CBS Portrays Murtha as Victim of Unfair Attacks on His Patriotism --11/21/2005
2. ABC's Woodruff Corrects Claim Bush Called Critics "Unpatriotic"
3. Murtha CNN's "Play of the Week," Blitzer: He's Iraq War Cronkite
4. Newsweek Reporter: Murtha Right, Team Bush: Deluded "Ideologues"
5. New York Times' "Ethicist": Bush "Lied the Country Into a War"
A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his "patriotism," though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a "leading supporter" of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including "another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned" (that would be John Kerry), who "fired back" at the "personal attacks" on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: "When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics." Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha "had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as the Friday CyberAlert noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that "we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today." See: www.mrc.org
Orr proceeded to assert that "the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker," Michael Moore. "Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on," Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: "But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the "smear" of Murtha and how "another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country..." Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that "the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough," before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how "name-calling exploded in the House."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, or to see a Vietnam-era photo of Kerry CBS showed of getting Kerry getting a medal: newsbusters.org ]
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a transcript of the November 18 CBS Evening News story:
Bob Schieffer: "As American public support for the war has faded, the debate over Iraq has become more bitter and more personal by the day. When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics. That led to Murtha to come close to calling the Vice President a draft dodger, and there was even more fallout today. Here's Bob Orr in Washington."
Bob Orr began: "It was a bombshell from a decorated Vietnam veteran who had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq."
As recounted in Thursday's CyberAlert, on that evening's World News Tonight, in setting up the lead story about Congressman John Murtha's call for troop withdrawal from Iraq, anchor Bob Woodruff "distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush 'took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.'"
On Friday's World News Tonight, Woodruff backtracked: "A clarification about a report that we aired last night in our coverage of the ongoing debate about the original case for war and the Democratic allegations that the White House misled the American public. We reported that the President was calling such charges 'irresponsible' and 'unpatriotic.' He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'"
For the November 18 CyberAlert rundown, go to: www.mrc.org
On Friday's Situation Room, CNN's Bill Schneider awarded Congressman John Murtha his "Play of the Week," and after Schneider's piece host Wolf Blitzer suggested the call by Murtha, "a very moderate conservative" (whatever that is), to withdraw troops is reminiscent of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite's 1968 assertion the U.S. was losing in Vietnam, and so Republicans "probably realize they've got some serious problems." Schneider explained his pick: "In 1968, Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the Vietnam War had become a stalemate. That was a turning point. Now, it's too early to tell whether what happened this week was a turning point in Iraq, but it certainly was the political 'Play of the Week.'" Schneider played up Murtha's influence: "He rarely speaks to the press. When he does, Washington listens. This week, Murtha spoke."
When Schneider finished his recap of Murtha's remarks and the reaction to them, Blitzer reminded him and viewers: "Bill, you'll remember what President Johnson said when he heard what Walter Cronkite had said at that point, after coming back from Vietnam. He said if he's lost Walter Cronkite, he's probably lost the country. And I suppose that some Republicans are saying now if they've lost John Murtha, a very moderate conservative Democrat, a strong supporter of the military, they, they probably realize they've got some serious problems." Schneider agreed: "I think they do."
[This item was posted Saturday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The MRC's Megan McCormack caught the story and exchange from about 4:42 pm EST in the first hour of the November 18 edition of The Situation Room on CNN.
Wolf Blitzer, at CNN's Washington, DC studio: "With each passing day, this week politicians seemed to take their arguments over Iraq to a new, more explosive level. But one shot stood out above all the others. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill?"
On Friday night the Newsweek Web site was topped by a picture of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) with the words superimposed: "WHY JOHN MURTHA IS RIGHT: It's time to stop deluding ourselves on Iraq." The commentary by longtime Newsweek foreign correspondent Christopher Dickey began with his attempt to buttonhole war architect Paul Wolfowitz on the war's aftermath, but he was unsatisfied. He argued that Bushies are ideologues unlike anti-war liberals like Dickey and charged that "for any of us who lived through the cold war, Bush's attempts to equate the scattershot writings of Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, with the challenges posed by Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet empire are just mind-boggling." Dickey also mocked conservative efforts to beat communism: "The transparent envy that America's right-wing ideologues conceive for the tactics of their enemies, the enormous temptation to fight them by using their methods, is much worse. They subscribe to some higher truth than ascertainable facts, divining the intentions of their evil adversaries and turning them into the stuff of paranoid fantasy."
[This item is slightly modified from a Friday night posting, by the MRC's Tim Graham, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog. To share your views, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Dickey's "Web-exclusive commentary" is online at: www.msnbc.msn.com
Titled, "The Terrorist Temptation," it carries this subhead: "The Bush administration is so accustomed to torturing the truth, it can't face the facts. Murtha's outburst on Iraq has shown it is time to stop deluding ourselves."
Excerpts from that commentary:
"So the big mistake in Mesopotamia, it would seem, was not following the grand plans of the best and the brightest who took us to war there in 2003. Others failed, not they. And maybe the armchair war-lovers of the Bush administration really believe this. Ideologues see the world through different lenses than ordinary people. From their perches in government or academe, they like to imagine themselves riding the waves of great historical forces. Faced with criticism, they point fingers at their enemies like Old Testament prophets and call down the wrath of heaven.
It's not surprising that Dickey, in his deluded idea that HE is no ideologue like Bush, starts really getting upset when the subject turns to Ronald Reagan and communism, another foreign policy he hated:
Dickey concluded that liberals were right on the Cold War all along the path to "peaceful coexistence" and detente and the right-wingers were lunatics desperate to mangle human rights:
Dickey, meanwhile spent his time practicing the art of moral equivalence, as you can see in this review of a Contra-bashing classic from Notable Quotables in 1991:
For Dickey's own Web page, with a big picture of him: www.christopherdickey.com
Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured another weekly submission from Randy Cohen, writer of "The Ethicist" column, about a non-political topic -- who should pay for damage done to an office building by a doctor's patient -- but on Friday's Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS Cohen made clear his disgust with President Bush. When Ferguson raised Bill Clinton's name, Cohen reacted with outrage that Ferguson was still concerned about such old news: "Oh, Clinton, he's been out of office for, you know, how long? Seven years. Some little lie about his personal life. We've got a guy now who lied the country into a war. You're talking about Clinton from seven years ago?" Actually, Clinton left office fewer than five years ago. Cohen advised that on Monica Lewinsky "he should have said, 'None of your business' and then after that, it's between him and his wife."
Cohen's hostility to President Bush isn't based on recent events. A MRC CyberAlert item in June of 2003 recounted: "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 on CNN whether Bush can 'honorably' continue to serve in office."
[This item was posted Sunday afternoon on the MRC's blog, newsBusters.org. To post your comments: newsbusters.org ]
Cohen was the second guest on the November 18 Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS. The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video:
Craig Ferguson: "What about Clinton? Should it, what happened when Clinton-"
From the Tuesday, June 10, 2003 MRC CyberAlert about Cohen's appearance on the Friday, June 6 NewsNight on CNN:
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?"
Cohen: "I see you being surprising gentle, Aaron. I think the story -- and 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."
Brown: "Well, yes, but it's also -- that would be a very serious story. One should have evidence of that, though, shouldn't one, before one makes that argument?"
Cohen: "Do you mean, before one drags the country into a war?"
Brown: "Well, that also. But before one asserts that anyone, including the President of the United States, is a liar, one ought to be able to prove that."
Cohen: "Well, it's an interesting problem, that the -- and more and more papers are reporting it now, that the President listed three causes for the war, Iraq was an imminent threat to us, and to its neighbors, that Iraq was connected with the events of September 11, and that there would be weapons of mass destruction there. None of these things have been found. And I think many people believe the burden is on the president to prove his case. And if he doesn't, he then, it seems to me, is either a liar or a fool, and that's a very awkward position to be in."
Brown: "Why is the burden on the President, and why are those the two choices? Why isn't one of the choices that intelligence was simply wrong? They thought they were right, but they were wrong. That is also a possibility."
Cohen: "Well, yes, but 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."
Brown: "They died. I'm with you on that."
Cohen: "And the questions of his integrity have been raised by many places."
Brown: "And I agree with that."
Cohen: "By members of both parties. I think it has to be taken seriously as an ethical matter, absolutely."
END Reprint of previous CyberAlert item.
-- Brent Baker