CBS & NBC Tie Assassination to al-Qaeda Terrorist, But Not ABC --5/18/2004
2. Rooney Wants "Smart Board" of Professors to Block Tax Cuts
3. USA Today Founder Neuharth Urges Bush to Not Seek Re-Election
4. Desegregation & Marriage: "Struggles for Rights and Inclusion"
5. Morning Shows Trumpet Gay Marriage as "Landmark" & "Milestone"
6. 60 Minutes Chief Don Hewitt Says He'll "Probably Vote for Kerry"
Now entering its second week: Peter Jennings' refusal to link Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to al-Qaeda. In the wake of the assassination of Iraqi Governing Council chief Izzadine Saleem, CBS's David Hawkins explained from Baghdad, on Monday's CBS Evening News, how "coalition officials say the suicide bombing was probably the work of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda terrorist who's been blamed for other spectacular bomb attacks and last week's beheading of an American businessman, Nicholas Berg." NBC's Ned Colt relayed from Iraq how "the U.S. military says the attack had the signature of al-Qaeda linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."
But though ABC's World News Tonight ran two stories which named al-Zarqawi, neither made any mention of al-Qaeda.
(In the meantime, the networks are still focusing on prisoner abuse and trying to expand the scandal as much as they can. Tom Brokaw teased at the top of Monday' NBC Nightly News: "A two-year old White House memo. Did it open the door to prison abuse in Iraq? Who knew what, when?" Over on ABC's World News Tonight, Terry Moran relayed, "The charge: the Bush administration early on in the war on terror set a tone of disregard for international law that ultimately led to abuses in Iraq.")
Back to World News Tonight's avoidance of al-Qaeda in Iraq: In a story from Baghdad on the suicide car bombing, Bill Redeker passed along how "an unknown group, called the Arab Resistance, claimed responsibility, but American officials said it looked like the work of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Redeker added no details about him or his affiliations.
In a subsequent story, Brian Ross reported from New York: "All this comes as U.S. forces were already bracing for the threat of a large scale chemical attack in Iraq. Officials tell ABC News that a Middle East intelligence agency broke up a plot by the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to launch a chemical weapons attack against U.S. headquarters, Peter, in Baghdad's 'Green Zone."'
Earlier CyberAlert items on Jennings' hostility to the idea that al-Qaeda has anything to do with anything in or near Iraq:
-- May 14 CyberAlert: ABC's Peter Jennings continued on Thursday night to refuse to link Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist in Iraq believed to have decapitated Nick Berg, to al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Other network anchors weren't so reluctant. CBS's Dan Rather noted how Berg's life "intersected" with the "notorious al-Qaeda figure." Tom Brokaw asserted on NBC that "al-Zarqawi is considered to be a close ally of Osama bin Laden." Jennings, however, described al-Zarqawi only as a "suspected terrorist leader." ABC's Brian Ross then downplayed any active connection as he relayed how "Zarqawi ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, but now runs his own terror network." But leading one to suspect that Jennings insisted that Ross make any link less definitive, that was a far cry from how on Thursday's Good Morning America Ross had asserted: "Zarqawi is the man known to be the al-Qaeda chief inside Iraq." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- May 13 CyberAlert: Is Peter Jennings spiking any al-Qaeda/bin Laden tie to the beheading of Nick Berg? On Wednesday night, ABC's World News Tonight ran a story about the terrorist for whom the videotape of the murder claims responsibility, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but ABC neglected to make any mention of his role in al-Qaeda. In focusing on al-Zarqawi, ABC was just catching up with CBS and NBC. But on Tuesday night those two networks had explicitly linked him to al-Qaeda and/or bin Laden. On Wednesday, however, Jennings described al-Zarqawi simply as "one of the most wanted men in Iraq -- at least by the United States." Yet ABCNews.com states that he's "considered one of the top al Qaeda lieutenants still at large." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Andy Rooney on Sunday night recommended the creation of a "new government agency called The Smart Board" which "would be an advisory group comprising a body of 100 college professors, all with PhDs" who would advise the Congress and President on the best policies to follow. But as 60 Minutes viewers soon learned, Rooney really just wants another way to undermine conservative views since the two examples he cited matched what liberals want: "For example, if the professors had advised against attacking Iraq, it would have been harder for the President to do that" and "the professors would give Congress and the President their best advice on whether or not they should pass a new tax decrease that leaves no rich person behind."
Highlights from Rooney's commentary at the end of the May 16 60 Minutes, which certainly was meant at least part in jest, but seemed to convey how Rooney really sees the world:
"Some days, I have the nervous feeling that too few people who aren't smart enough are making too many important decisions in Washington. They always sound confident, but I'll bet they'd like some help, too. There are 1,500 colleges in the United States and one million college professors. Both the colleges and the professors run from terrible to great, but overall, they're among the best things we have in this country....
No, coming from academia, they'd all be liberals and leftists.
For the full text of Rooney's commentary, as posted by CBSNews.com, go to: www.cbsnews.com
Blaming President Bush's "cowboy culture" for the "biggest military mess miscreated in the Oval Office and miscarried by the Pentagon in my 80-year lifetime," USA Today founder Al Neuharth urged a withdrawal from Iraq and that Bush "should take a cue from a fellow Texan, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson" who did not run for re-election as he "turned tail and rode off into the sunset of his Texas ranch."
In an interview with Editor & Publisher magazine, Neuharth said he hoped his column would embolden other opinion leaders to call for a withdrawal from Iraq.
An excerpt from Neuharth's weekly Friday column in USA Today of May 14, "Should cowboy Bush ride into the sunset?"
....Only a carefully planned withdrawal can clean up the biggest military mess miscreated in the Oval Office and miscarried by the Pentagon in my 80-year lifetime. In Journalese, the traditional five Ws of Who, What, When, Where, Why:
Who? George W. Bush.
What? His cowboy culture. Ride fast and alone or with just a few buddies. Shoot first. Ask questions later.
When? After 9/11. Bush bravely took on a necessary fight against terrorists who attacked us. But then he diverted his attention to an unrelated and unnecessary "pre-emptive" war.
Where? Iraq. He led us astray by falsely claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us. After the "Mission Accomplished" boast in May 2003, he put our troops in new jeopardy by taunting terrorists from other countries with his "Bring 'em on!" challenge last July 2. His anything-goes-against-the-bad-guys attitude and his total lack of postwar planning helped prompt the ongoing prison-abuse embarrassments and brutal retaliations....
Maybe Bush should take a cue from a fellow Texan, former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who also had some cowboy characteristics.
LBJ, after mismanaging the Vietnam War that so bitterly divided the nation and the world, decided he owed it to his political party and to his country not to run for re-election. So, he turned tail and rode off into the sunset of his Texas ranch.
How do you say déj' vu in Cowboyese?
END of Excerpt
For Neuharth's column in full: www.usatoday.com
For Mitchell's piece, "Neuharth Explains Call for Withdrawal From Iraq; USA Today founder's column received tremendous reader response -- both negative and positive," in full: www.editorandpublisher.com
The networks on Monday night approached the creation, by four of seven members of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, of a right to same-sex marriage, as a civil rights triumph without ever telling viewers about how the new law was imposed by judicial fiat which did not allow time for a legislative process to codify the majority view. All three broadcast networks led with same-sex marriage. ABC's Peter Jennings explicitly equated same-sex marriage rights with the Brown v Board of Education decision against unequal treatment of the races: "Two of our main stories tonight are about the struggle for rights and inclusion -- one of them in the 20th century, the other right now in the 21st."
NBC's Rehema Ellis championed how "just after midnight thousands celebrated what was once just a dream," but she soon fretted that since the federal government does not recognize the marriages, "such things as Medicare and Social Security benefits are still denied to same-sex couples."
On the May 17 CBS Evening News, Mika Brzezinski trumpeted how "by noon, wedding bells were ringing" throughout the Bay State. She focused on a lesbian couple married on an Orleans beach, on Cape Cod, who achieved "a milestone they've waited for for 33 years."
Now more on ABC and NBC coverage on Monday night:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened his broadcast: "Good evening everyone. Two of our main stories tonight are about the struggle for rights and inclusion -- one of them in the 20th century, the other right now in the 21st. A little later in the broadcast, we'll deal with the Supreme Court decision in the 1954 case, Brown versus Board of Education, about segregation in public schools. This is the 50th anniversary of that decision, which is often referred to as the most important legal case of the 20th century."
Jennings then portrayed the marriage laws of the other 49 states as discriminatory: "We begin, however, with the struggle by gays and lesbians for the right to be legally married. Today in Massachusetts, for the first time in U.S. history, the civil marriage laws of a state do not exclude gays."
From Massachusetts, Ron Claiborne began with a lesbian couple married at midnight in Cambridge, but pointed out how the Massachusetts marriages won't be recognize in most states, though Rhode Island has announced it will honor them and New York is looking into doing so. Claiborne acknowledged that "some social conservatives declared today a day of mourning" and allowed a soundbite from Ron Crews of the Massachusetts Family Institute. Claiborne concluded on a wary but triumphant note: "In Massachusetts the legal battle over same-sex marriage is over, for now. Opponents are still trying to change the law with a voter referendum in 2006, but today history was made."
-- NBC Nightly News. Rehema Ellis began over video from outside the State House in Boston: "Just after midnight thousands celebrated what was once just a dream."
Ellis showcased a gay male couple who were "among those who made history" with a wedding. Over scenes of protesters, however, she lamented: "But the happiness was not embraced by everyone. And here at the State House some Massachusetts lawmakers have started a process to overturn same-sex marriage by putting the question before he voters in 2006."
Ellis noted how 38 states will not recognize the same-sex marriages and so that means no rights to medical information or to adoption outside of Massachusetts. Then, without pointing out how it is Massachusetts that is out of sync with every other state, Ellis played this soundbite from "family law expert" Sanford Katz: "If we're going to have a unified country, all states really should recognize other states' decisions, decrees and laws. Otherwise we'll have a divided country."
Ellis concluded on a regretful note about limitations on the new right to same-sex marriage: "Today's Massachusetts action is further limited because the marriages are not recognized by the federal government, so such things as Medicare and Social Security benefits are still denied to same-sex couples."
The broadcast TV morning shows on Monday celebrated the arrival of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts with terms such as "history" (ABC), "landmark" (CBS), and "milestone" (NBC). While CBS had just news reports and no interviews, NBC balanced a lesbian couple with an opposing spokesman. But ABC's Diane Sawyer swooned over their network's lesbians: "And I understand that your eight-year-old, Annie, is going to be both flower girl and ring bearer?...You even have a song that you've rewritten to 'Here Comes the Bride'?" Sawyer giggled about how "it's actually going to happen. Can you believe it?"
[Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
Clearly, the arrival of same-sex marriage licenses in Massachusetts is news, but the network morning shows created the news in all the usual biased ways: No gay activist was a "liberal," there was little talk of whether the 4-3 decision by the state's Supreme Judicial Court was undemocratic judicial activism, and little acknowledgment that this "landmark" might draw a different adjective from reporters if the cause was less dear to liberal hearts. Imagine if a federal court overturned the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership? Would the networks coo about "landmarks" and "milestones" for the civil rights of gun owners? Or would it be a dangerous precedent, a slippery slope, a social problem?
On CBS's May 17 The Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd found that reporter Mika Brzezinski declared: "Gay couples from across Massachusetts started filing for their marriage licenses early this morning, making state history. And many from out of state have come to marry here in Provincetown, and then plan to further their movement across the nation. At midnight, the doors to legal matrimony for same sex couples in Massachusetts swung wide open and many didn't want to wait another second."
The soundbites included two gay activists and Governor Mitt Romney, who's trying to insist on not awarding the licenses to out-of-state gay couples. Brzezinski concluded with the L word, for "landmark," again: "But this landmark ruling could be short-lived. Voters could weigh in on an amendment to ban same sex marriages in 2006 but until then, Rene, the weddings are on."
MRC analyst Geoff Dickens noted that on NBC's Today news anchor Ann Curry announced: "Turning now to a milestone in Massachusetts. Today Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to make gay marriage legal." Reporter Rehema Ellis proclaimed: "History happened at 12:01 this morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first legal marriage licenses in the country for same sex couples...Most of the anxious couples had been waiting for hours at City Hall...Once inside, they celebrated, complete with wedding cake. Other celebrations had started much earlier on Sunday. They were dancing in the aisles at the Unitarian Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts."
Ellis featured four gay activists, to one opponent, and concluded: "But for Julie and Hillary Goodridge, who led the fight for same sex couples to get married, today the focus is on their futures with the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples in Massachusetts. The normal three day waiting period is being waived so some couples can wed today. This as efforts continue to ban same sex marriage."
Katie Couric balanced interview segments: One with a lesbian couple and one with a spokesman for traditional values. She asked Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd: "Why is this such a monumental day for the both, both of you?" But she also asked a rare question about the undemocratic nature of the imposition of same-sex marriage licenses: "As you well know, the Massachusetts legislature approved a proposal banning gay marriage, which will have to be revisited by the legislature in 2006 and then voted on by the people of Massachusetts. Two questions: Susan, are you afraid that this will ultimately make your marriage null and void? And can you understand why some people living in your state feel that they should be voting on this before you're able to, to be legally married?"
Couric's questions to Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund were fairly straightforward, even if they suggested to the viewer that the conservatives were demoralized and losing. She asked why he "so strongly opposed" same-sex marriage, and then added: "Many opponents of gay marriage, according to the New York Times yesterday, are puzzled why this issue, Mr. Lorence, is not, sort of, getting more traction among Christian conservatives. Can you explain why you think that's happening and if you think it's true?" She concluded: "And finally it seems unlikely that Congress, as I mentioned earlier, will discuss the, the possibility of a constitutional amendment banning marriages. Are you optimistic that, that ultimately will be passed, because it seems like the numbers are not working in your favor at this juncture?"
(Clay Waters of the MRC's Times Watch project analyzed the New York Times story Couric mentioned. See: www.timeswatch.org )
ABC distinguished itself as the most enthusiastic promoter of the Massachusetts "milestone," with Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer plugging her interview: "It is the first time today in American history that there is a state in the union, Massachusetts, in which gay and lesbian couples can legally marry and in a morning exclusive, you're going to soon meet the two women whose impulse to get married led to a legal revolution."
Ron Claiborne's report from Massachusetts featured only gay-activist soundbites, and no opponents.
That unanimity was matched in the interview segment. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson transcribed the swoons of Sawyer, who has done a series of "exclusive" specials and interviews with Rosie O'Donnell, as she introduced Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the lesbian plaintiffs in the lawsuit that prompted the state Supreme Court ruling:
Sawyer's other "questions" in the form of giddy, bridesmaid-like wonderment:
-- "Now, tell me about the plans for the day. You're going to be the first in Boston, in Boston proper, as I understand it."
-- "And I understand that your eight-year-old Annie is going to be both flower girl and ring bearer?"
-- "You even have a song that you've rewritten to 'Here Comes the Bride'?"
(It included the words, "Here come the brides, all filled with pride, isn't amazing, they actually survived.")
Sawyer continued with the Goodridge spin lines:
-- "You have said that three years ago you were two middle-aged, tired, soccer moms who simply had an idea that you would go to court and all of this explosive political upheaval later, it's actually going to happen. Can you believe it?"
Opposition to the gay agenda was cast by Sawyer as clouds over a happy day: "As you know, there are still a number of legal challenges being made. The Governor himself has asked the courts to bar the legality of the marriages until 2006. The legislature is moving and the President of the United States has talked about a constitutional amendment. How much of a shadow does it cast over this day to think at some point, it could still be annulled?"
Sawyer concluded the session by celebrating: "History being made. Thank you both so much."
To see Sawyer and other national journalists at a March 4 fundraiser in New York City for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, at a party held at the ABC News studios on Times Square: www.nlgja.org
ABC was so proud of Sawyer's gushing session with Julie and Hillary Goodridge that, under the heading of "'I Still Have to Pinch Myself'; Legal Marriage a Dream Come True for Gay Couple in Landmark Case," they have posted video of the interview: abcnews.go.com
Tonight (Tuesday) CBS will air a tribute to Don Hewitt, the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes since its inception, whom CBS brass are forcing out as they try to make the news magazine with declining ratings more appealing to younger viewers. In an interview a few weeks ago, Hewitt told Jon Friedman of CBS MarketWatch.com that "I would bet I'll probably vote for Kerry" since "I know why I don't want to vote for George Bush" but, he conceded, "I don't know why I want to vote for Kerry. I don't know who he is."
Friedman related, in his April 23 column for the Web site partially-owned by CBS, how "Hewitt laments the outbreaks of terrorist attacks that have occurred since the U.S. invaded Iraq 13 months ago. 'If I should hold anything against George Bush,' Hewitt said, it was that the invasion 'created more terrorists.' Hewitt was careful to stress that he had no Democratic or liberal political leanings. 'I don't vote parties,' he said. 'I'm an Eisenhower-Reagan Republican and a Roosevelt-Kennedy Democrat.'"
Translation of such ridiculousness: He's a liberal but doesn't want to admit it.
An excerpt from other parts of Friedman's column:
....As it has done regularly since its debut in 1968, "60 Minutes" has broken news and created ample controversies so far this year.
It aired explosive segments featuring interviews with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former terror advisor Richard Clarke and Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. Each of them wrote a bestseller that was regarded as being critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy in Iraq.
The accumulation of bad news appears to have taken a toll on Hewitt's spirits. During the Great Depression and the Cuban missile crisis, he said, "I never doubted for a second that we'd survive. Now I'm not so sure. I'm scared."
In June, Hewitt will relinquish his executive producer post to Jeff Fager, the executive producer of "60 Minutes II."
In January 2003, CBS announced that Hewitt would have new duties as the executive producer, CBS News, helping to develop and launch projects....
Hewitt suspects that CBS wanted to bring in a new executive producer because the network was "not happy with the demographics" of "60 Minutes."
[Ken] Auletta suggested that it wasn't "unreasonable" for CBS to want to bring in new blood. "At some point, you have to develop new talent," Auletta said. "Fager has a history with serious news."...
END of Excerpt
CBS MarketWatch.com members can read the Friedman column in full at: cbs.marketwatch.com
# CBS News reporter Lara Logan is scheduled to appear tonight (Tuesday) on CBS's Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
-- Brent Baker