man Who Knew" graphic sign: "In the run-up to the war in Iraq, one moment seemed to be a turning point: the day Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations to make the case for the invasion. Millions of us watched as he laid out the evidence and reached a damning conclusion -- that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Pelley to Thielmann: "When you saw Secretary of State Powell make his presentation to the United Nations, what did you think?"
Pelley pumped up Thielmann's credentials: "Greg Thielmann was a foreign service officer for 25 years. His last job at the State Deportment was Acting Director of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs, responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Secretary Powell....Thielmann was admired at the State Department. One high-ranking official called him honorable, knowledgeable, very experienced. Thielmann took a long-planned retirement four months before Powell's big moment at the UN."
Noting how "Greg Thielmann says the nuclear case was filled with half-truths," Pelley ran through how Thielmann and another inspector found no evidence that Iraq sought uranium in Africa and, on the aluminum tubes, that they were definitively not for use in any Iraqi nuclear quest.
Pelley relayed how Thielmann "says the administration took murky information out of the gray area and made it black and white." Thielmann claimed that what Powell said were "decontamination" trucks really were fire trucks.
Pelly asked a UN inspector: "As you watched the speech unfold, what was the reaction among the inspectors?"
Pelley summed up in skipping over all that David Kay did find: "An interim report by coalition inspectors says so far, there is no evidence of a uranium enrichment program, no chemical weapons, no biological weapons, and no Scud missiles. The State Department told us that Secretary Powell would not be available for an interview. But earlier this month, he said the jury on Iraq is still out."
CBS has posted an online version of this story, complete with Colin Powell pointing out how he never used the term "imminent threat," a point which did not make it onto the air: www.cbsnews.com
-- July 9 World News Tonight on ABC. Martha Raddatz: "A former State Department intelligence analyst said today that senior officials misused the information they were provided."
That night's Nightline featured the same clip.
-- July 14 NBC Nightly News. Andrea Mitchell's story featured this comment from Thielmann: "This Administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude. We know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers."
-- Last week's PBS Frontline, "Truth, War and Consequences," showcased Thielmann and his favorite quip: "The conclusion that I ultimately came to was that this was a matter of, as I've called it, faith-based intelligence. Instead of our leadership forming conclusions based on a careful reading of the intelligence we provided them, they already had their conclusion to start out with, and they were cherry-picking the information that we provided to use whatever pieces of it that fit their overall interpretation. Worse than that, they were dropping qualifiers and distorting some of the information that we provided to make it seem more alarmist and more dangerous than the information that we were giving them."
For a transcript of that interview: www.pbs.org
A network's bad news bias in Iraq was conceded by...the President of the network's news division. In a memo to ABC News staffers last week which USA Today reported on Wednesday, ABC News President David Westin conveyed his concern: "I've been troubled for some time about the reporting of all news organizations on the situation in Iraq." He explained: "We often seem to be captive to the individual dramatic incident -- and those of us in television subject to one that comes with great video."
FNC's Brit Hume, in his Wednesday night "Grapevine" segment, noted Westin's admission after Hume relayed some quotes which were cited in the October 14 CyberAlert. Hume coupled Peter Jennings saying that Bush is not the first President to be unhappy about the media with how Jennings' own President isn't too pleased:
The October 14 CyberAlert related: It isn't nice to fool with the national media. The anchors and White House reporters for the national networks weren't too pleased by President Bush trying to go around them by conducting interviews on Monday with reporters from local affiliate station groups. CBS's John Roberts intoned: "It was the public relations equivalent of a declaration of war aimed at the national media, President Bush claiming the American people aren't getting the truth about Iraq." ABC's Peter Jennings contrasted the day's violence with Bush's claims: "On a day when the Army confirmed that three more American soldiers had been killed, Mr. Bush said that the news media, and he meant the national news media, is too heavily focused on the violence." See: www.mediaresearch.org
ABC News and Time magazine have joined forces for a series of in-depth reports in November on how the war in Iraq is affecting ordinary Iraqis....
Last month, a media watchdog group found that ABC's World News Tonight, anchored by Peter Jennings, was by far the most anti-war of the Big Three nightly newscasts.
In his memo, ABC News president David Westin said he has been dissatisfied with media coverage of the war.
"I've been troubled for some time about the reporting of all news organizations on the situation in Iraq," he wrote. "We often seem to be captive to the individual dramatic incident -- and those of us in television subject to one that comes with great video.
"ABC News is now going to address this conspicuous lacking in the reporting to date," Westin wrote. "Our goal is essentially to conduct an audit across several parts of Iraq, gauging the quality of life for the average citizen."
By running the series of reports during the November ratings sweeps period and across all ABC news programs, from Good Morning America to Nightline, ABC clearly plans to make a splash.
In its study, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Media and Public Affairs found that only 34% of comments on World News Tonight were positive about the war, compared with 53% on NBC Nightly News, 60% on Fox News Channel's Special Report and 74% positive on The CBS Evening News. CNN and MSNBC were not analyzed....
Westin noted that news organizations all have reported on American troops injured or killed.
And, he said, "from time to time we include an anecdotal piece about some program or human interest story from some part of the country, but no news organization has yet undertaken systematically and over time to address the basic, the most important questions: What is going on throughout the country?"...
Westin said Tuesday that the project has nothing to do with Bush claims about media bias or the study that found World News to be the most anti-war.
Westin says he came up with the idea in the aftermath of the U.N. bombing in Baghdad. "I thought, 'Does this really affect the attitudes and thoughts of the individual Iraqi?'"...
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.usatoday.com
The MRC's late April Special Report, "Grading TV's War News: Fox News Channel and Embedded Reporters Excelled, While Peter Jennings and Peter Arnett Flunked," also found ABC to be the most negative.
The MRC, meaning me and Rich Noyes, determined: "ABC received a near-failing grade (D-) for knee-jerk negativism that played up Iraqi claims of civilian suffering, hyped American military difficulties and indulged anti-war protesters with free air time. One ABC reporter (Chris Cuomo) even promoted anti-war leftists as 'prescient indicators of the national mood,' even though polls showed most Americans supported the war."
As for Jennings: "All of the network anchors received high grades except for the highly tendentious Peter Jennings, who played up any defeatist angle he could find. Five days before Baghdad fell, Pentagon reporter John McWethy warned, 'This could be, Peter, a long war.' Jennings felt vindication: 'As many people had anticipated.'"
Direct addresses for the full report:
-- For an Adobe Acrobat PDF of the entire product in one unit which matches the look of the hard copy version: www.mediaresearch.org
Aiding the fundraising efforts of an anti-NRA group, Wednesday's Today featured a hyperbolic and mocking look at an "enemies list" published on the National Rifle Association's Web site. Fred Francis relayed the political polemics of the NRA's opponents -- "The point, say NRA detractors, is that too many people continue to be killed because a powerful NRA is constantly confronting Congress to ease gun laws" -- without offering any counterpoint about how many die because gun laws don't allow people to defend themselves. Nor did Francis alert viewers to how the Brady Campaign was using the very "enemies list," which Francis so helpfully publicized, to raise money.
The MSNBC.com gossip column, "Jeannette Walls Delivers the Scoop," got the story into play with a short item which linked to a Web site called NRABlacklist.com, but not to the NRA's actual list of people, groups and companies which have expressed opposition to the NRA's goals.
The NRABlacklist page, which plays a "keep your hand on your gun" song, urges people to join the "honor roll" and "blacklist" by giving money. Http://www.nrablacklist.com makes clear its non-connection: "This website is in no way affiliated with the NRA. It is indeed designed to oppose everything the NRA stands for, as part of the campaign to stoptheNRA.com." That page identifies itself as a "project of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March." The "Stop the NRA" page: www.stopthenra.com , urges up top in huge numbers:
Not too subtle.
The Brady Campaign's home page proclaims:
Apparently it's okay for liberal groups to denounce the NRA and campaign against it as an enemy, but not for the NRA to acknowledge that reality.
In her October 14 item, Jeannette Walls asked: "What do Britney Spears, Meryl Streep, Jerry Seinfeld, and Julia Roberts have in common? They're all on the National Rifle Association's enemies list.
Walls noted how leftists are using the page to raise money: "But it turns out some people are signing up to get on the list. An anti-NRA group has created a web site inviting people to join the NRA enemies' list, and a spokesman for the group says that more than a thousand people signed up in one day. 'It's a list everyone should be proud to be on,' says the rep."
That piece is online at: www.msnbc.com
Nonetheless, Francis failed to inform viewers how he was simply publicizing the fundraising efforts of a liberal group.
Katie Couric, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, set up the story on the October 15 Today: "One of the country's most powerful lobbies, the National Rifle Association is taking fire itself this morning for what some say is the publishing of an NRA's enemies list. More now from NBC's Fred Francis."
Francis mocked the list: "The Temptations, not clearly part of the nation's body politic. Vinny Testaverde, pro-quarterback known for his arm not opposing firearms. Michelle Pfeifer, no stranger to Hollywood's hot list but she, like the others and hundreds more are also listed on the NRA's Web site. The NRA does not call it an enemies list but deep in its Web site there are 19 pages of celebrities, companies, organizations and journalists who the NRA says are not friends or favorites."
The NRA's Institute for Legislative Affairs titles its page in question: "National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies." The NRA explains: "The following organizations have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations. In many instances, these organizations lent their name in support of specific campaigns to pass anti-gun legislation such as the March 1995 HCI 'Campaign to Protect Sane Gun Laws.' Many of these organizations were listed as 'Campaign Partners,' for having pledged to fight any efforts to repeal the Brady Act and the Clinton 'assault weapons' ban. All have officially endorsed anti-gun positions."
The list also features "Anti-Gun Individuals & Celebrities" who "have lent their name and notoriety to anti-gun causes, speaking out for anti-gun legislation and providing a voice for anti-gun organizations," "Anti-Gun Corporations/Corporate Heads" who are amongst "the most prominent national corporations that have lent their corporate support to gun control initiatives or taken position supporting gun control," and "Publication and Media Outlets," which "have assisted in the attack on Second Amendment rights. The editorial policies of some of the media sources listed portray firearms in a negative manner in an attempt to generate public support for restrictions on firearms ownership. Others have refused some or all of NRA's advertisements."
Sounds very informative.
But for those supposedly threatened by the list, the NRA isn't too up on the media. Check out this item in the listing posted in July of this year:
"Capital Cities/ABC Television Network
Disney bought ABC about a decade ago.
Otherwise, maybe the MRC could cut and paste the NRA's list of media outlets. Get a left-wing group to attack us and, boom, we'll be denounced on the Today show.
For the NRA's listing: www.nraila.com
From the October 15 Late Show with David Letterman, as announced by ten bodybuilders, the "Top Ten Cool Things About Having a Bodybuilder as Governor." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. Every California classroom will have a Soloflex
9. The Mr. Olympia contest now gets full coverage on C-SPAN
8. Was it not Thomas Jefferson who said we were all entitled to "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of a sweet-ass set of delts"?
7. He'll take that 8-billion-dollar deficit and...uh...punch it, I guess
6. I'm on the short list for Lieutenant Governor
5. Will put an end to America's dependence on foreign protein shakes
4. He'll veto bills by doing this (flexes)
3. He is nice
2. It's very entertaining -- as long as he's not governor of your state
1. He'll have something to fall back on when he gets recalled
-- Brent Baker