2. CBS Actually Fails to Highlight How Their Poll Puts Kerry Ahead
3. CBS Flashbacks: GOP for Whites Only, No More Clinton Womanizing
4. NBC Gives Credence to Idea Jobs Number "Too Good to Be True"
5. WashPost Editor Admits He Can't Defend Paper's Anti-Rice Story
WSJ, Professor Praises Jennings' Special on Jesus and Paul
CBS on Friday night trumpeted the cause of a disillusioned soldier returning from Iraq who now supports John Kerry over George Bush for President. After anchor Dan Rather highlighted how a CBS News poll found that amongst military households "a majority, 53 percent, said the Iraq war is not worth the loss of life and other costs," Byron Pitts focused on Captain Tom McGowan who declared: "If the election was today, I would vote for Senator Kerry."
Pitts conceded that "one vote by one soldier home from war may not mean much," but then he made the case for the larger impact: "In 2000, George Bush carried Florida, thanks in part to military absentee voters. If a few hundred of those soldiers had voted differently, Al Gore would be President. For Todd McGowan, the shift from Bush to Kerry comes down to reasons for the war. The weapons of mass destruction never located, the lack of an exit strategy."
"Historically," Pitts concluded, "military officers overwhelmingly vote Republican. Tom McGowan believes this November history will change."
To the delight of more than a few journalists.
The April 2 CBS Evening News piece by Pitts ran after a story by Kimberly Dozier in Iraq on how "more and more" Iraqis "are starting to believe the Americans are the problem not the solution" as a sheik asked his followers to act as an arm of Hamas and Hezbollah which use assassinations and suicide bombs "to drive their enemies out."
Rather then set up the Pitts story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "And that may help explain another CBS News poll finding tonight. In a survey of U.S. military households, a majority, 53 percent, said the Iraq war is not worth the loss of life and other costs [on screen, 39 percent yes]. Tonight, CBS's Byron Pitts looks beyond those numbers to a soldier he met in Iraq and what that soldier thinks now that he's home."
Over video of a homecoming ceremony in Texas with soldiers in formation until their families and them run toward each other to hug and kiss each other, Pitts began: "For the soldiers of the Army's Second Brigade, Fourth Infantry Division, the war in Iraq came to a glorious end on a gymnasium floor. And for Traci McGowan and her husband, Captain Todd McGowan, the longest, loneliest, most frightening year of their young lives was over [two kissing and hugging]. But the enthusiastic officer I met last August-"
CBS News, now fair and balanced in not reporting who is ahead in polling on George W. Bush versus John Kerry? In February, when CBS News polls put Kerry ahead of Bush, the CBS Evening News highlighted the results on February 16 and 28. But, as noted in the March 16 CyberAlert, when a CBS News/New York Times poll determined that Bush had moved ahead of Kerry, the CBS Evening News ignored the result.
On Friday night, Dan Rather's CBS Evening News crew may have evened things out since the show didn't utter a word about a new CBS News poll which now has Kerry leading Bush by 48 to 43 percent. Then again, maybe the CBS Evening News skipped over the pro-Kerry result because in 18 "battleground" states Bush remains ahead of Kerry by 47 to 45 percent.
On Friday's CBS Evening News, Rather cited only two results from the survey. First, as noted in item #1 above, how most in military families don't think Iraq was worth the cost. Second, he read this item later in the April 2 newscast: "Two more American military deaths were reported today in Iraq. And the latest CBS News poll indicates Americans are increasingly critical of the way President Bush has handled it. 44 percent of those surveyed said they approve of President Bush's handling of the war while 49 percent disapprove. This poll was taken Tuesday through Thursday this week."
Online, CBSNews.com reported:
For the full poll rundown: www.cbsnews.com
Biased blasts from the past on CBS. In a 1964 highlight played on Sunday by Face the Nation to mark the show's 50th anniversary, viewers saw Dan Rather ask Martin Luther King if "there's a real danger of the Republican Party becoming the white man's party in this country?" And in CBS's Sunday night prime time, the show Cold Case flashed back to a Clinton-Gore election night party in 1992 with large screens showing a celebrating Bill Clinton as a female college-age volunteer asked a friend: "Does it bother you that he's such a womanizer?" The friend, also a woman, assured her: "He's not going to do that in the White House."
Every week this year Face the Nation features a "50th Anniversary Flashback" segment with a highlight from some point in the last 50 years. On Sunday, they chose to feature the program from May 10, 1964 and re-played a black and white clip of a question from Rather to King: "Doctor King, in light of recent statements of Senator Barry Goldwater, and in some cases by Richard Nixon, do you think there's a real danger of the Republican Party becoming the white man's party in this country?"
In prime time, on the CBS show Cold Case about a team of Philadelphia police detectives who solve old murders, a new murder leads them to re-open the case of a college woman who was working for the Clinton-Gore campaign in Philadelphia and was murdered hours after the 1992 election night party.
In a flashback scene to hours before she was killed, as the "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" song played while big screens showed video of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore all celebrating, a woman friend of the about-to-be-killed woman asked her in reference to Bill Clinton: "Does it bother you that he's such a womanizer?" The about-to-be-killed woman assured her: "He's not going to do that in the White House."
In another flashback, this exchange took place in the family kitchen between the about-to-be-killed woman and her father and mother:
In the plot, it turns out that the local campaign chief, who is now a Congressman, presumably a Democratic one, had a sexual relationship as a teenager, and possibly beyond, with his older sister who now runs his congressional office. In 1992, the woman who was murdered had discovered the future Congressman was paying off a man to keep the secret and when the future Congressman learned that the woman knew, he killed her and, with the help of his sister, dumped her body in a river.
CBS's page for Cold Case: www.cbs.com
The Labor Department made up phoney unemployment numbers to help the Bush campaign? NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams gave credence to such a theory on Friday night as he introduced a story, on how 300,000 jobs were created in March, by reporting that "today's announcement was such a badly needed shot in the arm for the Bush administration -- and was such good news -- some thought the numbers were too good to be true."
And ABC couldn't let the good news go unchallenged for long. The next night, on Saturday's World News Tonight, anchor Dan Harris introduced a story on how "some of those who are actually finding jobs are not getting the ones they had in mind." Reporter Heather Cabot looked at an accountant who is now driving a cab in New York City. Cabot asserted: "He's not the only over-qualified cabbie on the road. Today, nearly 16 percent of America's taxi drivers have attended college. That's up from 13 percent in 2000."
Maybe that means more of them can speak English and find the airport!
Back to Friday's NBC Nightly News, Williams led the April 2 newscast: "For an economy anxious for some good news, it came today when we learned new jobs are up. Just over 300,000 new jobs in the month of March. The unemployment rate did tick up a tenth of a point because more so-called discouraged workers are back in the search for work now and applying for unemployment. Today's announcement was such a badly needed shot in the arm for the Bush administration -- and was such good news -- some thought the numbers were too good to be true. We begin here tonight with NBC's Rehema Ellis."
Ellis ran through the numbers and never did cite anyone who thought the news was too good to be true, but she did end with a big caveat: "A start, but economists say the nation needs 6 to 12 strong months like March before everybody who wants to work can."
A Washington Post insider, over the weekend on the syndicated Inside Washington show, discounted the relevance of a Thursday front page Washington Post story, about how a speech on threats in the world that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver on September 11, 2001, focused "largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals." Colbert King, a liberal who is the Deputy Editor of the Washington Post's editorial page and a weekly op-ed page columnist, demurred from defending the article. "I cannot with a straight face," he admitted. He acknowledged: "It was not the strongest story, although it got a lot of play."
Indeed it did get a lot of play with all of the networks picking up on it.
"Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism," read the top of the front page story in the April 1 Washington Post. The subhead for the article by Robin Wright, who recently jumped to the Post from the Los Angeles Times: "Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense." For Wright's article: www.washingtonpost.com
Host Gordon Peterson: "According to the Washington Post, the speech Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver on September 11th had to do with missile defense and not terrorism."
Producers for the networks, however, couldn't resist the cheap shot at Rice. Amongst the April 1 items treating the Post story as relevant:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. News reader Robin Roberts announced: "On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Condoleezza Rice was reportedly set to give a speech on security that made no mention of al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden. According to the Washington Post, the National Security Advisor's speech focused instead on missile defense."
-- CBS Evening News. John Roberts intoned: "The key question facing Condoleezza Rice next Thursday is whether the White House saw al-Qaida as an urgent threat prior to the attacks on America. If a major security speech Rice was to have given on September 11th is any indication, the prime focus of the administration was missile defense, not terrorism. In speech after speech that year President Bush never publicly mentioned al-Qaida or bin Laden, declaring the most urgent threat came from rogue states like North Korea."
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams: "Also tonight, the White House is disputing new published reports that Dr. Rice was more concerned with missile defense than terrorism in the months before 9/11 based on a speech she was supposed to deliver that very same day, a speech the White House will not release. We get more now from NBC's David Gregory at the White House."
Peter Jennings not as awful as you'd expect? In an op-ed on the "Tastes" page of Friday's "Weekend Journal" in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Louis Wilken, a professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Virginia, reviewed ABC's three-hour prime time special scheduled to air tonight, Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness, and found that "this is a show for serious-minded viewers, scholarly yet respectful of belief, informative yet entertaining."
That sounds like it will be a far cry from Jennings' 2000 special, The Search for Jesus. As noted in CyberAlert at the time, the AP's religion reported documented the skew delivered by Jennings: "In Jennings' lopsided lineup, the key talking heads consist of five American liberals, a middle-roader in Israel and a lone traditionalist from England." Another reviewer: "Condescending, ponderous and inert."
For more reaction to the Jennings program in 2000, see the June 29, 2000 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
An excerpt from the April 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Wilken, which carried the subhead: "With 'Jesus and Paul,' Peter Jennings gets it right."
....The subtitle is significant: "The Word and the Witness." From the opening scenes Jesus is presented as an object of faith and devotion for millions of Christians today, not merely as a historical figure....
Then the camera shifts to the road leading to Nazareth. When we arrive, we find ourselves not at an archaeological site among Roman ruins guided by an expert explaining what life was like in ancient Palestine but smack in the middle of the bustling city itself, with a boy riding a bicycle, construction workers putting up a building, people going about the business of life today.
The narrator returns to the first century with the words: "Jesus was from a town called Nazareth in a lush region known as the Galilee." But the background music reminds viewers that we are living in the 21st century. Instead of the mournful sounds of ancient chant we hear the pounding of drums, the strumming of guitars and the rhythmic beat of Christian rock, with lyrics such as this: "If you were faced with Him in all his glory / What would you ask if you had just one question?" And this: "What if God was one of us?" Again the message seems clear: What began in Nazareth is very much with us today.
Of course, most of the show focuses on the past, as indeed it should, and ABC draws on an unusually broad company of scholars to tell the story of Jesus and Paul. There is an intelligent discussion about the disputed topic of "who killed Jesus" and a sharp rejoinder to critics who indict St. Paul as the source of Christian anti-Semitism. Some of the most thoughtful observations come from Jewish scholars -- e.g., on the question of Jesus' appearances to his disciples after his death. We cannot know exactly what happened, says one, but clearly something did happen, and it was this that gave birth to Christianity....
Fully half the show is given over to the life and writings of St. Paul and the spread of Christianity around the Roman world, to Antioch in Syria, to Corinth in Greece, and eventually to Rome. As Paul's story unfolds, the focus shifts to his teaching, and the show begins to sound like a seminar on Paul's writings. This is not all bad, but here modern prejudices seem intrusive. Paul is portrayed as a puritanical and intolerant moralist on the wrong side of elite opinion today. All this is swept aside, however, when the camera zooms in for perhaps five seconds on a beautiful painting of Paul as an old man and Mr. Jennings begins to talk about his martyrdom in Rome.
There are a few historical blunders, the most egregious being the pronouncement of one "expert" that Jesus was "illiterate." There is also some silliness -- Mr. Jennings sticking a microphone in the face of tourists in St. Peter's Square in Rome to ask what they know about St. Paul (answer: not much)--and occasional flippancy. Paul's letters, opine several scholars, cannot be authoritative today because he thought the world would soon end.
But this is a show for serious-minded viewers, scholarly yet respectful of belief, informative yet entertaining. It tells the story of Jesus and Paul in language believers and critics alike can recognize -- indeed not too differently from the way it has been told for centuries.
END of Excerpt
For the opinion piece in full: www.opinionjournal.com
The ABC News page for the special set to consume the entirety of prime time tonight, Monday April 5, on ABC opposite the NCAA basketball championship on CBS: abcnews.go.com
-- Brent Baker