2. NBC's Curry Frets About "Dangerous Precedent," "Broader" Agenda
3. On CNN, Howard Kurtz Avoids Study Finding on 2004 Anti-Bush Tilt
4. Rather Critics: "Drop Dead"; No "Crazy Biased Liberals" at CBS
Gas prices have "forced" a man to sleep at the office? The CBS Evening News on Monday night aired its silliest story since Bob Schieffer slid into the anchor chair nearly two weeks ago. After forwarding the canard about how gas prices "hit a new record," Schieffer warned that in Southern California "gas prices are forcing some drivers to take drastic action." Sandra Hughes looked at a man who is "forced by economics to drive up to five hours a day" to his job in Malibu since he supposedly "can't afford to move closer to work" and "can't work closer to home," so he "sleeps overnight on a cot in his office."
What a ridiculous premise. Millions of Los Angeles area residents manage to find housing closer to their work than this guy. Just because he can't afford Malibu doesn't mean he must drive five hours a day. Malibu is surrounded by Los Angeles and is only a few miles from several less ritzy areas with hundreds of thousands of housing units. And how do the hundreds of other Pepperdine faculty manage to make it home each night?
In the morning and evening on Monday, ABC forwarded the "record" high gas price fallacy. On Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asserted: "Later today the government releases its fuel price report, and is expected to announce record all-time high gas prices." On World News Tonight, fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas reported: "The government said today that the price of gasoline has hit an all-time high -- nearly $2.11 a gallon -- up 5.3 cents in the last week. Analysts say that prices probably will continue to climb. Today's prices more than 37 cents higher than exactly one year ago."
Adjusted for inflation, gas prices would need to exceed $2.97 a gallon to mark a record high, probably higher in Malibu where prices have run higher. See two previous CyberAlert items on this subject:
For, "Networks Falsely Claim Oil and Gas at 'Record High' Prices, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
Schieffer introduced the subsequent story, as checked against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The government reports the average price of gasoline in this country has hit a new record. It jumped more than a nickel in just a week to almost $2.11 a gallon for self serve regular, the least expensive kind. Things are even worse in some places like Southern California where gas prices are forcing some drivers to take drastic action. Sandra Hughes now with the 'Inside Story.'"
Hughes began: "Mike Bower is in a commuter's 'Catch 22,' Forced by economics to drive up to five hours a day."
The Web page listing all of Pepperdine's faculty has no "Bower" on it. See: www.pepperdine.edu
But a site search turned him up and he's an instructor in the Communication Division of Seaver College. For a picture of him: seaver.pepperdine.edu
NBC's Today co-host Ann Curry saw nefarious motives behind the efforts of House Republican leaders and President Bush to get the Terry Schiavo case before a federal judge. On Monday morning she asked John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal: "Should Americans be concerned that the extraordinary events over this weekend set a dangerous precedent in Washington?" Curry then recited the "extraordinary" actions taken by the House and Bush. Curry posited the Schiavo case as part of a larger and more ominous agenda ahead: "With the stem cell debate, with the abortion debate is it possible, and with the President returning from Crawford, Texas and from his vacation to come sign this bill, are the Republicans setting the, a stage for, for a broader political agenda here?"
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught the exchange from the 9am hour of the March 21 Today with Harwood appearing from Washington, DC.
Ann Curry: "The fate of Terri Schiavo is now in the hands of a federal judge after Congress got involved in the right to die case. Schiavo's parents went to court after President Bush and Congress intervened very early this morning. Well John Harwood is the political editor of the Wall Street Journal. He joins us now. John, good morning."
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz on Sunday again bypassed an opportunity to report how a study from the Project on Excellence in Journalism found that 2004 campaign coverage was three times more negative on Bush than Kerry. As he had done in his Post story six days earlier, on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday, Kurtz focused on the study's findings about how the "most opinionated network on cable news is Fox News."
Kurtz ended the March 20 Reliable Sources with this short item: "The most opinionated network on cable news is Fox News, says a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. On Iraq war stories, for example, Fox reporters and anchors included their own views 73 percent of the time compared to 29 percent on MSNBC and two percent on CNN. When told that Iraq had adopted a new interim constitution, Fox anchor David Asman said, 'Let's pray that it works out.'
The March 15 CyberAlert recounted how while Kurtz avoided the campaign bias finding, other newspapers downplayed it:
For more on coverage, highlights of the study and links to it, see the March 15 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
Catching up on some comments from last week on Dan Rather and the panel's finding that CBS's National Guard story was not motivated by any political bias: In a Television Week column, Washington Post TV reviewer Tom Shales heralded how "the report concluded, sanely, that while terrible errors of judgment had been made, there was no evidence they were precipitated by political bias. The bloggocracy rejected that notion, as it summarily rejects any notion that challenges its dogma." Shales also had a message for Rather's critics on the Internet: "Drop dead, you pathetic losers." In a Boston Globe story, Louis Boccardi, co-chair of the panel, insisted that since others were pursuing Bush's National Guard record that meant CBS had no bias: "It wasn't like there were these crazy biased liberal people at CBS alone after the story....There were other people after the story." How about all those pursuing the story with such zest, while not investigating Kerry's Vietnam record claims, reflected liberal bias?
An excerpt from Tom Shales' Television Week column published last week, brought to my attention by the MRC's Tim Graham, "Electronic Anti-Rather Mob Still Storming the Castle," in which Shales used extreme examples of Rather critics to rail against and discredit while he ridiculously claimed that those who can "rationally" express the view that Rather was biased "can't prove it." The Excerpt:
At the end of most of the old, classic "Frankenstein" movies, a torch-bearing mob of angry villagers would dutifully descend upon and then storm the castle where the poor old Doc was carrying out his ghastly experiments. Today, mobs form electronically. They gather on the Web to do their threatening and fist shaking and bellicose bellyaching. We've come a long way, haven't we?
So it was that even after Dan Rather signed off as anchor of "The CBS Evening News," bringing to a close a distinguished and uncommonly eventful (for him as well as the world) 24 years, the anti-Rather ranters kept ranting, the yelpers kept yelping, the lumpenproletariat kept, uh, lumping. May we address ourselves to this particular constituency of the great American Internet? We may? Good: Drop dead, you pathetic losers.
Harsh times call for harsh measures. It's one thing to imagine that Dan Rather, a man who weeps at patriotic tunes and keeps an open Bible in his office, has political views that might on occasion have colored what he reported or the way he reported it. People who can express this view rationally can't prove it, but they're entitled to their opinion. But the mud-slinging mob is another matter. It makes a din like a million monkeys rattling their cages, a din designed to drown out logic, sense, reason, decency, any of the values that proper discourse entails. This is not discourse; this is character assassination of a frighteningly virulent type. Perhaps if Dan Rather had been run over by a bus instead of merely forced out of his job, the blockheads and bloggers and political extremists would have been happier still.
Cheaply, foolishly and with malice aforethought, they at some point chose Dan Rather to be their bete noire, their avatar of evil, their symbol of all that's so supposedly left-wing in the American press. Trashing the press has become an industry now, and know-nothing authors have no trouble selling their cuckoo diatribes to book publishers who sometimes have political agendas of their own....
There was once a nut-case pressure group, whimsically named Accuracy in Media, as loony a misnomer as Fox's "Fair and Balanced" is daffy a slogan. I had dared to defend Rather in another of his many controversies, one in which he was clearly being singled out unfairly. I was, of course, blasted in AIM's newsletter (the group's flaky founder had earlier written the Pulitzer committee at Columbia University demanding that my prize be taken away). I soon heard from an assortment of crayon-carrying AIM members.
One, from Oregon, wrote that for the sin of defending Rather, he hoped I would "get AIDS and die." Yes, this was an organization with high standards all right.
In Cecil B. DeMille's camp masterpiece "Samson and Delilah," the blinded biblical superhero, shorn of his legendary locks, is brought out into an arena to be humiliated before execution. At one point a net is thrown over him and a horde of Pygmies rushes out to poke the captured giant with pitchforks. Dan Rather may not be Samson, but he certainly is a giant in journalism, and one whom intellectual pygmies have delighted in poking their spears at....
Boccardi was a member of the panel assembled to investigate the faulty National Guard story. The report concluded, sanely, that while terrible errors of judgment had been made, there was no evidence they were precipitated by political bias. The bloggocracy rejected that notion, as it summarily rejects any notion that challenges its dogma....
As it was patently ridiculous to hold Dan Rather responsible for the alleged sins of the press, it would be absurd to say that he alone stood between an age of telecommunications reason and the triumph of the mindless primitives and thugs. But he was one of the most determined of guardians at the gates, and the gates are getting more and more vulnerable. It isn't Dr. Frankenstein the mob wants to trample, it's the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
END of Excerpt
For the Shales column in full from the March 14 Television Week, which unlike Newsweek and Time carries an accurate date which matches when it was released, see (registration required): www.tvweek.com
For all the evidence anyone but Shales needs to prove Rather's bias, check out the MRC's "Dan Rather File" which features more than 100 of Rather's most biased quotes, 15 historic video clips and links to compilations of the MRC's best documentation of Dan Rather's biased reporting and comments over the past 15 or so years: www.mediaresearch.org
Boccardi, the former President of the Associated Press, was in Boston last week and for a March 17 article, "Investigator says CBS report shouldn't stain Rather's career," Boston Globe reporter Mark Jurkowitz talked to him. An excerpt:
Louis D. Boccardi, who co-authored the postmortem report on last September's flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday story on President Bush's military record, suggested yesterday that Dan Rather deserves better than to have his entire legacy tangled up in that one story.
"I think it is one aspect of a long and quite accomplished career, and I guess the fair journalist in me would like to position it that way," said Boccardi, who conducted the investigation at the request of CBS with former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Boccardi was in the Boston area yesterday to give a talk at Tufts University's Fletcher School....
While the 60 Minutes Wednesday report constituted an indictment of CBS, the authors were unable to draw firm conclusions in two crucial areas. The report said the authors "cannot conclude" political bias played a part in the broadcast of the story and were unable to determine with "absolute certainty" whether the crucial documents were forgeries.
"We said we would not make the same mistake the program made, which was to make an assertion and, when asked to prove it, be unable to do so," Boccardi said.
When it came to bias, Boccardi said the investigators were not prepared to assign motive to the CBS journalists. "It wasn't like there were these crazy biased liberal people at CBS alone after the story," he added. "There were other people after the story....We didn't feel we could prove [bias]. Now that's upset a lot of people." In the case of the documents, Boccardi acknowledged that "there are many, many reasons to doubt that they're authentic." But he said solid proof is lacking.
Some critics have complained about the lack of definitive findings in the report. In the April 7 issue of The New York Review of Books that is already posted online, James C. Goodale, a former general counsel of The New York Times, wrote: "Lost in the commotion over the authenticity of the documents is that the underlying facts of Rather's '60 Minutes' report are substantially true." Boccardi characterizes that argument as "never mind the documents, the content's true."...
END of Excerpt
For the Globe story in full: www.boston.com
-- Brent Baker