2. NBC Touts Whitman's Book as Lauer Commiserates About "Far Right"
3. Couric Elicits Quip Woman Knows Who's President, "Unfortunately"
4. FNC Notes Lack of Media Interest in Case on Which Moran Hit Bush
CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Brian Williams painted a dire picture of Iraq a few days before the election, but ABC's Peter Jennings wasn't so downbeat. With "Deadly Surge" on screen over video of burned out cars and bomb-damaged buildings, Rather teased at the top of Thursday's CBS Evening News: "Tonight from Iraq, a new surge of deadly pre-election violence as Iraqi election officials quit in fear." NBC Nightly News viewers were greeted with these words covering the full screen, "Violence Before the Vote," as Williams saw: "Insurgent clashes, suicide bombers, a school being used as a polling place destroyed." In contrast, Jennings put the violence into context: "When eleven Iraqis and one American are killed in a 24-hour period, it may seem a bit insensitive to call it a quiet day. But in the scheme of things, three days before the Iraqi national elections, U.S. commanders here and Iraqis agreed it was a pretty quiet day." Later, Jennings even found an Iraqi man who said, "we thank Bush for helping us get rid of Saddam."
From Baghdad, Rather teased the January 27 CBS Evening News: "Tonight from Iraq, a new surge of deadly pre-election violence as Iraqi election officials quit in fear. The U.S. military struggles to find anyone brave enough for the job. And a new picture emerges of just who the insurgents in Iraq really are. We have the 'Inside Story.'"
Rather led the newscast: "Good evening from inside Baghdad's Green Zone, one of the few places in Iraq that authorities feel is safe enough to publicly identify as a polling place. With attacks in multiple cities, terrorists and guerrillas determined to prevent or derail Sunday's elections are doing just what they said they'd do: Cranking up the conflict. And in some places, for some Iraqis, the threats and violence are working."
Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: "Violence before the vote: Insurgent clashes, suicide bombers, a school being used as a polling place destroyed, and the U.S. general in charge of the coalition in Iraq takes us right into a hot spot."
Williams opened: "And good evening from Baghdad, where one veteran U.S. commander predicted today the insurgents will come at us with all they've got -- anything to derail Sunday's election. That does not, however, bother the American generals here, who predict the act of voting itself will be transforming for this still very dangerous place. They say a new era begins on Sunday. There will be a lot of violence between now and then, however, just as there was again today, and we'll begin our coverage from here tonight with NBC's Richard Engel."
Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight from here in Baghdad, a country about to close down for three days in the hope that it will be safer to vote. Hunting the suicide bombers on the country's western edge. The Iraqis and Americans serving the city of Mosul, surrounded by violence all the time."
Jennings, however, avoided hyping the violence as he set up his first story: "Good evening from Baghdad. When eleven Iraqis and one American are killed in a 24-hour period, it may seem a bit insensitive to call it a quiet day. But in the scheme of things, three days before the Iraqi national elections, U.S. commanders here and Iraqis agreed it was a pretty quiet day -- compared to yesterday, that is. And now, it is tomorrow they worry about. U.S. officers say with some pride today that the ballots, which are now all in the country, are hidden safely away under coalition forces. It is simply not possible for anyone here to know how much depth there is in the insurgency. Intelligence officials tell us that those who are coming here to fight from other countries come in significant numbers across the border with Syria. ABC's Martha Raddatz has just spent several days in the region."
Later, in providing an overview of the conditions in Northern Iraq, Jennings ran through a lot of problems and challenges, but also found a moment for something rarely seen on network TV news, an Iraqi thanking President Bush: "There are small signs of change. This park in Sulaymaniyah, there used to be a prison here. Today, it is a place to walk and talk and play. 'It was,' says Mohammed Rasheed, 'a mass grave. And we thank Bush for helping us get rid of Saddam.'"
(The MRC's Brad Wilmouth collated the quotes in this article.)
For a still shot from ABC of Mr. Rasheed, see the posted version of this CyberAlert.
NBC's Matt Lauer kept describing the majority in the Republican Party as the "far right," employing the term five times between plugging an interview with Christine Todd Whitman and in a subsequent session with her to promote her new book, It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America. Lauer promised: "Also coming up, a former top Bush administration official takes on the far right of the Republican Party." Lauer largely cued up Whitman's talking points, prompting her to elaborate on how "today's conservatives are not true conservatives" and commiserating with her about how on "things like Social Security how much do you think it's possible he could be held hostage by that far right?" Lauer wanted to know who can "move the party to the middle" and fretted about the impact of Colin Powell's departure on "debating key issues within the administration." In one question, Lauer did point out that the GOP, as presently constituted, is winning elections.
The publisher's description of Whitman's book, as listed by Amazon, asserts that the book is "in the tradition of Democratic Senator Zell Miller's national bestseller, A National Party No More, which critiqued the Democratic party's move to the far left." Indeed, Miller's book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, was published in October of 2003. But unlike with Whitman, the MRC's Tim Graham pointed out to me, Today did not provide Miller with an interview segment to promote his book, though he did receive a grilling from Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
At the top of the 7:30am half hour Lauer teased his upcoming in-studio session with Whitman on the January 27 Today: "Also coming up a former top Bush administration official takes on the far right of the Republican Party."
Katie Couric soon offered another plug: "And up next, her new book is causing a political stir already. Former top Bush administration official Christine Todd Whitman talks about the challenges facing the President and his party."
Lauer set up the session, as taken down by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "As President Bush moves into his second term a former cabinet member says the President's party is being held hostage by the far right. Christine Todd Whitman was the first woman to be elected Governor of New Jersey. During the nineties her name was frequently mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate. President Bush tapped her to run the EPA in his first term, a post she left in May of 2003. Her new book criticizing the far right is called It's My Party Too. Governor Whitman good morning, good to see you."
For Amazon.com's page on Whitman's book: www.amazon.com
In the middle of a human interest interview with Anna Mauser Martinez, a pregnant Cleveland area woman who survived a truck crushing her car while she was in it, NBC's Katie Couric on Thursday's Today elicited a slap at President Bush: "I heard you even cracked some jokes with the EMTs when they arrived on the scene?" When Martinez failed to convey her quip, Couric got specific: "They asked you questions like, 'do you know who the President is?' Right?" Martinez, who appeared via satellite with her husband at her side, confirmed: "Yeah, and I said, 'yes, unfortunately.'" That prompted some laughter in the NBC News studio.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens observed the exchange which took place in the 7:30am half hour, in the segment before the Christine Todd Whitman interview examined in CyberAlert item #2 above.
Picking up toward the end of the session, Couric inquired: "And I was gonna say the whole time you were trying to get out you're smelling very strong smell of diesel fumes which must have added to your concern. Well I'm so glad you're okay. Anna, I can't believe how like cool, calm and collected you were throughout this ordeal. I mean hats off to you for, for keeping your wits about you. I heard you even cracked some jokes with the EMTs when they arrived on the scene?"
You read it here first. In his "Grapevine" segment on Thursday night, FNC's Brit Hume picked up on how at President Bush's Wednesday press conference ABC News reporter Terry Moran raised the case of a Jordanian man, Ali Hattar, jailed for "slander" and pressed Bush to condemn the arrest, saying: "If you won't, sir, then what do your fine words," about freedom, "mean?" Bush replied he was "unaware of the case." Hume pointed out that Bush "was in good company. The Hattar case appears never to have been mentioned by any news outlet in the U.S., including Moran's own network. That is, of course, until Moran asked his question."
The January 27 CyberAlert recounted: In a "gotcha" moment at Wednesday's presidential news conference, ABC's Terry Moran raised the case of a man in Jordan jailed for "slander" after he claimed the Jordanian government uses U.S. weapons against its own people. Moran snidely asked President Bush to square that arrest with his Inaugural address: "I wonder if here and now you will specifically condemn this abuse of human rights by a key American ally, and if you won't, sir, then what in a practical sense do your fine words mean?" In Thursday's Washington Post, reporters Glenn Kessler and Scott Wilson devoted a story to how "President Bush was stumped yesterday" by the question and had replied: "I'm unaware of the case." Though al-Jazeera has highlighted the case, neither the Washington Post or ABC News has ever previously reported on the December arrest. Moran apparently still didn't consider it newsworthy since he didn't mention the subject during his World News Tonight story on the press conference.
For the item in full: www.mediaresearch.org
Hume then corrected Moran: "Oh, and one more thing, Jordanian officials claim Hattar was not arrested for encouraging a boycott of U.S. goods, but for claiming that Jordan was buying weapons from the U.S. and using them against the Jordanian people."
Indeed, though the Thursday CyberAlert properly summarized the case, Moran did not. His question to President Bush: "Last month in Jordan, a gentleman named Ali Hattar was arrested after delivering a lecture called, 'Why We Boycott America.' He was charged under Section 191 of their penal code for slander of government officials. He stood up for democracy, you might say, and I wonder if here and now you will specifically condemn this abuse of human rights by a key American ally, and if you won't, sir, then what in a practical sense do your fine words mean?"